Remember that WIP #LetsDriveLCD? I am still having some trouble with the MIPI-DSI, and that's part of the VerilogBoy project. Currently I do not have access to any soldering tools, so the plan of making a new revision of prototype need to be postponed. In the meanwhile, I thought it might be a good idea to continue working on the RTL – I started refactoring the code but haven't finished yet. But, I need a hardware platform to test. Well, I forgot to bring my FPGA development board (Xilinx ML505, I really loved that board) with me when I came back from Christmas holiday… But no problem, I got myself two Pano Logic thin clients (G1 and G2) last year. Though I have to admit, I didn't do much with these units after I got them. Now the time has come, let's take a look.
We have something to hack
In case you are not familiar with them, let me introduce them first. They were originally thin clients, used to connect to remote desktop servers. What is special about Pano boxes are, they are powered by FPGAs, rather than ARM or x86 CPUs commonly found on a thin client. They advertise it being a “Zero Client”, means there is no (zero) software running on the client. Well, unfortunate for them, they went bankruptcy in 2013. What is fortunate for us is that, these units now become useless for companies originally bought them, being sold for very low price on places like eBay. It is our turn to repurpose these devices! Of course, hackaday has already featured it for several times:
- Ask Hackaday: We might have some FPGAs to hack
- Racing the Beam on a Thin Client, in FPGAs
- Pac-Man Fever Comes to the Pano Logic FPGA
- Two Joysticks Talk To FPGA Arcade Game Over A VGA Cable
As far as I know, there are 3 generations of Pano Logic clients, the first two looks very similar, and the third is slimmer. Unfortunately I have never seen a slim model on the eBay. If you know anything about the slim model, please tell me, I am interested. The first generation (G1) model is powered by a Xilinx Spartan-3E XC3S1600E FPGA (1600K system gates, translate to around 30K LUT4s.), with 32MB of on-board LPDDR RAM. The second generation model, depending on the revision, is either powered by a Xilinx Spartan-6 XC6SLX150 (Rev. B) or Xilinx Spartan-6 XC6SLX100 (Rev. C), both with 128MB of DDR3 memory. The one I own is a Rev. C one. Both generations has already been reversed engineered by the community, notably cyrozap, twj42, and Tom Verbeure. You may find more information about details of the Pano boxes here: https://github.com/tomverbeure/panologic, and https://github.com/tomverbeure/panologic-g2.