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Thack

Mplab Or Sourceboost Ide

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(Not sure if this is the right forum; please move it if you wish)

 

I am a complete newbie to SourceBoost products, although I've been programming PICs using MPLAB and the PICStart Plus for several years, now.

 

My requirements are that I want to be able to write my code in 'C', program a range of PICs, and experiment with in-circuit debugging (I've never done this before). I'll be using the PICkit2 for in-circuit programming, and the PICStart Plus for programming uninstalled PICs.

 

What benefits does the SourceBoost IDE have over MPLAB? In your experience, what are the strengths, weaknesses and unique features of both? Which would you recommend?

 

Obviously I'm trying to decide whether to migrate over to the SourceBoost IDE, or stick with MPLAB.

 

Any thoughts or reactions would be gratefully received.

 

Thanks,

 

Steve

Edited by Thack

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MPLAB is incredibly powerful with more features than you can shake a stick at but is horribly unstable. Leave any of its windows docked when you save a workspace or exit and you are begging for a crash the next time you run it. It also crashes at random if you click in the wrong place in the wrong window at the wrong time. Some of its windows seem riskier than others. Worst of all, the crash often leaves the workspace corrupt so once you've found a layout that works, its worth making a backup of your project and workspace files.

 

Sourceboost IDE just works, rarely crashes and on the few occasions it has crashed on me, never smashed its project file. The simulator isn't quite as stable but with the plugins its much easier to use for most purposes than MPLAB SIM. I don't even program in Assembler in MPLAB any more.

 

MPLAB does have that wonderful in-circuit debug support though. I run both for that reason (you can set up to build the same project in the same directory by having equivalent SourceBoost and MPLAB project files using the *SAME* .c, .h and .lib files) but for my sanity I get as far as I can in SourceBoost IDE and simulator before running MPLAB to access the debugger. I will fix small bugs while in MPLAB as its easier than swapping.

 

BEWARE of anything that pushes your machine's resources while in MPLAB. I recommend opening all the data sheets, web pages and other documents you need before running MPAB. Its soul destroying to get a blue screen crash or total freeze-up the moment you found the right info from a 300 page data sheet and switched back to MPLAB, and I used to get that every hour or two at first. . . :-(

Edited by IanM

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I totally agree with you about the lousy stability of MPLAB. I think it's a weird mix - buggy and fragile, and with a Windows 95 look-and-feel, but with some great modern features like code folding, etc.

 

However, I've found it works much better if I run it in a Virtual XP machine (I'm running Windows 7 here) with nothing else competing with it. I open all my reference documents, websites, etc from Windows 7.

 

If you don't do this already, I would strongly recommend you set up a Virtual XP machine dedicated solely to PIC programming. It seems much better that way.

 

Steve

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Windows 95 look and feel would *NOT* be a problem if it came with a snappy response and excellent stability - I'd even prefer it.

 

I'd be concerned about hardware access from a VM. Maybe Vista has that sorted now. Have you had any problems debugging or driving programmers?

 

I am actually running Win98SE here and stability is better than on a friend's XP box. I could fire up my XP machine but it is old and slow and this even older Dell out-performs it easily. Cant afford a decent box this year. Might splash £250 on a netbook though.

 

As Sourceboost IDE can even let me do *some* useful work on an ancient Toshiba Vaio craptop with only 32Mb RAM on the boat (a real hair shirt development environment but its always at risk of seawater damage, and money is a factor), I'm prejudiced against the bloated MPLAB 8.xx which is a lot less stable than I remember MPLAB 5.20 being.

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I'd be concerned about hardware access from a VM. Maybe Vista has that sorted now. Have you had any problems debugging or driving programmers?

 

 

Remember, so far I've worked only with PICStart Plus and I can say for sure it's fine in a Virtual Machine. It's only a serial port, after all.

 

However, these past couple of days I've been playing with the PICKit2, also in the VM. I thought it might be trickier, as it's a USB device, but Windows Virtual PC lets the VM capture the USB port with no problems. I've programmed the PIC on the demo board a few times , but I haven't yet tried any in-circuit debugging. I can control the the PICKit2 (programming, and switching the VDD and MCLR lines) from the PICKit software and also from within MPLAB. It seems to work perfectly in both cases.

 

As the VM is able to "see" the PICkit2 for programming purposes, I'm pretty confident it'll see it just the same for in-circuit debugging.

 

Oh, I should point out that I'm using the new "Windows Virtual PC", NOT "Virtual PC 2007". The latter doesn't support the capture of USB ports. The former is still in beta (I think) and is used in the soon-to-be-released Windows 7.

 

I realise you might not be in a position to go this route yourself, Ian, but for anyone else who might be watching this thread, I can honestly say that a virtual XP machine hosted in Windows 7 (or Windows Vista, maybe) is great for PIC development. Apps like PICKit2, MPLAB and SB IDE play much more nicely in XP than in Windows 7 or Vista.

 

Finally, I will experiment with some in-circuit debugging from within a virtual XP machine, and report back to this thread.

 

Steve

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Further to our discusion about using PICKit 2 from within an XP virtual machine......

 

I can confirm that the Programmer-To-Go feature works OK, too.*

 

The only thing left to check is the ICD function. I'll report back.

 

Steve

 

*I must say, Programmer-To-Go is a fabulous feature! The ability to "fill up" the PICkit with the code, take it out to the target hardware, and "empty" it into the target is just brilliant.

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OK, every aspect of PICkit2 seems to work perfectly from inside an XP Virtual Machine.

 

To summarise: I've set up an XP virtual machine in "Windows Virtual PC"*, hosted by Windows 7, for my PIC programming activities.

 

The SourceBoost IDE, MPLAB and the PICKit2 applications all run nicely in the virtual XP machine.

 

The PICStart Plus and PICKit2 programmers both work fine (serial port and USB respectively).

 

The following PICKit2 functions have been tested and work fine:

 

* In-circuit programming

* In-circuit debugging

* Programming-To-Go mode

 

In my experience MPLAB and the SB IDE are much happier in XP, so the use of a virtual machine is a good way to have the best of both worlds. I recommend it.

 

Steve

 

* This is NOT the same as "Virtual PC 2007", which doesn't support USB port capture and thus won't work with PICKit2.

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I use a third party editor like Textpad or UltraEdit to write my codes, then use MPLab for project management and building as well as debugging. The only reason I choose MPLab is purely because of it's in-circuit debugging capability, which is often needed to figure out what's wrong with a piece of hardware, and the assumption that Microchip will continue to support and keep it updated from time to time.

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I use a third party editor like Textpad or UltraEdit to write my codes........

 

Why use a third party editor?

 

I ask only because I think the editor in MPLAB has greatly improved in recent releases, and in particular like the code-folding; keyword recognition and highlighting; auto-indenting and out-denting; bracket matching; etc.

 

What extras do Textpad and UltraEdit bring to the party?

 

SteveT

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Well I've used a variety of different controllers each with their own debuggers and compilers.

Over time I find that it is easier to stick with an editor so I wouldn't have to readjust myself to different IDEs/environment, or to whine about the new IDE lacking a particular feature, or behaving differently from what I'm used to.

 

Like right now, my day job deals with ARC whereas I code for PIC on my free time, and I use textpad for both. In fact, I use textpad for all text reading/editing stuff.

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