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Miniature Linux PC targets military apps

May 5, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 10 views

Mercury Computer Systems announced a Linux-based engineering development kit (EDK) for a 7-10 pound computer that targets small ground, naval, and air vehicles. The “ruggedized” PowerBlock 50 (pictured at left) supports multiple processors to provide “well over 100 GFLOPS of processing power,” according to Mercury.

(Click for larger view of PowerBlock 50)

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The PowerBlock 50 measures 4.1 x 5.3 x 5.8 inches, with a seven-pound shipping weight, and a weight of less than 10 pounds fully configured, says Mercury. It comes in three configurations based on the chosen processor: a Freescale PowerQUICC III, a Xilinx Virtex-4 FPGA (field programmable gate array), or an Intel processor (type undisclosed). The embedded computer is also equipped with gigabit Ethernet and RS-232 I/O interfaces, as well as 250GB of SATA storage. Optimized for real-time image, sensor, and signal processing applications, the PowerBlock 50 is said to be ruggedized for harsh environments.

PowerBlock 50 (left) with heat rejection unit (right)

The PowerBlock 50 EDK (pictured above) ships with the PowerBlock 50, as well as a Linux BSP and a development environment that is said to include cross-compile and debug tools. The EDK also includes a desktop heat rejection unit (HRU) to help cool the PowerBlock 50, as well as a multiport RS-232-to-USB converter, cables, and power supplies. The EDK is designed for desktop use in a laboratory or software development environment.

Mercury is known for developing the first Cell-based computer and Cell-based blades. In 2006, tt shipped its Linux-based Multicore Plus SDK, said to exploit the parallelism in the Cell processor's architecture. The Cell is not, however, supported by the PowerBlock 50.

PowerBlock 50 EDK development configuration
(Click to enlarge)

Stated Brian Hoerl, VP of Sales at Mercury, “The PowerBlock 50 was specifically designed to help our customer base pursue 6- to 10-pound payloads, and revolutionizes the ability to perform extreme computing in space- and weight-constrained applications.”


The PowerBlock 50 EDK is available now, says Mercury, at an undisclosed price. The company is demonstrating the EDK today and tomorrow at the Critical Embedded Systems (CES) MediaFest 2008, held at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Villas in Scottsdale, Arizona. More information on the PowerBlock 50 may be available here.

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