[Jeff Keyzer] has a new version of the HV Rescue Shield available. This tool allows you to use an Arduino to reset the fuse bits on AVR microcontrollers. This is necessary if you make a mistake and disable the reset pin, or choose the incorrect clock settings (this will probably happen to you at some point). In order to bring the chip back to life you’ll need to use High Voltage Programming. The last version of the shield only worked with High Voltage Parallel Programming (HVPP) but this rendition can also use High Voltage Serial Programming (HVSP) for 8-pin chips that don’t have enough inputs for parallel communications.
As we talked about in our AVR Programming Tutorials this is no replacement for a high-end programmer like the STK500 or an AVR Dragon, but if you already have an Arduino a kit will only cost you $20 (or you can etch and build it yourself). We would have liked to see a breakout header for the HVP signals for off-board use. The absence of a breakout header doesn’t preclude this, but since you need the on board boost converter for the 12V signals, and because this shield can’t be used with a breadboard due to pin spacing, it’s hard to patch into signals for non-DIP use. We also think some clever firmware hacking and this could be used for HV programming, like we needed for that LED light bulb.