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New I/O Standard Bids To Replace Mini PCI Express

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the lame-name dept.

Input Devices 31

DeviceGuru writes "LinuxDevices reports that a group of companies today unveiled — and demonstrated products based on — a tiny new PCI Express expansion standard. Although it's somewhat larger than the PCI Express Mini Card, the tiny new 43mm x 65mm FeaturePak card's high density 230-pin edgecard connector provides twice the number of PCI Express and USB 2.0 channels to the host computer, plus 100 lines dedicated to general purpose I/O, of which 34 signal pairs are implemented with enhanced isolation for use in applications such as gigabit Ethernet or high-precision analog I/O. While FeaturePaks will certainly be used in all sorts of embedded devices (medical instruments, test equipment, etc.), the tiny cards could also be used for developing configurable consumer devices, for example to add an embedded firewall/router or security processor to laptop or notebook computers, or for modular functionality in TV set-top-boxes and Internet edge devices." The president of Diamond Systems, which invented the new card, said "Following the FeaturePak initiative's initial launch, we intend to turn the FeaturePak specification, trademark, and logo over to a suitable standards organization so it can become an industry-wide, open-architecture, embedded standard" (but to use the logo you have to join the organization).

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Good luck with that (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31326936)

I think PCIe is here to stay just because of its use in the desktop market. It is fast becoming the only standard for desktop components (there are now motherboards with no old style PCI). Ok well the benefit to having a laptop standard the same as the desktop standard is obvious. All the chips work the same, you don't need a new chip design or a bridge chip for the different standards. You just put the stuff in a different package and go.

Just a poorly specified MXM derivative (4, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31326986)

MXM is the connector used for modern laptop video cards (essentially PCIe x16 + video/monitor out)

Let's see: FeaturePak uses the same connector, FeaturePak uses PCIe, FeaturePak has a bunch of undefined IO pins. Sounds to me like MXM, except they replace the video-card-specific but mostly standardized video out signals with totally unspecified "put whatever you want here, including power" signals. Great.

This doesn't look like it's aimed at laptops at all (unlike Mini PCI Express, which is the form factor used for small PCIe modules such as video capture cards and WiFi). This sounds like it's more suited to small form factor embedded platforms for industrial/medical/etc use.

Re:Good luck with that (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31327006)

I think my penis will stay in your mom because SHE LOVES THE COCK. That is all.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#31330906)

... which shows that you don't need a 230-pin dual-inline connector to shine, sometimes a single prong is enough!

Re:Good luck with that (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#31331520)

Where... where would all the pins even go?

Re:Good luck with that (1)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31338970)

my prong is always enough...oh wait....did I just type that?

Re:Good luck with that (4, Insightful)

Enleth (947766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327098)

Unless I'm reading wrong, this *is* PCI-Express all right, just a different physical interface with an additional (most likely optional) lane and some new, fancy I/O lines.

But why USB 2.0? That would be a perfect place to include 3.0, wouldn't it?

Re:Good luck with that (5, Interesting)

unitron (5733) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327556)

Unless I'm reading wrong, this *is* PCI-Express all right, just a different physical interface with an additional (most likely optional) lane and some new, fancy I/O lines.

But why USB 2.0? That would be a perfect place to include 3.0, wouldn't it?

Well, first they have to sell as many with 2.0 as they can, and then come up with something that needs 3.0 to work right so that everybody has to buy new ones to replace the 2.0 ones so that they can sell twice as many as they would have otherwise.

And then it's time to change the physical interface on new products so that when you upgrade anything you can't use either the 2.0 or the 3.0 versions and have to start buying new stuff again. Don't you understand how computers really work? : - )

Re:Good luck with that (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#31330328)

There are PCIe lanes on the card anyway so anyone who needs high bandwidth will just use those. The usb is just to make low performance cards cheaper.

P.S. USB3 isn't really an evoloution of USB2 technically, backwards compatability is achived through the technique of putting two seperate sets of pins on the connector.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#31331002)

Unless I'm reading wrong, this *is* PCI-Express all right, just a different physical interface with an additional (most likely optional) lane and some new, fancy I/O lines.

