I've been playing with this data logger board that's based on the Microchip PIC18F2550, but my application requires a lot of analog front-end signal conditioning. I would like to combine everything on one custom board, but I can't tell if it's possible to get the data logger firmware running on a virgin PIC18F2550. The data logger contains a bootloader that allows firmware updates via USB; the firmware .hex is available for download, but no bootloader code is available.
I haven't used microcontrollers before, so I have several questions that I haven't been able to answer from the data logger website or the PIC18F2550 datasheet:
Is the bootloader something that is pre-loaded on the PIC18F2550 by Microchip, or must it be installed by the developer?
If the bootloader is pre-loaded, then I presume all I need is a USB connection to the PIC (as on the original board) and the "Microchip USB HID Bootloader" utility to install firmware the first time. Correct?
If the bootloader is not pre-loaded, then may I use a programmer via the ICSP header to install firmware, without a bootloader? If so, what hardware and software do I need, and what is the process to do this?
Here's the data logger schematic: