Tag Archive for 'chipscope'

Making Xilinx Suck Less: Replacing Chipscope

I’ve spent January doing some initial work on my thesis. I’m working on channel emulation for the Airborne Networks Group of MIT Lincoln Lab. My work involves the use of a sweet FPGA eval board (Xilinx ML605, which has a Virtex 6) and an even sweeter addon board that has two high-speed (i.e. expensive) ADCs and DACs on it.

Unfortunately, interfacing the addon board (called FMC110) is a complete pain in the ass thanks to the complete lack of implementation specifications. It’s been a lot of reverse-engineering 4DSP’s reference design and taking guesses and I’m still having no luck with even the most basic aspects of interfacing the board, but nevertheless I’m still trying.

I use Chipscope a lot since I don’t have a logic analyzer. Chipscope is an FPGA-integrated logic analyzer that lets you capture data on your FPGA and view the waveforms on your computer using their software.

It works pretty well. I’ve found that you have to put everything into registers before you send the data out (pipelining everything), but other than that, integration is very easy.

What sucks, though, is the Chipscope software. The waveform viewer is written in Java and doesn’t even support horizontal scrolling. Come on. Seriously? Like literally the most important thing you should ever have in a waveform viewer is the ability to easily scroll around. Chipscope lacks a whole bunch of other features so I’ve been anxious to get rid of it. I didn’t know that you could until I discovered that if you go to File -> Export, you get this window:

Turns out, there are waveform viewers that are free and are actually reasonable! For example, GTKWave! So, by exporting all the buses to a VCD file, you can import this file into GTKWave and view your signals without the misery of having to use Chipscope. Check it out: