[GSoC] Deciding ICs, setting up environment, KiCad and more...

So the last time I talked, I said about ordering Atlys for the project. And, the awesome news is that Atlys got delivered today itself! [Although, Digilent's distributors in India did take a long time to ship it]. I'm very excited to try it.

Brand new Atlys Box!
Atlys outside its packaging

Some, important highlights of the days spent:

Deciding ICs:

Deciding which IC to use was a very important and critical decision for the project. The Texas Instruments' TVP7002 which was initially a good option has now been made NRND (Not Recommended for New Designs) by TI. So, this was the first setback, since they don't sample NRND products and I could have got them through TI Samples program, if that wasn't the case.
There were also some other options from Analog Devices, namely,
  • AD9984A (original choice)
  • ADV7604
  • AD9985A (NRND)
The problem with AD9985A was it is older(NRND) with less sampling frequency(140 MSPS) and Bit-resolution(8-bit) and Display resolution(SXGA: 1280 × 1024 at 75 Hz)). The AD9984A seems better than AD9985A, with 170 MSPS, 10-bit and max resolution of UXGA (1600 × 1200 at 60 Hz).

The ADV7604 is another beast altogether. It has excellent capabilities, with only major problem being its cost and the BGA packaging (which is risky of project of this scale)

TVP7002 also requires unconventional, but not that it can't be done, 1.9V supply.

In the end, we decided to go with AD9984A as the preferred IC for this project and keep the TVP7002 as a backup is case of any problems.

Learning KiCad:

I started learning KiCad from scratch with the help of excellent video tutorial series by Chris Gammell. Initially, KiCad seemed very tedious to me, a long-time eagle user, but now I have definitely improved upto 80% of the capability I had on Eagle, and damn, KiCad's keyboard shortcuts are highly addictive! I love them! Never had the habit of using Keyboard shortcuts in Eagle. 
Made few schematics and PCB, same as that were used in the tutorial videos. Overall, KiCad is nice up-till now as I've started with the alpha version schematics. Rest, I'll be giving regular feedback on KiCad as the design progresses.

Setting up environment:

Ahh! This was very time consuming. I realized that my Laptop HDD's partitioning for Windows and Linux were inadequate and also very less space left for any expansion. I had Xilinx ISE on windows, but for this project I needed the latest Xilinx ISE on Ubuntu 12.04. This would take another ~15GBs. I didn't have space this much. So, the last resort was to upgrade the HDD.
Copying data as it is, even boot configuration, was a very slow and tedious job. Almost 2 days were lost in this, but data migration got completed successfully.
Next came time for installing ISE on Ubuntu. First, sourcing ISE itself is a tough task on slow net connections. But I had planned in advance and had started downloading it much earlier.
Finally, ISE part is set up properly. Since, I've now got the Atlys board, I can now set up the Cypress and Digilent toolchains.

Other Procurements:

I also ordered 6x VHDCI Connectors and 1x VMod-BB from the Digilent site directly. They got delivered in 4 days (shipping from US) as opposed to Atlys which took more than 10 days from payment to get delivered!

Exam Season!

And then, we have here in India, this time of exams, in almost all colleges. I had to spend 3 days for the practical exams, which thankfully are over now. But, its just a silence before storm!! We have got around 12 days, after which the Theory Exams will start! #BracingForTheExams

Standby by for a new post next week! with alpha design of PCB and some Atlys tests! Good Bye!

Some More pictures of Atlys! Enjoy:)


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