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FIC Midori Linux AquaPad - Extensive Review

FIC Midori Linux AquaPad - Extensive Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: The FIC Aqua Pad is mobile internet access device connected by a wireless PCMCIA card.
 83% Rating:   
Filed under: Notebooks Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: FIC Feb 05 2002   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Notebooks > FIC AquaPad

Inside the FIC AquaPad

With the appropriate anti-static measures taken, we took a peek inside the AquaPad to see how everything is layed out and what components FIC uses. The first thing noticeable about the PCB is that it uses a standard notebook SODIMM module of memory. In this case, 128MB of Micron PC133 SDRAM. The maximum memory size which the AquaPad will support in the one SODIMM slot is 256MB.

Other features we can see in this picture are the system battery, a LynxEM+ chipset, and the Ali M1535 Southbridge on the left hand side.

If we flip over the PCB it's possible to take a look at the internal 32MB flash card which originally held the Midori Linux V1.0.0 RC1 Build1022 operating system. To clear up some problems we were having with the AquaPad, the OS was remotely updated over the internet to the latest AquaPad version of Midori Linux (fixed everything nicely). The large metal square is not a hard drive but the slot for the Type II PCMCIA card which enables the AquaPad to connect to the network. Right next to the PCMCIA slot is a small black heatsink which covers the 500MHz TM5400 Crusoe processor.

After streaming some audio continuously for a few hours, the warmest the AquaPad ever got was about 30 degrees, and most of that was a by product of the LCD backlight I believe. Still, it's better to be safe than sorry, and the heatsink ensures that the Crusoe chip never reaches high temperatures.

Crusoe Processor TM5400
Frequency Range 500MHz
L1 Cache 128KB
L2 Cache 256KB
North Bridge Integrated
Package 474 BGA

TM5400 Crusoe Processor

Like many subnotebooks on the market today, the FIC AquaPad is powered by a Transmeta Crusoe processor. While the 500Mhz TM5400 Crusoe has been eclipsed by the new 0.13micron TM5800 series, it still provides enough power for webpads like the AquaPad which are used to browse the internet.

The TM5400 is an older chip based on the 0.18 micron processes and it contains 128Kb of L1 and 512KB of L2 cache. Average power consumption is on the order of 0.1 Watts.

Unlike Intel's mobile processors, the Transmeta chips operate with very low power requirements and produce relatively little heat so no cooling fans are required. A heatsink is attached to the core of the Crusoe however, but there are no vents in the AquaPad casing. The backlight for the LCD screen generates most of the heat in the unit, and the all-magnesium enclosure helps to draw that away to the surrounding environment.

The Crusoe processor, as most of you already know, is a software-based processor. This means that the native language this X86 compatible chip operates under is 128-bit VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word). VLIW is something that bears no resemblance to that of traditional Intel chips, which are also known as X86 processors.

Transmeta's Code Morphing Software layer 'surrounds' the processor and enables it to communicate with the operating system, be it Linux or Windows based. Code Morphing basically makes the VLIW Crusoe processor x86 compatible by means of an interpreter. Its task is to interpret x86 instructions. The Interpreter also filters the x86 code so that sections of code executed frequently are passed to the Translator for optimization. CMS recompiles the x86 instructions into its native language and optimizes them to reduce the overall number of instructions executed.

Crusoe processors are also different from most processors in that they contain their own Northbridge, further reducing overall system power requirements.

Most of Crusoe's functionality is implemented via the CMS software layer so less transistors are needed in the silicon. With less transistors, the power requirements are lessened. Additionally, CMS software upgrades can improve overall system performance, and this is an area Transmeta has so far been attending to every six months or so.

LongRun Power Management

LongRun varies the frequency and core voltage of the Crusoe processor many times a second in response to adaptive power management protocols. On the notebooks we've looked at which employ the Crusoe processor, LongRun Power management is an adjustable feature, but on the FIC AquaPad it runs in the background with no user adjustable options.

Midori Linux

"Midori," which means "green" in Japanese, was the name chosen for Transmeta's Mobile Linux because it reflects the low-power operating characteristics of Crusoe processors and the Mobile Linux operating system in general.

Midori Linux is being targeted towards use in mobile devices as well as low power, low thermal, and small footprint products. Under the terms of GNU General Public License, Midori Linux Ver 1.0.0-beta3 is available to the open source community through Transmeta' s website at http://midori.transmeta.com/pub/ Documentation for Midori can be found here: http://midori.transmeta.com/manual/ The version of Midori Linux which the AquaPad uses has been customized to support this device, so be warned.

Midori Linux promises to be an interesting version of Linux for embedded applications and offers several key improvements over previous kernel releases:

  • ACPI-based power management system that reduces power requirements
  • Support for Crusoe processor-specific power management features
  • Flash ROM-based file system rather than a file system which is stored on a hard disk
  • RAM-based file system which can reside in everyday memory
  • Boot/runtime system that can run from Flash ROM

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Contents of Article: FIC AquaPad
 Pg 1.  FIC Midori Linux AquaPad - Extensive Review
 Pg 2.  Features of the AquaPad
 Pg 3.  — Inside the FIC AquaPad
 Pg 4.  Getting the Internet into the AquaPad
 Pg 5.  Online Midori Linux Updates
 Pg 6.  Onscreen Menus and Features
 Pg 7.  Internet Compatibility Tests & Conclusions

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