User Guide

Chapter 4 Develop OpTiMSoC

After you have worked through some, or even all, of the tutorials in the previous chapter, you’re now ready to bring your own ideas to live using OpTiMSoC. This chapter gives you a quick introduction on how to setup your development environment, like editors and the revision control system, and how to contribute back to the OpTiMSoC project.

We assumed in this whole tutorial that you are working on Linux. While it is certainly possible to use Windows or OS X for development, we cannot provide help for those systems and you’re on your own.

4.1 Building Hardware

When building software, engineers have gotten used to tools like make, CMake and similar build systems. Such build tools ensure that all dependencies of a software project are met, and then start the various tools (such as the compiler, linker, etc.) to produce the output files, e.g. the program binary. In the hardware world, no standard tool for this job exists. A new, but very promising contestent in this sector is is FuseSoC.

FuseSoC allows developers to write core files: short declarative files in an INI-like format that describe which components are required to build a hardware design. When you look around in $OPTIMSOC/soc/hw you’ll find such core files for all components that make up the SoC. But the core files not only describe the modules inside the SoC design, they are also used to describe the toplevel SoC.

For example, let’s have a look at the file $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples/sim/compute_tile/compute_tile_sim.core inside the OpTiMSoC source tree (it’s not installed!). In there you find all dependencies that are needed to build the system with only one compute tile. You also find the toplevel files that are used to simulate the system in Verilator and in XSIM (the Vivado built-in simulator).

The great benefit of using FuseSoC is that you can now simply compile and run the system with one simple command.

Before we start, two notes:

  • OpTiMSoC uses a slightly modified version of FuseSoC. You can call it by running optimsoc-fusesoc.

  • We set an environment variable ($FUSESOC_CORES) during the installation that makes FuseSoC find all OpTiMSoC hardware modules. You do not need to add a special configuration for this. However, the examples inside $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE are not part of this search path.

  • You can call optimsoc-fusesoc from any directory. We recommend not calling FuseSoC from inside your source directory. (This allows you to just delete the build folder and retain a clean source folder.)

So let’s look at a couple of examples how to build a SoC hardware with fusesoc.


All the examples require an OpTiMSoC source tree to be available at $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE.

  1. 1.

    Build and run a Verilator-based simulation of a single compute tile.

    cd some/directory
    optimsoc-fusesoc --cores-root $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples sim optimsoc:examples:compute_tile_sim
  2. 2.

    Only build a Verilator simulation of a single compute tile

    optimsoc-fusesoc --cores-root $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples sim --build-only optimsoc:examples:compute_tile_sim
  3. 3.

    Set the parameter NUM_CORES to 2 to create a system with two CPU cores inside the compute tile. You can have a look inside the top-level source file $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples/sim/compute_tile/ for other parameters that are available.

    optimsoc-fusesoc --cores-root $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples sim --build-only optimsoc:examples:compute_tile_sim --NUM_CORES 2
  4. 4.

    Synthesize a 2x2 system with four compute tiles for the Nexys 4 DDR board using Xilinx Vivado. This step requires Vivado to be installed and working, and a lot of time (approx. 30 minutes, depending on your machine).

    optimsoc-fusesoc --cores-root $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples build optimsoc:examples:system_2x2_cccc_nexys4ddr
  5. 5.

    Now flash the bitstream that the previous step generated to the FPGA.

    optimsoc-fusesoc --cores-root $OPTIMSOC_SOURCE/examples pgm optimsoc:examples:system_2x2_cccc_nexys4ddr

4.2 Choosing an Editor/IDE

When editing code, an editor or IDE usually comes handy. While there is clearly no “best” or even “recommended” editor or IDE, we will present two or our choices here, together with some settings that make working on OpTiMSoC a pleasant experience. Feel free to adapt these recommendations to your personal preferences!

4.2.1 Eclipse

Eclipse gives you a nice and integrated development across the different parts of the code base by using a couple of plugins. But be aware, Eclipse likes memory and is not exactly “lightweight”, but if you have enough memory available (in the area of 500 MB for Eclipse) it can be a very powerful and productive choice.

