??Windows versus Linux for a FPGA dev system

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If you've been following along, the Win7 Laptop I've been using for FPGA work had a nervous breakdown and as a result is getting a big, new SSD tomorrow loaded with Linux Mint(Debian). It will become my new FPGA development system for both Xilinx and Altera.


I'd prefer to run native linux applications but have no issues running a Windows VM and will need to for my Altera development work. For working with the Papilio and other Xilinx FPGAs will I have a better "user experience" under Windows or are the tools just as usable under Linux and Windows? The laptop has an I7, 8GB and (soon) a 1TB SSD, so it has horsepower to run a good sized VM.


For the record, I'm OS agnostic (I run Win/OS X/Linux) but I'm trying to move away from Windows unless that is the only place the tools run.


Regardless, I will need to get another Xilinx ISE license (what a pain they are!).


Any thoughts, comments, suggestions?






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Hello Rick,


Its a tough question, I personally prefer Linux but most of the people I support use Windows so that is what I primarily use now. I generally do all development under Windows and then move to Linux and make changes to get everything working in both OS's. As far as the Xilinx Linux tools go, it feels like that is what they do too. I have noticed that things do not always work the same with the Xilinx Linux tools. A perfect example is Xilinx Symbol Libraries... They simply didn't work in Linux... I spent months developing a solution that worked great under Windows and when I went to make it work in Linux, it just didn't, and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I had spend weeks experimenting with the Xilinx Linux tools until I stumbled across an undocumented feature that would allow Xilinx Symbol files to work in both Windows and Linux. Basically I found that by adding a blank edif file in the same directory as a Xilinx Symbol file the Xilinx ISE would automatically include the path to that directory to your project. This greatly simplified things and allowed me to stop using Xilinx Symbol Libraries completely. But the bigger issue is that the Xilinx Linux tools don't always work correctly...


So I guess my advice is, if you are going to stay on the beaten path then the Linux tools are fine. But be aware that you will probably run into problems at some point if you try to do something that is off the beaten path, like the Xilinx Symbol Libraries are. Normally this isn't a problem with Linux because you can access the source code and fix the problem yourself, but with a closed source application you are just setting yourself up for headache...



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Thanks, Jack!


It sounds like Step #2 is to build a Windows VM. I have no issues or fear of a VM. I have a hunch the Altera tools are better supported under Windows also. At least with a Windows VM, I can have a known good snapshot ready to spin up at a moments notice in case it decides to mangle itself.


I wonder if once I get a Xilinx license VM, if I can just replicate the VM snapshot from physical machine to physical machine? The node license ties back to the MAC ID and the hard drive ID - in a VM, those are virtual and should stay the same for the VM image. Hmmmmm........



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  • 2 months later...

I've used Xilinx ISE Webpack 12.4 for many years on both Windows and GNU/Linux (Ubuntu 11.10 and 12.04).  My preference is GNU/Linux, since that's where I do almost all my work.  However, there are a few ISE features I haven't been able to get to work with GNU/Linux, including the graphical FPGA editor.  So if I really need to use that tool, I have to fire up the Windows box and copy my files over there.


Most of the Xilinx tools can be run from the command line instead of having to use the GUI.  You can control them using a "make" file, which automates the tool sequence.  This usually works better with a GNU terminal than Windows.  On Windows, I use Cygwin's make, grep, sed, and diff so those important GNU tools are available.


As a historical note, IIRC Xilinx software first ran on SUN Unix systems and the first PC implementations were very limited.  So Xilinx has a long history of *nix support -- it's not just an afterthough.



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In my experience Xilinx does most of their development on linux these days, but they use centos. At work we have had trouble in the past getting xilinx to reproduce windows bugs due to the lack of developers using windows.

This might apply to the newer vivado and not the ise we need for papilio.

I recently managed to get one of their jtag cables working under linux, was surprised how easy that was.

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