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Eclypse Z7 First Impressions


zygot

Question

First off the two ZMOD offerings by Digilent are well designed with uncommonly good documentation. Well done, and thanks for adding SYSYGY support. I would have preferred a non-ZYNQ platform... but.. The Eclypse Z7 with one ADC and one DAC ZMOD is a good value and sets itself apart from anything else in the Xilinx FPGA development board space. .

Software support is another matter. I realize the effort, due to your framework, is immense and hopefully not complete. It's just too complicated.  I spent almost a day before being able to build and run the Linux based demos for the ADC and DAC ZMODs. Started with a WIn10 Vivado installation and still haven't managed to build anything. It took a while but I did manage to build demo executables for the Linux based projects on Unbuntu 19.10 using the Vivado 2019.1 SDK. Admittedly, I'm not a ZYNQ expert but I can create a Vivado project using one of the available hardware interfaces, build a bitstream and a standalone application for any other Z7xxx board in about 30 minutes from scratch. My advice is to use a Linux host for Eclypse development.

It may be that I'll create a Linux application for the Eclypse/ZMOD one day, but I'll want to run the application from within Linux, not the SDK. Hopefully, the lack of an HDMI output won't be an issue. I'm hoping that you have a path envisioned to let users do that.

My expectation for getting started with this system was to use my normal flow by starting in Vivado, creating a bitstream supporting the SYZYGY ports and use the SDK to create an application. Normally, this is almost trivial. For any of the ZMODs this is impossible as things stand.

Will there be a process for creating a bare-metal standalone bitstream and application in the near future that remotely resembles the 'normal' Xilinx tools flow?

P.S. I can kinda understand the costs of providing a bootable SD card to run the pre-built demos but really... you couldn't afford to provide 8 screws to attach the ZMOD modules to the Exlypse Z7?

Edited by zygot
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28 minutes ago, asmi said:

I don't think that's entirely Digilent's fault.

No argument here on that point. I'm pretty sure that Xilinx has a lot of leverage over Digilent's product plans via pricing assistance. I know how the game is played; and the playing field isn't level.

It's certainly no coincidence that the XC7K160T is supported with the free tools but try and find an affordable platform sporting one. Nuff said, except that it's a shame for customers that the sweet spot is too expensive to use. Pricing is from Xilinx and not at all arbitrary or related to value.  Digilent has experience using the XC7K325T on it's Genesys2 and that would've been a great platform for a SYZYGY spin. Alas, for reasons not public it isn't to be.

For what it's worth I don't think that the Eclypse-Z7 is what the engineers at Digilent wanted to make but what they were told to make.

Having said all of that I bought an Eclypse-Z7 with one of each of the ZMODs knowing, from a hardware perspective, exactly what I was getting into and won't be deterred by forces wanting to frustrate me. It's just not what I want. Perhaps, that's the Xilinx marketing strategy.

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8 minutes ago, zygot said:

It's certainly no coincidence that the XC7K160T is supported with the free tools but try and find an affordable platform sporting one. Nuff said, except that it's a shame for customers that the sweet spot is too expensive to use. Pricing is from Xilinx and not at all arbitrary or related to value.  Digilent has experience using the XC7K325T on it's Genesys2 and that would've been a great platform for a SYZYGY spin. Alas, for reasons not public it isn't to be.

I actually do plan to design a SYZYGY-compatible board with K160 and SODIMM DDR3 memory slot, but I doubt I can get enough volume to even start talking to Xilinx, so I will be forced to pay a full list price for the chip. Hence my desire to use a memory slot instead of soldered-on chips, and a minimum amount of peripherals onboard as this will make the board cheaper (SODIMM DDR3 memory modules can still be found for cheap in pretty much any computer parts store). 

