While my article on HN is getting no traction I might as well post on here some fantastic news: The Xilinx Virtex 7 FPGA bitstream has been reverse engineered by Clifford Wolf.
For some context this is a very popular and cheap series of FPGA devices. For example you can buy the Arty board which has one of these FPGAs for $99, or the slightly more advanced Nexys 4 DDR for $265.
Currently you must use the Xilinx Vivado tool which is a 40 GB download [no, that isn’t a typo], requires a paid license to unlock the full features, and is generally awful to use.
This work should eventually lead to a complete open source toolchain to program these devices, just like Project IceStore for the Lattice devices.
Almost completely free as in freedom laptop on top, with very non-free laptop underneath:
Only a few notes about this, except the obvious which is you must have an old Thinkpad X60s which you’re prepared to risk bricking:
- The instructions for installing libreboot are incredibly strange, contradictory, and out of date.
- I used: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Libreboot/ThinkPad_X60
- I used these old sources which roughly correspond to the above instructions: https://libreboot.org/release/20140711/
- You need to have Debian installed on the laptop.
- To make it completely free, I will need to dismantle the laptop and replace the wifi card.
You can run arbitrary commands, shells, editors etc during your presentation. Here, I run a gnome-terminal with a prepopulated command history:
Download it from my git repository. The requirements are fairly light: perl, perl-Gtk2 and perl-Gtk2-MozEmbed (all in Fedora).
Previous angry rant about presentation software.
The diagram in the first slide was done using PGF and Tikz 2.00 (examples) (manual).
I enjoyed playing a Japanese import of Densha De Go (an accurate Shinkansen train simulator) on my old Nintendo Wii. I played this legally (albeit expensively) imported game using some other software called Wii Freeloader. Since Nintendo does not like people using software from outside the “right” places, “Freeloader” had to exploit a bug in the firmware to allow Densha de Go to play.
Today I upgraded the firmware on my Wii console.
I am no longer able to play Densha De Go at all. Nintendo have successfully covered all options and there is no way to play my legally purchased and imported software from other “regions” of the world.
So today I learned my lesson. Never absolutely never buy or get involved in proprietary software. Never buy anything ever again from Nintendo. Never buy another phone from Apple, or Microsoft, or any computer with proprietary software no matter how convenient it may seem in the short term.
Enough is enough.
If I bought the hardware, I want to do whatever I want with it.