Use FPGAs the easy way with Alien Cortex AV

alien_cortex_av_fpga_board

Hackaday reader [Louis] wrote in to call our attention to a neat project over at Kickstarter that he thought would interest his fellow readers. The AlienCortex AV is a pre-built FPGA board from [Bryan Pape] with gobs of ports and a ton of potential. At the heart of the board is an Xilinx PQ208 Spartan 3e 500k FPGA, which can be configured to perform any number of functions. The board sports a healthy dose of analog and digital I/O pins as you would expect, along with PS/2 inputs, VGA outputs, and even a pair of Atari-compatible joystick ports.

The AlienCortex software package allows users to easily load projects into the FPGA, which can run up to four different emulated microcontrollers at once. The software comes with half a dozen pre-configured cores out of the box, with others available for download as they are built. The default set of cores includes everything from a 32-channel logic analyzer, to a quad processor Arduino-sketch compatible machine.

Now, before you cry foul at the fact that he’s emulating Arduinos on a powerful and expensive FPGA, there’s nothing stopping you from creating an army of whatever microcontrollers you happen to prefer instead. We’re guessing that if you can run four Arduinos on this board at once, a good number of PICs could be emulated simultaneously alongside whatever other uC you might need in your next robotics project. A single board incorporating several different microcontrollers at once doesn’t sound half bad to us.

Comments

  1. Alex Parting says:

    That’s a decent price for that kit. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t gotten into FPGA’s to try it out. Personally I use Altera so I don’t know about the quality of Xilinc free software (or even how to spell their name). Quartus is pretty good, the Terasic Altera DE1 is great if you want to go Altera.

  2. Alex Parting says:

    out of interest why is this tagged with arduino microcontroller msp430 and pic?

  3. CustardCat says:

    @alex – obsession with arduinos? ;-)

    Really though, I think this board is great, but surely if you really wanted four microcontrollers on a board it would be cheaper to just buy four microcontrollers.
    What you really get from using an FPGA is the parallelism and raw speed which can be used for many things including DSP, FFT etc.. which are harder or slower on a micro.
    I’d be interested to see how this develops and what imaginative uses people dream up for this board.

  4. CustardCat says:

    @alex (again) Xilinx provide a free development environment for Windows and (Ubuntu) Linux called ISE Webpack (http://www.xilinx.com/support/download/index.htm) It’s pretty good and provides a development environment as well as a programming environment designed to use the Xilinx Platform Cable. The Linux install is a little bit of a chore. There are some hoops to go through to get the USB Platform cable going, but once sorted it’s ok.
    I did a bit of a write up here -> http://custard-cat.blogspot.com/2010/12/xilinx-coolrunner-ii-on-xubuntu.html

    HTH

  5. ejrwktj says:

    How easy is it to develop for this thing from Linux?

  6. kobilica says:

    Alex, because you can emulate those on it. But, if you have 4 of Arduinos, PICs or whatever, how do you program either with specific code?

  7. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi kobilica,

    Good question… This was actually the most challenging part of AlienCortex’s design. In a multicore configuration, one of the four AVR cores serves as a bootloader on startup for itself and the other cores… (copying all the core’s program data from SPI flash into the synchronous SRAM chip)… sort of acting as a BIOS in a way. This is all handled transparently.

    The “Core-Pack” included with AlienCortex AV also doubles as a GUI based programmer for the board, allowing you to determine which soft-processor is to be programmed with a particular program or sketch. It can also be driven using command-line switches so that it can integrate easily with most AVR compilers.

    Bryan Pape
    Fabulous Silicon

  8. Ross says:

    There has been some controversy that this project is not the work of the person on kickstarter. Just thought the community should know.

  9. lilozzy says:

    It must also be mentioned that FPGAs can also be used for making your own custom hardware, not just putting different microcontrollers in them. FPGAs are more powerful and useful than that.

  10. Mike says:

    I’d recommend anyone getting an FPGA to use it as it was originally intended – making massive amounts of parallel operations at incredibly high speeds, rather than confining using it to emulate Harvard/von Neumann microcontrollers.

  11. fell says:

    The Papilio One over at papilio.cc is a similar product that is already available and has some good tutorials.

  12. Chuckt says:

    Ross, Where is the controversy?

  13. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Ross,

    I’ve heard this as well, but no one ever seems to say in what way.

