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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 05-07-2004, 07:17 AM
Joel Hardy
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Posts: n/a
Default Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

Howdy all,

I'm looking to get an FPGA development board sometime soon. When I
was in college, I played with what was probably the Xess XSB-300E (fun
stuff: we made a PCMCIA interface and plugged it into an iPaq... but
that's another story). That's WAY outside of my price range (<
$200US), but the XSA-50 doesn't look too bad. Any comments on that
one? Also, I found this
(http://www.nuhorizons.com/products/x...ent-board.html),
which looks considerably better to me, especially since my main
prospective project would benefit from a large amount of fast RAM.
Any advice? Is there anything else in the sub-$200 I should look at?

Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
cheap development boards.)

Thanks for the help!
- Joel Hardy
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 05-07-2004, 02:00 PM
Jon Beniston
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

> Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> cheap development boards.)


Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
commerical tools are free to use? Check out for the Xilinx WebPack:

http://www.xilinx.com/xlnx/xil_prodc...le=ISE+WebPack

Cheers,
JonB
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 05-07-2004, 02:27 PM
john jakson
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

[email protected] (Joel Hardy) wrote in message news:<[email protected] com>...
> Howdy all,
>
> I'm looking to get an FPGA development boarXess XSB-300E (fun
> stuff: we made a PCMCIA interface and plugged it into an iPaq... but
> that's another story). That's WAY outside of my price range (<
> $200US), but the XSA-50 doesn't lookd sotoo bad. Any comments on that
> one? Also, I found thisprobably the anything else in the sub-$200 I should look at?
>
> Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> envy, and I haven't seen any software available o
> (http://www.nuhorizons.com/products/x...ent-board.html),
> which looks considerably better to me, especially since my main
> prospective project would benefit from a large amount of fast RAM.
> Any advice? Is there metime soon. When I
> was in college, I played with what was ther than x86 and
> big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> cheap development boards.)
>
> Thanks for the help!
> - Joel Hardy



Apart from entry level HDL simulation, I wouldn't expect too much from
open source for anything really difficult. The structure of FPGAs is
generally too complicated & proprietary for opensource. It was
different when everyone was doing ASIC & polygon design, then anyone
could write code that would work with any vendor.

You can run the free WebPack under VPC for Mac and take the speed hit,
interested to see a comparison of that v near equiv x86 running
native. I'd bet its 10x slower.

you can google geda, open source eda tools, there are quite a few out
there but mostly not much updated. Also hang out in the verilog/vhdl
NGs.

regards

johnjakson_usa_com
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old 05-07-2004, 04:21 PM
David Brown
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"Jon Beniston" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected] om...
> > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> > cheap development boards.)

>
> Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> commerical tools are free to use? Check out for the Xilinx WebPack:
>
> http://www.xilinx.com/xlnx/xil_prodc...le=ISE+WebPack
>


I think you misunderstand the point of Open Source - price is only one
aspect (and open source software is not necessarily free, although normally
you can find any given open source program somewhere for free downloading.
Frequently you can buy pre-packaged CD's, often with support, such as Linux
distributions or the OpenTech cdrom
http://www.opencores.org/projects.cg...opentech/about ).

The original poster was looking for open source tools because he likes to
tinker with the software, and because he wants to run the software on
something other than an x86 machine. That is possible with open source
software, but not with free closed source software.

Sites worth looking at are http://www.opencores.org ,
http://opencollector.org/ , and http://geda.seul.org . But as another
poster pointed out, there are good reasons why place and route software
tends to be proprietry.




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  #5 (permalink)  
Old 05-08-2004, 10:49 AM
Alex Gibson
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"Joel Hardy" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected] om...
> Howdy all,
>
> I'm looking to get an FPGA development board sometime soon. When I
> was in college, I played with what was probably the Xess XSB-300E (fun
> stuff: we made a PCMCIA interface and plugged it into an iPaq... but
> that's another story). That's WAY outside of my price range (<
> $200US), but the XSA-50 doesn't look too bad. Any comments on that
> one? Also, I found this
> (http://www.nuhorizons.com/products/x...ent-board.html),
> which looks considerably better to me, especially since my main
> prospective project would benefit from a large amount of fast RAM.
> Any advice? Is there anything else in the sub-$200 I should look at?
>
> Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> cheap development boards.)
>
> Thanks for the help!
> - Joel Hardy


have a browse of http://www.digilentinc.com/index.html

xilinx webpack is free www.xilinx.com/webpack

same with Quartus from altera
parallax were selling a few boards
also altera was selling some "student" boards
a while back

