[linux-elitists] Free FPGA software on Linux

Brian Danger Hicks hick0142@umn.edu
Mon Oct 11 11:30:52 PDT 2004

On Wed, Oct 06, 2004 at 05:54:54PM -0700, Michael Baxter wrote:
> Brian,
> Xilinx FPGAs are the best on Earth. There are some potential solutions for 
> use of the tools for these devices, and there are also some accessible 
> free (as in freedom) tools. In addition there are numerous free hardware 
> netlists available.

Yeah, I was looking at the Spartan 3 dev kit they were offering, that
looked rather nice.

> First, you can use either the free WebPack, or a 60-day evalution copy of
> a conventional tool that does run Linux. It is quite annoying that these
> are Windows-only, but even this has had a solution for some time now:
> http://www.polybus.com/xilinx_on_linux.html

I figured I could probably just run that under WINE, but I figured if
I said as much all of my replies would then be "Just run it under

Of course, I was hoping for something I could also run on my
Debian-PPC laptop, but oh well.

> If your hobby work can possibly fit a CPLD, there is still a free (as in
> cost) design tool service called WebFitter that Xilinx provides over the
> web. This supports numerous CPLD devices, including some that are the 
> size of FPGAs from yesteryear. Additionally very high-speed (3 nS) but 
> ultra-low power devices like CoolRunner are supported. Look here:
> http://www.xilinx.com/xlnx/xil_prodcat_landingpage.jsp?title=WebFITTER

But FPGAs are so much cooler than CPLDs.  So.  Much.  Cooler.

> There are some incredible non-free (as in cost) but still low-cost FPGA 
> starter kit solutions available. This is a kit for $99 that supports a 
> 200000-gate FPGA, which is still quite a lot of gates and flip-flops:
> http://www.xilinx.com/xlnx/xebiz/productview.jsp?sGlobalNavPick=PURCHASE&sSecondaryNavPick=&category=-1210689&iLanguageID=1&category=/Xilinx+Products/Design+Resources/Design+Starter+Kits/Spartan+Starter+Kit

Yeah, that's the one I was looking at.

> You can use the free (as in freedom) software WINE to run the software for 
> these starter kits.

It looked to me like it's just the same downloadable software you
pointed to earlier.

> There was a Linux Journal article covering the Linux FPGA Tools, if you 
> want to see what that's like:
> http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=6857
> You can also do synthesis and simulation up to the point of implementation 
> tools for the particular technology CPLD or FPGA using Icarus Verilog. 
> Icarus Verilog is GPL'ed, and has been continuously maintained for a 
> decade. The tool's own maintainer uses it everyday for work with the  
> latest Xilinx FPGA devices.
> http://www.icarus.com/
> http://icarus.com/eda/verilog/

Yes, Icarus Verilog is great.  I've only ever used it for simulation,
and the plus is that they fixed the bug where it wouldn't work on my

> Icarus Verilog is robust and powerful, and has been covered twice in Linux 
> Journal. One of these articles has some nice HowTo information. Look here:
> http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=4428
> http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=6002
> If you do prefer VHDL, IMHO the Xilinx tools are probably your best bet 
> because VHDL is a big language and the free tools for VHDL are mainly 
> simulators. I would say synthesis for FPGA is not matched nearly as well 
> in VHDL as what Icarus Verilog does. I could be wrong about this, but 
> that's been my impression for an ongoing amount of time so far.
> Lastly, here's an enormous collection of open source cores, hardware 
> designs, and technical documentation, plus a strong user community:
> http://www.opencores.org/

Brian Hicks               <mailto:hick0142@umn.edu>
   <http://zork.net/~octal> <ham:KC0OIH> <PGP:0xADDD1F16>
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