Finally got to test the uDOC on XP
Okay, so some of you may know about my adventures with the M-Systems uDOC. If you don't know, it's a USB 2.0 based embedded storage solution. It's a lot more convenient than CF cards as long as you've got the right hardware to use it. That means a system with USB 2.0 obviously, but also a system that has Hi-Speed USB Legacy support. That means the BIOS itself initializes the USB root hub in USB 2.0 mode. Currently, it seems that AMIBIOS8 and PhoenixBIOS 4 (not Award) support this function. Now, M-Systems markets this for "real" embedded developers, which means XP Embedded, Linux, and WinCE. They've got a component for XPe that includes the driver, filter, and registry entries to allow XPe to boot from USB. After some messing around with a test XPe image, I was finally able to figure out what registry hacks are needed to make it work on XP. I was all excited and ready to go until I found out that the Intel mATX mobo I got, although it has AMIBIOS8, is missing something. Intel decide to exclude an important feature the AMIBIOS has: that is to manually configure USB mass storage devices. So when you plug the uDOC into your system the BIOS will either decide how to configure it (floppy or hdd) or you can manually set it. For some reason, the BIOS thinks it's a floppy which means XP cannot boot from it. Luckily my desktop system (an ASUS board) also runs AMIBIOS8 but luckily ASUS was kind enough to include the manual setup in their BIOS.
So anyways, I made a vanilla install using the latest nLite from this week and simply installed drivers and FireFox (I removed all IE components from the OS). I tweaked a few services. So with minimal tweaking, booting up my desktop system hovers around 16 seconds (*edited after I made some config changes) from POST to idle desktop. This is using winlogon, not minlogon. Not the 10 second boot time I was hoping for.... ;) but it's still good. This is a bit faster than the SanDisk ExtremeIII CF card which cannot be set to be a "fixed" drive. This creates a number of potential problems, particularly that ACPI functions do not work (standby or hibernate). Plus the convenience and simplicity of USB makes the uDOC a much better alternative. Hibernation would probably be even faster, but since my desktop system has 1GB of RAM and the uDOC I got is 1GB in size I can't test that right now. The 1GB uDOC I got cost $148. Just a bit more than the ExtremeIII. It's made to plug directly onto a USB mobo plug or if you buy the adaptor it'll plug into a regular external USB plug.
I realize most people on this board aren't really interested in this type of solution, but my ultimate goal is to make an extremely small 1-DIN installation and have the main system run off the uDOC and an external MP3 player hold my music and video files. I think I prefer that solution since, 1) if I forget the player the system still works with GPS, DVD, XM, FM, etc. 2) I don't want to have multiple devices I need to shuffle music around to. The uDOC is much smaller than the CF card and since it plugs directly onto the mobo, it frees up a lot of space to install the system in even smaller cases. I'm currently looking at some Kontron boards (not the P-M ones, too expensive) that are even smaller than Mini-ITX. So I might finally achieve my goal. I can't explain why, but when I put together my first CarPC based off the MII and a laptop drive I just wasn't satisfied. That's why I started down this difficult and dark (and expensive...) path of using embedded software and hardware to build my new system.
So anyways, this is a long *** post... if you guys are interested in using the uDOC I recommend you either get a fairly recent ASUS mATX board (just make sure it has AMIBIOS8 and that you can manually configure USB devices) or an embedded board from Kontron or American Predator. American Predator is supposed to be coming out with a Mini-ITX P-M board soon that runs AMIBIOS8. The Kontron boards use PhoenixBIOS.
That's all for now....