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Consumer Device With Open CPU Out of Beta Soon

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the for-finger-painting-in-public dept.

Music 99

lekernel writes "After years of passionate and engaging development, the video synthesizer from the Milkymist project is expected to go out of beta in August. Dubbed 'Milkymist One,' it features as central component a system-on-chip made exclusively of IP cores licensed under the open source principles, and is aimed at use by a general audience of video performance artists, clubs and musicians. It is one of the first consumer electronics products putting forward open source semiconductor IP, open PCB design and open source software at the same time. The full source code is available for download from Github, and a few hardware kits are available from specialized electronics distributors."

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Whoop dee doo (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088796)

And yet it will be just a successful as OpenMoko which means it'll be a huge flop and almost no one will know about it.

Re:Whoop dee doo (2, Insightful)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089400)

I doubt you have any idea what you're talking about.

It's actually a great looking device for musicians like myself. Built in MIDI & DMX512 ports.

Nice attempt at trolling open source projects.

Re:Whoop dee doo (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089508)

It's actually a great looking device for musicians like myself.

I doubt that. It's a $500 dev kit. Any tool you need for making music can be had from private companies with superior specs for less cash. Even if not, you could make a superior product by using an ASIC from a private company rather than a FPGA. If you buy one, it will be because you like the notion of it being open, not because it's technically superior to existing products.

Re:Whoop dee doo (4, Informative)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089778)

-- disclosure: I manufacture Milkymist One -- If it's a dev kit, it's the most stunningly beautiful dev kit I know. Have you seen the pictures? [] Technical superiority is very hard to judge, our goal is to make it super easy to use (basically just turn on), and then allow for anybody to dive deeper and deeper into it, all the way to the free hardware acceleration in the fpga. Tutorials needs to be written, videos made, etc. I will take some time. But please accept for the 'dev kit' feedback: From day 1 of this project, we didn't want it to be a dev kit. All we care about is make very easy to use, beautiful, long lasting and fun products.

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090880)

Honestly, outside of the fact that it's in an acrylic box and lacks a breadboard, it looks just like every other decent quality dev kit I've seen. That's not a bad thing, by the way. While some companies do put out crappy kits, the good ones are a lot of fun to use, and can do all sorts of great stuff. They include tutorials, and are easy to use. I'm sure the Milkymist is the same. But surely it could be made cheaper by moving from open cores on an FPGA to a tighter, less configurable design.

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36092476)

Its looks have nothing to do with it being a dev kit. Sure, the thing looks awesome, but it's still just a dev kit. The fact you need tutorials to just get the thing to do something strongly hints at it being a dev kit. What would you call it?

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36094762)

Well then congratulations and let me say that the name Milkymist sounds a little like you skeeted all over the fucking place.

Re:Whoop dee doo (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089796)

Any tool you need for making music can be had from private companies with superior specs for less cash.

Really? Maybe you can tell me where to get a MIDI controlled audio/video synthesizer hardware solution off-the-shelf for under $500?

I bet someone told Don Buchla and Bob Moog that there was no need to build their silly little gizmos because hey, you can get any instrument you want down at your local music store. I can't believe you made such an idiotic statement, artor3.

Even if not, you could make a superior product by using an ASIC from a private company rather than a FPGA

You really don't know what you're talking about. Go start with an ASIC and build a MIDI-controlled audio/video synth for under $500. You'd spend more than $500 in time before you even started putting together the hardware.

Would you have any idea how to put together a box like this one that would be an appropriate tool for musicians/video artists? Would you have any clue as to what the requirements of the artists would be? Well, the people who are putting together the device described in this article have clearly given it some thought. And even as a "Dev-kit" it's a great tool. Shit, most of Cycling '74's products are "dev-kits" when it comes right down to it.

I think you owe everyone reading this tonight an apology, artor3, for making such an arrogant, dunderheaded comment. Oh, and then there's this:

If you buy one, it will be because you like the notion of it being open, not because it's technically superior to existing products.

Maybe you'd like to tell us about the "existing products" that would do what this device does that sell for $500?

I want that apology, right now mister.

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090984)

Haha, wow, flame much? Step back. Breathe. Maybe take a night's rest. Then come back and act like a person, rather than a screaming child.

When you do, consider:
1) Claiming that I'd invest $500 in time to design a better product from scratch is, frankly, absurd. I'd spend a million dollars trying to design a car from scratch, but that doesn't mean I should be willing to pay a million to buy an open source car.
2) Claiming that I don't know the consumer's requirements is, again, irrelevant. Continuing with Slashdot's favorite car analogies, I may not know the requirements for an off road vehicle, but I do know that people aren't going to spend extra on one with a customizable engine unless they're the sort who'll want to customize their engine. Likewise, most musicians aren't going to want to muck around with HDL, so they're not going to spend extra on a device to let them.
3) You put scare quotes around "dev kit" as if to say that this device isn't one. I direct you to the quote at the very top of the linked page: "Before the software is ready for this more general public usage, we sell developer kits to pioneers who can stand a few software problems and embedded devices enthusiasts who would enjoy developing on this open source platform." Emphasis mine, of course.
4) Existing solutions that cost under $500 would include loading some FOSS audiovisualizer software onto the computer that, as a member of the first world, you already own, and then buying some PCI cards or USB adapters to get the desired ports. That is what VJs do, you know. They seem to have been getting by just fine without this $500 box. And if you think this box can replace a VJ's entire setup, then it is you who don't really understand what they do.