But why USB 2.0? That would be a perfect place to include 3.0, wouldn't it?

Most likely ease of implementation. miniPCIe (and Expresscard) all bright out a x1 PCIe and USB2.0 to the connector. Since this form is likely to be used in embedded devices, USB2.0 is far more common than USB3.0 will be. Mandating USB3.0 means that part won't be implemented properly, while USB2.0 can be implemented now.

Most cheap ExpressCards and miniPCIe devices (WWAN modems, card readers, Bluetooth) tend ot use the USB side. More advanced devices (SSDs, WiFi) use the PCIe side. That's what allows the Kindle and Nook to have miniPCIe slots that don't really have the PCIe lines hooked up - just the USB ones.

And I'm not sure those FeaturePack cards are going to be really interchangable if those I/O lines are user-defined. Heck, it probably is going to be the other way around - the card is the CPU board (RAM/CPU/Flash/etc) while the main board itself holds the rest of the peripherals...

Re:Good luck with that (3, Funny)

Gouru (1568313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327304)

I think EISA is here to stay just because of its use in the desktop market. It is fast becoming the only standard for desktop components (there are now motherboards with no ISA). Ok, well the benefit of having a compact standard the same as the desktop standard is obvious. All the chips work the same, you don't need a new chip design or a bridge chip for the different standards. You just put the stuff in a different package and go.

--
Insert pre-emptive Hitler comment here.

nice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31326942)

i wonder if these things can be used to boot gnaa last measure os

Totally useless (4, Insightful)

ultrapenguin (2643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31326950)

General consumers won't have any use for 100 gpio pins, the fragile 240-pin connector will not last on any kind of multiple-insertions application, and in general, is there even any demand for this kind of stuff? bringing more pci-e lanes = only useful for graphics, anyone who needs more than 1x out of a laptop will be buying a desktop instead.

Re:Totally useless (1)

ranulf (182665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327922)

More significantly, as these pins are wired to the motherboard, they'll end up being either unused or having a de-facto purpose. My bet is on them being unused.

Re:Totally useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31327978)

"640K ought to be enough for anybody", the urban legend said.

Re:Not useless (1)

chainsaw1 (89967) | more than 3 years ago | (#31330064)

I have always though it would be nice to give a consumer computer with about 4 analog I/O and 10 digital I/O ports for general use. DAQ is a fundamental part of having a computer interact with the outside world and great for kids introduction to automation. It also has the ability to "become" any port you need it to be as long as the frequency of the controller is greater than 2x the bus speed of the port and someone is willing to write the appropriate pin management to make the I/O pins behave like the port in question (serial, usb, ethernet, etc.) both on the line and to the OS.

Derivative, hopelessly derivative... (3, Informative)

butlerm (3112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31326974)

This is a new form factor and interface connector for a couple of industry standard buses with a couple of twists thrown in. That is not to say it won't be a minor boon for the people who can make use of such devices, just that this sort of change is sort of thing to be expected out of most market segments every eighteen to thirty six months. Not "hopeless" (that was a joke) but certainly derivative.

Re:Derivative, hopelessly derivative... (4, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31326996)

It's not even a new connector. They use the MXM connector used for laptop video cards. Looks like they just replaced all of the video I/O pins with an incompatible free-for-all and made the card somewhat shorter.

Nothing to see here. Move along. (3, Insightful)

Tiersten (58773) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327018)

They're just saying it may potentially enter the consumer market just for something to say. The fact it has general purpose IO lines on it means it is aimed specifically at the embedded device market like SBCs.

The connector is physically bigger than the equivalent one in a mini PCI Express system. Manufacturers aren't going to switch to this new interface if it means allocating more space inside their laptop/tablet/netbook. It doesn't add anything extra that would be useful in those situations.

Re:Nothing to see here. Move along. (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327376)

Indeed. Moving GPIO from the adapter to the host sounds a whole lot more like the failed (though very cool) BeBox [wikipedia.org] than anything which will actually generate enough money to be worthwhile.

"Twice the number" (4, Informative)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327022)

Just found out that "the number" is one: FeaturePak features (no pun...) two PCI-Express lanes and two USB buses (and hosts only have to implement one of each anyway). Color me unimpressed.

