Cases for embedded appliances

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Hi,

I'm working on a small devices, with some simple requirements.  The
software is mostly done, so we're ready to move over to testing it on an
embedded board of some sort.  The board will be running linux.

I'm trying to find out the best way to get our code onto a piece of
hardware that we can sell as a small-volume project.  We would like this
to be in a small appliance sized device (non-rackmountable. something
around the size of a small router, or a tivo, something like that)

Our needs:
CPU - at least 300MHz, maybe more
RAM - not sure. 64MB minimum (maybe less, but we'll see)
Network - at least one 10/100 interface, maybe 2
Video - none.
Disk - we need 120GB or more of storage

I would also like a small flash disk for storing the OS, etc.

Ideally, i would get boxes in the mail with these specs, load my code,
stick a logo on them, and mail them out.

So, who should I talk to?

I'm looking to get prototypes for testing within the next week or two.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

--buddy

Re: Cases for embedded appliances
Hi,

I'm working on a project which needs to be made into an appliance-like
device.

The software is mostly done, so we're ready to move over to testing it on
an embedded board of some sort.  The board will be running linux.

I'm trying to find out the best way to get our code onto a piece of
hardware that we can sell in small volumes.  We would a small appliance
sized device (non-rackmountable. something around the size of a small
router, or a tivo, something like that)

Our needs:
CPU - at least 300MHz, maybe more
RAM - not sure. 64MB minimum (maybe less, but we'll see)
Network - at least one 10/100 interface, maybe 2
Video - none.
Disk - we need 120GB or more of storage

I would also like a small flash disk for storing the OS, etc.

Ideally, i would get boxes in the mail with these specs, load my code,
stick a logo on them, and mail them out.

So, who should I talk to?

I'm looking to get prototypes for testing within the next week or two.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

--buddy

Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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The cheapest and most energy saving, IMO, are the VIA boards.
http://www.via.com.tw/en/index/index.jsp
Have alook at the VIA EPIA M series.
The 1GHz board has a comparable speed of 500MHz and when running
Linux, draws less than 10W when mostly idle. When running Win2k,
the idle consumption is 40W.

Rene
--
Ing.Buero R.Tschaggelar - http://www.ibrtses.com
& commercial newsgroups - http://www.talkto.net


Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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Are you sure?  We measure about 15W running Win98se.




Re: Cases for embedded appliances
Hi Buddy,

I can recommend our new net4801, check it out on http://www.soekris.com

It might meet your needs, but the CPU is only 266Mhz now and as the
standard case only take 2.5" drives, the HD is currently limited to 80
Gbyte.

But if I have to say it myself, it's a very nice unit and in 6 months
2.5" drives would probably hit 120 Gbyte....


Regards,


Soren Kristensen


Buddy Smith wrote:

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Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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For a form-factor like you describe, you will probably wind up doing your
own board.  While commodity "PC" hardware is incredibly cheap, moving one
degree from mainstream becomes instantly very expensive.  For instance, look
at prices of embedded form factors (ETX, for instance) versus microATX.

So, my advice is that unless you are doing something that can look exactly
like a PC -- including having a VGA connector, keyboard, and mouse on there
to get access to the BIOS -- go ahead and take the bull by the horns and do
your own integrated PCB.



Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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An interesting idea.
A definite disadvantage of the VIA boards is that they constantly change
the content of the board. The follow up tends to have a different VGA
chipset, different cpu, and so on.
Other manufacturers such as the mentioned bcmcom, might have more constancy.
Doing your own board means doing a layout for hundreds of MHz, not everyones
speciality. Plus it means making your own BIOS.
And if your board is not PC compatible, debugging on the target is much
harder too.

Did you do your own board ?

Rene
--
Ing.Buero R.Tschaggelar - http://www.ibrtses.com
& commercial newsgroups - http://www.talkto.net


Re: Cases for embedded appliances
: So, my advice is that unless you are doing something that can look exactly
: like a PC -- including having a VGA connector, keyboard, and mouse on there
: to get access to the BIOS -- go ahead and take the bull by the horns and do
: your own integrated PCB.
:
:

Two issues -

1) I've never done PCB design myself, so we'd have to hire another
contractor to do it

2) The volume is low enough that this would be WAAAYYY too costly.  Maybe
if we knew we could sell a million of them it'd be worth it :)

ttyl,

--buddy


Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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It made sense for us, at about 2000 units a year.  We have PCB people, but
you can budget $1-$2 per pin for layout, and maybe 120 hours at $85/hour to
create a schematic for this type of thing, assuming you have a solid set of
requirements.

