HOW-TO: Papilio Duo and Xilinx ISE 14.7 on Ubuntu 16.04

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Hey all!  I'm a graduate student in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley and as a side-project, I'm exploring the possibility of implementing various types of process controllers on FPGAs.  My home operating system is Ubuntu and I had a heck of a night scraping together bits and pieces of advice from across the Internet to get Xilinx ISE and Papilio Loader set up and successfully writing bitfiles to the FPGA, so this morning I wrote up a little how-to guide:

This is just a starting point, and I hope to provide step-by-step guides to more advanced projects as I learn them.  I'm particularly interested in updating the examples in the excellent but venerable Intro to Spartan FPGA eBook to run on the Papilio Duo and whatever other hardware I can get my hands on, and enable a side-by-side comparison of VHDL and Verilog for anyone who's interested in learning both.

I'll improve the setup guide by trimming unnecessary steps just as soon as I have the opportunity to do a fresh install on another machine.  In the meantime, I'd love feedback!  If you're using Ubuntu, let me know these steps are working for you or if you know of comprehensive guides elsewhere.

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Hi Brandon,

if you're interested in FPGAs, don't let the OS choice put you off. Windows is evil (and with W10 "anniversary update" they officially stopped hiding it), but sometimes a necessary evil. You can switch to Linux any time you like, but getting into FPGAs is such a steep learning curve (most people give up) that you should avoid or at least postpone any avoidable obstacles.

>> and enable a side-by-side comparison of VHDL and Verilog
Hint: I'd try not to get blinded by the language. It's just means to an end. Many university lecturers get carried away with the language and forget that it ultimately serves a single purpose, to create (well, and test) hardware. Which is easy to forget when only working with simulators... fortunately the FPGA is a real-hardware alternative. Synthesize often to keep in touch with reality. Hard work but it'll keep your feet on the ground.

Verilog has a very strong user base, but it's less visible in the amateur (no offense intended) community. VHDL seems to have more support from enthusiasts, which is only a good thing. If you turn professional, you need at least some proficiency in both, but then language is the least of your worries.
To get in the right state-of-mind for a side-by-side comparison, I suggest banging your head against bit-level system-design interrupt stack-saving aargh-... problems for a thousand hours or so, get fired once or twice, reconsider the importance of the question :D

For process controllers, the first question that comes to mind is: "why FPGA? Couldn't a microcontroller do the job"?
As a student, some "solution-looking-for-problem" is OK but having a good answer ready never hurts...
Actually if I had to slap together some controller I'd grab a $60 Artix-board and Microblaze MCS, stick the custom RTL to the IO port and that's it... not because it's by any means the best tool for the job, but simply because I'm familiar with those and know that it'll do the job with low/no risk. That said, the Papilio platform is an excellent choice for learning, Spartan 6 seems to have become "the" FPGA by community agreement

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Hi, Brandon,

I have trouble running ISE on 16.04.1 LTS, ISE GUI opens but stuck at creating new project forever.

I had been working with ISE 14.7 on 14.04 for years without any issue, and didn't even need to do # chown -R <username>: /opt/Xilinx

What I might be missing?

Just tested, I can get 16.04 working on a newly created virtualbox, will retest 16.04.1

Please comment,

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