Author Topic: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support  (Read 8105 times)

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Offline danadak

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LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« on: April 10, 2016, 08:57:22 pm »
Hi, I purchased this board and cannot get them to send me a schematic
or a copy of the project they burn into the FPGA.

Anyone out there have this info ?

http://www.lctech-inc.com/Hardware/Detail.aspx?id=3195385e-35bc-4387-93b6-f5a0b689bfa3

Regards, Dana.
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Offline alexanderbrevig

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Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2016, 09:30:54 pm »
It looks like all of the signals are on the top layer.  it should be easy to figure out which pins go to which port by simply using the Altera datasheet and a spreadsheet.  In fact, it looks like the numbers at the headers are actually the pin numbers - couldn't get easier than that!

It has a voltage input, a 3.3V power supply, a power switch and a JTAG interface.  Should be pretty easy to work with if you have a JTAG dongle that works with Altera's software.

https://www.altera.com/en_US/pdfs/literature/dp/max2/epm240.pdf

Perusing briefly, this FPGA has the configuration flash built in.  That's why there is no external flash device on the board.

https://www.altera.com/content/dam/altera-www/global/en_US/pdfs/literature/hb/max2/max2_mii5v1.pdf

In the end, this is a pretty nice board.  Simple and clean with nothing to get in the way.

 

Offline CM800

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2016, 10:18:49 pm »
Don't buy them. Chinese FPGA boards served a purpose when most western big brand boards are uber expensive, usually more than $500.
Following the maker movement, big brands start to market low end yet powerful Cyclone/Spartan boards at well below $99 with support form original chip makers.
When you can buy a dual core ARM plus tons of logic fabric and all peripherals for $99 directly from Altera (TerASIC DE0-nano SoC), why bother buying cheap unsupported ones?

They have their place, in fact I am currently in the process of populating several similar boards with a slightly modified layout for my college who will be buying them on bulk from me to give one to every student on the course each year. at $20 per board + programmer, it's cheap as chips enough to be worth it for the course section.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2016, 11:37:42 pm »
For the referenced board, the only criteria is that the FPGA function.  There are no peripherals, there are no interconnects, the board is pure IO.  Do what you want!
Ztex.de makes similar boards and boards with just a bit of fluff.  But sometimes, all you really need is the FPGA and having it soldered to a board makes breadboarding simple.

I don't know what the referenced board costs but if it was cheap enough, and large enough, I would buy it!

I have been a huge fan of Digilent for many years but these days, it is tough to find much at the entry level.  The vast majority of their boards are way out of my price range.  I have a BASYS 3 coming tomorrow but that's about the limit of what I want to spend on an FPGA board.  I think I am unhappy about the node and target locked licensing of the Vivado suite.  I much perfer the 'free' WebPack ISE licensing and I would prefer to use chips that are supported by this older tool chain.

All of my gripes will go away if I can get more speed and larger BlockRAM.  If I can get my project to run at 100 MHz, I guess everything will be just fine.
 

Offline danadak

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2016, 01:47:30 am »
Thanks all for the help.

Regards, Dana.
Love Cypress PSOC, ATTiny, Bit Slice, OpAmps, Oscilloscopes, and Analog Gurus like Pease, Miller, Widlar, Dobkin, obsessed with being an engineer
 

Offline obiwanjacobi

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2016, 06:25:25 am »
Its not an FPGA but a CPLD... just saying.   >:D
And indeed, the pin numbers are on the connectors...  :-+
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Offline dferyance

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2016, 05:04:09 pm »
Don't buy them. Chinese FPGA boards served a purpose when most western big brand boards are uber expensive, usually more than $500.
Following the maker movement, big brands start to market low end yet powerful Cyclone/Spartan boards at well below $99 with support form original chip makers.

I'm inclined to agree. A really good low-end option is the BeMicro Max 10 (http://company.arrow.com/bemicro/) For $30 it is internally a FPGA but designed to be used in similar ways to a CPLD. A fully-supported, but cheap board.
 

Offline bingo600

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2016, 07:07:58 pm »
I have one of those boards

I found the info & demo projects on the net

/Bingo


Edit:
I did an Odroid U3 Portexpansion with the 240-board here
forum.odroid.com/viewtopic.php?f=80&t=11888
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 04:44:32 pm by bingo600 »
 
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Offline obiwanjacobi

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2016, 05:28:59 am »
Don't buy them. Chinese FPGA boards served a purpose when most western big brand boards are uber expensive, usually more than $500.
Following the maker movement, big brands start to market low end yet powerful Cyclone/Spartan boards at well below $99 with support form original chip makers.
When you can buy a dual core ARM plus tons of logic fabric and all peripherals for $99 directly from Altera (TerASIC DE0-nano SoC), why bother buying cheap unsupported ones?

