Forums

Xilinx legacy situation

Started by Tim Forcer November 20, 2003
We have some well-established teaching laboratory kit, using
Xilinx XC4013E (optionally XC4020E for project work), with
download by JTAG and a clone of Xilinx Parallel Cable III
(DLC5).

As has been discussed here before, despite some statements on
Xilinx Website, the latest (full-spec) Xilinx software includes
an iMPACT downloader which doesn't support Parallel Cable III. 
Alternatively, latest Webpack 6 includes an iMPACT which
supports the download, but not any flavour of XC4000 (although
all the library and similar files seem to be present).

Options appear to be:

1) A kludge whereby we instal only iMPACT from Wepack 6, to get
the downloading but with no integration into Project Navigator /
Design Manager (so we lose revision control's updating of where
to get the .bit file from).  (This is what we're doing at the
moment - not brilliant, but it does work.)

2) Someone spends time messing around to produce a collection of
batch files which provide equivalent P&R function to Project
Navigator.

Suggestions welcome - including suggestions for alternative
hardware.  We need to retain 5V-compatible I/O, since all our
kit uses 5V levels for I/O, and much of the work involves
interfacing with other bits of kit.  We've also spent quite a
bit of money on the XC4k ICs - total of 25 pin grid array chips,
which were hideously expensive - and we'd like to get a decent
return on this investment.

(In case it is considered relevant: workstations are networked
PCs with Windows XP Pro, rest of development environment is
ModelSim and Synplify.  Students work in pairs, 12 pairs at a
time in a class.)

-- 
Tim Forcer               tmf@ecs.soton.ac.uk
The University of Southampton, UK

The University is not responsible for my opinions
Tim, you have to get over the idea of still getting something from your
old chip investment. Xilinx FPGAs have become 100 times (!) cheaper,
have added functionality and better software support since the days when
you bought the XC4013s. ( Anybody who tries to hang on to a 10-year old
computer faces a similar situation, albeit to a lesser extent). 
That's the price of progress.

Your biggest stumbling block is the 5-V compatibility, which stops you
from using really modern (and cost-effective and sophisticated )
devices. Sooner or later you will curse the @#^%$*!  5-V standard. Why
not do it now!

Peter Alfke
============================
Tim Forcer wrote:
> > We have some well-established teaching laboratory kit, using > Xilinx XC4013E (optionally XC4020E for project work), with > download by JTAG and a clone of Xilinx Parallel Cable III > (DLC5). > > As has been discussed here before, despite some statements on > Xilinx Website, the latest (full-spec) Xilinx software includes > an iMPACT downloader which doesn't support Parallel Cable III. > Alternatively, latest Webpack 6 includes an iMPACT which > supports the download, but not any flavour of XC4000 (although > all the library and similar files seem to be present). > > Options appear to be: > > 1) A kludge whereby we instal only iMPACT from Wepack 6, to get > the downloading but with no integration into Project Navigator / > Design Manager (so we lose revision control's updating of where > to get the .bit file from). (This is what we're doing at the > moment - not brilliant, but it does work.) > > 2) Someone spends time messing around to produce a collection of > batch files which provide equivalent P&R function to Project > Navigator. > > Suggestions welcome - including suggestions for alternative > hardware. We need to retain 5V-compatible I/O, since all our > kit uses 5V levels for I/O, and much of the work involves > interfacing with other bits of kit. We've also spent quite a > bit of money on the XC4k ICs - total of 25 pin grid array chips, > which were hideously expensive - and we'd like to get a decent > return on this investment. > > (In case it is considered relevant: workstations are networked > PCs with Windows XP Pro, rest of development environment is > ModelSim and Synplify. Students work in pairs, 12 pairs at a > time in a class.) > > -- > Tim Forcer tmf@ecs.soton.ac.uk > The University of Southampton, UK > > The University is not responsible for my opinions
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Tim,

The ISE Classics software 
<http://www.xilinx.com/ise_classics/index.html> supports the XC4000E 
devices.  I'm not sure it includes
iMPACT, but it does include JTAG Programmer software for downloading.

