[LAD] Embedded linux board

Jon Smirl jonsmirl at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 17:33:50 UTC 2007

On 8/20/07, Joshua D. Boyd <jdboyd at jdboyd.net> wrote:
> On Sun, 2007-08-19 at 22:40 +0200, Florian Schmidt wrote:
> > > Just by quick googling I found for example following:
> > > http://blackfin.uclinux.org
> > > http://docs.blackfin.uclinux.org/doku.php?id=ad1836a
> > >
> > > So there might be plenty of hardware and even supporting software
> > > available which could be suitable for this kind of use...
> >
> > Maybe i miss something but it looks this board is for a certain type of DSP
> > boards [which seem to run ucLinux]. This stuff looks rather costly.. But
> > maybe i miss something obvious. I'm totally new to this embedded stuff :)
> Well, costly is often how life is for people who aren't building their
> own boards or buying dozens to thousands at a time.
> In fact, I'm curious how much it would cost to actually buy one of those
> ARM9 boards you mention.  They priced from $65 each, but do you have to
> buy 100 to get that price?

You can get Cirrus ARM9 with the Maverick FPU boards pretty cheaply.
The chips have been around along time. The problem is that the Cirrus
FPU is non-standard on ARM CPUs and it is difficult to get compiler
support for it. Standard FPU for an ARM chip is VFP. The only ARM9
with VFP that you'll be able to easily acquire is the LPC3180. More
ARM11 chips have VFP.

> I see someone mentioned Efika.  As far as I know, there are two
> potential problems with that board, both are surmountable.  First, is
> basically a PPC 604, not a G4.  So, no SIMD.   I get the impression that
> a lot of linux audio software isn't really written to use SSE or Altivec
> anyway, so this may not be much of a loss.
> Second, Efika has no on board video and only one PCI slot.  Some

You can get a two slot riser, it is just more expensive.

> possible solutions would be to use a serial or USB control panel, and
> modify any plugins to be controllable via your control panel system.
> Also, I don't know if any USB->VGA dongles would happen to be supported

Several are, there is a page about using them in the linux NSLU2 wiki.

> by linux.  Certainly there are several off the shelf character LCD
> control panels that could be used, and they typically have several GPIO
> pins that could potentially be attached to a rotary encoder.
> Alternatively, AVRs that can go between a few rotary encoders and a
> serial port are pretty cheap, so maybe you could use a Crystal Fontz USB
> panel in addition to using the serial port for an AVR to rotary encoder
> system.

Efika uses hardly any power. The CPU only consumes 1W. It is the video
board or hard disk  that you plug in that takes all the power.

My company is currently designing an embedded audio system around the
MPC5200B used in the Efika.

> I also see that elsewhere in the thread someone mentioned using EPIA
> 10000s, or EPIA 5000s, both MiniITX motherboards, for about $300 or $120
> respectively. The upside of either is they have onboard video in
> addition to a PCI slot, if you want an easy to setup graphics display.
> Another option that is perhaps a bit more affordable and powerful than
> any mentioned so far is PCChips makes a board called the V21G.
> http://www.pcchips.com.tw/PCCWeb/Products/ProductsDetail.aspx?DetailID=384
> This is a Flex-ATX board instead of a Mini-ITX board.  It is based on
> the Via C7 instead of the older/slower C3.  It has two PCI slots and
> onboard video.  And it is definately less than $75 in the US (Google
> will show you lots of online retailers).  The possible downside to this,
> is that PCChips is better known in the US as the Elitegroup Computer
> Systems (ECS).  ECS isn't exactly the best quality, but they don't seem
> to be the worst either.  Buy from a place that will give you a refund if
> you are unhappy, and you are probably OK.

Be aware of the power issues. x86 based boards use a lot more power
than the other processors mentioned.  Putting an x86 system into an
enclosed space almost always requires a fan. A fanless board does not
necessarily imply ventless.

I have seen an MX31 (ARM11 with VFP) system in an enclosed space
without a fan. The whole system consumed less than half a watt of

Jon Smirl
jonsmirl at gmail.com

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