Author Topic: Idea for FPGA related blog  (Read 3320 times)

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Offline Tarmo

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Idea for FPGA related blog
« on: October 12, 2011, 05:44:08 pm »
I'm a 2nd year "Computer and Systems Engineering" student at Tallinn University of Technology. Also I'm a member of the biggest robotics club in our country (Estonia). For some time I've been thinking about creating a FPGA related blog.

Why I want to create this blog is that when I started learning how to do things with FPGA's by myself I didn't have a place where I could find all the relevant information. I was always reading some generic theoretical material (which is also somewhat necessary) and studying how other designs were written but mostly figuring stuff out by trial and error.  It is a way to do it but I think it could be easier.

What I want to cover in my blog is all the basics about designing an embedded system using an FPGA from installing and configuring software on the PC to a working design. I would base all my design on the cheapest FPGA boards available. Namely the Terasic DE0-Nano (Altera Cyclone IV E) which is about 79USD and the open-source Papilio One (Xilinx Spartan3)  which is 50 or 75USD.I have both.

With the blog I would like to create a place where a complete beginner would find all the necessary information: theory on how  stuff works, block diagrams to illustrate it  and writing code that might be simplistic but works well. From time to time I would focus on a bit more complex topics  like PID controllers and so on. Also I would cover such generic topics like looking at a communication protocol and figuring out how to create VHDL code to interface with it.

Some the topics would also  be directly related to robotics, as this is my main hobby. I know this is going to take a large amount of my free time, but I think it's worth it.

I would like to know if there would be any interest in a blog like that and if there are any suggestions what aspects would also need covering?
 

Offline logictom

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Re: Idea for FPGA related blog
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2011, 06:31:55 pm »
Sounds like a good idea, get on it :)
I've learnt about and used FPGAs in uni but haven't found a need for them yet, everything we did you could easily achieve with a microcontroller. I'd like to see what an FPGA is really used for and what can be accomplished with one.
I've been looking to buy a kit but this what has been holding me back.
Look forward to seeing the blog.
 

Offline deephaven

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Re: Idea for FPGA related blog
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2011, 07:02:00 pm »
Hi Tarmo,

I'm a big fan of FPGAs and use them in a lot of my designs. I love the ability to effectively 'add  more hardware' and increase the functionality of a product without having to update the PCB.

Your proposed blog sounds like an excellent idea and I look forward to reading it.
 

Offline Mechatrommer

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Re: Idea for FPGA related blog
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2011, 07:06:23 pm »
I would like to know if there would be any interest in a blog like that
i'm interested.
if something can select, how cant it be intelligent? if something is intelligent, how cant it exist?
 

Offline Balaur

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Re: Idea for FPGA related blog
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2011, 07:49:29 pm »
Due to my job, I've acquired a healthy aversion to FPGAs. Come to think of I've acquired a lot of aversions actually...hmm.

Once, we were in progress of debugging a particularly perplexing bug in a particular device where the design almost performed as expected...almost. The design was validated successfully through simulations, everything was supposed to work correctly. After spending some days on this issue, the FPGA vendor application engineer came to see us and told us that they just discovered a specific issue in double port memory blocks when data was not guaranteed to be written successfully in some particular cases because of analog/electrical issues concerning the memory implementation. This was exactly the cause of our bug.

In any case, good luck with your endeavor, choose a well supported family of FPGA devices, optionally decide on vhdl vs verilog and constantly recall yourself to check whether the FPGA providers' tools or opencores.org site has modules or blocks that you can easily reuse.

I'm not so sure about the utility of FPGA devices for light hobby set-ups, but that should never stop the curiosity and the interest that we have to invest in our endeavors.

As a concrete application that absolutely require a FPGA device, a logic analyzer could be very useful. There are already some open source implementations, but it's the kind of design that helps learning about all kind of stuff: data acquisition & storage, interfaces, etc.

Cheers,
Dan
 

Offline joelby

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Re: Idea for FPGA related blog
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2011, 11:08:03 pm »
As a concrete application that absolutely require a FPGA device, a logic analyzer could be very useful. There are already some open source implementations, but it's the kind of design that helps learning about all kind of stuff: data acquisition & storage, interfaces, etc.

What might help is to take the code for one of these logic analysers (or come up with your own) and using a tutorial format, build it up from scratch. It can be quite difficult to get to grips with large HDL code bases, especially when they're undocumented or bizarrely written (e.g. most things on Opencores), so articles explaining how to go from the minimum (flashing LEDs), to standard IP blocks (clock managers, FIFOs, memories), to a complete working system (logic analyser, simple soft processor, etc.) would be great. There's not a lot out there like this at the moment.
 


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