John Bowen Synth Design

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Solaris FAQ
  1. What is a Compact Flash card?
  2. CompactFlash (CF) is a mass storage device format used in portable electronic devices. For storage, CompactFlash typically uses flash memory in a standardized enclosure. The format was first specified and produced by SanDisk in 1994. The physical format is now used for a variety of devices. CompactFlash became the most successful of the early memory card formats, outliving Miniature Card, SmartMedia, and PC Card Type I in mainstream popularity. There are other memory card formats that came out after the introduction of CompactFlash, such as SD/SDHC/MMC, various Memory Stick formats, and xD-Picture Card. Most of these cards are significantly smaller than CompactFlash while offering comparable capacity and read/write speed. Proprietary memory card formats intended for use in the field of professional audio and video, such as P2 and SxS, are physically larger, faster, and significantly more expensive.

  3. Why did you pick the CF card format for Solaris?
  4. Reliability, for one reason. The CF card package has helped keep this format popular in professional digital camera use because it is fairly robust and not as easily damaged as many of the smaller, thinner memory cards. The CompactFlash card also includes error checking and correcting (ECC) and wear leveling circuitry that is transparent to the user. Also, since the CF format is based on the older IDE communications buss, it was faster and simpler to implement the transfer protocol.

  5. What should I look for in a CF card reader?
  6. Most card readers now are ‘multiformat’, meaning they have slots for CF, SD, SDHC, and others. I have several card readers of the multi-format type, and I’ve noticed that the pins in the CF card slot can be easily bent with some of the cheaper readers, rendering the reader useless! I don’t recommend a particular brand, but it seems card readers with a ‘deeper’ CF slot channel are safer, as it allows the card to be more fully inserted along the guide rails, and gives better contact to the pin connectors.

  7. What Type of CF card does Solaris use?
  8. CF cards come in Type I or Type II size (Type I is 3.3 mm thick; Type II is 5 mm thick). Solaris uses Type I.

  9. What size (amount of storage) do I need?
  10. The size (or capacity) of most CF cards now on the market start at 2 GB (gigabytes), and go up to 32 GB. The Solaris data uses a very small amount of that capacity, so a smaller capacity, such as 2, 4, or even 8 GB is fine for use. The only reason to have high capacity cards would be to store large numbers of sample files, or to have multiple versions of Preset folder groups, or to use the card to store additional non-Solaris related data (since Solaris will ignore any folder names not specific to the Solaris code).

  11. What about the rated transfer speed?
  12. This does have some impact on how the card will interact with Solaris. The transfer data rate is usually (but not always) listed on the card as some capacity number per second (written as 30MB/s, which means 30 megabytes per second). Another speed rating found will be some number followed by ‘X’, such as 266X, 400X, or 533X. This is the same system used for CD-ROMs, and indicates the maximum transfer rate in the form of a multiplier based on the original audio CD data transfer rate, which is 150 kbyte/s. You will also sometimes see references to Write Speed and Read Speed. The only time the Solaris is writing to the card is when you are saving a preset, or System data. Unlike the need for digital cameras, a faster write speed is not a big deal for Solaris use. The Read speed is more critical, as it affects how quickly the Preset names can be scrolled for viewing in Preset Mode, as well as sample loading time (to a certain extent). As of yet, we have not thoroughly tested a wide variety of card speeds, so I cannot provide a recommended minimum speed for use, but there is a theoretical upper limit to USB 2.0 for internal card readers of 60MB/s (400X). External card readers may be slower. Since faster cards are much more expensive, and Solaris doesn’t need a really fast Write speed, I would expect users will be fine with 133X as a minimum. (For personal reference, I use SanDisk 8GB cards rated at 30MB/s or 200X).

  13. What about formatting the card?
  14. Typically now, CF cards will come pre-formatted, but you should know that the Solaris can only recognize FAT32 formatted cards.