Why not? They're 10 times cheaper and how much support do you need on a board that has one chip on it. And as a hobbyist you don't get any support with Altera anyways. If you wan't support you should go to Cypress (PSoC), they give anybody the same amount of attention (which is considerable).

That being said: that Max 10 board does look good.
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Offline technix

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2016, 12:29:43 pm »
Don't buy them. Chinese FPGA boards served a purpose when most western big brand boards are uber expensive, usually more than $500.
Following the maker movement, big brands start to market low end yet powerful Cyclone/Spartan boards at well below $99 with support form original chip makers.
When you can buy a dual core ARM plus tons of logic fabric and all peripherals for $99 directly from Altera (TerASIC DE0-nano SoC), why bother buying cheap unsupported ones?

I can buy those as unpopulated boards using a similar design at CNY 2 each, source the cheapest AMS1117 clone and oscillators possible, and use NOS (even used and wiped) CPLD chips. Those chips are not appropriate for products, but it won't matter much as experiment kits.
 

Offline danadak

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2016, 12:31:54 pm »
@bingo600, thanks so much for the post.

Regards, Dana.
Love Cypress PSOC, ATTiny, Bit Slice, OpAmps, Oscilloscopes, and Analog Gurus like Pease, Miller, Widlar, Dobkin, obsessed with being an engineer
 

Offline dferyance

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2016, 09:51:26 pm »
Altera anyways. If you wan't support you should go to Cypress (PSoC), they give anybody the same amount of attention (which is considerable).

As a hobbyist I was very happy with Cypress support. I had a broken MiniProg due to a TVS array. Support was happy to share the part number and schematic of the board and I was able to re-flow solder a new chip and get it working. I'm used to tech support being pretty worthless and was very surprised. They didn't care that I don't work for a company or have a sales contact or anything. They also just shipped me a new MiniProg in addition to helping me fix it. I also met Patrick Kane at a local school - yeah not the hockey player :( - and he took plenty of time with my newbie questions.

Only downside I see is that they only support Verilog and not VHDL for the digital blocks and there aren't as many as other devices. But quite good for getting started and it is possible to accomplish a lot with what you get.
 

Offline suicidaleggroll

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2016, 10:10:11 pm »
I have a BASYS 3 coming tomorrow but that's about the limit of what I want to spend on an FPGA board.  I think I am unhappy about the node and target locked licensing of the Vivado suite.  I much perfer the 'free' WebPack ISE licensing and I would prefer to use chips that are supported by this older tool chain.

Vivado also has a free WebPack license, which supports all Artix-7, Kintex-7, and Zynq-7000 devices.  The license you got with your board is just to open up the "extra" features in Vivado Design Edition (I'm not sure what those are though), but the Basys 3 is fully functional with the free WebPack license as well since it uses the Artix-7.

http://www.xilinx.com/products/design-tools/vivado/vivado-webpack.html
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2016, 04:24:24 pm »
I have a BASYS 3 coming tomorrow but that's about the limit of what I want to spend on an FPGA board.  I think I am unhappy about the node and target locked licensing of the Vivado suite.  I much perfer the 'free' WebPack ISE licensing and I would prefer to use chips that are supported by this older tool chain.

Vivado also has a free WebPack license, which supports all Artix-7, Kintex-7, and Zynq-7000 devices.  The license you got with your board is just to open up the "extra" features in Vivado Design Edition (I'm not sure what those are though), but the Basys 3 is fully functional with the free WebPack license as well since it uses the Artix-7.

http://www.xilinx.com/products/design-tools/vivado/vivado-webpack.html

It is worth reading the little note just above the table because it states clearly that the WebPack version of Vivado only supports that very narrow range of devices:

Quote
Vivado HL WebPACK Edition supports the Artix®-7 (7A35T - 7A200T), Kintex®-7 (7K70T, 7K160T) and Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC Devices (XC7Z7010 - XC7Z7030) devices. ?

Then we get into the node and board locked options which require some kind of voucher.  This works fine but it severely restricts the number of chips (as above).  When I use the voucher that came with my Basys3, that narrow list of devices is all that shows up.  I still have to use ISE for any other (older) chips.

I will eventually get around to trying the Microblaze tutorial at Digilent and, at that point, I will know a little more about the licensing.