Seriously though, sleep on it before responding. Odds are you won't care in the morning.

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36092576)

Odds are you won't care in the morning.

I didn't care to begin with. It just upsets me when people shit on other peoples' work for no other reason than "we already have proprietary solutions, so why do we need open source?" and then complain about it being "only a devkit" because their work isn't finished.

And they weren't "scare quotes", I was quoting you.

But reading my comment from last night... I was in high dudgeon, wasn't I? OK, I'll be the one who apologizes.

Re:Whoop dee doo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090448)

The device as pictured is $650 before shipping from the French site. That's expensive! What's more, it nullifies the standard argument of "So what if it's not as good, it's FREE!". Maybe as in speech, but $650 is a substantial chunk of money, better spent elsewhere. I'm not belittling the technical achievement, but ignoring the cost is just plain foolish.

Re:Whoop dee doo (2)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091224)

-- disclosure: I work on Milkymist One -- The only comparable product from proprietary hardware companies is the Edirol CG8, which has inferior specs in most regards and is sold for a lot more (about 6 times the price of Milkymist One).

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089898)

Thanks! (I work on Milkymist One) You can follow the project at []

Re:Whoop dee doo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091114)

I suppose it could make a really nice score following machine. Too bad that the price is so high. There are small FPGA dev kits available for $50 nowadays (I suppose these have a lot less gates, but still...)

Re:Whoop dee doo (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090306)

The hardware looks good, but the business case is shaky. I guess I'm not the target audience because I can't figure out what this box is for, even though I looked at Flickernoise. The build instructions are more complex than ones for Linux :-)

Hardware-wise, of course, you can make anything you want, but is it cost-effective? One could make a video synthesizer out of any old laptop with a VGA output. You don't need a high fidelity audio input if all you want is to convert it to squiggly lines. I'm sure a DJ can play audio *and* video all from his trusty MacBook Pro, and there will be plenty of CPU cycles free.

I personally revisit ideas of universal devices every other month, and usually I reject them. The reason is that each and every customer is going to use the thing in one function only. This means that he'd be paying for hardware that he doesn't need. There are still reasons to do it this way, primarily manufacturing reasons, but the customer doesn't see a universal board as something useful. I don't even mention "open source" here; as laudable as it might be, it's not something that you print on the box in large yellow letters.

With regard to synthesized CPUs, I had my share of work done with MicroBlaze, and while it works you don't really want to use it as your main CPU. It makes sense only in small embedded systems, where RAM is fixed and limited. Such systems, in turn, are most useful not as universal computers but as appliances. Still, FPGA is often an expensive resource. Avnet sells XC6SLX45 for about $70 apiece. This, in a CPU, will buy you a lot of computing power. I don't know if *this* product is better off with an FPGA or without (or maybe with a smaller one, or a CPLD...) but as the size of the FPGA increases it gets more and more expensive. On the other hand, it helps fight obsolescence of parts.

Sweet (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088806)

Now I can patch my CPU. Oh...

Re:Sweet (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088960)

Actually, you can, since the CPU is running on an FPGA.

Re:Sweet (2)

krispaul (2138654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089920)

Or even boot the board choosing from different patched CPU's :-). Like a multi-boot option. That could be implemented as well with some development.

Open source always takes a backseat. (1)

SquirrelDeth (1972694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088816)

It's only available from specialized electronic distributors never mainstream distributors. Why? Because mainstream distributors only buy from mainstream suppliers unfortunately.

Re:Open source always takes a backseat. (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089354)

I don't see anything about EMC or safety testing from an accredited lab, so I doubt this can be sold as anything other than a "development kit". That's not what you would find on Amazon or at Best Buy. If this thing really interests you, then they hassle of getting one will be worth it. This is more interesting as a general FPGA tinker box than for the stated purpose.

Re:Open source always takes a backseat. (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089694)

The thing has no shielding, so it is going to radiate all over the place. It can't be used in a home environment - your neighbors would complain. It probably would pass UL testing because it runs off a power cube, I would presume, so it is just low voltage inside.

Without FCC certification it is an "experimental" device and not going to be stocked by anyone as a "consumer" device.

Re:Open source always takes a backseat. (4, Informative)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089828)

All wrong :-) It has no metal shielding because it is so well designed. We absolutely went to an EMI test lab to be able to classify it under CE and FCC regulation. Under FCC regulation, Milkymist One is a non-intential radiator and thus does not require an FCC ID. It is enough that the manufacturer verifies that it is in fact meeting the requirements of a non-intentional radiator. The entire test lab report (31 pages) is online

ok (3, Interesting)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088828)

yea ok I will admit this is the first time I have seen an open source CPU, but that is becuase the rest of us would have grabbed a fpga and not wasted a bunch of time.

