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17 Posts authored by: kontron_cvdg

As said in the teaser for this blog, I’m not a fan of weather that’s either too hot or too cold.  Sometimes there’s just no avoiding it and so all you can do is be prepared. 


Embedded applications are used everywhere and the demands placed on them are tough. The embedded technologies they employ must be able to deliver reliable performance in harsh environments. That’s where 100\% temperature screened products as well as a new “by-design” extended temperature computer-on-modules (such as the microETXexpress-XL and the ETXexpress-PC-XT) come into the mix.  These modules and SBCs are proven to perform in these extreme environmental operating conditions.


So how hot/cold are we talking?  There are four main ranges (commercial, E1, E2/Industrial, and Mil Spec).  For the specifics of each of these temperature ranges, I suggest that you take a moment to download and read the Kontron whitepaper titled “Extended Temperature Device and Testing Advancements for COMs and SFF SBCs Enable Reliable, Long Life Systems”.  Not only will you get a quick tutorial on these harsh operating environments, but also on how Kontron provides the embedded technology proven to meet the tough demands.  The whitepaper provides insights into methods for supporting extended temperature designs (including thermal modeling) as well as a success story.


You wouldn’t go to the snow without a warm jacket or out to the beach on a cloudless day without your sunscreen.  When designing applications that will be running in harsh environments, there’s no reason not to be just as prepared.



Christine Van De Graaf

Product Manager, Embedded Modules Division

There once was an embedded designer that desired to enable Active State Power Management to optimize power consumption for her embedded application built around Intel’s Montevina platform.  She made a good start with the selection of a Kontron ETXexpress-PC computer-on-module and paired it with her application-specific carrier board.  All was running smoothly until enabling the ASPM feature. 


“Oh, dear,” said the embedded designer.  “Why is my Ethernet freezing momentarily when I activate this feature?  Did I do something wrong?”  She wondered a bit and then decided to contact her partners at Kontron to utilize their expertise. 


Together with the partner Engineer at Kontron, the embedded designer reviewed the system settings and their impact on ASPM.  They checked the carrier board BIOS, the Ethernet settings, and the power rail settings.   In this case the response time set for the Ethernet was out of sync and some other system configurations needed adjustment.  Plus, the Kontron Engineer did some checking with colleagues at Intel and found a key document to share with the embedded designer the specifically addressed the Ethernet and ASPM challenge she was experiencing. 


The embedded designer was overjoyed at the quick resolution to the challenging design issue.  “That’s just what I needed! My application is no longer freezing and functions as needed.”


The moral of the story – No feature is an island.  Sometimes they clash, but it’s fixable and when you have a partner with expertise in the area the variables that can be in conflict are quickly discovered and resolved. 



Christine Van De Graaf

Product Manager, Embedded Modules Division


FYI – Hitting bumps enabling a desired feature? Don’t feel as though you’re alone on an island.  Kontron’s application engineering teams located worldwide can help!

Seeing Is Believing

Posted by kontron_cvdg Nov 9, 2009

Although there are many embedded application that run headless, there are many more that require a visual interface for users.  And even if the in-field application doesn’t require a display, developing engineers find having one more than just a little helpful in the lab for troubleshooting. 


Plugging in a display is pretty easy during platform evaluation as likely you’re working with a vendor-supplied COM Express module and companion Evaluation carrier board (i.e. the Kontron ETXexpress-PC and the ETXexpress Eval2 carrier board).  The evaluation carrier board brings out a wide array of I/O and peripheral connections.  The difficult part comes up when you start design and bring up of a custom carrier board. 


Best to start by making sure the features supported by the COM Express modules computing core platform (i.e. the Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor, GM45 and ICH9 chipset) are matched with the needs of your application.  If a particular display feature is not supported by the platform, you’ll need to incorporate the appropriate controller into the carrier board.  Even if the core platform does have support for the needed display interface, making sure that the system is talking correctly is key.


