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EvilDragon

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As mentioned a few days ago, Nikolaus and me have been visiting the embedded world exhibition in Nuremburg today.

We mainly focussed on different storage solutions (eMMC, nanoSSD, MicroSD Cards), but also discussed various other things and learned quite a few new things.

Here is a small blog post about the results :)

1. What storage is best?

We followed all your discussions, concerns and wished here at the boards and spoke to various manufacturers about pros and cons.

A nice solution would've been nanoSSD together with an internal MicroSD slot, both bootable.

nanoSSD is pretty fast - however, it's also very powerhungry.

While MicroSD Cards / eMMC usually use about 0,3W, the nanoSSD can use up to 0,9W

Therefore, it's not really an option.

Next was to compare the MicroSD with an eMMC.

Power consumption is similar, speed mostly depends on the eMMC/SD Card used, but the latency of a MicroSD Card will always a bit worse than for the eMMC.

The eMMC is directly connected to the MMC line of the SoC, whereas a MicroSD Card always needs to have a converter inbetween.

That converter adds a bit of latency - probably not much, but a bit.

However, I can understand that a MicroSD card is appealing, since you can change it and still use the unit easily in case the eMMC breaks sometime in the future.

Therefore, we thought of a solution here - and I think we found the perfect one.

As mentioned, we're planning to put the CPU together with the memory and storage on a pluggable daughterboard.

This saves money in production (since the mainboard will be two-layer and only the small CPU board needs to be more complex), and it adds the possibility to upgrade the Pyra in the future with whatever SoC / memory / storage will become available in the future.

Additionally, we will try to add the MicroSD/SIM-Card Combo-slot below the battery - and include a small chip that will be able to either connect the eMMC or the MicroSD Slot to the SoC.

If we use the OMAP5, you can then either use the eMMC together with both full sized SD Card slots or the MicroSD Slot with both full sized SD Card slots.

If a future SoC supports more MMC devices, you will be able to use all the devices at the same time.

This should be a solution perfect for everyone. You can either boot from eMMC, the internal MicroSD Card or the Full Sized SD Card slot (like on the Pandora).

And in case your eMMC breaks (never seen that on the Pandora, but you never know), then simply put a MicroSD Card in and switch to that slot.

I hope you're happy with that solution :)

2. UMTS and a hardware switch

Some of you here at the boards had a bit of a concern with the (optional) UMTS module:

A modified firmware or software could be created to misuse the UMTS module and send data somewhere without the user knowing it - so they asked for a hardware switch to completely turn off the module physically.

Well, we thought about that - but adding a switch would increase the costs quite a bit (mold would be more complicated, switch would be needed, etc).

However, we found another, pretty cheap but effective solution:

We plan to include a small power measurement chip into the hardware, that is hardwired to a small LED.

Whenever the UMTS module needs power (which it does when it will be activated), the LED will light up.

This hardwiring cannot be changed in software, so you will KNOW when your UMTS module will be active!

3. Intel and everything else

While you all know that we won't start with an x86 right away, it could be that we'll release a CPU module with one sometime in the future.

And as Intel had a booth there, we thought it doesn't hurt talking to them and get some more information.

Right now, the latest BayTrail does NOT have a development board available, as we already thought.

While it's possible to buy the latest BayTrail without any NDAs and in low numbers, Intel suggests to not buy it directly but get it on a module from one of their partners.

Getting the SoC directly to work is a bit more complicated than an ARM SoC, since it will also need a BIOS...

We checked some of their partners, but their modules usually are way too big for us (and not yet available with the most recent SoC anyways).

So right now, the x86 is too risky for us, but that doesn't mean we won't do an x86 module sometime in the future (though please don't bet on it!)

I also visited Qualcomm and got another contact for getting the Snapdragon. The 805 will be too power hungry for mobile devices though (it's mostly aimed at tablets), so it won't be usable for us.

But I'll keep you informed about any further updates.

That's it from the show - keep on discussing about things.

As you could see with the storage, we'll follow your ideas and try to find the best solution for everyone :)
 

Askarus

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Whenever the UMTS module needs power (which it does when it will be activated), the LED will light up. This hardwiring cannot be changed in software, so you will KNOW when your UMTS module will be active!
Does that mean we'll get a LED I don't need and want and I can't turn off?
 

Askarus

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Allwinner only helps if the A15 they use is more power efficient than the ones in the OMAP.

BTW:

Storage is a good decision.

Can I do it like on Pandora then to hold some button during boot and choose which device I want to use to boot from?
 

Fzero

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Nice research ED, I'm happy with your proposals, sound like wise choices to me :)
 

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Good  choice on mother-daughter decision :D   I will buy all daughters with different SoCs if you ever make them in he future.  The Pyra will be the ultimate machine with this mother-daughter concept! 
 
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_wb_

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I am very satisfied with that storage solution. It is the best of both worlds, I always like it when that can be done.