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6 minutes ago, asmi said:

I actually do plan to design a SYZYGY-compatible board with K160

You're a better man than I am, or less aware of what lies ahead. Of course there are other possibilities. Regardless , I applaud you and wish you success. Let me know how it turns out. Perhaps you can sell me one, or a few. I certainly have opinions as to what should be on such a board. BTW, while I do like the concept of a plug and play interface for the FPGA world that's isn't always the best choice. It comes down to choices and objectives. Unfortunately, objectives sometimes are to not encroach on another product and the end result isn't good for anyone.

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1 minute ago, zygot said:

You're a better man than I am, or less aware of what lies ahead. Of course there are other possibilities. Regardless , I applaud you and wish you success. Let me know how it turns out. Perhaps you can sell me one, or a few. I certainly have opinions as to what should be on such a board.

I've designed a bunch of A7/S7 boards (here is one of them designed specifically to be cheap to make and assemble for beginners), so I have some understanding of what would it take to make it happen, and for me the biggest obstacle is to actually find enough free time to sit down and design the board. I would very much like to hear your opinions for the contents, obviously can't promise anything, but I will give them a good consideration as I honestly didn't think too much about it yet. I would like to play with PCIE, so there is going to be a PCIE x4 slot (or edge connector, or both - not sure yet), all 3 HP banks will be taken by DDR3 x64 SODIMM interface, and two more banks will go to 2 SYZYGY ports, but the other 4 GTX transceivers and other 3 IO banks are up for grabs.

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@zygot Regarding the SYSROOT on windows you can follow the updated instructions here.

Download the .zip version of the SYSROOT since it was packed for MS windows (no symbolic links)

NOTE: The SYSROOT variable must be re-added  on windows (something related to a XSDK issue)

Also you might be interested in updating your  SD card image according to this link.

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27 minutes ago, Ionel said:

Also you might be interested in updating your  SD card image according to this link.

Thanks,

Has SYSROOT and the embedded Linux been updated or is there an incompatibility between the Windows and Linux SYROOT file systems?

 

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15 hours ago, zygot said:

Thanks,

Has SYSROOT and the embedded Linux been updated or is there an incompatibility between the Windows and Linux SYROOT file systems?

 

The embedded Linux rootfs has a fix for the TCF agent. There are no known incompatibilities.

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Here are two blurbs from your sales sheet:

The Eclypse Z7 is Digilent's newest FPGA/SoC development board, specifically designed to enable the rapid prototyping and development of embedded measurement systems.

Petalinux is supported out of the box, and pre-built Linux images are accompanied by the API for bulk data transfer. This system allows users to plug in their Zmods of choice and get started prototyping new high-speed measurement, instrumentation and control systems without directly interfacing with the FPGA until desired. With this system, embedded Linux developers can leverage the power of FPGA without possessing hardware expertise.

I've been playing, off and on, with the board for a few weeks now and I have to tell you that neither of the quoted statements have been true for me. I'm still stuck trying to evaluate what it is that I have. Perhaps someone involved in the development of the product can help me out with an explanation of what  are the goals for the product.

You offer a Debian OS but there's no support for actually running anything, even your own demos from within the OS. As far as I can tell it's only good for connecting to the SDK to run 2 Linux demos. But you still have to use the SDK to do anything. The OS doesn't even support FTP to move data between the OS and a host.

The alternative to using the Eclypse OS is to do Bare-Metal application development. Fair enough, but then there's no connectivity beside a slow speed UART. There's the Ethernet PHY but no support, no demo using it.

As of today it's clear to me that any application that I want to do with this board involves ignoring the ARM cores and building custom PL applications using PL memory resources as there is no external memory storage available. This doesn't seem to me to be consistent with the sales pitch. 

To date your DAC ZMOD demos are just adequate but very limited. Your ADC ZMOD demos are an unknown because there's no way to evaluate the rather useless demo output.

So please, someone, help me out with a vision for how you intend to make good on your sales pitch.

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@zygot

The Debain OS was kept to a minimum size thus additional tools can be installed via apt.

SFTP is already built into the image. You can use that or scp.

