Getting started with the MPLAB Xpress development system, I’ve been impressed by what I saw. Microchip’s PIC platform has a lineage that goes all the way back to 1976 but the new web-based tools show they are making serious effort to move the development experience into 2017. A HTML-based code editor, cloud-based compilation, download to local computer, and USB storage device based hardware interface making it accessible to every modern computer with an internet connection.
I had compiled a few pre-built examples to try out the process and feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Until the time came for me to create a new project from scratch. The boilerplate code for a new project sets up all the parameters tailored to the features and peripherals of a specific PIC chip, and the tool to take care of all these details is the “MPLAB Xpress Code Configurator” (MCC).
So far so good, I clicked on the blue “MCC” icon, and got this.
The sound in my head is of screeching tires punctuated by the crunching metal of a car crash. Maybe they have ambition to move PIC development into 2017, but today starting a new MPLAB Xpress project requires a trip back to 1995 when Java was king.
If MCC was a web-browser based Java applet, we would be completely out of luck as Firefox and Chrome both dropped support due to all the security nightmares the past few years, and those were the only two browsers I have installed on my Ubuntu development system.
Fortunately MCC is a client-side application launched with a JNLP file so there is still some hope. I tried the open-source Java implementation first, but icedtea-netx does not work at the moment. So off to Oracle I go to download the official closed-source binaries which got me past this blocker.
In hindsight I should have created a virtual machine (probably with VirtualBox) and installed Java only in that VM to contain any possible damage from future Java security vulnerabilities. I’ll do that on my next clean install of Ubuntu.
Back to MCC: it feels like a chunk of legacy code carried over to today’s MPLAB Xpress. Having to install Java is very much counter to their “nothing to setup or install” pitch so I expect they will migrate MCC functionality to be HTML-based as well.
Hopefully it’ll just be a matter of time.