Konton PicoITX SP 1.6 Ghz SBC

Custom built or hacked Electronic boards and sensors
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3 postsPage 1 of 1

Konton PicoITX SP 1.6 Ghz SBC

Post by PaulL » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:04 pm

Post by PaulL
Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:04 pm

I ordered this (Kontron 03001-0000-16-2) from WDL Systems with the starter Kit and 2gb SODIMM 667 Mhz. The version I ordered is the "Standard" version (not the Plus). The Plus has an IDE connector added, this protrudes from the side of the board, making it wider than I really want.

After much searching, this board is one of the smallest I can find with at least an Intel Atom Z530 CPU at 1.6 Ghz. It is 100 mm x 72 mm, and .990 inches (about 25 mm) thick with spreader plate.

It's a good bit smaller than the FitPC2 board (104 x 96 x 23), but it's also more expensive.

The Starter Kit (Kontron 03101-0000-00-S4) was $150.00 USD - WAY overpriced for what you get. The board itself was $367 USD, RAM was $47 USD.

This board is pretty well loaded, with MicroSD, dual SATA, 6 x USB (2 jacks, 4 smaller plugs), ethernet, DVI for video, HD Audio, and even 8 pins of GPIO (not 4 as mentioned in some places). There's more info here: http://us.kontron.com/products/boards+and+mezzanines/embedded+sbc/pitx+25+sbc/pitxsp.html

Ordering from WDL Systems was easy, though they are having site problems - I emailed them for a quote, and called in my order. The RAM was on backorder, but I told them to hold the order until it was ready - a couple weeks, no big deal.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...

This board came with heat spreader and heat sink. A word of caution as mentioned in the user guide: if you mount the heat sink, it has thermally activated epoxy. Once you heat the board up, it'll be a problem to get the heat sink off. I didn't even put mine on - at room temp, it's not even necessary.

The real problem with the thermal solution for this board is large aluminum blocks that couple 6 or 7 chips to the heat spreader plate. The heat spreader plate itself is pretty thick (.120 inches, or about 3 mm). This adds a lot of weight, and it really isn't necessary for this application.

I emailed sbc-support@kontron.com (don't bother with support@us.kontron.com , I still haven't gotten a reply yet) for additional information.

My main goal was to get Windows XP loaded to MicroSD.

Don't even think about trying to load straight to MicroSD, it just is not possible on this board, and Kontron is not interested in changing that. To get the system to boot off MicroSD as a hard drive, you have to use their DiskCopy tool (custom, proprietary, Kontron-specific). If you email them, they will give you the link (they don't have it publicly available for download, so I won't post the link here).

To load XP on this board, this works:

* Bootable Windows XP SP2 with SATA drivers slipstreamed in (download SATA drivers from Kontron), on CD, and SP3 (or you can slipstream SP3 in, doesn't matter). XP must be SP3 to load to MicroSD - their copy tool requires it.
* SATA CD-ROM
* SATA Hard Drive
* Driverless MicroSD Card Adapter
* Power Source for CD-ROM and Hard Drive

Plug in the power for the CD-ROM and Hard Drive, then hook up the SATA connections. Power on (make sure drives are powered on first), make sure BIOS boot order is right, boot off the CD, load Windows to the hard drive.

To get the load over to MicroSD, I started by formatting the MicroSD card using the HPUSBFW.EXE format tool (find on the 'net and download). You can do this on your main PC or the Kontron board with the MicroSD to USB adapter, doesn't matter.

What DOES matter is where you run their DiskCopy tool. DO NOT run it on your desktop, it won't work. Been there, tried that. You HAVE to run this tool ON THE KONTRON BOARD. Also not mentioned is the problems you will have if you try to copy the files over to the onboard MicroSD slot - this is where you have to use the MicroSD to USB adapter. This isn't stated anywhere, and wasn't even mentioned by Kontron support. There are no help files for the DiskCopy tool.

Once the copy is done (may throw an error at the end, ignore it), power down the board, plug the MicroSD card into the MicroSD slot on the kontron board (label side up with the heat spreader facing you), unplug the CD-ROM and Hard Drive, boot up, go into BIOS, and make sure things look right. You may have to go to Peripheral Setup / SDIO Setup and change the usage to Hard Drive for the MicroSD slot (I did, and that worked).

I had NO luck with bootable USB sticks on this board, regardless of BIOS settings. It just didn't act right.

