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[aprssig] Re: Smart TNC's vs. KISS and computers was (no subject)

Stephen H. Smith WA8LMF2 at aol.com
Thu Feb 24 00:29:49 UTC 2005

Scott Miller wrote on 2/23/2005, 3:30 PM:

 > In the same rack as the Linux box,
 > I've got a Windows 2000 server that's been chugging along as long as the
 > Linux box, running Oracle, some web services, and occasionally an APRS IS
 > listener service.

I run 4 copies of UIview, along with mmSSTV, KB2SCS's "APRN" program, 
Echolink, LapLink (for remote access/administration), UIaloha, UItraffic 
and more in a Windows 2000 PC.   This collection of software has run 
non-stop on the 500 MHz HP Celeron with Win 2000 for over 6 months 
unattended while I was on the road forMotorola.

I attribute this to:

1)  The intrinsic stability of Win2K which was born and bred for
corporate server duty and not destabilized with all kinds of
home/consumer multimedia and entertainment/gaming stuff.

2)  The built-into-the-motherboard sound and video are conservative
designs based on the Intel 82810 high-integration chipset with mature
stable Intel-provided drivers. No issues with hyper-accelerated
bleeding-edge gaming-oriented superduper video systems,  and no hot-rod
6-channel surround-sound audio system with it's attendent buggy drivers.

3)   I did a from-the-grounds-up cold install of Win2K and installed 
only the desired apps. I made sure no "crapware" totally-unnecesary 
systray-resident utilities like scanner monitors, printer ink-level "gas 
gauges, automatic email pingers, digital camera auto-downloaders, 
Microsoft's notorious stealth preload of parts of MS Office at boot, 
Symantec Live Update, application suite launch menus, floating toolbars, 
etc were present. And finally no crummy, buggy HP printer drivers present!

[ I am constantly amazed when I visit other hams' houses (or home pc
users in general) at the incredible amount of junk running in the
Windows systray on most systems. I routinely see the tray extend over
half of the taskbar or more.  And then people wonder why the system is
slow, locks up all the time, and installs (like the endlessly discussed
PMap 7) keep failing. ]

4)   I used the remarkable LitePC utility available from
to strip out countless unneccessary Win2K subsystems that are part of
the basic 2K install.  This Australian-developed utility lets you remove
hundreds of individual components from Windows 98/98/2K or XP, including
COMPLETELY removing Internet Explorer from Windows. This not only 
improves the stability; it also sharply reduces the memory required. I 
actually ran 3 UI-Views, PMap Server 6 and mmSSTV on Win 2K with only 
128MB RAM on another machine this way.  At it's most extreme, LitePC can 
let you jam the bare Win98 kernel into a 32K flash card!

Bottom Line:  It is practical to run even Windows in an unattended
dedicated-controller type of application if you are careful about what 
is installed .....

By implementing these type of installations on VIA EPIA micro-ITX 
boards, you can actually start approaching (though admittedly not 
equaling) dedicated TNCs in terms of space and power consumption.  One 
can run this kind of setup with less that 1.4 A at 12 VDC. While this 
certainly doesn't equal the 10 mA of a KPC3+, it is reasonable in most 
places for 24/7 operation.

======  BACKGROUND  ========

VIA Computer makes a series of tiny highly-integrated all-in-one PCs,
the EPIA Micro-ITX motherboards that are only about 8" square.  These
devices were originally intended for use in home multimedia systems and
automotive entertainment systems as Windows-based MP3 players, etc. 
These boards already have a Celeron-equivalent 600 MHz or 1 GHz CPU 
soldered onto the board, video, sound, serial and parallel ports, PS/2 
kbd/mouse support, HDD and FDD controllers, an on-board compact flash 
connector, and a slot for a single 168-pin DIMM ram module and a single 
PCI expansion slot.  Several of these boards use low-power FANLESS CPUs, 
and have FOUR (!!!) real serial ports (no more  USB-to-serial dongles!) 
and TWO Ethernet ports.  The power connector is the standard ATX-type 
molex.  An optional header that snaps directly onto the power connector 
contains an DC-DC converter that will run these devices directly off 12 
VDC at about 1 amp.

The total cost, including 256MB of ram is about USD $200.

Note that for DigiNed-type operation, these boards can boot and run DOS
from a flash card plugged into the motherboard CF socket (the
motherboard BIOS treats the CF socket like a hard disk and makes it a
bootable device.).  Around here, at least, 512MB CF cards now sell for
around USD $40.   [And to think I once paid USD $1000 for a 200MB hard 

An interesting packaging possibility:
      Normally the micro-ATX board is mounted in small cube-shaped 
cases. However, the tooling of the micro-ATX board fits the standard 
back panel cutouts and mounting bosses of regular ATX tower cases. The 
single PCI slot on the board lines up with the first backplane slot in 
the case, while the dense jackfield (audio, ethernet, serial, USB, etc.) 
lines up the usual ATX cutout. You wind up with a little tiny board in 
the center-rear of a big box. There is a ton of room left to mount TNCs, 
sound card interfaces, etc. inside the case.  Many small mono-band FM 
transceivers, or the main chassis of a D700 or TMG-707 can fit nicely 
into a 5.25" drive bay, with the control head mounted on a front-panel 
drive-bay cover.

The result:
      A complete turnkey package that only needs external connections 
to +12 VDC, Ethernet/Internet connectivity and an antenna or two.

Stephen H. Smith             wa8lmf (at) aol.com

Home Page:                   http://wa8lmf.com

New/Updated "Rev G" APRS     http://members.aol.com/wa8lmf/aprs
Symbols Set for UI-View,
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