CPLD Tutorial: Learn Programmable Logic the Easy Way

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The guys over at hackshed have been busy. [Carl] is making programmable logic design easy with an 8 part CPLD tutorial. Programmable logic devices are one of the most versatile hardware building blocks available to hackers. They also can have a steep learning curve. Cheap Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are plentiful, but can have intricate power requirements. Most modern programmable logic designs are created in a Hardware Description Language (HDL) such as VHDL or Verilog. Now you’ve got a new type of device, a new language, an entirely new programming paradigm, and a complex IDE to learn all at once. It’s no wonder FPGAs have sent more than one beginner running for the hills.

The tutorial cuts the learning curve down in several ways. [Carl] is using Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLD). At the 40,000 foot level, CPLDs and FPGAs do the same thing – they act as re-configurable logic. FPGAs generally do not store their configuration – it has to be loaded from an external FLASH, EEPROM, or connected processor. CPLDs do store their configuration, so they’re ready as soon as they power up. As a general rule, FPGAs contain more configurable logic than CPLDs. This allows for larger designs to be instantiated with FPGAs. Don’t knock CPLDs though. CPLDs have plenty of room for big designs, like generating VGA signals.

[Carl] also is designing with schematic capture in his tutorial. With the schematic capture method, digital logic schematics are drawn just as they would be in Eagle or KiCad. This is generally considered an “old school” method of design capture. A few lines of VHDL or Verilog code can replace some rather complex schematics. [Carl's] simple designs don’t need that sort of power though. Going the schematic capture route eliminates the need to learn VHDL or Verilog.

[Carl's] tutorial starts with installing Altera’s Quartus II software. He then takes the student through the “hardware hello world” – blinking an LED.  By the time the tutorial is done, the user will learn how to create a 4 bit adder and a 4 bit subtractor. With all that under your belt, you’re ready to jump into big designs – like building a retrocomputer.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

3D Printering: Making A Thing With Solidworks, Part II

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Last week we started to Make a Thing  in Solidworks.  We got as far as sketching and extruding the base. This week we’ll make the back portion. We’ll use some of the same techniques in Part I and a few new features such as 3D filleting and the Hole Wizard.

As you know, this is not the first ‘Making a Thing’ tutorial. In case you missed them, the softwares previously covered in the 3D Printering series are:

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3D Printering: Making A Thing With Solidworks, Part I

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Brian has graciously allowed me to hop on the 3D Printering bandwagon to write a brief intro to the wonderful world of Solidworks. We’ll be making the same ‘thing’ as done in the previous ‘Making a Thing’ tutorials:

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Admittedly, most Hackaday readers probably don’t have Solidworks as it is a very expensive program. The main reason we are posting this tutorial is so that you can understand the work flow and compare it to some of the free/open packages out there.

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3D Printering: Making A Thing In FreeCAD, Part II

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It’s time once again for another installment of a Making A Thing tutorial, where I design the same part, over and over again, in multiple 3D design software packages.

Last week we took a look at FreeCAD, a free, open source parametric modeller. It’s an amazingly powerful tool, and not it’s finally time to complete our model of a strange object ripped from the pages of an 80-year-old drafting textbook.

Here’s some links to previous Making A Thing tutorials, doe:

Read on for the second part of our FreeCAD tutorial

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3D Printering: Making A Thing In FreeCAD, Part I

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I’ve been writing these tutorials on making an object in popular 3D modeling programs for a while now, and each week I’ve put out a call for what software I should do next. There is one constant in all those comment threads: FreeCAD. I don’t know if these suggestions reflect the popularity or difficulty of FreeCAD nevermind, it’s totally the difficulty.

FreeCAD is an amazing tool that, if used correctly, can be used to make just about any part, and do it in a manufacturing context. If you need a bauble that’s three times the size of the original, FreeCAD’s parametric modeling makes it easy to scale it up. If you’re designing a thumbscrew and want the head larger while keeping the threads the same, FreeCAD is for you. Basically, you can think of this as a graphical extension of the Thingiverse Customizer. Very powerful, very cool, and unlike a lot of CAD packages out there, free.

Our in-house, overpaid SEO expert (he’s really just a monkey someone trained to use a bullwhip) demands I link to the previous ‘Making a Thing’ tutorials:

The tutorial for FreeCAD continues below.

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KiCad video series: from concept to manufacture

Many of our readers took the habit of using Eagle to design their PCBs. Even if you’ll find plenty of support for this software as well as a lot of parts libraries, the software comes with limitations. The useable board area is limited to 4×3.2 inches, only two signal layers can be used and more importantly the schematics editor can only create one sheet. On the other side, some of you may already know KiCad, a free open source and unrestricted schematics and layout software. [Chris] just tipped us of a video series he made, showing people how to design and build their very first PCB using this software. It’s a simple 555 circuit, but goes through all the steps necessary to design a PCB that costs only $5 through OSHpark… and will blink by the end. All the videos are also embedded after the break.

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GuruBrew’s 15 minute Windows 8 survival guide

GuruBrew Windows 8 Survival Guide

One thing very common to all of us is our reliance on operating systems in our hobby life. If that OS is Windows then you could be in for quite a shakeup with Windows 8. Many readers are Linux or Apple users and couldn’t care less if Microsoft is releasing an entire paradigm shift in desktop navigation. However, you just might find yourself facing this new OS and you’ll look like you’re on training wheels if you don’t get acquainted now, and considering the number of computers being released with Windows 8 its inevitable that day will come soon.

So if you haven’t been behind the wheel of Windows 8 then checkout [Steve’s] Windows 8 Survival Guide from the Guru Brew Tech Show. This is an excellent overview of the new touch screen navigation methods you’ll find in the Windows 8 desktop including hotspots, charms and tiles to name just a few. You’ll also learn tips to get around with a mouse and keyboard. It’s not a complete tutorial on using Windows 8 but you’ll at least know how to navigate, search for apps, work with multiple apps and find tools like task manager, control panel, file explorer as well as your familiar desktop.

Follow the break to watch the short survival guide video.

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