Friday, April 28, 2017

LatticeSemi Brokenness

While I'm ragging on vendors for their stupidity, let me turn my attention to Lattice Semiconductor and their broken support for their own demonstration boards.

I've previously written about the Lattice iCEblink40-HX1K demo board. This little board sells for $40 and has several Pmod compatible interface ports. When I designed my VFD Driver test board I decided to use this demo board (which I already own) to drive it. Now that the test boards are in fab I thought I'd load the latest iCEcube2 development environment and get started on some Verilog.

I'd forgotten that the last time I tried to program this board I struggled and faild to get their programming software to talk to the board, despite it having a USB programming interface on the board. This time I read the documentation more closely, and discovered that they dropped support for the on-board programming interface in 2014. Seriously? They expect you to buy one of their programming "cables" (pod) for $162.50 to program a $40 experimenter's board?

Searching the 'net I found two documented solutions. One is to load an older version of the development environment. The other is to use a set of completely open-source tools to synthesize, place-and-route, and program the chip. I'm going to use the former for simplicity.

A third possibility may be to use the Adept programming software from Digilent, as it seems Lattice used their tech for the programming interface on the iCEblink40 series of demo boards.

The newer iCEstick and iCE40-HX8K breakout board uses a non-proprietary FT-2232H for the USB interface, and doesn't suffer from this stupidity. If you want to play with a Lattice demo board, avoid the iCEblink40 series!

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