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High-security ARM9 SBC runs Debian Linux

Feb 24, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Technologic Systems will ship a new ARM9- and FPGA-powered SBC (single-board computer) next quarter, targeting high-security applications such as gaming, building security, and network gateways/firewalls. The TS-7300 offers several intriguing security features, and is available now as a development kit featuring a bootable Debian SD card.

According to Technologic, TS-7300 hardware can checksum the boot SD card prior to executing code from it. Cards can be password-protected, and hardware-locked to specific TS-7300 boards. Or, they can be made permanently, irreversibly read-only, the company claims.

Technologic says that SD cards are more reliable boot devices than hard drives; reliability can be further enhanced by configuring a RAID array, using the TS-7300's second hot-swappable SD card slot. This protects against individual flash write wearout failures, the company says.

The TS-7300, top and bottom
(Click either view to enlarge)

The TS-7300 is based on a Cirrus EP9302, a highly integrated SoC (system-on-chip) featuring an ARM920T core clocked at 200MHz, along with “MaverickCrunch” math and cryptography engines.

The TS-7300 also includes a user-programmable Altera 2C8 Cyclone II FPGA with 8000+ logic elements, used by default to provide hardware logic for various peripherals, including the second Ethernet port, eight serial ports, and the VGA display processor. Additionally, the FPGA can optionally be reprogrammed to run Linux on a soft-core, for designs requiring “an extra real-time soft-coprocessor,” or can be programmed to contain a DSP or application-specific logic, the company says.

Additional listed TS-7300 features include:

  • 32 MB SDRAM (64 or 128 MB optional)
  • TS-VIDCORE VGA video-out with Linux framebuffer driver and 8 MB of dedicated RAM
  • 2 x 10/100 Ethernet ports
  • 2 x USB 2.0 full speed host OHCI ports 12Mb/s max
  • 10 x RS232 serial ports (more possible if TTL only)
  • 55 DIO ports (up to 35 TS-XDIO capable)
  • PC/104 expansion bus
  • Operates fanless from -20 to +70 degrees C
  • 1.8 watts power consumption at full-speed
  • Starts Linux kernel execution in less than three seconds
  • Optional battery-backed RTC (real-time clock)
  • Optional Linux-supported USB 802.11g WiFi

Additionally, TS-7300 functionality can be expanded via add-on PC/104 modules, to add functions such as video, CAN bus, additional serial and Ethernet ports, digital I/O, RTCs, and modems. The PC/104 expansion connector appears to be lacking the PC/104 “P2” connector, and therefore probably implements a subset of the full PC/104-defined signals.

On the software side, the TS-7300 comes with a Linux 2.4.26 kernel, patched for the EP9302 ARM9 processor, and drivers configured for all TS-7300 hardware, Technologic says. The included kernel also supports RTAI (real-time application interface) extensions, for applications with strict timing constraints.


TS-720 enclosure
(Click either image
to enlarge)

The TS-7300 will reach general availability in Q2, priced at $189 and up, depending on configuration, in lots of 100.

Meanwhile, a TS-ARM development kit is available. It includes the SBC, a Debian Linux distribution pre-installed on a 512MB SD card, a power supply, cables, and a CD that contains kernel and application source code.

The TS-7300 is the newest in Technologic's TS-7000 series of ARM9-based SBCs, which includes several other models. A case (pictured at right) is also available for the TS-7000-series SBCs.

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