Electronics > Microcontrollers

Are free tools rubbish?

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Harvs:
So I was asking around at work today for any suggestions on getting into a new 32b micro for my next project, possibly TI's Stellaris Cortex M3 or the like.

So I said one of my requirements was to have a cheap/free compiler/IDE.  One of the guys there was adamant that it was a bad idea and I should be putting money into acquiring a decent software tool suite because the free stuff is rubbish.

At first I thought he was just being a D&@khead, as I've been using AVRGCC, Atmels tools for AVR32, FreeRTOS and some free PIC tools for years and never seemed to have significant problems.  But then I have never had something like IAR workbench or the like, which makes me wonder, are they actually that much better than something like AVRstudio and its integrated C compiler and software framework? 

Should I actually be looking at shelling out for a tool suite?  It wouldn't kill me to spend a couple of hundred, but thousands are out of the question.

Psi:

--- Quote from: Harvs on January 31, 2012, 07:54:07 am ---which makes me wonder, are they actually that much better than something like AVRstudio and its integrated C compiler and software framework? 

--- End quote ---

Well if you download AVRStudio 5 you will still end up with AVRGCC.   AVRGCC is its integrated C compiler.  ;D

Free tools come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are awesome and better than the paid tools. Others are a pile of shit.

JuKu:
Paid tools come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are awesome and better than the free tools. Others are a pile of shit. 

mikeselectricstuff:
Broadly speaking, you get what you pay for, but there are exceptions. GCC has such a wide user base that most of the bugs will have been either fixed or at least documented. 
However free, and OSS tools in particular are likely to have been developed to the point where they work, but not much further, so things like code size and/or speed efficiency and debug capabilities will probably be poorer than a commercial compiler.

There are different versions of free - manufacturers sometimes provide free tools which are cut-down versions of commercial tools, e.g. the kickstart versions of IAR, typical limitations being locking to a specific device, code size limits, or in a particularly stupid move by Microchip*, code optimization levels.

In a commercial environment, the cost of a commercial tool will often pay itself back  in terms of support, stability, debug capabilities and efficiency.

Another aspect is that any tool supplied by the manufacturer will be likely to support new devices earlier. Paid-for commercial tools also need to keep up with new developments, although they may charge for new device support.

*By having their free 8-bit compiler produce crappy code, it makes their chips look inefficient.

Harvs:
Thanks for the info, it's interesting.  I'm going to download the 30-day eval of IAR for AVR32 and give it a shot.  I doubt I could justify the cost of IAR though, it's not known for being a cheap tool set.

That Microchip optimization crippling is actually the one reason I've never even looked at PIC32's.  Maybe to my detriment.

I'm not using it in a truly commercial environment.  I may or may not end up selling a few of what I make, but nothing that would recover the supposed $3k price tag of IAR (I've only got that off forums, they don't actually say what it costs on their website.)

Thanks again.

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