Alex


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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 05-08-2004, 11:06 AM
Alex Gibson
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"Alex Gibson" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]
>
> have a browse of http://www.digilentinc.com/index.html
>
> xilinx webpack is free www.xilinx.com/webpack
>
> same with Quartus from altera
> parallax were selling a few boards
> also altera was selling some "student" boards
> a while back
>
> Alex



here is the link for the altera uni program board
http://www.altera.com/education/univ/kits/unv-kits.html


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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 05-08-2004, 05:39 PM
Martin Schoeberl
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

"Alex Gibson" <[email protected]> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:[email protected]
>
> "Alex Gibson" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> news:[email protected]
> >
> > have a browse of http://www.digilentinc.com/index.html
> >
> > xilinx webpack is free www.xilinx.com/webpack
> >
> > same with Quartus from altera
> > parallax were selling a few boards
> > also altera was selling some "student" boards
> > a while back
> >
> > Alex

>
>
> here is the link for the altera uni program board
> http://www.altera.com/education/univ/kits/unv-kits.html
>
>

That board comes with a pretty 'old' (and 'small') FPGA.
A little bit above your $200 limit, but with a Cyclone EP1C6 or EP1C12
(Altera's new low cost devices) and 1 MB fast memory:
http://www.jopdesign.com/cyclone/index.jsp


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  #8 (permalink)  
Old 05-10-2004, 05:58 AM
Vaughn Betz
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

> parallax were selling a few boards
> also altera was selling some "student" boards
> a while back
>
> Alex


Here's a link to the parallax boards:

Cyclone 1C3 based, $195:
http://www.altera.com/products/devki...ne_fstpck.html

Cyclone 1C20 based, $295:
http://www.altera.com/products/devki...e_smrtpck.html

Also check out the JOP board listed elsewhere in this thread, which is
another reasonably-priced Cylone board.

All Cyclone devices are supported by Quartus II web edition, which you
can download for free from:
http://www.altera.com/products/softw...arwebmain.html

Quartus includes HDL synthesis, schematic entry, place and route,
static timing analysis, visualization, floorplanning tools, etc.
Pretty much all you need to learn about FPGAs.

Larger list of Altera-based development boards (most more expensive
than you want though):
http://www.altera.com/products/devki..._platforms.jsp

Regards,

Vaughn
Altera
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  #9 (permalink)  
Old 05-10-2004, 05:36 PM
Tom Hawkins
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

[email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message news:<[email protected] com>...
> > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> > cheap development boards.)

>
> Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> commerical tools are free to use?


Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform a
commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
with a commercial alternative to GCC?

Unfortunately, the track record of open-source FPGA implementation
tools has been dismal. Icarus is the only open-source tool I know
that attempts Xilinx synthesis. I believe it handles synthesis and
technology mapping, but has little, if no optimization.

I did start a Virtex2 packer/placer awhile back. I got as far as
parsing the post-synthesis EDIF netlist and building a graph of FPGA
primitives. The goal was to pack and place the CLBs, then update the
UCF with LOC constraints. I still have the code lying around in case
anyone is interested.

BTW, Confluence can compile it for Mac X. It will solved your design,
simulation, and verification problems, but for FPGA compilation,
you're still locked into commercial tools.

-Tom
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  #10 (permalink)  
Old 05-10-2004, 08:05 PM
Anna Acevedo
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

Digilent Inc (www.digilentinc.com) has several low cost boards mainly
used in academia but available to all. Soon they will be releasing a
Spartan-3 board and in a couple of months a Virtex-II Pro board.

