IDE Booting from Flash - Positive report: Adton PCMCIA Card Drive - PCMCIA vs. Compact Flash

IDE Booting from Flash - Positive report: Adton PCMCIA Card Drive - PCMCIA vs. Compact Flash

Post by RS » Sat, 07 Dec 2002 04:42:10

Quick summary post, as I wanted to contribute to this newsgroup that was a
great resource for research.

I'm wanting the ability to boot almost any OS from a small removable
media... so I need a "native" IDE interface that works with almost any BIOS.
My current application is OpenBSD 3.2.

In my application, I have a little more physical space to spare... so I
opted to go with a PCMCIA storage solution instead of Compact Flash.  PCMCIA
gives up nothing, as the Compact Flash --> IDE and PCMCIA --> IDE interfaces
are identical in function.  With an inexpensive ($10) passive adapter you
can use Compact Flash cards with a PCMCIA device without any change in
performance, behavior, or capability.  "Win win".

The advantage of the larger PCMCIA format?  PCMCIA - you can get brand new
Kingston 2GB drives for as little as $80... and 5GB Toshiba drives for $150.
I got these from Tiger Direct (a sometimes problem reseller that I
personally have ordered from a dozen times without issue, but consider them
more like "CompuUSA" than a great reseller like NewEgg or MWave).

PCMCIA == Compact Flash in Theory
There are at least a dozen vendors selling IDE --> Compact Flash "passive"
adapters.  The "passive" adapters should work with any operating system and
do not support hot swap.  Exactly what I wanted.  The CF interfaces are
available to mount directly on the motherboard or provide a 3.5" floppy
mount.  All in the $17 to $25 range.  Cheap, compatible with any operating

But I wanted PCMCIA versions.  Nothing really different other than the
connector.  But very few seem to make such a device!  No cheap options that
I found.  I looked and looked and looked.

Failure - Addonics IDE DigiDrive
I selected the Addonics IDE DigiDrive based on it _appearing_ to be what I
need.  It supports almost any format of flash (9 different formats with
adapters) and is reasonably cheap ($45).  Also readily available (dozens of
resellers, including ).

However - after I got it, I found out that it "emulates a Iomega ZIP drive
IDE interface" to support how swap.  Despite the system I worked with (Intel
ISP1100 1U rack mount server) supporting "boot from ZIP" - it just didn't
work.  I could not boot from this drive using either CF cards or PCMCIA Hard
Drives (Toshiba and Kingston referenced above).

It seems this device is a "active" design and does not just put the card on
the IDE bus.  The "active part" actually interferes with the compatibility -
I could not install either MS-DOS or OpenBSD and get them to boot.

Lesson:  It is a "driver only" type device.  If it says "Hot Swap" and
"Requires Windows 98/XP/NT" then you likely have a active device.

Back to the drawing board.

Adtron SDDA series
I found another product, but the price is almost double at $90 for the 3.5"
floppy format.

The drives are about $80, price depends on size (2.5" or 3.5") and layout
(floppy or hard drive style mounts).

emjembedded is the only reseller I could find selling the Adtron SDDA
adapters.   Good news, emjembedded was great.   I ordered two of the
SDDA-01AI and had them shipped _FedEx Overnight Standard (next day by 2pm)_
for only $16.  That is a great shipping price.  They got the order out
quickly and it arrived as expected.  Answered all email questions quickly.

Bottom Line
The Adtron works great.  Boots fine using CF Flash Cards or PCMCIA hard
drives.  No drivers, no fuss.  Allows you to select master or slave with

Why no PCMCIA options?
  I hate that I'm paying so much for a simple passive adapter.  Why don't
some of these $20 "CF Adapter Makers" also do a cheap PCMCIA version?  I see
no reason why a device can't be sold for $30 or less.  It is just a matter
of popularity (supply vs. demand)....

I found only one other producers of "Passive IDE ---> PCMCIA" adapters.

1.  CDSDDA  series - which charges
slightly more than Adtron - and the whole board seems to be more complex
(note the large chip in the picture, the Adtron board doesn't have any
chips, it is passive).

I found another source of what seems to be a "active" device: has a device - but it was
pretty clear to me that they didn't have an established reseller in the USA.
And having already wasted time with the Addonics device that didn't work for
my needs, I was in a hurry.  I did write them, and they did respond pretty

says that it is a passive design, so I feared that it going to have the same
problem as the Addonics board.  I passed.

So only TWO vendors of certain that I found!  We need more competition here,
where are you "little guys"?

Hope this post helps someone.

  Stephen Gutknecht


1. PCMCIA/Compact Flash cards

I'm running into some obstacles trying to set up PCMCIA support for
compact flash cards. I've installed the latest pcmcia-cs package, and when
I insert the card, the machine freezes.

I know freezing is known to happen when you use serial pcmcia cards (such
as modem cards) without first applying the well-known pcmcia/serial kernel
patch. But I'm not using a serial pcmcia card. I'm inserting an Iomega
340MB CF Microdrive in a PCMCIA card adapter into the slot when it
freezes. Do I need to apply that serial patch anyway?

After rebooting from the error I looked in /var/log/messages to see what
was happening when it crashed. The last line in the logfile before it
crashed (before bootup messages)  showed that cardmgr recognized the card
as anonymous memory. It was a normal log entry, no errors.

If anyone is using compact flash memory cards or Microdrives with a pcmcia
adapter on LinuxPPC, what are the required kernel configs and are there
any other things one has to  set up beyond the standard pcmcia-cs


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