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A chat with the CF Adapter Guru

Tue Feb 20, 2001 - 10:15 AM EST - By Mark Pierson



The beauty of VisorCentral is that you can ask just about anything and get an answer. Whether itís software, hardware, how-to, or just general information, the VisorCentral membership is a wealth of knowledge. There are several members that have taken their knowledge a step further and gone on to produce products for our beloved Visorís. One of them, Dave Kessler from Kopsis Engineering, came up with the design for the CompactFlash Adapter module and wrote the FAFileMover app to make use of it. Hereís some insight from the man behind the design.

[Mark]: Dave, tell us a little about yourself and your company.

[Dave]: I have been working as a systems engineer since 1989 when I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. Despite my EE background, most of my work has actually been in software development. I've worked for companies in the defense, automotive, and telecommunications industries developing software for a variety of embedded systems.

I started Kopsis, Inc. as a means to take on some interesting engineering consulting projects, and that has been the company's primary focus for the last few years.

[Mark]: How (and why) did you come up with the idea for a CompactFlash Adapter module?

[Dave]: It all started with a news article on VisorCentral. A Japanese developer put up a website documenting how he had modified a PCMCIA to CompactFlash adapter to allow the use of a CF wireless modem in the Visor. The design was rather complicated and involved extensive modifications to the adapter's circuit board plus the addition of a few logic chips and a lot of wiring - but it got me thinking about the possibility of using existing memory cards in the Visor.

Initially, I wanted to use SmartMedia cards instead of CompactFlash. But three things lead me back to the CompactFlash path. The first was the fact that getting good SmartMedia documentation requires a membership in the controlling organization - and that's very expensive. To make matters worse, engineering samples of the parts I was going to need were nearly impossible to come by.

The second thing that made me reconsider which format to support was feedback that I got from discussions on VisorCentral. Though people were generally supportive of the idea of a SmartMedia adapter, it seemed the majority would much rather see support for CompactFlash.

But the biggest factor was the epiphany I had when I started analyzing the Japanese CF adapter design. I discovered that if you limited the application to CF memory cards only (no modems or ethernet cards), the design could be radically simplified! At that point, many of the PCMCIA to CF adapter modifications are unnecessary, and most of what remain can be eliminated through some interesting software tricks. With the realization that the adapter could be built with only a few passive modifications (just cutting and wiring - no additional logic chips) I just couldn't resist writing an article to tell people how to do it.

[Mark]: Once you realized an adapter was possible and made your own, were you at all apprehensive about plugging it into your Visor and trying it out for the first time?

[Dave]: Not as much as you might think. I did spent the better part of a week reviewing the design over and over to make sure that I hadn't missed anything. By the time I was ready to try the module out for the first time, I was really quite confident that it could do no harm.



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