28 Replies Latest reply on Sep 10, 2013 5:35 PM by Drew Fustini

    Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?

    Drew Fustini

      Back in April, I attend an outstanding talk by Jack Gassett at DESIGN West 2013 entitled:

       

      Designing an Open Source Arduino/FPGA Development Board

      The Papilio is a low-cost, open-source FPGA development board intended for education, hobbyists, engineers, or anyone interested in learning digital electronics in general and FPGAs in particular. Add-on application modules called "Wings" help make the Papilio an easy-to-learn platform for beginners and a powerful design and prototyping tool for engineers. Of particular interest is that the FPGA on the Papilio can be configured with a soft Arduino processor core, thereby allowing the Papilio to run Arduino programs.


      In this session, the creator of the Papilio – Inventor Jack Gassett –will present a technical tour describing how the system is implemented and discuss the design decisions he made along the way. Also discussed will be the ways in which users can plug their own peripherals into the system using VHDL or schematic entry; also how users can take existing cores from sites like OpenCores.com and integrate them into the Papilio's Arduino soft processor core.

      Jack was kind enough to give a Papilio board to me along with a "MegaWing" daughterboard:

      20130815_222247.jpg20130815_222811.jpg

       

      Papilio One

      The Papilio is an Open Source FPGA development board based on the Xilinx Spartan 3E FPGA (datasheet). It has 48 I/O lines, dual channel USB, integrated JTAG programmer, 4 power supplies, and a power connector. It provides everything needed to start learning Digital Electronics.

      20130815_222656.jpg20130815_222337.jpg

      Papilio LogicStart MegaWing

      The LogicStart MegaWing provides everything needed to get started with VHDL and FPGA development on the Papilio with one convenient and easy to connect circuit board.

      Learn VHDL with Mike Field's free book written specifically for the Papilio and LogicStart MegaWing. Step by step examples and full source code walks you through using all the peripherals on the LogicStart.

      Dive into the exciting world of customizable Soft Processor's with the ZPUino. Custom peripheral's such as a ZX Spectrum compatible VGA adapter and classic audio chips are just a few of the exciting possibilities. The LogicStart gives you peripherals to experiment with!

       

      I thought I would pass on the favor to another member of element14 Community. I'm going to give both of these boards for free it to one lucky Community member (sorry, no minors, you must be 18 years of age or older):


        1. Reply to this post with a short description of why you are interested (1 to 2 sentences is fine)
        2. I'll will pick a winner at random on Tuesday, Septemeber 10th, at 7pm US CDT.

       

      Note: I'm located in Chicago and will ship it for free to the winner using the lowest cost option available.  If the winner is located outside the US, then the winner will be responsible for paying any customs fees or duty that may apply.  I will list the value as $78 USD.

       

       

      Cheers,

      Drew

      http://twitter.com/pdp7

        • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
          billabott

          I would loose 100 pounds (over 10 months or less) to have this Papilio board.  I am currently reading an entire college text book about VHDL and FPGA programming. 

            • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
              mcb1

              Drew

              B***g the random selection, lets see the before and after photos of Billabott as he heads out on this double challenge.

               

              Another strange header arrangement, but at least its 0.1 spacing.

               

              Mark

              • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                John Beetem

                billabott wrote:

                I am currently reading an entire college text book about VHDL and FPGA programming. 

                 

                Peter Wishart wrote:

                I have been learning VHDL for the last month but I don't have a FPGA board yet to try the exercises in the book, this board would help me a lot.

                 

                Unless you really enjoy typing, you might check out Verilog.  Verilog is based on C, so it has less verbiage than VHDL, which is based on Ada.

                  • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                    Unless you really enjoy typing, you might check out Verilog.  Verilog is based on C, so it has less verbiage than VHDL, which is based on Ada.

                     

                    I don't want to start a language war, but I have noticed that some novice C users

                    have posted examples of code in the e14 arduino forum where mistaken substitutions,

                    like "if" when "while" was meant, would have been detected much easier by the

                    compiler in a language like Ada that has some intentional redundancy in its syntax.

                    So I think there is a tradeoff between less verbiage for one language and better

                    compile-time error detection for the other.

                      • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                        John Beetem

                        coder27 wrote:

                         

                        I don't want to start a language war, but I have noticed that some novice C users

                        have posted examples of code in the e14 arduino forum where mistaken substitutions,

                        like "if" when "while" was meant, would have been detected much easier by the

                        compiler in a language like Ada that has some intentional redundancy in its syntax.

                        So I think there is a tradeoff between less verbiage for one language and better

                        compile-time error detection for the other.

                        At the last Design West conference, a speaker said he preferred to have his engineers write VHDL instead of Verilog because the latter is so C-like that some engineers would think in terms of software rather than hardware and design things poorly.  My opinion is that you shouldn't stop people from using power tools just because a few people won't use them safely.

