Hacker Spaces

FPGA Workshop 4: Behind the Scenes (November 8)

In the previous workshops, we have seen that FPGAs can emulate any logic circuit without moving (mechanical) parts.

FPGAs are however not magic nor mystical devices and this workshop will shed light on how they work internally. After theoretical explanations on their functioning, we will program them very close to the “bare silicon” by configuring manually each logic element on the chip, without any Verilog or schematics.

This will give you a better understanding of the challenges involved with writing open source programming tools, reverse engineering existing FPGA designs, injecting backdoors into FPGA bitstreams, and squeezing the most performance out of an FPGA chip.

For the hands-on part:

  • Bring your laptop
  • IMPORTANT: Install Xilinx ISE. The installation takes a long time that we cannot waste during the workshop.
  • Bring a Xilinx FPGA board such as the Avnet Spartan-3A starter kit used in previous workshops.
  • The board must have a Xilinx FPGA. Boards with non-Xilinx chips cannot be used.
  • Your board must have at least 2 pushbuttons and 2 LEDs.
  • Bring any required programming (JTAG) cable and try to make sure that it works (driver installed etc.) before coming.

You can come to the workshop without a board, but obviously you might be unable to perform the manipulations yourself.