ARM-based debugging tool aims to improve on the Bus Pirate performance

The Bus Pirate is a fantastic development tool. It does an amazing job at a lot of different things. And as it has matured, community support has driven it to new areas beyond the original design. This is where its hardware holds back performance a little bit. For instance, as an I2C or SPI sniffer it has limited capture speed. That’s the type of thing that this board could improve upon. It’s a debugging tool based on an STM32 F4 microcontroller. That’s an ARM Cortex-M4 chip which runs at 168 MHz, and has 192 KB of SRAM.

[TitanMKD] has been working on the design but it is still just in digital form. Since there’s no prototype there is also no firmware for the device. That’s a tall mountain to climb and it’s one of the reasons we’re featuring the project now. [Titan’s] plan is to model this after the Bus Pirate interface. We think it’s a good idea since a lot of folks have already learned the syntax. We didn’t see a contact form on his site, but if you’re interested in contributing to the project you might want to leave a comment here or on his project page (linked above).

36 thoughts on “ARM-based debugging tool aims to improve on the Bus Pirate performance

  1. So is there any reason at all why this would be better than simply using the STMF4 Discovery board? Is there any way this can be sold more cheaply than the F4 Discovery board?

    1. The discovery board can’t be used in a commercial product, or re-sold as a commercial product. It’s a development board, they sell it at a loss.

      1. It’s smaller, it’s ( completely guessing here ) openhardware, it’s designed for the task, and most importantly buying it finances the development of the firmware.
        Beats the discovery for me …

      2. @rockets4kids ….and anyone from ST, unlikely as it seems they’d be reading this….

        Another way to phrase that question might be “Is there any reason why someone would design and attempt to sell a STM32-based product to this electronics engineer/student/hobbyist market, when they could spend less on a discovery board?”

      3. And on the features side: you can’t switch a 3V3 supply ‘on’ of ‘off’ from the discovery. Also, you can’t switch between 3V3 or 5V outputs. This would require additional components-> easier to buy a new buspirate.

      4. >you can’t switch between 3V3 or 5V outputs

        Im pretty sure its an easy mod in Discovery, easier and cheaper than making new board

    2. The discovery board has lots of (for this purpose useless) peripherals, such as a microphone, and audio codec, an accelerometer, … which is blocking several of the most interesting I/O pins of the STM32. Then you’ll need some protection for the I/Os (series resistors, clamp diodes, whatever you feel necessary, possibly a level shifter), so you’d have to build a board to plug into the discovery anyway. Placing the chip directly on the same board has some advantages and will probably even be cheaper than buying a discovery board.

        1. They sell it at a loss to promote the chip. But it has a very restrictive license meaning you can only use it for devellopment, not inside an actual product.

      1. What product? we are talking about a firmware. No one wants to make money … well , maybe You want to make money and this is a problem for you.

      2. I mean for example you couldn’t do a daugther board for it and sell the discovery board with the daughter board.
        Not sure what you mean about wanting to make money.

      3. The F407VG on the $14 Discovery costs $7, so while it’s true that Discovery is a great deal, you shouldn’t count on using them as an alternative chip supply mechanism. Of course the retail/onsie price is higher but still.

  2. @Arthur

    So is what you’re saying is that just like the American solar industry, this “bits not bytes” business plan is doomed was doomed from the start?

    They should make a “discovery shield” to capture some of their otherwise lost sales.

  3. Back around the time the first Bus Pirate was coming into being, there was another device (probably reported here) which was intended to use as part of reverse engineering efforts by iteratively probing test points on boards searching for operative debug ports.

    I’d love to see that picked back up and updated.

  4. I’m impressed. That board is so large it actually follows the curvature of the Earth.

    Don’t you think something a little smaller would be more practical?

    1. I hope you’re being sarcastic. That doesn’t translate well over the internet by the way, at least not with out smilies.
      Otherwise,
      60mm X 37mm is large?
      Or in ridiculous format: 2.362in x 1.457in

      1. I think he means that the 3d rendering has one point perspective with wanising point in the center of the picture making it look curved (you see bottom sides of top pins and top sides on bottom pins). You don’t often see this effect since most people either put vanishing point to the side of the object or use dwo or three point perspective.

      2. If you look at the PCB design he’s using a separate header pin for each of the grounds that has a smaller base standoff. That’s why they look smaller, because they are.

  5. I would’ve liked to see USB 2.0 HS PHY instead of using the FS one on the chip. Currently datalogging is rather limited, not a whole lot of RAM and limited flash writes, and the FS link isn’t able to keep up with the amount of traffic this thing could generate.

    1. Agreed- they lost me at “USB 2.0 OTG FS Host or Device”. It’s a shame – the 84MHz I/O is a beautiful artery, choking on the cholesterol of USB connection.

      STM32F4 supports High Speed, but doesn’t have PHY built in. Add an adaptor and we’ll talk: http://www.cypress.com/?id=1943

  6. I don’t really get it.

    All it really is, is a breakout board. Everything hinges on that firmware.

    Until then, its just a more expensive, less capable STM dev board.

    1. It is not just a BreakOut board it is Portable debug/breakout board because of the LiPo management with size reduced and access to more peripherals than on STM32F4 Discovery (because lot of SPI/I2C are already used by integrated components like Audio/Accelero …)

      Best Regards
      Benjamin

  7. I have slowly been trying to put together a hacking PC out of a tabletPC for a while now. I love the bus-pirate, but it is hard to fit into my touch-GUI without having a GUI interface (since I don’t want to lug around the keyboard.) That is something that would definitely improve it’s use.

  8. SO will this be like the Bus Pirate 5 and when will it be released? If it will be a Bus Pirate and Bus Blaster and include other possible debugging tools that neither the Bus Blaster Nor Bus Pirate could offer I would for this new board no doubt!!

  9. Hi,
    It is intended to do stuff like Bus Pirate and maybe also a JTAG Debugger using CMSIS-DAP or JTAG debugger in bit banging mode anyway there is lot of power behind to do that at high speed (at least 4MHz when CPU is running at 168MHz).
    Anyway it requires more user to support it.
    For info the first board v1.0 Rev1 now work after a little fix where VCAP1/VCAP2 which was by mistake connected to 3.3V instead of Capacitor 2.2uF.
    So I will probably buy a new batch of PCB to fix this problem (to have clean board) and also maybe other little problems when I will have checked fully the USB Host power and the Lipo stuff.

    See latest photo of the board with case here

    http://postimage.org/gallery/k7lwbq0/e5f2f14f/

    Best Regards
    Benjamin

  10. Well I will check here periodically unless you will have a link for me to check when the new batch is available? WIll it be possible to use this device like some use the Arduino to turn their Android Tablets and Phones in somewhat of a development board using your board? http://www.amarino-toolkit.net

  11. Should make it compatible with Stellaris Launchpad
    as well.

    (Compatible in sense of software run on either one,
    make pin-out so easy to do a booster pack to adapt between launchpad and their expansion pin set.)

  12. Before to support all possible board, I will try to finish to test the Hardware and make the firmware to have first a basic BusPirate “clone” and then if other developer are interested anything could be realized like potential compatibility with Stellaris Launchpad Booster Pack …

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