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'[PIC] Possible PIC App That Might Make Money'
2007\03\05@161242 by Bob Axtell

face picon face
I will be busy with pure engineering tasks and won't be
able to do much PIC stuff anymore so I wanted to pass onto my
PIClist friends some possible ways to make a few bucks
through the use of your PIC talents. This is one:

Portable PIC Programmer

Similar to what Tony Nixon was trying to do with his
"Pocket Programmer", there is a market for a truly portable
PIC production programmer. The market is not only production
but also field service (to make field updates). I believe this
market can be as large as $USD 100K the first year,  at a cost
of $200ea, and become $USD 1M+ within 3 years.

It must be able to be loaded from a USB port on a WinXP laptop,
data stored in smaller SD card, storing at least 32 files. To be easy to
control, it probably would need a 2 x 16 LCD display. Needs to  be NiMH
powered, with built-in charger which can accept walwart or automotive
charging source. Primarily ICSP but a small 40ZIF as an adaptor might
make it easier to sell.

- - -

There are more.

--Bob




2007\03\05@170456 by olin piclist

face picon face
Bob Axtell wrote:
> Portable PIC Programmer
>
> Similar to what Tony Nixon was trying to do with his
> "Pocket Programmer", there is a market for a truly portable
> PIC production programmer. The market is not only production
> but also field service (to make field updates). I believe this
> market can be as large as $USD 100K the first year,  at a cost
> of $200ea, and become $USD 1M+ within 3 years.

I have thought of this too, but I don't see the market anywhere near the
size you do.  If I remember right, Tony Nixon's pocket programmer was a
commercial failure.

At $200 each a reasonable profit is possible, but this would have to include
a nice plastic case, etc, all which make the up front development costs
higher.  And even if your market estimates are correct, that isn't going to
be achieved by selling on a hole-in-the-wall web site.  That means there is
significant work envolved in setting up and managing all the resellers.

> It must be able to be loaded from a USB port on a WinXP laptop,
> data stored in smaller SD card, storing at least 32 files.

Or just a flash chip, since the user never removes the memory anyway.  They
manage whatever the programmer stores via the software and the USB
interface.

> To be easy
> to control, it probably would need a 2 x 16 LCD display. Needs to  be
> NiMH powered, with built-in charger which can accept walwart or
> automotive charging source.

Think about the total joules needed for a programming session.  I think you
can get a lot of programming sessions from a pair of single use AA
batteries.  If someone wants rechargeable, they can use AA NiMH with a
external charger.  Keep it simple.  I doubt anyone would not buy it because
it accepted just AA batteries without a integrated charger.

Let's do a quick check.  Let's say pessimistically that 500mA would be drawn
from a pair of AA batteries during programming.  That's a lot, and would
only happen if significant target circuit was powered along with the PIC.
I'm specifying 100mA Vdd for the USBProg and it isn't percieved as a
limitation.  Of course that 500mA at 3V would mean significantly less Vdd
current, but still a substantial amount.  I don't remember what the rating
is for modern one-time AA batteries, but probably 3Ah is conservative (you
can get NiMH cells close to that already).  That means a pair of AA
theoretically has 6 hours programming life.  Let's further say
pessimistically that each programming operation takes 1 minute.  That means
a pair of AA in theory is good for 360 programming operations.  Even if it's
only 300, that's a lot.  Changing the batteries once every 300 programming
operations is unlikely to scare off too many customers, and there is no
charger to loose, and no charing circuit to incorporate and pay for and find
space for.

This is not a good application for NiMH because of their high
self-discharge.  This programmer is the kind of thing that gets banged
around in the bottom of a field service kit and possibly forgotten for
months on end until it's needed right there right away.

As I said, I've thought about this before too, including a design for it
based partly on the USBProg.  If you really believe this is a viable
product, are you willing to invest in it and then share in the profits
later?


********************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, http://www.embedinc.com/products
(978) 742-9014.  Gold level PIC consultants since 2000.

