nilrods

Cubic Board FPGA

10 posts in this topic

Not sure if anyone has seen this one yet http://cubicboard.org .

 

It is an Altera board but I think it is a nice design. It is built by some Altera engineers, but not an Altera officially sanctioned project. I really like the way they separated the core board that you can use in your own designs from all the other boards. As I have mentioned before I like the core board/modular idea, which sounds like what the original papilio board was. It is open source also.

 

It is like a parallella or other zynq board but has Altera fpga. I had sent an email to the project a while back about availability and heard back that I guess Terasic is reviewing it to possibly offer them for sale. Hopefully the price doesn't go way up over what they were originally targeting for price.

 

I like that it is open source but looks to be well beyond my skills soldering the bga and all.

 

Curious what others think about it and eventually what the pricing will be.

 

Thanks,

Chris

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What do they mean by, "The first fully open source FPGA board"?

 

The Papilio is fully open source... :)

 

Jack.

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Jack,

Yeah I saw that one too... They must have not looked too hard. Maybe they are referencing specific to Altera???

 

Thanks,
Chris

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Looks like a nice project though. It's funny though how everyone makes the claim of the first open source FPGA project, I think the Mojo said the same thing...

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There are open source Altera based FPGA boards out there too, the MIST for example.

 

http://www.harbaum.org/till/mist/index.shtml

 

I've been working more and more with Altera FPGAs recently and there are some aspects of Quartus II that I like much better than Xilinx ISE. Unfortunately there are a few things that ISE does better, it would be nice if it were possible to combine features from both. The (clone) Altera USB programming cables are a fraction the price of comparable Xilinx hardware and much more compact.

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James,

I had seen discussions of the MIST board on other sites before also. For some reason I always thought it was a Xilinx Spartan board. Good to know.

 

Thanks,

Chris

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>> are a fraction the price of comparable Xilinx hardware and much more compact.

You can get a Xilinx USB cable on Ebay for USD 30. Or find a suitable FTDI breakout board, or an FPGA board that has it included (e.g. Papilio).

I'm no big fan of Xilinx' software (mild understatement), but with Altera it's not all roses either, e.g. play the "oh-we're-so-sorry-that-shipping-is-as-expensive-as-the-board" game. Or try to send a USD3k board for repair and get a quote for USD6k from Terasick.

 

Corporate customers don't care about shipping, or low-volume cost per unit. But strangely, I've seen a several very promising small boards that didn't attract any attention, probably because you couldn't buy just one of them as end customer without getting blatantly ripped off. I've tried.

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Terassic makes development boards for Altera FPGAs, they are not Altera, nor are they the only source of boards with Altera chips. Likewise, Digilent makes the official dev boards for Xilinx FPGAs, they have similar pricing and issues and most of their boards are IMHO not nearl as nicely designed. The clone Altera USB cables are only about 6 bucks and work perfectly with the programming software integrated into Quartus.

 

Anyway none of that really relates to the development software which is what I was commenting on. Frankly neither ISE or Quartus II are especially great, both have features I like and features I dislike. For reasons I can't fathom, none of the FPGA makers have figured out what microcontroller makers learned many years ago. You give away fully functional non-gimped development software to anyone who wants it, you provide lots of cool application notes and you support the hobby sector. That way people start actually using your products and they become more than the exotic niche that FPGAs and CPLDs have largely remained. Every hobbyist who learns how to develop for your product is a potential engineer who will use it in a high volume application.

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... whereas Altera intentionally and arbitrarily removes multiprocessor support from their free software because we know your time is valuable :-)

 

And their (I say "their" because Altera could put a stop to it if they wanted) larger boards ship with an "Altera Complete Design Suite" DVD.

Mind you, there is no word about the license you need to actually use it. That's another USD 3k. Per year. But it does ship with a free DVD as advertised, utterly completely useless as it is.

Not to give the impression I'm a Xilinx fanboi :) but Altera has been good for a laugh or two in the past.

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That annoys me to no end, both Altera and Xilinx (and I assume Lattice also) gimp the free versions of their software to one degree or another. I can understand charging for a support contract or for commercial use, but I cannot figure out what advantage they see in crippling the experience for hobbyists and individuals. Then there is the dropping support for older products in newer versions thing, again a practice they both do. It means you need to have multiple versions of their bloated IDE installed if you say, are developing a new product around a current chip while continuing to support an older product with updates.

 

All of the well known microcontroller vendors provide their complete, fully functional development environment for free with minimal hoops to jump through. All that I've dealt with continue to support parts that are years to decades old in current versions of their IDE.

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