Sorry to hear the troubles with getting the programming port to show. Here are a few things I can suggest or clarify.
-Whether Ringo is plugged into the programmer or not shouldn't have any effect on having the serial port show up. A few seconds after you plug in the programmer, you should see a serial port show up in the Arudino IDE regardless of whether Ringo is plugged in or not, or whether he is turned on or off.
-I have had the experience where the Arduino IDE itself didn't want to show the serial port even though the computer made it available (so the computer's OS sees the serial port, but Arduino doesn't show it for some reason). I believe the Arduino IDE is based on Java, and I did see something a long time ago about updating Java. When this has happened to me, usually re-starting the Arduino IDE or just giving it some time (a couple minutes) caused the serial port to come back up.
Here are a couple links I found which seem to discuss similar issues. Seems like the responses are mostly driver related. They may be of use:http://forum.arduino.cc/index.php?topic=48382.0https://www.arduino.cc/en/guide/troubleshooting#toc16
-All USB cables (as far as I know) have pins for data and power. I believe it is a core part of the USB specification. It is certainly possible that a given cable is bad, but I'm not aware of a particular kind of cable not being compatible. As far as I know, all USB A to Mini-B cables should be wired identically.
-The programmer has a chip from a company called FTDI, and this chip has USB on one side, and a serial port on the other side (which actually connects to Ringo).
-I think the first step is to determine that you are getting some sort of USB connection to the host computer. On windows for example, if you plug in the programmer via USB and you get that "da-dunk" sound like when you connect other USB devices, then the FTDI chip is working, the cable to your computer is working, and your computer is at least seeing something there. That would tell me that the hardware itself is functional.
-If you have no response what so ever from your computer, that could indicate a problem with the programmer or the USB cable between your computer and the programmer. To date we haven't found any non working programmers so they appear to be pretty solid. You can also try plugging to a different USB port on your computer.
-I wonder if there are any apps you could download to tell you whether your computer sees a device connected to USB? I haven't looked, but it may be worth some digging if anyone wants to see what's out there. It could be a tool to determine if the computer even sees anything on the USB port.
-The FTDI chip on the programmer is the same part used on the Sparkfun Red Board. The Red Board is their own version of the Arduino Uno board. They are using the same FTDI chip in the same way, so it may be worth having a look around Sparkfun's forum and support pages for the Red Board.
Here are some links from SF's FTDI Installation Tutorial:
Mac: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/ho ... rivers/mac
Win: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/ho ... --in-depth
-If you get any response from your computer at all, that tells me the hardware is functional and it is now likely down to a configuration or driver issue on the host PC. We ran into a few issues when our beta testers where getting set up:
1) On Mac, there was some issue with the driver not installing if the user didn't have administrator access to the computer. Not sure the details on this, but it was apparently resolved. There is a link to a rather lengthy document from FTDI on the drivers page on our website under the Mac section. It is lengthy instructions on how to install the FTDI drivers on Mac. I don't know much about Mac, but it may be worth carefully going over the details in that procedure.
2) On Windows, if the FTDI driver isn't installed before first plugging in the programmer board, Windows tends to want to associate its own driver with the board which causes problems. In this case you may need to uninstall and re-install the FTDI driver to get it to properly associate.
I'll keep an eye on the thread here and see what you're able to work out. I do have a technical contact at FTDI who has been really helpful in the past so if an issue persists, I can contact him this week and work out a solution.
If you do work out a solution, please let us know.
Sorry for the hassle! We'll get everyone running eventually.