Tinkering part 2

The last installment I mentioned how I branched out in my tinkering, and bought a basic FPGA board to play with. While the major makers (Alterra (now Intel) and Xilinx both have prototype boards, they are typically focused on the high end, and are quite expensive. I bought the Embedded Micro “Mojo” board, a modestly priced unit with a suitably powerful Xilinx Spartan6 FPGA.

I did get the IDE working, it is a pretty simple Java application, however, it requires a pretty hefty development package from Xilinx, their ISE Design Suite tools. As that is supported only on Windows and Linux, it does force me to keep a functioning Windows system around. Following the instructions was pretty straightforward, and I had to apply for a webPACK license (free) to use the toolchain. Simple, but it was a monstrous download (about 7 gigabytes). Continue reading →

Tinkering – FPGA

If you have been a long time follower, you might remember a flurry of activity in late 2015 and early 2016 when I was diving into tinkering with an Arduino board. At the time, I was building bits and pieces to make a remote weather station. (that was derailed by an unrelated life change, but I have slowly gotten back into it.)

The Arduino is interesting as it is a pretty complete SOC, with memory, microcontroller, CPU, and a pretty robust set of digital and analog IO’s. Plenty of cool things you can do with it, and it is really simple to program. Ordinary C code, solid libraries, and third parties make a pretty complete set of sensors and widgets, with libraries to support them. Continue reading →