2007\03\05@181337 by Jamesp

picon face

All,

The only problem I have with the scenario at the bottom of the page is that
I don't believe that 3AH for a double A battery (cell) is accurate.  I
would think maybe half of that would be a good estimate.  But even given
this reduction in cell capacity, the longevity is still good.  

Just my 2 cents worth.


                                             Regards,

                                               Jim






{Quote hidden}

> --

2007\03\05@183018 by Mark Rages

face picon face
On 3/5/07, Bob Axtell <spam_OUTengineerTakeThisOuTspamneomailbox.com> wrote:
> I will be busy with pure engineering tasks and won't be
> able to do much PIC stuff anymore so I wanted to pass onto my
> PIClist friends some possible ways to make a few bucks
> through the use of your PIC talents. This is one:
>
> Portable PIC Programmer
>
> Similar to what Tony Nixon was trying to do with his
> "Pocket Programmer", there is a market for a truly portable
> PIC production programmer. The market is not only production
> but also field service (to make field updates). I believe this
> market can be as large as $USD 100K the first year,  at a cost
> of $200ea, and become $USD 1M+ within 3 years.
>

PICkit 2 + PDA has been used for this purpose.

Regards,
Mark
markrages@gmail
--
You think that it is a secret, but it never has been one.
 - fortune cookie

2007\03\05@184045 by Maarten Hofman

face picon face
Redwood Shores, 5 maart 2007.

A NiMH AA usually has a capacity of 2000mAh (up to 2900mAh, I believe). A
NiCd AA has a capacity of 1000mA, usually. In my experience an alkaline AA
battery clearly outlasts either of these (in the order of 5x as long), which
makes me think 3000mAh might be a good estimate (because part of the longer
duration of an alkaline battery is probably due to the fact that it doesn't
leak as much as a rechargeable battery). An important consideration with
alkaline batteries is the fact that their capacity changes with the load:
the higher the load, the lower their capacity (down to 700mAh at a high
load, e.g. 1000mA). So at 500mA they probably won't last nearly as long as
described, but at 100mA they would last far longer.

Possibly a cleverly placed capacitor could increase the life of an alkaline
battery a lot, in this case, as programming only has a limited duration.

Greetings,
Maarten Hofman.

2007\03\05@184049 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face

> It must be able to be loaded from a USB port on a WinXP laptop,
> data stored in smaller SD card, storing at least 32 files.
>
Can you dispense with USB connectivity if you can read FAT from
an SD card?

I agree that I'd rather have "buy at the local drugstore" AA
alkalines than "go dead in storage" NiMH cells in such a device.
Should work from AA Alkalines too, of course.

I bet the ICD2 clones have enough free pins to add an SD card
interface; add one of those USB power supplies and you're done, eh?
(and you can use the USB power supply to recharge your iPod too.)

BillW

2007\03\05@184856 by peter green

flavicon
face

> A NiMH AA usually has a capacity of 2000mAh (up to 2900mAh, I believe). A
> NiCd AA has a capacity of 1000mA, usually.
are those manufacturers claims or independent figures?

remember for the most part battery companies are not selling to engineers who will actually measure this stuff so i'd expect exagerated (e.g. absoloute best case) claims to be the norm.



2007\03\05@193550 by Brent Brown

picon face
> A NiMH AA usually has a capacity of 2000mAh (up to 2900mAh, I believe).
> A NiCd AA has a capacity of 1000mA, usually. In my experience an
> alkaline AA battery clearly outlasts either of these (in the order of 5x
> as long), which makes me think 3000mAh might be a good estimate (because
> part of the longer duration of an alkaline battery is probably due to
> the fact that it doesn't leak as much as a rechargeable battery).

Sounds like you're in the right ball park. Eveready Energizer No. X91 Alkaline AA
cell, manufacturers spec sheet says 3,135 mAh (to 0.8 volts) (Rated capacity at 25
mA continuous drain.) Old data sheet (2003), could have been improved by now.

