Fixing Points With Knockoff Altera USB Blasters

Utilizing an exterior MCU as a crude clock supply for the Altera CPLD. (Credit score: [Doug Brown])

One thrilling characteristic of {hardware} improvement involving MCUs and FPGAs is that you simply all too usually want particular instruments to program them, with [Doug Brown] struggling a price ticket aneurysm after checking the price of an official Altera/Intel USB Blaster (yours for $300) to program a MAX 10 FPGA machine with. This led him naturally down the path of exploring alternatives, with the $69 Terasic model rejected for ‘being too costly’ and opting as an alternative for the Waveshare USB Blaster V2, at a regretful $34. The wonderful characteristic of this USB Blaster clone is that whereas it really works completely high-quality underneath Home windows, it really works at most intermittently underneath Linux.

This led [Doug] down the trail of reverse-engineering and diagnosing the issue, finally falling by the wayside and downclocking the Altera CPLD contained in the adapter after discovering that it was operating a smidge sooner than the standard 6 MHz. This was achieved initially by wiring in an exterior MCU as a crude (and inaccurate) clock supply, however shall be changed with a 12 MHz oscillator in a while. Precisely why the issue solely exists on Linux and never on Home windows will stay a thriller, with Waveshare assist additionally being clueless.

Undeterred, [Doug] then gambled on a $9 USB Blaster clone (pictured above), which turned out to be not solely fully non-functional, but additionally brought about an instantaneous BSOD on Home windows, presumably because of the faked FTDI USB performance tripping up the Home windows FTDI driver. This bought mounted by flashing custom firmware by [Vladimir Duan] to the WCH CH552G-based board after some modifications shared in a challenge fork. This number of clone adapters can have a variety of MCUs inside, starting from this WCH one to STM32 and PIC MCUs, with very related labels on the case. Whereas cracking one open we had mendacity round, we discovered a PIC18 inside, but when you find yourself with a CH552G-based one, this would seem to completely repair it. Which isn’t dangerous for the merest fraction of the official adapter.

Because of [mip] for the tip.

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