So, how do we make the core and the carrier talk correctly to the display?  It comes down to the routing.  For this example we’ll focus on VGA, but know that COM Express does support other display options and specific routing is applicable for each.


The VGA signals for a COM Express design must be routed in the following manner:

  1. From the COM Express Connector to the 150-Ohm Parallel Termination at the VGA Connector:  55 Ohm
  2. From the 150-Ohm Parallel Termination to the VGA Connector: 75 Ohm


I’ve said it before and it bears repeating – You’re not alone!  Make sure that consulting with your computing core supplier is an integral part of your design process.  They have the experience of internal design as well as supporting a diverse range of user-side applications.  If yours is a routing issue or something else, your supply partner will be able to help you not only to trouble shoot the issue, but to resolve it or even avoid it in the first place.



Christine Van De Graaf

Product Manager, Embedded Modules Division


FYI – Running into display integration complications?  Signal routing issues? Kontron’s application engineering teams located worldwide can help!

We live in a world of high connectivity and our expectations of uninterrupted communications are equally high.  These expectations are top-of-mind for embedded application developers at every stage of development.  As such, just putting the hardware components of the application together and firing them up is not enough. Once the design parts (HW and SW) are integrated, then the full system testing beyond that of mere functionality begins. 


The results of RF emissions and susceptibility testing help designers modify their application to keep end-users’ expectations in mind.  However, test results are only as good as the test set-up.  Knowing what frequencies line up with each of the signals of the applications computing core is key.  So, it’s highly advisable to always consult your hardware vendor when setting up testing.  Application engineering teams (like those at Kontron) have incredible knowledge no only with respect to the hardware the vendor provides but also about the various places and circumstances in which the hardware is used.  They are here to help and not taking advantage of such a resource would be unwise to say the least.


Attached is a list of the clock frequencies needed when conducting RF emissions and susceptibility test on an application based on a computer-on-module solution with the Intel® Core™ Duo processor (i.e. the Kontron ETXexpress-CD module) at the system core.



Information such as this and much more is at the fingertips of vendor application engineering teams.  So, make sure that consulting them is on your test set up checklist. 





Christine Van De Graaf

Product Manager, Embedded Modules Division


FYI - Using a different multi-core processor in your application?  Kontron’s application engineering teams located worldwide can help!



Ack!  The solution needs to be tiny and support dual displays.  Did I mention the need for 3-D graphics capabilities and high-definition video decoding? 



Sound familiar?  It does to me because it’s part of what led to the creation of the Kontron nanoETXexpress-SP.   There was an outcry for a very small system that could run high-end graphics.  Thus, the Kontron nanoETXexpress-SP was born with compatibility to the COM Express Type I pin-out and based on the Intel Atom Z5xx series processors and US15W System Controller Hub – commonly called the eMenlow platform.  Not only does the designer get the other advancements that have been talked about heavily for over a year now, but also the embedded graphics capabilities that are enhanced when paired with the Intel Embedded Graphics Driver (IEGD).


One of the greatest benefits of the integrated graphics controller is that much of the strain of graphics is offloaded from the CPU allowing it to keep top processing performance.  This applies to motion compensation as well as acceleration for the following video decode standards:

  • H.264 Baseline profile L3, Main profile L4.1, High profile L4.1
  • MPEG2 Main profile high level
  • MPEG4 Simple profile L3, Advanced simple profile L5
  • VC1 all profiles up to L3
  • WMV9 Simple profile Medium level
  • WMV9 Main profile High level

With respect to deblocking, the system benefits from codec back-end video filtering.  For the entropy coding video feature, a key benefit is the existance of a master controller for the video accelerator. 


Getting back to dual-display support -- What’s possible?  This is best illustrated in the graphic below so you can see what the min/max resolutions are depending on the configuration needed.   


When you add IEGDto the mix, the capabilities are improved.  OpenGL 2.0 and OpenGL ES 1.1 are supported.  3-D graphics performance is enhanced.  The system gets the benefit of hardware-enabled video decode and there’s support for the Chrontel CH7022 that enables VGA and TV. 


