OsmoSDR Hardware Design Questions

Christian Daniel -- maintech GmbH cd at maintech.de
Tue Jul 10 17:04:35 UTC 2012

Hash: SHA1

Hi Sandor,

I'll write my answers directly into your mail:

On 10.07.2012 17:05, Sandor Szilvasi wrote:
> Hi OsmoCom,
> I was going to start a home project /very similar/ to yours, when
> I bumped into the OsmoSDR. So, I'd like to ask a few questions
> regarding the OsmoSDR hardware.
> 1. Based on the photo 
> <http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/chrome/common/download.png> your fab 
> could handle BGA packages. Why didn't you use the BGA packaged
> Atmel SAM3U MCU instead of the LQFP one?

That was an option, but we decided to go for a part with actual pins
because these are easier to debug and we had the space (at the time).

> 2. The Lattice LatticeXP2 FPGA is available in the same package but
> in larger size at almost identical price. Why did you pick the
> smallest available FPGA, the LFXP-5E ($16) instead of the LFXP-8E
> ($20)?

Because it was on stock and is big enough for the task at hand.

> 3. You are using the SAM3U SSC to transfer data from the FPGA.
> Before seeing your design I had the idea to use the EBI to
> interface with the FPGA. After all, the EBI is on the AHB and I
> assume you have a bunch of FPGA I/Os left. What do you think the
> drawbacks of using the EBI would be?

The SSC is too slow to handle the full 4MHz bandwith - a problem we
only discovered after the first prototypes were built. We're currently
investigating a redesign to switch to EBI.

> 4. The differential clock output oscillator was connected in a
> weird way, but I can see that it has been corrected in Rev 2.

Yep, embarrassing mistake that...

> 5. My understanding is that you configure the FPGA using the JTAG
> lines in bit-bang mode through SAM3U GPIOs. Why don't you use the 
> sysConfig port of the Lattice FPGA? It's faster, easier to
> implement with the SAM3U SPI peripheral (and it's also a feature I
> haven't seen with other FPGAs). See Lattice TN1141 
> <http://www.latticesemi.com/documents/TN1141.pdf>.

Good point. Well - the current method works well and is fast (about 30
seconds to flash via USB). No need to change it again... My guess is,
that it won't get much faster since the bottleneck is USB and flash
write time. Perhaps we'll have to change it when we switch to EBI to
free some SAM3U pins.

> 6. The board seems to be powered from the USB only, but the
> oscillator already draws ~100mA and it's always enabled. Adding the
> consumption of the MCU and the FPGA you are already above 100mA. If
> it's really powered only from the USB, how is it ensured that you
> stay below the 100mA limit specified by the USB standard until you
> ask for a higher current, say 500mA?

We violate the 100mA limit by a small amount. FPGA and E4K can be
switched off and the ADC doesn't consume much when no clock is
applied. I don't see a problem here - at least after we fixed the
power sequence to stop it from using the full 400mA directly on power
up. Also a diode for external power supply is on the board. But yes -
it will not be USB certified. But so far this is not a real-world problem.

> I hope you didn't mind my questions above, I didn't mean to be
> nosy. I just got a little excited about this project.

Just keep on asking - this is open hardware and open software and the
more the merrier!

> Cheers,
> Sandor


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