4D Systems Micro Drive


4D  Systems micro drive provides both raw and FAT level access to microSD cards. The module contains a dedicated host controller that transforms what may be an otherwise intimidating card spec into a group of simple serial commands. With a wide supply range of 3.6-5.5 and .1″ lead spacing, this should be cake walk to tinker with. The device doesn’t support FAT32 yet. According to the GOLDELOX-DOS command set page 9, “FAT32 is currently not supported, if you mount a FAT32 formatted disk, you will not be able to access it at all, both FAT and RAW commands will fail”. At the moment the device seems limited at 2GB FAT16 partitions. This sure does seem like cheating after implementing SPI and Nibble mode SD card protocols.

[via Electronics-Lab.Com thanks mozzwald]

23 thoughts on “4D Systems Micro Drive

  1. A friend of mine has a p.o.c. robot dog with a sata 1TB drive and has been looking for something more solid state, the drive eats a lot of battery something like this would be nice if capacity was larger.

  2. microsoft FAT32 (or VFAT) patent applicability is still up in the air right now. Certainly all Linux machines can read, write, and create FAT32 filesystems. There’s one patch that removes the ability to create both a short and a long filename for the same file, which might get around the patent.

  3. this product is a nice turnkey module for systems with small controllers, but if you are using any decent sized avr or pic there are software libraries that offer fat 16 & fat 32 (not sure about long filenames) file systems on drives, CF and SD.

  4. this is amazingly cool! i was looking into using those little “mini” kingston pendrives on a USB PIC
    but these would be a simpler way to use microSD.

    my own version (only works with up to 256MB) would have used one of those new serial 8 pin RAM chips and a PIC16F628 to store data from a spare phone camera (koff Saleae Logic /koff)

  5. That’s the reality with all these embedded designs aimed towards modders and hackers from small vendors. It’s a profitable market right now, and all these blogs and zines feed it.

    The PCB design is the only complexity in this solution. it’s one asic with a few passive components..they use another asic to do serial to uart, you could just buy the chips and make your own single board solution; for them two boards can make more money off padded costs.

  6. @lekernel: good point.

    If you know anything about file system topologies you know vendors get cut throat when it comes to patent violations, and most patents are full of open clauses especially with journaling systems.

    I was looking into TrueFFS recently at stumbled some crazy licensing bs backed by patents.

    you can’t use a file system in a design without some big name having you by the balls somehow.

  7. “This would sure be nice for datalogging purposes, but what about, say, MP3-players? Is it fast enough?

    Posted at 9:49 am on Jul 21st, 2009 by entropia”

    Microdrives were in the first generation iPod Nanos. People were finding it cheaper to buy an iPod Nano and crack it open for the Microdrive than to buy the Microdrives OEM. (The only instance in which I can point out that Apple actually was able to provide something equivalent for LESS.)

    Microdrives are capable of roughly 4 to 8MB/sec in data transfers, so no, they’re not blazingly fast… but work. There are Compact Flash cards (Sandisk Ultra III series, for example) that are capable of UDMA modes and higher speeds. Microdrive just was preferable because it was cheaper per MB before and provided near infinite rewites compared to flash… in which both ways, Flash has since exceeded Microdrives for all intents and purposes.

    But it’s all besides the point as the picture clearly shows that it’s a MicroSD flash card in a socket.

    And yes, those are fast enough for MP3 players, too.

  8. I’ve been looking for something like this to use in a project to add an SD-card to an old (80’s) Oric Atmos/Oric-1 computer .. its getting harder and harder to find the Oric microdisc drives, so we on defence-force.org have been discussing adding a virtualized ‘modern’ interface to the Oric so it can use SD cards.

    This, combined with the Bus Pirate, may be just what I need to get a proof of concept done that demonstrates that such a thing is possible, so I’ve ordered one .. Hackaday, I’ll let you know if this simple modular solution, with a bit of glue software, ends up bringing our Oric-1’s and Atmos’s into the 21st Century.

    And yes, for our needs, FAT16 is going to be *just fine*. :)

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