The Transterpreter Project

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Embedded programming rant continued

I continue to be frustrated by the state of embedded systems programming.

If I want to program an ARM9, I need a special programmer. If I want to program an MSP430, it will require a special programmer. The list goes on and on, for each new chip that I think I'd like to develop code for; the cost is prohibitive, and in each case, it is likely that the tools:

  1. Only work under Windows, or
  2. Work under Linux if you have a parallel port.

I don't know about you, but my MacBook doesn't have a parallel port. And Windows running under VMWare doesn't always recognize these little programming dongles. And really, I don't want to use Windows or Linux at all. I want to use my Mac.

I'm thinking that I need a sub-$300 device (sub $100 would be ideal) that can program any small device, whether it is the new Blackfin processor or a crappy little PIC. This implies a software solution, with some mix-n-match cabling coming out of the box.


I'm going to start thinking about this a bit more, because it is a genuine problem in the embedded space. It represents the worst kind of vendor lock-in, and makes my life as an educator and hobbyist a complete nightmare. I need a solution that:

  1. Works with any embedded device (via software update, if necessary)
  2. Works with any computing platform (Mac, Linux, Windows)
  3. Is cheap and portable

In the end, the solution is probably called a "LEGO Mindstorms NXT", and I should just give up on embedded platforms. But I'm not prepared for that yet.


  • Posted: August 6, 2007
  • Author: Matthew Jadud
  • Comments: None
  • Tags: None

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