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EFIKA: First Impressions
Posted by: ironfist on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 17:40
Submitted by ironfist
A few days ago I got my EFIKA from the EFIKA Developer Programs over at Power

FedEx knocked on my door and my girlfriend aswered. I was at school and when I came home I saw the package. The package was large so I expected lots of packaging material and I was right. I had to dig deep to finally find that tiny white bPlan box. I opened it and was amazed of how small the board was. It's a crazy feeling to see it for the first time. Really!

Click '

I studied the tiny circuit board and took some pictures.

Then I connected my new 80 GB 2.5" HDD and was very pleased with the mounting standoffs bPlan put on the board. The drive sits perfectly on them and you just mount the four screws from underneith. My screws were abit too long so I placed anti-vibration rubber between the standoffs and the drive. It fit perfectly.


The included right-angle PCI-AGP riser is a welcomed accessory. I pushed an 128 MB ATi Radeon 9200SE into the riser card. The card was used in one of my Pegasos 2 before I converted that one into the Pegserve. The card is low-profile and it is actually longer than the EFIKA! It's about 15 mm longer in the front. It alligns nicely with the other connectors on the back plane.

Top view

Smart Firmware 1.3
I connected a monitor, null-modem cable, USB-keyboard and USB-mouse. I fired up for a test spin and was greeted by version 1.3 of the bPlan Smart Firmware. I browsed around and found some differences from 1.2. Most notably is USB-support and that /ide has been changed to /ata.

Smart Firmware 1.3

I decided to try the USB-features, Matt Sealey has hyped so much about. :-)
I typed in and downloaded the Debian Installer and put it on my FAT-formatted 128 MB USB-stick. I removed the USB-mouse and tried the USB-stick. I browsed around the device tree in Smart Firmware and then typed:

boot /usb/scsi@0/disk@0:0 di_efika

Debian Installer
It started loading. The USB-interface is of version 1.1 and the 4 MB installer file took almost a minute to load. Then it booted perfectly and I was greeted by the Debian Installer screen. I read the EFIKA Readme from and noted the three issues with the Debian Installer. I chose Swedish language, partitioned my drive with and chose 'Desktop Installation'. It started downloading and I found no issues at all with the network interface. The installer has no speed indicator but it appeared to be fast enough. I'm sure the EFIKA will have no problems with running at 100 Mbit speeds.

Debian Installer

When the installer finished I copied kernel_efika to the USB-stick and added root=/dev/sda1 to the boot arguments in Smart Firmware. My Debian installation loaded and it complained about quite many modules. There are better modules on I haven't tried them yet.

After the init had loaded my monitor switched resolution and up came the Gnome Login Screen (GDM). Everything was fine and I logged on. It took about a minute than I saw the Gnome Desktop.

So, how is Gnome? Well, the default installation from the Debian Installer is not usable on EFIKA. The memory is simply not enough for anything and it swaps constantly. I had a load avarage of 5-6 just beeing in the desktop with no programs loaded. It should be noted that Gnome ran on systems with much less RAM a few years back, so I would guess this is simply a tweak issue.

I exited Gnome and out in the console there were no problems with load or anything. I used APT to install a few light desktops that bPlan recommend (BlackBox and Window Maker). I also installed FVWM. I tried them out and sure they work much, much faster than Gnome. No problems at all.

Video streaming
In BlackBox I installed the VLC mediaplayer just to see what it could do. First I streamed a 480x576 MPEG2 video from my Pegserve and it worked somewhat. Not perfectly, but it was so good so I think it only needs some minor tweaking. Then I tried a 588x240 XviD movie with seperate subtitle file and this worked perfectly. Both in fullscreen and windowed. I can tell you that I did not expect this. I was pretty sure the CPU wouldn't be able to handle any XviD's.

16 Blocks - Fullscreen XviD
16 Blocks - Windowed XviD

After these tests I'm convinced someone will make a great mediaplayer out of the EFIKA. All you need is a minimal with a low footprint window manager and you're set.

What can I say? It's a great piece of hardware. bPlan lives up to our expectations yet again. They even exceeded them about its media capabilities. For thin client or tiny desktop usage it will work just fine as long as you choose a low footprint window manager. As a network workgroup server I can't see any difficulties with this hardware. Configure it and you're set.

The dimensions are customized. There are no available cases, yet, that fits the EFIKA without modification. I think they should have went for either Nano-ITX (if that would have been possible) or one of the embedded board standards such as 160x100 mm. You can use any Mini-ITX case for it as long as you figure out a way to mount it. Don't forget that this board is not designed with desktop as primary use. The companies that will use this in their systems will have no problems mounting it.

Big thanks to bPlan and Genesi for developing this splendid piece of hardware. And not to forget Freescale for sponsoring the EFIKA Developer Programs!

Hardware used
80 GB Hitachi Travelstar laptop harddrive
ATi Radeon 9200 SE, 128 MB
128 MB Seitec USB-stick
150W MicroATX power supply
USB-keyboard and mouse

A few more pictures here

Kristian E, Editor.

EFIKA: First Impressions | Log-in or register a new user account | 4 Comments
Comments are statements made by the person that posted them.
They do not necessarily represent the opinions of the site editor.

Re: EFIKA: First Impressions

(Score: 1)
by Trizt on Dec 07, 2006 - 18:48
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What about compile time for a kernel on the efika5k2 compared to pegasosII?

Re: EFIKA: First Impressions

(Score: 1)
by robjoh on Dec 07, 2006 - 21:31
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Sounds great, I hope somebody is going to do a small fotprint distro for this machine. Something like DamnSmallLinux or puppy.

And please give us more info if possible

Re: EFIKA: First Impressions

(Score: 1)
by SoundSquare on Dec 08, 2006 - 12:16
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what about using XFCE4 or E17 as window managers ?

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