I just saw this MSN TV Linux Cluster over on Engadget. The boxes have a 733mhz Celeron, 128MB RAM, 2 x USB, Ethernet, and a 64MB CF card for storage. That’s twice the RAM of an Xbox and with a node cost of $0.99 it makes a much more sensible and compact cluster. The only limit right now seems to be a 64MB capacity cap for the CF card.
You do need to build a level shifting serial cable to talk to it though. Microsoft included serial pins on the board, which is convenient. I think that a TTL to RS-232 level shifting box is becoming the second most useful device behind the bench power supply. You need to do serial level shifting whether you are talking to an NSLU, iPod, GP2X, or WRT54G. You might as well make the thing USB while you are at it. So, who wants to do the how-to?
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Amongst PDAs, cellphones, portable game consoles, and digital audio players USB host mode isn’t that common. The lack of host mode is why you can’t plug your iPod into your PSP. The iPod camera connector is a partial work-around for this problem. The Linux based GP2X gets more interesting with this new development. Using the GP2X’s USB host requires building a special cable for its expansion port. The port features JTAG, serial, audio, and video pins as well. USB host mode opens the doors for any number of USB peripherals to be used with the GP2X: larger storage from a hard drive/iPod, full sized keyboard for use with a command line, WiFi provided by USB adapter. There is the potential to do anything that you could do with a standard PC. If I had known this I would have bought a GP2X without a second thought… so, after two thoughts I bought one and it showed up last Friday evening. I’ll let you know how it works out.
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