    At any rate, you should know that the hardware for AlienCortex AV was designed entirely from the ground up, and I make it a point to acknowledge the original authors of the open sourced cores that have been ported to AlienCortex, both the Kickstarter website as well as the Fabulous Silicon site.

    Thanks,
    Bryan

  14. vtl says:

    Not too interesting using it to emulate some crappy mirco code. The advantage of an FPGA is superior speed and pipelining operations.

    How many logic elements are there in this? An Terasic Altera DE-0 nano is about ~$80 or so from Digikey plus shipping.

    To be honest its probably better in the long run to be able to synthesize vhdl code with proper tools rather than programming and emulating microcontroller code. This product doesn’t seem to incorporate many of the large advantages of an FPGA, although that logic analyser is handy if it actually has 100MHz bandwidth

  15. Abbott says:

    I agree with Mike… FPGA’s are amazingly useful devices that can run any number of complex digital circuits. If it’s digital, and you can somehow describe it in code, you can pretty much make it. Have a new 9-core processor idea? Code it up, burn it over, and viola, you’re simulating it.

    Even learning simple things like how a bunch of logic gates will work when wired together can easily be simulated on an FPGA.

  16. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi vtl,

    Thanks for your thoughts…

    The advantage of emulating a microcontroller is not for the mere sake of emulating a microcontroller. I agree that would be ridiculous (and expensive!). The advantage in modeling a microcontroller in HDL is to take powerful FPGA cores that would otherwise be inaccessible to most hobbyist and provide a “familiar” front end.

    The Alien Song core, for example, is a powerful VHDL synth. Adding an AVR compatible core makes it programable by almost anyone.

    The Xtreme-G core does the same with a graphics and sound engine (thanks to James Bowman’s Gameduino core).

    With regard to using the “proper” tools, there’s a Xilinx jtag port making the board accessible to all of the Xilinx tools.

    And about the nano, I kinda think that you’re talking about oranges and apples. The nano is a neat board with an FPGA, but it’s really designed for someone wanting to develop just for FPGAs. I designed AlienCortex as a powerful softprocessor development platform, with Arduino sketch and shield compatibility, really cool preconfigured cores, and (thanks to MikroElektronika) three awesome compilers.

    The fact that AlienCortex is being driven by an FPGA has really always been quite secondary in my mind in terms of what i designed this platform to be.

    AlienCortex AV was specifically intended to do three things really well… video games, robotics, and synthesizers… and be as easy as possible to use and to program. I’m quite happy to say that it’s met (and exceeded) these design objectives in spades :-)

    -Bryan

  17. adam says:

    It says that we could develop our own VHDL code using the xilinx program(i used the same chip last semester in a computer design class). Does that require a jtag programming cable? Also is restoring it back to using the cores just the same process as changing between each core?

  18. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Adam,

    Core-Pack can program the FPGA and/or the Numonyx SPI chip over the USB cable, so a Xilinx JTAG cable is not at all required to create your own cores and load them to AlienCortex AV.

    If those doing a lot of FPGA development, the Xilinx JTAG is there so that you can program the FPGA or SPI chip directly from Xilinx’s Impact, and also to allow you to be able to use tools like Chipscope pro.

  19. Stefan says:

    Another cheap FPGA Evaluation Board is the Brevia from Lattice. Costs only 49 $ and comes with a parallel port JTAG cable, preprogrammed with an 8 Bit uC softcore.
    The Lattice Diamond IDE runs also on Linux and Windows.
    For the first steps with an FPGA the Brevia is really nice. The IDE from Lattice I found also more intuitive than the one from Xilinx. But this is just my personal opinion.

  20. third says:

    @Hackaday

    The FPGA used is a Xilinx Spartan XC3S500E, a Spartan-3E of 500K gates equivalent (in other words, the FPGA is roughly equivalent to 500000 basic logic gates.) The PQ208 is just the package, probably the least interesting thing about the FPGA.

  21. Alex Parting says:

    @kobilica, there is likely to be some on board memory even if they share the same chunk you can always offset each one so it has it’s own section.

  22. _txf_ says:

    @Ross

    Care to expand on that? Or are you just trolling?

  23. Bryan Pape says:

    Alex is correct. :-) There’s a 512KB Synchronous RAM chip that runs at a high clock speed that’s a multiple of the clock speed of a single softprocessor…. so… if you have a single soft-processor running at 16MHz, and you’re running four of them, then the SSRAM chip is clocked at 64MHz.

