Here's a Kickstarter project I'd like to see

There's project after project after project on Kickstarter aiming to be the next Arduino.

Published on Friday, 14 September 2012

On Kickstarter, the "please-donate-to-me-because-I-have-an-idea" website, one popular and recurring theme is to provide the "next Arduino" platform. In nearly all cases, this involves an ARM Cortex-M* microcontroller on a small breakout board. ARM breakout boards, however, are a dime a dozen. Any fool (yours truly first in line) can whip one up from a datasheet and a little Google-time. There are enough frighteningly powerful Cortex microcontrollers out there that it's time someone did something about it.

What we actually need, however, is not YAAMBB (Yet Another ARM Microcontroller Breakout Board). What we need is some clear, up-to-date guidance on how to put together a working toolchain, including on-chip debugging. This is huge.

STMicroelectronics, for example, makes available the STM32F4Discovery board. It's cheap, it's fast, and it's packed with interesting peripherals, including an ST-LINKv2 SWD debugger (think JTAG) that can either be used with the on-board Cortex-M4 microcontroller, or any other supported chip. The latest version of OpenOCD supports this ST-LINKv2, and even includes a "script" for this specific board. Eclipse can be used to cross-compile code with any number of GCC-based toolchains, and supports (I believe) GDB, which (I think) can be tied to OpenOCD, and therefore (I would hope), used to provide an all-in-one free-software open-source develop-compile-deploy-debug experience for this new breed of powerful microcontrollers.

The problem is, noone seems to know how to set this up. If they do, they're not telling anyone. What we need is a start-to-end tutorial, a buy-your-board to set-breakpoint-here guide, that can get people using these new powerful tools.

I'd back that.