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Samsung's Linux-based Diskless Camcorder 199

An anonymous reader writes "LinuxDevices has a story about the Samsung Miniket, a digital camcorder the size of a pack of cards that also works as a portable MP3 player, webcam, voice recorder, storage device, and more. The Miniket (annoying Flash and sound) will be available in February or March in the US, for $600-$700, with a rugged 'sports' model to follow. The device runs Linux, boots in under a second, and is the first of several products from Samsung that will run a new variation of Linux called 'ARM-no-MMU.' LinuxDevices also has a whitepaper about Samsung research that shows the new Linux variant to be faster than normal Linux."
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Samsung's Linux-based Diskless Camcorder

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 28, 2005 @01:53PM (#11505314)
    MMU stands for memory management unit. It is a component used to protect parts of memory from being accidently overwritten, for example.
    • by Aardpig ( 622459 )

      ...stands for 'Advanced RISC Machines', the spinoff company that grew out of Acorn Ltd's ARM (this time, 'Acorn RISC Machine') series of RISC cpus. These chips made their debut in Acorn's Archimedes computers, and were the first RISC chips to appear in home machines. They are used a lot today in situations where a high MIPS/watt ratio is needed, typically embedded devices.

    • Unless I'm mistaken here, this will allow one process to take down the entire machine, just like Windows. I've always said that the problem with Linux is that it needs to be made just as fast and reliable as Windows.

      (Before someone mentions it, yes, I know that Windows has memory management. But it also has poor process isolation, of which this design creates a more extreme version.)

  • I'm somewhat unclear on how this device classifies as a "diskless camcorder."

    From the article:

    The Miniket is available in three models, with internal storage capacities of 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB.

    How can a "diskless camcorder" have internal storage?

    From the gentoo diskless HOWTO: []

    A diskless machine is a PC without any of the usual boot devices such as hard disks, floppy drives or CD-ROMs. The diskless node boots off the network and NEEDS A SERVER that will provide it with storage space as a

  • C'mon (Score:2, Funny)

    by pploco ( 694950 )
    Wheres the HD? Dump the "diskless" name and put a 40G in that thing.
    • Re:C'mon (Score:1, Interesting)

      by bugbeak ( 711163 )
      Adding data into flash storage is significantly faster than adding data into a HD. Certainly, you don't want the damn thing to stop recording just so you can write into the hard disc first, then continue?
      • Re:C'mon (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Mikmorg ( 624030 )
        Yea, some guys a while back figured out how to fix that. S'called RAM. Cheap 256M RAM stick would fix all of that unhappiness.
      • Re:C'mon (Score:4, Insightful)

        by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:23PM (#11505758) Journal
        What type of Flash memory is significantly faster than a hard drive?

        The highest end Flash memory I see at Sandisk's site writes at 20MB/s. This is on the lower end of what 2.5" notebook hard drives are capable of and well below what a 3.5" drive could do.

        • I once considered replacing my Harddisk with a flash drive, because I thought flash would be faster.
          I checked the specs and found out they are slower, more expensive, smaller and so on.

          But Flashdrives have a better "spinup" speed. On your regular PC the hardware and memory-check will be slower than spinning up you harddrive. But on a embeded device the harddrive spinup will be the slowest part. So putting the OS on a flashdrive for a fast boot does make sense.

      • Last time i checked, doing a huge bunch of small things (such as creating many small files, etc.) is faster on Flash than on regular hard-drives, while writing a constant stream of large data (such as capturing video) is slower on Flash than on hard-drives.
        I did the tests by the end of 2004, using off-the-shelf components (mobo, HDD, flash).
  • GSM please (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now if they could only squeeze a GSM fone into that, it would be perfect.
  • by datastalker ( 775227 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:00PM (#11505426) Homepage
    Since it has no MMU []. Without the overhead of actually having to manage the memory, it's got to be faster.

    • oh... (Score:4, Funny)

      by ArmenTanzarian ( 210418 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:06PM (#11505520) Homepage Journal
      I thought ARM-no-MMU was like handsfree, but without arms...
    • Not necessarily (Score:3, Informative)

      by pslam ( 97660 )
      Since it has no MMU. Without the overhead of actually having to manage the memory, it's got to be faster.

      This is not necessarily true. The difference in speed you'll get with a properly arranged MMU will be negligable. I hate SoC manufacturers who fall for this line of thinking and miss out the MMU "because it's not needed". It just makes development and debugging 10 times harder for a mostly negligable speed and power consumption gain.

      Any SoC designers out there: please stop producing high spec CPUs wi

      • As a quick summary, an MMU basically adds a logical address space on top of the physical address space (the actual memory), divided into pages (often 4KB each). The pages in the logical address space can be arbitrarily mapped to physical pages. Optionally a low-level exception can be raised for various conditions (read-only, execute-only, page written to, etc.).