For those of you who’ve had questions about which OS you can use with IEGD and SFF solutions such as the nanoETXexpress-SP, here’s a quick list:

  • Windows XP and XP embedded
  • Windows CE 5.0 and Embedded 6.0
  • SUSE Linux
  • Novell Linux
  • Fedora 5, 6, and 7
  • Small Footprint Linux – another SMALL that’s BIG
  • DOS
  • Wind River Linux
  • Red Hat Embedded Linux
  • Red Flag Linux
  • Ubuntu 8.04 for MID

Now that you know SFF solutions can deliver BIG for graphics, go out there and give it a try.  If you get a chance, let us know how BIG your results are.




Christine Van De Graaf


FYI – Have questions about getting your graphics going?  The Kontron Apps teams have lots of experience and can help if you get in a jam.  Just send me a note here in the forum and we’ll help.

Maybe like a lot of other people, I read an interesting statement and I jot it down.  There are two of these quotes close to my computer in the office.  One of this is from Justin Rattner of Intel “Satisfaction per watt” talking about the advances in reducing the power needed by a processor while still delivering high performance. 


The second quote is my inspiration for today:

“… the twin demons, Cost and Time-to-market, and their evil sister, Performance.”

This little gem was in a Tom Williams column from RTC Magazine not too long ago. 


I think this second quote really hits the mark when we’re considering small form factor solutions. Put it together with the comment from Mr. Rattner and you’ve got the full equation for solution consideration à Price, Power, Performance and Time-to-market.


You know we can’t ties this issue to just a single small form factor.  It affects them all board level and module level.  Since we at Kontron have over a decade of module experience serving both ordinary and very custom application, I’ll use ETX and COM Express small form factors to highlight how to fight off these evil forces. 


So time-to-market:  for starters, with a COM design you’re already saving development time because the software development can be done on the module and an eval carrier board while the application-specific hardware elements are being finalized.  That’s in the initial design.  When you want to transition to different processing performance but not change feature sets or power, you’re okay still with respect to time-to-market because the COM at the core of the design is what you’re changing out.  Depending on what processor chipset platform you’re moving to you may or may not need to do any driver updates. 


What about the other tricky elements of power and performance?  That can be made less nasty.  If you’re using an ETX-PM or ETX-PM3 module, an easy transition to the newer ETX-DC module is a simple path.  They keep the feature set and low power consumption plus the platforms themselves (Intel Pentium M processor / Intel 82855GME / Intel ICH4 and Intel Atom processor N270 / Intel 945GSE / Intel ICH7M) have compatible cost structures.  (Cost -> look we took care of one of those demons too).  Because the design has stayed in ETX the path to dual core processing performance is open but not forced. That takes care of the performance evil in addition to cost and power. 


I said that I’d use a COM Express example too.  When designing with COM Express, especially pin-out type 2 solutions, you’ve really got the ultimate tool for fending off these potentially harmful traps.  Say the initial design didn’t need PCI Express but you thought you’d need it down the line.  You chose the Kontron microETXexpress-PM module that had PCI and the type 2 pin-out that allowed for PCI Express in the future.  Now you’re ready to transition to Atom technology and you like the Diamondville platform (Atom N270 process paired with the Intel 945GSE / Intel ICH7M chipset).  You can swap out the microETXexpress-PM for the new microETXexpress-DC.  You keep your other features and now have PCI Express and you don’t have to sacrifice performance or accommodate extra power consumption.  Not only do you take out those demons and their evil sister, but you get back to that “satisfaction per watt” too.  Yeah!


So the trick to fending off the demons is pretty simple. Pick a solution that gives you what you need today and has an open path to what you may need in the future.



Christine Van De Graaf


FYI – If you’d like some figures for performance and power for ETX and COM Express, let me know and I’ll send you links to some comparisons we’ve done at Kontron.