Installation and Basic Setup

First of all, get Eclipse itself. Go to and get the “Eclipse IDE for C/C++ Developers” package or install it from your distribution’s package manager. All the following steps were tested with Eclipse Kepler (4.3).

Now start Eclipse and first go to Help Check for Updates. Install all available updates.

For Verilog syntax highlighting we use a plugin called “VEditor”. Go to Help Install New Software… In the field Work with enter the URL of the installation site, Now press the return key and after a couple of seconds, the entry VEditor Plugin appears below. Select it and click on the Next button until the installation is finished. To complete the process you need to restart Eclipse.

Every project has different preferences regarding the styling of the code. Therefore every editor can be configured to some extend. First, we’ll set the general settings for Eclipse, and then for Verilog and C.

Start by clicking on Window Preferences inside Eclipse. There, choose Editors Text Editors. You should set the following settings:

  • Check Insert spaces for tabs

  • Check Show print margin

  • Set the Print margin column to 80

  • Check Show line numbers

Just leave the other settings as they are, or change them to your liking.

For the Verilog settings, go to Verilog/VHDL Editor Code Style. There, select Space as Indent Character and set the Indent Size to 3.

For the C style used in liboptimsochost and other libraries we have prepared a settings file. Go to C/C++ Code Style Formatter and click on Import…, choose the settings file doc/resources/optimsoc-eclipse-cdt-codestyle.xml inside the OpTiMSoC source tree. Now you should have a new profile “OpTiMSoC” in the list of profiles. Choose this one for all work on the C code.

Creating the OpTiMSoC HDL Project

Now that all the basic settings are in place, we can create the projects inside Eclipse. First, we will create a project for editing the HDL (Verilog) code.

In the Project Explorer (on the left side), right click and select New Project…. A new dialog window shows. In this window, select Verilog/VHDL Verilog/VHDL project and click Next. Now enter a project name, e.g. “OpTiMSoC”. Uncheck the option Use default location and click on Browse to choose your OpTiMSoC source directory (the location where you cloned the Git repository to).

The OpTiMSoC source tree not only contains RTL code, but also the necessary software components like liboptimsochost and the OpTiMSoC GUI. This code is better edited in a separate project and should be excluded from the project you just created. To do that, choose Project Properties from the main menu. Navigate to Resource Resource Filters and click on the Add… button. There, choose the following settings:

  • Choose Exclude all in the group Filter type

  • Choose Folders in the group Applies to

  • Check All children (recursive)

  • In the group File and Folder Attributes select Project Relative Path matches src/sw.

Now click on OK to finish editing the filter.

Then repeat the steps above to create a new resource filter but as path use src/sysc this time.

After you’re done with the second filter, click OK again to close the dialog.

Creating a C Project

Eclipse is also a great choice for editing C code. As an example, we’ll setup Eclipse for the OpTiMSoC host library, liboptimsochost.

In the main menu, click on File New Project. A dialog window is shown. There, nagivate to C/C++ Makefile Project with Existing Code and click on the Next button. Type liboptimsochost as Project Name and click on Browse… to select the source code location of the library. It should be inside your OpTiMSoC code in the folder src/sw/host/liboptimsochost. Uncheck C++ in the Languages group and select GNU Autotools Toolchain in the box below. Now click on Finish to close the dialog.

Before you start coding, double-check if the code style settings are correct. Select the newly created liboptimsochost project from the Project Navigator on the left, right-click and choose Properties. Nagivate to C/C++ General Formatter and check if OpTiMSoC is selected as style. If not, click on Enable project specific settings and choose OpTiMSoC from the list. (If there is no such entry, go back to the basic Eclipse setup and import the style file properly.)

You can use the Eclipse GUI to build and run liboptimsochost, but this feature is currently not used by any of the developers. Instead, we only use Eclipse for code editing, and build and debug the software using the regular commands on the console.

4.2.2 Emacs

This section will be added shortly.

