OT: microcontrollers (Was: Re: [lug] solid-state embedded linux box?)

Nate Duehr nate at natetech.com
Wed Sep 18 15:38:05 MDT 2002

A step up from the BASIC Stamp : 

The PIC series from Microchip is more powerful (but harder to program)
than the BASIC Stamp, most of the free tools are in Assembly language,
however free BASIC and C interpreters can be found... usually
crippleware, they'll program 1024 bytes only or have limited command

The Atmel AVR's are competitors that are a bit easier to program
directly in Assembly.  There are also BASIC and C tools out for the

If you're already into the BASIC Stamps, Micro Engineering Labs in
Colorado Springs (www.melabs.com) has a very tight BASIC compiler for
the PIC line of micros.  They also sell a good programmer.

I use the Newfound Electronics (www.newfoundelectronics.com) WARP-13
programmer which supports both PIC's and Atmel's.  I bought it from
DonTronics in Australia (www.dontronics.com).  It arrived within about a
week and a half of ordering.  It uses an on-board PIC (16F73) to emulate
the functions in Microchip's "PICStart Plus" personal programmer at half
the cost, meaning that almost all software that can talk to the PCP can
use it.

To keep this somewhat on-topic for Linux, there *are* GPL tools for the
PIC's and AVR's.  I have not had a chance yet to investigate their use. 
There appears to be (not having tried them) both an assembler for the
PIC's and a PIC simulator for debugging code, and some work being done
on cross-compilers for GNU C.  (One of the purchase decisions for the
WARP-13 was that there's an "unsupported" linux driver for it to be able
to use it to program from Linux.)

There's a huge amount of information on the PIC's at www.piclist.com ,
which is a web database tied to the PICLIST mailing list at MIT.


On Wed, 2002-09-18 at 00:05, John Dollison wrote:
> I don't know if these exactly fit the bill, but they're *extremely* small
> PC's that can run Linux:
> wearables.stanford.edu/
> www.tiqit.com/eightythree.html
> www.bixnet.com/comsys.html
> For the ultimate in miniaturization, programmability, and flexibility, try
> the BASIC Stamps.  Just about every do-it-yourself project I've seen that
> involves robotics, serial data control, or any other kind of  project that
> needs an independent microcontroller with input and output uses these:
> http://www.parallaxinc.com/html_files/products/Basic_Stamps/stamp_modules.ht
> m
> Here's a web server the size of a quarter....
> www.siteplayer.com
> Don't forget to check out
> www.basicmicro.com
> www.micromint.com
> Cheers,
> John Dollison
> .
> ----- Original Message -----
> Bryan Field-Elliot wrote:
> In my (extremely limited) spare time, I'd like to tinker with cheap,
> solid-state linux boxes, such as you might use for building a SOHO firewall
> system or, if made even smaller, perhaps even a children's toy controller.
> Can anyone recommend any web resources for getting up to speed on the state
> of that industry, including comparitive prices and sizes? Ideally I'd be
> looking at a 16-32MB system, recent kernel, and perhaps nothing on the
> outside except power and ethernet connectors.
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