Message Edited by kontron_cvdg on 06-11-2009 01:45 PM
Message Edited by kontron_cvdg on 06-15-2009 04:14 PM
Message Edited by kontron_cvdg on 06-15-2009 04:15 PM


Posted by kontron_cvdg May 19, 2009

As I’ve written in a couple of recent blog posts, there’s a multi-core and SFF technology for so many different uses including some pretty surprising ones.  Almost want to pinch myself just to see if I’m dreaming all this.  Reality, of course, shows that multi-core is not everywhere yet.  Looking to the horizon, we can see the follow on to the Intel® Core 2 Duo processor and GS45 and ICH9Mchipset platform as well as a more advanced system-on-ship Intel® Atom™ solution.  That’s been a recurring multi-core dream for me and maybe for you too.  We can’t make really progress with a technology unless that migration path is considered. 


On my mind are all of the applications where Kontron multi-core and Atom based solutions (i.e. ETXexpress-PC, KTGM45-mITX, plus the new pITX-SP and ETX-DC) have been designed in.  And the migration path on the way for these is the stuff that dreams are made of.  From very small mobile devices that need power efficiency and instant-on capability (i.e. served by nanoETXexpress-SP based solutions paired with QNX fast boot technology) to transportation apps that need to be fully-functional even in harsh conditions and on to communications systems, test and measurement tools and so much more.  For these designs, having a drop-in replacement is essential.  Having next-gen solutions that allow the designers not only to keep their current features, but to add to them as well is the ideal we’re dreaming of. Whether its better integrated graphics and I/O support, multi-tasking enabled by hyper-threading, efficiencies created by virtualization, improved security care of active management technology (AMT) and trusted execution technology (TxT), or another new technology on the way, the pathway to the future seems even brighter -- Maybe it’s like the original “Wizard of Oz” when Dorathy ventures out of the house after the twister lands her in Munchkinland, we go from a content life of lots of shades of grey to brilliant full color. 


Okay, so maybe that last bit about Oz is a stretch. Or, is it?  Right now, what we think will be possible with future multi-core technology is dreams.  How we use those new technologies is what takes dreams and makes them reality. 


What are you dreaming of doing with multi-core today, tomorrow, and beyond?



Christine Van De Graaf

Choose your Atom Wisely

Posted by kontron_cvdg May 1, 2009

Not only does the Intel Atom technology come in different processing speeds, now there are different chipset pairings to choose from too.  Do you know what the difference are between the pairing the Intel Atom Z5xx processor series and US15W System Controller Hub (SCH for short) versus what the pairing of the Atom N270 processor with the 945GSE and ICH7M chipset?  I took a close look at these and here’s what I found.   


For simplicity, I’ll refer to them by their platform names:  The eMenlow platform is the pairing of the Intel Atom Z5xx processor series and the US15W SCH.  The Navy Pier platform is the combination of the Intel Atom N270 processor and the 945GSE plus ICH7M chipset.   


The most immediate difference, of course, is the number of pieces to the platform: 2 parts to eMenlow and 3 parts to Navy Pier.  That relatively simple difference impacts which small form factor foot prints they can fit in.  With the tiny pico-ITX 2.5 inch SBCs (such as Kontron’s pITX-SP) and ultra small COM Express compatible modules (nanoETXexpress-SP is an example), eMenlow is a perfect fit in terms of size.  With three parts to it, Navy Pier needs more space and so fits nicely on ETX modules and 3.5-inch SBCs (Kontron’s ETX-DC and JRexplus-DC are a couple of examples).  If you want to know the absolute millimeter-squared size info, here you go:

eMenlow – 666mm²

Navy Pier - 2174mm² 


Now, looking at power consumption for the two platforms, I spot another big difference.  I don’t know about you. I’m still impressed by the sub-5W TDP of the eMenlow.  Even though the sub-10W TDP of Navy Pier is great, it’s that 5 extra watts that keeps that platform out of some of the very power consumption sensitive mobile applications. 