--
Brent Brown, Electronic Design Solutions
16 English Street, St Andrews,
Hamilton 3200, New Zealand
Ph: +64 7 849 0069
Fax: +64 7 849 0071
Cell: 027 433 4069
eMail:  .....brent.brownKILLspamspam@spam@clear.net.nz


2007\03\05@215018 by John Chung

picon face
This product would MAKE an excellent field upgrade.
Don't need to send a technician with a laptop or palm
just to upgrade the PIC in question. But again the key
is HOW to market it.... If one was to price it at USD
200 it would be rather expensive for the techinician
toolbox..

John


--- William Chops Westfield <westfwspamKILLspammac.com> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> --

2007\03\05@222006 by Bob Axtell

face picon face
Olin Lathrop wrote:
> Bob Axtell wrote:
>  
>> Portable PIC Programmer
>>
>> Similar to what Tony Nixon was trying to do with his
>> "Pocket Programmer", there is a market for a truly portable
>> PIC production programmer. The market is not only production
>> but also field service (to make field updates). I believe this
>> market can be as large as $USD 100K the first year,  at a cost
>> of $200ea, and become $USD 1M+ within 3 years.
>>    
>
> I have thought of this too, but I don't see the market anywhere near the
> size you do.  If I remember right, Tony Nixon's pocket programmer was a
> commercial failure.
>  
Yes, because it came into being before ICSP came into vogue. The field
update market has jumped
a LONG way past those old days. Everything is smaller, everything needs
constant updates nowadays.
I think my estimates are low, frankly. Also, it wasn't very rugged. This
needs to be VERY rugged, and
packaged.
> At $200 each a reasonable profit is possible, but this would have to include
> a nice plastic case, etc, all which make the up front development costs
> higher.  And even if your market estimates are correct, that isn't going to
> be achieved by selling on a hole-in-the-wall web site.  That means there is
> significant work envolved in setting up and managing all the resellers.
>
>  
I don't think there is so much packaging; there are some great cases
that look like multimeters and
they can take a 3' drop.
>> It must be able to be loaded from a USB port on a WinXP laptop,
>> data stored in smaller SD card, storing at least 32 files.
>>    
>
> Or just a flash chip, since the user never removes the memory anyway.  They
> manage whatever the programmer stores via the software and the USB
> interface.
>
>  
That's OK, would save a lot of money..
{Quote hidden}

I just might. I think your basic USBProg would be a great basis for it.
Probably only ONE NiMH AA would be needed, methinks.

--- and Olin, Microchip loves you. They would get behind it if it were
in a nice case.
Remember whereas we are engineering types, they are marketing types. Ask
'em if there
is a market, and see what _they_ say. You will be surprised.

--Bob
> ********************************************************************
> Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, http://www.embedinc.com/products
> (978) 742-9014.  Gold level PIC consultants since 2000.
>  

2007\03\06@000444 by Steve Smith

flavicon
face

A nice plastic case ??

Think outside the box.. The ICD2 'box' has support for a programming lead a
USB lead and a charging / supply lead. Make it work from a coin cell or two
and buy the boxes from microchip.. A hole in the top for an LCD and the SD
ram can go in the hole where the Dee connector was...

Does it need batteries ??

Probably not. The USB can provide power to load the unit and the target
could provide power to program itself just needs a small up converter for
Vpp.

Regards,
Steve

{Original Message removed}

2007\03\06@020725 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> A nice plastic case ??
>
> Think outside the box.. The ICD2 'box' has support for a
> programming lead a
> USB lead and a charging / supply lead. Make it work from a
> coin cell or two
> and buy the boxes from microchip.. A hole in the top for an
> LCD and the SD
> ram can go in the hole where the Dee connector was...
>
> Does it need batteries ??
>
> Probably not. The USB can provide power to load the unit and
> the target
> could provide power to program itself just needs a small up
> converter for
> Vpp.

pickit2 already has the 'programming ' button and the on-board flash
memory. So when Microchip finally decides to use these components the
parket for this proposed programmer goes 'poof'....

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu


2007\03\06@055432 by Tony Smith

picon face
> This is not a good application for NiMH because of their high
> self-discharge.  This programmer is the kind of thing that gets banged
> around in the bottom of a field service kit and possibly forgotten for
> months on end until it's needed right there right away.


Sanyo claim to have solved the self-discharge problem - <http://www.eneloop.com>.

