C_wiz: for total recall

Low cost, high performance vessel monitoring for Microsoft Windows

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- Admiral Hyman Rickover


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A PC specification

Build 2006112507 is the result of a 12 month major implementation of the product on a new fleet of patrol boats comprising 4 x 12 metre, 6 x 16 metre, 2 x 22 metre and (in development) 1 x 28-30 metre.

One of the elements of this implementation was a concerted effort to design and supply on-board PCs that truly suited the application.

While we have never done such an exercise before we did have something like a decade of experience observing others implement the product on all manner of on-board PCs including "data bricks" (too hot, no grunt, limited I/O), "tuff books" (limited I/O, limited start/stop capabilities) and miscellaneous desktop PCs (power supply issues, limited start/stop capabilities, fragile, space consuming).

A primary customer requirement was that the system was to be automatically started when either ignition key was turned on and automatically stopped when both ignition keys were turned off. This was dictated by previous experience (frustration?) with implementations that required the vessel operator to manually turn the system on and off.

To enhance system longevity a self imposed requirement was that orderly shutdown of Windows and the PC was to be performed when loss of external power occurred.

The major elements of the puzzle were therefore seen to be: 

o Power:

o Supply to be either 12 or 24VDC in.

o Internal battery backup, to facilitate orderly shutdown when external power loss is detected.

o Power supply module to signal when external power is lost.

o Motherboard:

o BIOS capable of starting PC when external power is detected, to facilitate automatic start when ignition key turned on.

o Digital I/O ports, to facilitate detection of loss of external power.

o High FSB spec, to maximize performance.

o Avoidance of daughter boards, to minimize the potential effects of shock and vibration.

o I/O via physical ports (RS232 and USB 2.0) rather than via external devices such as RS232 to LAN converters.

o Watchdog timer, to trigger automatic hardware reset in event of C_wiz shutdown or freeze or Windows freeze.

o CPU:

o At least 1.2GHz clock (Pentium 4 cycles).

o Maximum L2 cache, to maximize performance.

o Appropriate speed specs to match motherboard FSB.

o Low wattage, to reduce heat problems.

o RAM:

o 1GB, to maximize performance by minimizing paging to hard disk.

o Appropriate speed specs to match motherboard FSB.

o Hard disks:

o Use of laptop hard disks with high anti-vibration and anti-shock specs.

o Extreme shock mounts.

o Mounted in easily removable trays, to facilitate fast repair and troubleshooting.

o Enclosure:

o To be common to all vessel classes, to facilitate fast repair and troubleshooting.

o Positive pressure ventilation, to avoid dust accumulation.

The single most difficult element was the power supply and associated battery backup.

A 146mm x 203mm industrial motherboard was used that has the following major specifications:

o Socket 479 base support (Intel Pentium M CPU).

o Up to 533MHz FSB.

o 2 x DDR266/333 SDRAM sockets, up to 1GB per socket.

o 4 x RS232 + 6 x USB 2.0 I/O ports.

o 4 input + 4 output digital ports.

o All the other normal ports such as 10/100 Mbps LAN, PS/2 mouse + keyboard, parallel, VGA, speaker, microphone etc.

o Display specifications include "Intel GMCH Integrated Graphics controller", "Integrated AGP 4X 2D/3D engine" and "shared system memory up to 32MB (DVMT)" - in other words not brilliant but seems to be more than adequate for our purposes.

The motherboard is driven by a 1.7GHz Intel Centrino CPU (supposedly roughly equivalent to 3 GHz Pentium 4) with 400 MHz FSB and 2MB L2 cache with a 25W power consumption rating, in conjunction with 1 GB of DDR333 SDRAM.

Initially the hard disks were mounted in a commercially available shock mount - essentially just a fairly hard rubber edge strip. This proved inadequate in the 12 metre class vessels which can be subjected to substantial pounding at speed. A simple solution in the form of an edge mount constructed from open cell foam used for air conditioning inlet filters solved the problem.

The enclosure type and width was basically dictated by other PCs being installed on the larger vessel classes - 19" rackmount. Enclosure height was dictated by the dimensions of the largest component - the power supply - resulting in a "2U" (88mm) height. Enclosure depth was not a major restraint so one which left some space for unforeseen expansion was chosen.

Positive pressure ventilation was achieved by only using inlet fans - i.e. no exhaust fans.

The rear of the enclosure was professionally modified with a purpose built anodized aluminium  I/O panel.

If you have any questions, suggestions or comments please do not hesitate to  Contact Us.

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