I will also admit that this is cool as shit after calling it a waste of time, its a bit of both I guess

Re:ok (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088834)


Re:ok (1)

wood_dude (1548377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089022)

What you got against FPGA bitch ? Chris

Re:ok (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089046)

Power consumption, among other things.

Re:ok (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089366)

Really considered about power consumption?
You are completely Trolling.
Even the new Spartan processors have power consumption options.
Your common everyday x86 is a real HOG.

Re:ok (3, Interesting)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089842)

The entire video synthesizer runs on less than 5W. We didn't pick an fpga because we wanted to make an fpga computer. We picked an fpga because it allows us to make a spectacularly well performing and low power (!) video synthesizer. It can easily beat a multi-GHz Intel system.

Re:ok (1)

tempmpi (233132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090850)

I doubt that, it might be faster than the multi-ghz Intel system without using the GPU, but using a GPU, even a onboard on, you should be way faster.
You could build a fast DES cracker using that FPGA, but your task seems to be mostly regular CPU and GPU tasks. It is impressive to implement all this by yourself, but looking at the blockdiagram I would say a e.g.: Freescale i.MX51 or some Ti OMAPs with a small mcu for IR,MIDI and DMX512 could do everything as well or better than that SoC, including running at less than 5 watts.

Re:ok (2)

dvdkhlng (1803364) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091156)

Freescale iMX51 and TI OMAPs are completely proprietary, AFAIR. If at all you'll only get closed-source drivers for their built-in GPUs. That doesn't make them very sexy for such open-source hardware projects. Also I guess you'll soon run into real-time execution problems, if the GPU drivers aren't 100% perfect. Even with my ATI card I have these problems from time to time (something flushing GPU pipelines? no clue.). This FPGA CPU with RTOS kernel and custom-made 2-D acceleration will allow you to get perfect frames, all the time.

Re:ok (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089486)

heh nothing, but shit man this is hardly the first FPGA open source computer, its not even really that practical, name 1 situation where a low powered SBC is really going to use TV input AND midi while driving a vga display, besides does anyone even use midi any more? We dropped it off our product line ~4 years ago and no one has noticed

heck I just got a bag full of free standing midi voice boxes out of our dumpster for scrap parts today as they were cleaning out the storage room

it's an entire system (1)

wpwrak (2132982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088944)

What makes this great (and unusual) is that there's an entire SoC in that FPGA, not just the CPU core. And it's all Open, including the graphics.

Re:it's an entire system (1)

PipsqueakOnAP133 (761720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089154)

Unusual? Really?

Hasn't been around for 11 years already? Arn't most FPGA projects involving a CPU core considered a SoC? I mean, like most people won't have one FPGA be the CPU and the other FPGA be the peripherials, yeah?

Heck, my last project in college would be considered a SoC on FPGA and that was like in 2003. (We implemented our own core, cache, and memory controller from scratch. Would have done a basic VGA output but ran out of time and couldn't afford to get myself a Virtex board afterwards)

Re:it's an entire system (3, Informative)

JackDW (904211) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089468)

Indeed, hardly unusual. At the very beginning of, which was certainly around a decade ago, there was a project of this sort. "ORsoc" ran Linux. The CPU was an Opencores design named OR1200, with a completely custom instruction set and a fork of GCC/glibc to support it. Everything was open source: the peripherals, the CPU, the video drivers, even the USB and Ethernet cores.

That SoC worked on FPGAs, but there were also ASICs, and I think it even turned up in some commercial products.

I suspect that this project is probably reusing quite a few components from Opencores. That Wishbone bus looks awfully familiar...

Re:it's an entire system (2)

krispaul (2138654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089990)

You are right, Really Very few components from Opencores, actually Wishbone core is a modified version from the conbus core from opencores. But some cores developed by the main developer during the process, like the navre cpu and hpdmc controller we're published in opencores as well. Feel free to ask more questions here or at the IRC Channel at Freenode #milkymist also follow the development of the project by github A Quick Webchat link for IRC Chat here too: []

Re:it's an entire system (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097676)

I do not make any special effort to sound negative here, but honestly that SoC did not really work on anything. Most of the stuff posted to Opencores is in fact half-finished, buggy projects, and Milkymist SoC does not use any other Opencores stuff than Wishbone (and still, this was because of LM32) for this very reason. Even the OpenRISC GCC/glibc toolchain was crippled with various major problems until recently. The OpenRISC RTL still is, but I can see things moving in the right direction. Maybe Milkymist SoC will integrate OpenRISC at some point, if those technical improvements happen. OpenSPARC and LEON were also considered, but they are very heavy resource-wise.

Meh. (1, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089078)

Just slapping "OPEN!" on something doesn't make me wanna buy. For $500 I get a device that (someday when the software gets written) will process standard def video? And output VGA? Really? In 2011?

