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New Power PMAC Motion Core
#1
I just saw the flyer for the motion core computers. I have to say that it looks very promising for those of us who strive to go with an all networked Servo/IO solution.

I haven't seen one in person, but I feel like Delta Tau is listening to its customer base and here is my take based on the flyer info:

Pros:
****

Fanless/reliability - No fans and internal cables to come loose... no large vents to easily get stripped-wire-shrapnel or metal chips into the works (OK, its not IP68 but this is more than appropriate for inside an enclosure).

Form Factor - Can easily be mounted on an enclosure door or possibly panel mounted in an 8" or deeper box if you don't need the rear connectors.

Performance - Like the ability to scale up in performance if needed.

24V power - 120V can be a pain to wire in some installations.

COM PORTS!!!!!! - Lets face it the RS232 port is not dead ... There are tons of gadgets that speak simple ASCII RS232 commands and that's not going away.

Dedicated EtherCat and Modbus - More on Modbus in the questions section....

Questions:
*********

- Are the Com ports UART based and thus can be enabled for Xenomal serial drivers?

- Is the Modbus dedicated port served by a realtime process now that it has a dedicated Ethernet port?

- Are the USB/video connections opposite the power/Ethernet/com ports shown in the picture as I've guessed?

- Are Linux host operating systems mounted with read only root?

- Is the windows option capable of using windows embedded with Enhanced Write Filter (EWF)?

- Is Windows/Linux-PPMAC communication done through a virtual Ethernet connection? Additionally, can windows get at PPMAC shared memory?

- What are the price points for these units .. how do these compare to the Etherlite or UMAC CPUs?

- How do we back up the drives on these, can it boot Acronis (or ghost, etc) off of a USB stick with a monitor/keyboard/mouse plugged in? It would be nice not to have to disassemble this to back up the drive!

As an aside I am tempted to use this with the Linux only version, perhaps even headless with the Celeron unit. I don't necessarily see the reason or benefit to have windows running on the PPMAC itself but I don't doubt that this would be an attractive option for many. I am currently using C#.NET for our HMI and if it weren't for the fact that many smart camera controls are only available with windows I would go all Linux with QT (I still consider this an option for me and try to have alternatives for the smart camera displays/interfaces). I'm interested in others' opinions on this.

All in all this looks like a very nice looking product. Please comment as I'd like to get others opinions.

KEJR
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#2
The Com ports UART based. The LX86 (Linux GUI version uses Xenomai )
so they are available.
The WX86 (Windows GUI occupies CPU 1,2). Linux PREEMPT RT resides on CPU 3,4. The COM Ports can be moved to the CPU's running the hidden linux RTOS running in CPU 2,3 by editing a text file.

For the LX86 modbus can be placed on any of the Ethernet ports.
For the WX86 modbus can be placed upon the the extra dedicated Ethernet port. Two Ethernet ports are allocated to Windows and two are allocated to Linux. One of the two for Linux is always pre-configured for EtherCAT. The other is not configured, it can be setup for EtherCAT or standard ethernet.

For the LX86 the host operating system is not mounted readonly. This is a good idea so we will patch the union file system driver to the xenomai enabled kernel we compiled so with a script this that feature can be enabled in the near future. I suspect there will be many who want to use an LX86 headless instead of an EtherCAT ultralite. So your thought is a good one.

For the WX86 the linux portion is readonly. In fact it runs its filesystem in RAM. The only connection to disk is through an NFS share to the Windows host. The usrflash is saved via NFS to the Windows disk. Windows should be shutdown using our tray icon application so it turns off all 4 cpu's.

We have not tested with the Windows Enhanced Write Filter (EWF) this but I see no reason why it would be a problem.

Communication for the WX86 it is done through a virtual Ethernet Connection. This allows applications already developed for our embedded PowerPMAC boards to function without modification. Currently you cannot get to the WX86's shared memory via Windows directly.

Any normal backup utility should work with these systems.

As far as pricing you have to contact customer service for
that.
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#3
Just to clarify for everyone, LX86 is the "All Linux" version and the WX86 is the dual OS Win/Linux system. The WX86 uses a hypervisor software to divide the CPU cores and other resources like ethernet/UART/etc so as to run the two OS's concurrently (web search for hypervisor for more info).

Sounds like Modbus is the same, its just that the 4 ethernet ports are divided into two for the WX86. Makes sense.

Having realtime UARTS will be a great option for the LX86 machines.

Thanks for looking into the readonly rootfs for the LX86. I will say that even if I ran the LX86 with X windows (i.e. full GUI) I would like the option to have the disk locked down (If nothing else just before releasing to production). For those of us who do development *and* get called to the floor when the proverbial "stuff" hits the fan it is cheap insurance against running around restoring things. Awesome!

Thanks for your detailed reply Henry. I know they keep you busy over there but hearing a concise response from one of the lead design engineers really gets to the heart of the matter much quicker IMHO.

For those of you following this thread, I will be receiving a system from Delta Tau to try out very soon. I hope to get a test application running and report on my progress.

KEJR
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