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Altera USB-Blaster with Ubuntu 14.04

Reproduced From:

I was having the problem: unable to program the Altera FPGA board with USB-Blaster, and even failed to auto-detect.

Auto-detect gave me a message: "Unable to scan device chain. Please check the hardware setup."

Thanks to the blogger so I got it solved, and here is the article.

With some work, I got Alteras on-board USB-Blaster working on my Ubuntu 14.04-64 installation with Quartus II 13.1.0 64-bit. I was connecting to a Terasic SocKit board. In this article, I'll describe how I got it working.

To facilitate working with the Altera software, I suggest adding the bin/ folder of the Quartus installation (/opt/altera/13.1/quartus/bin on my system) to $PATH. This gives command-line access to the commands jtagd and jtagconfig which I use in this post.

Verify USB connection and check Product ID

At first, connect the cable and make sure the USB device is recognized. These are the commands I used and the output I got:

$ dmesg|tail
[16059.962298] usb 2-2: New USB device found, idVendor=09fb, idProduct=6010
[16059.962301] usb 2-2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[16059.962303] usb 2-2: Product: CV SoCKit
[16059.962305] usb 2-2: Manufacturer: Altera
[16059.962307] usb 2-2: SerialNumber: ARCVSC-123-457
$ lsusb|grep Altera
Bus 002 Device 007: ID 09fb:6010 Altera

Take note of the Product ID listed - 6010 in the above example.

Fix USB driver permissions

The Quartus software will use the Linux built-in usb_device drivers. By default, only root has access to these so we must make sure the user is allowed to access them as well.

jtagd, part of the Quartus tools, is a deamon that provides the interface between the Altera tool accessing the JTAG chain and the USB driver. If not already running, jtagd will be startetd automatically when the Quartus software or jtagconfig is run. You'll usually run these as a user, which means jtagd will also run as a user. That is why edited permission for the usb_device is necessary.

Create a file /etc/udev/rules.d/51-usbblaster.rules, make sure it has read permissions for root, and fill it with this content:

# For Altera USB-Blaster permissions.
RUN+="/bin/chmod 0666 %c"

Edit the value for ATTR{idProduct} to match the Product ID determined before.

If you have more than one Product ID you want this to work for, simply repeat the above lines in the same file and use the other Product IDs for ATTR{idProduct}.

For the changes to take effect, reboot the machine or run:

$ sudo udevadm control --reload
Copy devices data for jtagd

Make sure jtagd has access to the list of devices:

$ sudo cp /opt/altera/13.1/quartus/linux64/pgm_parts.txt /etc/jtagd/jtagd.pgm_parts

Also make sure this file has read access for the user.

This file allows Altera tools to translate Device IDs (left column of terminal listing below) to device names (right column) for found devices.

Test that it's all working

To test that the connection works, execute jtagconfig and hope for an output giving the board and the devices:

$ jtagconfig
1) CV SoCKit [2-2]
  02D020DD   5CSEBA6(.|ES)/5CSEMA6/..
  4BA00477   SOCVHPS

The cable should now be recognized as a valid hardware by the Quartus tools. From Quartus, select Tools, Programmer, Hardware Setup... and then select the board from the drop-down list. Now, the Programmer, JTAG Chain Debugger and System console should all recognize and use the USB-Blaster device.

Trouble-shooting and common error messages

For general problems, start trouble-shooting by making sure jtagd is not started, then start it as root and then run jtagconfig. This should eliminate all possible permission problems, and should work also without the udev rights.

$ sudo killall -9 jtagd   # Kill jtagd, ...
$ sudo killall -9 jtagd   # ...and verify jtagd is indeed not running.
jtagd: no process found   # Good, verified.
$ jtagconfig
1) CV SoCKit [2-1]
  02D020DD   5CSEBA6(.|ES)/5CSEMA6/..
  4BA00477   SOCVHPS

Other trouble-shooting includes verifying that the usb device is found (dmesg|tail and ps aux|grep Altera). Also check that jtagd runs, and if it runs as user or root:

$ ps aux|grep jtagd
root 21733 0.0 0.0 25076 1580 ? S 11:05 0:00 /opt/altera/13.1/quartus/linux64/jtagd
# Obviously, jtagd is running, and it's running as root.

