Using the iCEBreaker with an Open Source FPGA toolchain on OS X



When I used FPGAs in the past, e.g. for my LED Display, I was using Xilinx FPGAs with their proprietary software which unfortunately runs only under Windows or Linux. This was very inconvenient and in addition the software was slow as hell.

Fortunately a new era has begun: Open-Source FPGA toolchains! It was started some time back by Clifford Wolf, who first wrote a synthesis tool called Yosys and later reverse-engineered the bitstream format for Lattice iCE-40 FPGAs. Recently a new place-and-route tool called nextpnr was developed as well. Continue reading

My way to Apple

My desktop (Windows) and server (Linux) in 1999

My desktop (Windows) and server (Linux) in 1999

A few years ago, I couldn't imagine to use a Apple Macintosh someday. My first computer was a Intel 80486 PC running Windows 3.11. Though I already installed my first SuSE Linux on that 484 machine wiping accidentally the primary partition I stayed with operating systems from Microsoft on my desktop until Windows XP. Then I decided to switch to Gentoo Linux on my desktop which I had used on my servers for quiet sometime. I left a copy of Windows on a dual-boot partition for gaming and some applications like Photoshop which have no Linux version. Continue reading

Compiling AVR Toolchain under OS X Lion

Atmel's official toolchain for programming its AVR devices is AVR Studio. AVR Studio 5 is Windows only, but uses the gcc as its C compiler which is open-source. A viable option for Mac users is to use CrossPack, which contains precompiled versions of everything you need to develop for AVR devices, but it does not always use the latest version available.

As I'm planning to use the new ATxmega128B1 I need a newer version and so I wanted to compile everything by myself. This article gives a brief overview how to compile everything. Continue reading

I²C via USB on OS X using FT232H

Many sensor chips use the I²C bus, sometimes called TWI or SMBus, for communication. Most microcontrollers support I²C also natively and if not I can be implemented easily in software. Connecting I²C devices to a PC is much more difficult as soldering them onto the mainboard (where a SMBus can be found usually) is not a viable solution. Up to now I usually used a Atmel AVR microcontroller in teamwork with a FT232R (a standard USB↔RS232 converter).

The USB 2.0 successor of the FT232R, the FT232H, has a Multi-Protocol Synchronous Serial Engine (MPSSE) included which is designed to support serial interfaces such as I²C, SPI or JTAG at speeds up to 30 Mbps. This sounded to me as an interesting option to test I²C and SPI devices directly from my PC. Continue reading

Tune Terminal in OS X Lion

If your are using terminals on other operatings systems than OS X on a daily basis, you might have noticed that the Terminal App behaves a little bit different in some aspects. When I installed my iMac a year ago I needed some time to adopt everything to my needs. Yesterday, I received my new MacBook Air running OS X Lion and when I tried to get everything like on my iMac I found some things which changed in Lion. So I decided to write a small post about my Terminal tweaks. Continue reading