It was a real pain to get this board loaded, but the trick is the SATA hard drive, SATA CD-ROM, and driverless MicroSD card adapter. If your MicroSD card adapter requires drivers (few do these days), the DiskCopy tool likely won't work.

If you look into the XML files of the DiskCopy tool, you will find that the SDIO card uses filter drivers for operation and that the copy tool handles copying this driver and makes the required registry changes. Basically, these drivers make up for the fact that the SDIO implementation doesn't present itself properly as a hard drive (If it did, you could load Windows straight to it, like on Roboard!). Roboard did a much better job of this, Kontron could learn something from them - but I doubt Kontron will do anything about this.

Per support, room temperature operation means you CAN run this board without the heatsink, spreader plate, and aluminum thermal coupling. Personally, I'll do something lightweight with a small laptop fan - I just don't think it's wise to run with NO heatsink, but that's me.

I tried get support to provide the wattage dissipation values for the thermally coupled chips (so I'd know how many watts of heat I was trying to deal with for each chip), but did not get a specific answer.

IF YOU DEAL WITH SUPPORT, KNOW THIS: If they find you to be an individual, a hobbyist, they will refer you to the vendor. That's what was said to me in email, that I should contact the vendor for "cases like this". Fortunately, I received the info I needed before I was referred to the vendor. I find it very poor for a product manufacturing company to refer a customer to a vendor for support. Frankly, I was quite mad. Dissapointing.

Regardless, as the board is loaded and I have my answer regarding thermal solution, I need no further support.

Final Words...

So, yes, I have the smallest 1.6 Ghz Z530 board I can find, it's got a MicroSD card for a hard drive, and it has 2GB RAM. I can make something lighter weight to remove heat. In all, the board itself is fine once you get past the loading quirks.

Kontron intends to sell to large markets, not to individuals. They don't even want to support individuals. My impression is that this is not a company that I would call "user friendly".

To fit this board into the Robonova form, the torso is going to need a complete redesign. The shoulder servos are going to get rotated 90 degrees forward (shoulders will move out a millimeter or two), the hip servos are going to get rotated 90 degrees inward (the legs will move outward a little bit). This gives me room to fit in this board horizontally, and leaves room for a decent sized battery underneath. The basic design I have in mind thus far is to use alu framing along the sides of the torso.

I'm on my way to a Z530-based bot, for a lot cheaper than NAO or Darwin!

Take Care,
Paul

Further Info, this board requires only 5 volts. Many boards I found required 12 as well, meaning more than 2S LiPo.
I ordered this (Kontron 03001-0000-16-2) from WDL Systems with the starter Kit and 2gb SODIMM 667 Mhz. The version I ordered is the "Standard" version (not the Plus). The Plus has an IDE connector added, this protrudes from the side of the board, making it wider than I really want.

After much searching, this board is one of the smallest I can find with at least an Intel Atom Z530 CPU at 1.6 Ghz. It is 100 mm x 72 mm, and .990 inches (about 25 mm) thick with spreader plate.

It's a good bit smaller than the FitPC2 board (104 x 96 x 23), but it's also more expensive.

The Starter Kit (Kontron 03101-0000-00-S4) was $150.00 USD - WAY overpriced for what you get. The board itself was $367 USD, RAM was $47 USD.

This board is pretty well loaded, with MicroSD, dual SATA, 6 x USB (2 jacks, 4 smaller plugs), ethernet, DVI for video, HD Audio, and even 8 pins of GPIO (not 4 as mentioned in some places). There's more info here: http://us.kontron.com/products/boards+and+mezzanines/embedded+sbc/pitx+25+sbc/pitxsp.html

Ordering from WDL Systems was easy, though they are having site problems - I emailed them for a quote, and called in my order. The RAM was on backorder, but I told them to hold the order until it was ready - a couple weeks, no big deal.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...

This board came with heat spreader and heat sink. A word of caution as mentioned in the user guide: if you mount the heat sink, it has thermally activated epoxy. Once you heat the board up, it'll be a problem to get the heat sink off. I didn't even put mine on - at room temp, it's not even necessary.

The real problem with the thermal solution for this board is large aluminum blocks that couple 6 or 7 chips to the heat spreader plate. The heat spreader plate itself is pretty thick (.120 inches, or about 3 mm). This adds a lot of weight, and it really isn't necessary for this application.

I emailed sbc-support@kontron.com (don't bother with support@us.kontron.com , I still haven't gotten a reply yet) for additional information.

My main goal was to get Windows XP loaded to MicroSD.