        In the MMUs I've studied, the memory cache is physically mapped to avoid MMU overhead for the most common case, and there is also a translation cac
      • The SoC (System on a Chip) that Samsung uses has an MMU, but they just don't use it for this device.

        From the LinuxDevices article []:

        The Miniket is based on a Samsung S5C7376 SoC (system-on-chip) clocked at 216MHz. The SoC includes an ARM9 core with MMU; however, the Miniket's uClinux 2.6 kernel does not use the chip's MMU.
    • Or maybe it's "no" as in the Japanese possessive modifier? "MMU of ARM"?
  • Build a mobile phone and pda in it and then my pockets wont be so full.

    Theres still the thorny problem of my keys and wallet though :(
  • by TheNarrator ( 200498 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:01PM (#11505446)
    camcorder the size of a pack of cards that also works as a portable MP3 player, webcam, voice recorder, storage device, and more

    Now if only this thing was a phone, a GPS and a PDA with 802.11 and GPRS internet access. Then maybe I'd consider buying it.
    • I want voice transcription... until it can convert continuous speech to text (offline or in the background, and with training, are OK) voice recording is just annoying.
    • I've periodically looked into the possibility of using these MP3 recorders as dictation devices. About 2 years ago, the voice recognition software hadn't caught up to convenient use yet: you had to be sitting down in a quiet area with a good noise-cancelling microphone. The main commercial packages were IBM's ViaVoice and Dragon Naturally Speaking, and you couldn't easily use your own MP3 voice recorder with these. You had to offload the MP3, translate MP3 to WAV on your desktop, and somehow run the soft
  • Using flash cards for video might not be the best idea, considering the price of high capacity cards.
    • 1GB CF for $69 at []. Doesn't sound too bad to me - especially when you knock the price down on this camcorder if they offered a version w/o internal memory. I wish they'd just make a digital camcorder that used an open standard memory device (CF or SD), so as to lessen the costs. Being able to store only a limited amount of video if you're say on vacation and away from your computer is a limiting factor in my mind. They say you can use the Memory Sticks, though I own nothing else that uses that

  • by sepluv ( 641107 ) <> on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:03PM (#11505484)
    But does it run^Wwork with Linux?
    • I notice on the site it says it captures clips in an MPEG-4 QVGA format for playback with 'Windows Media Player'.

      So it is probably using a proprietary Windows media codec for with there is no 'official' support under Linux.

      You will, of course be able to play back / manipulate the video using 3rd party tools such as Mplayer/Mencoder which provide this sort of interoperability.
    • From TFA:

      The Miniket encodes and compresses video using a codec included in the MPEG4 standard. Its video files can be played back using Windows Media Player 6.4 or later, or on Samsung's DVD recorders, the company says.


      Photos can be played back on the device's tilt-and-swivel color LCD, transfered to removable storage cards, or copied to a PC over a USB mass storage device connection. USB mass storage support also allows the device to be used for generic data storage.

      WMP 6.4 is positively anci
  • Imagine... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ..a Linux cluster of these things. It would simulate the compound eye of a bee!
  • Would it be possible to release a Linux-based HD camcroder for home use?
    With iMovie coming out within a few months it would be a perfect opportunity to release an affordable home use HD camcorder and make it linux based.

    But I'm guessing the OS is not the driving factor behind the cost, but rather hardware...

    • Hardware generally is the driving cost as it takes a lot of processing to do decent real tiem encoding. TV stations pay a lot for equipment (though a chunk of it is for reliability). HD content would require more processing power to accomplish. As is, this camcorder falls into the "decent" level for recording quality. Recording 1 hour @ 1 Gig translates to about 2.25 Megabits/second. That is way below broadcast quality and what DVDs can achieve. (NOTE: I know DVDs can go below 2 Mbits, but software en
    • iMovie has been out on the store shelves a week tomorrow. Those of us that pre-ordered got it a week ago today.
  • Samsung that will run a new variation of Linux called 'ARM-no-MMU.'

    Isn't ARM-no-MMU the same as uClinux? If so, it's hardly new - uClinux [] started in 1998.

