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Raspberry Pi just launched a handy new $12 tool. Here's what it can do

Raspberry Pi gets a dedicated Debug Probe that has more uses, too.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi has unveiled a new probe that allows users to debug code running on a Raspberry Pi Pico or other Arm-based microcontrollers.

The Debug Probe, which is based on the Pi Pico and its RP2040 microcontroller, is available now for $12. It's the company's first new product for 2023 and comes as the firm works to improve availability of the Zero W, 3A+, and the 2GB and 4GB variants of Raspberry Pi 4, which have been in short supply since the coronavirus pandemic. 

Also: Finding Raspberry Pi: Where to buy the latest model and its alternatives

The company decided to make the probe after noticing people were using one Pico to debug programs running on another. The probe package includes a USB to Serial Wire Debug (SWD) bridge, a generic USB serial adapter, and cables to connect to a host computer, and to the debug target.

But even if you don't want to debug code, the probe might still be a useful addition. "The Raspberry Pi Debug Probe's low price makes it a cost-effective alternative to other USB serial adapters. It has largely replaced the once-ubiquitous FTDI cable as our adapter of choice here at Pi Towers," notes Raspberry Pi chief executive Eben Upton in a blogpost.  

While it has been designed with Raspberry Pi Pico, and other RP2040-based targets, in mind, he said the Raspberry Pi Debug Probe can be used to debug any Arm-based microcontroller that provides an SWD port with 3V3 I/O.

Also: How to install Linux on your Raspberry Pi

Upton says bug hunting is a "necessary evil" that anyone who writes programs needs to do eventually, even if they dislike the task. The Debug Probe is for users who who've written programs -- likely in the C language -- that run on 'bare metal' versus, for example, a high-level interpreted language such as Python. 

The probe provides a bridge between USB and the Serial Wire Debug (SWD) protocol: on the RP2040, the SWD port provides access to the Debug Port (DP). The Debug Probe provides a bridge between USB and SWD to allow the host to access the target's debug port. Upton notes its more convenient to connect via USB, which is also the only option when using a PC or Mac. 

"The Raspberry Pi Debug Probe functions as a USB serial adapter, over the same USB connection as the SWD bridge. It exposes the UART signals on a second three-pin JST connector, again conforming to the Raspberry Pi Debug Connector Specification," notes Upton. 

Also: The best coolers for Raspberry Pi power users

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