That's just a shiny marketing site, from memory they state the batteries
arrive charged, and will discharge to 85% in one year.  Not bad.

I came across these about a year ago; I haven't tried them, nor have I
heard anything about them.  I'm not sure what their market actually is,
for stuff you only use occasionally alkaline (or even lithium) would work
out better & cheaper.  A better backup battery?  Camera flashes?

Tony

2007\03\06@071633 by olin piclist

face picon face
jamesp@intertex.net wrote:
> The only problem I have with the scenario at the bottom of the page is
> that I don't believe that 3AH for a double A battery (cell) is
> accurate.  I would think maybe half of that would be a good estimate.
> But even given this reduction in cell capacity, the longevity is still
> good.

Usually when I've been carefully considering battery capacity it has been
rechargeables or other than AA primary cells so I guessed just to fill in
some roughly plausible numbers.  I knew that NiMH were available in the
2.0-2.5Ah range, so I figured primary cells would be a bit more.

I looked around a bit now, and you're right in that normal alkaline AA
primary cells seem to be in the 2.5-3.0 Ah range, but derate to about half
that under 500mA load.  However lithium primary AA batteries are just about
3.0Ah and stay that way under 500mA load.  I think it would be a bit extreme
to recommend lithium batteries in a portable PIC programmer but they would
give you about twice the life in the extreme case of 500mA load on the
batteries during programming.

I think my estimate was very conservative for the typical case.  One minute
and 500mA per programming operation is way above average.  A real worst case
or even typical is hard to specify because there are so many different PICs
and target circuits out there.  The fact that most of them can be programmed
in under 20 seconds with under 250mA battery drain is of no consequence to
the field service guy who only ever updates a fully loaded 30F6010 in a
circuit that draws a additional 50mA beyond the PIC.

All in all, I think a reasonable worst case with two AA alkaline batteries
is 180 programming operations, with 500 typical over a broad mix of target
systems.  Even though it's less than my quick back of the envelope
calculation, I think it is well within acceptable range for the end user.


********************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, http://www.embedinc.com/products
(978) 742-9014.  Gold level PIC consultants since 2000.

2007\03\06@073745 by olin piclist

face picon face
Tony Smith wrote:
> That's just a shiny marketing site, from memory they state the batteries
> arrive charged, and will discharge to 85% in one year.  Not bad.

Not bad for NiMH, but alkaline are usually rated around 80% after 5 years
and lithium for 90% after 15 years.


********************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, http://www.embedinc.com/products
(978) 742-9014.  Gold level PIC consultants since 2000.

2007\03\06@082407 by olin piclist

face picon face
Bob Axtell wrote:
> Probably only ONE NiMH AA would be needed, methinks.

That would make the converter difficult because of the low voltage going in.
With two primary AA cells you can rely on 2.0V before it's OK to declare the
cells dead and give up.  With NiMH you should work down to 900mV per cell.
Even if you treat them like primary cells, just 1V is difficult to work with
and use it efficiently.  One cell also gets you half the capacity.  It would
be a lot easier to tell people they have to replace the batteries every
200-500 programming operations, and I don't see that as a marketing problem.

> --- and Olin, Microchip loves you. They would get behind it if it were
> in a nice case.
> Remember whereas we are engineering types, they are marketing types. Ask
> 'em if there
> is a market, and see what _they_ say. You will be surprised.

I have in the past asked them about what they would want in a programmer and
if there was any interest in a USBProg-like device designed externally to
their specs.  It has never met with any interest.  Perhaps it might be
different now that someone can actually hold a USBProg in their hands, but I
rather doubt it.  They have a full time professional tools group that does
these things.


********************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, http://www.embedinc.com/products
(978) 742-9014.  Gold level PIC consultants since 2000.

