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 Post subject: Alternatives to a Hard Drive
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:58 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:41 pm
Posts: 150
Location: Boston, MA
Hello,

I'm sorry if this topic seems foolish in the wide world of Wintel, but I started my computing career as a Mac Man and those things would boot off of anything from CD's to Floppys to Other Computers.

But is there any reason why one could not boot an operating system from flash memory? For example, the Flash-based USB keychain drives? Is there another solution to not having a perpetually spinning hard drive... for example copying a small drive to RAM disk on startup and unmounting the drive? Mounting a remote file system over a broadband connection as local? A Compact Flash Reader? A really big ROM?

The hard drive is the last component that 100% requires being loud, and removing that would not only reduce noise, but would probably remove the need for a case fan and would greatly decrease the strain on a fanless power supply. Sure, your OS would have to fit in a gigabyte but that is plenty of space for KDE, mozilla, openoffice, etc, and a smaller flash system could fit with Gnome (or TWM), Opera, GoBe Productive (when it is ready)... If we found a way around the hard drive, it would be possible to make a computer without any moving parts.

Any ideas for replacing the hard drive? Anyone done this successfully? Anyone certain what that cute fanless via board can and cannot boot from?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 12:00 am 
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Location: Stockholm, Sweden
I have seen IDE>Compactflash adapters and that could give you 512Mb I think.

Another option could be a 2,5" harddrive and NoVibing it or something like that, don't know how noisy it would be though.

I remember seeing somesort of drive using only about 4gigs of ram and an external transformer giving it 12VDC, that way it didn't lose the data even though you turned the computer off, couldn't boot from it though but the company was working on one that was bootable, it was way way faster than a regular harddrive, way way more expensive too, can't remember the company name or where I saw it though :(


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 5:30 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hey guy's
Dan from Dansdata played with one,
he reviews it there http://www.dansdata.com/cfide.htm
and then he tries to setup (with some problems) a linux server box with compact flash here
http://www.dansdata.com/snapgear.htm
If u get it working post it up and mail dan about it, I think he'd like to know how u went :)

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Nothing is impossible: Somethings are not worth the effort to achieve.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 7:34 am 
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Location: Gilbert, Arizona, USA
Here's a site I looked at many months ago but stumbled on it again this past week. Of course, you'll need some really deep pockets! I haven't researched enough to balance pricing with CF IDE solutions. I don't think you can beat this product's performance though! I don't know if you can "boot" off one of these (my guess is you can't). If I had $$$$ to throw away, I'd get one of these.

http://www.cenatek.com/product_rocketdrive.cfm

*updated the URL link*


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 Post subject: Rocket Drive? Lol!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 10:22 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:41 pm
Posts: 150
Location: Boston, MA
The idea of using a rocket drive in what is destined to be a grossly underpowered Via Eden board can only remind me of strapping a million dollar ballistic missle to the top of a 1970's chevy wagon with rusted wheels.

I just picked up a CF adaptor from www.mydigitaldiscount.com (I think... their scripting is wonky with Mozilla), so we'll start playing in a week.

In the meantime, I found someone who has used this for a firewall, http://chinese-watercolor.com/LRP/hd/index.html. While they don't seem to be going the IA route, it is an interesting possibility.

The only major drawback I can see with CF (besides the $150 for a 512 MB card), is that each bit is rated for only 100,000 read / write cycles, and most programs have become complacent caching to disk. Oh well, more fun to be had.

Still, can anyone think of an alternative? CF is nice, but it only sustains to 2.5 MBps, and can't be written to (or read from) very often. RAM is blindingly fast, but blitheringly expensive... Anyone have experience booting from USB?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2002 10:25 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2002 11:48 pm
Posts: 3
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
"Good questions.
The answer is that no PC disk in itself is bootable. The controller is the part of your computer that has a BIOS associated with it, which provides the host with the INT13 support that allows booting from a particular disk.

So SCSI and IDE (and other) controllers are what make disks bootable. Our controller does not have the BIOS segment yet. We are working on it. In fact, if anyone has any suggestions for BIOS programming let us know. We are just getting into the BIOS now. "

Cenatek Forum Administrator

Looks like it's not bootable, wasn't too expensive though (as in I thought it would cost more, not like I could afford 399$ and then 4gigs of SDram).


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 Post subject: Giving it a try...
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 11:53 am 
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Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:41 pm
Posts: 150
Location: Boston, MA
The CF adapter arrived today, with the exact same form factor as a standard floppy drive.
The Bios correctly identified it as a 4 mb hard drive, and has had no problem working with it (and this is a notoriously stupid bios). it mounts properly with "mount -t vfat hdb1 /floppy" I've already found a *much* simpler way to get the photos from our HP camera, and can't wait to try out a Linux distro.

Leka (www.leka.net), the best and only live distro-on-a-floppy is downloading in the background. Soon, we shall see!

-Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Alternatives to a Hard Drive
PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 9:14 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
Posts: 319
Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Quote:
Mounting a remote file system over a broadband connection as local?

Maybe I'm missing something, but this seems far and away like the easiest thing to do. If by "remote file system" you mean something like "a computer somewhere on a local LAN" then can't you just run a bootp server on one of the computers on your LAN? Isn't this what the "Network" boot option of most new motherboards allows for? Of course, you're really just relocating the noise into some other place, but if that can work for you than why not? I don't really know much about bootp servers, but I thougt that this is exactly what they are made for. (Obviously the boot image stored on the server would have to be able to mount the remote hard drive, and your disk performance would take a fierce hit.)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 1:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
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If you're looking for solid-state drives, try this link:
http://www.bitmicro.com/

Apparently, they have devices that are IDE/ATA, SCSI, and Fibre Channel compliant. The IDE ones go up to 155.6 GB. Probably ridiculously expensive, though there's no pricing information on the web site. You have to call.


