Pinguino on bread board
Now a days, there are lot of cheap options, if we want to do some hobby projects using micro-controllers. Arduino being one of the most popular which uses the self reprogramming feature to flash the new code, can be used even by people who does not know much about software or hardware programming.
Pinguino is an arduino like hardware and IDE for PIC microcontroller. Its software is Free and Open Source. And Pinguino boards are Open Hardware. It is very much similar to arduino with additional USB features supported by PIC microcontrollers. So it does not need a USB to RS232 converter chip in the hardware which must make the hardware cheaper. Below is the description of Pinguino as published in Pinguino website.
Pinguino is an Arduino-like electronics prototyping platform. It
supports different 8- and 32-bit ©Microchip microcontrollers, all with
built-in USB module (no FTDI chip !).
However, due to lack of popularity the Pinguino boards are difficult to find and costlier than that of the Arduino boards. Hence I decided to try it using a PIC18f2550 on bread board. It is very easy to construct as there is not much components. Firmware which is necessary to make the controller work with the Pinguino IDE is available at the Pinguino website. An image of final constructed circuit with an 8x8 led matrix display is below.
Pinguino comes with a USB Bootloader. This small program running inside the microcontroller is responsible for transferring your application from your PC to the microcontroller memory and handing over the control to this program afterwards.
No programmer is needed(*), the microcontroller can be reprogrammed over USB with a PC.
Pinguino's Language is an Arduino-like or Arduino-influenced rather than Arduino-compatible Language. Users can use the same keywords but can not include Arduino's libraries in their code. Adapted libraries are listed here.
It makes you write easily your application without spending hours learning pragma, configuration bits or command line compiler.