Nios II - Booting software from Flash


Has anyone got NIOS software to boot from Flash?

I'm working on a Stratix II-based design with onboard NIOS and peripherals (16MB flash, Ethernet, SDRAM etc). The Flash, Ethernet, and SDRAM components are wired to the Stratix-II via an Avalon tri-state bus, similar to the design on the Stratix Edition Nios development kit. A single Nios CPU core is running at 50MHz.on the Stratix II.

I plan to have both the FPGA firmware and NIOS software stored in Flash in our end application. So far the FPGA firmware appears to load fine, on boot up a CPLD configures the FPGA with data stored in Flash. I can then execute my NIOS application by loading in software using Quartus II.

To boot up my application software from Flash I had previously set the Nios's reset address to "ext_flash" with an appropriate address offset. I then write into Flash my software application's "ext_flash.flash" file which is generated after software compilation. I assert and keep the Nios in CPU reset, run Signal Tap, and deassert CPU reset.

What I see happening is that the CPU does appear to read the software application data from Flash at the correct address. The data looks correct too, at least to the extent of the small period of time covered by Signal Tap. My software application does not execute properly, as I see the Nios then reading from roughly 0x380000 to perhaps the end of the flash device and repeating continually. I have attempted to use elf2flash to manually create my own software flash file, specifying the flash boot loader from " ../componenta/altera_nios2/boot_loader_cfi.srec" but this produced the same result. Is this the correct boot loader?

In my software application's system library, I have set the Program memory (.text), Read-only data memory (.rodata), and Read/write data memory (.rwdata) to sdram. I intend for this code to actually execute in SDRAM after being copied from Flash by the bootloader.

I'd like to hear from anyone if there is a problem with this set up.

Cheers, Joseph Tan

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Joseph Tan
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Never used the NIOS2 IDE though...just normal Linux/OSX environment for this (o;

So is the .data segment also in your flash and do you copy it to SDRAM after reset? Do you also clear .bss section?

I normally generate code for run from SDRAM/SRAM for better performance and relocate the whole code to RAM after reset. Setup initial SP and just call main() in RAM (o;

You might want to look at u-boot source code how it is done there...


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The NIOS IDE produces a ext_flash.flash file and a .elf file. I'm assuming that the .flash file contains the entire program data with a Flash to SDRAM copier for booting.

I'm relying on the Altera tools such as the Flash file generator (which seems to run as a part of the software compilation in NIOS IDE), and the Altera supplied boot loader (which performs the copy from Flash to SDRAM).

I'll poke around a bit more, but it gets extreme I wonder if I can disassemble the .flash file to see if the boot loader is in fact there.

Correcting something in my previous post, the SDRAM does not connect to the FPGA via the Avalon tri-state bus, but rather a dedicated bus to the FPGA.

Cheers, Joseph Tan

Reply to
Joseph Tan

Last week I finally found why my software wasn't booting from Flash.

contained is not actual machine code but rather an "S-Record" Flash file.

Once this Flash file was converted to raw binary and cropped off at my designated flash offset, the Nios executed the software code just fine.

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Joseph Tan

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