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Dev kit teaches FPGAs to run Linux

Mar 16, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Altera is shipping a development kit for prototyping and developing FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) for embedded systems. The Embedded Systems Development Kit, Cyclone III FPGA Edition is a tri-board kit that can program NIOS II softcore FPGAs capable of running Linux, says the company.

(Click for larger view of Altera Cyclone III multi-board kit)

The Embedded Systems Development Kit, Cyclone III Edition includes a Cyclone III FPGA development board, as well as two high-speed mezzanine connectors (HSMCs), an LCD multimedia HSMC board, and a multipurpose HSMC card, says Altera. Developers can build an FPGA-based embedded system by selecting from the kit's on-board example processor systems, demonstration designs, and reference designs, says the company.

Cyclone III main board
(Click to enlarge)

The Cyclone III main board (pictured at right) is equipped with an EP3C120F780 FPGA, backed up with 256MB of dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM with ECC, 8MB of pseudo SRAM, and 64MB of flash. The board offers a gigabit Ethernet port and a USB 2.0 port, as well as debug tools, HSMC I/O, and various power and analog devices.

The LCD card is equipped with an 800 x 600-pixel LCD touchscreen, and offers an audio codec, SD flash, Ethernet PHY/MAC, and various connectors. The multipurpose card is said to provide a Santa Cruz header, Mictor connector, USB 2.0 transceiver, SMA connector, and an SD card socket.

The Cyclone III kit ships with Altera's design suite DVD, featuring the Quartus II Web Edition design software, which was recently upgraded to version 9.0. This latest Quartus II release introduces support for new Stratix IV GT and Arria II GX FPGAs, and adds an SSN analyzer tool. It also debuts the ModelSim Altera Starter Edition simulation engine, which replaces the earlier ModelSim Altera Web Edition, and is said to offer 50 percent faster simulation speeds, support for all Altera devices, as well as support for Linux and Windows Vista platforms.

Other kit features include the Nios II FPGA soft-core embedded design suite, and Altera's MegaCore IP library, says the company. The kit can also be used with supporting Linux distributions, such as Wind River Linux, which recently added support for Altera's Nios II soft processor (see image below).

Typical Nios II FPGA implementation
(Click to enlarge)

In 2006, Altera shipped an Altera Nios II Evaluation Kit capable of running uClinux (the uClinux patches are not just a configuration option in the mainline kernel). The kit recently won an EDN Magazine 2008 “Innovation Award”.


The Embedded Systems Development Kit, Cyclone III FPGA Edition is available now for $2,000, says Altera. More information may be found here.

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