Even though ISE 6.1i does not support design of XC4000E devices, it does 
allow
you to program them with iMPACT.

Steve

Tim Forcer wrote:

>We have some well-established teaching laboratory kit, using >Xilinx XC4013E (optionally XC4020E for project work), with >download by JTAG and a clone of Xilinx Parallel Cable III >(DLC5). > >As has been discussed here before, despite some statements on >Xilinx Website, the latest (full-spec) Xilinx software includes >an iMPACT downloader which doesn't support Parallel Cable III. >Alternatively, latest Webpack 6 includes an iMPACT which >supports the download, but not any flavour of XC4000 (although >all the library and similar files seem to be present). > >Options appear to be: > >1) A kludge whereby we instal only iMPACT from Wepack 6, to get >the downloading but with no integration into Project Navigator / >Design Manager (so we lose revision control's updating of where >to get the .bit file from). (This is what we're doing at the >moment - not brilliant, but it does work.) > >2) Someone spends time messing around to produce a collection of >batch files which provide equivalent P&R function to Project >Navigator. > >Suggestions welcome - including suggestions for alternative >hardware. We need to retain 5V-compatible I/O, since all our >kit uses 5V levels for I/O, and much of the work involves >interfacing with other bits of kit. We've also spent quite a >bit of money on the XC4k ICs - total of 25 pin grid array chips, >which were hideously expensive - and we'd like to get a decent >return on this investment. > >(In case it is considered relevant: workstations are networked >PCs with Windows XP Pro, rest of development environment is >ModelSim and Synplify. Students work in pairs, 12 pairs at a >time in a class.) > > >
--------------020006020906050101090208 Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> <html> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1"> <title></title> </head> <body text="#000000" bgcolor="#ffffff"> Tim,<br> <br> The <a href="http://www.xilinx.com/ise_classics/index.html">ISE Classics software</a> supports the XC4000E devices.&nbsp; I'm not sure it includes<br> iMPACT, but it does include JTAG Programmer software for downloading.<br> <br> Even though ISE 6.1i does not support design of XC4000E devices, it does allow<br> you to program them with iMPACT.<br> <br> Steve<br> <br> Tim Forcer wrote:<br> <blockquote type="cite" cite="mid3FBCF06F.96F20409@ecs.soton.ac.uk"> <pre wrap="">We have some well-established teaching laboratory kit, using Xilinx XC4013E (optionally XC4020E for project work), with download by JTAG and a clone of Xilinx Parallel Cable III (DLC5). As has been discussed here before, despite some statements on Xilinx Website, the latest (full-spec) Xilinx software includes an iMPACT downloader which doesn't support Parallel Cable III. Alternatively, latest Webpack 6 includes an iMPACT which supports the download, but not any flavour of XC4000 (although all the library and similar files seem to be present). Options appear to be: 1) A kludge whereby we instal only iMPACT from Wepack 6, to get the downloading but with no integration into Project Navigator / Design Manager (so we lose revision control's updating of where to get the .bit file from). (This is what we're doing at the moment - not brilliant, but it does work.) 2) Someone spends time messing around to produce a collection of batch files which provide equivalent P&amp;R function to Project Navigator. Suggestions welcome - including suggestions for alternative hardware. We need to retain 5V-compatible I/O, since all our kit uses 5V levels for I/O, and much of the work involves interfacing with other bits of kit. We've also spent quite a bit of money on the XC4k ICs - total of 25 pin grid array chips, which were hideously expensive - and we'd like to get a decent return on this investment. (In case it is considered relevant: workstations are networked PCs with Windows XP Pro, rest of development environment is ModelSim and Synplify. Students work in pairs, 12 pairs at a time in a class.) </pre> </blockquote> </body> </html> --------------020006020906050101090208--
Tim,

iMPACT (all versions, full or WebPACK install) has supported and does 
support download via Parallel Cable III (in fact, I have one on my desk 
and it works just fine) as well as configuration of legacy devices.