The last area of difference I want to touch on is the actual feature sets supported by each of these platforms.  This is one area where I must say that Navy Pier out shines eMenlow.  Navy Pier offers a rich set of the classic I/O that we’ve been so use to having in X86 platforms.  Also its 3D graphics capabilities are better than those of eMenlow.  That’s not to say that eMenlow falls short in the supported features category.  I’m just saying that if you’re looking for an x86 platform to migrate to following the Pentium M and 855 platform, looking to a SFF product with Navy Pier is a wise choice.   To boil all this down into a nice little summary, here’s a rule of thumb you can follow. 


Choose eMenlow when you need:

  • Power Efficiency – Best performance / watt
  • Fanless operation
  • Video acceleration supporting MPEG2/4/260
  • Optimized feature set for ultra small portable appliances
  • USB Client supported


Choose Navy Pier when you need:

  • Best performance / dollar ratio
  • Integrated support for a rich classic I/O set
  • 3D graphics capabilities better than eMenlow


So, I’ve fleshed out some key differences between these two Intel Atom technology platforms.  What do you think?  What are some of the key factors you’re considering when choosing the Atom platform for your application?

Multi-Core: In Berkeley?

Posted by kontron_cvdg Apr 14, 2009

Okay, so that doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well as the Berkeley Farm’s slogan of “Farms: In Berkeley?”  It did get your attention thought.


In prepping to write this multi-core blog, it struck me that something new really needed to be said / written about multi-core beyond the well-documented features and benefits, etc.  What better time than now to mention some of the unexpected places for multi-core.


Just as dairy farms may not be the first thing you associate with Berkeley, multi-core technology may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you head for your favorite fitness machine at the gym or a cool, new phone for your home.  Yes, multi-core technology is finding its way into these seemingly ordinary parts of our everyday lives.  This is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak.  For more on places where multi-core products are being designed in, check out the applications section on the Kontron site as well as the other great sections of this site.





Christine Van De Graaf

Product Marketing Manager, Embedded Modules Division

Multi-Core = Multi-Tool?

Posted by kontron_cvdg Apr 14, 2009

Do you remember the infomercials offering the most amazing gadget that would replace every tool in your tool box?  Yes, the amazing “Multi-Tool” - The tool that could handle every job from cutting to pounding to opening cans.  I had a high school English / Philosophy teacher that challenged us to point out what the multi-tool couldn’t do.  Being the know-it-all juniors we were, we came up with a fairly significant list.


By now you’re asking, “What does all this have to do with multi-core?”  So, multi-core technology isn’t another gadget claiming to do it all in one solution. Rather, it’s now a family of solutions that each fit in a place to match specific needs.  And as new needs come to light, Intel is growing the multi-core technology family in reply.  A great example of this is in the expansion some of Intel's key embedded platforms that now will better address the needs of digital signage and medical applications.  More details about this will be coming from Intel in the near term future, so stay tuned and watch this space for updates. Plus, visit the Kontron site to see how we’re using these platforms.


As I said, multi-core is not a single do-it-all multi-tool.  It is; however, a family of tools that are not to be missed out on.





Christine Van De Graaf

Product Marketing Manger, Embedded Modules Division

Message Edited by kontron_cvdg on 04-17-2009 12:07 PM

Multicore for Everyone

Posted by kontron_cvdg Jan 9, 2009

Multicore has been all the rage for the latest and greatest small form factor platforms in so many of the blog postings for a few months now.  I want to take this little opportunity and bring some of the more mature SFF platforms back into the light.   Let's not forget about the medical and industrial automation and other application area designs that didn't need to make the jump to PCI Express and that have been using older Intel Pentium M processors at their core.  That can change now.  The Intel Atom N270 processor and 945GSE chipset are making their appearance in ETX 3.0 computer-on-module (example: Kontron's ETX-DC - coming soon) platforms.  This represents a nice migration path for those solutions giving them a performance boost without jacking up the power consumption or sacrificing any of the other important factors including the design's total cost of ownership.  As we look forward to the Embedded World show and the Embedded Systems Conference coming up before too much longer, there's no doubt that more of these other small form factors including single board computer standards will bring more of these migration path multicore solutions to market -- making multicore available to everyone.