In our case, we left the X86 architecture for this, though, going instead to
a high-integration Motorola PowerPC microprocessor running ucLinux.
Fortunately, we recompiled our code and "it just worked," but this is not
always the case.  I'll admit that rolling your own 32-bit x86 board is a
real pain.  The local bus is basically undocumented and hideously complex
and you have to rely on you chipset to do everything.

Tivo is a good example of a "near PC."  A tivo equivalent can be run on a
linux PC, but the company went with their own IBM PowerPC board to save
cost.  And this cost is not just cost of goods, it is cost of support.  For
a consumer application, embedded PC's are difficult to lock down and easy to
screw with.  I've seen service calls on $100K+ systems based on a PC and
found the problem is because the customer figured out he could install MP3
filesharing software on it and use it to build his music library.  It takes
much less of a knucklehead than this to touch some bios setting and then
you're explaining how to connect a VGA monitor and keyboard to get past some
"Hit F2 Key To Continue" screen.

I'm not saying it can't be done, but if you base a consumer product on a PC
wrapped up in an apliance skin, then be sure you're aware with the
landmines.  I'd hire someone who has pulled this off to pick his brain.  If
this is an industrial device, then it's not so bad as B2B customers seem to
be figuring out that they should NOT screw with equipment just because there
is a PC inside of it.

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exactly
there
do



Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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Which is why you ask the EPC vendor to give you a BIOS with customized
defaults - including the password. If the consumer happens to destroy
CMOS in any way, he just gets two beeps on powerup instead of one -
and the boot process continues unmolested.

Many embedded PC applications don't give the user a way to access any
of this stuff anyway - no keyboard.

Embedded PCs make good sense for some applications, particularly
low-volume applications. Development time is *drastically* reduced,
for instance.

Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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I don't remember the figure, but this was definitely not cheap, at least (I
think) in the case of Ampro.  But yep, an embedded PC can be a tradeoff in
cost per unit versus development cost.  In our case, it wound up being an
inexpensive way to a dozen or so prototypes, but we still had the bite the
bullet after that.



Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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The reason we deal with BCM and Advantech is that they are almost an
order of magnitude cheaper, in some cases, than other vendors. Many of
the EPC vendors are selling the *exact* same product (OEMed in some
cases) for 2-3 times the price that you can buy it from these two
vendors. Daylight robbery.

Anyway - Assuming you're willing to flash the BIOS yourself during
software preload, the NREs for a simple BIOS customization (custom
CMOS defaults, maybe a boot logo) range from free to $2500. It's more
expensive if you want them to preload your BIOS onto the boards.

Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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This is interesting.  How many BIOSs give you the flexibility to route their
screen display to a serial port instead of a VGA console?  I've got an EPC
with no keyboard, mouse, or screen.



Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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This isn't a feature we have ever asked for. That would probably be a
"full custom" BIOS. The features I was talking about - boot logo, CMOS
defaults, some PnP tweaking - are all really just a matter of running
a BIOS-vendor-supplied binary merge / feature editor utility to bring
modules together.

How often do you need this, anyway? As soon as your OS starts, the
BIOS probably isn't handling the "console" anyway - your OS is. So the
only real use is setting up CMOS defaults and seeing POST messages...
no?

Re: Cases for embedded appliances

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their

IIRC, CP/M used a serial port as the primary monitor connection.

Old-style MSDOS had a CTTY command that routed text output to and received
text input from a serial port.




Re: Cases for embedded appliances
The Motorola MBX2000 had a bios that did this.  You selected it with a
Jumper, and you could buy the board without a VGA controller.

To bad Motorola cancelled it.

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their



Re: Cases for embedded appliances

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I have dealt with VME processor boards from (former) "or Industrial
Computers" that did this.  It was Award BIOS and the feature was rather
buggy.

  Vadim

Re: Cases for embedded appliances
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their

I don't know how many but JKMicro makes at least one board that does this.
It works flawlessly in my prototpying.  In fact there is no video port on
the 386Ex model I'm working with, uFlashTCP.



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