Note that new design bitstreams can only be generated with the ISE 
Classics Software.



Tim Forcer wrote:
> We have some well-established teaching laboratory kit, using > Xilinx XC4013E (optionally XC4020E for project work), with > download by JTAG and a clone of Xilinx Parallel Cable III > (DLC5). > > As has been discussed here before, despite some statements on > Xilinx Website, the latest (full-spec) Xilinx software includes > an iMPACT downloader which doesn't support Parallel Cable III. > Alternatively, latest Webpack 6 includes an iMPACT which > supports the download, but not any flavour of XC4000 (although > all the library and similar files seem to be present). > > Options appear to be: > > 1) A kludge whereby we instal only iMPACT from Wepack 6, to get > the downloading but with no integration into Project Navigator / > Design Manager (so we lose revision control's updating of where > to get the .bit file from). (This is what we're doing at the > moment - not brilliant, but it does work.) > > 2) Someone spends time messing around to produce a collection of > batch files which provide equivalent P&R function to Project > Navigator. > > Suggestions welcome - including suggestions for alternative > hardware. We need to retain 5V-compatible I/O, since all our > kit uses 5V levels for I/O, and much of the work involves > interfacing with other bits of kit. We've also spent quite a > bit of money on the XC4k ICs - total of 25 pin grid array chips, > which were hideously expensive - and we'd like to get a decent > return on this investment. > > (In case it is considered relevant: workstations are networked > PCs with Windows XP Pro, rest of development environment is > ModelSim and Synplify. Students work in pairs, 12 pairs at a > time in a class.) >
Peter Alfke top-posted:
> > Tim, you have to get over the idea of still > getting something from your old chip investment. > Xilinx FPGAs have become 100 times (!) cheaper, > have added functionality and better software > support since the days when you bought the > XC4013s.
It's not the chip investment that's the *big* hangup, but the equipment investment. The chips were chosen deliberately in pin-grid-array package so we could replace as and when we wanted - including when/if they got blown up by misuse. Throw-away ICs we can live with - even at the price of PGA 4013s. Throw-away experimental units is another ball game.
> ( Anybody who tries to hang on to a 10-year old > computer faces a similar situation, albeit to > a lesser extent). That's the price of progress.
Hmmm. Doesn't explain why the majority of PC/104 processors are 486 clones rather than Pentium clones. Doesn't explain why 8051s still sell by the truck-load. Sure, we have to stay current, but we've done some very useful work with 10-year-old computers! (Old DOS boxes make excellent targets for introductory learning about embedded systems, provided you don't mind the bench space they occupy.) If it ain't broke, why fix it? Some concepts can be taught using kit that's a lot more than ten years old. We have one experiment that uses equipment which must be around 25 years old, and part of the point is to show that important effects, very relevant to designing the latest and greatest ICs and systems, can be seen with basic testgear and almost rudimentary test rigs. If we can teach _currently relevant_ techniques of FPGA design with ten-year-old kit (and the FPGA experimenter kits are only 3 years old), why should we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater? If the DESIGN software still supports XC4000E, why has the downloader stopped supporting a download cable which was still being sold only a couple of years ago? If the library files are still there, why can't the software be set up to access them? (After all, the guts of the software isn't the Windows front end with the selection boxes - or have I misunderstood all those command lines scrolling through, which appear to show someone using 10-year-old DOS to do the hard work rather than shiny state-of-the-art Windows?)
> Your biggest stumbling block is the 5-V > compatibility, which stops you from using > really modern (and cost-effective and > sophisticated )
