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Dangerous Prototypes Unveils the Next-Generation Bus Pirate 5, Now Powered by a Raspberry Pi RP2040

Latest version of the tinkerer's multitool includes eight level-shifted IO pins, a color display, and a new VT100 terminal interface.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoDebugging / HW101 / Productivity

Dangerous Prototypes' Ian Lesnet has announced the launch of the Bus Pirate 5, the latest version of the popular bus signal multi-tool — now built around the dual-core Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller and with a color display.

"Bus Pirate 5 is the latest version of the multi-tool hackers trust since 2018," Lesnet explains of the gadget's newest refresh. "RP2040-based, color LCD, 1-5 volt power supply and IO [Input/Output] buffers, and more! Type simple commands in a terminal and talk to chips over 1-Wire, I2C, SPI, UART, and more. Figure out how a chip works before writing a line of code. Firmware, hardware and a fresh new forum are hosted at BusPirate.com, which I rescued from spammers a few years ago."

The original Bus Pirate launched in 2008 as a one-stop tool for interacting with a wide variety of bus types — including the aforementioned 1-Wire, I2C, SPI, and UART but extending to things like MIDI and more esoteric signals such as those from vintage PC keyboards. A Bus Pirate provides traffic sniffing, frequency measurement, pulse generation, and even attempts at automatic identification of unknown target devices — plus a low-speed logic analyzer to boot.

The Bus Pirate 5 is a major overhaul for the series. While it's still fully operation through a UART command-line interface, as with previous revisions, it now boasts a full-color LCD display for rapid feedback. To keep everything ticking over, the microcontroller has moved from a 16MHz Microchip PIC24F to a dual-core Raspberry Pi RP2040 running at 125MHz stock and with the Programmable Input/Output (PIO) blocks used as a "magic peripheral" in place of the PIC's Peripheral Pin Selcect capabilities.

The terminal interface has been upgraded from a simple black-and-white text layout to an emulated VT100 color terminal with live status bar, there are 18 RGB LEDs on the board, and there are eight input/output pins running at 1.2V to 5V signal levels — up from the five pins running at a fixed 3.3V of the Bus Pirate V3. All eight pins offer analog voltage measurement, and there's 100MB of usable flash storage on board.

"Bus Pirate 5 is designed to eliminate the frustrating parts of hacking and hardware tinkering," Lesnet claims. "We tried to tackle all the pain points, from bizarre and uncomfortable acrobatics with multimeter probes to the hassle of connecting multiple test hooks to a single pin. With Bus Pirate 5, information you need is right where you need it."

The Bus Pirate 5 is now available to order from DirtyPCBs for $37.85, with shipping expected to take place on January 29th; hardware design files and firmware source code are available on the Dangerous Prototypes GitHub repository under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 and MIT license respectively. More information is available on the Bus Pirate website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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