Friday, January 24, 2020

Testing the OrangeCrab r0.1

After hassling Greg Davill for a while on twitter and admiring his OrangeCrab hardware I managed to catch up with him in person in Adelaide. I have been away in Nairobi till October last year, then I spent a brief few days in Adelaide before coming over to Canberra to take up a position in Geoscience Australia. The new gig is much less time commitment than the start-up world and hopefully will allow more time for blogging and board bring-ups like this one.

I caught up with Greg at a Japanese restaurant in Rundle mall and was treated to his now trademark led cube and led icosahedron. They are insanely detailed pieces of work and deserve staring at. However I am most grateful for the care package he left me, an OrangeCrab v0.1. This is an ECP5 board in feather form factor with an ADC built in to respect the Analog In pins on the feather. My aim for this board is to host some energy monitoring code on the FPGA with a fast 4mbps or so ADC and perform power/energy calculation on some parts of LUT's/DSP and have a softcpu push data out.
Greg also left me a home-made FTDI based board to use a JTAG programmer. The whole setup requires 3 USB cables:

  •  To plugin and power the FPGA board (eventually it should be alos programmable via this port) 
  • To attach a USB-Serial converter and watch the console when the gateware comes up 
  • To program the board over JTAG using an FTDI chip

Getting firmware compiled these days is getting easier, but Greg had done his initial testing with Lattice Diamond. I managed to installed it in WSL and promptly ran into a tonne of issues. The weirdest being close coupling to bash, Ubuntu actually uses dash as its default shell. You can get a Diamond licence and help support integration of diamond in litex-buildenv.
I was about to give up then Greg got it working with the opensource toolchain and [NextPNR-ECP5. I had by then setup litex-buildenv to support the orangecrab. So getting some gateware on was relatively easy. Then I got stuck on RAM timing bug in Litex till a few hours ago when I tested out some new gateware.

Also Checkout out Greg's foboot fork and help make programming over the USB possible and reduce 1 USB cable. More work on this including getting MicroWatt running coming soon.