Anna Acevedo - Manager
Xilinx University Program

Joel Hardy wrote:

> Howdy all,
>
> I'm looking to get an FPGA development board sometime soon. When I
> was in college, I played with what was probably the Xess XSB-300E (fun
> stuff: we made a PCMCIA interface and plugged it into an iPaq... but
> that's another story). That's WAY outside of my price range (<
> $200US), but the XSA-50 doesn't look too bad. Any comments on that
> one? Also, I found this
> (http://www.nuhorizons.com/products/x...ent-board.html),
> which looks considerably better to me, especially since my main
> prospective project would benefit from a large amount of fast RAM.
> Any advice? Is there anything else in the sub-$200 I should look at?
>
> Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> cheap development boards.)
>
> Thanks for the help!
> - Joel Hardy


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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 01:32 AM
rickman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

Tom Hawkins wrote:
>
> [email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message news:<[email protected] com>...
> > > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> > > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> > > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> > > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> > > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> > > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> > > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> > > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> > > cheap development boards.)

> >
> > Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> > commerical tools are free to use?

>
> Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform a
> commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
> with a commercial alternative to GCC?


I have been evaluating tools for the ARM MCU and all my info says that
gcc is a less efficient tool than the commercial ones. I guess it only
stands to reason that the commercial tools must be better, why else
would they sell well enough to keep the companies in business?


> Unfortunately, the track record of open-source FPGA implementation
> tools has been dismal. Icarus is the only open-source tool I know
> that attempts Xilinx synthesis. I believe it handles synthesis and
> technology mapping, but has little, if no optimization.


I think John Jakson summed it up pretty well, open source FPGA tools are
not practical for a number of reasons that have been discussed here many
times before. Some people seem to think that FPGA and ASIC tools are
the same as compiliers, but in reality they are very different.


> I did start a Virtex2 packer/placer awhile back. I got as far as
> parsing the post-synthesis EDIF netlist and building a graph of FPGA
> primitives. The goal was to pack and place the CLBs, then update the
> UCF with LOC constraints. I still have the code lying around in case
> anyone is interested.
>
> BTW, Confluence can compile it for Mac X. It will solved your design,
> simulation, and verification problems, but for FPGA compilation,
> you're still locked into commercial tools.


--

Rick "rickman" Collins

[email protected]
Ignore the reply address. To email me use the above address with the XY
removed.

Arius - A Signal Processing Solutions Company
Specializing in DSP and FPGA design URL http://www.arius.com
4 King Ave 301-682-7772 Voice
Frederick, MD 21701-3110 301-682-7666 FAX
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  #12 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 09:16 AM
David Brown
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]
> Tom Hawkins wrote:
> >
> > [email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message

news:<[email protected] com>...
> > > > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> > > > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> > > > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> > > > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > > > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> > > > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but

what
> > > > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> > > > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I

have
> > > > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> > > > cheap development boards.)
> > >
> > > Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> > > commerical tools are free to use?

> >
> > Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform a
> > commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
> > with a commercial alternative to GCC?

>
> I have been evaluating tools for the ARM MCU and all my info says that
> gcc is a less efficient tool than the commercial ones. I guess it only


What do you mean by "less efficient" ? There are big differences between
run-time efficiency and develop-time efficiency, and the balance choosen
between these will vary according to user and project. There is little
doubt that there are commercial compilers that produce smaller and faster
code than gcc for many processors (including arm), but developer efficiency
can be a serious issue too. I write C code for five different processors,
amongs other work - it is simply not economically feasible to buy
top-of-the-range commercial compilers for all of these, while gcc works fine
for me. I also find it in many ways to be a more advanced compiler than
some compilers I have used (especially in terms of compile-time error
checking). There are plenty of cases where commercial compilers would make
most economic sense overall, but it is far from every case.

> stands to reason that the commercial tools must be better, why else
> would they sell well enough to keep the companies in business?
>


There is one, and only one, reason why any company stays in business - it is
able to persuade enough people that its product is worth the money. It may
or may not be the case that the product actually *is* worth the money (to
the given customer), but the immediate technical qualities of the product
are only one part of the sale - there are many other relevant issues such as
support and upgrade paths, and many irrelevant issues such as the
persuasiveness of the salesfolk, the guilibitity of the purchasing people,
and the quality of their flashy power-point slides and free pens. I'm not
trying to say that commercial compilers are not worth the money - I'm just
pointing out the naivity of the "it costs more so it must be worth more"
argument.



