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2341Re: [BPQ32] Re: Tiny BPQ Switch

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  • Charles Brabham
    Oct 10, 2009
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      Right on all points, Jeff.
      All of these older PC-104's I have been playing with needed new CMOS batteries for example, though I have not seen any failures of other components so far. The CPU's on these require no cooling fan, and appear to get by just fine with no heat-sink though clamping one onto the CPU is trivial, just to be sure.
      The newer 586 industrial computers all appear to require a CPU fan, which gets you back into depending upon rotating parts again. I suspect that this is the reason the 486 jobs is still being manufactured. If you can get by without moving/rotating parts, you are way ahead on reliability. - And DOS is lightning-fast on a 486.
      One advantageous feature of the old surplus PC-104's is that you can buy them in quantity at very low prices. I paid 29 bucks each for mine, which allows for quick and easy replacement of a unit that fails. ( None have, so far. )
      The biggest drawback to using the older units, in my point of view is the lack of development kits and few acessories for them... Whether the CMOS battery is dead or not, it is wise to replace it. You have to research the board and then roll your own I/O connections from scratch, which is labor intensive and time consuming, first time around. Once you have the procedure down though, it goes much quicker thereafter.
      I've had mine in continuous operation for a couple of years now ( no CPU fan or heat-sink ) with no problems. My spares are sitting in a box in the junk closet, but so far have not been needed.
      I'm excited about working with 586 industrial computers. This opens up the possibility of utilizing soundcard-based modems and more modern software. One project I started but have never completed uses a 586 PC-104 with a built-in soundcard with EchoStation software to produce a tiny, inexpensive but sophisticated repeater controller. On that machine there is a CPU fan, and a laptop HD but it's just for proof of concept. If it works well, I'll dig around for a better PC-104 that can do it without moving parts.
      It amazes me that more hams do not play with these mini-industrial computers... They are cheap, fun to tinker with and let you do things that we couldn't do very well with desktop units.
      73 DE Charles, N5PVL
      Prefer to use radio for your amateur radio communications? - Stop by at HamRadioNet.Org !
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: WA4ZKO
      Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2009 8:17 AM
      Subject: [BPQ32] Re: Tiny BPQ Switch


      Unless you've got a good supply of spares, I'm always cautious of building "key" infrastructure against a lot of these older hardware platforms. Not knocking it's usefulness, just it's longevity and ease of replacement say 3, 5, 10 years down the road.

      I guess what I'm trying to get at is....a lot of this older 386 and 486 stuff is getting harder to come by and that's a situation that will not improve over time. IMHO, fine for tinkering, but I'd think twice about building key/critical RF infrastructure on it. If you've got a stockpile or a good long term supply, go for it.

      Several companies are building very small industrial grade platforms that use more modern components, decent CPU power, flash storage, RAM, serial, LAN, and mPCI card options. Soekris is one of them, I'm sure there are others:

      http://www.soekris. com/

      They still offer stuff built on the 486 platform, but there are plenty of indications that they are slowly refocusing towards the 586 platform. These units worked against flash storage would probably do fine for a remote tower site node where space/power/ climate control are challenges for a typical PC.


      --- In BPQ32@yahoogroups. com, "Charles Brabham" <n5pvl@...> wrote:
      > Here's a four port BPQ switch utilizing a PC-104 form industrial computer, a 33 Mhz 486 that in a previous life operated a touchscreen data pad. It needed a new 3v motherboard battery and I had to cobble together the I/O connections.
      > It runs on 5v DC, has a flash drive ( no moving or rotating parts ) a built-in watchdog setup and is hardened to take industrial conditions. ( Dust, vibration, temperature etc. )
      > It fits in an old case for an MFJ 1270c with room to spare.
      > http://i239. photobucket. com/albums/ ff206/arwatch/ uspacket/ IMG_0023. jpg
      > I use ROMDOS, a special DOS for PC-104 computers, and it works flawlessly with DOS BPQ. There is also a copy of FBB BBS i9stalled, so I can connect on the air and do software updates, reboots, etc. using FBBDOS. I do not use it as a BBS but in a pinch, I could.
      > So - if anybody asks if BPQ can be utilized in remote mountaintop node sites, you can say "You bet!"
      > Note that I also have a four port FlexNet digi installed in the Flash drive, and can switch between one system and the other by altering the autoe*ec.bat file.
      > I think this probably gets the prize for the tiniest BPQ switch - and it is also one of the toughest.
      > The newer industrial PC's could run BPQ32, as they generally operate with Windows. - I got this older PC-104 for 29 bucks.
      > 73 DE Charles, N5PVL
      > Prefer to use radio for your amateur radio communications? - Stop by at HamRadioNet. Org !
      > http://www.hamradio net.org

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