Or you can install a FTP server. Example:

sudo apt update 
sudo apt install vsftpd

Then connect with ftp://[email protected] . This is less secure if proper configuration is not in place.

The idea is you can customize according to your needs, install only the tools you need.

If the pre-built debian image does not meet your needs, you can follow our instructions to build your own petalinux or for higher degree of control use yocto-project      .

 

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@Ionel,

Thanks. But that really doesn't address my question. There's one competitor to the Eclypse-Z7. That's the BRAIN_1 from Opal Kelly, They really do have a Petalinux FS that runs applications and configures the device. It has 3 standard pods and 1 transceiver pod for about half the price. In all fairness I've never gotten their ADC module to work either; but they don;t make the sales claims that Digilent does, Currently, working with the Eclypse-Z7 involves a whole lot of complexity with very limited, not well integrated, and very usable, Eclypse OS or not, balls to juggle. A user can';t even use the provided demo code to do anything useful much less what they might think they will want to do.

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@zygot,

Your feedback is appreciated. I grabbed an Eclypse Z7 from our stock and am thoroughly working through all of our provided materials and demos. After working through this, I will:

  • Provide feedback to R&D, combined with the points you brought up, so we can work towards improving the user experience
  • Fill any gaps in our getting started materials to ensure easy adoption
  • Revise, as necessary, our product descriptions to make sure the product meets expectations

 

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On 2/25/2020 at 2:34 AM, ramanf said:

i am looking for a HW with 3 X 14bit 100MS/s ADC to capture 50ms per channel simultaneously . the Eclypse-7 has the hardware but reading the ZmodADC1410 Library User Guide i can't figure out how is it possible with a 4k FIFO that doesn't support read and write at the same time.

You might want to consider using the Digilent ADC ZMODs with the Opal Kelly XEM7320 board. This board has a nice 1GB DDR memory that your samples ca be written to directly and a USB 3.0 interface for getting access to them on a PC. You should be able to do 4 channels and more captured samples than you need. You might have some post capture data re-ordering to do but this isn't an issue for designs allowing non-real time post capture data analysis. In theory you could make a 4 channel digital scope with 70 MHz analog bandwidth having better triggering capabilities than your expensive oscilloscope.

I'm in the process of completing a project using the XEM7230 with 2 ADC ZMODs but haven't completed it yet. I can confirm that FrontPanel detects the ZMODs on the XEM7230 correctly and sets the adjustable voltage appropriately. The low level Digilent controller code is adequate unless you need to reconfigure the ADC device on the fly.

Unfortunately, at present the capabilities of the Eclypse-Z7, as currently supported, fall far short of what the board is able to do. I don't however see a path to capturing 50 ms of 100 MHz samples for this board but it sure should be a lot more than 16383 contiguous samples.

A very viable alternative would be a Cyclone V GT Development board with 2 DDC boards attached to the HSMC connectors. You could use a PCIe extender to get captured samples out of the DDR and into a PC using 4 lanes of Gen2 PCIe. Hint: the C5P Linus and Windows drivers work just fine with this board.

Edited by zygot
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On 2/25/2020 at 2:34 AM, ramanf said:

i am looking for a HW with 3 X 14bit 100MS/s ADC to capture 50ms per channel simultaneously . the Eclypse-7 has the hardware but reading the ZmodADC1410 Library User Guide i can't figure out how is it possible with a 4k FIFO that doesn't support read and write at the same time.

 

Yes, the hardware to do that exists. Read this:

https://forum.digilentinc.com/topic/20153-capture-4-channels-of-120-million-adc-samples/

 

Edited by zygot
Inappropriate pitcure associated with the link. now just display the link
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Hello,

I have a question about the Eclypse Z7.
While looking at the schematic I noticed that both the VP and the VN pin of the XADC of the Zynq are connected to ground.
Does this mean that it is not possible to use it e.g. to read in an external signal with it ?

Or is it connected with I/O in another way ?
Or could this also be an error in the schematic ?

Greetings

Screenshot.png

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