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  #13 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 09:17 AM
Martin Thompson
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

rickman <[email protected]> writes:

> Tom Hawkins wrote:
> >

<snip>
> > tools has been dismal. Icarus is the only open-source tool I know
> > that attempts Xilinx synthesis. I believe it handles synthesis and
> > technology mapping, but has little, if no optimization.

>
> I think John Jakson summed it up pretty well, open source FPGA tools are
> not practical for a number of reasons that have been discussed here many
> times before. Some people seem to think that FPGA and ASIC tools are
> the same as compiliers, but in reality they are very different.
>


I think there's also the point that the intersection of the sets
"compiler users" and "can write (and is interested in writing)
software" is much larger than that for "FPGA place and route tool
users" and the "writing software" sets.

Cheers,
Martin

--
[email protected]
TRW Conekt, Solihull, UK
http://www.trw.com/conekt
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  #14 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 01:59 PM
Tom Hawkins
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

rickman <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
> Tom Hawkins wrote:
> >
> > [email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message

[snip]
> > >
> > > Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> > > commerical tools are free to use?

> >
> > Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform a
> > commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
> > with a commercial alternative to GCC?

>
> I have been evaluating tools for the ARM MCU and all my info says that
> gcc is a less efficient tool than the commercial ones. I guess it only
> stands to reason that the commercial tools must be better, why else
> would they sell well enough to keep the companies in business?


Certainly when a compiler targets a specific architecture, it can do a
better job. But in terms of the number of supported platforms and its
decent code optimization, it's hard to beat GCC.

>
>
> > Unfortunately, the track record of open-source FPGA implementation
> > tools has been dismal. Icarus is the only open-source tool I know
> > that attempts Xilinx synthesis. I believe it handles synthesis and
> > technology mapping, but has little, if no optimization.

>
> I think John Jakson summed it up pretty well, open source FPGA tools are
> not practical for a number of reasons that have been discussed here many
> times before. Some people seem to think that FPGA and ASIC tools are
> the same as compiliers, but in reality they are very different.


Sure the algorithms are different, but there are many similarities:
Like a compiler, most logic optimizations are NP-complete, therefore
many of the same strategies can be applied. Both a compiler and a
synthesizer deal with dataflow analysis and resource allocation.
Instruction reordering is similar to retiming. Memory and execution
timing tradeoffs are somewhat analogous to tradeoffs with area and
performance.

I agree the closer you get to implementation, the less pratical an
open source tool becomes. But where is the line drawn? Clearly
synthesis falls on our side. Multi-chip partioning is certainly
possible. And with the capabilities of UCF, I would argue placement
is a canidate as well.

>
>
> > I did start a Virtex2 packer/placer awhile back. I got as far as
> > parsing the post-synthesis EDIF netlist and building a graph of FPGA
> > primitives. The goal was to pack and place the CLBs, then update the
> > UCF with LOC constraints. I still have the code lying around in case
> > anyone is interested.
> >
> > BTW, Confluence can compile it for Mac X. It will solved your design,
> > simulation, and verification problems, but for FPGA compilation,
> > you're still locked into commercial tools.

>
> --
>
> Rick "rickman" Collins
>
> [email protected]
> Ignore the reply address. To email me use the above address with the XY
> removed.
>
> Arius - A Signal Processing Solutions Company
> Specializing in DSP and FPGA design URL http://www.arius.com
> 4 King Ave 301-682-7772 Voice
> Frederick, MD 21701-3110 301-682-7666 FAX

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  #15 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 04:46 PM
rickman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

David Brown wrote:
>
> "rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> news:[email protected]
> > Tom Hawkins wrote:
> > >
> > > [email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message

> news:<[email protected] com>...
> > > > > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> > > > > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> > > > > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> > > > > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > > > > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> > > > > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but

> what
> > > > > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> > > > > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I

> have
> > > > > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> > > > > cheap development boards.)
> > > >
> > > > Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> > > > commerical tools are free to use?
> > >
> > > Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform a
> > > commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
> > > with a commercial alternative to GCC?