Yes it is nice that everything is implemented in a FPGA and totally open. Perhaps someone will run with it and use these building blocks to make something interesting. But as long as an FPGA is the target it will never compete. Compare and contrast these features with what $25 will get you in an ARM. You can see by going back a few days here on Slashdot. Although there ain't no way in hell that project will get to market at $25 quan 1 either, academics have no notion what it costs to actually bring a product to market... but it won't be $500.

Re:Meh. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089860)

You apparently have no idea what this device is for. You should try taking a look at it before passing judgement.

Re:Meh. (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089980)

> You apparently have no idea what this device is for.

Yea, I read the site. But I'm still having trouble figuring out what it might do that a netbook with a hundred bux of USB devices stuffed into its ports can't. MIDI isn't expensive, NTSC video in isn't expensive. And the netbook will have more grunt than you are getting from the mmuless cpu simulated in that FPGA. So unless the idea (not mentioned on the site) is to have enough spare gates that video effects can be offloaded to special custom circuits in unused space in the FPGA I don't see it as a practical device. As a experiment or base for further development perhaps, but not as is.

Re:Meh. (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091288)

To answer your question about spare gates, we are using about 44% of the FPGA resources at the moment. I would also question your remark about the compared "grunt" of a netbook, as many non-tech people I have shown the device to have spontaneously praised it for its reactivity and fluidity. Finally, some people are working on a MMU and even though it is of little use for my intended video synthesis application, you are most welcome to join them.

Re:Meh. (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091264)

Price mainly has to do with volume. Also, VGA is still widely used today, and does not mean low resolution as the Milkymist One can do 1280x1024. We are planning to add a connector to drive HDMI displays at some point, which consists merely in wiring it directly to the FPGA as the Spartan-6 we use has the TMDS stuff built in, but unless we have the time and the development resources to get it done fast in the FPGA design, it is not a priority. (I work on Milkymist One)

Re:Meh. (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091632)

Price mainly has to do with volume. Also, VGA is still widely used today, and does not mean low resolution as the Milkymist One can do 1280x1024.

VGA is really quite good. The GMA950 will happily dump 2560x1920 over a VGA cable. Though, the graphics performance takes a big step down once the framebuffer goes over a threshold for reasons that I do not presently recall.

There are not many minotors which are that big.

Though presumably one needs a decent DAC to go that fast...

Does the FPGA happen to have a DAC on board? or do you need an external one?

3 pin DMX? (1)

BovineSpirit (247170) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089112)

Professional DMX connectors have 5 pin connectors, not 3 pin.

Re:3 pin DMX? (1)

mark_elf (2009518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089194)

Feel free to etch your own circuit board! It's open source!

Re:3 pin DMX? (2)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089214)

Not necessarily, depending on the age of your components this can actually be a liability since the 2 extra pins were never standardized. Some (bad) designers have used it historically to carry a destructive current over it.

Re:3 pin DMX? (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091292)

Yes and being a lighting professional, you probably already know that 3 pin 5 pin adapters are not hard to come by, don't you?

What makes it not great... (3, Interesting)

mark_elf (2009518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089142)

Judging from what the screenshots look like, the "video art" it produces looks a lot like Winamp circa 1998. I'm part of the target audience for this thing and it looks pretty useless for making video. But if you shine some lights on it, it looks kinda cool I guess. If you tell people about the open source CPU it gets even cooler.

Re:What makes it not great... (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091236)

The material we posted online so far is not so great, but from feedback on real uses of the product, it does much better than what you describe. But it can be a matter of taste, too.

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Open source? (4, Interesting)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089690)

I'm not particularly happy about my chances of legally
reusing code that starts like this:

//                           COPYRIGHT NOTICE
// Copyright 2006 (c) Lattice Semiconductor Corporation
// This confidential and proprietary software may be used only as authorised by
// a licensing agreement from Lattice Semiconductor Corporation.
// The entire notice above must be reproduced on all authorized copies and
// copies may only be made to the extent permitted by a licensing agreement from
// Lattice Semiconductor Corporation.
// Lattice Semiconductor Corporation        TEL : 1-800-Lattice (USA and Canada)
// 5555 NE Moore Court                            408-826-6000 (other locations)
// Hillsboro, OR 97124                     web  :
// U.S.A                                   email:

Re:Open source? (4, Interesting)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089746)

BTW, that license was from the tarball at []

Before bothering with that, I actually tried figuring out the license by looking at Lattice, but other than reassuring verbiage about free, I came up blank when looking for an actual license: []

And, of course, most of the Lattice junk in the source tarball, and the documentation at the milkymist site, can't even be retrieved from Lattice itself without registering and executing some sort of license agreement: []

Lame. BTW, the main article links to [] .

Which links to the SOC code page [] .

Re:Open source? (2)

krispaul (2138654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089890)

Please read the license from the Milkymist github repository: [] - "11. OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE...."

I did read it. (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090042)

It's mostly gobbledy-gook, that you would need to study way too carefully before playing with the code.