2007\03\06@093327 by Cristóvão Dalla Costa

picon face
On 3/6/07, Bob Axtell <.....engineerKILLspamspam.....neomailbox.com> wrote:
>
> >
> > I have thought of this too, but I don't see the market anywhere near the
> > size you do.  If I remember right, Tony Nixon's pocket programmer was a
> > commercial failure.
> >
> Yes, because it came into being before ICSP came into vogue. The field
> update market has jumped
> a LONG way past those old days. Everything is smaller, everything needs
> constant updates nowadays.
> I think my estimates are low, frankly. Also, it wasn't very rugged. This
> needs to be VERY rugged, and
> packaged.



And for that we now have bootloaders which are more convenient and the
update can be done by the customer without extra hardware and without a
technician. This leaves your programmer to serve low volume projects where
the convenience of the bootloader does not justify the development cost to
implement it. Frankly, I think it's a neat idea but I carry around a ICD2
with my laptop so I wouldn't buy it. Also I'm developing a bootloader for my
application for customer updates.

So maybe there's a US$ 100k/year market for these things which works out at
a mere 500 units per year and that sounds pretty easy to sell. However I
can't see how you would reach that market without spending a significant
portion of that revenue in advertising. Google ads might do for 50
units/year, for the remaining 450 what would you do?

2007\03\06@095322 by Mark Rages

face picon face
On 3/6/07, Wouter van Ooijen <EraseMEwouterspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTvoti.nl> wrote:
>
> pickit2 already has the 'programming ' button and the on-board flash
> memory. So when Microchip finally decides to use these components the
> parket for this proposed programmer goes 'poof'....
>
> Wouter van Ooijen
>

I have studied this, and I see no obvious way to power the standalone PICkit.

D4 prevents the PICkit from being powered by the target circuit.  It
appears to be included for exactly this purpose.

But there must be SOME reason the PICkit 2 included a megabyte of
EEPROM.  Also, I notice this is not included in the new PICkit Serial
protocol analyzer.

Regards,
Mark
markrages@gmail
--
You think that it is a secret, but it never has been one.
 - fortune cookie

2007\03\06@100625 by alan smith

picon face
I have two clients that would love this.....I keep forgetting to mention it to them.  They would like to supply these to distributors so they can do upgrades to the products either before they sell...or after as well.  Right now, one is having units sent back to update, the other sends out programmed chips.

John Chung <kravnusspamspam_OUTyahoo.com> wrote:  This product would MAKE an excellent field upgrade.
Don't need to send a technician with a laptop or palm
just to upgrade the PIC in question. But again the key
is HOW to market it.... If one was to price it at USD
200 it would be rather expensive for the techinician
toolbox..

John


--- William Chops Westfield wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> --

2007\03\06@101310 by PicDude

flavicon
face
That's pretty similar to what I was searching for recently, and picked up the
Kanda handleld programmer.  Difference from what you describe are:
(1) Parallel instead of USB port.
(2) Only 1 program (hex file) at a time.

For (1) adapters can be found, though it doesn't matter to me since I still
use an older computer with a parallel port for PIC development.
For (2) I poked around and saw that it uses an Atmel EEPROM, which I assume
holds the program.  I intend (though haven't yet tried) to build a small
adapter board that holds 8 or 16 such EEPROMs all "paralleled" together,
except for the chip-select pins, which I can control thru dip switches, a
4-bit hex thumbwheel switch (with some logic) or perhaps a small PIC circuit
to create an UP/DOWN function with 2 switches.

But if something like this were already commercially available at a fair
price, I'd be interested.

-Neil.


On Monday 05 March 2007 15:10, Bob Axtell wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\03\06@102337 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> > pickit2 already has the 'programming ' button and the on-board flash
> > memory. So when Microchip finally decides to use these
> components the
> > parket for this proposed programmer goes 'poof'....
>
> I have studied this, and I see no obvious way to power the
> standalone PICkit.

(as cross-answered on the pickit develop list)

It has an USB mini B socket. Take a standard USB-A to mini-B cable, cut
it, and connect the power. IIEC I have seen power-only USB hubs which
could be used without cutting the cable. Or make something like that,
but battery powered (I bet that exists, somewhere).

