Breaking The Three Laws


How to achieve a simulator like debugging experience with FPGA-based prototyping

Verdi GUI, the best debugger ever

This week we will discuss the simulator like debugging experience that users of the new HAPS-80 with ProtoCompiler solution get. The new solution includes built-in debug which means that the ProtoCompiler flow incorporates debug and the HAPS-80 hardware has debug capabilities physically built in. The ProtoCompiler flow ensures that the inclusion of debug it mostly seamless to the user and the HAPS-80 built in debug hardware ensures that the advanced capabilities are available without the need to purchase additional hardware.

Customers sadly still tell me that they are using FPGA vendor tools for debug. While these come for free with the vendor tools they are very limited and intrusive to the design being prototyped. Typically you are debugging an FPGA netlist, not the source RTL. The debug is restricted to one FPGA, not multi-FPGA as most prototypes are. They utilize FPGA memory resources for debug data storage which is intrusive to the prototyped design and limits the amount of data that can be stored. Another issue is that these tools only offer one style of debug capabilities, internal signal trace.

There is a better way to debug and this is what is offered with the HAPS-80 and ProtoCompiler Solution. First of all debug is built into the flow from the ground up and is mostly non-intrusive to the user. This addresses the issue that we see all the time, pictured below, where adding debug into the flow breaks a working prototype.

Challenges of Multi-FPGA debug

As debug is built-in from the ground up and automated through-out the flow it’s mostly seamless to the user and non-invasive to the resulting prototype.

HAPS-80 and ProtoCompiler built-in debug solution

Dedicated built in resources on the HAPS-80 hardware manage the synchronization of debug data across multiple FPGA’s and the physical storage of debug data which does not utilize FPGA embedded memory. Debug is done at the source RTL, simulator like with breakpoints, triggers and values over-laid on the original source, regardless of where the RTL ends up in a multi-FPGA prototype. Debug can be dynamic, real-time with the prototype or waveform databases can be captured, VCD and FSDB (Verdi) for post process and debug. Users can rely on the capability as this is the fourth generation of the HAPS Deep trace debug which was first launched along with the HAPS-60 systems.

The HAPS-80 and ProtoCompiler debug solution offers even more debug capabilities in addition to the built in HAPS Deep Trace Debug. The HAPS snapshot style debug enable the prototype clock(s) to be stopped and the contents of almost 100% of the signals and registers to be read-out of the system. HAPS Real Time Debug, seamlessly and mostly invisible to the end user, routes user designated signals out to a Logic Analyzer connection enabling almost limitless capture of the selected signals. Native integration with Verdi and Siloti enables seamless analysis and waveform compare in addition to the use of the signal compression and essential signal database for instrumentation.

So you can see that the new debug capabilities of HAPS-80 with ProtoCompiler deliver the closest to a simulator like experience than ever before.

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Following up from last week you can find a couple of videos from the Science and Technology museum in Shanghai here:

I’m preparing for Halloween and built the below dinosaur backpack and helmet using spray foam. Yes, I can build almost anything in spray foam. The costume is also illuminated with LED’s for better visibility at night

Dino backpack and helmet made of Spray foam with LED's

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