> >
> > I have been evaluating tools for the ARM MCU and all my info says that
> > gcc is a less efficient tool than the commercial ones. I guess it only

>
> What do you mean by "less efficient" ? There are big differences between
> run-time efficiency and develop-time efficiency, and the balance choosen
> between these will vary according to user and project. There is little
> doubt that there are commercial compilers that produce smaller and faster
> code than gcc for many processors (including arm), but developer efficiency
> can be a serious issue too. I write C code for five different processors,
> amongs other work - it is simply not economically feasible to buy
> top-of-the-range commercial compilers for all of these, while gcc works fine
> for me. I also find it in many ways to be a more advanced compiler than
> some compilers I have used (especially in terms of compile-time error
> checking). There are plenty of cases where commercial compilers would make
> most economic sense overall, but it is far from every case.


I am not interested in debating the whole topic of open source tools.
You have your *opinion* and I have mine. But your *facts* are not self
evident. Feel free to use any tool you wish. And that includes all the
open source FPGA tools...


> > stands to reason that the commercial tools must be better, why else
> > would they sell well enough to keep the companies in business?
> >

>
> There is one, and only one, reason why any company stays in business - it is
> able to persuade enough people that its product is worth the money. It may
> or may not be the case that the product actually *is* worth the money (to
> the given customer), but the immediate technical qualities of the product
> are only one part of the sale - there are many other relevant issues such as
> support and upgrade paths, and many irrelevant issues such as the
> persuasiveness of the salesfolk, the guilibitity of the purchasing people,
> and the quality of their flashy power-point slides and free pens. I'm not
> trying to say that commercial compilers are not worth the money - I'm just
> pointing out the naivity of the "it costs more so it must be worth more"
> argument.


Again, you confuse the facts with your opinion. If I pay for a tool,
then by definition it is worth the money I paid. You can assume that
products are sold by Machiavellian sales people to Dilbert purchasers,
but in the real world everyone decides for themselves what is best. End
of story.

--

Rick "rickman" Collins

[email protected]
Ignore the reply address. To email me use the above address with the XY
removed.

Arius - A Signal Processing Solutions Company
Specializing in DSP and FPGA design URL http://www.arius.com
4 King Ave 301-682-7772 Voice
Frederick, MD 21701-3110 301-682-7666 FAX
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  #16 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 04:52 PM
rickman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?

Tom Hawkins wrote:
>
> rickman <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
> > Tom Hawkins wrote:
> > >
> > > [email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message

> [snip]
> > > >
> > > > Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> > > > commerical tools are free to use?
> > >
> > > Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform a
> > > commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
> > > with a commercial alternative to GCC?

> >
> > I have been evaluating tools for the ARM MCU and all my info says that
> > gcc is a less efficient tool than the commercial ones. I guess it only
> > stands to reason that the commercial tools must be better, why else
> > would they sell well enough to keep the companies in business?

>
> Certainly when a compiler targets a specific architecture, it can do a
> better job. But in terms of the number of supported platforms and its
> decent code optimization, it's hard to beat GCC.


I am not going to debate the open source tool question. I don't care
what you use. But it is not a *fact* that GCC "out performs" commercial
tools.


> > > Unfortunately, the track record of open-source FPGA implementation
> > > tools has been dismal. Icarus is the only open-source tool I know
> > > that attempts Xilinx synthesis. I believe it handles synthesis and
> > > technology mapping, but has little, if no optimization.

> >
> > I think John Jakson summed it up pretty well, open source FPGA tools are
> > not practical for a number of reasons that have been discussed here many
> > times before. Some people seem to think that FPGA and ASIC tools are
> > the same as compiliers, but in reality they are very different.

>
> Sure the algorithms are different, but there are many similarities:
> Like a compiler, most logic optimizations are NP-complete, therefore
> many of the same strategies can be applied. Both a compiler and a
> synthesizer deal with dataflow analysis and resource allocation.
> Instruction reordering is similar to retiming. Memory and execution
> timing tradeoffs are somewhat analogous to tradeoffs with area and
> performance.


