[svlug] Status report: Getting Xilinx tools to work on Linux

Bob Smith bsmith at linuxtoys.org
Tue Mar 7 00:29:32 PST 2006

TO:   Home Brew Robotics Club
       Silicon Valley Linux Users Group

WHAT: This note briefly describes how to get the Xilinx FPGA
       development tools to work on Linux

To learn FPGA design I followed in the steps of Chris Palmer
of the HBRobotics Club and ordered a Digilent "Spartan-3 Board"
for $99.  You can order one at http://www.digilentinc.com/

Download the Xilinx free WebPACK 8.1i development software
from the Xilinx web site.  You have to register, but it is not
too intrusive.  The download is almost 900MB.  Xilinx provides
an IDE that looks like a C and Tcl/Tk wrapper around a bunch
of command line tools.  Instead of trying to keep up with the
latest kernels and libraries, Xilinx just puts every library
and executable it needs into the download and makes the tool
completely self-contained.  They missed libXm.so.3 and I had
to copy it from a Fedora Core 3 system.  (They built the IDE
on Red Hat Enterprise Edition 3).  For the record, I use
Mandriva 2006 but it does not seem to matter too much which
distribution you use.

The key to getting the Xilinx tools to work on Linux is to
follow the directions at http://gentoo-wiki.com/HOWTO_Xilinx
This page tells where to download, and how to install the
parallel port drivers for the JTAG programming cable that
comes with the kit.

As root, install the software with "sh WebPACK_81i_SFD.sh".
Run the software as root and select HELP->Software_Updates
to get the latest updates from the Xilinx web site.

The quick start is in Xilinx/doc/usenglish/books/docs/qst.pdf.
Open this with xpdf or evince and follow the directions to
create, build, and download a four bit counter.  I made a
typo error when editing the design and the tools wouldn't
let me proceed until I fixed the error.

I am just learning Verilog / VHDL but I'd be happy to help
if you want help getting to your first download of an FPGA

Bob Smith

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