    The timing of the softprocessor cores is fanned out such that only one is accessing the SSRAM chip at a time.

    In order to provide each one with it’s own memory space, the most significant bits of the ram’s address bus are actually being triggered by the same clock signal that clocks the soft-processors themselves.

  24. Eelcor says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Just wanted to say that I am really impressed with the board and all the accessoires/software you offer with it.

    I have been experimenting with the Altera DE1 and Altera DE0 nano and I’ve got some Lattice stuff as well.

    As for tooling, I am a fan of Quartus and I am looking into the Xilinx webpack. I don’t like the lattice brevia and ECP3 versa. Each expansion header has different pinouts. Terasic provides a standard, which makes it pretty easy to migrate.

    As far as I can see, a good fpga environment provides you with useful IP to start and the right configuration to design digital systems yourself. I think you hit the sweet spot on both ends and if I hadn’t spent my money on the DE1 and 0 I would most certainly buy your board.

    It would be nice however to have an extended version (larger FPGA) as well, a 1200 or 1600.

    Bravo, keep up the good work!

    Kind regards, Eelco

  25. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Eelco,

    Thanks for your comments :-) I just can’t wait to see what everyone does with them once the production run is done!

    And I do think it would be a neat thing to extend the platform in the future with a bigger chip… but there’s a lot of power in a 500K chip, and I really wanted to keep the first AC board as affordable, while still being able to implement all the fun stuff :-)

    -Bryan

  26. Ryan says:

    Scanned through the post and site.
    So far it only looks like a rebranded Digilent Nexys2 board with some pre-built projects provided.
    VGA output for video out, anything for video in?

  27. Jack Gassett says:

    Here are a couple of fun facts about Bryan Pape and the Alien Cortex board:

    1) 1 year ago Bryan Pape was couch surfing and jobless. I gave him a place to live, gave him a job, and gave him full access to all internal Papilio resources.
    2) 1 year ago Bryan had ZERO FPGA experience and minimal circuit board design experience. The job I gave him was to help PROMOTE the Papilio FPGA boards.
    3) After two months Bryan was asked to leave because of erratic behavior that was detrimental to the Papilio project.
    4) A visual inspection of the Alien Cortex picture shows troubling resemblance to the Papilio Arcade kit. A visual inspection and the history involved raises the suspicion that the Alien Cortex is in violation of the Creative Commons licensing of the Papilio design. There are several functional blocks that are the same and an overwhelming amount of physical connectors are the exact same parts used by the Papilio.
    5) A large part of the functionality that Bryan is promoting are the same things that I pioneered for the Papilio and showed him while discussing a promotional strategy for the Papilio.
    http://hackaday.com/2009/11/19/avr8-virtual-processor-on-fpga/
    http://hackaday.com/2010/04/08/arduino-implemented-on-an-fpga/
    http://www.gadgetfactory.net/blog/?p=187
    http://www.gadgetfactory.net/blog/?p=371

    Decide for yourself, is such a sophisticated design something that can so easily be accomplished in the six months he is claiming? Or do the facts presented raise questions?

  28. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I think Digilent makes great boards that serve as excellent reference platforms for FPGA developers. AlienCortex AV wasn’t designed as a reference platform… instead, it’s a gaming platform, a robotics platform, and a circuit benders platform. It just happens to use an FPGA as the chip where all the magic happens.

    With that said, I would say that AlienCortex AV is a much more engaging platform for someone to learn about FPGAs by providing the means to put a really powerful chip to use in creative ways without having to fully grasp HDL concepts first. They can ease into it.

    And no… no video in, but with 54 digital I/O pins, it’s not outside the realm of possibility :-)

  29. Bryan,

    Do you have plans to release the schematics anytime soon? I’m interested to see how everything is set up.. I’m trying to get into FPGA development. I expect to order one of these things once I get the money :)

    Andrew

  30. Bryan Pape says:

    Jack is right on a couple of things, but now we’ll fill in the gaps…

    I did work with him for a couple of months to try to help push the Papilio One, and we had a falling out. At that time, I was fully vested in promoting his product, but there was often contention between us, and rarely did we ever agree on priorities or what direction to move forward with.

