So I got the sparkfun spartan3e breakout board and parport programmer today. My custom board should arrive tomorrow (it plugs into the breakout board). In the meantime I've been sanding down the female headers so they all fit on the board. The idea is then I can plug stuff into the breakout board and easily detach them so I can reuse the breakout board for other projects later.
I soldered in one side of the header and did a little scrolling led test which you can see below:
I guess you can't really tell from the picture, but each led lights one at a time, scrolling across. I thought it was kind of interesting that sparkfun fails to mention in the product page that this board actually comes with an oscillator (I think 50MHz?). Very handy! It's in their schematic but it's not clearly labeled as an oscillator, just an inconspicuous random box with an enable signal and an "output" signal. Also they supply some fpga code to help flash the on-board PROM but it's targetted at a different fpga (not the one they put on the board). After I finish sanding/soldering the headers, I might post on the forum and ask about that.
In reality you shouldn't even need that stuff, since the Xilinx iMPACT software should be able to flash the PROM over jtag. I'll have to remember to test that soon.
EDIT: I was able to erase/blankcheck the prom over jtag, so I think it works. For instructions, see: xapp974.pdf