There may be a few similarities, but you are only looking at technical
issues. The real problem has to do with the way the FPGA devices keep
changing. It is a major job for the vendors to keep up with their own
devices, it is not practical for open source tools to always be a
generation or two behind.

If it is so practical, why has it not been done properly? As an earlier
poster stated, some projects have been started, but none have produced
anything useful and many have just been dropped.

> I agree the closer you get to implementation, the less pratical an
> open source tool becomes. But where is the line drawn? Clearly
> synthesis falls on our side. Multi-chip partioning is certainly
> possible. And with the capabilities of UCF, I would argue placement
> is a canidate as well.


So where are the tools? Rather than rehash the issue here, google this
group and read what has already been posted over the last two years.

--

Rick "rickman" Collins

[email protected]
Ignore the reply address. To email me use the above address with the XY
removed.

Arius - A Signal Processing Solutions Company
Specializing in DSP and FPGA design URL http://www.arius.com
4 King Ave 301-682-7772 Voice
Frederick, MD 21701-3110 301-682-7666 FAX
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  #17 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 07:19 PM
nospam
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"Anna Acevedo" <[email protected]> escribió en el mensaje
news:[email protected]
> Digilent Inc (www.digilentinc.com) has several low cost boards mainly
> used in academia but available to all. Soon they will be releasing a
> Spartan-3 board and in a couple of months a Virtex-II Pro board.
>
> Anna Acevedo - Manager
> Xilinx University Program
>



hi, is there any Virtex-II Pro (with only one PPC core embedded,
XC2VP4-5FG456C), the clock, config ROM, JTAG (maybe also USB) and some RAM
board out there?

cause i've seen some cards from Memec (there's one at about 400dollars with
EDK and 200 without it), but they dont have any RAM, and other boards have
too much peripheals that i dont need and then they have like 20 user I/O
pins available, cause they have keyboard, display, leds, parallel port, A/D,
D/A, video, and a lot of other stuff. If i wanted those peripheals later i
guess i'd get a daughter board, but in the beggining i'd like as much I/O as
possible

another one is the one for gameboy (i dont know it's name) it seems to have
everything i want, just the FPGA is not a Virtex-II Pro

any pointers will be appreciated




> Joel Hardy wrote:
>
> > Howdy all,
> >
> > I'm looking to get an FPGA development board sometime soon. When I
> > was in college, I played with what was probably the Xess XSB-300E (fun
> > stuff: we made a PCMCIA interface and plugged it into an iPaq... but
> > that's another story). That's WAY outside of my price range (<
> > $200US), but the XSA-50 doesn't look too bad. Any comments on that
> > one? Also, I found this
> > (http://www.nuhorizons.com/products/x...ent-board.html),
> > which looks considerably better to me, especially since my main
> > prospective project would benefit from a large amount of fast RAM.
> > Any advice? Is there anything else in the sub-$200 I should look at?
> >
> > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker on
> > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of PowerBook
> > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86 and
> > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation (Icarus
> > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work, but what
> > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this; is
> > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I have
> > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else for
> > cheap development boards.)
> >
> > Thanks for the help!
> > - Joel Hardy

>



Reply With Quote
  #18 (permalink)  
Old 05-11-2004, 09:58 PM
David Brown
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]
> David Brown wrote:
> >
> > "rickman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> > news:[email protected]
> > > Tom Hawkins wrote:
> > > >
> > > > [email protected] (Jon Beniston) wrote in message

> > news:<[email protected] com>...
> > > > > > Also, what's the status of open source tools? (I like to tinker

on
> > > > > > the software end of things, too, and I have a bad case of

PowerBook
> > > > > > envy, and I haven't seen any software available other than x86

and
> > > > > > big-iron UNIX). Can they go from VHDL/Verilog all the way to
> > > > > > downloading the file to the chip? I see that compilation

