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Old May 2, 2003, 7:50 AM   #1
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Default PCMCIA on desktop?

I've heard people talk about how fast it is to read a CF card in a laptop. How the reader (the PC Card or PCMCIA reader) is hooked directly onto the ATA/IDE bus. How it is way faster than firewire or USB 2.

Well, since I don't want too add any more clutter to my desktop, I wondered about adding a PCMCIA reader to my desktop. Is this reasonable? I'm sure the devices are made, but I haven't found one yet. I have the skill to do it (I built my system from scratch) so that isn't a problem. I just wonder if its worth doing.

Any thoughts?
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Old May 2, 2003, 10:28 AM   #2
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FYI
http://www.jactron.co.uk/rw-ide-ata.htm
http://www.acscontrol.com/Index_ACS....CF_Adapter.htm

They do exist and I used to recommend them for NT(or Linux) machines... It as fast(or as slow) as the handshake signals of the removeable devices you plug the device into :P
The PCMCIA has an almost indentical ATA specification as a hardisk, unlike a Firewire or USB where the data has to be serialized first and back to a parallel format... used by the PC!

http://www.pcmcia.org/pccard.htm
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Old May 2, 2003, 1:04 PM   #3
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NHL,

Some how, I knew you'd have an answer. Thanks for the info.

Ok, a little more google searching (using info from your links) and turned up several of them. Wow, are they expensive compared to a USB or FireWire CF reader. I'm not sure it's worth it. Most have been over $100USD, including a CF adapter, although I did find one for $64USD without the adapter. I guess I'll have to decide if it's worth it or not.

The ever popular debate between FireWire and USB2 seemed to end with FireWire being slightly faster (with good CF cards.) Would you agree?
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Old May 2, 2003, 1:12 PM   #4
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... The only problem is: THEY ARE NOT PLUG & PLAY! when attached to the IDE bus :twisted:

I'll go with Firewire (although there's nothing wrong with USB2), it's just more deterministic... and only go with PCMCIA if I have a laptop.

BTW There's always 1394b and serial-ATA! (Just kidding it's plain overkill) :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Old May 2, 2003, 4:38 PM   #5
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NHL - by coincidence I just referred to this in another post. When I did some research, I came up against a problem. There are a few pcmcia to pci interface adaptors for desktops HOWEVER compatibility issues exist in motherboard pci interface architecture, connected with bus mastering I think. You might know more about this.

I've got an Athlon+VIA chipset board and after reading some stuff, I'd only now consider on sale or return. One manufacturer hosts a set of diagnostic tools to help them tell you what interrupt problems stop their card from working. Seem to remember something about North/South bridges was an issue. Pity they can't customise the free prog to guarantee whether their card will work before buying! I'm interested in this route, only if the card price is good and compatibility could be guaranteed.
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Old May 2, 2003, 11:49 PM   #6
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From my experience with the PCI specs (and this was unrelated to any PC environment), there's only four shared interrupts on this bus but could be used by many more than 4 devices not including the motherboard or devices after the next PCI bridge for example. Theses interrupt pins are open collector and could be 'OR' wired together... As long as a driver is specifically written to service one function only and only from one vendor it should be fine. The problem is when multiple drivers from multiple vendors are interacting with one another, and all competing/violating one another critical servicing timings, is when thing get hairy... :?

The other difficulty is MSFT, there's no 'Plug & Play' on any legacy bus, imagine removing a PCI device or hot-swap a hardisk on Window machines... With ATA you can at least use the bios and another channel of the existing IDE controller, whereas with the PCI you definetly need some sort of driver/software involved. Companies do make devices however that exploit this CF/PCMCIA/ATA interface, communication gear manufacturers for example restore their network configuration this way after a power failure.

Stick to Firewire and USB, it's more convenient for most people. The other option is the PCMCIA route through a laptop for temporary storage, and then Ethernet it back to the PC... 8) 8) 8)
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Old May 3, 2003, 8:16 AM   #7
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I agree with the warning about not being "plug & pray" but I'm used to that. I built many a machine in Dos/Win95 and early Win98 days. They sucked, but only in proportion to the quality of the drivers (and where necessary, the level of control the BIOS offered.)

The question is how well are their drives made. If it plugs in where a floppy disk or hard disk goes, then there shouldn't be a problem of interrupts (as opposed to what voxmagna is suggestion, which could have problems) so on the surface it sounds fairly simple. Plug it in, load the driver (which they had better give me!!) and off I go.

I assume it will have the equivalent to plug & play that PCMCIA always has. I just tell it that I'm removing the device though software and then I eject the card... same way as on many laptops.

I'm thinking along the lines of voxmagna, though.... I don't think I'd do it unless I could find it local and return it easily.
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Old May 3, 2003, 8:24 AM   #8
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Eric

I don't believe you have the equivalent to plug & play that PCMCIA always has on the IDE connector. It will behave just like when you install a new hardisk on this bus. Vox is refering to a PCI card with the required buffering and drivers... There's usually a Cardbus/PCMCIA controller socket in a laptop (at least on my laptop it runs off the PCI bus) ops:

I guess if you find a PCI card that'll have the same PCMCIA service from most laptops (a TI-1250/1251 type or something) then Window will find it and load the correct driver then you'll get what you want! 8) 8) 8)
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Old May 4, 2003, 12:17 AM   #9
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NHL,

Ah, so you are suggestiong that it won't be the same as on a laptop because they have a special connector. That if I hook it up like a floppy drive or hard disk, I will have problems ejecting the card and how the OS handles that (will it realize that it's gone, or that I switched cards? That stuff.)

If so, then I'll stick with the firewire or USB2 drive. Pity, 'cause I'd rather not have another thing on my desk, but it doesn't sound worth the hassle. My bet is that USB2 has a longer future, even if firewire is faster (not by spec, I mean in actual use!)
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Old May 4, 2003, 6:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
That if I hook it up like a floppy drive or hard disk, I will have problems ejecting the card and how the OS handles that (will it realize that it's gone, or that I switched cards? That stuff.)
You've got it!

FYI http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,847716,00.asp
Beside speed there's also subtle differences like Firewire is a multi-host vs a single master(ie the PC) only USB. For example you can hook two DV cameras together and have them controlling one another, but you can't hook a digicam to a USB drive directly without a PC (although USB 'On-The-Go' will eventually fix that)!

There's also guaranteed bandwith in Firewire, like for video applications stopping MPEG stream in the middle of a movie is not a good idea. Some would argue that USB isochronous mode buried deep into their specs will do the same thing as well, but is not supported by most manufacturers ops:. Then there are standard commands defined (play, stop, rec, F-forward...etc) in Firewire while USB is still evolving...

Hey, but we now have wireless USB! :lol: :lol: :lol:
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