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Running OpenBSD off of compactflash



Several folks have asked me about compact flash, since it was in my /etc/ question. Here's the small knowledge base I've developed so far. If anyone has additional or contrary info, feel free to jump in.

* I haven't tried the USB adapters, but I've heard mixed reviews on them for any *nix. I haven't heard of anyone managing to boot from them.

* The IDE CF adapters are the only ones I've used and they work great. They can be picked up for almost nothing on ebay. Usually 10-20 bucks. The flash is pretty much self contained, and the IDE adapters are little more than pin adapters.

* You don't want to run anything that will substantially 'write' the card more than a few times a day. The cards will only take 100k-1million writes, which sounds like alot but your typical windows box can supposedly swap a card to death in a couple of months. So bulk up on ram and run without swap. Log off box or set up a ramdisk/dump routine--you get the picture.

* Stick with Sandisk flash. You may get others to work but it can be a wildcard situation. The manufacturers don't always stick to the specs, and while this doesn't seem to bother your typical consumer app (cameras, PDAs, etc) it can really cause problems when your OS is trying to pretend it's a disk, particularly with geometry. I had several no-fun issues until I sucked it up and got Sandisk.

* ...really spooky when your box boots up without that little HD clicking sound.

* The cards work in PIO mode, which is supposedly much harder on the processor. Another reason to log off box, etc.

I haven't tried the distribution, but there's alot of information to be found by looking at the emBSD project page and mailing list archives. (www.embsd.org). They also have a lil' box that runs entirely off of flash which I'll probably try out when I get my personal distro finished.

-Mike