(Icarus
> > > > > > verilog) and downloading (found it in this group's FAQ) work,

but
> > what
> > > > > > about place and route? Icarus' docs say it's a no-go for this;

is
> > > > > > there anything else, or must I use the Xilinx tools? (I guess I

> > have
> > > > > > a Xilinx bias -- it's all I've used, and I don't see much else

for
> > > > > > cheap development boards.)
> > > > >
> > > > > Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> > > > > commerical tools are free to use?
> > > >
> > > > Because in the long term, an open-source tool chain can out perform

a
> > > > commercial tool. Case in point: how many Unix/C developers compile
> > > > with a commercial alternative to GCC?
> > >
> > > I have been evaluating tools for the ARM MCU and all my info says that
> > > gcc is a less efficient tool than the commercial ones. I guess it

only
> >
> > What do you mean by "less efficient" ? There are big differences

between
> > run-time efficiency and develop-time efficiency, and the balance choosen
> > between these will vary according to user and project. There is little
> > doubt that there are commercial compilers that produce smaller and

faster
> > code than gcc for many processors (including arm), but developer

efficiency
> > can be a serious issue too. I write C code for five different

processors,
> > amongs other work - it is simply not economically feasible to buy
> > top-of-the-range commercial compilers for all of these, while gcc works

fine
> > for me. I also find it in many ways to be a more advanced compiler than
> > some compilers I have used (especially in terms of compile-time error
> > checking). There are plenty of cases where commercial compilers would

make
> > most economic sense overall, but it is far from every case.

>
> I am not interested in debating the whole topic of open source tools.
> You have your *opinion* and I have mine. But your *facts* are not self


Much of what I wrote was not opinion, but fact - for the particular case in
question (i.e., my professional compiler usage). As I said, the situation
will be different for different people - that's also fact. As for
opinions - we all have plenty of them!

> evident. Feel free to use any tool you wish. And that includes all the
> open source FPGA tools...
>


Choice is an excellent thing - in the case of fpga development, I choose to
use an open-source tool (Confluence - once I get the hang of it :-), a
closed source paid-for tool (Quartus), a paid-for (but with some source)
component (Nios), and open-source compiler and debugger software
masquerading as closed-source (Gnu-pro compiler toolset for the Nios). I
like to be able to pick and choose.

Incidently, isn't it interesting that both Altera and Xilinx have
standardised on gcc for the compiler for their soft-processor cores?

>
> > > stands to reason that the commercial tools must be better, why else
> > > would they sell well enough to keep the companies in business?
> > >

> >
> > There is one, and only one, reason why any company stays in business -

it is
> > able to persuade enough people that its product is worth the money. It

may
> > or may not be the case that the product actually *is* worth the money

(to
> > the given customer), but the immediate technical qualities of the

product
> > are only one part of the sale - there are many other relevant issues

such as
> > support and upgrade paths, and many irrelevant issues such as the
> > persuasiveness of the salesfolk, the guilibitity of the purchasing

people,
> > and the quality of their flashy power-point slides and free pens. I'm

not
> > trying to say that commercial compilers are not worth the money - I'm

just
> > pointing out the naivity of the "it costs more so it must be worth more"
> > argument.

>
> Again, you confuse the facts with your opinion. If I pay for a tool,
> then by definition it is worth the money I paid. You can assume that
> products are sold by Machiavellian sales people to Dilbert purchasers,
> but in the real world everyone decides for themselves what is best. End
> of story.
>


By your definitions, you must be a perfect customer. Are you suggesting
that you have never bought something that was not a good buy? I'm sure you
make careful decisions about purchasing an expensive development tool - most
of us do that (at least, those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to
make such purchasing decisions ourselves). But there is a long way between
the extremes of the mythical perfect customer and the mythical perfect
salesman and idiot customer combination.



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  #19 (permalink)  
Old 05-17-2004, 04:37 AM
Chuck McManis
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Which board to buy? Status of open source tools?


"Jon Beniston" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> Why bother with Open Source stuff when various incarnations of
> commerical tools are free to use? Check out for the Xilinx WebPack:
>


Because I'm using FreeBSD/KDE ?

I really sympathize with the desire to get tools that are "open" or at least
interoperable. I had the misfortune of participating in the "CAD Framework
Initiative" back in the early 90's when briefly, the major powers of CAD
believed they could agree to some open interfaces so that each others tools
could be mixed and matched. Some of that work lives on in things like EDIF
but for the most part vendors don't want to do anything that might make it
possible for someone to compete with them.

--Chuck


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