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu


2007\03\06@103548 by Mark Rages

face picon face
On 3/6/07, Wouter van Ooijen <@spam@wouterKILLspamspamvoti.nl> wrote:
> > > pickit2 already has the 'programming ' button and the on-board flash
> > > memory. So when Microchip finally decides to use these
> > components the
> > > parket for this proposed programmer goes 'poof'....
> >
> > I have studied this, and I see no obvious way to power the
> > standalone PICkit.
>
> (as cross-answered on the pickit develop list)
>
> It has an USB mini B socket. Take a standard USB-A to mini-B cable, cut
> it, and connect the power. IIEC I have seen power-only USB hubs which
> could be used without cutting the cable. Or make something like that,
> but battery powered (I bet that exists, somewhere).
>
> Wouter van Ooijen
>

Something like this:

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/macally-ipa481-external-battery-187474.php

--
You think that it is a secret, but it never has been one.
 - fortune cookie

2007\03\06@103703 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
Isn't PicKit2 originally deigned for doing that? Ok, the firmware currently
does not support it but the hardware design does. The concept was like to
store 1 hex into it's eeprom and then when you press the button it programs
the target - you just have to supply the voltage through it's mini USB
connector which could be a battery operated PSU.

Tamas


On 3/6/07, PicDude <KILLspampicdude2KILLspamspamavn-tech.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2007\03\06@104332 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
I was slow again :-)

> It has an USB mini B socket. Take a standard USB-A to mini-B cable, cut
> it, and connect the power. IIEC I have seen power-only USB hubs which
> could be used without cutting the cable. Or make something like that,
> but battery powered (I bet that exists, somewhere).

I just have a Motorola bloetooth headset for my phone and that has a mini-B
connector for charging, they provided a 500mA PSU for that with the
appropriate connector on it. So it's not that futuristic.

Tamas



On 3/6/07, Wouter van Ooijen <RemoveMEwouterTakeThisOuTspamvoti.nl> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2007\03\06@112955 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face

On Mar 6, 2007, at 2:54 AM, Tony Smith wrote:

> Sanyo claim to have solved the self-discharge problem -
> <http://www.eneloop.com>.
>
> I came across these about a year ago; I haven't tried them, nor
> have I heard anything about them.  I'm not sure what their
> market actually is, for stuff you only use occasionally alkaline
> (or even lithium) would work out better & cheaper.

High-drain consumer applications like digital cameras and flashlights,
where you want to remove the device from a month or two of storage
and just have it work.  Alkalines do really badly in digital cameras;
they just can't handle the current requirements.  And my experience
with NiMH has been really bad WRT self-discharge; a week in storage
will leave cells nearly depleted...

I don't know if the eneloops are worth the current price premium,
but reports on their performance are pretty good:

http://candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=149804

BillW

2007\03\06@120200 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>I just have a Motorola bloetooth headset for my phone and that
>has a mini-B connector for charging, they provided a 500mA PSU
>for that with the appropriate connector on it.
>So it's not that futuristic.

I have a Bluetooth GPS receiver like that as well. Came with a USB-A to
USB-B lead and a car cigarette lighter plug with a USB-A socket, as well as
a mains wall wart with USB-B plug on end of lead. IIRC the mains unit states
it provides something like 5.1V

2007\03\06@140308 by Richard Prosser

picon face
AA and AAA cells are usually sold in pairs or more anyway. (at least in NZ)
RP

On 07/03/07, Olin Lathrop <spamBeGoneolin_piclistspamBeGonespamembedinc.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2007\03\06@164155 by Bob Axtell

face picon face

> And for that we now have bootloaders which are more convenient and the
> update can be done by the customer without extra hardware and without a
> technician. This leaves your programmer to serve low volume projects where
> the convenience of the bootloader does not justify the development cost to
> implement it. Frankly, I think it's a neat idea but I carry around a ICD2
> with my laptop so I wouldn't buy it. Also I'm developing a bootloader for my
> application for customer updates.
>  
Good experience. I enjoyed it, too.

