Author Topic: Minimum spec for the controller PC  (Read 11268 times)

Graham

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Minimum spec for the controller PC
« on: August 17, 2011, 06:14:01 PM »

Does anyone know the minimum spec for the controlling PC for an RV1s?

I ask as the firm I'm working for doesn't have one as the one they had lined up (a P3/800) only had one Com port, with no header for a second one, and now doesn't boot.

phonoplug

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 06:26:31 PM »
Not sure of a minimum spec, you probably need to ask about a maximum spec! (no, really...)

Bearing in mind these machines came into existance more than 10 years ago, I expect almost any 'Pentium' grade or newer computer will do. But thats probably not the most important thing you need to know..

The PC needs to have an ISA slot for the controller card, and the controller card of course (which was custom made for the RV). Without this you have a machine that won't move!

It also needs a video grab card. My machine is uses a PCI one, though I wouldn't be surprised if older ones had ISA ones. So the machine needs a PCI slot too.

As for operating systems, I don't believe it runs on anything newer than Windows 98. One day I might try installing something like XP to see if it works, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't - something to do with the program trying to directly access the ISA slot's memory range that newer Windows version really don't like. Could be wrong though.

I don't think it needs any great amount of memory, so any computer you find should have more than enough. Same goes for hard disk space. I remember buying 15GB hard disks at the end of the 90's so I don't suppose you can find one small enough to cause it a problem these days.

Gopher

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 10:16:06 PM »
Our RV4 still runs on the P3 733 it came with, I think it started out with 64MB of ram but that's now 160MB 'cos that's what I had kicking around last time the RAM failed. Even 10gb hdd would be fine, the tricky task here might be finding a drive of small enough capacity to be seen by the PC and Windblows 98. (Depending on your geekery level, it wouldn't bother me)
When I bought my first (properly mine) PC it was a P233MMX and had one ISA slot (1997), ISA slots were well on their way to being phased out even then. With a P3 you if run RV Place and then click windows "Start" button, that's enough to cause an audible pause on the machine so I don't know how well it would cope with a pentium 1, pro or 2 but an early Athlon could also be an option (650mhz+ would be as powerful as a P3 733). They might also be more common as this was right when AMD came to the fore as the enthusiast choice, check the pile of junk at your local pc builder (if they're anything like ours they have a monster pile of all sorts). Should be easier than ebay....

I would scrounge a multitude of PC's from wherever (they should be free or close to it) and try them all. There are no jumpers on the cards and no IRQ settings etc you can change in the software which probably means for the ISA card especially that certain assumptions are made (hardcoded) about the available resources, these don't always workout, sometimes they are used by onboard peripherals.

I had to go have a look, Why do you need a com port? Is this one of the difference between RV1 and 4 ? only 2 cables connect to our control PC one to the ISA card and one to the PCI.

Graham

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2011, 04:14:05 PM »
I could have made my question clearer - it was the CPU horsepower I was on about. I took it as read that it would need 1x ISA & 1x PCI expansion slots and be running '98SE, plus the existing interface cards were OK.

I'd feel a bit happier if there was a spare machine available to swap things over to should the existing PC fail. I've been looking and asking around for suitable mobo/CPU combinations but for all I've found so far have been AMD K2s, plus a Compaq SFF P3/700 PC with one each ISA and PCI, but it's so tight inside the FDD would have to come to to take the full-length ISA card.

Industrial mobos with ISA slots are available from the likes of BVM that take current CPUs, but they're >£250.

Gopher

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2011, 09:59:00 PM »
Is losing an FDD any great loss?
http://www.intel.com/pressroom/kits/quickrefyr.htm you could compare these dates against when the machine was released and assume it was developed on something a little less substantial. I'm not sure how far back RV1's date but K2's were pretty puny on the FPU front and I would assume given the RV does all its computations including GFX on the CPU its more likely to fall short than an Intel machine of that era, plus a 15 y/o backup machine doesn't sound that reassuring.
What's the slowest machine anybody has seen in an RV, I think Mike said he had one with win95 on which technically pushes back into the pentium1/2 era.

Mike

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2011, 10:44:04 PM »
Re.COM ports, I have seen an old RV1 that used the PC's COM ports - I think the ISA card did not have the UARTs populated, but my RV4 has the ports on the ISA card. This old machine still had a PCI video card.
Windows device drivers changed radically at Win2K, so I doubt there is any chance of running on anything later than 98. You definitely want to use 98SE rather than 95, for USB support for memory sticks and joystick.
You can still get new industrial MBs with ISA slots (e.g from ibase), but no idea how well these would work. And anyway old PCs can be had pretty much for free. 
As regards protecting against HD crashes, running everything on a network drive ( with its own backup regime) is a good idea, and also allows easy transfer of data. You could then have a backup drive with just win98 on it that could be swapped with no need to reload anything.

Graham

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2011, 05:34:04 PM »
I've not had a close look at the ISA card but IIRC this one doesn't have the Com ports on it so the ones on the PC mobo are used. Next time I'm in there (I work from home and teh machine is a 30 mile round trip away) I'll have a proper look. I'll make a note of anything else I can find too - serial number, date of manufacture, what CPU the controlling PC has and so on.

Win '98SE is a given - again IIRC it was the last Windows that let progs talk to directly to the hardware, although I'm aware of add-ons that supposedly let NT-based OSs do this.

Mike's point about networking are noted. I've supplied a NIC with '98SE drivers and put in a request for their IT guy to look at hooking it into their network, but their switch/hub doesn't have any spare ports ATM so I'l going to look at the USB MSD driver I mentioned elswhere.

Mike

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2011, 10:40:48 PM »
Win '98SE is a given - again IIRC it was the last Windows that let progs talk to directly to the hardware, although I'm aware of add-ons that supposedly let NT-based OSs do this.
I've used a utility called DirectIO in the past to run an old ISA in-circuit emulator under 2K and XP, but I suspect the vision card and its drivers would be a challenge, and probably not worth the effort.

Gopher

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2011, 10:11:01 AM »
putting on my geek hat, Win98 should not be allowed anywhere near a corporate network or the internet, on its own dedicated Lan or VLan perhaps or with purposefully crippled or removed access to the outside world (e.g mess with the hosts file or gateway address ) but not much else.

Graham

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2011, 06:32:05 PM »
@ Gopher: That's the conclusion I've come to.

I've just put 98SE on a K6-2/400 so I could try out USB mass storage 'driver' from
www.technical-assistance.co.uk/kb/usbmsd98.php. I put 'driver' in quotes as it looks like it replaces several core files including user.exe, so package would be a better description.

The good news is it works with all the USB flash drives I've tried on it, using the mobo USB1 ports. Beats the other non-network options of using a dust-filled FFD or putting stuff on CD-RW. Next step is to work up the courage to put it on the VS1 controller PC.

Update: It recognises and works with a Via USB2 PCI card.

Ed

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Re: Minimum spec for the controller PC
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2011, 09:54:30 AM »
(Industrial/Embedded PC’s – www.ibase-europe.com)
I got a machine from these guys. really well made.. huge case but well put together and worked. Tower system with ISA slots. P4 and more mem and drive space than is needed but rather quick on an old RV.

Doesnt inculde w98 but i stuck 98SE on and use Disgo Mem sticks which has drivers readily available.