FeatureCpak (2, Funny)

shivamib (1034310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327030)

<quote>FeaturePak specification, trademark, and logo over to a suitable standards organization so it can become an industry-wide, open-architecture, embedded standard" <b>(but to use the logo you have to join the organization).</b></quote>

Specifically, the terms and conditions you are asked to agree to in the MOU are:

      1. Recipient acknowledges Diamond Systems Corporation as present owner of the FeaturePak trademark and logo.
      2. Recipient may only associate the FeaturePak logo with products that conform to the FeaturePak specification.
      3. Recipient may only use the FeaturePak logo in accordance with the logo use guidelines.
      4. Recipient may not use a name, trademark, or logo similar to FeaturePak's name, trademark, or logo for any substantially similar purpose.
      5. *Resistance is futile*

HOBOS RIDE IN BOXCARS (0, Offtopic)

schi0244 (1198521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31327498)

My God (or goodness),

After reading the post in its entirety, i began to: 1) Piss my pants and then 2) SHIT my pants and then 3) SHIT blood and then 4) not give a shit any more.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31328192)

I am still on eISA. Why does tech change to fast?

dead (1)

Koutarou (38114) | more than 3 years ago | (#31328320)

Anything's going to be better than pcie-mini, given the damage that was done to it by Dell and ASUS using the form factor and connector but systematically violating the pinouts.

The nice thing about standards (1)

itsownreward (688406) | more than 3 years ago | (#31329082)

"The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." -- Andrew Tanenbaum

So soon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31329674)

I'm still excited about finally getting a computer with an AGP slot :(

Embeded Systems Market (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#31329836)

Diamond Systems aim mostly at the embedded market. So I don't really see this coming to the consumer side.

I use Diamond System products, and they always incorporate some sort of GPIO and ADC on their single board computers. This looks like a way for them introduce more expansion options that will be initially tied to their brand.

Almost all the industrial/scientific computing suppliers are pushing their own standard form of an expansion bus. CompactPCI and PC104+ are getting pretty old and some vendors are trying to be the first to come up with a viable replacement in order to gain an advantage and the ability to collect royalties from their competitors. I'm waiting to see what happens with StackableUSB...

Re:Embeded Systems Market (1)

Diamond Systems (1758986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31352564)

Hi. You are correct, this is primarily intended for the embedded market, enabling us to offer easier configuration of SBCs. However there is a defnite possibility of this being applicable to other markets, including notebooks or desktops, for applications yet to be conceived or widespread. FeaturePak was invented as a way to provide instant configuration of embedded systems with customer-specific features, so that one generic baseboard can be built instead of several fixed configuation ones, reducing the number of items that need to be stocked and providing better service to customers. This concept is well understood by embedded computing users such as you. We just made the board smaller and lower cost and did our best to make the right decision in each area of concern to customers. We do not intend to collect royalties on this format. It's an open standard, and as of today anyone who wants to can develop FeaturePak products for free. The only limitation is on the use of the name and logo which must be referenced to FeaturePak compliant products in order to avoid confusion in the market. This is standard trademark law with which we are all familiar. Thank you for using Diamond Systems products!

MFM to PCiE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31331446)

Oh thank you IEEE for not coming up with more cards Nearly got my 40 MB MFM drive's to work with my pcie 1x there were some minor timing issues and tad of rat wiring. I will try to get the ISA cards working next

But now I must be off I have more work to do on the HDMI to my salvaged from a "Compaq portable" black monochrome plasma screen, it's hard to get the cards out of the Compaq cause they are held in like with retarded star screws, and I only have needle-nose vice-grips, and a flat screwdriver that strips the middle, too bad Compaq didn't use those wide-grip, hand turn-able, no tools needed, sexy, aluminum case screws, oh dear it looks like more than one size of star nut screws, I May have to get a mental grinder for xmas, so I can shear off stripped screws, whoopsie I'm bleeding now off to get serial printer to USB 3.0 working..

ISAe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31334200)

Yeah, yeah, this is all very nice, but when am I getting my ISAexpress hardware??? I mean, I've just about given up on waiting for my S100express hardware upgrade...

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