                         

                        Regarding languages in general, my opinion is chacun a son goût (YMMV).  People should use languages that they're comfortable with and that express their problems in a clean, familiar way so that bugs are obvious and maintenance isn't a nightmare.

                         

                        Pax vobiscum

                      • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                        michaelkellett

                        @Peter & John

                         

                        I think it might depend on where you start: I started with VHDL and am currently getting up to speed on Verilog because to is very widely used and I have to support customers using it, or bits of IP wrritten in it.

                         

                        I HATE Verilog !

                         

                        VHDL is based on ADA and System Verilog (no one uses just plain Verilog) is based on C and a dog's breakfast.

                         

                        This comment refers to ADA  and C but is just as relevant to VHDL and Verilog:

                         

                        "I would rather learn to code in VHDL than to debug in Verilog"

                         

                        Of course in real life it's more complex than that but I would recommend that you start in VHDL (it forces you to think more about the underlying hardware).

                         

                        MK

                          • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                            John Beetem

                            Michael Kellett wrote:

                             

                            @Peter & John

                             

                            I think it might depend on where you start: I started with VHDL and am currently getting up to speed on Verilog because to is very widely used and I have to support customers using it, or bits of IP wrritten in it.

                             

                            I HATE Verilog !

                             

                            VHDL is based on ADA and System Verilog (no one uses just plain Verilog) is based on C and a dog's breakfast.

                             

                            This comment refers to ADA  and C but is just as relevant to VHDL and Verilog:

                             

                            "I would rather learn to code in VHDL than to debug in Verilog"

                             

                            Of course in real life it's more complex than that but I would recommend that you start in VHDL (it forces you to think more about the underlying hardware).

                             

                            MK

                            IMO it depends a lot on how you write your Verilog.  I use "just plain" Verilog as a register-transfer language and avoid the behavioral constructs that get in the way of my understanding of the logic.  If you write it this way it matches the hardware quite closely.  Others prefer to use highly behavioral notations and I find that code to be practically unreadable -- the phrase "dog's breakfast" is apt.  Of course, others might say the same for my code

                             

                            Perhaps Verilog -- like C -- permits more abuse than VHDL or Ada.  I don't have enough experience with the latters to form an opinion.

                             

                            My favorite HDL written by other people is Altera's AHDL, which is a very clean register-transfer language.  I used it for some (IIRC) 6000-series FPGA design and it went very well.  I don't think they support it any more

                             

                            There's a fundamental problem with both VHDL and Verilog: neither was created as a design language for synthesizing logic.  From what I recall, VHDL was created as a specification language for VLSI chip behavior, so it's a good language for simulation.  Similarly, Verilog was created for test pattern generation and checking, so again it emphasizes behavior and simulation.  I think there's plenty of room for a language that's better suited for describing and synthesizing hardware rather than behavior.

                      • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                        wideko

                        We do have a challenge for a FPGA, because we are designing speedcontrollers for our modelrailroad. They have to cooperate, because a difference in PWM-start will result in huge currents floating between the controllers when the train will cross over to another section.

                        • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                          shabaz

                          I already have the One (please don't include me in the random selection - or if you do, I also agree,  I'd like  billabot to try it out!). It is a great board.

                            • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                              John Beetem

                              shabaz wrote:

                               

                              I already have the One (please don't include me in the random selection - or if you do, I also agree,  I'd like  billabot to try it out!). It is a great board.

                              Thank you for the mini-review.  I'm planning to get a Papilio at some point.  I'm currently working on FPGA design software  -- mostly front-end and simulation for now, since FPGA vendors haven't published enough architectural information to do physical design.  However, when vendors wise up to the advantages of having an open FPGA architecture I want to be ready.  So while I'm tempted to enter Drew's contest, I'd rather have it go to someone who can use it right away.

                               

                              I still have an old Spartan-II development board which I've used for a number of projects.  I really like the Spartan-II and Spartan-3 architectures and use the Spartan-3A for client FPGA designs.

                                • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                  shabaz

                                  John Beetem wrote:

                                   

                                  Thank you for the mini-review.  I'm planning to get a Papilio at some point.

                                  Another cool board maybe for those who want to do gaming type experiments with an FPGA is 'minimig', which is 90% of a Commodore Amiga on an FPGA (minus the CPU which is a real hardware 68000). I obtained one a while back but not had a chance to try it yet.

                                  coder27 wrote:

                                   

                                  VHDL can be run without a FPGA board, using GHDL.

                                  This is spot on, and is worth doing because it would need to be done for a real design anyway (I've not used this particular simulator).

                                  Many non-computer-scientists may not know about the importance of a high-level design, modules specification and testing with software based projects and so they may get away without doing that for small C programs, but it becomes super-important very quickly with FPGAs (regardless of Verilog or VHDL - I personally thought I would find Verilog easier, but I've only used VHDL and now I'm trying to give Verilog a decent shot, but the conclusion is that neither are easy to start), so it needs patience and planning, as well as the understanding to stick to certain ways of expressing things until one gets confident of what it will end up creating in hardware. In a way, it needs to be studied in parallel with digital design. Possibly today's engineers may need to be able to use both languages, and to be prepared to read and try lots of exercises in books!