I prefer the WebPack ISE license:  It is 'free', it didn't include any ip nor did it include a simulator but it did cover a wide range of chips without node and board locking.  Fortunately, I may have all the boards I will ever need and ISE 14.7 may be the only toolchain I actually use.  I would like to transition to Vivado but if it can't program Spartan 3s, it's of no use to me (other than the two Artix boards I have).
 

Offline suicidaleggroll

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2016, 06:29:00 pm »
It is worth reading the little note just above the table because it states clearly that the WebPack version of Vivado only supports that very narrow range of devices:
Quote
Vivado HL WebPACK Edition supports the Artix®-7 (7A35T - 7A200T), Kintex®-7 (7K70T, 7K160T) and Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC Devices (XC7Z7010 - XC7Z7030) devices. ?
Very narrow?  That's the entire Artix-7 line, and all Kintex-7 and Zynq-7000 devices up to and including the $250/ea and higher models (I misspoke earlier when I said all of them).  At that price range a license really isn't all that much compared to the hardware cost.

Ignore the Spartan-6 and older, they are not supported by Vivado at all.  It has nothing to do with licensing, it's an architecture shift.  ISE is dead, it's past EOL, and is not and will not be supported any longer.  You should consider all devices that require the use of ISE to also be EOL.  I don't like that they did that, but they did, and it has nothing at all to do with licensing.  By abandoning the toolchain that's required to program them, they are in effect obsoleting all of their older devices in the process.  Time marches on.

I prefer the WebPack ISE license:  It is 'free', it didn't include any ip nor did it include a simulator but it did cover a wide range of chips without node and board locking.
So does the Vivado WebPack license.  It's also free and covers all devices up to and including the $250/ea models without node or board locking.  The ISE WebPack license never supported devices bigger than this either.  In fact the Artix-7 XC7A200T is bigger than anything the ISE WebPack license ever supported AFAIK.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 07:03:07 pm by suicidaleggroll »
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2016, 07:05:56 pm »
I have to be clear about this:  I don't understand the Vivado licensing.  What I do know is that I installed the WebPack version, applied for a WebPack license and it still wouldn't program my Artix 7 without upgrading to the Design Edition by way of a voucher.  Yes, I had installed the WebPack .lic file.   I installed the WebPack version on another computer and it wouldn't program my Arty until I fed the license mangler a voucher.  What I read is that it 'should' be willing to program these boards without a voucher and that the voucher only gets me the 'goodies' but, so far, it hasn't worked out that way.  For me...  But I probably messed up somewhere along the line.

I also notice that Vivado Design Edition, as licensed via a voucher, will only provide updates until April 11, 2017 (one year) even though the license itself is permanent.

I don't know for a fact what any of this means.  Maybe in a year they extend the updates cut-off date.  Or maybe I am stuck forever with obsolete tools.  Or maybe I have to buy another board.  But what's this 'board locking' all about?

I haven't located my Arty since I moved but I was going to try it against the Basys3 voucher.  I don't know if the node and board locking will preclude that or not.  Maybe I have to select multiple Vivado licenses based on multiple vouchers.  I finally figured out that I had to select the WebPack ISE license at the same time I licensed Vivado or I would lose that package.  That caused me to scrap the Vivado installation on this machine because I was suddenly locked out of my major project.  Ugly!  And they really don't explain how to maintain your ISE license along with the Vivado license.  They are both in the same .lic file.

I will be forever stuck with obsolete boards.  They are what I have and actually prefer.  I LIKE the 100 pin FX connector on the Nexys2 board and I really like the multiple 50 pin headers on my Sparten 3 Starter Boards. I have just recently purchased an Arty and BASYS3 and only the Arty has any expansion headers.  The BASYS3 has only 4 PMOD connectors plus VGA and USB Host. Those 12 pin 8 signal PMOD connectors really don't provide much IO capability.

I will be using ISE forever!  I'm not sure about Vivado.  I may just buy some Spartan 6 boards and call it a day.


 

Offline suicidaleggroll

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2016, 09:22:49 pm »
So you were able to use the WebPack Vivado to synthesize code for the Arty and generate a .bit file, you just couldn't program the board?  While it should be able to do both, if there was a licensing issue I would expect the problem to be reversed, why would it even synthesize the code and generate a bitstream file without a valid license?  Could you use Adept to program the board with the generated bit file instead of Vivado?

I've never actually tried to program my Arty on any system other than the one with the DE license installed, but I've built bitstream files on other machines using just the WebPack license without issue.  I'll have to try programming it on one of those systems to see what happens.
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2016, 10:01:16 pm »
I must have miss-wrote what you read.  No, when the license is not applied, Vivado won't even bother to synthesize.  That seems like a logical thing.
I just downloaded another WebPack_ISE/WebPack_Vivado license and it won't begin to synthesize a small project.  Complains about a missing license even though Xilinx just sent me one.

