Programming Hardware Kit


I’m surprised at what little information I can find on this part online.

Our team is looking into buying one but just a couple questions:

  1. Does it allow us to use the joystick while still getting debug info from the robot?

  2. The product page says “Note: Using large amounts of print to screen statements in a program may result in driver related download errors.” Exactly how much is “large amounts?” Would it be unreasonable to print out the position of the joysticks to the debug stream 6-7 times a second?

Or is that warning only for Pre-June 2012 Kits?

  1. How is performance with the kits? Is it much slower to upload code over VexNet?

Many thanks,

hello !

i have the old programming hardware kit and yes you can control and debug

2: i have never had any problems *dont use it that much tbh

3: performs well, it is slightly slower than usb a-a but not that much, takes 4 seconds on a test i just did with my main competition code

hope this helps

Mind if I ask why not?

i generally only use the programming hardware kit to view value of sensors to make my autonomous … and test using the competition switch …

  • note : also i have only got this kit about 2 months ago and i only opened it about 2 weeks ago

Oh okay gotcha.

We’re most likely going to purchase it for next year just because it’s a hassle to use USB extension cables dragging around the field while we tweak autonomous code. Seems like that’s what you guys are doing too.

Many thanks for the help!

Yes. All debug info with ROBOTC, PrintToScreen etc. with EasyC. Joystick is available in your code.

I wouln’t worry about it. I have the pre June 2012 kits and it’s never been a problem.

With ROBOTC performance difference for download is negligible. I hardly ever connect directly using the USB A-A cable, everything is done using the programming kit. With EasyC you will notice a difference but having the joystick connected outweighs any downside IMHO.

Awesome, glad to hear it!

Well I’m using RobotC (EasyC seems rather cumbersome to me) and I’ll definitely be getting the kit for next year. Thanks so much for the help :slight_smile:

EasyC user here.

We can never get the download through the joystick to work. Okay, maybe 1/20 times. Rarely, it disconnects, and actually forces a manual restoration using the Bootloader/Firmware Updator if it disconnected at a critical point. Most of the time, it just says “Error. Failed to get VEX System Data” or something like that.

We have 3 or 4 of these cables lying around and none of them work. We just use Male-Male USB, and carry the laptop with us as we run Autonomous.

Totally not worth the money. We kept buying more thinking they were defective, but I’m pretty sure they just don’t work.

The problem might be with Easy C not the cable. We used the Cable with easy C for 2+ years with no issues, when the ‘wireless’ download came out with the Cortex, it was good for a while and then started being flaky. We switched to using the USB A-A instead of vexnet keys and found things worked much better. But still a bit of a pain to switch to the cable. The beauty of using the cable / gamepad / USB A-A or Wireless to the Robot is you can get data back tot he PC for Display. Using Easy C we created a dashboard using the graphic display.

However since switching to Robot C for 2+ years now we are much happier. Downloads are generally trouble free (except at tournaments) and much faster as Robot C does incremental downloads vs total download with Easy C.

But you might re-try the cables to a handset and use the USB A-A from handset to Robot instead of the Vexnet Keys and see if that works for you.

Cheers Kb

To be expected. Nothing ever works right at the tournaments :slight_smile:

Have you had any experience debugging wirelessly with RobotC? Have you seen acceptable performance?

Yes I use the robot C debugger all the time, it works very well. The only desire I would have is to be able to arrange the output in a more systematic fashion. Currently to facilitate this we put the really important data in global variables at the top of the program so they appear at the top of the debugger window. I’ve been experimenting with alternate methods to log data at high rate from the robot with the intent of logging to files and plotting in Excel or other spreadsheet software, but for now I still haven’t been able to match or beat the performance of the robot C Debugger.

Cheers Kb

We’ve seen some performance issues with the debugger as you add a ton of global variables, print to debug window, and drops as you get further away from the robot. Newer Robot C versions keeping the local variables truly local helps I think.

But this should be expected for the baud rate you select.

I wish there was a way to deisgnate globals as selectively not being reported back in the debugger all the time. Yet keep a few hot ones streaming.

As for the cable, some versions of the prolific driver were not working real well with some vintages of the programming cables. Newer cables and really old cables seem to work fine. Fresh Robot C installs and some upgrades were not communicating with the robot. New cables fix that.

I also like the new cable being a dual purpose USB A to A versus the old USB to serial and having another USB A to A cord laying about.

After using the Vex Robotics systems for almost 7 years, and the Prolific USB-to-Serial Adapter for almost 11 years, I would put the *some if not all *the Blame on the Prolific Drivers…

I assume that your using the same Computer or Model of Computers??

Before you toss out all your older Serial Programmers, get a FTDI based USB-to-Serial adapter and try that with the Vex RS-232 to TTL Adapter…

My Windows 7 Home Premium x64 system is stable with the Prolific Drivers, but I am running the 12-MAR-2010 version,

I have found that some of the newer version from Prolific are quite unreliable, especially under Windows 7. Also, all the Vex USB-to-Serial adapters I have tested ( I have 4 ) are the HXA versions, which are Officially NOT Supported under Windows 8…

I have no idea what most of those words mean. Sorry.

We’ve used… four computers testing this. Two were 32-bit Vista, one was Windows 7, one was Windows 8. All of the USB-Serial Cables, plugged into a VEX Joystick which was talking to a Cortex Microcontroller, crashed nearly every time we used it. The USB Male-Male cables works perfectly every time.

If you wouldn’t mind explaining what you meant a little more clearly, we’re happy to do some tests. We’re perfectly happy walking around with my 10" laptop connected to the Cortex, though.

Not a Problem… I wasn’t sure how knowledgeable you were about the History of RS-232 Serial Ports and the Modern adapters ( USB-to-Serial ) that let you use the USB Ports on your computers to communicate with Devices that Don’t have USB Ports ( Or in the case of the Cortex and VEXnet, when the USB Keys or USB A-A Cable is being used…

Start with what Version the Drivers are, you can locate that in the Device Manager in the Windows Control Panel… The Vex USB-to-Serial adapters will be found under the Ports ( COM and LPT ) section:

Double-Click on the “Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (COMx)” and the Property Dialog Box will Open, then Click the Driver Tab:


The Driver Date and the Driver Version information is shown…

Mine is located on COM 3, and at this moment is not the Orange Vex Adapter, but a surprisingly similar looking one with the same Hardware as the Vex adapter:

You might not want to spend a lot of time on this Issue, but the benefit would be the ability to See RobotC Debug Data or EasyC “PrintToScreen” Info while controlling your Bot.

When ever I experience Communication Issue with a USB-to-Serial adapter, I look for Updates and Try another Version…

For the past 11 years, every few times Micro-Soft releases an Update for a Version of Windows, the USB-to-Serial Drivers seem to get broken

I am currently running the same version, ( ) on Windows 7 Home Premium x64 ( SP1 ) and Windows XP x86 ( SP3 )

Here are some threads related to this Exact Issue ( I used the Advanced Search with Keyword “Prolific” and User Name “MarkO” to limit the number of Matches ):

EASYC and RobotC USB Connection problems with 64Bit Windows
USB Serial Cable Driver
Prolific USB to Serial Com Port Problems
USB/Serial Connection Problem

Read through these threads, and if you have a question that wasn’t answered, please Post it Here on this thread…