Installing the Toolflow

This page explains how to install the CASPER tools and what supporting software is required to run them.

Getting the right versions

The toolflow is very sensitive to mis-matching software versions. The current compatibility matrix of software versions is below:

(Note that official support for ROACH plaforms is no longer provided, however this version of mlib_devel contains all ROACH related documentation and ROACH tutorials can be found here)

Hardware Operating System Matlab Version Xilinx Version mlib_devel branch / commit Python Version
ROACH1/2 Ubuntu 14.04 2013b ISE 14.7 branch: roach2 Python 2.7
SKARAB Ubuntu 16.04 2018a Vivado 2019.1.1 branch: master Python 3
SNAP Ubuntu 16.04 2018a Vivado 2019.1.1 branch: master Python 3
Red Pitaya Ubuntu 16.04 2018a Vivado 2019.1.1 branch: master Python 3
VCU118 Ubuntu 16.04 2018a Vivado 2019.1.1 branch: master Python 3
VCU128 Ubuntu 16.04 2018a Vivado 2019.1.1 branch: master Python 3
ZCU111 Ubuntu 16.04 2018a Vivado 2019.1.1 branch: master Python 3
SNAP2 Ubuntu 16.04 2016b Vivado 2016.4 branch: master Python 3

Other software combinations may work, but these are the tested configurations. Please see the Note on Operating Systems for information on which alternative OS versions may work with the tools.

The master branch is usually updated once a year. Between updates, code with newer features can be found in the casper-astro-soak-test branch. This branch can usually be used in place of the master branch for platforms which support master. However, be aware that casper-astro-soak-test is likely to be less stable. Please report any bugs you encounter via github’s issue tracker.



    MATLAB installation instructions are available here, or, contact whoever manages your software installations. You will need to install both MATLAB and Simulink.

  2. Xilinx Vivado

    This is available from and will require a license. If you are part of an academic institution you may be eligible for free licenses via the Xilinx University Program. Vivado install instructions are available here.

  3. Python

    Compiling for supported platforms requires Python 3 and pip3. If you don’t have these already you can probably install them in Ubuntu environments by opening a terminal and running the command apt-get install python3 python3-pip.

    We thoroughly recommend using a virtual environment to separate the version of Python and its libraries the toolflow uses from the rest of your system.

    To create a Python 3 virtual environment:

    # install the python3-venv package
    sudo apt install python3-venv
    # change directory to where you want the virtual environment to live
    cd /home/user/work
    # create a Python 3 virtual environment
    python3 -m venv casper_venv
    # to activate the virtual environment:
    source casper_venv/bin/activate
    # to deactivate the virtual environment:
  4. casperfpga

    casperfpga is a python library used to interact and interface with CASPER Hardware. Functionality includes being able to reconfigure firmware, as well as read and write registers across the various communication interfaces.

    You will need to install this library to interface with CASPER hardware. Installation instructions can be found here.

Obtaining the Toolflow

Clone the toolflow from the mlib_devel git repository.

# Clone the mlib_devel repository. Replace <branch_name> with the branch
# supported by your chosen platform.
# Eg. for master you should run:
# git clone -b master
git clone -b <branch_name>

This could take a while – the repository is several hundred megabytes. If you want, you can save some time by adding the --depth=1 flag to the above command. This will only download the current version of the repository, rather than its full git history.

Next, move into the mlib_devel repository you have just created, activate your virtual environment (if using one) and download any Python dependencies you need by installing the requirements.txt file. The downloaded dependencies will be installed within the virtual environment separate to the rest of your system.

cd mlib_devel
source /home/user/work/casper_venv/bin/activate
pip3 install -r requirements.txt

You may need to run the pip3 install command as an administrator if you are using the system-maintained python installation instead of a virtual environment.

Note: there appears to be an incompability between pip3 v21.3.1 and xml2vhdl (one of the dependencies listing in the requirements file) that results in errors when installing requirements.txt. If you encounter an issue in fetching xml2vhdl when running pip3 install -r requirements.txt, try install pip3 v18.1 or earlier and use that instead (this is one of those things best done in a virtual environment, so as to not mess around with the system verson of python)

Configuring the toolflow

You now have all the software you need to start building your designs. However, you’ll still need to specify some local configuration details which will depend on how you carried out your installation. See Configuring the Toolflow for more details.