In any case, unless there's something I'm completely missing, it looks like the milkymist guys were not supposed to share the code that I pulled that header from:

Lattice hereby grants to Licensee a non-exclusive, nontransferable license to use the Software for Licensee's internal purposes only on any computer possessed by Licensee on which the Software is designed to operate, such use to be in accordance with and subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.

Apparently, according to section 12 of the license, some of their tools will spit out code that is redistributable under an open source license, and if you use their tools to do that, then you can share the output. The license for that is in appendix C of that document, but it applies to "Software that identifies itself as licensed under the Lattice Semiconductor Corporation Open Source License Agreement."

Did you see any such self-identification as open source in that header file? Me neither.

Re:I did read it. (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090832)

We've done that like many others ("study the license carefully"), but you don't trust our results. That's your problem. The entire LATTICE.LICENSE applies to those files, not just section 11. Get your mind off of section 11, start reading at 1. Then 2. Then 3. and so on. If you don't want to do that, fine. Still your problem. Until you found out about Mico32 for the first time (today), the entire world knows since 2006 that Lattice has open-sourced the Mico32 core. Unfortunately they didn't pick a standard license (BSD/X11), but had to write their own. One reason for that is that they specifically wanted to include manufacturing rights in the 'open' part, otherwise people like you would come and say "they didn't specifically allow manufacturing, so it's no good for manufacturing". Moreover, they opened the Mico32 core because they know (like people from the Milkymist project know as well), that the main value comes from peripherals and SoC integration, not the core. There are a number of peripherals Lattice did not open source. The Milkymist project took the open Mico32 core, and added their own, Milkymist developed, open peripherals to it. If it were indeed true that the Milkymist project, together with the rest of the world, misunderstood the Lattice open source license since 2006, the Milkymist SoC would remove the (then) proprietary Mico32 core and switch to another core or write their own core. The Mico32 core files you pointed to (with the confusing proprietary/confidential header) make up a little less than 25% of the entire Milkymist SoC. We are very interested in those files being unquestionably open source, we fully respect copyrights and intellectual property, as any proper free software project would.

Possible area of confusion (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36101764)

First of all, I started out reading the whole license. Then I was pointed by one of your devs to section 11.

Now you keep saying rude shit like "That's your problem." "Get your mind off section 11." "Still your problem."

In short, you have been quite rude and snide on multiple occasions. AND YOU STILL HAVEN'T EXPLAINED WHY IT'S APPENDIX C OF THE LICENSE THAT APPLIES, AND NOT THE NON-OPEN-SOURCE PART.

But let's get past that.

The only "open source" parts of the license are described in Appendixes A-C. Appendix A and B don't apply, so it must be appendix C. By the text of the appendix itself, that only applies to certain files:

The Software subject to this Open Source License Agreement is the output files generated by the Provider's LatticeMico32 System.

So for this to work as you claim it did, what must have happened is that you must have (a) registered to get the software (which I'm not going to do and which you steadfastly refused to believe must be done to get the software for the longest time); (b) run their (proprietary?) program that puts together the SOC (which I don't see in your tarball and I apparently can't run without getting it from Lattice); and (c) THAT PROGRAM must have "output" those files by simply copying them from their initial install place to the output.

IF all that happened (if those files are considered "output" of their proprietary tool) THEN I can believe that you can legitimately call them open source and redistribute them.

But THEY don't explain that and YOU didn't explain that either, and the header on the file certainly doesn't indicate that it was run through their tool, or that their open source license applies, and neither does anything else in the tarball that I see. It is not a "generated" file in the normal sense of the word, so if that is how it becomes open source, I think you could have done a much better job addressing that.

Of course, neither fixing your documentation to explain why the license applies nor explaining it nicely could possibly be as much fun as simply berating people who don't stand a chance of being able to understand how you got there from the limited information you provided. It's assholes like you who give open source a bad name.

Re:Possible area of confusion (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36114754)

Is everything alright with you? Hopefully Lattice can help you, I certainly cannot, sorry about that...

Re:Open source? (4, Interesting)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090120)

Forgot to mention that I did read section 11 that you point out to. It doesn't include all the source. There are plenty of files that self-identify as being under one of the licenses referenced by section 11, but the core CPU RTL files don't seem to fall into that category.

Color me naive/fearful/stupid/untrusting/whatever, but when I see a license that covers both open source components and non-open source components, and a source file with a copyright notice that doesn't say anything about the code inside being under any kind of open source license, and in fact starts off by saying "This confidential and proprietary software ...", why the hell would I assume that the "open-source" parts of the license apply to that particular source file?

Re:Open source? (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090200)

Because Lattice said so. Just keep reading a bit more, think, and keep posting. Eventually you'll get there :-) Wikipedia must have gotten it wrong too then []

Re:Open source? (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090234)

Anybody can edit wikipedia.

I'm not going to spend any more time on that license. If you think it says what you say it says, spell it out for me, by chapter and verse. You can't just say that section 11 applies without saying why. Or alternatively, point me to a conversation with Lattice where they said it's all OK.

