Luke Gorrie (lukego) wrote,
Luke Gorrie


I bricked my OLPC XO the other week by flashing bad stuff onto the SPI FLASH. That's the 1MB flash chip that the XO boots from -- it's supposed to contain the Embedded Controller software image and Openfirmware, but when either of those is messed up then the machine won't function and can't fix itself.

So Mitch sent me a DIY debricking kit: a replacement SPI FLASH chip with working firmware and some ChipQuick to remove the old chip with. My dad and I heated up a soldering iron and eventually managed to make the transplant. That was fun! But I wouldn't want to do it that way every time :-)

Thankfully my new XO-1.5 boots from something much cooler than an SPI FLASH chip: an Artec FlexyICE ROM emulator attached to the LPC bus. The ROM emulator is seriously cool - it's an FPGA with two interfaces: LPC towards the XO, impersonating a ROM chip, and USB-serial towards my Macbook, receiving new firmware images that I'm creating. It's also open-source hardware and ships with its ~2500 line VHDL sources.

I've wanted to have FPGAs in my life for quite a while now. This feels like a step in the right direction. :-)

Tags: fpga, olpc
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I really wanted to buy a USRP2 recently, both to play with software radio, and to play with big FPGAs. But, a copy of the Xilinx tools cost about $4000 USD, and I don't get the sources anyway.

Do you know of any decent sized FPGAs that use open source tools to go from a netlist down to whatever is sent to the FPGA?
That's real money. There are development boards from Digilent ( starting for $79 and there's a free (beer) version of the Xilinx toolchain that runs on Linux. This is where I'm slowly starting out.

I don't know of any free software that does place-and-route etc to fit a design onto a board. There does seem to be quite a bit of information about the Xilinx file formats though.