    Upon leaving, I was interested in creating an open-source platform for digital synthesizers (which is still on the horizon). The design for that took about 4 months and details are posted here:

    http://forums.adafruit.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=17989

    AlienCortex AV stemmed from this synthesizer design Jack… not yours.

    Indeed, we both use Ruslan Lepetenok’s opensource AVR8 core on an FPGA (as do many others who have downloaded it from OpenCores.org), but that’s really where the similarities between the Papilio One and AlienCortex AV end.

    The fact is that the Papilio One is a great FPGA board for someone on a budget. I’ve never knocked it, but I specifically designed AlienCortex AV to be all the things I wished the Papilio One could have been.

    With that said, I’m happy to show a lineage of the design and the progression of the design files as they came together over several months that would show without a doubt that AlienCortex AV is entirely original.

    I’m truly sorry that you feel it necessary to try to make accusations like these. The reality is that you feel threatened by a competitor, and chose to make accusations that hold no weight when anyone with two eyes can see the the dramatic differences between the two boards.

    -Bryan

  31. Jack Gassett says:

    Just presenting facts not accusations.

    The AVR8 is indeed developed by Ruslan Lepetenok and anyone is able to download it from Opencores and use it. It did however take 2 months of simulation and trial and error to develop the tools to make it run C code on the Papilio board since there is no external JTAG programmer like that required by the Opencores code…

  32. Ross says:

    @_txf_ @Bryan

    I think the controversy found the post. Not trying to troll just thought people should be aware that there was this debate and that it should surface. Open source hardware is a wonderful thing and I fully support it and it saddens me that this situation is as such. I’m not a hardware expert nor am I an FPGA expert so I personally cannot determine the veracity of either Bryan’s claims or Jacks. My impression is that there at the very least has been some sort of interaction between the developer of the Papilio board and this new board and at one point or another there was some knowledge transfer. Bryan keeps stating that his board is entirely his own, Jack says that it borrows from some of his designs. That is the issue at hand and I think that the discussions between Jack and Bryan in an open forum will help people make a decision regarding the veracity of both their claims (I already know more now than I did when I posted as they have both been commenting). I’m not an invested party either way, just someone who felt that these issues should be brought up as I respect Hack-a-day and its community and know the impact a posting here can have on the directions individual hackers take.

    Ross

  33. that1guy says:

    Can you two take your bickering elsewhere, please?

  34. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Andrew… what’ll probably help you out the most in determining the layout is the UCF files that maps out how the FPGA I/O pins are mapped externally.

    If you email me at bryan@fabuloussilicon.com , I’ll be happy to send you a copy.

  35. _txf_ says:

    @Ross

    You are of course right. And it good to know these things; however this being the internet one tends to view unsubstantiated comments with some skepticism

  36. Ross says:

    @_txf_,

    I agree about the internet and unsubstantiated comments and I’m sorry I didn’t substantiate my comment right then. I sincerely wanted to but unfortunately I was aware of the controversy through an e-mail list I am on after I posted to the list about this very kickstarter project (I found the idea of multi-core Atmega chip emulation interesting and we have some MAME / Arcade enthusiasts on the list) and didn’t feel it was appropriate to copy/paste other people’s e-mails.

    Ross

  37. Bryan Pape says:

    Actually Ross, I have a different proposition… I personally feel that the only way to really settle this once and for all in true hack-a-day style is to have a public dual between two FPGA-controlled autonomous robots. Jack’s and mine.

    We’d could just set a date and a time, and pre-establish any constraints that the robots would have to meet (i.e. with regard to size, weaponry, etc…. we should just make sure that we don’t have a DARPA Hummer meeting a line tracer… :-)

    We could both take video and pics as our designs are being created/developed, and will be released online after the dual, so that others can see how we build the bots, and see how we figure out things like how to effectively counterbalance the chainsaws with flamethrowers. :-)

  38. Robin Debreuil says:

    I’ve used the Papilio a fair bit and looked over your board, and it does seem very similar. If you had worked with Jack on the Papilio at any point, I have no idea why you don’t want to credit it. I looked through your Kickstarter page and didn’t see a mention there either, but maybe I missed it.

    This line:

    “I specifically designed AlienCortex AV to be all the things I wished the Papilio One could have been.”

    is exactly what drives open source, take a project, fork it, make it what you like. Awesome, but it’s rare people don’t credit back the people and projects that helped along the way (and with cc I believe it is even required).