Re:Open source? (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091816)

Sure, anybody can edit wikipedia, but you are not anybody. I have never said that section 11 applies, you speak to yourself and don't read documents from beginning to end. Not a good start for someone studying a license imho. I don't think section 11 applies, I think it's Appendix C, which you seem to not have gotten to yet. I think the starting point is here, "LatticeMico32 Open, Free 32-Bit Soft Processor" []

Too difficult to read the license again (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090340)

So I just asked Lattice's licensing department.

Of course, them being lawyers, this discussion will probably be closed by the time they respond, but if not, I'll post the response here.


Dear sir or madam:

It has recently come to my attention that a public source code repository contains LatticeMico32 processor RTL files that have a Lattice copyright notice that claims the files are "confidential and proprietary software". For example, see: []

In conversation with the developers, they claim that section 11 of this license applies to those files: []

However, they have offered no reasoning as to why they believe section 11 applies. The headers of the files in question do not claim they are licensed according to any sort of open-source exception; quite the opposite.

The LatticeMico32 looks interesting for my own project; please advise if these sources really can be freely distributed under section 11 of this license, whether it is Appendix A or Appendix B that applies to that redistribution, and whether I should update the file headers to reflect that fact upon redistribution.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Best regards,


Re:Too difficult to read the license again (2)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090636)

Thanks a lot for contacting Lattice, I hope they can help you. What you ask them is hastily written nonsense, but maybe they can calm you down somewhat :-) I really think you should slow down a bit, think more, act less. But that's up to you of course...

Who claimed that "section 11 of this license applies to those files"? Kristian Paul merely pointed to section 11. The entire license agreement applies to those files, specifically 1. 2. a. 2. b. 2. c. and so on. Maybe you read the entire license first and slow down a little. Section 11 is for 3rd party open source stuff Lattice included with their open source stuff. If you read 11.a., you should at least read 11.b and 11.c as well. Best is if you start at 1. And actually you should start on that webpage you found yourself. Don't you think they want to tell you something there? What is it?

You did find something good still - the confusing "proprietary and confidential" remark at the top of some files that Lattice open-sourced under the license you haven't fully read yet. Let's see what Lattice says, you certainly wrote to them in the most disturbing style, so hopefully that wakes them up and you get a response... If the Slashdot comment section is really closed before you get an answer, please post to the milkymist development list.

Re:Too difficult to read the license again (1)

Ubitsa_teh_1337 (1006277) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091010)


Re:Too difficult to read the license again (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36093966)

Who claimed that "section 11 of this license applies to those files"? Kristian Paul merely pointed to section 11.

Are you listening to yourself? You act like I can't read and have to be spoon-fed (which may well be true), but that's completely crazy. Why the hell would somebody explicitly point out section 11 if it didn't apply?

Let's see what Lattice says, you certainly wrote to them in the most disturbing style,

What's disturbing about it? It's purely factual, and asks a question I would like to know the answer to. And the answer may well be what you say, because they do go out of their way to claim that the thing is "open", but that's not the feel I personally get from reading either the source header or the license file.

Re:Too difficult to read the license again (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091256)

The genesis of the source files seems to go through the Mico System Builder, then mico32_72_linux.tar. I was wrong pointing you to sections 1-xx, it should be covered by Appendix C. You said you had to register to download the mico32 stuff, but I am just downloading it without any registration. I will dig up more for you :-)

That might make a bit more sense... (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36094104)

But only if those particular files are "generated" by a copy. They seem to be available at Lattice for registered users. I can't download them; perhaps you have a cookie set.

Re:Open source? (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091856)

Are you sure the documents and sources cannot be retrieved without registration? Did you try to click on the links? It downloads for me (and I'm not registered)... []
Can you try this one for example (random pick) []

Re:Open source? (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36093788)

When I click on that, I get a redirect to here: []

Re:Open source? (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100314)

ACK. You need to register. Just tried in netsurf without cookies.

Re:Open source? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36093096)

No, that is exactly the definition of Open Source, and why the FSF shuns the term... It's no good being Open if it's not also Free (as in Freedom).

I'll look elsewhere for the next hardware project to donate my time to.

Re:Open source? (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36093160)

Then you will like to hear that Milkymist licenses every new line of code under the GPL, version 3. That's our default license... If you want to help replacing the Apache-style licensed Mico32 core with a copyleft (GPL) one, that would be great. As of right now, 75% of the HDL sources of the Milkymist SoC are already GPL licensed, the other 25% are LatticeMico32 open source...

Re:Open source? (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36093836)

There are legitimate things that gpl lovers and bsd lovers can agree to disagree about, but unless you can legitimately explain how a file can both meet the open source definition and be marked "confidential" please STFU.

Re:Open source? (1)

wspraul (594789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100304)

Because LICENSE.LATTICE Appendix C supersedes it (and the 'confidential' file itself points to that). Why do you deliberately ignore all evidence that points to an official and proper open-sourcing by Lattice in 2006, most importantly what they say and offer for download on their website? It seems you have your mind made up, that's fine. We will continue to use the open-source Mico32 core until Lattice makes it clear that we (and the rest of the world minus you) misunderstood them.

