Pegasos.org has (one of) the (only) first reviews of the Efika, the system on a chip thing from Genesi (or bPlan? I lost track). “What can I say? It’s a great piece of hardware. bPlan lives up to our expectations yet again. They even exceeded them about its media capabilities. For thin client or tiny desktop usage it will work just fine as long as you choose a low footprint window manager. As a network workgroup server I can’t see any difficulties with this hardware. Configure it and you’re set.”
First Impressions: Efika
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2006-12-07 11:08 pmironfist
Thanks for liking my article.
I wonder about the processor’s capabilities?
Does anyone has a clue on what is comparable (Intel, AMD) to the integrated Freescale CPU?
And how much does it costs with the AGP riser?
Anyway, it sure looks like a nice mini system…
2006-12-07 11:02 pmironfist
The price is set for 199 USD and currently it includes the AGP riser.
2006-12-07 11:05 pmveki
You can find more info on
2006-12-08 12:56 amrayiner
It’s basically a 400 MHz G3. So PII-300-ish?
2006-12-08 1:10 amFransexy
It’s basically a 400 MHz G3. So PII-300-ish?
More like PIII-500+-ish
2006-12-08 2:56 pmrayiner
Correction: It’s a 603e based core, not a 750 (G3) based core. That means its got one integer pipe and the FPU is not fully pipelined. So PII-300 is being generous. And even if it was a 750-based core, PIII-500 is way too generous. The PIII had vector instructions, and a much more highly out-of-order core. Heise did some benchmarks five or six years ago that put a PIII at about clock-for-clock equal to a G4, so a G3-based core would be slower at the same clockspeed.
2006-12-08 3:19 amaliquis
I think it was based on the 603? Afaik ppc generations was like following:
ppc603, probably equal or little better speed than PII.
ppc604, faster than PII.
So I guess it would be “G2” or something. I don’t know how fast it is thought, and memory speed have improved, but say around 400MHz PII?
2006-12-08 1:25 pmFunkyELF
As long as it can run a MythTV Frontend…I’ll be happy.
I have to say that I am very tempted to pick one of these up, I am not sure as to what I would do with it (or how to justify it) but they are just so appealing with their small form factor, low power consumption, and PPCness. Perhaps if the 4U2 materializes it could be the perfect laptop, not replacing the desktop computer, but providing a stripped down portable machine with top notch battery life, and cool reliable operation. I like the fact that the Efika doesn’t have a case that it comes with, as I think it would be very fun to make a small ornate wooden box for it with a briefcase style handle, and be able to say that it is my computer.
It is platforms like this that put the fun into computing. All I know is that I want one
But what I like best is here: http://projects.powerdeveloper.org/projects.php?program=EFIKA
These are getting to developers: http://www.powerdeveloper.org/
Mine is on the way.
For $200 you cant beat it. Small footprint, low power consumption and can play videos, mp3’s so you can have a nice small media box to play back your movies, songs etc. The possibilties are endless with Linux..you can also use it as a game box to hook up to the tv. MAME ? E-UAE for Amiga emulation? Countless other games system emulators..
I received a EFIKA board for the embedded Solaris project (http://projects.powerdeveloper.org/projects.php?pending=149).
It is a cute board, but what i add here is that the EFIKA board has the same firmware as the Open Desktop Workstation (ODW) and it is industry standard (IEEE1275-1994) implementation. what that means? it means an os kernel (or a kernel loader) that is developed on top of it is BINARY portable. Please note, it is not just portable in source level or just application binary compatible.
