1BitSquared's Glasgow "Scots Army Knife" for Electronic Investigation Heads to Crowd Supply

Now in Revision C, the "Scots Army Knife" offers Python-powered features for electrical engineers, hackers, tinkerers, and more.

Gareth Halfacree
2 years ago

1BitSquared is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the Glasgow Interface Explorer, an iCE40 FPGA-powered "Scots Army Knife" for electronics engineers, hackers, tinkerers, and anyone who would like to be able to communicate with a wide range of electronic hardware.

The Glasgow board, currently in Revision C, is designed to offer a broad selection of capabilities with little more than "some wires and, depending on the device under test, external power," its creators boast β€” in concept similar to the Dangerous Prototypes Bus Pirate, currently undergoing its own shift to an iCE40 FPGA.

While still under active development, the Rev. C design can already: Communicate via UART with automatic detection of the baud rate required; initiate SPI and I2C transactions; read and write to and from 24-series electrically erasable programmable read-only memories (EEPROMs) and 25-series flash memories, the latter with automatic parameter determination via SFDP; read and write any ONFI-compatible flash with automatic parameter determination; program and verify AVR microcontrollers over SPI; play back JTAG SVF files; debug ARC processors over JTAG; debug a subset of MIPS processors via EJATG; program and verify XC9500XL CPLDs; and a range of progressively more esoteric tricks, including synthesise sound via a Yamaha OPL audio chip and play it via a web page and read magnetic flux data from 5.25" or 3.5" floppy drives.

The Glasgow Revision C board includes 16 input/output (I/O) pins with a peak 100MHz frequency, independent direction control, and independent pull-up/down resistors, grouped into two I/O ports compatible with 1V8 to 5V logic. Each port is able to sense and monitor the I/O voltage of the device on test and to provide up to 150mA power β€” with only devices requiring more than this needing external power. Communication to a host device is provided over a USB 2.0 connection.

The Glasgow software, meanwhile, is written wholly in Python 3 β€” including the FPGA logic, which is described using the Python-based domain specific language Migen. The hardware and software are all fully open, distributed under the 0-Clause BSD Licence and Apache 2.0 Licence; all files are already published on the project's GitHub repository.

"The Glasgow software is a set of building blocks designed to eliminate incidental complexity," its creators explain. "Each interface is packaged into a self-contained applet that can be used directly from the command line or integrated into a more complex system. Using Glasgow does not require any programming knowledge, though it is much more powerful if you know a bit of Python."

More details, including a form to register for notification when the campaign goes live, can be found on the Glasgow Crowd Supply campaign page.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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