How I plan to validate OpenChrome DRM on a thin client

Sort of related to yesterday’s OpenChrome Project “plugfest” (Since I am using that PCI-SIG term, I still seem to have some residual interest in wanting to work as a ASIC / FPGA design engineer . . .), I did bring Wyse Vx0 (not sure the exact model) and Wyse Cx0 (C10LE) with me.

The thing is, even though I work on an underserved (neglected) graphics device like VIA Chrome IGP, I do not really like thin client type devices. This is because thin clients often have only 1 GB or so local storage, and in order to comfortably develop even OpenChrome DDX requires about 8 GB of storage if you include even a stripped down OS like Lubuntu and a decent IDE like Eclipse.

About a year ago, the same friend who gave me the Wyse X90L mobile thin client showed me how one can straight install (“straight install” in this case means not having to perform extra steps to get the device functioning properly) Linux based OS to a USB flash storage device. What he told me was that if the USB flash storage device identifies as a USB hard drive, most likely one can boot from that device and can function like a device booting from a regular hard drive or SSD. I have been dealing with x86 based PCs and Linux for some years, but I did not know that you can do this.

The 16 GB USB flash storage device he gave me was SanDisk Cruzer Refurbished edition. I find this sort of scary considering that flash memory inherently has write endurance issues. Plus, I assume most USB flash storage devices sold out there are based on TLC 2D NAND flash memory. So far, the device has not failed (it contains Lubuntu 12.04), so I guess I am okay with it for now . . .

Going back to the whole thin client world, it is sometimes pretty hard to obtain VIA Technologies Chrome IGP based devices that are not thin client based. This is because VIA’s silicon devices were not that competitive against Intel and AMD starting around Year 2005 or so even at the low end of the PC market, and therefore, they had to seek markets other than PCs. Since thin clients do not require too much performance, it was a fairly safe niche VIA was able to milk it until Intel Atom processor showed up around Year 2008 or so and ARM camp significantly improved the performance of their licensable processors (i.e., Cortex A series).

Now that I know that I can boot Linux off of a USB flash storage device and I have to deal with thin clients for validation reasons, I guess I will go with this idea of installing Linux on a USB flash storage device, but I cannot stand the idea of frequent writes (i.e., kernel log files) to a TLC 2D NAND flash memory based USB flash storage device causing eventual data errors. I decided to solve this issue by paying more for the USB flash storage device, and hopefully the device vendor will use higher write endurance flash memory.

A little over a week ago, I purchased SanDisk Extreme 64 GB USB 3.0 flash storage device for about $32.99 + sales tax over at Micro Center (it is being discontinued with a newer product). It comes with a lifetime warranty and that is why I choose this one. While writing this blog post and the previous one, I was compiling OpenChrome DRM with a much newer generation computer (I did not use my VIA processor + chipset computer to compile the Linux kernel for this occasion. In other words, I cheated.) that has USB 3.0 support. I do have to admit that it was really fast. I am now ready to test OpenChrome DRM with Wyse C10LE (VX855 chipset). This is really the first time I am trying this (validating in development DRM with a USB flash storage device). I will report the results maybe tomorrow or so. Stay tuned.

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