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Al Williams

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Quick Atmel Dragon Hack

March 03, 2011

The Atmel Dragon is a good (and cheap) programmer and debugger for the AVR-series chips. But its biggest strength is also a weakness. By default it just has some holes so you can socket it and wire it how you like. Most people solder a socket in and then put pins in the wiring holes so you can use jumper wires to configure the programmer for whatever part you want to put in the socket. And that's exactly what I've done for awhile now.

However, it is highly distracting when you want to switch part types to have to tear the wires out and then rewire the board to the new configuration. Its also really easy to make a mistake.

I dug in my junk box last night and found a bunch of 40 pin IDE cables -- the kind older hard drives use. I don't really use these anymore (especially the 40 wire kind -- everything is either SATA or 80 wire/40 pin). The connectors are exactly what would fit the Dragon board.

So I cut the cable up so that I had 3 connectors with stubs of wire coming from each one. I cut back the wires I didn't need and soldered the rest to fit the chip configuration I wanted to use (the ATMega 8, in my case). Once I tested it, I left it in the board and used hot glue to secure it together, gluing the connectors together and potting the wires with the sticky stuff. Not pretty, but it works. Now I just have to mark the part type and build others for the other parts I use.

You can find pictures of the messy thing if you are interested in duplicating what I did. Maybe you are a bit neater than I am.

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