NEW PRODUCT – DE0-Nano – Altera Cyclone IV FPGA starter board
NEW PRODUCT – DE0-Nano – Altera Cyclone IV FPGA starter board. For every day projects, microcontrollers are low-cost and easy to use. But when you have a project that needs raw power and high speed you may want to check out FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays). FPGAs are like raw chips that you can design by hand. They run very fast and very efficiently. They are designed for mass-parallel execution so they’re very good at handling a lot of I/O pins at once, especially for real time video or audio or emulation applications.
FPGAs are also a lot of fun, in that you really get to play with how chips are designed. Unfortunately, we didn’t study FPGA’s in school and so we missed out on learning how to use them. When we saw this Altera starter pack, we thought it would be a great first FPGA board – compact but not ‘bare bones’ – at a great price! There’s no paper book included, but there is a very detailed Altera FPGA training curriculum that a student could use as part of a self-taught FPGA adventure.
The package comes with a single DE0 Nano development board, mini USB cable (you can program and power the module over USB) and two CDs with the software necessary to ‘compile’ and ‘upload’ code to the board. The software is available for Windows and Linux computers (no Mac)
The module itself contains a nice collection of accessories:
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Great to see you guys selling (more?) FPGA stuff! I loved playing with the previous version from Terasic, the Cyclone3 Nios Embedded Eval Kit. Great product, should make for lots of fun projects!
These things are dirt cheap considering the price of those FPGAs!
Those chips are really powerful, probably fun to play with as well.
Now I only need to find an affordable way to get those friggin’ high density BGA packages onto prototype boards. I also don’t have access to an x-ray machine to check for proper soldering. Why not make some of these chips available in QFP as well? We need PINS not solder BALLS.
Oooh, neat! I actually have one of these (from Digikey) sitting on my desk right now; it’s mining Bitcoins with a fan pointed at it while I get around to doing something more interesting with it. Do bear in mind that the power supply uses linear regulators which are incredibly inefficient and pump out a lot of waste heat – especially if you’re running something power hungry like I am – and that it’ll happily try and consume way more power than the USB spec allows if you load a bitstream that uses that much power. Unlike with something like the Arduino there doesn’t appear to be any built-in 500mA overcurrent protection on the USB line.
robert: the EP4CE22 used on this board is in theory available in a EQFP package, as indeed is the very similar but older EP3C25. You obviously don’t get access to all the pins that way though. It’s actually the biggest Altera FPGA you can get in a QFP package.
@makomk – is there anywhere we can check out the bitcoin miner code?
adafruit: I’m using a modified version of the code from the thread Allen linked, though my changes aren’t publicly available from anywhere at the moment as far as I know. Getting the unmodified upstream code to run isn’t terribly difficult, though it does require figuring out how to change the device, assign the clock pin to R8, change CONFIG_LOOP_LOG2 to 4, and dig out the resulting fpgaminer.sof file. The only advantage of my modified version is speed; it’s not actually any easier to get running, and the original code is simpler and easier to understand too.
One big problem is that my bitstreams draw well over the 500 mA of power that USB allows and cause lots of heat production; even with the clear cover removed and a fan blowing over it the linear regulators still get really hot. Wouldn’t want to blow up any of your customer’s USB ports or burn out their expensive FPGA boards…
@makomk – drop us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d like to chat about a fun project you might be interested in!
that’s a great product and I really enjoyed using it….