Help choosing hardware

Hi all,

My goal is to make a home cd player like, which would permit to :

Read CDs, record them in FLAC format on a HDD read FLAC files from HDD

I want it to have a graphical LCD (240x64 pixels seems cool) and some buttons (around 10) to control it.

I want it to run Linux.

I'm now looking for the main board. It needs :

- a powerfull enougth CPU (not hundreds of thousands of horse power needed, smthg like a PII400 or ARM9 200Mhz would be enought I guess)

- some ram

- an IDE controller for 2 devices (HDD & CDROM)

- something to control LCD & buttons.

The most important feature is : it must boot and be operationnal

*VERY* fast. The second most important feature is : it must be cheap (less than 200$)

I've looked around, and found a lot of ARM9 boards but none of them (a very few in fact, but these are expensive) have IDE controler.

The x86 board have all features, but x86 bioses are known to boot very slowly ... or I haven't found the good informations about them.

So my question is : do you know such a board ? (if it doesn't have video nor PCI nor ... I don't care, I just need CPU & RAM & ide connector & serial port for development & XXXX port [usb?] for LCD/buttons, and actually I would prefer not to have uneeded features)

The next step is : if I could plug to it an external DAC module (external to the mainboard, but inside the player), in order to be able to add a seperate designed high fidelity audio converter ... would be great (but I don't even know if it's feasible and where I could plug it)

Thanks in advance for your help


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For the hobbiest in you, premounted and preinterfaced serial or USB LCD modules are probably the way to go. Matrix Orbital and a few other companies sell these, typically with libraries and sample apps for Linux.

You will find that huge graphical LCDs will blow your budget.

Ten buttons is a lot. Have you decided what they will all do? What the user interface will be like?

Do you want a remote control? This seems like the sort of device that could use one.

Why? Familiarity? Learning exercise? Everyone else is? Some technical reason?

Those should be plenty fast enough.

"*VERY*" is very vague.

This will be difficult both for a PC appliance and for the usual Linux bootstrap firmware. The usual solution is a sleep mode of some sort. Linux has some support for this; it's most likely to work on some x86 hardware (with apm/acpi) or on some power-efficient platforms like those built around ARMs (with some other platform-specific interface).

In the end, however, it may be impractical to implement a complete sleep-style fast-ready solution or reengineer the firmware's post sequence for maximum speed. I would suggest that you therefore pay some attention to power (under 30 watts idle should be fairly easy to achieve) and just leave the thing on.

Hardware-wise, you should be able to get entirely satisfactory results from the cheapest mini-itx board du jour. These tend to cost under $100 and do everything you need. However, add memory, drives, case, lcd+buttons, and it will still be a trick to come in under $200.

"External DAC modules" in your price range would be USB audio dongles. These are sold for notebooks etc. Unclear if the results are at all better than the integrated audio; neither is likely to be *good*, if that's the goal.

Fortunately, this problem may not exist: the mini-itx boards have a digital audio output connector, and your audio input is the CD player, which can read the data directly as is. So there is no analog stage in your hardware at all...

Grant Taylor
Embedded Linux Consultant
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Grant Taylor

What I want to do is smthg like this :

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I don't know what is the hardware inside, but there are other products like

- rio karma (portable player, plays flac, uses a dual-core arm7 90MHz)

- escient fireball

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don't know the hardware)

- audiorequest

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I think the first releases where done with a celeron 366)

- phatnoise

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nice but doesn't have CDROM, embeds a TI OMAP5910 dual core arm926/DSP)

All these products are almost what I want to do.

By booting very fast, I mean less than 2 seconds. I know this is feasible with embedded HW like arm processors, don't think it's possible with x86. I haven't yet search through Motorola embedded boards (MPC5200, coldfire, dragonball ...), but these might be able to boot quikly. I've found two cheap arm9 boards

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but none of these has IDE connector.

If, as I guess, fast boot is not possible with x86, I'm just looking for a cheap arm9 (or motorola) board with IDE connectors.

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