Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tutorials finished!

Well, I got things up and running like a charm in the meantime. After the inital GB downloads (which may get fixed ? see comments previous post! ), I've completed most tutorials of the Nanoboard today. There were only three that I couldn't run due to some interoperability issue with the Xilinx tools, but that happens sometimes. It's been logged, noted and people are working on it!

So far... I can say it's truly amazing and a pleasure to work with this board, especially for those who are newbies in the field of electronics. The tutorials provide a very basic overview of what the board really can do, so keep that in mind. Of course those applications can be done quite easily on Arduino boards or whatever.

But then have a look at the extensive royalty-free library... you'll discover 119 subdirectories loaded with microprocessors, circuits, memory blocks, opamps and plenty of other electronics that can be inserted in the schematics diagrams. People at work sometimes do use some exotic hardware and this makes it likely I can find the same chips and IC's they work with. In combination with the other tools and outputs, you can generate all kinds of testbeds for running their code on this FPGA, but analyzing the signals or some other things to help out.

It wasn't very clear to me that the real use of the board is probably about trying out different processors and designs up-front, before you solder things together. But now that I think about it, this certainly makes sense. At work some people work on UAV's for example. They require very small, light-weight boards that provide lots of functionality and a good amount of processing power. Everything is embedded and hardware supported. You couldn't put a nanoboard in one of those planes due to weight and power cable concerns :). But simulating a particular board or processor, or just having a platform where you can run embedded ideas from is a great nice-to-have. Since it's very close to the PC that could run a simulator like FlightGear, you could just hook up this board to a FlightGear stream of simulation data, where the board must attempt to fly the plane level or other kinds autopilot functions.

So yes, I am certainly pleased with my purchase. If anybody is ever thinking of going into FPGA programming, this is the board you want. It's probably twice the price of a regular board, but you get three times the value back for it. The extensive library of 'soft-design' hardware, the ability to still run VHDL code on the chip, the way how it interfaces with your computer, the Altium Designer software (only for a year though, so check out the conditions) and the overall hardware that is attached to the board (TFT touch, PS/2, S/PDIF, USB, SD-card, MIDI, audio, RS-485, RS-232, ethernet, VGA-out).

Definitely recommended! It's Arduino++.

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