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Valued Contributor III
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Software and IP cost viability for home use

Hello. Similarly to the previous thread (http://www.alteraforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=51711), I'd like to check the licence situation for IP cores and Quartus while using the dev boards. I have had a look through the manuals but it is still not clear to me. I see talk of 1-year time limits and 30-day evaluations and notice that the price for Quartus Prime on Digikey is GBP 2,000 :o. I realise that is fine for commercial use but it completely rules it out for me at home. I cannot see any prices for IP core licences... 

 

 

I wish to purchase a development board for my home use. This would be primarily to learn the techniques and would not lead directly to developing a production board. I will also be evaluating FPGA solutions at work, so my goal is to be familiar with the tools and capabilities.  

 

 

I'd like to be able to use Gigabit Ethernet and PCIe so the cyclone iv starter (https://www.altera.com/content/dam/altera-www/global/en_us/pdfs/literature/ug/ug_civgx_trans_starter...) kit seems ideal, and just about affordable for home use. I would want to get off-the-shelf IP cores for the Gb/e, PCIe and perhaps other useful standard cores. Basically, being able to get to the point of having the board work like a NIC and go from there is what I want. 

 

 

I don't want a time-limited trial licence as I will just be 'tinkering' part time. I'm happy for it to be restricted to the dev board and/or have other restrictions that would apply to production use. I can't tell from the manuals if there is a suitable licensing option that will allow this or not. I want to be able to experiment at home for a few $100 not a few $1,000! 

 

 

thanks in advance!
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Valued Contributor III
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This is something you would have to discuss with altera.  

But Altera are not aiming themselves at the home hobbyist beyond whats available in the free web edition. PCIe and GigE are part of the higher specced boards, so unfortunately you will be bound by the higher prices. Altera work on annual subscription basis so you will need an annual renewal. 

 

But if, as you say, you will be working on designs for work - why not get work to pay for it?
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Valued Contributor III
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Couple of small clarifications:  

 

A 1-year subscription is a perpetual license and you are entitled to all software releases within that 1-year time frame. i.e. if you buy it today, in the year 2020 you can still use all the software released before June 23 2017. You don't need to renew your license to maintain rights to already licensed software/IP. 

 

A "time limited" license in the context of Altera IP means that you have unlimited access to compile "time limited executables". In order for the board to execute your image, you need to be tethered to the PC and have an active JTAG connection. Or once the connection is broken, the executable stops functioning after a time period (30 minutes?). 

 

Best I can tell, you should be able to achieve your goals with no money spent on software+IP.
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Valued Contributor III
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You won't be able to use FPGAs above Cyclone V with the free edition of Quartus (Stratix, any 10 series except Max 10). You won't be able to use PCIe or anything else that uses transceivers either. You can use GigE, but only with an external PHY chip and does not use transceivers.  

 

Some but not all higher end dev boards come with a device locked license for Quartus. This means you can use full featured Quartus (PCIe etc), but only for the exact model FGPA on your board. You can never upgrade to a newer version of Quartus without buying it. The license isn't transferable, so you can't get a used board.
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Valued Contributor III
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Just a correction, the PCIe Hard IP core is free, the Soft IP cores are not. But even devices like the Cyclone IV and Cyclone V which are in the web edition do have hard IP PCIe support. 

 

With regard to the dev kit in the original post, from the reference manual: 

 

 

--- Quote Start ---  

This interface uses the Cyclone IV GX device's PCI Express hard IP block, saving logic resources for the user logic application 

--- Quote End ---  

 

 

The PCIe connection on that dev kit uses Hard IP, so no need to buy a license for PCIe.
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Valued Contributor III
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The transceiver toolkit is only available with the paid version of Quartus. I've not used transceivers, but my understanding is that would be a huge handicap.

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Valued Contributor III
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Thanks very much for the answers everyone. Ted - that is indeed what i'm after! 

 

Thanks for the explanation about "time limited" for the IP Cores. I expected that it meant they would stop working a certain time after installation (e.g. 30 days). What you described is fine - tied to one PC and limited for development purposes. 

 

Overall, my intention is not so much using it as a "hobbyist" but as familiarization and experimentation for using in a professional environment, in the same way that it is now easy with OpenSource software. 

 

I see that Quartus Web Edition II is shipped with the Kit and I checked the differences here (https://www.altera.com/content/dam/altera-www/global/en_us/pdfs/literature/po/ss_quartussevswe.pdf). 

 

Galfonz - when I look in the cyclone iv gx kit notes (https://www.altera.com/products/boards_and_kits/dev-kits/altera/kit-cyclone-iv-starter.html)  

it does say: 

"the following tools are included: 

quartus prime lite edition 

megacore® ip library including pci express, triple speed ethernet, and the nios ii processor " 

 

.. so according to TCWORLD and ted looks like I can expect to get the PCIe and Gbe on this board working using the Quartus Lite/Web and "OpenCore Plus" without having to license either. 

 

Still, I think I need to take Tricky's advice and ask Altera to confirm this before I buy the board. I must say, the licensing is looking pretty complicated! 

 

Thanks 

CMG
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Valued Contributor III
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Yes the PCIe block is included. The triple speed ethernet block uses an external PHY chip, so it doesn't need transceivers. Other Ethernet IP does use transceivers and can't be used with the free version of Quartus. Some of these IP blocks are only usable in the free version only work when JTAG is attached. The transceiver toolkit isn't included. I've not used transceivers, but I understand it is essential for board design and calibrating transceivers.

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Valued Contributor III
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Given you are using a dev kit, the transceiver toolkit isn't necessary. The PCIe stuff has already been carefully designed and routed and should just work from an electrical standpoint. 

 

The TSE core isn't free. It will run in evaluation mode (requiring an active JTAG connection), but will only work as standalone from an hour or so before needing a reset. However because an external PHY is used, you should be able to find a open source Ethernet core (e.g. from OpenCores) that is compatible with the external PHY.
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Valued Contributor III
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The're not making it easy for hobbyists and small startup companies to use their products are they? It's a shame really.

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Valued Contributor III
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Thanks for your advice everyone. I'm very grateful for the responses. It sounds like it will work, but is likely to be a bit of a fiddle!

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