A testimory is the OpenSolaris PPC boot loader (inetboot) and kernel. We have ported the solaris inetboot and kernel(in progress) on PowerPC with ODW as target and the inetboot code implements a full TCP/IP and NFS stack based on the firmware calls. As we tested on EFIKA, the inetboot and kernel are loaded and booted as expected on ODW. These are all credited to the firmware used on the EFIKA. It is a great approach to build machines and we get tremendous portability.
sysadm@icarus:~$ uname -a
Linux icarus 2.6.19-rc6-g9468d500-dirty #35 PREEMPT Mon Nov 27 20:48:16 CET 2006 ppc GNU/Linux
sysadm@icarus:~$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
cpu : G2_LE
clock : 396.000000MHz
revision : 1.4 (pvr 8082 2014)
bogomips : 65.53
timebase : 33000000
platform : Efika
machine : EFIKA5K2 CHRP PowerPC System
revision : 2B3
vendor : bplan
sysadm@icarus:~$ cat /proc/meminfo
MemTotal: 124948 kB
MemFree: 46080 kB
Buffers: 4664 kB
Cached: 65016 kB
SwapCached: 0 kB
Active: 48892 kB
Inactive: 24600 kB
SwapTotal: 361420 kB
SwapFree: 361420 kB
Dirty: 24 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 3828 kB
Mapped: 3568 kB
Slab: 3948 kB
SReclaimable: 1844 kB
SUnreclaim: 2104 kB
PageTables: 292 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 423892 kB
Committed_AS: 11080 kB
VmallocTotal: 868280 kB
VmallocUsed: 17016 kB
VmallocChunk: 850800 kB
One then may do the usual things and drag in a world of software :
sysadm@icarus:~$ apt-cache stats
Total package names : 23534 (941k)
Normal packages: 17679
Pure virtual packages: 238
Single virtual packages: 1584
Mixed virtual packages: 165
Total distinct versions: 17844 (857k)
Total dependencies: 118469 (3317k)
Total ver/file relations: 17983 (288k)
Total Provides mappings: 3317 (66.3k)
Total globbed strings: 43 (308)
Total dependency version space: 477k
Total slack space: 97.7k
Total space accounted for: 5567k
You can install GCC and build things yourself in the Debian way or simply use this microscopic little machine in any way you want.
I installed a full blown GNOME desktop. I don’t recommend that really but I had to stress test it.
see picture here :
if you look closely you will see a penny and a USB Memory stick hanging out the backend. I actually booted from that because I created a bootable partition there with parted.
Its a full function little machine.
Speed is not that important with this board. The fact that it is small and power efficient is (i.e., performance/watt). This thing is powerful enough to stream video, so it would be nice as a satellite in a home entertainment system for instance.
We have something different in mind with the EFIKA however:
The goal is to create a semi-mobile laboratory to support courses such as:
Parallel and Distributed Computing Systems
High Performance Computing and Networking Architectures
(Real Time) Operating Systems
Telecommunications Architectures and Software
High Level Hardware Design Automation
Embedded (Networking) Systems
Intelligent Computing Systems and Robotics
More info here:
The Botnia RoboCup Team will evaluate EFIKA as well, to see if we can build our next-gen robots around the 5K2. EFIKA will serve as a test and development platform.
RoboCup is an international event to foster developments in AI and Robotics.
Thanks to Genesi for sponsoring us with this project. Not only did they provide the EFIKA boards, but they also send us a SUN T1000 which will be acting as a server in the semi-mobile lab and as a strategy server in the Robotics Team.
I’m doing my PhD in a soil science department. Part of my work is measurement automation. Until now we used old x86 PCs, as they were not suited for desktop usage, but still could drive a serial port based measurement. Problem: heat and electricity, especially with heat dependent measurements.
With EFIKA I got a machine 1/20th the size and 1/10 of electricity use. Practically no heating at all. So it is much better suited to the job, and practically not more expensive as getting it done by an old x86 machine.
A few more words about my project: http://projects.powerdeveloper.org/projects.php?pending=41 on the EFIKA projects page.
2006-12-08 12:25 pmkmays2000
The EFIKA resembles the motherboard engine of a fifth generation gaming console which can play ‘any’ of the existing 2D/3D video games created before Y2001.
This makes EFIKA great for mobile devices, aerospace/robotics/mechanical engineering projects, and most Doctorate-level computer science projects!
You can easily house a 80GB 2.5″ hard drive, a ‘low-profile’ graphics card with 128MB RAM (ATI 9200SE), and support the latest PPC Debian Etch/Gentoo series or MorphOS both with HW-accelerated drivers for fast 3D graphics. The XGI Volaris V3 video card is becoming an alternate video solution as well fo the EFIKA.
