Pros and cons of the Ardupilot Configuration Utility

I first started flying with Ardupilot before the configuration utility (CU) was created. At the field, I’d pull up the Arduino IDE on my lap top, make the changes I wanted in the code (waypoints, altitude, tuning parameters, etc.), upload to my Ardupilot, then fly. After seeing how the flight was affected, I’d go back to the IDE make another change and fly again.
Then the CU was created and it looked cool but, at the field, it just created another step to go through before flying. I now had to also pull up the CU program to enter my waypoints, altitude and other parameters and upload to the board, then open the IDE, make my changes and upload a second time.
Now, for a lot of us, the CU is the single break in the chain that is keeping us from flying. We have the Sparkfun FTDI cable that works fine with the old and new versions of Ardupilot for uploading code and it works with the old version for reading and writing from the CU. The problem is that the CU doesn’t allow you to use this cable with the current Ardupilot and there is no other way to upload waypoints.
As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of the Configuration Utility! Since an .h file was created as an interface between user and code, couldn’t this same file be used for entering waypoints? This sounds more user friendly since you wouldn’t have another program (CU) to open, make changes to, and upload. Also, the current problem with Sparkfun FTDI’s wouldn’t exist!

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 29, 2009 at 5:59am

You're welcome to return to 2.0, which doesn't require that utility. Or be patient while we try to figure out what's wrong with the Sparkfun FTDI board. Or get the recommended DIY Drones cable. Or modify the software yourself to suit your needs.
Comment by Marty on June 29, 2009 at 6:13am
Is this affecting both the 3.3v and 5v sparkfun FTDI boards ?
Comment by Nick Sargeant on June 29, 2009 at 9:45am
I had trouble using the config utility with the Sparkfun FTDI board on my laptop running Win7 but it worked flawlessly in my desktop running XP. I will do some more testing...
The only additional feature i would request for the config utility is having a drag-able map much like the one here for adding waypoints. I'm doing programming course at uni next semester so perhaps with the skills i learn from that (and some messing around with the googlemaps API) Ill be able to add the feature myself... :)

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 29, 2009 at 10:40am
Nick, is that a 3.3v or 5v FTDI board?

I've only tested the 3.3v board on Vista, and it doesn't work. It would be interesting to know if there's some settings difference in XP that we could carry over to Vista to make it work.
Comment by Reto on June 29, 2009 at 10:44am
I'll try out the 3.3v Sparkfun FTDI basic breakout board with the Config Utility on XP SP2 this evening (ie in an hour here) and report back here if that helps.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 29, 2009 at 10:54am
Please note that while we're sorting this problem out, Sparkfun has changed the recommended FTDI cable to ours, which we know works.
Comment by Bryan Cuervo on June 29, 2009 at 12:40pm
My goal would be to remove the configuration utility(CU) which would mean modifying the software. I'm trying to find out how many people agree on the cons of the CU. Since this is a consumer driven product, if there is a demand for an optional CU Jordi could make it optional just like the ground station.
The ground station is a nice option for those that want to move up to that level of autonomous flight but with the current configuration, we are now dependent on the CU.
Comment by Sean O'Connor on June 29, 2009 at 1:01pm
I can use the Sparkfun FTDI cable (3.3v) to upload code and read/write with the config utility without any problems at all (both the 168 and 328). I am running MS XP (Media Center edition) service pack 3.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 29, 2009 at 1:07pm
Or....because it's an open source project you can do it yourself.

In the meantime, we'll try to get the CU working with all cables. Then we'll look at other options.

All other autopilots that I know of use a desktop utility to enter waypoints.

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on June 29, 2009 at 1:35pm
I removed the waypoints from the code because is really wrong! When ardupilot code boots it loads all the wayp. to the RAM, this is not a good aproach. When using the CU the waypoints are loaded into the memory ram one at time, when you switch mission it loads the new wp. This is a lot more efficient. I mean 2 or 4k of ram memory is not that much. Someday I will fix the CU when I have access to a failing hardware.


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