                                    • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                      John Beetem

                                      shabaz wrote:

                                       

                                      (... but I've only used VHDL and now I'm trying to give Verilog a decent shot, but the conclusion is that neither are easy to start), so it needs patience and planning, as well as the understanding to stick to certain ways of expressing things until one gets confident of what it will end up creating in hardware.

                                      This is a problem with synthesizing Verilog, and I assume with VHDL as well.  To do good FPGA design, you first have to visualize the digital hardware that you want, and then cajole the synthesizer into creating the logic you have visualized.  The synthesizer (I've mostly used Xilinx's XST which is part of the free Web tools) has a bunch of templates for synthesizing various useful things like latches, flip-flops, and dual-port RAM but you have to write your Verilog code the correct way so that XST matches the templates and maps to the correct FPGA resources.  It helps a great deal if you've designed your own digital CAD tools just like you can write better C code if you've written compilers.

                                       

                                      Determining that XST has generated the correct logic is a pain.  Xilinx does have a tool for automatically generating schematics, but they're IMO practically useless except for very small designs.  I'd much rather have a bunch of synthesized equations like you get with a CPLD.

                                • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                  mconners

                                  Wow Drew, that is very generous. I would love to expand my FPGA knowledge to include Xilinx. Count me in.

                                   

                                  Thanks,

                                   

                                  Mike

                                  • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                    dmaruska

                                    I would love to have one of these, This is one area of Electronics that I have never worked in and would love to start.  Count me in.  Thanks.

                                     

                                    Regards,

                                     

                                    Dave M.

                                    • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                      Nate1616

                                      Count me in Drew.  I would love to further my FPGA knowledge.  I cant say this enough Drew, you are way to generous giving all these boards away and we all appreciate it.

                                       

                                      Nate

                                      • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                        tom4writer

                                        I would like one of these to expand my electroinc knowledge.

                                         

                                        Pick me, pick me, pick me

                                         

                                        thx

                                        tom

                                        • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                          mon4730

                                          I just bought a Clive Maxfield FPGA book.  Would love to apply some of those new learnings!  The Megawing daughterboard looks really neat.

                                           

                                          Thanks,

                                          Ricardo

                                          • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                            pwishart

                                            I have been learning VHDL for the last month but I don't have a FPGA board yet to try the exercises in the book, this board would help me alot.

                                             

                                             

                                            thanks,

                                            Peter

                                            • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                              tim12

                                              Hi, You are way too kind to be doing this! This could be useful for my show which will start as soon as I get my 3D printer! It would be of great use to me for learning electronics. Thanks for your great support!

                                               

                                               

                                              Tim

                                              • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                                chem_engineer

                                                I've been interested in writing code for an embedded precision agriculture concept using a NIR and a OV7725 camera I have laying around.  Since the Papilio is so small, I could even add this to my quadcopter project as well.

                                                • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                                  BobLWeiss

                                                  I would be interested.

                                                   

                                                  I am currently working on a 3d Printer accessory based on Ardiuno that requires a ton of speed which FPGA offers. This module has to handle 10 RGB LED modules that are multiplexed on 1 serial bus.

                                                   

                                                  Bob

                                                  • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                                    jamodio

                                                    Hey Drew,

                                                     

                                                    I'd love to be on the list !!

                                                     

                                                    At some moment Lattice was giving away the eval boards for the new iCE40 FPGAs, pretty cool low power/density FPGA.

                                                     

                                                    Also if you want to play with some entry level CPLD stuff these guys put together a nice board. I backed them on Kickstarter but I believe they are now selling the board on their site. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/545073874/bora-the-binary-explorer-board

                                                     

                                                    Cheers

                                                    Jorge

                                                    • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                                      G_Murtha

                                                      As a budding controls engineer, I'd like to have some experience under my belt in dealing with FPGA.  One of the projects I have in mind is a semi-autonomous 1:144 scale fleet for airsoft combat; another would be home automation/security.

                                                      • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                                        dwinhold

                                                        First of all thank you for the generous offer!! I am really impressed with the ability and power of this board. Until now I have not heard of it, but once I saw the demo's I absolutely have to get one. The things I will be able to teach my kids and others about development boards will be priceless. I would love the opportunity to try this out!

                                                         

                                                        Dale W

                                                        • Re: Who wants to have FPGA fun for free?
                                                          Drew Fustini

                                                          I took the names that posted saying they wanted the board, coverted to lower case and sorted:

                                                          random1.png

                                                          and I took position #1 after the list was randomly sorted:

                                                          random2.png

                                                          Congrats to Tom Forajter!

                                                           

                                                          Tom: please accept my contact request so that you can Private Message me your shipping addres.

                                                           

                                                          Thanks,

                                                          Drew