If you are looking to get started in AVR programming, I would be happy to recommend the kit from Adafruit. It’s easy to build, compact and most importantly appears to be very reliable and also compatible with the free software packages out there. It also includes an SPI interface which I have not tested yet.
The quality of the kit is very good, and the instructions supplied by Adafruit verge on the side of being too comprehensive. This makes it an ideal project for a stranger of the soldering iron.
No doubt you will be able to find commercially made programmers that visually look a little better, but what are you looking for here? You don’t head to a hardware shop and worry about the colour of a hammer that you are buying. The programmer is a tool, it will spend its life in your tool kit and the casing that it is contained within will keep the circuitry safe from knocks and short circuits.
The kit comes with both 10 pin wires and 6 pin IDC cables (A bonus) which should make it a flexible resource.
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