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16932Re: ECM/FPGA Implementation Update

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  • Ron
    Aug 1, 2005
      --- In primenumbers@yahoogroups.com, Paul Leyland <pcl@w...> wrote:
      > On Mon, 2005-08-01 at 20:44, elevensmooth wrote:
      > Like dope pedlars, the hardware manufacturers give out (almost) free
      > samples to get their customers hooked but charge real money for a long
      > term relationship. In particular, the software costs serious
      > bucks even though quite a lot of development hardware is
      > available for a couple hundred or less.

      Yep, and I finally shelled out $500 for Lattice's full ispLever
      development software simply so that I could synthesise (ie; implement
      designs for) the high-end expensive Lattice FPGAs. The ispLever tools
      (both the free and pay versions) can *only* be used to synthesize
      designs for Lattice FPGAs, so it seems bizarre to me that Lattice
      should be charging for the software. Seems like they should be giving
      it away for free and encouraging as many people as possible to use
      it!? Even so, the Lattice software tools are only about half the cost
      of similar tools from Altera and Xilinx.

      > If there is a way of amortizing the software costs over a number of
      > fielded systems, I'd be *much* more interested in joining in and
      > contributing to others' efforts.

      Not sure what you mean by this, but there is an option for a
      "floating" license. It's mostly used within companies but I see no
      reason a group of people located anywhere couldn't do the same thing
      as long as everyone has Internet access. The way it works is that only
      one person can have the license "checked-out" at any given time, and
      the Lattice license server verifies this as the key is checked in and
      out by different users.

      > That said, my extremely limited
      > hardware design experience dates from the early 80s when it was very
      > much 7400 TTL, PROMS, AMD 2900 series bit slices and the earliest PLA
      > implementations. I've a steep learning curve to climb.

      Don't worry about it Paul. I designed my very first VLSI
      implementation of a Linear Iterative Array Multiplier/Adder (the one I
      mentioned earlier that's described in Knuth) in 1983 by writing
      a Pascal program to draw a plot of the different layers of the VLSI
      traces I wanted in different colors. You would make a transistor by
      crossing a plot line representing silicon over a different colored
      plot line representing (I think) silicon dioxide. It took me several
      evenings and weekends (it was a one day a week class lasting six weeks
      that I took at my place of employment) to complete the literally
      graphical design using Pascal. Whenever I start complaining about
      Verilog I think back to those days. ;-) I never pursued VLSI design
      after that, but some 26 years later I was able to produce functionally
      the same circuit in Verilog in a single afternoon! Some higher level
      languages (SystemC for one) are on the horizon, but so far the
      software vendors charge an arm and leg for their software. There are
      Open Source efforts at software design tools - and indeed I use the
      totally free Icarus simulator to debug my own design - but the
      "higher-level" design tools like Open SystemC are mostly in the "Beta"
      or pre-release stages.

      Anyhow I think hardware design in Verilog is kind of fun, albeit very
      tedious. Now that I only have a couple more modules to debug it's
      starting to get more exciting for me. I even ordered a LFEC20E-L-EV
      LatticeEC20 Standard Evaluation Board for $175 from Lattice - less
      than half the cost of the software I purchased from them! As you said,
      software costs more than hardware in many cases. The LFEC20E is one of
      their larger FPGA's but is still very affordable. I hope that it will
      be large enough to actually implement a useful design with.


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