    • by soramimicake ( 593421 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:10PM (#11505579)
      The 'white paper written by Samsung' mentioned in the submission is titled 'Context Switching and IPC Performance Comparison between uClinux and Linux on the ARM9 based Processor'. So it is indeed uClinux.
    • Check out the bottom of the article:

      "The Miniket runs a uClinux/ARM 2.6 kernel based in part on the uClinux/ARM 2.6 project, which Choi leads. According to Choi, the project used the Samsung S5C737x SoC as its primary target processor, and all the GPL'd parts of the kernel used in the Miniket are available for download from the project site. The Miniket is the first of several Samsung products that will be based on an "ARM-no-MMU" uClinux kernel."
  • nothing new? (Score:2, Informative)

    by PW2 ( 410411 )
    I bought a little camcorder from HSN about 8 months ago for $140 that records to SD. It did voice recording / MP3 playback / still / MP4 video recording. -- it's a little larger than a stack of 40 credit cards.
  • I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

    by vought ( 160908 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:11PM (#11505601)
    If this is using something like Portal Player's 5002/5003 chips? Those "media chips" were based around a dual ARM core.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If it's running linux, how come the flash site shows it running windows media player to play back your videos?
    • There are many Windows apps that run just fine on top of Linux, by virtue of various emulation techniques such as WINE, etc.
    • I remember reading about how Microsoft was considering/going (I can't remember) to port WMP to linux specifically for embedded devices. I wouldn't be too surprised however if this was a goof by Samsung's marketing department. They may have meant that these MPEG videos will play on WMP when transfered to your computer, but internally they play using their own software. That's just a guess though.
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir ( 197432 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:18PM (#11505680)

    I don't know about you but I haven had luck with samsung. I own a samsung minidv camcorder and a cuircuit board blew up within 18 months of owning it. The LCD and viewfinder screens have no video, just backlight is on. It charges, and plays, but that's it. If samsung would take my old scd80 and
    send me one of these new digital camcorders running linux I would forgive them and buy other samsung products... but for now i would not buy another samsung product because I am not convinced that they last.
    • Yeez, lucky we have consumer rights here in Europe. 1,5 years of usage is not within the time-frame you would expect from such a product (say, 5 years) and you would get at least 80% reimbursed here in the Netherlands (probably in the form of a refurbished camcorder). That is, if you make a case out of it. Cracks would be a bit more troublesome, since you might have destroyed it yourself.

      Another problem with your posting is that it is a single incident, and we cannot be sure if this happens a lot, if you a
  • Why don't they used Compact Flash or Secure Digital rather than the damn Sony proprietary junk?
    • Why don't they used Compact Flash or Secure Digital rather than the damn Sony proprietary junk?

      My sentiments exactly. I alread have a number of SD cards as my existing digital camera uses them. Thought I would not call memory stick proprietary junk, they are more expensive per MB in larger sizes than CF or SD. I was also a little put off by their statement of exporting the media files to WMP or a Samsung DVD recorder. It is an MPEG4 based codec, so I will assume it is playable else where. Finally, w
  • by DigitalDragon ( 194314 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @02:25PM (#11505789)
    Memory Stick! Bleh.

    I wonder what made them make such a poor choice. The right choice would have been to go with Compact Flash or SD, if you want smaller.
    Memory stick is still a Sony bound product (I know that now there are other manufacturers) and underperforms other cards, since there's no such fierce competition.

    I see this as a big minus.
    • Its a speed issue. Sony designed the memory stick format to be able to handle 160Mbps sustained with the intention of using it for video. While Secure Digital can get up to the same speeds it is a burst speed used for saving single files fast rather then for streaming data.
      • What *is* the sustained read/write rate for CF or SD? TFA says that the CPU in this thing can handle 8MB/s of video (64Mbps), so as long as CF or SD can handle that, it should be fine. Probably the real reason is what one of the other replies to the grandparent says: it's because Samsung has a business relationship with Sony.
        • "What *is* the sustained read/write rate for CF or SD? TFA says that the CPU in this thing can handle 8MB/s of video (64Mbps), so as long as CF or SD can handle that, it should be fine. Probably the real reason is what one of the other replies to the grandparent says: it's because Samsung has a business relationship with Sony."

          It varries from manufacturer to manufacturer. So I would guess that they went with the memory sticks becuase there is a standard that sets a transfer rate at an exceptable level. Rat

          • Which still seems dubious considering it wouldn't have been terribly expensive to add nnn MB of RAM to buffer writes, thus eliminating the need to use MemoryShaft.
  • Panasonic released a similar device with their d-snap AV-50S

    However, the video is not truly MPEG4 as they encapsulate the file in a proprietary .ASF file format preventing you from being able to easily share the movies.

    Secondly, the voice recorder files cannot be played back on your PC (only on the camcorder device which is limited to about 1 hour battery). Nor do they give you a tool to convert them from their proprietary format to a standard .wav or .mp3 for more info o
  • by Animats ( 122034 )
    No-MMU systems should be restricted to applications where the processor costs a few dollars or less and all the code is in permanent read-only memory. Something that costs a few hundred dollars and runs Linux should have an MMU.
  • ...that there actually is a version of Linux that does not use a MMU (this "ARM-no-MMU" is based on uClinux, AFAICT, which is a non-MMU distro for embedded devices).

    IIRC, Linux was born exactly as a study of the capabilities of the 386 processor's MMU.

