It seems CPUs are continuing to get smaller and faster. Two new
processors have been making news lately: the Transmeta
Efficeon and the VIA Technologies NanoBGA
Eden-N processor. The Transmeta Efficeon TM8000 will run at up to
2GHz and is just 21mm x 21mm. The new VIA CPU is about the size of a
penny and consumes only 7 watts when running at 1Ghz, so it may be
usable without a fan. VIA has also announced a new motherboard form
factor even smaller than the Mini-ITX. They're calling it Nano-ITX
and it's just 6.7cm x 6.7cm. In related news, the Hypertone
E1-32 CPU, a RISC/DSP combo is now supported by uCLinux and uClibc thanks to a porting
effort by the manufacturer. Let's hope this all leads to smarter robots.
"VIA's Nano-ITX form-factor measures just 4.7 x 4.7 in." That's not 6.7cm by 6.7cm...
it's more like 12cm by 12cm. That's still small enough to rival the PC104 size boards,
like the Lippert boards I've been using lately.
Yes, onnimikki is correct. That should be 12cm x 12cm or 4.7in x 4.7in.
I think I must have transposed the 6.7in x 6.7in numbers for the
Mini-ITX. Oh well, it's darned small, anyway.
VIA has the advantage that it will still be in business for more than 2
quarters while Transmeta will likely not. They are just hemmoraging
cash too quickly. I think the Efficeon product release and all their
postureing about their future technologies is just very likely an
attempt to get purchased by another player in the industry.
Also the 12cmX12cm Nano-ITX board includes a lot more silicon than
simply the processor. Their will be the chipset with integrated
graphics and audio, basically your complete PC with the requesit
connections. I can't give you the full specs because they haven't been
finalized and will be different for different versions of the board.
While the Nano-ITX will still be aimed primarily at the VIA's bread and
butter PC/devices customers we feel it will be very well suited to
robotics applications. Especially since our new even smaller .90 Eden N
processor will draw even less power which is great for mobile
applications (1GHz~7W, 800MHz~6W and at 533MHz only 4W!)
Timothy J. Brown
VIA Robotics Program Manager
VIA Robotics Initiative
I really like the VIA stuff and congratulated Glen Henry at MPF on
being only the third company to create a motherboard standard (care to
guess the other two? Hint they both start with I :-)
For robotics, these boards are I/O challenged. Great for doing web
serving but not so great for doing sensor fusion. That is why support
for USB 2.0 or IEEE 1394 ports becomes critical. We need a bus where
we can put our sensors, actuators, and remote processors. Ethernet is
also an option but an 8 bit parallel port with an Ethernet input is
not available :-)
(oh and I wouldn't count Transmeta out just yet, they have enough
infrastructure in place to be annoying for longer than 2 quarters, but
I am glad the VIA guys are pushing hard in this space. Now for some
register level documentation on their embedded video solution and I'll
be all set)