Is Parallella really open?

Is Parallella really open?

Postby hdecharn » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:02 am

Hi,
I am writing to enquire about Parallella's board. I am creating my own operating system—for educational purpose—and I am looking for an open platform. A wide range of ARM based boards include SoCs with proprietary boot ROMs and drivers.
My questions are:
– How much open is Parallella? Does it require proprietary drivers and/or ROMs—to run correctly?
– What are Zinq-7000 and Epiphany III boot sequence?
Thank you in advance for your reply.
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby ysapir » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:09 am

Yes, the Parallella is an open platform, as much as it gets. All the source files, schematics, part lists and documentation are available for free download.

The Parallella computer boots up as a linux computer, running on the Zynq's ARM processor(s). The Epiphany is an accelerator, being loaded and controlled by a host application running on the Zynq.
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby hdecharn » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:17 am

OK. And what about boot process? Does it require a specifiq bootloader? (Eg: Raspberry Pi, ODROIDs, etc. require U-Boot. Parallella too?)
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby 9600 » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:09 pm

hdecharn wrote:OK. And what about boot process? Does it require a specifiq bootloader? (Eg: Raspberry Pi, ODROIDs, etc. require U-Boot. Parallella too?)


Yes, Parallella uses U-boot also.

Cheers,

Andrew
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby hdecharn » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:26 pm

9600 wrote:Yes, Parallella uses U-boot also.

What I meant was: is U-Boot necessary, or can I use another bootloader? I ask this because some SoCs require signed bootloaders.
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby Gravis » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:59 pm

hdecharn wrote:
9600 wrote:Yes, Parallella uses U-boot also.

What I meant was: is U-Boot necessary, or can I use another bootloader? I ask this because some SoCs require signed bootloaders.

you can use any bootloader you wish, it's merely a matter of writing the software to run on the Zync chip. there is no signing or any DRM junk.

Parallella is completely open source, so if you really felt compelled, you could replace the Zync bitstream (it's a FPGA) with VHDL of your own that would use the Epiphany as the CPU (instead of co-processor) but that's a lot of work.

all the code, VHDL and hardware design files are all here for your hacking pleasure: https://github.com/parallella

Parallella really is open.
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby hdecharn » Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:46 pm

Gravis wrote:You can use any bootloader you wish, it's merely a matter of writing the software to run on the Zync chip. There is no signing or any DRM junk.

OK. Great. I'm gonna love this project! :D
Thank you for your replies.
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby DeanoC » Sat May 17, 2014 4:18 pm

Sorry for the thread necromancy...

Parellela Open sourceness
Board : Open HW and Open SW (including FPGA chip interconnect RTL)
Boot + Kernel: Open SW and Open HW.
Epiphany: Open SW not Open HW (free development but no chip RTL)
Zynq: Open SW for PS (Arm Cores) but its not Open HW and the PL (FPGA) is closed SW as well
HDMI: Not Open SW or Open HW.

Its currently the most Open Source platform I know of. Its on par with the OpenRisc FPGA board you can obtain. Personally the only one that bothers me is lack of Zynq FPGA open SW, the bitstream can only be produced using closed source tools and has a huge paywell to use much of its capability (reconfigurability for example). There has been attempts in the past to reverse engineer it, but its never got to the level thats really useable in general and more specifically its not cable of series 7 Xilinx FPGAs, so Zynq is not supported.
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby Gravis » Sat May 17, 2014 11:42 pm

DeanoC wrote:Personally the only one that bothers me is lack of Zynq FPGA open SW, the bitstream can only be produced using closed source tools

a) What about impersonally?
b) There only seems to be only a handful of people making FPGAs and they all seem to have a death grip on their source code. Do you know of any that have open tools?
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Re: Is Parallella really open?

Postby DeanoC » Wed May 28, 2014 1:24 pm

Gravis wrote:
DeanoC wrote:Personally the only one that bothers me is lack of Zynq FPGA open SW, the bitstream can only be produced using closed source tools

a) What about impersonally?
b) There only seems to be only a handful of people making FPGAs and they all seem to have a death grip on their source code. Do you know of any that have open tools?


a) being idealistic a truly open parallela would replace the Zynq with an open source FPGA (see b) and the RTL for the Epiphany ASIC itself would be available. However I'm sure that the people Adepteva have to deal with for funding etc. would have issue without patents and closed RTL.

b) No proper open source tools, some work exists that *might* be able to about create a simple valid bitstream, however as Xilinx (and the other FPGA vendors) aggressively attack any project which is able to create bitstream the projects tend to keep it quiet (some of the open source research into reconfiguration can seem to do it, but often only buried in the latest source code and 'officially' they can only manipulate existing bitstreams).
IMHO Probably the biggest boon to the open source 'community' right now would be a free (as in speech) FPGA ASIC, however as I'm sure Adepteva can vouch for, getting a ASIC built that doesn't hit any patents (though many early FPGA patents just run out...) is an expensive and complex business. I've thought about, but its a project that hard to even start without a big budget ahead of time.
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