PCI & PCIe Riser Cards

22nd Thursday, 2012  |  Engineering News, Life at LAVA  |  no comments

In a server room, space is at a premium. As a consequence, the hardware is placed in racks of a standardized width and height, with a standardized spacing between mounting points along the racks’ vertical mounting rails. What has evolved are computers designed with correspondingly specific heights and width/s, to fit this storage and mounting system. The basic unit of height (called a “u”), is 1.75 inches vertically, and a standard rack is 42u high, just over 6 feet. Logically enough, a 2u height is 3.5 inches vertically, and so on; and a 1u server is, as its name indicates, 1u high.

42u server rack

So a 1u server is a computer 19 inches wide and 1.75 inches high (allowing for a small space between units vertically and mounting “ears” on the sides): in other words, pretty flat and skinny. A 2u server is the same width, but twice the height.

In the cases of both 1u and 2u servers however, their vertical height is less than the vertical height of conventional PCI adapter cards, which began their life in the spacious desktop computers of the 1980s.

 

2u rackmount server
So how do you fit a 4.2 inch high PCI or PCIe card into a 3 inch high space? Or for that matter, into a 1.75 inch high space? The answer is simple: turn it on its side, using a riser card.

Riser cards

Riser cards

Riser cards are relatively simple both mechanically and electrically: mechanically, they plug into a slot on a motherboard, and rise just a short distance before they present a connector (or two or three) to the horizontal plane. Electrically, they reproduce the slots they plug into The adapter cards now plug in horizontally, an the height problem is solved.

Riser card in server

Riser card in server

LAVA manufactures many PCI and PCI Express (PCIe) cards for this hardware environment.

Photo Printing Kiosk

19th Monday, 2012  |  Life at LAVA  |  no comments
Kodak photo kiosk

Kodak photo kiosk

When Kodak was designing its photo kiosks it found the need for numerous input and output interfaces, as the kiosks were equipped with variety of card slots, printers, and other I/O. In one kiosk variant or another, they included CompactFlash™, SD/SDHC/SDXC™, microSD, Memory Stick, Mini SD, xD-Picture Card™/SCM, MS DUO, SmartMedia™, and MultiMedia/RSMMC card readers; IrDA and Bluetooth™ wireless interfaces; USB; CD/DVD and floppy drives; a credit card reader, a scanner, and one or two printers. With all these needs for connectivity, a lot of back end interfacing was required. LAVA supplied the additional serial port interfaces with its Quattro-PCI/LP cards.

Raspberry Pi serial interfacing

2nd Friday, 2012  |  Engineering News, Life at LAVA  |  no comments

The Raspberry Pi, the single-board computer that has been causing so much excitement lately, has actually got two serial ports. One is a “mini-uart” with interfacing built into the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO (General Purpose Input-Output) interface.

The GPIO interface is a pin header, and the relevant serial port pins are as shown:

Raspberry Pi mini UART GPIO pins

Raspberry Pi mini UART GPIO pins

 

The Raspberry Pi Quick Start Guide from element 14 describes the process in simple terms:

Serial connection
The Serial Port is a simple and uncomplicated method to connect to the Raspberry Pi. The communication depends on byte wise data transmission, is easy to setup and is generally available even before boot time.

First interaction with the board
Connect the serial cable to the COM port in the Raspberry Pi, and connect the other end to the COM port or USB Serial Adapter in the computer.

Serial Parameters

The following parameters are needed to connect to the Raspberry. All parameters except Port_Name and Speed are default values and may not need to be set.
Port_Name: Linux automatically assigns different names for different types of serial connectors. Choose your option:
Standard Serial Port: ttyS0 … ttySn
USB Serial Port Adapter: ttyUSB0 … ttyUSBn
Speed: 115200
Bits: 8
Parity: None
Stop Bits: 1
Flow Control: None

The Serial Port is generally usable by the users in the group dialout. To add oneself to the group dialout the the following command needs to be executed with root privileges:
$useradd -G {dialout} your_name

The implementation of the serial port on the Raspberry Pi GPIO is not a full implementation; it has only the pins available on the pin header, for example (GND, TX, RX).

The second UART is a more fully implemented UART that is part of the internal ARM architecture of the Broadcom BCM2835 chip, the core of the Raspberry Pi. Details on this UART will be forthcoming in another blog post.

Atlas POS

28th Tuesday, 2012  |  Life at LAVA  |  no comments

Atlas POS logoAtlas POS, a POS integrator specializing in Sharp ECRs, operates throughout Canada from Vancouver to Newfoundland. They have now used LAVA Ether-Serial Links and HQ-ST Plus Links in numerous POS polling applications. They focus on POS installations for cafeterias, and have sold systems to colleges, universities, and hospitals, as well as to companies such as BMW and Rogers.

Norm Puig at Atlas sees increasing need for machines that require networking, either natively in the machine, or through IP-enabling technology such as the Ether-Serial Links and HQ-ST Links that he installs. His observation is that for installations where the requirement for complex cash registers is high, as when an organization has a large number of inventory items to manage, the ECRs and POS systems are Ethernet ready. By contrast, when the cash register requirements are simpler or stores are smaller, IP-enablers make more sense.

Sharp ER-A520

Sharp ER-A520

Typical installations for Norm include Ether-Serial Links for polling Sharp ER-A420 cash registers, polling with Skantalk software, at the Royal Conservatory, Toronto; HQ-ST Links polling Sharp UP600 registers in the Sweet Tooth Candy Emporium chain, and Sharp ER-A520 cash registers being connected with Ether-Serial Links in the Old Forum Inn, Cambridge, ON.

Norm prefers the ease of use he finds in the LAVA products to some of the more difficult to use products on the market.

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