This post covers my experiences working through the quick start guide and moving on from there.
Installing The Software
All of the required software can be downloaded from http://de0-nano.terasic.com/cd I was required to register at terasic.com to download their software. Downloading the terasic cd and other bits from there was as simple as downloading a regular file. There are links from there to the Altera website where I found the Quartus2 design suite. Of course I had to register with Altera too to download this software.
At the Altera website, there are 3 different packages you can choose from. There's a lite edition which includes support for the cyclone4 that we will be using, theres a web edition which I chose to download for the time being and there's a premium edition which includes a larger range of fpga's and requires people to purchase a license to use. The first 2 options don't require any such license.
The Altera software is available for Windows or Linux, usually I would use a Linux version when there's a choice but the Terasic software has some Windows .exe files only so since I'm learning a new technology I decided to make things easier on myself and boot up my trusty old copy of Windows XP, maybe once I'm more familiar with the device I'll move over to Linux with it.
The final part of installing the software was to install the USB Blaster Driver. This is the device driver that your PC uses to talk to the FPGA board, unfortunately the quick start guide doesn't run through how to do this. After some investigating I found that the driver is included in the Quartus2 software that was downloaded and there are instruction for how to install it here https://www.altera.com/support/support-resources/download/drivers/dri-index.html in particular its the "USB-Blaster Cable" links you want to follow.
(later on I also found instructions for installing the device driver in the "my first fpga" document)
Using The Demonstrations
The demonstrations that come with the Terasic cd are easy to install onto the board (once you have the driver installed!). Simply locate the relevant .bat file while the development board is connected to your pc and it flashes automatically, so all of this seems simple enough and were at the end of the quick start guide. I'll need to look further into the documentation to find out how to make such a mysterious .bat file!
The final part of that guides suggests reading the user manual on the cd to learn more, while looking for that I noticed another file in the same directory called "DE0-Nano_My_First_Fpga_v1.0.pdf" and so decided to take a look at that first. I'm sure glad I did!!
Moving On From The Quick Start Guide
Page 1 of this guide really seems to put me at ease, it just explains the process of FPGA design in a simple to understand way. I suppose part of the difficulty of getting into a technology like FPGA's is the fear of the unknown and the assumption that it's going to be really complicated. To have the process explained in such a simplistic and clear way has taken away a lot of my apprehension.
Page 7 describes what the rest of this guide is all about, its basically a complete step by step guide to making a project with the Quartus2 design suite, it teaches you how to create a counter which displays on the LED's of the development board. Once the project is finished it guides us through the whole compilation process and then shows us how to get this compiled project onto the FPGA development board itself so we can see it in action.
Thats as far as Ive got today, it's time to kill some aliens on XCOM2!!
So far my experience with this development kit has been greatly enhanced by the documentation which is easy to follow and is filling me with confidence that I will be up and running with FPGA development faster than I originally thought.
The only negative thing I could say is that there should be more explanation on where from and how to install the device driver in the getting started guide, its impossible to flash the demonstrations onto the development board without it.
The My-First-fpga guide seems to be the valuable document needed towards learning the foundations of how to develop for this board and is a great asset to Terasic. It would be a great advantage if this guide was included in a printed format with the development kit, if using a single monitor it's soon going to get frustrating switching screens to follow the guide. I also believe such a thing would make a useful quick reference manual for people to keep handy.
For now though it's lucky Ive got a tablet to work from!!