Friday, 29 August 2014

Getting Started with FPGAs

So after a lot of deliberation I've decided to start working with FPGAs. Ever since the Mojo came out I've been thinking about this. This semester I finally decided to go ahead and get an FPGA. I initially thought about getting the Mojo. I was reluctant because despite the claim that it is for hobbyists, it's not exactly cheap at Rs. 7500. So I decided to search for alternatives that used the same FPGA IC.

After a lot of searching I found this FPGA development board called "Mimas" from Numato Labs. They were selling this board at Rs. 3000 on Amazon. That was less that half the cost of the Mojo! So after a lot of searching and comparison of specs I finally decided that I'd get Mimas instead of Mojo. This board also has the additional advantage of 4 on board switches. The Mojo has none. Here's the FPGA in all it's glory! :D

After I got the board the next step was getting the Xilinx ISE from their website. This was a big Pain In The Ass. The installation file was 6.1 GB and would take ages to download using my sort of slow internet dongle. The download was resumable but something would always go wrong at about 4 GB and the download would start over. In the end I had to start the download at 4.00 am in the night (When the college wifi is fast) and I had it downloaded in about 2 hours. I think it's a real shame that Xilinx doesn't distribute the software over a protocol that is more suited to resuming large downloads (maybe a torrent?). Getting my hands on the FPGA was way simpler that downloading the software.

Anyway, I started the installation after checking the md5sum of the download and everything seemed to be fine! I implemented some basic combinational logic circuits on the board to check if everything was working fine. I'll be implementing something a little bit more interesting (like a counter maybe?) and then I'll upload a video of the board working! :D