Forums

Good low cost laptop for embedded work?

Started by Joerg December 4, 2004
Hello All,

JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab. Nothing fancy, 
just a small machine that can dump code into an MSP430 or similar. I 
don't write much firmware so processor performance for compile runs is 
no issue.  A text editor and maybe schematic entry, too, but that 
doesn't require a lot of processing power either. Ideally it should have 
a long battery life.

I know that even Walmart sells some for around $600 but with a very 
short battery life. Is there anything out there that you could recommend?

Reason I ask is that most laptops these days are total overkill. The 
processors run at 1-2GHz and much of that is used as a space heater when 
the fan comes on. I still have an old Compaq that used to haul five 
hours on an old NiCd, and this was the standard issue battery that came 
with it. Unfortunately this little machine can't run stuff like the IAR 
compiler anymore, otherwise it would have been perfect. Also, from all 
the lab work its case starts to crumble ;-)

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com
> JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab. Nothing fancy, > just a small machine that can dump code into an MSP430 or similar. I > don't write much firmware so processor performance for compile runs is
I'd recommend a ThinkPad 240 series (preferably 240X, or 240Z if you can find one - they were Japan only IIRC). This is an ultralight. The fastest 240X they made was a 500MHz PIII. I had one with two extended batteries, each of which gave me about four hours of life. Very small and light. More importantly, it had serial and parallel ports (as well as USB). Should be able to pick one up in the $200 ballpark on eBay. 10.4" 800x600 LCD, by the way.
Joerg wrote:

> Hello All, > > JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab. Nothing fancy, > just a small machine that can dump code into an MSP430 or similar. I > don't write much firmware so processor performance for compile runs is > no issue. A text editor and maybe schematic entry, too, but that > doesn't require a lot of processing power either. Ideally it should have > a long battery life. > > I know that even Walmart sells some for around $600 but with a very > short battery life. Is there anything out there that you could recommend? > > Reason I ask is that most laptops these days are total overkill. The > processors run at 1-2GHz and much of that is used as a space heater when > the fan comes on. I still have an old Compaq that used to haul five > hours on an old NiCd, and this was the standard issue battery that came > with it. Unfortunately this little machine can't run stuff like the IAR > compiler anymore, otherwise it would have been perfect. Also, from all > the lab work its case starts to crumble ;-) > > Regards, Joerg > > http://www.analogconsultants.com
Whichever one you choose, be sure to check it has a serial interface. Many laptops these days no longer have one. Ian -- Ian Bell
>Joerg wrote:
>> JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab.
A laptop or just something small and easy to move around?
>> I know that even Walmart sells some for around $600 but with a very >> short battery life.
Your lab lacks AC outlets?
>>Also, from all the lab work its case starts to crumble ;-)
Sounds like you want something ruggedized.
"Joerg" <notthisjoergsch@removethispacbell.net> wrote in message 
news:iMtsd.38834$6q2.33766@newssvr14.news.prodigy.com...
> Hello All, > JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab. Nothing fancy, just > a small machine that can dump code into an MSP430 or similar. I don't > write much firmware so processor performance for compile runs is no issue. > A text editor and maybe schematic entry, too, but that doesn't require a > lot of processing power either. Ideally it should have a long battery > life. > I know that even Walmart sells some for around $600 but with a very short > battery life. Is there anything out there that you could recommend? > Reason I ask is that most laptops these days are total overkill. The > processors run at 1-2GHz and much of that is used as a space heater when > the fan comes on. I still have an old Compaq that used to haul five hours > on an old NiCd, and this was the standard issue battery that came with it. > Unfortunately this little machine can't run stuff like the IAR compiler > anymore, otherwise it would have been perfect. Also, from all the lab work > its case starts to crumble ;-) > Regards, Joerg > http://www.analogconsultants.com
I am not sure what it is your after. You want long battery life, rugged case that doesn't crumble (ruggedized?), doesn't need a lot of CPU power. Was this a laptop or a ultra compact model? Were you wanting a long battery life for use outside your lab? Battery life nowadays, means you can't use a 14 ot 15 inch LCD screen on the laptop. Most of the battery power goes into maintaining the LCD panel. None of the laptops really have a decent battery run with the LCD panel lit up the entire time. If you were to be able to check the maptop battery run specs and data, you would see the long battery life runs were done with the LCD panel and other I/O devices doing into sleep mode for ost of the test. For me the last good laptop I got a year ago was a Compaq Laptop for $999 at Sam's Club. It had a 15" LCD panel, 2.5ghz AMD chip, and most important of all was it still had a "real" RS232 port and a real "Parallel" port. Thus all my MCU software ran on it no problem. Plus I could use the USB ports for new MCU software too. Battery life was still not all that great, only a hour or so at best. But then you can carry an extra battery pack, and make more use of the AC adapter too. Some laptops work with a 12v Auto adapter or airplane seat adapter too. The problem is the 15" LCD takes a lot of power to run, especially with the backlight. Thus you can't watch a DVD movie on it running off of battery power alone. The $545 Walmart laptopn isn't bad, but the 14" LCD sucks a lot of power, and it doesn't have a RS232 port. Some MCU programming software has trouble with the USB to serial adapters. You might have to buy several USB to serial adapters to get all the MCU software to work OK. Not all USB to Serial adpaters are equal. If you add a $100 to the price then this laptop http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id=3202221&cat=3944&type=19&dept=3944&path=0%3A3944%3A3944 would be a lot better, as it has a larger battery pack to give some longer battery run times. This Tatung laptop might be a better choice http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id=3380763&cat=4070&type=19&dept=3944&path=0%3A3944%3A3951%3A4070 It has a small LCD, thus it uses less power to run the LCD panel. It runs 3-4 hours off the battery with the 12" LCD. Some of the Averatec ultra small laptops are maybe good choices like this one http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id=3163953&cat=4070&type=19&dept=3944&path=0%3A3944%3A3951%3A4070%3A119888&xsell=3223390 But ultra small or ultra thin means the battery pack is correspndingly small too.
> The $545 Walmart laptopn isn't bad, but the 14" LCD sucks a lot of power,
No, no, it IS very bad indeed. Besides the fact that Wal-Mart was (until I came along - see comp.sys.laptops) falsely advertising it with a different CPU than that actually fitted (and the BIOS is hacked to report fraudulent CPU info, by the way), it really isn't a machine I could recommend to anyone. Even with the 8-cell battery, it only gets 80 minutes of runtime. Have a look at my review, <http://www.larwe.com/technical/ecsa535.html> - it has a summary of the Wal-Mart debacle.
My apologies, I stand corrected, I had no idea somebody would propagate such 
a fraud on everyone.
Especially coming from such a big seller too.

