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Second-generation FPGA modules run Linux

Jul 11, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Microtronix is shipping a line of processor modules based on FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), and targeting real-time embedded applications. The 2-inch-square Firefly II modules are powered by Altera Cyclone II FPGAs, have onboard RAM/Flash, and are available with NIOS II softcores, uClinux, and open source… toolchains, Microtronix says.

Microtronix says its Firefly modules offer the benefits of an off-the-shelf CPU module, along with the flexibility of an FPGA. The company earlier shipped its Firefly module family, based on Altera Cyclone I FPGAs. Firefly II modules are available with the following 484-pin Cyclone II FPGAs:

  • EP2C20 — 18,752 logical elements
  • EP2C35 — 33,216 LEs
  • EP2C50 — 50, 528 LEs

The Firefly II modules can be ordered “blank,” with an off-the-shelf softcore such as Altera's NIOS II, or with a core custom-designed by Microtronix.

Nios II softcores leave room on Cyclone II FPGAs for various peripherals, such as custom hardware DSPs
(Source: Altera)

Microtronix says the Firefly II modules support “any operating system supported by Altera's Nios II processor,” citing uClinux, eCos, and uC/OS-II as supported examples. Microtronix also supports OS-less environments on the modules, it says.

In addition to CPU cores, the Firefly modules can be configured with various off-the-shelf IP (intellectual property) modules. An available Firefly Product Starter Kit includes an RS-232 serial interface, for example, leaving 88 general-purpose I/O pins available for carrier-board peripherals.

The Firefly II modules come standard with 16MB of Flash, and 32MB of RAM. However, they can also be configured with 8MB of Flash and 16MB of RAM, 32MB of Flash and 64MB of RAM, or with 64MB of Flash and no on-board RAM.


The Firefly modules are available now, Micronix says. Pricing for the Firefly II modules was not disclosed. Firefly I modules start at $140 in single quantities.

Microtronix shipped a Nios II Linux Development Kit earlier this year.

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