story reports that Tri-M Systems and
Engineering will release a new PC/104 board based on the Transmeta
SE TM5500 CPU. The TMZ104
is claimed to be the first Crusoe-based PC/104 SBC. Along with the
code-morphing VLIW processor, the 5vdc boards will
support up to 288MB of SDRAM, 2 RS-232, parallel, USB, IC Bus, dual
watchdog timers, EIDE, floppy interface, and up to a 1GB DiskOnChip. No
cooling is needed because of the Crusoe. No pricing announced but single
unit prices are believed to be less than $300 USD. Like all Crusoe-based
systems, the TMZ104 is optimized to run Linux but will also run most
things that run on Intel CPUs.
It seems the Crusoe cpu's are x86 code compatible at the outerlayer,
and it optimizes the code automatically into VLIW for the chip itself.
Is this true?
I went looking for a compiler but there doesn't seem to be one per se,
so it looks like you would use your favorite x86 based compiler for
this CPU. Is this correct?
With a 474 pin BGA chip it's just about out of the hobbyists hands to
make boards on their own.
But now a PC-104 based board looks real promising.
So if the Crusoe can run x86 based programs, can we put Linux, DOS or
Windows on it then? And use our regular compilers then?
The Crusoe is quite capable of running intel instruction sets but does,
internally, use a different instruction set (much like the AMD chips). I
am unaware of any feature that allows you to turn off the emulation and
just run native code. Any software written for the x86 instruction set
should work without problems (assuming the other resources are
available) - including windows. However, the pc104 boards are usually
used in realtime systems and industry control applications so it is more
normal to have a varient of linux on them. Although not easy, it is
possible to install your own linux setup from scratch - but in a recent
project I'm still working on it took close to three months to get
everything working! I suggest you try to get hold of pre-configured
installs if possible :)
As for power consumption, it is, unfortunatly, not the chip itself that
is the greatest problem. I work with a Geod GEO1 processor based board
and the chip, on it's own, is actually more efficient than the Crusoe
(but only 300MHz pentium speed). It is the peripherals and, mostly, the
ram and disk-on-chip that take up all the power. Although the chip is
only about 200mA, the board in total draws just over 1A (and lasts about
3 hours on a NiMH high capacity 6v battery pack).