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 Post subject: Still working on flash...
PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 1:09 pm 
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Location: Boston, MA
Still trying to get the system to boot from CF... It seems to be a trickier beast than first envisioned. This might take a little time.

By remote boot, I meant boot from storage space on a friend's ISP, on a different system than I get access from. So yes, very non local... though putting a server in a corner might be an adequate solution.

Those bitmicro thingies look nice, though all of the specs have litle asterisks saying "preliminary." This makes me think they don't list prices because they aren't on the market yet.

Is anyone on the market yet?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 2:59 pm 
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Site Admin

Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
Posts: 11873
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
It might interest you all to know that a review sample of the Cenatek Rocket Drive is schedule to arrive at SPCR in 2 weeks. This is a 4-G SDRAM based solid state drive that goes into a PCI slot & behaves just like a hard drive. Price is a bit prohibitive... on sale for $3,399.00 :!: , which is a thousand below regular. http://www.cenatek.com/store/category.cfm?Category=9 (The 512mb version is a bit more accessible -- $ 799. )


Last edited by MikeC on Tue Sep 03, 2002 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2002 3:44 am 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote:
Price is a bit prohibitive... on sale for $3,399.00 , which is a thousand below regular.
bargain :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2002 10:14 am 
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-- Vendor --

Joined: Thu Aug 29, 2002 9:24 pm
Posts: 12
I've got the IDE to Compact Flash adapter from mydigitaldiscount.com in several systems, and it is working fine. I use it as the system drive in my firewall, which is a linux system running smoothwall. It boots just like a hard drive.

I also have a couple on WinXP systems, which I use as quiet portable storage for moving data between home and work. These replaced Castlewood ORB drives, which were quite noisy.

--Jeff

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2002 2:47 am 
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Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 4:48 pm
Posts: 460
Location: My Secret Laboratory
Man, the Rocket Drive DL has different prices for each empty board. They set an artificial memory cap to jack up the prices accordingly! The 4GB maximum Rocket Drive DL costs $899 on their site!

Yikes. Seems to me that the board is the same for all Rocket Drive DL versions, just has the max memory limit set in the EEPROM Firmware for the card. Now if someone can just figure out how to flash the EEPROM on the $499 model to the 4GB limit. Then a 4GB Rocket drive can be had more affordably.

-Ed

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2002 2:49 am 
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Location: My Secret Laboratory
Can't wait for the review, MikeC!

i wonder when Cenatek is going to release a bootable Rocket Drive?

I'm not even going to consider one until I can boot from one.
-Ed

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"Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you are."
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 Post subject: Solid state storage for entertainment PC
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2003 4:04 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
Posts: 17
Location: Brisbane, Australia
I've been entertaining the idea of a pc using solid state drives for many months now. I've been planning to construct a home entertainment pc to play DVD's, emulate games via Arcade & SNES emulators etc and maybe play music too. I'll most likely be using Via's EPIA-M boards for this if I do eventually have the money.

Linux seems the ideal platform for this considering you could use a very minimalistic small setup, and also the fact that I have a huge bias towards it too!

I figure there's a number of ways to do things. You could use a large ramdrive to contain the whole OS filesystem, which is copied from either a boot cd or usb drive, then mounted at boot time. An alternative is to use a small ramdrive for temporary volatile files, and run the OS from the solid state/cd as it was.

Then it's a matter of having a cd full of game roms or inserting a DVD for playback. I'm not sure about cd's full of mp3's though...that might be quite noisy having the cd drive read each file as it is played.

Unfortunately I can't see a cheap way to construct a general all purpose system, as using the usb flash drive to save regular changes to important non volatile information is likely to eventually fail when you reach that 100,000 mark.

Has anyone done anything like I am describing?

Hutts.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2003 9:44 am 
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Site Admin

Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
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Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
I presume you have seen the SPCR review on Rocket Drive?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2003 6:49 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2003 12:09 pm
Posts: 279
Location: U.K.
Risc OS computers (Acorn Archimedes, RiscPC etc.) have always had the OS in ROM. See www.riscos.com

In the current (February) edition of Linux Magazine there is an article on diskless clients that boot from the local network. www.linux-magazine.com


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2003 3:54 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2002 3:26 pm
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Oh sure Mike, the rocket drive would be a perfect application for this, though it is still somewhat expensive. Perhaps when prices come down I will get one of those babies.

Diskless setups booting from a network server would be great for a household of users, just like the old unix xterminals, but it doesn't really fit as a solution for a standalone multimedia pc. That being said, if you did have a mutli-computer house with networks from room to room, it'd be great for playing music off a server.

Ok...so how much do those rocket drives cost again? :)

Hutts.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2003 9:02 am 
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Location: United States, Mobile, AL
i think i heard that there is a cheaper version of the rocket drive out now? I could be wrong though, i just seem to remember someone telling me about it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 2:23 pm 
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Posts: 133
if you have much mula, get a fibre channel setup, with the 15K drives a long way off. if not, gigabit ethernet can prolly be used to boot off of another pc or nas


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 3:22 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2003 4:47 am
Posts: 218
The thing I've never understood about rocketdrive is why they use the PCI bus - it's only 133Mb/s, which if I'm not mistaken (maybe I am) is no faster than IDE133?

Why don't they put all that ram in a box that connects to a regular IDE connector and is recognised by the BIOS as a straightforward, bootable device?

If IDE isn't fast enough then S-ATA gives 150Mb/s - bootable, faster than PCI AND more favorable voltages for ram, and c'mon - if you can afford a rocketdrive you can afford a mobo with S-ATA.

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