Re:Open source? (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36101294)

I wasn't talking to you. Rather, I was talking to somebody who thinks that "open source" is bad / GPL is good, and was apparently keying off the file header that I printed.

To the extent that the file header is correct, it doesn't match open source principles, and what he is saying is bullshit.

To the extent that the header is incorrect -- well, I'll reserve judgment on that. BTW, it is you who have been strongly asserting you know all about the license. I can't be "wrong" because I haven't figured it out yet. I also can't be the only one in this boat, or I wouldn't have been modded up. But go ahead and keep telling me how stupid I am, that's fine. And while you're at it, keep directing me to irrelevant sections of the license, not explaining the steps that mean that it really works, and responding to irrelevant side-comments that have nothing to do with the real question.


The elephant in the room (4, Insightful)

femto (459605) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089704)

is the highly proprietary FPGA technology used to implement the CPU. FPGA partition, place and route (ppr) is some of most proprietary software on the planet, slathered in trade secrets and patents. The chips themselves are worse. Think of them as a type of processor (after all an FPGA is just a bit cruncher) with a secret instruction set and compiler (ppr). Xlinix (major FPGA company) want potential customers to sign an NDA simply to have their salespeople say more than "we sell FPGAs".

If the Free Software community is to use FPGA's, as more than just a curiosity, first task is to design/build its own silicon and write its own toolchain. Then they come up against the proprietary nature of semiconductor manufacturing.

I'm not belittling the Milkymist project, as what I describe above is a separate project. It's a huge project, essentially a reimplementation of 50 years of semiconductor progress, ultimately linked to the (seminal) desktop manufacturing projects that some have started. Imagine RepRap mk42 with semiconducting, conducting and insulating inks, printing circuits at the micro-scale.

Re:The elephant in the room (2)

krispaul (2138654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090090)

Step by step !!,
We’re aware of the current use of non-free synthesis tools. But it dint mean, we're happy with.
So far the flashing process uses now free/open hardware and software, something that was not possible before.
The history don’t end here, there are very smart people working on some replacement for this missing free parts, but is Work In Progress, and requires more people to join and develop around it.

As in contrast the GNU compiler was no developed in a free/libre system from once. All require transition, and support, keep that mind :-)
If you are interested please join our irc channel #milkymist at freenode and tell us how you can help: []

About the secrecy part i recommend you to read this interesting thread, worth take the time to read it, and scape from misinformation that is very common those days: []

Re:The elephant in the room (1)

femto (459605) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090592)

> Step by step !!

No harm in dreaming! :-)

Be careful to distinguish between synthesis and ppr. Synthesis is doable. PPR requires knowledge of the FPGA's structure as well as complete timing info. I agree that clues can be gleaned from the FPGA editor tools, but I don't think it's enough to write a PPR. (I could be wrong though, since I haven't tried it!)

I'm keen to contribute, though I'm constrained by other things that take my time. One thing I do have is a complete MIMO capable reconfigurable radio platform [] . It would be suitable for use with GNU Radio. I did it as part of a Master's by Research. My thesis and all the designs are under the GPL, the licensing being written into the thesis. I plan on putting it on my website, but I need to time to clean a few things up first. Everything is already on the 'net, in the form of the online thesis. Know any people who would be interested in such a beast?

Re:The elephant in the room (2)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090650)

Isn't it the same with all open source projects, running on a highly proprietary CPU ?

Re:The elephant in the room (2)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091184)

First, we are working on this, and your patches are welcome. [] [] FPGA companies are not as evil as you make them out to be. As a matter of fact, a large part of Xilinx's motivation about closing the bitstream is not to be evil, but to limit the damage that can be done from their (stupid and large) customers misusing the FPGAs. They still publish a lot and you might be surprised to learn, for example, that the ISE software has options to dump the complete routing graph of all Xilinx FPGAs as well as some raw timing characterization numbers. The information is there, but it takes more work to go looking for it than to sit on your ass bashing the FPGA companies - as most free software activists do whenever the topic of FPGAs arises. No wonder why so little open source FPGA and EDA stuff gets done. Finally, Milkymist SoC and FPGAs lie at two different levels of abstraction. When you are using a traditional CPU, both the logic design (HDL) and the physical implementation system (ASIC cells, P&R tools, ...) are closed. When you are using Milkymist SoC, the logic design is open and the physical implementation system is closed. The logic design is portable, and ported, to other technologies. I think we all agree this represents a progress.

Re:The elephant in the room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36102814)

I'm not belittling the Milkymist project, as what I describe above is a separate project. It's a huge project, essentially a reimplementation of 50 years of semiconductor progress, ultimately linked to the (seminal) desktop manufacturing projects that some have started. Imagine RepRap mk42 with semiconducting, conducting and insulating inks, printing circuits at the micro-scale.

Pardon my ignorance, but my understanding was the core tool is simply a compiler with some entertaining internals. Mainly, instead of producing output with a relatively simple processor model (note, I wrote "relatively simple"), you're having to deal with a far more complex layout of an FPGA. For attempting to design the FPGA, you're then having to deal with laying things out on a 2D device and deal with all the trade-offs there. So, I thought this was mostly an issue of needing a very complex compiler, and/or everyone's favorite, patents.