> So maybe there's a US$ 100k/year market for these things which works out at
> a mere 500 units per year and that sounds pretty easy to sell. However I
> can't see how you would reach that market without spending a significant
> portion of that revenue in advertising. Google ads might do for 50
> units/year, for the remaining 450 what would you do?
>  
The market is primarily with field service engineers. These guys drag
around enough stuff, and want a CERTAIN,
RELIABLE way of upgrading products. Are you saying they would like
dragging around an ICD2, MPLAB, and
a laptop, when a 4"x2" programmer with an SD card would do perfectly?
Frankly, the ICD2 is too unreliable to be
used as a field service tool; it takes too long to get it moving in the
right direction, like an old steam engine locomotive.

Only a couple of years ago, updates consisted of replacement chips;
first UV PROMS, then UV uPs, now flash
uP's. MOST are now interfaced by some ICSP scheme. PICs are no different.

The other application is on the production floor. The engineering
department releases the updated firmware for the
whatsit which is almost ready to be boxed up and shipped. The updated
firmware goes into the bottom of the
production programmer each morning. The programmer charged at its holder
all night, and its LiIon or NiMH
battery pack is topped off. The QC engineer notes which product needs
final updates, dials it in, plugs in a tiny ICSP
plug, and updates are done in a few seconds; NOT just the program
section, but ALL of it; the config bits as well.

Let's look at bootloaders for a second. I've written several, how about
you? The customer dials up your website and
gets the  "latest firmware" release to be installed. He points to the
link, and in a few minutes, the new firmware is installed.
Here are the pitfalls with bootloaders:

1. The actual firmware can be intercepted and stolen easily. Even if an
encryption scheme is used, it can't be very solid,
since there is almost no space in the PIC RAM for encryption minterms.
Also, adding encryption adds enormous complexity;
if you don't know the correct password, THEN what?

2. The client won't routinely use it. You can lead them to water, but
they may not drink. Maybe because the encryption process
is too complex?

3. Rarely are changes ONLY firmware changes.A product shipment or a
field-service visit is usually needed.

Flames and unkempt emails accepted.

--Bob  

2007\03\06@230408 by Kenneth Lumia

picon face
Just a few comments:

>> portion of that revenue in advertising. Google ads might do
>> for 50
>> units/year, for the remaining 450 what would you do?
>>
> The market is primarily with field service engineers. These
> guys drag
> around enough stuff, and want a CERTAIN,
> RELIABLE way of upgrading products. Are you saying they would
> like
> dragging around an ICD2, MPLAB, and

---------snip----------

You didn't answer the question!  How do you get the other
450 field service engineers - or more accurately, the
companies they work for to learn about the existence
and benefit of your product?

{Quote hidden}

Except for really small shops, programming is done with PC
controlled systems.  Engineering releases software, production
verifies it will load, and then puts it onto a production server.
Units in process that have not been programmed go through
a software download area that typically includes a PC, barcode
reader (so production automatically loads the correct code into
the correct units) and a vacuum or clamp fixture that probes the
appropriate signals and can also apply power.  Units already
assembled into housings typically are downloadable (bootload as
used here).


> Here are the pitfalls with bootloaders:
>
> 1. The actual firmware can be intercepted and stolen easily.

True, however this is a tradeoff of complexity and security.
If a customer really wants your code for free, there are ways
to get it. Freely available downloads are easier on the
customer and your business.

>
> 2. The client won't routinely use it. You can lead them to
> water, but
> they may not drink. Maybe because the encryption process
> is too complex?

Clients WILL NOT upgrade unless there is an issue that effects
them.  No business is going to take either the time to upgrade or
the risk inherent with "new and improved" software unless they
need something fixed.

>
> 3. Rarely are changes ONLY firmware changes.A product shipment
> or a
> field-service visit is usually needed.
>
Not true at all.  Most changes in software are for bug fixes,
or new software features.  The typical PC is an extreme
case.  The cost of a field service visit just to download
code will make the customer unhappy.

Ken

2007\03\06@233516 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face

On Mar 6, 2007, at 1:40 PM, Bob Axtell wrote:

> Are you saying they would like dragging around an ICD2, MPLAB, and
> a laptop, when a 4"x2" programmer with an SD card would do perfectly?

