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Open source baseboard teams up with Linux-ready MAX 10 FPGA module

Dec 8, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,079 views
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Aries launched a $33 “SpiderBase” carrier with a large prototyping area for its recent “MX10” COM, which can run NIOS II softcore Linux on a MAX 10 FPGA.

In March, when we reported on the i.MX6 UL based M6UL computer-on-module from Aries Embedded, we also briefly noted that an MX10 computer-on-module was on the way. Since then, Aries has shipped the MX10, and has now launched a SpiderBase carrier (AKA Spiderboard Baseboard) for the module.



MX10 module (left) and SpiderBase baseboard
(click images to enlarge)

The SpiderBase carrier — but not the MX10 COM — is an open hardware design, with available BOM, Gerber, and KiCAD files licensed under CERN OHL v1.2. Later this year, or in 1Q 2018, the SpiderBase will also be available with an MX10-like COM called the “Spider SoM,” which will offer the same open source hardware licensing as the carrier. All of the open source Spiderboard products will be supported at a Spiderboard.org community site.

 
MX10 COM

The MX10 COM is available with four flavors of MAX 10 FPGA, ranging from a 10M04DC to a 10M50DA. The choice of FPGA affects the level of I/O provided (see spec list below). The F256-packaged MAX 10 FPGA, which implements the bulk of the MX10 COM’s functionality, provides instant-on functionality, integrated analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), and dual configuration flash.

Unlike some other Intel PSG (Altera) FPGAs, such as the Stratix 10, the MX10’s MAX 10 FPGA lacks ARM Cortex-A cores. Yet, the high-end 10M16DA and 10M50DA configured models can still run Linux, as they ship with optional allotments of 128MB and 512MB of DDR3, respectively. These configurations can host a softcore NIOS II Linux stack with U-Boot, which has been around for over a decade. The MX10 can also run FreeRTOS.



MX10 block diagram (left) and spec table
(click images to enlarge)

As shown in the spec table above, the higher-end models also support memory options including 4MB SPI NOR flash and 4GB eMMC. The 10M50DA enabled model also features an RTC with battery backup and a Li-Po charger.

The 70 x 35mm MX10 module interfaces to a carrier board via a 230-pin MXM2 edge connector. The interface implements 178 FPGA GPIO pins, including 13 LVDS transmitters and 54 receivers, plus various other signal and power connections. The module is further equipped with a 25MHz XO programmable clock generator and PLL, with optional external reference input. A PMIC is available, and the I/O voltages are configurable.

The upcoming, open source, similarly MXM2-style Spider SoM module will ship with either the lowest-end 10M02SC MAX 10 part or the mid-range 10M08SA. One Spider SoM module SKU will also offer 4MB SPI flash. It’s unclear if the Spider SoM will offer DDR3, or be able to run NIOS II Linux, but an effort appears to be underway to develop a RISC V softcore for the MAX 10 that would enable the module to run FreeRTOS.

 
SpiderBase carrier board

The open source SpiderBase baseboard extends the MX10 module — and soon the Spider SoM — via the module’s 230-pin MXM2 edge connector. Major features of the baseboard include an Arduino shield interface, 4x PMOD compatible headers (2.5V or 3.3V), and a large prototyping area.



SpiderBase with (left) and without the MX10 COM
(click images to enlarge)

The SpiderBase carrier board is equipped with a mini-USB B port, 2x LEDs, configuration jumpers, reset abd power buttons, and 2x user buttons. Other features include a CR2032 cell holder, a JST-2.0 lithium battery connector, and PICkit and Intel PSG (Altera) Blaster compatible programming interfaces. Like the MX10 module, the simple, 2-layer board supports 0 to 60°C temperatures.


Spiderboard block diagram (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

 
MX10 Evaluation Kit

The MX10 COM is also available with an evaluation kit that offers a more feature rich carrier board. The MX10 Evaluation Kit (MX10EVK) ships with the MX10 module, and includes an SD slot, USB 2.0 host and OTG ports, and dual 10/100 Ethernet ports.



MX10 Evaluation Kit
(click image to enlarge)

You also get 2x RS232 and 2x CAN connections on DB-9 ports, as well as an LCD and JTAG interfaces and a power supply. Like the SpiderBase, the MX10 Evaluation Kit ships with schematics.

 
Further information

The SpiderBase is available for 28.50 Euros ($34) plus VAT and shipping. More information may be found on the Aries Embedded SpiderBase product page, wiki, and shopping pages. The more advanced MX10EVK kit is not listed on the Aries shopping site, but more information may be found in this MX10 brochure (PDF).

The MX10 COM is available for 45 Euros ($53) plus VAT and shipping. More information may be found on the MX10 product page and shopping page. The similar, but open source, Spider SoM will ship by the end of the year or early 1Q 2018, at a currently unstated price. More details for all of the Spider series boards — including sources — will eventually reside at Spiderboard.org.
 

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