Xilinx ML-403 Installation guide

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This document explains how to install the whole Zet sytem in the Xilinx ML-403 board and have MS-DOS or FreeDOS running. These instructions are exactly the same for Microsoft Windows or Linux, because the only steps done in the computer are copying 3 files and editing another file.


This guide is intended for the Xilinx ML-403 board, which is the only board fully supported at the moment. So you will need the original board package from Xilinx. It comes in a black box like that one in figs. 1 and 2:

Fig. 1 Xilinx ML-403 package directly from the store
Fig. 2 The contents of the black case.

Compact flash reader

Fig. 3 Compact Flash reader

Also, you will need a Compact Flash card reader, for uploading the design and flash images. This is quite inexpensive, and you can find it in most computer stores. One like the fig. 3 would be ok.

Other requisites

Of course, you will need a computer monitor to see what is printed on screen. Any monitor with a standard VGA connector would work. Also, a standard computer or laptop with an USB port to connect the compact flash reader is needed to copy the design to the linear Flash.

Copying files into the Compact Flash

Fig. 4 Laptop connected to the Compact Flash reader

We will need to copy 3 files to the Compact Flash. These files can be downloaded from this website:

  • The Zet FPGA hardware design: Zet.ace
  • The VGABIOS and ROMBIOS bundled in one file: Bios.rom
  • The floppy disk image, which contains the operating system to boot: Msdos.img or Freedos.img
Fig. 5 Contents of the Compact Flash card

All these files need to be in the appropiate directories in order to work. To do this, we insert the Compact Flash card into the reader and connect it to the computer like in the fig. 4. The contents of the Compact Flash first partition will show (fig. 5).

Now, we copy the hardware design file (Zet.ace) to the directory ml403/myace/ of the Compact Flash card. After doing this, we have to rename the file that was in this directory: system_my_ace.ace to system_my_ace.bak. This last step is important, as it only has to be one .ace file in this directory.

Then, we copy the Bios.rom file and the floppy image file Msdos.img or Freedos.img to the directory XILINX/flash/ of the Compact Flash card. When this is done, we need to edit the file XILINX/flash.txt and comment out all the lines, using the # caracter at the beginning of each line. We add these two lines at the end:

0x28000000 D A:\XILINX\flash\Bios.rom
0x28400000 D A:\XILINX\flash\Msdos.img

If we choose to use the FreeDOS image, then the last line would be Freedos.img instead of Msdos.img.

Fig. 6 Board with the Compact Flash card

OK, we are done with the Compact Flash card. Now, we can extract it safely from the reader and connect it to the ML-403 board, as you can see in fig. 6. Also, you can connect the computer screen and plug in the power supply, as is shown in Fig. 6. Before switching on the board power, make sure that the 6 DIP switches are switched off and the switch 12 is in the rightmost position, selecting the SYSACE controller, as you can see in fig. 7.

Fig. 7 6 DIP switches and the boot selector switch

Flash loading

Now, we are ready to switch on the board and transfer the bios image and the floppy image to the flash chips. When we switch on the board, a menu will display in the screen. We select the last menu option (7 in the menu) by pressing the SOUTH button till the last option is selected. Next, we press the CENTRAL button.

Flash programming will start and will program the bios image and the floppy image. After a while, it will end with the message: FLASH LOAD COMPLETED! printed in the LCD display.

Zet processor boot

We are ready to load the Zet design into the FPGA. To do this, we reset the board by pressing the RST button, which is on the right side of the Stat led. The menu shown before will show again, now we select the 6th position: My ACE File and press the CENTRAL buton.

Now the system will be booting, showing the BIOS and the Operating System messages!!

If you want to start automatically the Zet design, you only have to change DIP switches 1 and 2 to ON, and the 6th configuration will be loaded upon board power.

Fig. 8 MS-DOS booting