Thursday, October 19 2006
I've been working on a parallel-port-based gizmo that will allow me to put bootloaders in Atmega168 chips so I can use them in the seemingly-effortless world of Arduino, where I find programming in its simplified version of C as easy and idiot-proof as, say, household electrical wiring. The great thing about the Atmega168 is that it has twice the programming space of the Atmega8, which is the usual processor used by Arduino. I'm already running up against the limits of the Atmega8 in my simple solar sufficiency controller, and it would be nice to expand onto something more spacious. But I've had all kinds of troubles getting the parallel port gizmo working. Part of my problem is that I sometimes work in a hurry and read "220 ohms" as "220K ohms" or I solder sloppily. But by the end of the day I got the gizmo mostly working and was able to put Arduino bootloaders on stock Atmega8 chips. I'd still yet to figure out how to get the bootloaders onto Atmega168s, but the feeling of progress was encouraging. I felt that I was learning a lot about this brand new world of microcontrollers, one that had intimidated me since I was a teenager.
There isn't, as it happens, much readable documentation about this stuff online. The Arduino world is only about a year old and comprised entirely of volunteers who have yet to find the time to fully flesh out the literature. Luckily, though, there's a very useful forum where questions can be asked and then, very quickly, answered by the developers of the Arduino platform. In using this forum, I'm always aware that my interactions in it constitutes part of the emerging documentation for those who will come later, so I'm always precise with my terminology and am careful to state specific details, sometimes giving them as ordered instructions. It's an interesting enough environment that I'd like to eventually become part of the global ad hoc development effort.
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