Don't even think about trying to load straight to MicroSD, it just is not possible on this board, and Kontron is not interested in changing that. To get the system to boot off MicroSD as a hard drive, you have to use their DiskCopy tool (custom, proprietary, Kontron-specific). If you email them, they will give you the link (they don't have it publicly available for download, so I won't post the link here).

To load XP on this board, this works:

* Bootable Windows XP SP2 with SATA drivers slipstreamed in (download SATA drivers from Kontron), on CD, and SP3 (or you can slipstream SP3 in, doesn't matter). XP must be SP3 to load to MicroSD - their copy tool requires it.
* SATA CD-ROM
* SATA Hard Drive
* Driverless MicroSD Card Adapter
* Power Source for CD-ROM and Hard Drive

Plug in the power for the CD-ROM and Hard Drive, then hook up the SATA connections. Power on (make sure drives are powered on first), make sure BIOS boot order is right, boot off the CD, load Windows to the hard drive.

To get the load over to MicroSD, I started by formatting the MicroSD card using the HPUSBFW.EXE format tool (find on the 'net and download). You can do this on your main PC or the Kontron board with the MicroSD to USB adapter, doesn't matter.

What DOES matter is where you run their DiskCopy tool. DO NOT run it on your desktop, it won't work. Been there, tried that. You HAVE to run this tool ON THE KONTRON BOARD. Also not mentioned is the problems you will have if you try to copy the files over to the onboard MicroSD slot - this is where you have to use the MicroSD to USB adapter. This isn't stated anywhere, and wasn't even mentioned by Kontron support. There are no help files for the DiskCopy tool.

Once the copy is done (may throw an error at the end, ignore it), power down the board, plug the MicroSD card into the MicroSD slot on the kontron board (label side up with the heat spreader facing you), unplug the CD-ROM and Hard Drive, boot up, go into BIOS, and make sure things look right. You may have to go to Peripheral Setup / SDIO Setup and change the usage to Hard Drive for the MicroSD slot (I did, and that worked).

I had NO luck with bootable USB sticks on this board, regardless of BIOS settings. It just didn't act right.

It was a real pain to get this board loaded, but the trick is the SATA hard drive, SATA CD-ROM, and driverless MicroSD card adapter. If your MicroSD card adapter requires drivers (few do these days), the DiskCopy tool likely won't work.

If you look into the XML files of the DiskCopy tool, you will find that the SDIO card uses filter drivers for operation and that the copy tool handles copying this driver and makes the required registry changes. Basically, these drivers make up for the fact that the SDIO implementation doesn't present itself properly as a hard drive (If it did, you could load Windows straight to it, like on Roboard!). Roboard did a much better job of this, Kontron could learn something from them - but I doubt Kontron will do anything about this.

Per support, room temperature operation means you CAN run this board without the heatsink, spreader plate, and aluminum thermal coupling. Personally, I'll do something lightweight with a small laptop fan - I just don't think it's wise to run with NO heatsink, but that's me.

I tried get support to provide the wattage dissipation values for the thermally coupled chips (so I'd know how many watts of heat I was trying to deal with for each chip), but did not get a specific answer.

IF YOU DEAL WITH SUPPORT, KNOW THIS: If they find you to be an individual, a hobbyist, they will refer you to the vendor. That's what was said to me in email, that I should contact the vendor for "cases like this". Fortunately, I received the info I needed before I was referred to the vendor. I find it very poor for a product manufacturing company to refer a customer to a vendor for support. Frankly, I was quite mad. Dissapointing.

Regardless, as the board is loaded and I have my answer regarding thermal solution, I need no further support.

Final Words...

So, yes, I have the smallest 1.6 Ghz Z530 board I can find, it's got a MicroSD card for a hard drive, and it has 2GB RAM. I can make something lighter weight to remove heat. In all, the board itself is fine once you get past the loading quirks.

Kontron intends to sell to large markets, not to individuals. They don't even want to support individuals. My impression is that this is not a company that I would call "user friendly".

To fit this board into the Robonova form, the torso is going to need a complete redesign. The shoulder servos are going to get rotated 90 degrees forward (shoulders will move out a millimeter or two), the hip servos are going to get rotated 90 degrees inward (the legs will move outward a little bit). This gives me room to fit in this board horizontally, and leaves room for a decent sized battery underneath. The basic design I have in mind thus far is to use alu framing along the sides of the torso.

I'm on my way to a Z530-based bot, for a lot cheaper than NAO or Darwin!