Look, these are STUDENTS. Second year undergraduates. Some of them only got their hands on an oscilloscope for the first time just over a year ago. Some only SAW an oscilloscope for the first time thirteen months ago. They are designing simple state machines and the like. The prime exercise culminates in controlling a three-storey model lift. That could be done by a Xilinx 1000 series device. For the PURPOSE, we don't need modern, we don't need sophisticated, and spending money when we have something already is certainly not cost-effective. We're NOT designing for production - where we have project students and researchers pushing boundaries, of course we use state-of-the-art. But at the moment we find 5V 74 series great for teaching gates and discrete logic systems, so we have a range of 5V I/O units which those systems can work with. And, to benefit both us and the students, we re-use those units. Students produce traffic light controllers using 74-series logic, using a PLD, using a PIC. They control a lift with an FPGA and with a PC/104 system. We're trying to turn out rounded engineers, who understand there are options when confronted with a requirement. Options come with baggage. Later in the course, they learn of the baggage which comes with picking a 5V option. But up to second year, we're happy for them to swim in a uniformly 5V digital environment.
> devices. Sooner or later you will curse the > @#^%$*! 5-V standard.
5V has lasted longer than any other. All subsequent standards have been superseded - today's standard will be unusable by the state-of-the-art ICs in three years. If we'd gone 3.3V, would we not be cursing THAT?
> Why not do it now!
Because we teach a LOT more than just FPGA. Believe me, we look at the voltage issue every year. So far, we've had insufficient cause to decide that we'll throw out and re-cast the 21 exercises per student occupying 32 lab sessions over two years of the course which use 5V circuitry. -- Tim Forcer tmf@ecs.soton.ac.uk The University of Southampton, UK The University is not responsible for my opinions
"Tim Forcer" wrote
<snip many valid points>
> If we can teach _currently relevant_ techniques of FPGA design > with ten-year-old kit (and the FPGA experimenter kits are only 3 > years old), why should we have to throw the baby out with the > bathwater? If the DESIGN software still supports XC4000E, why > has the downloader stopped supporting a download cable which was > still being sold only a couple of years ago? If the library > files are still there, why can't the software be set up to > access them? (After all, the guts of the software isn't the > Windows front end with the selection boxes - or have I > misunderstood all those command lines scrolling through, which > appear to show someone using 10-year-old DOS to do the hard work > rather than shiny state-of-the-art Windows?)
I think this reply clarified the cable issue ? <paste> "Neil Glenn Jacobson" <neil.jacobson@xilinx.com> wrote
> Tim, > > iMPACT (all versions, full or WebPACK install) has supported and does > support download via Parallel Cable III (in fact, I have one on my desk > and it works just fine) as well as configuration of legacy devices. > > Note that new design bitstreams can only be generated with the ISE > Classics Software. >
> > devices. Sooner or later you will curse the > > @#^%$*! 5-V standard. > > 5V has lasted longer than any other. All subsequent standards > have been superseded - today's standard will be unusable by the > state-of-the-art ICs in three years.
True, and 5V will still be around for a long time - Motorola, Lattice, Atmel have released 5V IO's on shrink devices. There are signs of 5V becomming an Automotive IO standard, for reasons very similar to Tim's LABs interconnection... FPGAs are a bit of a special case - they rush ahead on process, in order to get the density and speed up, and some details get left behind. Still, there are signs of awareness - a Xilinx survey this week asked if '5V IO was important in your design'. :)
> > Why not do it now! > > Because we teach a LOT more than just FPGA. Believe me, we look > at the voltage issue every year. So far, we've had insufficient > cause to decide that we'll throw out and re-cast the 21 > exercises per student occupying 32 lab sessions over two years > of the course which use 5V circuitry.
PowerMOSETS are another good argument for 5V drive ability.... -jg
Neil Glenn Jacobson wrote:
> > iMPACT (all versions, full or WebPACK install) has > supported and does support download via Parallel > Cable III (in fact, I have one on my desk > and it works just fine) as well as configuration > of legacy devices.
Err, not the version embedded in Project Navigator. It scans all the ports (USB, LPT1:n, COM1:n) looking for a compatible cable. This takes quite a while. Then it stops and asks the user to define the cable. Click "Parallel" and "lpt1" and it says there's nothing there. We think we're not unique in having this problem: <http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=%25Qjv7.59250%24y7.681072%40dbsch1.home.nl>. We did try the various fixes suggested by <http://support.xilinx.com/xlnx/xil_ans_display.jsp?iLanguageID=1&iCountryID=1&getPagePath=15742> - so far without success. What we've gone with for the time being is Webpack iMPACT running stand-alone. -- Tim Forcer tmf@ecs.soton.ac.uk The University of Southampton, UK The University is not responsible for my opinions
Tim Forcer wrote:

> Neil Glenn Jacobson wrote: >> >> iMPACT (all versions, full or WebPACK install) has >> supported and does support download via Parallel >> Cable III (in fact, I have one on my desk >> and it works just fine) as well as configuration >> of legacy devices. > > Err, not the version embedded in Project Navigator. It scans > all the ports (USB, LPT1:n, COM1:n) looking for a compatible > cable. This takes quite a while. Then it stops and asks the > user to define the cable. Click "Parallel" and "lpt1" and it > says there's nothing there. > > We think we're not unique in having this problem: >
<http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=%25Qjv7.59250%24y7.681072%40dbsch1.hom e.nl>.
> > We did try the various fixes suggested by >
<http://support.xilinx.com/xlnx/xil_ans_display.jsp?iLanguageID=1&iCountryID =1&getPagePath=15742>
> - so far without success. What we've gone with for the time > being is Webpack iMPACT running stand-alone.
In my experience, Parallel Cable III only works with the port in SPP (old fashioned unidirectional) mode, not EPP or ECP mode. Karl Olsen
Tim Forcer wrote:
> Peter Alfke top-posted: >> >> Tim, you have to get over the idea of still >> getting something from your old chip investment. >> Xilinx FPGAs have become 100 times (!) cheaper, >> have added functionality and better software >> support since the days when you bought the >> XC4013s. > > It's not the chip investment that's the *big* hangup, but the > equipment investment. The chips were chosen deliberately in > pin-grid-array package so we could replace as and when we wanted > - including when/if they got blown up by misuse. Throw-away ICs > we can live with - even at the price of PGA 4013s. Throw-away > experimental units is another ball game.
I suspect your best compromise may be to select the latest and greatest - in Xilinx' case, this is currently Spartan-3 - and have a tiny daughter board built with FPGA, regulator and protection/interface chips. Of course you would still have to address the issue of updating all the course material, as Jonathan discussed a month or so ago. And you would have to repeat the exercise every five years or so.
"Tim" <tim@rockylogic.com.nooospam.com> wrote in message
news:bpl8qr$mai$1$8300dec7@news.demon.co.uk...

> I suspect your best compromise may be to select the latest > and greatest - in Xilinx' case, this is currently Spartan-3 > - and have a tiny daughter board built with FPGA, regulator > and protection/interface chips.
I reckon this is a seriously good idea. It also allows you (for future projects, of course!) to build a base-board with all the human-scale I/O on it - big lights, switches and connectors - using very low-tech, cheap PCB technology, while still tapping in to as exotic an FPGA technology as you wish, at modest cost. Finally, if you are careful about how you partition the programming/download stuff between base-board and FPGA carrier, you could make the base-board compatible with many different types of FPGA/CPLD. This could be pretty powerful stuff for teaching/project tools.
> Of course you would still have to address the issue of > updating all the course material, as Jonathan discussed > a month or so ago.
Yes, but you could keep *lots* of commonality this way.
> And you would have to repeat the exercise every five years > or so.
I guess so. But you could hide quite a lot of the change from your "customers" (students, users) by carefully "parameterising" the course materials so that specific devices don't get mentioned too often! -- Jonathan Bromley, Consultant DOULOS - Developing Design Know-how VHDL * Verilog * SystemC * Perl * Tcl/Tk * Verification * Project Services Doulos Ltd. Church Hatch, 22 Market Place, Ringwood, Hampshire, BH24 1AW, UK Tel: +44 (0)1425 471223 mail: jonathan.bromley@doulos.com Fax: +44 (0)1425 471573 Web: http://www.doulos.com The contents of this message may contain personal views which are not the views of Doulos Ltd., unless specifically stated.