I assume the switching works as follows: if no µSD card is inserted, the eMMC is used, otherwise the µSD card is used. At least that would make most sense to me. It would be nice if there were a way to select (e.g. by holding some button) the eMMC at startup even if a µSD card is inserted, but it's not crucially important to have that feature.

This solution means that we can use a relatively cheap and small eMMC, without limiting anyone to that size. For most people, the eMMC will be big enough, and upgrading to a larger µSD card is something they would only do in one or two years, when µSD prices have dropped further and their speeds have increased.

Too bad that the SnapDragon 805 is too power hungry. I think that implies that the A80 will also be too power hungry.
 

EvilDragon

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So the 805 is out of the question?

Bummer...
Unless you're fine with a battery life of 1 - 2 hours, probably yes ;)  

Maybe Allwinner will provide us with a good quadcore Big.little soc...
 So far they haven't even been able to provide us with any informations about availability or drivers, datasheets or anything else. 

Whenever the UMTS module needs power (which it does when it will be activated), the LED will light up. This hardwiring cannot be changed in software, so you will KNOW when your UMTS module will be active!
 Does that mean we'll get a LED I don't need and want and I can't turn off?
 We'll probably use a low-light one that's not very prominent. It's just to see the UMTS module is active.
 

WizardStan

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I hope you're happy with that solution
I know some people will complain about having to spend $20 on something they don't intend to use (eg, they will immediately insert a microSD card and never touch the eMMC)I'm looking forward to the everything though :)

Not sure about the hard wired LED though. I mean, it is good for security, but I'm not concerned about that, and didn't really have any intention of turning it off (if I actually got one) so it'd just be an LED that was always on. But we'll see how things play out.
 

EvilDragon

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I assume the switching works as follows: if no µSD card is inserted, the eMMC is used, otherwise the µSD card is used. At least that would make most sense to me. It would be nice if there were a way to select (e.g. by holding some button) the eMMC at startup even if a µSD card is inserted, but it's not crucially important to have that feature.
I'm not sure there's a combo-slot that has a switch included for the MicroSD Card, but if not, there'll be a small dip-switch right besides the slot (so you could even store your MicroSD Card in there and disable the slot with the dip switch).
 
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I think we should not hold on to the release of the Pyra any longer.  Let's go with OMAP5 right now, and since it's a mother-daughter design, we can by a new daughter board with a different and more powerful SoC later when ED makes it.  I'm good with OMAP5 for now...
 

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Is there a SoC from Qualcomm other than the 805 that is more appealing than the OMAP5? I know there was concern about the lack of proper hardware scaling.. but not sure if that was just hearsay or what not.
 

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Is there a SoC from Qualcomm other than the 805 that is more appealing than the OMAP5? I know there was concern about the lack of proper hardware scaling.. but not sure if that was just hearsay or what not.
The current 800 maybe, and in the future their 64bit SoC.

Don't know about scaling though (would be crucial for a FullHD screen).
 

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Super newbie question here. If the UMTS warning light is on, how do I handle the intrusion or whatever you'd like to call it? Do I toss the Pyra behind my back and start running from men in black suits? B)

I'm a bit confused and would like to know what optional means here. Does it mean we'll all have this module hardwired inside whether we want it or not, but the optional part is if we want to legitimately use it or not for, I'm guessing here, 3G?
 

WizardStan

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If the UMTS warning light is on, how do I handle the intrusion or whatever you'd like to call it?
Flip the power switch, put it to sleep? Can't read your secrets if the CPU isn't ticking. Or just turn it right off, I'd imagine. Reboot into a special "why is my Pyra doing that" SD card to do a virus scan.
I'm a bit confused and would like to know what optional means here
The module in question comes in 2 different types for different regions. Presumably ED will have make some number with the European chip, some with the American chip, and some that simply won't be populated at all.
 

God Ginrai

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Allwinner only helps if the A15 they use is more power efficient than the ones in the OMAP.
That is utterly false. Exophase has already pointed out that the A7's the A80 has should be able to do everything the A8 in the Pandora does with better power efficiency. This means that for any task the Pandora can do, we can just use the A7's and the A15s won't even be draining power.

-God Ginrai
 

jktm140887

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Is there a SoC from Qualcomm other than the 805 that is more appealing than the OMAP5? I know there was concern about the lack of proper hardware scaling.. but not sure if that was just hearsay or what not.
The current 800 maybe, and in the future their 64bit SoC.


Don't know about scaling though (would be crucial for a FullHD screen).
Shut up and take my money!
 

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Wouldn't it be relatively easy to find out which processes are using the UTMS module and kill them?
 

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Allwinner only helps if the A15 they use is more power efficient than the ones in the OMAP.
That is utterly false. Exophase has already pointed out that the A7's the A80 has should be able to do everything the A8 in the Pandora does with better power efficiency. This means that for any task the Pandora can do, we can just use the A7's and the A15s won't even be draining power.

-God Ginrai
I wonder what the difference is in power consumption between an A7 used near 100%, and an A15 at 25% or so (or whatever is equivalent with the A7 task) with proper power saving.
 
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