In my previous post I described the Arduino Pro Mini. I have now bought one of these and want to get started with it. However, the Pro Mini does not include a built in USB to serial connection.
To get started you need to get an external USB to serial connector. This can come in the form of a cable or a breakout board. These will often be referred to as FTDI cables or FTDI breakout boards. This is actually an abbreviation for the name of the company (Future Technology Devices International) which makes the most common USB to Serial chips.
The latest breakout boards come with a female header, older versions featured through hole connections which required you to solder on your own header. The cable normally comes with a female header. In both cases the Pin out should match up with the 6 pins on the end of a Pro Mini to allow for a direct connection to be made.
The headers which you use for the FTDI connections on your Pro Mini will depend on the way that you intend to use the Pro Mini.
Right angle male header with an FTDI breakout:
Regular male header with an FTDI cable:
I chose to attach female headers to my Pro Mini so that I could use my non Mate Bluesmirf Bluetooth module which I have previously soldered wires to.
If you have a Bluesmirf Mate then you can connect the pins directly. The non Mate version requires that you flip a couple of the pins as described in this excellent blog post.