  39. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for voicing your thoughts. I’m going to take this one opportunity to respond thoroughly to all of this, only because I think that a few things have to be set right. Beyond this point however, I’m done talking about it.

    I know that you’re quite familiar with open-source and creative attribution, as we all are, but I think that it’s only fair that we make a clear distinction between a *derivative* work vs a *new design*…

    If Chevy makes a car with bucket seats one year, and Ford implements bucket seats the next year, no one would accuse Ford of “ripping off” Chevy’s design. It would be kinda silly actually. This is just the way the marketplace responds to the desires of consumers and in response to the competition. Neither company invented the bucket seat, so it’s silly to suggest that one is a “derivitive” work of the other.

    Conversely, if Ford designed a car directly (or even parially) from Chevy’s blueprints, then that where there’s infringement, and that’s where the difference lies. It’s pretty black and white.

    If I’d used Jack’s design of the Papilio One (i.e. his schematics, etc) when creating AlienCortex AV, then sure… I’d expect to get some heat about it. But that’s just it… I didn’t… and he knows it, and I’m confident in being able to defend that on every level. The funny thing is that no one ever is willing to bring this discussion to the technical/design level.. because that’s where the opposing arguments fall apart.

    Jack has never actually shown that *any* aspect of AlienCortex’s design that was derived from any of his work, but instead only uses very “suggestive” twitters using catch-phrases like “There are troubling similarities… You decide”

    I’ve actually come to think that he might do well working for a political campaign advertising firm, because these are methods that come right from the playbook on how to run a negatively suggestive ad campaign in an attempt to smear a political opponent (or in this case, a product or it’s developer) with techniques like these.

    What he knows is that by merely planting a *suggestion* with someone who might be a potential backer on Kickstarter or a potential future vendor might be just enough to keep them from doing so. He also hopes that he *might* drive a little more traffic to his site at the same time because he couples each of his innuendoes with a little info on his product and a link to his website.

    It’s a shrewd business decision driven by the fact that he sees AlienCortex AV as a threat to his sales. If you read carefully, his phrasing, word choice, everything is specifically intended mislead, but always falls just short of a direct accusation of wrongdoing… because he knows that this could have legal implications since it he wouldn’t be able to back that up. nature of his attacks is very… only that they will negatively impact the image of me and my product, and potentially boost his own sales.

    Here’s another shady technique he’s used to mislead: The use of some statements where he uses the word “fact”, closely intermingled with statements that are only strongly suggestive, but for which he can provide no basis for. This is a technique used by lawyers in courtrooms and advertisers on TV everyday. Mix a fact or two in closely enough with innuendo and most people will interpret them as the same. In reality, this nothing short of deception.

    Jack states that I was new to FPGAs about a year ago. He’s absolutely right, but as all of us who work in technology related fields are aware, it becomes increasingly easy to grasp new concepts as you gain expertise, only because you acquired a core base of understanding over time of the fundamentals. My point being that I already had about 25 years of very in depth experience with computers and electronics before working with FPGAs. This made it easy to learn about FPGAs. In addition to that, I was already a very fluent Delphi/Pascal programmer, and the syntax of VHDL was based in Pascal… so yes… I learned FPGAs rapidly given my past experience.

    Jack suggested that I had minimal PCB layout skills. This one’s actually plain false. The fact is that I’d even successfully designed two products prior to working with him… one is an MSP430 based modem used by a major European telecommunications company to bridge old-style Telex devices over to the Internet. (I designed the hardware for the device, and an associate designed the firmware.) I’d even personally built over 250 of these by hand. (One is even displayed in the Alien Autopsy photos on Kickstarter).

    The other product (which never made it to the marketplace, but was indeed a functional design) was a cheap $100 adapter I’d invented that allowed you to use a standard fax machine as a front-end for fax services like EFax and other fax-to-email type services. It was actually pretty cool, but was made obsolete by an IP fax protocol (T.38) that came out before I was ready to market it.

    What it all boils down to is the fact is that I could have stuck a Spartan 3e chip on a watermelon, and Jack would be crying foul if it gained traction in the marketplace.

    Fundamentally, this whole discussion has nothing to do with accrediting someone or not accrediting them, deservedly or not.

