A few days ago, my chum Dylan McGrath posted a rather interesting column on EE Times: Microchip Launches Cloud-Based IDE for PIC Microcontrollers. As Dillon noted in his article:
“…the free MPLAB Xpress cloud-based IDE is the easiest way for users to get started with PIC MCUs, requiring no downloads, sign-in or setup to start designing. It brings the most popular features of Microchip’s MPLAB X IDE to connected PCs, laptops and tablets…”
As you'll see in the comments to Dylan's column, this provoked some lively debate, with some community members saying things like:
And this is good why? So you don't have to install anything. Big deal. Software installation is no big deal, and disk space is cheap…
While other folks responded by saying things like:
Why? Well I can give you one example. I was considering playing around with the Microchip software to see if it is applicable for something I'm thinking of building and tinkering with. This makes it easy: I just go to their website and just start playing around with their software. It doesn't matter what computer I'm on at the moment and I don't have to deal with software downloads/installation/upgrades.
Personally, although I understand concerns about things like security, I do like being able to run applications in the cloud and try things out without having to download and install lots of “stuff” onto my computer.
One particularly interesting nugget of knowledge is that, in addition to working with Microchip's most popular development tools — like the PICkit 3 Programmer/Debugger and the Curiosity Development Board — the folks at Microchip have created an exclusive MPLAB Xpress Evaluation Board. In fact, I have one of these little beauties sitting here on my desk in front of me as I pen these words, which prompted me to take the following photo:
(Source: Max Maxfield / Embedded.com)
This little beauty features a simple USB programming interface that's plug-and-play and driver-free, and that works with Windows, Mac OS, and Unix. Furthermore, this little rascal boasts the PIC16F18855 MCU with new, advanced low-power modes, new Core Independent Peripherals, and simple setup using the MPLAB Code Configurator.
But wait, there's more, because — in addition to providing access to a bunch of GPIOs — the little scamp also features an on-board MikroBUS header, thereby allowing one to leverage 180+ MikroElektronika Click boards.
The guys and gals at Microchip were offering free copies of this evaluation board to the first 2,000 customers to register at MPLABXpress.microchip.com. Sad to relate, however, those boards are long gone (sad face).
But turn that frown upside down into a smile, because I am the bearer of glad tidings and I have great news (happy face). The chaps and chapesses at Microchip reserved ten of these boards for the readers of Embedded.com and EETimes.com.
The trick, of course, is to decide to whom we should send them. Fortunately, we have a tried-and-trusted method that's both fun and fair. All you have to do is email me at and cajole, charm, and beguile me with fascinating projects you think may benefit from such a board. Perhaps a robot mouse, or a cunning clock, or a… I don’t know; you tell me!
Let's say you've got around a week following my posting this column. That means you have until I enter my secret underground command center and ensconce myself in my comfy chair first thing on the morning of Wednesday, March 9, 2016. At that time, I shall peruse and ponder all of these messages and make my determination based on which potential project prognostications most get my creative juices flowing.
That “boing” sound you hear is the ball landing on your side of the court…