[rc5] Re: I'm interested in FPGAs. How do I start ? (fwd)

Darxus darxus at Op.Net
Wed Nov 5 07:11:34 EST 1997



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         "You shall know the truth, and it shall make you odd."

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 1997 05:06:40 -0700 (MST)
From: Mark Collette <mcollett at stu.athabascau.ca>
To: Darxus <darxus at monet.op.net>
Subject: Re: I'm interested in FPGAs.  How do I start ?



On Mon, 3 Nov 1997, Darxus wrote:

> 
> I know very little about FPGAs, and I wish to remedy this.

Good. We need more designers who know about FPGAs.

> I believe this technology may be within my price range, in fact, it may be
> possible for me to be able to get a setup with a number of these chips.

FPGAs are getting cheaper.
 
> I could not find a FPGA FAQ on ftp://rtfm.mit.edu, and unfortunately there
> seem to be bad connections between me and http://www.plnv.com (somewhere
> in the netcom.com domain) at the moment.
> 
> I am interested in the possibility of porting such things as:
>  * OpenGL (http://www.sgi.com/Technology/OpenGL)

SGI probably already has their geometry and lighting engines in FPGAs.

>  * general (substantial?) floating point acceleration

Some FPUs are implemented with FPGAs, at least for early versions.

>  * MPEG video & audio (other formats as well)

Most MPEG decoders are based on FPGAs.

>  * distributed computing projects, including:
>     + the RC5 Challenge (http://www.rsa.com/rsalabs/97challenge/),
>       specifically the Bovine Project (http://rc5.distributed.net)

This would be a natural application for a FPGA.  It's a small, self-
contained algorithm which needs to run as fast as possible.

>     + distributed Chess
>     + the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS)
>       (http://www.mersenne.org/)
>     + searching for optimal Golomb rulers
>       (http://members.aol.com/golomb20/index.html)

ditto, ditto, ditto.
 
>   and, most importantly, the V3 cross-platform open distributed networking
>   protocol, being developed by the distributed.net folks.

I'm not sure what this is.  I guess I'll take a peek at distributed.net's
web page.

> From what I have found, it seems that Xilinx makes good chips, but I do
> not know if there are commercially available PCI cards available with
> these chips.  If not, I am willing to get some schematics an learn to
> build a PCI card of my own.

There is a PC card with 4 or 8 Xilinx FPGAs on it.  It's probably ISA, but
there is likely a PCI version out also.  PCI cards are easy because there
are standard PCI bus interface chipsets available.

> 
> Whatever it takes.
> 
> My operating system of choice is Linux on an x86 platform, but I can do
> Windows 95 as well, if necessary.

It shouldn't be hard to write Linux device drivers for FPGA cards.  They
would appear to the system as a set of registers, and (for some FPGAs) a
SRAM array.
 
> I like what I've heard of this technology, and it blows my mind that it is
> not much more commonplace.

It is quite commonplace in consumer electronics now.
 
> Any and all information you can give me on where I can get this stuff, how
> much this technology will cost me, how much power I can get for this cost
> (I'm looking for around $500 ?), and what I can do with it -- and how I
> can learn how to do what I can do with it, will be most greatly
> appreciated.

The parts alone are in the $100-$500 range.  A development system is
considerably more.

Contact Xilinx, Lattice, Actel and other FPGA manufacturers and their 
suppliers, and visit their web pages for more information and specifics
on particular parts.



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