    Now that is change... this should be the most extreme fork from the original project (which is not bad, I'm just amazed by the diversity Linux is promoting)
    • >...that there actually is a version of Linux that does not use a MMU

      The main version, Kernel 2.6.x can be compiled without MMU support for at least some architectures.
  • i'm curious about what codec this is using. Is it using Ms's mpeg-4 codec (ASF) or is it using a more standard mpeg4 codec?

    Just this week i have been researching these mini cams, and this one looks like the ticket. But i want to make sure it will work with iMovie HD now that it is able to edit mpeg4 vids.

    Anyone have any insight on this?
  • Is this a limitation or am I just not understanding the statement?

    "Playback Fast-Forware and Rewind up to a maximum of 128 times."

    "Files created with our Minikit are designed for playback with the included software and our DVD Recorders."

    Can their files be exported to a format that I can playback in a program of MY choice? What can't I use my DVD recorder? I don't need another one from them.

    Hmm... like most things, looks good 'till you peel back the layers.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday January 28, 2005 @03:00PM (#11506289) Homepage Journal
    If they've got the kernel to go faster, where's the source code? Don't they have to publish their diffs (under GPL), since they're distributing the new OS version with every camera?
    • by Jusii ( 86357 ) *
      Well, if two mouse clicks is too much, how about one? []

      And no, they don't have to publish their diffs for everybody, only for those who has bought the camera if they ask for them.
      • Thanks for saving my clicks. You also helped reveal that this camcorder is running uCLinux, not some major Samsung Linux fork along the same lines. So the OS is available even without buying the camera.
    • They only need to make sources available to those who have the binaries and request the source from them.

      And even then, they get to charge whatever they feel like to provide the source to those entitled to it.

      So, in order to make a legitimate GPL gripe, you'll first have to unsuccessfully do the following:

      1. Procure one of their Linux-based camcorders, or otherwise obtain and posess their kernel binary
      2. Request the source code used to generate said binary from Samsung
      3. Pony up when they demand payme
      • Well, it turns out that Samsung is publishing the diffs to uCLinux they've made. But that fee for source you mentioned is wrong. The GPL allows only media copying and handling charges in order to get source for a GPL binary:

        3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
        under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
        Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

        a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable
        • Right.

          Which is why I said "time and materials."

          You don't think Samsung employees work for free, do you?


          • WRONG

            You first said "they get to charge whatever they feel like to provide the source to those entitled to it", then you reiterated "time and materials". They don't get to charge "whatever they want" - maybe a hundred bucks tops for an incompetent admin to spend a couple hours burning and mailing a CD. The precedent for this fee us usually around $50 tops, eg. for Slackware.

            But enough polite schooling the retard asshole who can't even read his own posts. Why the fuck are you insulting me? I've now gone t
            • Well, let's see. You've got the individual's standard hourly wage, plus overhead. Overhead includes office space, equipment, electricity, insurance, retirement programs, coffee supplies, restroom facilities, and so on, and so forth.

              If that's not vague enough, add to the actual cost of source distribution any meetings (and the associated cost of the meetings' participants), plus the meeting space (which may or may not already exist), along with any steak, beer, and whores consumed while figuring out how t
  • Imagine what you could do with a beowulf cluster of these babies! They have built-in gigabit networking, right?

  • US$700 is too much for my wallet to handle. And still resolution of 800x600? That's extremely disappointing. CF/SD support would've been nice... I refuse to buy Sony's over-priced memory. And I've expected more than 1GB internal memory for that price.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for a [much] lower-cost cam that can do both video (at least DVD quality) and high-resolution stills (2MP+)?

  • If this thing had a laptop sized HDD inside it'd be only marginally bigger but would make a huge difference in terms of capabilities.

    They need to either take out the crippled video recording feature and make the whole device smaller and cheaper or they need to add a HDD and make it competitive with "real" camcorders.
    • The nice thing about flash type media is that it requires alot less juice to power. If you were to put a small HD in there it they would have to put in a bigger power supply or the battery life would be even more pathetic.
  • Anyone have any idea what it would take to make it play back Ogg files? It runs Linux, has plenty of processor power and memory, and surely the rom can be flashed.
    • Ugh. These embedded devices are so specific to their task it's not simply a matter of adding some more software on and assuming the rest of the system can just play it. Plus, it adds cost to develop with very little benefit even if the hardware could take it without little modification.

      I don't see why every tiny music player should be expected to play a format nobody uses.
  • The "whitepaper" says:

    In this paper, we implemented Linux and uClinux kernels on the same ARM9 platform and compared the performance. The ARM9 processor features virtually indexed caches and a TLB without address space tag. Therefore Linux should flush entire cache and TLB on each context switch which is very costly. uClinux, however, contents of caches and a TLB are valid even after context- switch because the same address space is shared among all processes. We observed an order of magnitude reduction of

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