I'm in the same boat, i have been playing with pics for about a year now and i keep running out of time and end up with other projects taking over my time. I built the icd2 clone programmer from soltz.de.be his site has a nice layout and you can download the designs and built what you need as well. The neat thing about the icd2 clone is that it works directly with the pic microchips mplab. He also has a design that works from the usb. I built the serial port version and it works fine. I also built the picpro40 and have used it from the parrallel port. I've found one really good source for pic projects and software is from eponline magazine. A subscription is 15 dollars a year and they have alot of pic projects usually one or more a month.