If an Altera tool started jtagd, it will typically be started with some command-line options:

$ ps aux|grep jtagd
carl 5399 0.0 0.0 25080 1612 ? S 19:37 0:00 /opt/altera/13.1/quartus/linux64/jtagd --user-start --config /home/carl/.jtagd.conf

For some reason, as can be seen above, the Altera tool has provided a specific Device ID file as command-line argument, however, even if this file doesn't exist, at least on my system jtagd will also check /etc/jtagd/jtagd.pgm_parts. It can also be noted that the Altera tool has started jtagd with a --user-start argument. In this case, jtagd will terminate two minutes after the last client has disconnected from it. The next Altera tool needing to use it will simply start it again.

Typical permission problems will yield this message from jtagconfig:

$ jtagconfig
No JTAG hardware available

If you get an error message like Unable to lock chain (Insufficient port permissions), this is due to the driver permissions.

It can also be useful to try to start jtagd with some debug options for verbose output:

$ jtagd --foreground --debug
JTAG daemon started
Using config file /etc/jtagd/jtagd.conf
Remote JTAG permitted when password set

(Still, at least on my system, jtagd will also check /etc/jtagd/jtagd.pgm_parts although it says otherwise in the output above.)

An error message about not being able to bind to port 1309 typically means jtagd is already running:

$ jtagd --foreground --debug
JTAG daemon started
Using config file /etc/jtagd/jtagd.conf
Remote JTAG permitted when password set
Cant bind to TCP port 1309 - exiting

If jtagconfig indicates that the connection is OK, but using the Quartus Programmer fails and is giving this message in the Quartus console:

Error (209042): Application SLD HUB CLIENT on is using the
target device

...then restarting jtagd will usually work. This goes for any application occupying the target device. If the applicatoin in question is System Console, then this is usually the Nios console window in Eclipse. Terminate its connection to Nios (icon with red square).

Work-around for driver permission problems

If you don't manage to fix driver permission problems, you can run jtagd as root instead. This is also an alternative solution to creating the udev rules as described above. However, you should be aware that this is not typically regarded as a 'good' solution due to security issues.

If starting jtagd manually, start it as root with sudo jtagd. You must make sure jtagd is not running in prior to this - if it is, it will continue to run as the user that started it previously.

For a permanent solution, start jtagd as root at each boot. That can, for example, be done by adding a call to the jtagd executable in /etc/rc.local. Add the line and make sure the file has execute permissions (that is for some reason not always the case for a standard Ubuntu installation). Reboot the machine and check that jtagd is started, and that it runs as root. (A more correct, but more complicated, way to do this is to add init.d scripts for jtagd. Then shutdown and restart can also be handled correctly.)

ModelSim Altera Edition

Most other Altera tools I've used has worked without problems (QuartusII, Qsys, SBT/Eclipse, Programmer, System Console and others). However, ModelSim typically won't run without tweaking on Ubuntu 14.

Trying to lauch ModelSim from within Quartus gave the following error message:

Can't launch ModelSim-Altera Simulation software -- make sure the software
is properly installed and the environment variable LM_LICENSE_FILE or
MGLS_LICENSE_FILE points to the correct license file.

However, the problem is not about the licensing in this case. Trying to lauch from the command line gave a more informative error message:

$ ./vsim
Error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object
file: No such file or directory.

Remedy: install the 32-bit version of libXft:

$ sudo apt-get install libxft2:i386

When any missing packages are installed, expect a segmentation fault when trying to launch ModelSim:

$ vsim
** Fatal: Read failure in vlm process (0,0)
Segmentation fault (core dumped)

This is due to ModelSim being incompatible with the latest version of the libfreetype package.

I got this problem working by following the instructions here:

Ubuntu Virtual CAE System

The same instructions can also be found here:

Making ModelSim ALTERA STARTER EDITION vsim 10.1d work on Ubuntu 14.04

This solved the problems for me and ModelSim is now runnning fine.



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