Is my impression wrong?

Incredible... (0, Offtopic)

Sene (1794986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089970) many asshole comments does a nice project like this spawn!

It seems there are a lot of people (here at least) who seem to have some very fundamental disagreements with other people making a nice product.

I would like to see the better examples without more bullshit arguments.

Open is as Open Does (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090382)

The people who stand the most to gain from this are the same who gained the most from Linux --

* Oracle (MySQL)
* Every other large company that needed an easy way to implement a small product (e.g., LinkSys, a.k.a. Cisco)

BTW, try getting any Linux open source code from IBM, you know, the stuff they are obligated to make public.

Fail (1)

smolix (133533) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090390)

I know this is going to be a flamebait. But before you flame me, consider the following: I'm researcher and get paid for what I do. I've released quite a few codes as open source and invented a bunch of algorithms which are not patented and used in many applications (think email spam filter, face recognition, etc.). And I've worked in industry and academia. For almost two decades. So I know both open and closed source.

First off, ideas have value. As in Dollar value. Take NVIDIA for instance - they don't have a semiconductor fab, so they send their chip layout to a place like TSMC or Global Foundry or Samsung or any other place to have their files turned into chips. These places are like modern printing presses. If their mask, vhdl or layout information were open source they wouldn't be able to reap the benefit from their investment into building the next generation of chips. Or as a more extreme case, take ARM. They design processor cores and license the microarchitecture to other (possibly fabless) design companies such as Apple which, in turn, tweak the design, add more stuff to it, and then ship it to the foundries. In other words, all the good stuff is in the plans, much less in the actual hardware.

So, designing an open source CPU is probably not going to work. Why not? Well, unlike with software, there's a massive barrier to entry. Talk Millions of Dollars rather than a few hundred to buy a laptop and install some version of GCC on it. Few users can afford this. This pretty much kills the model where many users take advantage of a good idea and share it to make it better. Yes, there are good ideological reasons but most people don't do things for ideology (note the emphasis on most). They do them for fun, profit, fame, convenience, or some other less noble goal.

As for the piece of hardware itself, hmmm, not sure why I would want to buy an overpriced and function limited and incompatible device.

Re:Fail (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091398)

First off, ideas have value. As in Dollar value.

Not even draconian US "intellectual property" law supports that kind of idiocy.

Re:Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091672)

It's a soft CPU for an FPGA. There are already free (as in free beer) soft CPU:s for FPGA:s, so the market value of a free (as in freedom) soft CPU could be debated. But as I'm sure you're aware there is no debating the fact that soft CPU:s are used in the industry.

Correct me if I am wrong (1)

Radiophobic (1973144) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090458)

But hasn't an open source consumer device already been released? []

That's all it does? (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090482)

Years of work, special purpose hardware, a price tag higher than an entire PC, and all it does is generate screen-saver like video wallpaper in sync with audio?

If you're building technology for a rave, build something that makes the track spots follow the dancers. Something the dancers can play with. A Kinect might make that work.

Re:That's all it does? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091022)

I think that if a Kinect saw a rave, it would have a seizure.

Re:That's all it does? (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091198)

About the price tag: this has to do with volume alone. The only way we can bring it down is by selling lots of device. Traditional chicken and egg problem in electronics...

Re:That's all it does? (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091486)

Ah and yes - the video input is pretty much to make stuff the dancers can play with. We have no good video footage or documentation of this however (which is part of the reasons while it's still "beta").

Re:That's all it does? (1)

darien.train (1752510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36095986)

If you know how the unit/compositing setup works you can implement all kinds of additional software layers that will do just that. I have a Kinect interacting with Resolume 3 right next to me at the moment that I'm testing. My biggest issue at the moment is actually TUIOKinect being an asshole...everything else works great.

Nope. (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091430)

Try the UltraSPARC II instead, which is released under GPL, not some licence-proliferating legalese that's not actually open at all [] .

Re:Nope. (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091482)

We considered this option, but OpenSPARC is very resource hungry. It is a good design for a stand alone ASIC microprocessor, but in our case it is better to use a small and resource efficient CPU and leave the bulk of the calculations to dedicated accelerators.

Re:Nope. (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36091666)

Did you consider the LEONx cores? They are available as GPL code and are a great deal simpler and more FPGAable then the UltraSPARC II.

Out of Beta ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36091506)

They're releasing on time.

Milky Mist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36092484)

That name makes it sound like ejaculate.

Open Graphics Project beat them to it (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 3 years ago | (#36108980)

Interestingly, the OGD1 board produced by the Open Graphics Project is a significantly more powerful device. The problem is that very few OGD1 boards were produces, due to lack of funding.

Re:Open Graphics Project beat them to it (1)

lekernel (1279600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119220)

All OGD does is a dumb VGA framebuffer due to lack of development/skills on the FPGA design. We went a lot further than that.
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