I recently decided to do some development for the ATTiny85s I have laying around. I added a few of these to a Sparkfun order about a year ago to use up my Free Day money, but since I forgot about them and moved on to other electronics pursuits. However, I finally decided to start programming them and at the same time I decided to improve my prototyping skills, develop a really nice development board for them, and learn KiCAD.
The current version works and I was able to program my ATTiny85 using my Pololu AVRISP v2 Programmer and Arduino 1.0. I was able to program using Arduino thanks to the High-Low Tech Lab over at the MIT Media Lab. While I plan on programming these microcontrollers using C, my familiarity with Arduino allowed me to rapidly test my design and make sure that everything loads up onto the microcontroller just right.
More video and coverage coming later!
This weekend I decided to get some work in on learning KiCAD. I have not come very far, but I am starting to get oriented with eeschema and I have actually been enjoying it. However, I had to boot up into Ubuntu to work with it appropriately, because my Mac OS X install doesn’t quite like KiCAD, but then again I have trouble with Xilinx, iverilog, gtkwave, msp430-gcc, etc as well.
KiCAD works very smoothly for the most part with a couple of interfacing hitches. Namely you need to ctrl-drag to move multiple components, which took me far too long to figure out. Furthermore, I am not a fan of the built in library symbols for power, ground or the connectors. However, I don’t mind this so much because I am not completely opposed to making my own libraries, which will be uploaded to github, when I get a chance and open to all.
I really enjoy the way KiCAD works and the fact that it is open source, unlike EAGLE, and has no restrictions on it. Between work and past hobbyist work I have been exposed to Orcad Capture, EAGLE and EasyPCB/EasySCH. Orcad, though complicated, was my favorite of those schematic layout tools. The reason is that it has powerful hierarchies (I was doing large layouts) and very nice component making utilities, also there is a separation between the schematic phase and the PCB phase, which allows you to think about the actual functionality of the circuit during layout and the topology during PCB design. KiCAD follows a similar rule for schematic to PCB layout from what I can tell (more to come on this).
I would recommend KiCAD to anyone looking to do some schematic layout for free, with no restrictions.