Electronics > FPGA

Lattice has silently removed free iCEcube2 license and now charging $471

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ErikSwan:
Hi everyone,

This is my first post here but I wanted to make you guys aware of this and hopefully apply some community pressure to Lattice to reverse this decision.

In short, Lattice has removed the free license for iCEcube2 (used for developing for the iCE40 line of FPGAs) and is now charging $471.31 for a one year license and $353.15 to renew each additional year:
https://alchitry.com/news/icecube2-no-longer-free/  |O

This is probably chump change for a company that is using the iCE40 line in a shipping product, but it's a huge blow for the hobbyist and student community where iCE40 development boards were some of the most simple and affordable development boards you could get for learning about FPGAs.

Personally, I had just purchased Russell Merrick's book "Getting Started with FPGAs" and his nandland Go board for a family member who was interested in learning about FPGAs and digital design, only to find out that there's no way to follow the projects in the book and develop for the board using the official toolchain without paying $471.31 for an iCEcube2 license.

Unfortunately, it seems like Lattice has a history of this (1, 2), so my hopes for them reversing this change are not high.

But I would ask that if you are willing, please send an email to general_inquiries@latticesemi.com to express your disappointment about this decision and explain how this change destroys the ecosystem of beginner development boards and books based around the iCE40 line.

Perhaps if Lattice gets enough negative feedback they will reverse the decision or at least make an free license option available for students and individuals.


EDIT: I'm not sure when Lattice made this change as I never received a direct reply from them, but as of May 4, 2024, it appears like Lattice has added a "Makers Community" license option to the iCEcube2 page which pretty much restores the free license option for everyone but established commercial companies:


--- Quote ---iCEcube2 Makers Community
Lattice offers free licenses to hobbyists, enthusiasts, community educators & start-up companies. If this describes you, please contact us to register for a free iCEcube2 license with subject “New iCEcube2 License Request”.
--- End quote ---

This is exactly what I was asking for, so thank you for listening, Lattice!

amwales:
bugger, I received a couple of the ice40 dev boards for christmas a couple of years ago, after getting an led lighting up I put it away to play with at some later date, looks like it's going to be garbage now, such a shame :(

Andy Watson:
I thought the low-end Lattice FPGAs were supported by open-source software?
https://clifford.at/icestorm

Even Lattice acknolege the existence of open-source development boads:
https://www.latticesemi.com/en/Solutions/Solutions/SolutionsDetails01/CommunitySourced
perhaps that's why they pulled the plug on offering their own software for free.

ErikSwan:

--- Quote from: Andy Watson on April 19, 2024, 07:55:03 pm ---I thought the low-end Lattice FPGAs were supported by open-source software?

--- End quote ---

They are, but the tools are unofficial and not really suitable for beginners.

For one, the official GitHub project has only a single link in the README which goes to a broken URL. If you manage to find what seems to be the best reference page at the moment (never mind that it's on a website filled with gambling advertisements and SEO spam) you'll find that to use the toolchain you need to clone each tool's source from GitHub, build them from source, and work through the build errors and dependency hell on your choice of Linux or macOS (Windows not supported). Then if you get the tools built you'll need to consult the documentation of 3 or 4 different tools to figure out the right command line options to run synthesis, place and route, bitstream packing, and programming for your development board.

Not a huge deal for an experienced user with the time to figure it out and get everything up and running, but it's absolutely not a replacement for iCEcube2 for someone who just bought their first FPGA dev board and a "Getting started with FPGAs" book.

shabaz:
This is really disappointing news if this yearly charge applies.
The open source tools do not support VHDL as far as I'm aware, so that's not an option for some.

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