mmm - yeah - I guess it gets confusing
first want to thank you for your info - I came across it in my search for breadboarding up a 328p, and reprogram the fuses, and it helped me a lot!
So let me try and explain what I want to do exactly:
the mac is running arduino ide - it has a prolific 2303 usb to rs232 converter
(long) rs232 cable
a max232 chip converts the signal to ttl and is part of the (battery fed) programmer - which is basically a 328p running the arduinoISP sketch
which programs the target, a 328p low voltage module which is in a difficult to reach place
why rs232? is an easy way to bridge quite a long distance - and I have the parts on hand
why not program the target through a ftdi/bootloader? usb cables are limited in length - ftdi does ttl serial - also limited in cable length I'd think
why the more complex programmer approach? I need one anyway to reprogram the fuses - so i figured to make it multi functional - and I'm fed up with having to pull my uno from other projects any time I need to program a 328p. And I have a couple of 328p to spare
alternatives I have considered?
rs232 cable and reset the 328p using the rts signal - using a standard optiboot bootloader - which is something I will try too. Main disadvantage: you can't program the fuses or bootloader
ethernet or internet programmable modules ... some people are working on a bootloader that allows programming the 328p over the internet - but it is far from ready yet
my goal? design a module that can be permanently integrated in my house. figure out what connections the target has to have so I can reprogram it later without having to redesign it. So far I figure, if I have a icsp connector - and maybe add the tx/rx combo, I can reprogram the fuses and the sketch without having to remove the module