2009-03-27 LEON3

At work, we're currently experimenting with the LEON3 processor. It's an open chip design that contains a general CPU and has buses for several applications. It's possible to design your own logic for controlling custom electronics, and then use the bus to connect your logic to the CPU.

On that CPU, you can just run Linux and with a driver you can read out your custom logic. The LEON3 CPU core has a SPARC instruction set, making it perfect for running Linux. The SPARC instruction set is a bit of a loner when it comes to embedded OSes though -- the ARM architecture is much better supported. But there you go.

The LEON3 is an alternative for an FPGA that's connected with a serial port or somesuch to a full-blown PC. It also makes it possible to move a lot of logic from the FPGA to C or C++ code. Although arguably you lose on simplicity (there's now a full OS running on the LEON core), you gain on flexibility because of the fluidity of software as opposed to an FPGA.