So, here's how it works out:  I have the entire Vivado Design Suite on my high end, but noisy, PC.  It works well AFAICT and it works with the Microblaze IP project (more or less, I'm still messing around with board files).  It makes it all the way through bitgen.  This installation is based on my Basys3 voucher.  It is a combined license with WebPack_ISE which means I am pretty much in business subject to various restrictions such as 1 year of updates on Vivado and, of course, none for ISE (understandable).

On my normal desktop, I should have a combined license based on my Arty voucher but, somehow, I messed that up.  Xilinx shows I have both products but I can't seem to find a way to recover the Arty based license.  When I got the license, it wasn't clear to me that I had to also check the box for WebPack_ISE since I already had a license for that.  When I installed the new license, I lost ISE and that freaked me out.  So I restored a previous license and recovered ISE without really understanding what I did.  But I HAD to have ISE working!  My bad...

The easy solution is to buy another Arty and use the new voucher to straighten out the mess on my normal desktop.  That's not a big deal and may happen when my 1 year of updates expires.  In the meantime, I have everything working on my high end machine.
 

Offline suicidaleggroll

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #19 on: April 13, 2016, 10:35:22 pm »
Odd, I have two machines (one real machine, one virtual) that have both ISE and Vivado installed on them, and there don't appear to be any license conflicts.  Both ISE and Vivado work correctly, and I just used the machine with the Vivado WebPack license to synthesize and build a bit file for the Arty without issue.  Then I shut down Vivado, opened up ISE, and synthesized and built a Coolrunner-II jed file for a different project.  My VM at home has the board-locked Vivado DE license, but this machine I'm on now has never seen it and doesn't have an issue synthesizing for the Arty.

I'm on Linux though, maybe it's different on Windows?

When you go to the license manager on Xilinx's site, you should be able to delete the license you created using the Arty voucher and then make a new one.  You don't have to re-enter the voucher, you just have to delete the license it's currently paired with and then associate it with a new one.  I had to do that when I was first setting things up because Vivado didn't properly support the Linux distro I tried originally, so I deleted that VM and set up a new one with a different hostname, then deleted and re-created the Arty DE license on their site for the new VM.  It took a bit of futzing around on their site to figure it out, not the most intuitive thing in the world.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 10:41:28 pm by suicidaleggroll »
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #20 on: April 13, 2016, 10:56:30 pm »
I'll eventually get it figured out!

However, I will take back every complaint I ever mentioned about Vivado if I can get the ILA (Internal Logic Analyzer) core to work.  I'll start on the tutorials tomorrow.  One of the big reasons I preferred the Spartan 3 Starter Board was a spare 50 pin header that I could connect to my logic analyzer which was, itself, another Spartan 3 Starter Board.  If ILA works as well as I expect it to, I won't need to worry about the lack of headers on the newer boards.

 

Offline rstofer

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2016, 02:57:40 pm »
Well,it's only fair!  I take back every negative thing I ever said about Vivado and its licensing.  Even its speed!

The ILA component works very well.  I realize that folks with full licensing have had similar capabilities for years but this debugging process has finally pushed down to the hobbyist.

I can struggle through the licensing, I can buy a faster computer, I can work around or over the (re)learning curve.  It is definitely worth it!

ILA with specific triggering means I can set up conditions deep in my logic and only explore that section.  This would have come in handy when I was building my last project.  I have never had much interest in simulation, it's not hardware, but this ILA thing is right down in the mud with the gates and states.

Kudos, Xilinx!
 
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Online hamster_nz

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2016, 10:16:53 pm »
Well,it's only fair!  I take back every negative thing I ever said about Vivado and its licensing.  Even its speed!

The ILA component works very well.  I realize that folks with full licensing have had similar capabilities for years but this debugging process has finally pushed down to the hobbyist.

Virtual I/O work pretty well too - if you haven't used it give it a try - see http://hamsterworks.co.nz/mediawiki/index.php/Virtual_IO for hints.
Gaze not into the abyss, lest you become recognized as an abyss domain expert, and they expect you keep gazing into the damn thing.
 
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Offline suicidaleggroll

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Re: LCtech LC Studio FPGA Board No Support
« Reply #23 on: April 15, 2016, 12:54:30 am »
Both of those look fantastic, I'll have to try them out on my future Artix projects   :-+
 


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