Parallax Propeller on Linux w/SimpleIDE

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I recently got an issue of Nuts and Volts Electronics magazine to find the first article mentioning the Parallax Propeller 2. What is the Propeller, and why would I want it? The propeller is like a microcontroller/Arduino, and it is like an FPGA. It has 8 cores (P2) which can operate independently. In a perfect world, this means you have 8 microcontrollers on one chip.

Propeller and Linux Traps

So, you come from the RPI world, or run FOSS, and want to use the P2 on Linux. Great. But, a warning: There are a lot of dead ends in Propeller world. The quick answer to get it working is do the following:

  1. Use Debian Buster (possibly stretch or jessie)
  2. Use the PropellerGCC website here:
  3. Download the .deb package. (backup:
  4. Install with gdebi (if you don't know what that is, look it up)
  5. Load simpleide, and expand the 2nd / 3rd panes by clicking the icon on the bottom left
  6. Choose generic board
  7. Connect to the board with an FTDI - USB adapter, or the propeller prop (I used a standard FTDI cable, and it worked)
  8. At least on the Mini, RX and TX are swapped. I shit you not. RX on the FTDI goes to RX on the Mini. Don't ask me why this was done.
  9. DTS on FTDI connects to RESET on mini. Mini is powered by 6.5-12V+. FTDI RX/TX is 3.3V.
  10. Should "just work"

That's the tl;dr. Now for what did NOT work for me.

2020/12 - Recent SimpleIDE does not work easily

SimpleIDE as of 2020 does not ship .deb packages. You must compile. Instant red flag. If you examine the install instructions for Linux, you will find that it refers to a non-existent .deb file. The documentation is outdated. Red flag no. 2.

Even the official website tells you its supported, which is false. The install instructions in the git are out of date, and reference a non existent .deb. Ref:

PropWare - Dead Links fixed

Go to the forums for most up to date instructions. There is a reasonable thread on Linux support here: Link: Links were dead, but 'should' be fixed now.

He has a github here: which lacks current releases. So you are stuck using his website for recent releases.

PropWare, currently replaces your packages (deb) cmake, which means if you use cmake, you may later get confused. There is a ticket, and I imagine it's a WIP. I tried compiling v2.1.0 for PropWare without luck.

2020/12 - Catalina: Source Build Required

Catalina is another option, but for Linux you are shoehorned into source build only. That would be ok, if the dependencies were reasonable, but after trying all of the above for 2-3 hours, then getting here, I was not in the mood for another rabbit hole.

The only difficult dependency of Catalina appears to be wxGTK, which is advised in the install instructions are requiring a build from source.


Upon first glance, you will see that Propeller is OSHW, and fully released. You might assume that favor towards OSHW would extend to FOSS. Yes and no. Yes, it can work on Linux, but no the company is not necessarily as gung-ho about FOSS as it is OSHW.

It's walking a tightrope walk to get the propeller to work on GNULinux machines. But, it does and can work. Just be aware that there are a lot of unmaintained dead ends, if you tread down this path.