4.2.3 Verilog-mode

Sometimes, writing Verilog means writing the same information twice in different places of a source file, one example being the port of a module. To save you as developer some typing time, a tool called “Verilog-mode” has been invented. It allows you to specify comments inside your code where information should be placed, and this information is then calculated and inserted automatically. For more information about what it is and how it works, see

Verilog-mode is used extensively throughout the project. Even though using it is not required (the sources can be edited and compiled without it just fine), it will save you a lot of time during development and is highly recommended.

Installation is rather easy, as it comes bundled with GNU Emacs. Simply install Emacs as described above and you’re ready to go. To support our coding style, you will need to adjust the Emacs configuration (even though it is the Emacs configuration, it also configures Verilog-mode).

Open the file ~/.emacs and add the following lines at the end:

(add-hook 'verilog-mode-hook '(lambda ()
   ;; Don't auto-insert spaces after ";"
  (setq verilog-auto-newline nil)
   ;; Don't indent with tabs!
  (setq indent-tabs-mode nil)))
(add-hook 'verilog-mode-hook '(lambda ()
   ;; Remove any tabs from file when saving
  (add-hook 'write-file-functions (lambda()
    (untabify (point-min) (point-max))

If you also use Emacs as your code editor, Verilog-mode is already enabled and you can read through the documentation to learn how to use it.

Verilog-mode in Eclipse

Even if you use Eclipse, you do not need to switch editors to get the benefits of Verilog-mode; you can run Verilog-mode in batch mode to resolve all the AUTO comments. This will require some manual setup, but afterwards it can be used quite easily.

First, you need to figure out where your verilog-mode.el or verilog-mode.elc file is located. If you want to use the Verilog-mode which is part of your Emacs installation, it is probably located somewhere in /usr/share/emacs, e.g. /usr/share/emacs/24.3/lisp/progmodes/verilog-mode.elc on Ubuntu 14.04. You can run

$> find /usr/share/emacs -name 'verilog-mode.el*'

to search for it. If you found it, write down the path as we’ll need it later. If you installed Verilog-mode from source, just note the path where you put your verilog-mode.el file (e.g. somewhere in your home directory).

In Eclipse, we will setup Verilog-mode as “Builder”. To do so, click in the main menu on Project Properties and nagivate to Builders. There, click on the New… button and select Program as configuration type in the shown dialog. After pressing OK, enter “verilog-mode” into the field Name. In the Main tab, write /usr/bin/emacs into the field Location. Leave the field Working Directory empty and enter the following string into the field Arguments:

--batch --no-site-file -u $env_var:USER}
-l /usr/share/emacs/24.3/lisp/progmodes/verilog-mode.elc
"$selected_resource_loc}" -f verilog-auto -f save-buffer

Replace the path to the verilog-mode.el or verilog-mode.elc file with your own path you found out above.

Now, switch to the tab Refresh, check the box Refresh resources upon completion and select The selected resource. Since we don’t need to change anything in the last two tabs, you can now close the dialog by clicking on the OK button and on OK again to close the project properties dialog.

To test if it all works, navigate to src/rtl/compute_tile_dm/verilog/compute_tile_dm.v and change the word “Outputs” in the comment right at the beginning of the file to something else. Then press CTRL-B (or go to Project Build All) and after a couple of seconds, you should see the word “Outputs” restored and some output messages in the Console view at the bottom. Also check if there were no tabs inserted (e.g. at the instantiation of u_core0). If there are tabs then you probably did not setup your ~/.emacs file correctly.

4.2.4 Qt Creator for GUI Development

Developing the OpTiMSoC GUI requires an IDE which understands the used Qt framework. The most popular choice among the developers is Qt Creator.

To start editing, open Qt Creator and click on File Open File or Project. Now nagivate to src/sw/host/optimsocgui inside your OpTiMSoC source directory and open the file CMakeLists.txt. In the following dialog you can specify a build directory (or just leave the default). After clicking on Next, a dialog with the title Run CMake appears. Type -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug into the field Arguments and click on the Run CMake button. CMake is now run and if everything works as expected you can click on Finish to close the project creation wizzard and start hacking on the source code.