Tag Archives: Studio

The new Atmel-ICE debugger is here

I ordered the new Atmel ICE debugger as soon as it appeared on the company store. I see there is still stock so feel free to put in an order with us or your favorite distributor. Don’t get this new one confused with our JTAGICE3,  sometimes called JTAGICE markIII or mk3. It looks similar, but this new one has two debugging connectors. One is for the AVR microcontrollers, and one is for ARM MCU devices. There is a nice slide-show and explanation on our Norway site.


The new Atmel-ICE is white and has two connectors for debugging. The old JTAGICE3 (inset) is silver and only has one connector, although you can upgrade the firmware so it can debug SAM D20 ARM-based MCUs.

Best yet, just like we lowered the priced between the JTAGICE2 and JTAGICE3, we lowered it again for the Atmel ICE. You can get the fancy high-zoot version for 85 bucks. It has the pretty box and all the cables. Then there is a stripper version with just one debug cable for $49. Finally, you can get a bare-board version with no case or cables for a measly $32. This is a great deal when you think that a JTAGICE2 was $399.


This new Atmel-ICE replaces both the Dragon and the JTAGICE3. The only other ARV debugger you might need is the AVRONE! debugger that has trace capability. It’s 600 bucks, but that is worth every penny if you are trying to figure out where your program went or how it entered a subroutine or interrupt vector.

For the “big iron” ARM MPU (microprocessor units) with external memory you can use the SAM ICE. The SAM-ICE is in our store for 100 dollars. This works with Atmel’s MPU chips like the ARM Cortex A5-based chips like the SAMA5D series, and the ARM9-based SAM9x parts.

I unboxed my new Atmel-ICE today, here are the pictures:


The box has a Norse warrior on it, as tribute to the brilliant Norwegian engineers that invented the AVR chip.


Open the box and you see the Atmel-ICE on the left, safely snuggles in anti-static foam, and a box on the right with the three cables and breakout PCB.


Here is a close-up of the debug connectors. Identical, but the one on the right is for AVR and the one on the left is for ARM-based MCUs.


The Atmel ICE uses the micro USB connector. The two more expensive versions come with the cable, the bare PCB does not.


To keep costs down we didn’t paint the logo on, you can see it is nicely inset, as are the “AVR” and “SAM” indicators to tell you which debug connector is which. Check out how nice and small the unit is. This is another improvement over the JTAGICE2, and a real benefit on a crowded desk or lab bench.


Here is the cables that come in the 85-dollar unit. You also get the USB cable. Note the one cable comes with that cool breakout board.


The breakout board has a silkscreen on both sides to help you figure out what it plugs into.

Using Arduino PWM for constant-current drive

The always excellent Circuit Cellar Magazine has a nice article by Ed Nisley. Arduino PWM vs MOSFET Transconductance describes his characterization of Arduino PWM outputs for the constant-current drive of MOSFETs. His application is LED drive, but you could use the knowledge anywhere, including a programmable current sink. Now Circuit Cellar is a paid-subscription magazine, so I can’t link to free article, but maybe their lawyers will let me take a picture of a picture in the print magazine, to which I am a long-time subscriber.


This photo of the board Ed Nisley used to develop his constant-current source tells you it is not some Spice simulation or a theoretical track. This is a sure tip-off that Ed knows what he is writing about.


This scope shot also reassures you that Ed is not venturing forth some opinion on how the hardware and firmware works, it is proof positive he built this stuff and that it really works. I scratched off the readouts to make sure this is fair use and not a violation of Circuit Cellar’s copyrights.

Analog Guru Paul Grohe taught me that you should always look for pictures of real hardware in articles, and that if the curves are ”too pretty” they are probably marketing BS instead of real data. That is the great thing about this article; it’s got both pictures and data that tell you that you can trust the content.

There is another interesting article in the March 2014 Circuit Cellar issue. It’s about an outfit called ImageCraft. They make a C compiler with an IDE (integrated development environment) for Atmel AVR and ARM Cortex-based MCUs. Now I am a fan of Atmel’s free Studio 6 IDE, but feel free to use whatever IDE you prefer to write the code for your projects.

Now I can’t show you these articles on-line, since Circuit Cellar is a subscription print magazine. You have to give them 50 bucks a year to get it. You can get it as a digital pdf if you want to save trees. Its $85 a year for the both print and digital versions. There are large discounts for two- or three-year subscriptions. Best of all, you can give them something like $225 and get every single issue in history on a thumb drive. Then with your combo subscription you can add your monthly pdf to the archive thumb drive, and still have the print edition to impress your friends and boss.

A PIR motion activated camera with Atmel & ARM

A PIR motion activated camera is typically deployed as a security measure to detect, record and identify an unauthorized intruder. Key design considerations of such a device include false alarm immunity, extended battery life, low BOM cost and small form factor.


A number of Atmel-based components can be used to build a PIR motion activated camera that follows the above-mentioned design requirements. Firstly, Atmel’s ARM-based (Cortex-M4) SAM4S16 is capable of achieving fast image capture along with compression, all while transferring the data back to the control center – thereby facilitating rapid visual verification and response.

“Perhaps most importantly, Atmel’s SAM4S16 offers low power operation to extend battery life, with embedded peripherals running independently from the CPU,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.


“So that means PIR sensing and image capturing without CPU load. More specifically, single snapshot mode =>30uA/day -10 years of battery life (3V, 2800mAh Li-Ion).”

Similarly, Atmel’s 86RF212B/233RF transceiver offers low-power operation with Sleep Mode down to 0.02uA.

“Developers can also save on total BOM cost and reduce design form factor, as Atmel’s SAM4S16 is capable of independently handling image encoding and processing with software,” the engineering rep continued.  “In addition, the Atmel-based design (SAM4S16) allows the removal of one external amplifier interfacing PIR Sensor via the embedded ADC with gain stage. Plus, the SAM4S16 directly connects to any CMOSImageSensor, all while providing color picture capture at QVGA resolution.”

On the software side, developers have easy access to the SAM4S evaluation kit (Xplained Pro), along with Atmel Studio, Gallery and free libraries, including FreeRTOS, TCP/IP Stacks and 802.15.4 Stacks.

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s ARM-powered SAM4S16? Be sure to check out the official SAM4S16 page here.