Christine Van De Graaf - Product Marketing Manager, Embedded Modules Division


Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:28 PM

Pushing the Limits

Posted by kontron_cvdg Oct 27, 2008

Not only are the power and performance limits of multi-core technologies being pushed to their limits, so are the software elements that work with them. An outstanding example of this is the technology pairing of the Kontron nanoETXexpress-SP computer-on-module based on the Intel® AtomTM Z5xx series processors and the new BIOS-less fastboot capabilities enabled by QNX Software. The boot time of the system under the BIOS-less fastboot is comparable to that of a light being switched on. See a live demo of this technology pairing for your self in the Kontron booth (#1001) during this week's Embedded Systems Conference in Boston, MA. Can't make it out to the show? Check out the YouTube version of the demo. We've pushed the capabilities of multi-core technologies this far; imagine the possibilities of where we have yet to go.



Kontron - Christine Van De Graaf - Product Marketing Manager, Embedded Modules Division



Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:31 PM

Halloween is just days away, so a little gazing into the old crystal ball and fortune-telling fits the season.


What is to come in embedded computing technology and multi-core processor based designs?


We'll continue to see more highly integrated modules in the COM Express "Basic" form factor such as the Kontron ETXexpress-PC module (booth 1001) that is on display at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston this week. However, this is just the beginning of the impact that advanced multi-core processors will have on the PCI Express enabling standards such as COM Express. There is an effort to form working groups that will further transform the already well-engineered COM Express standard into an even better solution possibly with formally-adopted compact footprints - such as the compatible "" and "" modules. Additionally, SBC solutions are likely on the way to serve those who need a less customized off-the-shelf solution.



These predictions are not outlandish considering that the writing already is on the wall so to speak for these to become reality in the near-term future. So, it is safe to say that COM Express (with readily-available compliant and compatible modules) is here to stay and the roadmap for future developments is a promising one.



Don't believe me? Check that dusty old Magic Eight Ball for a second opinion or just wait for the next installment of the Venture Development Corp reports.





Christine Van De Graaf - Product Marketing Manager, Embedded Modules Division



Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:33 PM

A little while back, I posted a resource item entitled . It's a whitepaper that was reviewed and approved by PICMG to help give a little insight into where branded modules fit with respect to the industry standard. Right now, with the explosion of modules featuring the latest Intel® 45nm multi-core processor (including the Kontron ETXexpress-PC), revisiting this paper could prove helpful to some of you out there who are wondering how to sort out the COM Express modules. This might even help when navigating the exhibits floor to see all the latest multi-core modules at the Embedded Systems Conference coming up in Boston, MA in just another week.





Christine Van De Graaf - Product Marketing Manager, Embedded Modules Division



Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:33 PM

Which came first?

Posted by kontron_cvdg Aug 19, 2008

I doubt I'm the only one who's pondered the question of "which came first: the chicken or the egg". And I might not even be the first person to consider how that might compare to small form factor computer-on-modules and SBCs and ever-shrinking multi-core processors. But, go with me on this one.


ETX (Embedded Technology eXtended) got its start in the year 2000 and initiated the move from full custom motherboards to standard, off-the-shelf computer-on-modules with customizable carrier boards. Then, along came COM Express in around 2003 and PC/104-sized, "micro" COM Express compatible modules as well. If my memory is correct, the Intel® Tick-Tock strategy really took off around the year 2005, leading to the release of the first multi-core processors not long there after.


Although the smallest Computer-On-Modules haven't been released with dual and quad-core processors yet, it's a safe bet to say that they are definitely on the way. And, it's foreseeable that their demands will push for even further tick-tock silicon technology advancements.


What do you think - Small form factor module or small form factor multi-core architecture: Which came first?






Christine Van De Graaf



Product Marketing Manager, Embedded Modules Division





Message Edited by serenajoy on 03-11-2009 08:39 PM

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