Thursday, April 27, 2023

FOSSi Fantasies 2022


2022 is behind us and as usual I'm wrapping up my open source silicon efforts of the past year in a blog post.

Hang on...a 2022 retrospective...? In... the end of April??

Yes, I am fully aware that a third of 2023 has already passed, thank you very much, and that it's way too late to write a new year's retrospective. I have just been extremely busy, but I still wanted to get it out of the system. It's only been a month since the Persian new year, so in the light of that I'm not that late. Anyway...

This year, the list is shorter than usual simply because I haven't done as much FOSSi work as previous years. The upside is that I managed to complete this article close to new year, rather than much later as in previous years.

But why have I done less work? The main reason is that I have been terribly busy with my day job which is mostly of proprietary nature. While I do a lot of interesting stuff in this capacity, it's unfortunately not much I can talk about publicly. This is another reason why I greatly prefer open source work, so that I can show, share ideas and collaborate with other people.

There is one thing however from my day job that I can and want to talk about. This summer we launched a fully remote office that we call Qamcom Anywhere. Having worked remote myself for the past four years I have been pushing to make it possible for more people in the company to do the same, and this year we got it going for real. Qamcom Anywhere has been a massive success and we have found amazing new colleagues in various parts of Sweden where we previously haven't been looking before. Given my previous experience with working remote as well as working on open source projects, which by nature tend to be highly distributed, I was tasked to run this new office. As part of the campaign we also recorded a commercial, so I can now also add movie star to my CV ;)

As for now, we have launched Qamcom Anywhere in Sweden, but hope to spread to more countries in the future. Stay tuned if you want to be colleagues!

But even outside of this I have found some time to work on my long list of open source silicon projects.

Let's start by looking at what has happened to FuseSoC over the past year. Most of the effort has been spent on getting FuseSoC in shape for a long overdue 2.0 release. A couple of major features and changes were identified as being important to complete before this release. Most notably is the support for the new flow API in Edalize, but a number of critical bug fixes and backwards-incompatible changes were put in place. Unfortunately, we never manages to get the 2.0 release out of the door, but we got close and at least released a first release candidate in late December, while the final release saw the light in the beginning of this year.

Most of my other FOSSi projects made good progress. There were a few new Edalize releases, SweRVolf got some new board support, a maintenance release to an old i2c component that I maintain (hey! it's important to put some effort into cleaning up old code, not just rewrite new code all the time) and even good old ipyxact saw a new release, which now contains ipxact2v, a very handy tool to automatically convert IP-XACT designs to Verilog top-levels. It's not fully complete, but the functionality that exists is already coming to good use in various projects.

The project that probably saw the most interesting news in 2022 was SERV. SERV itself gained support for compressed instructions, thanks to Abdul Wadood who I had the great pleasure of mentor through Linux Foundation's LFX Mentorship Program. And aside from improvements to the core itself, in 2022, fellow FOSSi superstar developer Florent Kermarrec, who might be most known for Litex, managed to run 10000 SERV cores in a Xilinx FPGA. This seems to be the current world record right now for the most RISC-V cores in a single device, but I'm very curious how the competitors will react (looking at you, Intel!).

This year was the first in three years where I didn't create any new videos (or Fully Immersive Multimedia Edutainment Experiences, as I prefer to call them). Instead I did a number of presentations using old-fashioned slides for a live audience. The first of them being the RISC-V Week in Paris in early May where I did both a presentation on FuseSoC as well as one on SERV. The SERV video was unfortunately never published, but the slides for the presentation called How much score could a CoreScore score if a CoreScore could score cores? can be found here. I did another FuseSoC talk at FPGA World in Stockholm, Sweden which was also not recorded, but the final one, from the RISC-V Summit in San Jose was. This one was title SERV: 32-bit is the new 8-bit and aims to look at how RISC-V can be competitive in the traditional 8-bit market thanks to SERV.

Both at the RISC-V week as well as the RISC-V Summit I also got the chance to meet with the people behind RVFPGA, a project I have been involved with almost since the start. For those unaware, RVFPGA is a free computer architecture course by Imagination University Programme that runs on a slightly modified version of SweRVolf that I built a couple of years ago. Right after the RISC-V Summit I also got the chance to watch a RVFPGA workshop in action, and it was super fun to see all these students working their way through the labs.

Let's see.... what else then...hmm... you know what? I'm sure other things in 2022 as well, but my memory is fading and May is just outside the door waiting to come in, so let's just cut it here before the rest of the year passes too. Here's to 2023. Happy new year!

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