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Low-cost, rugged ETX SBC supports Linux

Jan 19, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

PC/104-pioneer Ampro has released a lower-cost alternative to its Intel-based rugged ETX 700 single board computer (SBC). The ETX 550 is offered with a selection of Via Eden processors ranging from 300 MHz to 1 GHz, and comes with driver support for Linux.

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The ETX 550 supports up to 512 MB of onboard SODIMM DRAM. It includes a 10/100BaseT Ethernet controller and an advanced AGP 4X video controller with CRT and flat panel support (through baseboard LVDS interfaces). Other onboard functions include AC97 sound, four USB, two TTL-level serial ports (RS232/422/485 transceivers may be added on a baseboard), and “all standard PC architecture elements,” Ampro says. Full sets of PCI and ISA expansion bus signals are provided by connectors on the bottom of the module, for use by circuitry on an application baseboard.

The module comes with Ampro's embedded BIOS extensions, which include a “battery-free boot” feature (used when the battery for CMOS settings fails or is not installed), a watchdog timer function, USB boot, serial console, BIOS recovery, and an optional LAN Boot function (which supports loading the operating system over the Ethernet port, using protocols such as PXE or DHCP).

From an embedded operating system perspective, the ETX 550 supports Linux, Windows CE 4.2/5.0, Windows XP and XP Embedded, QNX, and VxWorks, Ampro says.

According to Ampro, the ETX 550 includes the company's standard set of rugged-SBC features, which include 0.093-inch (2.4mm) board thickness for rigidity (50 percent thicker than most boards, Ampro says), extended temperature operation (-40 to +85 degrees C), optional conformal coating, and enhanced resistance to shock and vibration. Ampro offers a choice of short or tall module connectors; the latter allow baseboard components to be placed under the module without violating connector specifications. A whitepaper detailing Ampro's approach to rugged design as applied to its ETX series of modules is available on the company's website (requires free registration).

About ETX

The ETX module format was originated JUMPtec, which was subsequently acquired by Kontron. The modules are generally installed on application specific baseboards much like an integrated circuit component, in a “host” site comprised of four low profile, surface mount connectors. The baseboard provides the drive electronics and physical connectors for the I/O originating on the ETX module. Additional I/O and application-specific subsystems can be integrated on the baseboard, designed as PCI or ISA bus peripherals.

Pricing and Availability

The ETX 550 is currently available in small quantities for evaluation purposes, with production quantities expected in late January. The SBC is priced at under $300 in production quantities, according to Ampro.

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