    It boils down to the fact that AlienCortex AV quickly gained a lot of attention and traction because it’s an innovative product that satisfies a consumer demand in the marketplace for an easy to use platform for FPGAs, and Jack sees this as a potential threat to his sales.

    His reaction *should* be to recognize those things that people like about AlienCortex AV and strive to find a way to make his products more competitive in the marketplace as a result.

    I’m a firm believer in the idea that competition is what causes innovation to thrive in the marketplace… and I’d encourage him to design something totally awesome to keep me on my toes for AlienCortex AV 2.0 :-)

    Thanks,
    Bryan

  40. H3llphyre says:

    General comment, I love that FPGAs are making their way into the DIY crowd.

    On the drama… it’s open source. If someone wasn’t using your design, THAT would be the insult.

    Plus, this is *HACK*aday… geez, come on…

  41. Gil says:

    Yes it’s open source, but Brian should at least acknowledge everything he has learn from the Papilio project..

    Gil

  42. Jack Gassett says:

    The issue is very clear cut, Bryan is doing a LOT of talking when all he has to do is simply release his Alien Cortex design and we will be able to tell in 10 minutes if it is in violation of the Creative Commons license or not.

    Come on Bryan, is your design Open Source or not? Release your circuit board design and lets put this all to rest.

    My only concern is that the Alien Cortex is violating the Creative Commons license by not giving the Papilio any attribution, lets not muddy the waters with anything else.

  43. Bryan Pape says:

    Jack,

    With regard to the license for AlienCortex’s hardware and software, it’s a good question, as it is important for Kickstarter backers (and potential backers) to know if AlienCortex AV is to be an open-sourced or closed-source design…

    The policies of “if”, “when”, and “how” various aspects of the AlienCortex AV platform will be released were decided upon a few months ago prior to the launch on Kickstarter.

    The intention is both to give back to the open-source community, but also reasonably protect the interests of a new business and a new platform in it’s infancy:

    Cores that include open-source code will naturally be fully open-sourced as AlienCortex AV ships, as they should be.

    Commercial cores that are licensed from a third party for use with the AlienCortex AV platform will not be open-sourced. (This doesn’t apply to any of the currently announced cores).

    Core-Pack will remain closed source, as it will also be used as a means to protect commercial cores and applications that may be included free or offered at a discount by third parties to AlienCortex AV users.

    Files for AlienCortex AV and other Fabulous Silicon hardware designs will be released either in a “hopscotch” fashion (meaning that one is released as another product is released) or may be released even sooner… at least with regard to schematics, but with a later for PCB layouts. (Basically similar to the way x0xb0x was initially released.)

    So to answer your question… yes, it will end up being open-sourced, but on a schedule that provides a reasonable moratorium to protect it from early cloning.

    -Bryan

  44. Robin Debreuil says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Would you be ok with a third party reviewing your board designs, say someone from hack-a-day, to confirm they are not based on the Papilio?

  45. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi Robin,

    That’s a great idea! Absolutely! :-)

  46. Bryan Pape says:

    I think it’s also fair to ask from my end that upon confirmation of my design’s originality, Jack agree to promptly delete *all* twitter comments and other misleading statements that make any reference to AlienCortex AV, Fabulous Silicon, or even this thread, and go about his own business without further ado.

    Additionally, I would also respectfully put in a request to hack-a-day that this comment thread be purged of all the drama once this is settled, and be returned to what it should be… a discussion about a new FPGA-based development platform.

    Jack, I do have a lot of respect for you and your products, (although this experience might lead me to suggest other methods of how to respond to competition in the marketplace… ;-) ) Despite all that, I think you’re a great engineer, innovator, and *still* (despite all of what’s transpired) would even recommend the Papilio One as a great Spartan breakout board for someone looking for a board in that price range.

    But for the amount of time I’ve spent designing AlienCortex AV (which is really all I’ve done since January), creating it’s tools, and building relationships with third parties who are also backing this platform, I really think I deserve a fair opportunity to bring this board to the marketplace without being given this obstacle course of this kind of online harassment that I’ve had to endure from you on Twitter that started two days after it was launched, and now on hack-a-day. I think you also probably know that it’s time for this to stop.

    Robin, please email me at bryan@fabuloussilicon.com (or even as a comment…) to provide me any details as to how you’d like to arrange a review of the design files… and I also thank you for being the one to provide a clear solution to all this.

