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2013-08-25

Building a PicKit 2 clone

For most of my smaller projects using a high-performance MCU (like a Stellaris, now Tiva, STM32F or Cypress PSoC) is kind of overkill. Their power is not always needed and their requirements regarding supply voltages make the projects more complicated and expensive (they run with 3.3V only, so level conversion might be needed, and some additional LDO). And most of them are available on large (and small-pitch) packages only, making bread-boarding and the final PCBs more difficult. So for these smaller projects I mostly choose some Microchip PICs. They are cheap, come in DIP packages, have a voltage range from (for most of them) 2.7 up to 5 volts and have a great range of available peripherals (meaning you only need to take of what you really need).

But this also means there is another platform I need a programmer for. For my first experiments I used pigpgm together with the TLVP programmer. This is a small an inexpensive programmer connected to a parallel port (yes, I still take care of having one in my PC), and this combination can program nearly all PICs which can do low-voltage-programming. And it runs on Linux, too.

But since it cannot do debugging, I decided a while ago to use a tool which is supported by the Microchip tool chain (since I’m on Linux, this meant MPLabX). There is a great number of both ICD2 and PicKit2 clone projects available, so I decided to give one of them a go. I found a good project description together with a complete PCB design. Its all through-hole, and also implements the full PK2 feature set (many clones for example skip on the level-shifting stuff so they can be used with 5 volt designs only). It had nearly all components available (except for the inductor) so it didn’t cost that much to build it…

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