Take Care,
Paul

Further Info, this board requires only 5 volts. Many boards I found required 12 as well, meaning more than 2S LiPo.
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Kontron Z530

Post by sascha » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:54 am

Post by sascha
Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:54 am

Hi Paul,

I switched to the Kontron Z530 about six month ago for my Bioloid and must say that I really like it.
The aluminum block, heat sink and screws weight 65g in total, but I used the heat sink to hold together the hip and shoulder servos. So I made some good use out of this metal part.
The board gets really hot during usage, so I doubt you can use it without proper cooling!
I use Ubuntu 10 to boot directly from the mircoSD card and it works like a charm. I think Windows XP is the problem here, not the board. If your application doesn't need Windows I really recommend to switch to Linux!

Greetings,
Sascha
Hi Paul,

I switched to the Kontron Z530 about six month ago for my Bioloid and must say that I really like it.
The aluminum block, heat sink and screws weight 65g in total, but I used the heat sink to hold together the hip and shoulder servos. So I made some good use out of this metal part.
The board gets really hot during usage, so I doubt you can use it without proper cooling!
I use Ubuntu 10 to boot directly from the mircoSD card and it works like a charm. I think Windows XP is the problem here, not the board. If your application doesn't need Windows I really recommend to switch to Linux!

Greetings,
Sascha
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Post by PaulL » Sat Feb 16, 2013 2:44 pm

Post by PaulL
Sat Feb 16, 2013 2:44 pm

Hi Sascha,

My thought on cooling for this board is to build a "tunnel" out of aluminum sheet that sits on top of the chips and use a small laptop fan to keep things cool (this board even has a speed-controlled fan connector).

Mine has two aluminum blocks - does yours have 1 or 2?

XP is loaded, and everything works now - getting to that point is what is troublesome. :) All I can guess is maybe you have a newer BIOS version?

No Linux for me, it's got to be Windows - the execution framework I've developed is built for Windows, and in the long term, my target market is Windows. I may port to C eventually, but Windows and .Net is my focus. :)

All my work on Roboard is .Net under Windows, and I stopped at text-to-speech and voice recognition, that was my roadblock on Roboard (onboard USB audio just not up to par). I had choppy audio on Roboard due to CPU usage when streaming audio in. This was true even using Sound Recorder. Things got better on Roboard with a MiniPCI to PCI converter and a full sized PCI Audio card, but not good enough.

I am unable to use the heat spreader as framework, there just isn't enough room to keep the geometry and center of gravity close to a stock RN-1 without placing the board horizontally...

The basic framework redesign for my RN-1 will be like a "rack" - two servos up top, then the Z530 board, then a battery, then the two hip servos. Additional boards (servo controllers and such) will be done backpack-style, above a shelf created by the Z530. I should be able to fit hip rotation servos to the back of the hip joints (just under the Z530), with a pulley design to rotate the hips.

I have more hardware to add, so saving weight whenever I can will help. :)

Paul
Hi Sascha,

My thought on cooling for this board is to build a "tunnel" out of aluminum sheet that sits on top of the chips and use a small laptop fan to keep things cool (this board even has a speed-controlled fan connector).

Mine has two aluminum blocks - does yours have 1 or 2?

XP is loaded, and everything works now - getting to that point is what is troublesome. :) All I can guess is maybe you have a newer BIOS version?

No Linux for me, it's got to be Windows - the execution framework I've developed is built for Windows, and in the long term, my target market is Windows. I may port to C eventually, but Windows and .Net is my focus. :)

All my work on Roboard is .Net under Windows, and I stopped at text-to-speech and voice recognition, that was my roadblock on Roboard (onboard USB audio just not up to par). I had choppy audio on Roboard due to CPU usage when streaming audio in. This was true even using Sound Recorder. Things got better on Roboard with a MiniPCI to PCI converter and a full sized PCI Audio card, but not good enough.

I am unable to use the heat spreader as framework, there just isn't enough room to keep the geometry and center of gravity close to a stock RN-1 without placing the board horizontally...

The basic framework redesign for my RN-1 will be like a "rack" - two servos up top, then the Z530 board, then a battery, then the two hip servos. Additional boards (servo controllers and such) will be done backpack-style, above a shelf created by the Z530. I should be able to fit hip rotation servos to the back of the hip joints (just under the Z530), with a pulley design to rotate the hips.

I have more hardware to add, so saving weight whenever I can will help. :)

Paul
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