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Which toolset for Cmod F6 (Spartan 6)?


I'm a college professor trying to select a toolchain for an upcoming class based on the Cmod F6 board (a Xilinx Spartan 6).  I am new to FPGAs; moving over from an analog background to cover for a colleague who is retiring, so all this is quite new to me.

Xilinx seems to want new users to use their Vivado toolset rather than ISE Webpack.  In fact, it appears the Vivado is the only choice to run on our lab computers that now run Windows 10.  Vivado supports the Spartan 6 on the Cmod F6, so that part seems to work.  My questions:

1) What is the purpose of Digilent Adept - just to load the binaries or is it a replacement front-end for the Vivado synthesis tool?  Or is it simplest to work entirely within Vivado?  (if not, will Adept work on Win 10?)

2) How does one get the FPGA code to run when power is applied, ie to run from the non-volatile storage?  It seems programming the SPI flash requires Xilix's iMPACT software, which is only available for their deprecated ISE Wepack, not Vivado.  Or does one install just the iMPACT tool from Webpack on top of the Vivado installation?  

I'm sure these are common questions - how to get Digilent's FPGA Cmod board programmed using the current Windows OS; my apologies for being too new to this to figure it out.  Thanks for any guidance that will help my students!

Edited by JimS
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Hi JimS,

No need to apologize for being new, we were all new once!

1. Yes you are correct Adept is a tool to program files to the board and does not do any synthesis or implementation. The thing that I use adept for most often is when I run into compatibilty or driver issues with either Xilinx ISE or Vivado. For example the other day I needed to test a project from ISE and iMPACT couldn't locate my board. I pulled up adept and it programmed my board fine. It's the tool I suggest in lab when any of the students in my lab can't get their board programmed. Adept should work on Windows 10. In other words you could use it in the place of the Vivado Hardware Manager or iMPACT.

"Configuration files can be programmed using Xilinx’s ISE 14.2 (or higher) development tools, using Digilent’s Adept system, or using older versions of the Xilinx tools if Adept is also installed. "

From the reference manual, it looks like using adept is only necessary depending on the version of ISE you have installed. 

2. As for programming the QSPI flash, I found this video that goes through how to do that on the atlys board with iMPACT, you'll have a different device selected, but the process should be about the same. 

If you are using Vivado, you can also program the QSPI flash with the Vivado Hardware Manager, which downloads with vivado. It is analogous to iMPACT for ISE. The Basys 3 programming guide goes through how to do this. 

3. As far as using Vivado vs using ISE. Vivado does not officially support Spartan 6 devices, however jcolvin found this blog post about how to get it to work. Neither of us have done it though and its not officially supported to I'm not sure if it works or how intensive a process it is. The comments seem to suggest that it does work.

4. Although Windows 10 is not officially supported by ISE there is a workaround for getting ISE to work on Windows 10. I myself have gotten this to work with Windows 8 but haven't tried Windows 10. This post suggests the same workaround for Windows 10.

Hope this helps!


Edited by KaitlynFranz
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