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Tiny x86-compatible CPU module runs Debian

Mar 4, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 118 views

[Updated 8:30 PM] — SSV is readying a 3.1 x 2.0-inch (80 x 50mm) processor module based on an x86-compatible VortexDX system-on-chip (SoC). Supplied with Debian Linux, the eSOM/2586 is the first in a planned series of processor modules based on a custom form factor.

(Click for larger view of the eSOM/2586)

The eSOM/2586 uses a proprietary form factor SSV is calling “eSOM-200.” SSV did not reveal an intended application for the proprietary new eSOM-200 format, but it touts its flexibility, suggesting a wide variety of applications. The company is guaranteeing long-term availability over 10 years, and claims the format offers ease of integration into a variety of target environments.

In addition to providing common computer interfaces, eSOM-200 modules offer a generic 16-bit bus that can support a wide range of peripheral modules, says SSV. The module's 200 pins are said to be accessible on two FX8C plug connectors.

eSOM/2586 taps new Vortex SoC

The first representative of the eSOM-200 form factor is the eSOM/2586. Like the DIL/NetPC DNP/2486 computer-on-module (COM) that SSV announced recently, the eSOM/2586 runs Debian Linux on a Vortex SoC, but this time it's the more powerful Vortex86DX instead of the older 300MHz Vortex86SX.

Announced in November by DMP Electronics, the Vortex86DX is a 32-bit x86 SoC that targets home gateways, thin clients, and industrial controllers. Claimed to run Linux using under two Watts, the Vortex86DX clocks to 1GHz and encompasses a CPU core, northbridge/southbridge, and numerous peripheral functions into a single IC housing.

The SoC provides the complete 486SX instruction set, as well as floating point support, and offers an “embedded redundancy” feature that can link two boards, said DMP. The semiconductor firm's Icop sister company recently announced a PC/104 module and a tiny panel PC based on the SoC.

eSOM/2586 block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

SSV clocks the eSOM/2586's Vortex86DX to 600MHz, 800MHz, or 1GHz. The module is further equipped with 128MB DDR2 DRAM and 1GB NAND flash, says the company. The eSOM/2586 provides an LCD controller with 64MB video memory, as well as a four-wire touchscreen interface.

I/O for the module is said to include a 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface, dual 480Mbps USB host 2.0 interfaces, three UART interfaces, an SPI interface, and a CompactFlash interface. The module's 1GB of NAND flash is pre-installed with Debian Linux, X server, and the “original” Sun Java 6 Runtime (J2SE JRT), says SSV. Windows is also available, but “for single quantities we prefer using Linux,” said the vendor in an email.

Specifications listed for the eSOM/2586 include:

  • Processor — Vortex86DX 32-bit x86 at 600Mhz, 800Mhz, or 1GHz
  • Memory — 128MB SDRAM with DDR2 interface @ 300MHz
  • Flash — 1GB NAND for O/S boot image and data files
  • Flash expansion — 1 x CompactFlash (CF) card slot with IDE-based interface
  • Video/display:
    • XGI GPU VGA controller with 64MB video RAM
    • PCI interface between Vortex86DX and XGI GPU
    • 18-bit TTL color LCD interface for TFT and STN panels
    • 4-wire touchscreen interface and controller
  • Networking — 1 x 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface
  • USB — 2 x USB 2.0 host interface with HS, FS, and LS support
  • Other I/O:
    • 1 x SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface) with one CS output
    • 3 x 16C550/16C552-compatible UART-based serial ports
    • 16-bit General Purpose Parallel Input Output (GPIOs)
    • 16-bit expansion bus with 24 address lines
    • 4 x interrupt inputs
    • 4 x chip select outputs
  • Other features — Programmable watchdog timer; in-system programming; 2 x 100-pin Hirose FX8C interface connector
  • LEDs — 1 x LED for IDE (CF) access status; 1 x LED output signal for LAN status
  • Power — 3.3 Volt low-power design; RoHS compliant
  • Operating temperature — 32 to 158 deg. F (0 to 70 deg. C)
  • Dimensions — 3.1 x 2.0 inches (80 x 50mm)
  • Operating system — Linux v2.6.18 pre-installed with Java and X-Server; Windows distributions also available in quantity


The eSOM/2586 should be available in April at the price of 189 Euros ($237 US), says SSV. More information may be found here. The company is showing the module at Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany, this week at Booth 544, Hall 12.

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