Don’t let the tiny motherboard design fol you. Big things can come from small packages….
~ Ken Mays ;o>
It seems that Genesi is doing great job for ppc community. This is great news that new mobo is created and they support developers.
Thx Genesi you are doing great job
2006-12-09 11:30 amBladerunner
I have to agree
I am also one of those “loonies” with Amiga Background and thus have allready some
experience with Genesi products as i am a happy Pegasos owner.
Personally I think the Efika will make a very nice addition here, simply because of the fun I am going to have with it.
I am to young to remember the beginning of home computers, Heck I was born the same year when Altair hit
the market! However i guess those people who ordered their Altairs back in 1975 must have felt the same
way like I do with the efika: Not yet sure what exactly to do with, but sure to know there are endless possibilities.
Genesi did great things with their developer projects in the past, but what they currently doing with efika is really
stunning! It is allready a nice read for what several people are going to do with their Efikas, and I am sure there will be
some more interesting read when those projects grow. Personally I am concentrating on making the efika a small “Retro Station”
Plattform, a combined soft and hardware effort, other will do more serious stuff with it, but i guess there is one thing in common:
Having fun with a given Plattform, explore its abilities, bring it to the limits and beyond, just like it was with all those
various Homecomputer Plattforms.
Yep, the Homecomputer is back and Genesi/Bplan/Freescale made it happen Thank you
I wonder if there will ever be an option of buying the OLPC motherboard separately. It would probably have similar performance to this Efika board, or maybe a bit slower, but there is USB 2.0, SD card reader, integrated wireless adapter, some flash memory etc.
If (including the LCD, Batteries, Case, etc), OLPC costs about $100-$150, then the moatherboard itself shouldn’t cost much more than $50. That is about a quarter of the price of Efika.
2006-12-08 12:03 pmironfist
OLPC costs 100 only when a minimum of
one million machines are ordered.
If you order one million EFIKAs, I’m sure
Genesi will give you nice price.
2006-12-09 1:59 amSphinx
2006-12-08 2:27 pmbbrv
Hi Peter, we are just getting started on this one. We quoted 1000 units/month for a year yesterday at $99. When we start moving some volume the prices will follow. It is long, so you can read the very beginning and a couple of paragraphs at the end if you are interested, as this sums up the approach: http://bbrv.blogspot.com/2006/12/efika-comes-to-life.html
We have also have an objective we share with OLPC: http://power2people.org/goals1.html
2006-12-09 12:08 amblastwave
This is my EFIKA screenshot :
Its a super cool little unit.
2006-12-09 2:01 amSphinx
That is a super cool screenshot.
Anyone have any info on how MorphOS is/will perform on this? If MOS or AROS gets available I’ll buy one asap.
What many people don’t realize in looking at the EFIKA is that it is as powerful as computers were about 4-5 years ago. You get a 400Mhz PowerPC-based CPU with 128MB RAM. You can also use one of the ‘top-of-the-line’ ATI graphics chips (i.e. ATI 8500->9250) with 128MB-256MB RAM with the EFIKA.
My laptop computer of 4-5 long years was only a Pentium III 500Mhz CPU, 128MB RAM, 20GB HD, 10/100 NIC, and running Windows 2000!! I ran DVDs, streaming video/music, SQL Server databases, word procesors, and a slew of major business apps. The 128MB of memory and 500Mhz CPU was fine for a lot of graphic work and basic computer needs.
Yes, the EFIKA can run DVDs and do a lot of things that similar embedded processors /computers are doing today. Don’t be fooled by its tiny size…. ;o>
The other thing you may not see commented on is that the EFIKA includes a nice audio chip called Sigmatel STAC9766 (the Sigmatel STAC9274 is the higher-end model for PC “High-definition” Audio). So, the EFIKA can reproduce a lot of music samples, give great audio recording/playback, and use programs similar to OctaMED SoundStudio V2 to write and create music… the EFIKA just rocks when you put the right software with it…
Great article on a sweet looking little board there.