    Thanks,
    Bryan

  47. Jack Gassett says:

    Bryan, this is not about nor ever has been about blocking or harassing a competitor. It’s a little arrogant to think that the Alien Cortex is the only board that has come along that is “competition” for the Papilio. What about the excellent Xess Xula board? Or James Bowmans excellent Gameduino? Or the commercial offerings like the Avnet and Digilent boards? I am an FPGA enthusiast, I am excited to see new boards come onto the market. As each one of these boards come onto the market I simply think, “Wow, I want one of those!”. Ask James Bowman, we shared a table at Maker Faire. I shared every piece of advice and knowledge that I had learned from the Papilio with James. I was promoting his board just as much as I was the Papilio. I want his Open Source FPGA project to flourish, even if it means people will choose his board over the Papilio.

    The difference is that these other projects understand and respect Open Source, you do not. Open Source is about working together to make new and unique things. Building off others work and adding something of value to that work while providing attribution and transparency. It’s NOT about taking an Open Source design, making it into what you always wanted it to be, not releasing the source, not providing attribution, and then presenting it as your own work to make a couple bucks.

    The Gameduino source is available, the Xula source is available, and the Papilio source is available. These hard working Open Source developers have not needed “protection during their infancy”, the designs have been available from the beginning. There should be no need for a third party review, anyone should be able to look and decide for themselves.

    Lets be clear, this is about what is admittedly a closed source design possibly violating an Open Source Creative Commons license. Until you release your design it has to be considered closed source, period.

  48. Bryan Pape says:

    Jack,

    I just agreed yesterday to a thorough evaluation of all my design files, and I did so because I know that it will put this issue to rest, and show undeniably that this is not “based off your work”.

    Let it go dude. You’re pursuing this to everyone’s detriment, and you’ve locked on to this because for you, it somehow something personal.

    You have yet to cite a *SINGLE* example of how you believe I’ve infringed on your design.

    Now here’s really the truly ridiculous part of your argument that may not be evident to the casual observer… The Papilio One is fundamentally a BREAKOUT BOARD for a chip. It’s primary purpose is to route the i/o pins of a Spartan Chip to headers. That’s it!

    And the hysterical part is that I DON’T EVEN DO THAT… All the I/O is either directly tied to the SSRAM chip, or pass through voltage level translators. How can you POSSIBLY suggest that there’s similarity?

    What’s more is that AlienCortex AV DOESN’T EVEN USE THE SAME SPARTAN 3E CHIP PACKAGE.

    By that alone It is IMPOSSIBLE that this would have even been close to a derivative design. That’s why this is all so totally absurd.

    You gotta give it up man… Seriously. You’re trying to pick a way and attack me from every angle to find something that isn’t there.

    -Bryan

  49. James Bowman says:

    Yep, confirming Jack and I shared table at Maker Faire and Jack is a maker who is totally into sharing his work and knowledge with others, even with people whose products overlap his. Which is all the more impressive when you consider that this is Jack’s livelihood, not a side thing.

  50. Bryan Pape says:

    Hi James,

    Everyone who’s shown up on this thread in support of Jack over this issue has had a pre-existing relationship with him, and in most cases were likely asked directly by Jack to post here.

    I’m the new guy on the block with a new product. Jack has lots of “clout” in this scene, and it’s made it very easy for him to “rally the troops” against me and AlienCortex AV.

    Understand that I’m totally about being open and sharing as well… In fact I used to teach for that very reason… but gimme a break… lol… it’s only been just over *two weeks* since AlienCortex AV launched on Kickstarter. I haven’t even had the *slightest* opportunity to establish even a *thread* of history with the community with regard to “openness and sharing”, and I’ve made it quite clear what my intentions are for release of the AlienCortex AV design.

    Instead, everyone’s being rallied up and pit against me because of some sort of open-source “witch hunt” incited by a competitor of mine who doesn’t like a little bit of competition.

    You should also know that I think that the Gameduino is a terrific project, and I’ve been very particular in making sure that you and the Gameduino have full recognition as a contributing factor in the development of the Xtreme-G core. I would think that is clearly demonstrative of my desire to give attribution when it’s appropriate and deserved. Furthermore, I’ve also made it clear as day that the Alien Xtreme-G core will be released open source. So what gives?

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