C_wiz: for total recall

Low cost, high performance vessel monitoring for Microsoft Windows

"Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas."

- Admiral Hyman Rickover

Amelia K GA (click to expand)


C_wiz had its genesis in the decision of a 45 year old civil engineer to escape the rat race by buying a run down commuter ferry service on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia.

In his case the rat race was 25 years acting as the human interface between engineers and various computer systems including roles as programmer, IBM CAD/CAM industry specialist, joint founder and technical manager of the largest CAD/CAM bureau in the southern hemisphere and finally as a CAD/CAM requirements manager for a subsidiary of Lockheed at Burbank, California.

First on the agenda with the ferry service was the building of a new all aluminium ferry in which were installed VDO Logic Combi engine gauges.

The next problem was to ensure that the ferry masters, who worked most of the time unsupervised, stuck to the timetable and did not abuse the vessels. The ferry masters, under the previous management, had a long "tradition" of basically setting their own agenda - which for certain individuals meant that the service was run for the convenience of the ferry master and not the passengers.

The initial solution was a 33Mhz 386 shoebox sized industrial PC with a 640Mb hard drive and 6" amber CRT screen running DOS and a program dubbed "General Purpose Hand" or Gphand for short. This program, which had taken about 3 months to write, took NMEA inputs from a GPS and both VDO Logic Combis, displayed relevant information in large text on the screen and recorded it. As this was for personal use only, everything was hard coded, there was no documentation of any form and the display was primitive in the extreme.

Once this was up and running the author made the mistake of showing his new plaything to the VDO Australia marine marketing manager.

Much enthusiasm spontaneously erupted resulting in a quasi-professional demonstration release (1.0.0), now called "VDO Logic Combi Wizard" or C_wiz for short. This release used Microsoft Windows 3.1 and was designed to gauge if there was a potential market.

Based on the uniformly positive reaction to 1.0.0 the first full production release (2.0.0) was developed running on Microsoft Windows 95. This release sold quite well, justifying 2 releases with minor enhancements and fixes (2.1.0 and 2.1.1). This release was restricted to supporting a GPS issuing the $..RMC... message and VDO Logic Combis.

When VDO released the EDB and GBI (SAE J1708 /J1587 compliant) engine monitoring devices the software was upgraded to support these and released as 3.0.0, now running on Microsoft Windows 9x and all subsequent flavours. Again minor fix and enhancement releases followed (3.0.1 and 3.0.2).

At this point the software was demonstrated to the NSW Water Police who were in the process of totally upgrading their fleet, including 9 x 16 metre and 2 x 22 metre all aluminium high speed patrol boats. In addition to the features that C_wiz had at this stage they were keen to have a real time multi-vessel to base capability so that they could more effectively coordinate major operations. They agreed to partially fund the development of the C_wiz instant messaging feature which appeared in release 3.1.0.

At release 3.1.0 an estimated 10-12,000 man hours had been poured into the exercise - the hobby was well and truly out of control and a decision had to be made.

It was becoming pretty obvious that for the product to become truly all embracing it had to be able to support many other sources of data. This coupled with all the other requirements that had been accumulating from users would necessitate a total rewrite.

So the the ferry service was sold and another 5-6,000 man hours have been absorbed in creating releases 4.0.0, 5.0.0 and 6.0.0 - the data device driver (D3) releases, able to accept data from anywhere once the appropriate D3 is written, all user documentation on-line, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound....


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