Debugging AVRs (without Atmel Studio)

This post is somewhere between a guide and a collection of notes, aimed at debugging programs for AVR microcontrollers (like the ones in most Arduinos) “on target”. We’ll be using an AVR Dragon connected to the target micro via the normal 6-pin programming header, with a Mac or Linux PC as the host.

Although this is a bit more advanced than most of our other projects, it’s really quite approachable and is a very powerful technique for fixing AVR software problems.

From a high level; we’ll use a debugging program on a Mac (or Linux, Windows, etc) “host” computer, which communicates with a Dragon “In Circuit Emulator” (ICE) via USB to debug a buggy program running on the “target” AVR, which is presumably running in some circuit we’re interested in. Small variations might apply for Windows hosts, using JTAG instead of DebugWIRE, other debugger tools (Atmel JTAGICE mkII for example), etc.

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Arduinos and Macs


This evening, I finally got around to unwrapping the Arduino clone that came with my DSpace membership. Starting a project for the board couldn’t be easier, using the nice Arduino IDE from, but I ran into a little snag when it was time to upload the program onto the board. It turns out that these clone Arduinos use a newish low-cost USB to serial converter chip called a CH340G, rather than the FTDI brand chips used in the genuine Arduino boards. The CH340G that isn’t supported by MacOS by default, and I use MacOS, so the board didn’t show up in the Arduino application’s list of serial ports…

Fortunately, other folks have run into the same problem and have written up some nice blog posts on how to solve exactly this issue!


As you may have heard, the Dunedin Maker Space is getting ready to move to a new location in the Northeast Valley. The Allen St Workshop provides exciting new opportunities for the maker space including a concrete floor, collaboration with other like-minded folks, and there’s a fibre optic box out front!

We’ll continue to meet in the current King Edward College location as usual until 8 August when the move to the Allen St Workshop will commence. Stay tuned!