"Lewin A.R.W. Edwards" <larwe@larwe.com> wrote in message 
news:pan.2004.12.05.13.50.53.491964@larwe.com...
>> The $545 Walmart laptopn isn't bad, but the 14" LCD sucks a lot of power, > > No, no, it IS very bad indeed. Besides the fact that Wal-Mart was (until > I came along - see comp.sys.laptops) falsely advertising it with a > different CPU than that actually fitted (and the BIOS is hacked to report > fraudulent CPU info, by the way), it really isn't a machine I could > recommend to anyone. Even with the 8-cell battery, it only gets 80 minutes > of runtime. Have a look at my review, > <http://www.larwe.com/technical/ecsa535.html> - it has a summary of the > Wal-Mart debacle. >
On Sun, 05 Dec 2004 01:46:54 GMT, Joerg
<notthisjoergsch@removethispacbell.net> wrote:

>JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab. Nothing fancy, >just a small machine that can dump code into an MSP430 or similar. I >don't write much firmware so processor performance for compile runs is >no issue. A text editor and maybe schematic entry, too, but that >doesn't require a lot of processing power either. Ideally it should have >a long battery life. > >I know that even Walmart sells some for around $600 but with a very >short battery life. Is there anything out there that you could recommend? > >Reason I ask is that most laptops these days are total overkill. The >processors run at 1-2GHz and much of that is used as a space heater when >the fan comes on. I still have an old Compaq that used to haul five >hours on an old NiCd, and this was the standard issue battery that came >with it. Unfortunately this little machine can't run stuff like the IAR >compiler anymore, otherwise it would have been perfect. Also, from all >the lab work its case starts to crumble ;-)
IBM Thinkpad: great battery life and build quality. Plenty of second hand ones around. Panasonic Toughbook is another option if it's going to see a lot of a abuse, but I don't know what their battery life is like. -- Mat.
Joerg wrote:

> Hello All, > > JTAG programming requires a little laptop for the lab. Nothing fancy, > just a small machine that can dump code into an MSP430 or similar. I > don't write much firmware so processor performance for compile runs is > no issue. A text editor and maybe schematic entry, too, but that > doesn't require a lot of processing power either. Ideally it should have > a long battery life. > > I know that even Walmart sells some for around $600 but with a very > short battery life. Is there anything out there that you could recommend? > > Reason I ask is that most laptops these days are total overkill. The > processors run at 1-2GHz and much of that is used as a space heater when > the fan comes on. I still have an old Compaq that used to haul five > hours on an old NiCd, and this was the standard issue battery that came > with it. Unfortunately this little machine can't run stuff like the IAR > compiler anymore, otherwise it would have been perfect. Also, from all > the lab work its case starts to crumble ;-) > > Regards, Joerg > > http://www.analogconsultants.com
For me, the lab is the penultimate stopping place for desktops before they become one with the landfill -- why use a laptop at all? -- Tim Wescott Wescott Design Services http://www.wescottdesign.com
On 2004-12-05, Ian Bell <ruffrecords@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Whichever one you choose, be sure to check it has a serial interface. Many > laptops these days no longer have one.
I've never had any problem with the $20 USB->serial interfaces under Linux. Windows support for them isn't great... -- Grant Edwards grante Yow! I'm having an at emotional outburst!! visi.com