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Linux development framework targets FPGA soft cores

Oct 26, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Timesys announced that its LinuxLink development framework now supports Altera's Nios II 32-bit soft RISC processor cores, which are available for Altera's FPGAs. LinuxLink for Nios II includes a board support package (BSP) for Altera's Nios II Embedded Evaluation Kit and Embedded Systems Development Kit, Cyclone III Edition, says Timesys.

Altera announced its Nios II 32-bit soft RISC processor cores for the company's field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) in 2004. Supporting uClinux, the upgraded "II" version of the original Nios soft cores targets software-intensive custom processor designs for Altera FPGAs such as its Cyclone III. Like other FPGAs, the Cyclone III is aimed at projects for which application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) would be too costly and time-consuming to produce.

Soft cores aim to reduce the cost, complexity, and power requirements of embedded processors by enabling designers to add custom peripheral mixes directly inside the processor chips, along with custom logic circuits.

Altera's NIOS II architecture

The Nios II cores, which feature an automatically generated "Avalon Switch Fabric" interconnect, gained development support in Jan. 2006 when Microtronix shipped a Nios II Linux Development Kit based on uClinux. The LinuxLink BSP targets Altera's Nios II Embedded Evaluation Kit and Embedded Systems Development Kit, Cyclone III Edition. Altera's kit includes a host board, equipped with a LCD color touch-panel, as well as the Nios II Embedded Design Suite (EDS).

Altera's Nios II Embedded Evaluation Kit, Cyclone III Edition host board

With the LinuxLink 3.0 update, which shipped earlier this year, Timesys' subscription-based development framework introduced a new build engine, web-services-based automation, and a new interface and Toolkit. It also launched more robust versions of the "Factory" and "ReadyKit" programs, which debuted last year.

Each Factory-built LinuxLink platform includes a GNU-based Linux cross toolchain, hundreds of application-specific root filesystem (RFS) package sources, and commonly used open source development tools, including GDB, OProfile, and Mpatrol, says Timesys. Subscribers also receive technical support and targeted documentation, says the company.

Included with LinuxLink is an Eclipse-based TimeStorm IDE, providing tools for application development and debugging, plus support for industry-standard JTAG probes. The Timesys services team also provides FPGA design services, says the company.

Stated Chris Balough, senior director of software, embedded, and DSP marketing at Altera, "Many of our customers are developing Linux-based products and can benefit from the availability of the LinuxLink environment."

Stated Jessica McCabe, corporate supplier manager for Software at Arrow, "LinuxLink from Timesys is a key element of the complete system-level solution that Arrow provides to customers developing products around the Altera Nios II platform."

Stated Charlie Ashton, VP of Business Development at Timesys, "The LinuxLink business model is well aligned with the requirements of Altera's customers, and we look forward to good mutual success across a broad spectrum of markets, such as industrial control, medical equipment, consumer products, networking devices and other high-volume applications."


LinuxLink, supporting Altera's Nios II processors, is available now, says Timesys. For a limited time, developers can obtain a free trial access to LinuxLink for Nios II by registering here, and entering promotion code PRNIOSII. The trial access is said to enable developers to quickly configure, build, and evaluate embedded Linux on the Nios II.

More information on LinuxLink for Altera platforms may be found here.

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