BrightStar Engineering ipEngine1 Project

Timing of Bstar project
BrightStar Engineering ipEngine BrightStar ipEngine top side PCB on motherboard

In 1999, BrightStar Engineering announced a PowerPC evaluation module with a choice of embedded Linux or their own real-time kernel. The board and documentation are still available in 2011 on the BrightStar Engineering website. The adjacent photo shows the PowerPC and the Altera FPGA. The far right photo shows the board plugged into a motherboard with a wire wrap area, connectors for Ethernet and the two serial ports. The board had a 50 MHz MPC823 PowerPC, 16 MBytes of DRAM, 4 MBytes of Flash, 10 Mbps Ethernet, 16,000 gate FPGA, on-board power supply for the processor, FPGA and memory, plus pickup points on the wire wrap area. There were two RS-232 ports. See BrightStar FPGA work for additional description of the FPGA trials.

The software from Altera for their smaller FPGAs was free. The Linux development environment had been packaged to work on a Windows PC without having to jump through hoops—it just worked. The FPGA was loaded up via the 823 and could either load the image into the Flash or take it off the network. See BrightStar FPGA for additional details on the FPGA.

The work was part of an evaluation for a warehouse application. We always used to document our path through the process so that end-users (and ourselves some months later) could quickly reconfigure the board for a demo. The first steps were a ‘history’ dump which was later expanded while still fresh. The snapshot from 21st December, 1999 became an application note (PDF 733 kBytes) dated 7th February, 2000. Some years later we had done a few more warehouse projects between spare time and the South African government’s meddling in the pharmaceutical industry, and moved the original PageMaker documentation to LaTeX, to produce the following updated document with photos and documented source code (PDF 1,4 MBytes). From sifting through the archives, here is what we tested that has been sanitized VHDL and C example code (49 kByte tarball).