What do you guys recommend for experimenting with FPGA's? I know very little about hardware design at this point, but with an extensive programming background I should be able to pickup VHDL or Verilog very quickly. As a hobbyist, I'd just be designing toy projects, but perhaps you guys have experience working on bigger projects and can share some ideas.
This, but to be clear it's not everything iCE. It's specifically the iCE40 chipset. It's the only FPGA with a completely FOSS verilog to bitstream toolchain.
Open source hardware? Oy vey!!! How long before that is shut down? T-t-he goyim c-can't build a RISC processor with that can they???
Software programming and stuff like VHDL and verilog while looking similar, require a different mindeset and approach of designing the code.
I have heard that, but I look forward to learning the different approach. I am a stable genius so it shouldn't be too difficult. It's 'just for fun' too, so there's no time pressure if I do go at a leisurely pace.
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Why would someone want an FPGA board rather than a SBC with a low powered processor? I figure the latter will use more power, but I assume the other factor is because an FPGA is a lot cheaper when you manufacture a product?
Speed and ability to do things in parallel. FPGAs are not running software, they're just a collection of logic blocks and DSP units. When you write your VHDL or verilog description of the circuit, synthetizator figures out how to connect logic blocks together to realize your circuit. You can do things that takes conventonal Von Neumann processor hundreds of cycles in a single cycle on an FPGA.
What are the most common clock rates fpga can hit?
I'm curious how the Ethernet and USB ports work on that board. Are there routines you load into the FPGA to get a TCP/IP stack? Also how well can you implement numerical operations on an FPGA? Do you push the work to a FPU, or again load a routine to do it all in the FPGA?
Usual FPGA circuit will use multiple clocks depending on the requirements of the circuit. You can have some part running at 1 Hz and push data to some bus running at 100 MHz. They don't usually go above 1 GHz.
No, you could learn with $15 FPGA from ebay. Problem is that there are no external devices on those boards (buttons, leds, displays, connectors) so you have to wire them yourselves. If you're interested in "programming" (which is really logic circuit design) then it's best to use kits with external devices on board. Also there is opencores.org/projects which you can use in place of IP from big companies. For learning that should be plenty of fun.
(checked) Cheers, the opencores project looks like a useful resource. I'll most certainly look for kits (terasic and diligent seem to good) to make things a bit easier. As for VHDL itself, I see this book is recommended, would you agree?
Yes, you will also want to have pic related for basics of digital circuits.
I have Mano's book which someone gave me a few years ago, but I'll keep this in mind should the other one be useless.
The xilinx micro is so small you can travel with it. Both are tiny as point in fact.
Hope this helps really love my mojo.
Apologies for a dumb question, but what basic output pins do you have on a board like this? I see lots of peripherals but surely you can do basic high/low connections to a broad board, right?
All those connectors on the side (2) are GPIO pins. Pic related for more info.
Ahhh ok. Now for dumb question #2. Is it necessary to master analog circuit design before digital? I know it's not one or the other, but is there a progression which should be followed?
No, unless you're planning to design high speed circuits (GHz and beyond) or you're using analog sensors in your project (which are mostly simple circuits to implement unless you're dealing with low noise or high precision devices). Maybe, if you want to do digital audio then you'll probably have to add low-pass filter to the output (PWM sound). For general digital desigh ohm's law is pretty much all you need. You should at least be able to calculate what value resistor for LED you need. In summary, you can start with digital now and pick up analog bits as you go (most of the time you'll just do pure digital things such as: boolean algebra, karnaugh maps, state diagrams, VHDL... nothing to do with analog electronics).
Ok that's fine then. I have a good grasp on the fundamentals, but I'd have to learn / review things more complicated than basic op-amp's. In fact I have a very nice book which covers such topics, "The Art of Electronics", which sadly I have not gotten around to completing.
Is circuit design the last tech refuge of the straight white man? Seriously now, it does look like a fun unchartered territory where the poz has not set in.
Explain your moronic comment.
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Do you guys recommend getting a board with an integrated processor? As a beginner this seems like overkill, but it does seems to be the trend these boards are going with, and it doesn’t seems to add much to the price.
You can always use a pure FPGA (say Artix 7) and lay out a soft-cpu architecture like MicroBlaze, and run applications with that. It will be slower than the integrated ARM-A9 found in the Zynq-7000 though. There's a lot of hype around the Zynq family at the moment as it does make some problems easier when built as a FPGA/CPU hybrid, especially if you want to transfer existing programming knowledge to your product design. It is also possible to ignore the ARM-A9 and still do something like MicroBlaze, but that would be strange. Perhaps one idea is to buy an entry level FPGA at the beginning and then a higher end Zynq board once you gain experience.
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What the hell did I just read???