I thought prestige was proportional to the weight of the "kit"?  The
really good guys get more than one laptop (one running "standard
windows", the other running linux, or macos, or something else.)

In any case, it looks to me like the picKit2 would be a fine
starting place.  According to the schematic, there's an ICSP
connector on it somewhere (for the onboard chip, not for the
device being programmed.)  Tie into that and you can provide
both power and a couple IO pins useful for accessing a display
and SD card (three pins should be sufficient for bidirectional
timing-free communication, eh?)  Assuming you don't just use
the existing 1Mbit (NOT 1Mbyte, right?) of eeprom...

And the general design looks clone-able if you want nice
packaging.  Use the microchip code for its programming algorithms
and add you own UI around it.

Or maybe you should have a device that connects to a cellphone?

BillW

2007\03\07@075558 by Cristóvão Dalla Costa

picon face
On 3/6/07, Bob Axtell <TakeThisOuTengineerEraseMEspamspam_OUTneomailbox.com> wrote:
>
>
> > So maybe there's a US$ 100k/year market for these things which works out
> at
> > a mere 500 units per year and that sounds pretty easy to sell. However I
> > can't see how you would reach that market without spending a significant
> > portion of that revenue in advertising. Google ads might do for 50
> > units/year, for the remaining 450 what would you do?
> >
> The market is primarily with field service engineers. These guys drag
> around enough stuff, and want a CERTAIN,
> RELIABLE way of upgrading products. Are you saying they would like
> dragging around an ICD2, MPLAB, and
> a laptop, when a 4"x2" programmer with an SD card would do perfectly?
> Frankly, the ICD2 is too unreliable to be
> used as a field service tool; it takes too long to get it moving in the
> right direction, like an old steam engine locomotive.


Only a couple of years ago, updates consisted of replacement chips;
{Quote hidden}

You're entirely right here. BUT you still need to convince at least 200
customers to buy 2-3 of your units. And that's HARD work .

Let's look at bootloaders for a second. I've written several, how about
> you? The customer dials up your website and
> gets the  "latest firmware" release to be installed. He points to the
> link, and in a few minutes, the new firmware is installed.
> Here are the pitfalls with bootloaders:
>

Again you're right about bootloaders. But honestly I´m not sure how the
field programmer competes with them. If my customer 500 km away needs a
firmware update do I put the programmer in the overnight mail?

I think it's a neat idea and it could work. But its a niche product IMO,
which means that for it to actually make money you'll have to be VERY clever
about selling it to the right people without spending a ton of cash on
advertising or becoming a full time salesman.

2007\03\07@135437 by Vasile Surducan

face picon face
On 3/5/07, Bob Axtell <RemoveMEengineerspamTakeThisOuTneomailbox.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

If must be loaded from an USB, program stored on a FLASH card, why it
will need NiMh as long the target must be also supplied for
programming ? When you program the target you already have supply.

I can't see who will buy such programmer...

Vasile

2007\03\07@143300 by PicDude

flavicon
face
You are missing one key point here -- that the portable programmer would be
programmed at a PC, then taken to the field as a standalone device where it
would be used to upload the hex file to the PIC application.  That is when
the supply is needed.

-Neil.


On Wednesday 07 March 2007 12:54, Vasile Surducan wrote:
>
> If must be loaded from an USB, program stored on a FLASH card, why it
> will need NiMh as long the target must be also supplied for
> programming ? When you program the target you already have supply.
>
> I can't see who will buy such programmer...
>
> Vasile

2007\03\07@202138 by Bob Axtell

face picon face
Cristóvão Dalla Costa wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Yes. Some advertising will have to be directed to field service and test
floor management.

--Bob

2007\03\08@060348 by Vasile Surducan

face picon face
Still I can't see the utility of such device. Imagine you have stored
a wrong hex file. You should go back to the PC, correct the assembler
file, compile, store the hex file on your programmer and go back to
the filed.
Thast why was created a whole range of small laptops, for field
application including PIC programming. If someting goes wrong, you may
correct the problem directly on field, using the laptop and program
the PIC.

Vasile

On 3/7/07, PicDude <EraseMEpicdude2spamavn-tech.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

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