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Linux powers first gadget bridge

Jan 20, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Unicon Systems has used Linux in a pair of inexpensive mobile devices aimed at transferring media files between gadgets such as iPods, PSPs (Playstation Portables), and PMPs (portable media players), freeing users from having to use a PC or laptop for this purpose.

The MCopy (not to be confused with the excellent mtools suite's “mcopy” utility) is limited to wired transfers, while the MBridge adds wireless capabilities. The two devices are expected to sell for $110 and $160, respectively.

New mobile device category?

Unlike more expensive portable media devices, the MCopy and MBridge have only limited multimedia playback capabilities. They can play back mp3 files and, with a powerful enough processor option, DivX files, according to Dimitriy Ivanov, the company's director of product marketing.

The Unicon devices aim to bridge a wide variety of mobile gadgets

“We kept cost to a minimum because our target market is teenagers who just want a simple device to transfer files between their mobile devices,” Ivanov explained.

To accomplish their goal of bridging a broad range of gadgets, Unicon's devices come with software support for a wide variety of USB devices, along with a full-screen QVGA filemanager aimed at simplifying file transfers between them.

Hardware design

The Unicom hardware design is based on a Samsung SoC (system-on-chip) with an ARM9 processor core clocked at 200MHz, 266MHz, or 450MHz. It can be configured with 32MB each of Flash and DRAM, with 64MB of Flash and 32MB of DRAM, or with 128MB of Flash and 64MB of DRAM. Storage can be expanded via an SD card slot.

Screen options include 3.5-inch color TFT (thin-film transistor) or CSTN (color super-twisted nematic), or black and white STN (super-twisted nematic), displays.

Interfaces include dual USB 2.0 host ports, along with a single USB OTG (on-the-go) port and a 115Kbps IrDA port. The MBridge also includes an optional Samsung-certified 802.11b WiFi module, with support expected soon for an alternative optional Bluetooth module.

The devices measure 3 x 5 x 0.75 inches, and come with a 1200mAh lithium-ion battery.

Development kit

The company is also offering a development kit based on its hardware/software design, for companies wanting to create customized devices.

The Development Kit includes a QVGA display, power board, single-board computer, and serial debugging board

Linux-based software

Unicon's software platform is based on a 2.6-series Linux kernel that supports a variety of filesystems, including FAT/FAT32, HFS+, NTFS, ISO9660, Joliet, VHS, and others. The software supports a variety of USB devices, including mass storage devices, hubs, CD/DVD-RW devices, memory card readers, barcode scanners, bio-sensors, OTG printers, and network adapters.

The platform's windowing system is based on the Nano-X server from the Microwindows project. It also uses the FLTK interface toolkit, and is easy to customize, Unicom says. Application software includes a full%screen graphical filemanager, an HTTP 1.1 server, MySQL, PHP, and WebDAV and XML/RDF libraries. The reference design includes toolchains for Linux and Windows hosts.


Unicon has a manufacturering source in China that can fulfill large orders for the designs, while a Canadian manufacturer will handle smaller orders, according to Ivanov. The company plans to market its MCopy and MBridge designs itself, direct to consumers, and Ivanov says the company is also talking with several potential customers in North America and in Europe that would produce and sell the designs under their own brands.

The MCopy and Unicon's development kit are expected to ship mid-year, priced at $110 and $500, respectively. The MBridge is expected in October, 2006, priced at $160.

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