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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here is an equipment question for you computer gurus (and if the mods would be so kind as to NOT move this to the bug section, I'd appreciate it, as I don't think it will get enough traffic over there to get a good answer).

We need a new computer to run our sidescan sonar system. We currently have a large rackmount:



It works fine, but it's heavy, bulky and vulnerable to getting smacked around. We have a shipping case but it's heavy and has been dropped numerous times by ariline and shipping personnel. On our Jamaica trip it arrived with a huge hole in the side of the case and both the handles had been broken off. Fortunately it still worked.

What I'd like to do is get a ruggedized computer that we can ship or check as luggage without putting in a separate case. There are several rugged laptops available, but here is the rub: the command card for the system is a full-sized PCI card with dimensions of about 4 x 12 inches. That's too big to fit in a laptop, and laptops don't have PCI slots anyway.

What I'd like is the equivalent of a tower or rackmount, but instead of the standard metal case, I'd like one that is built into a Pelican or other similar rugged case, with some sort of shock resistent suspension to protect the electronic components. That way we can just check it as baggage without the extra case (which inevitably costs extra). Ideally, I'd like one with the monitor in the cover, but that isn't critical. I would however like enough space in the case to include the monitor, keyboard, and mouse when not in use.

I can build one, but I doubt I'd get it right on the first try, and it would probably cost the company just as much if not more that just buying one.

Any suggestions?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ive' already looked into the smaller card. They make one, but it is a different system that is not compatible with ours (of course):

http://www.marinesonic.us/centurion.php

We can't even use our old fish or cables. Everything is different :sad: . That one comes with a computer built into a Pelican case, but the company won't spring $40K for a new system when all they have to do is pay $2500 for a new computer.

The external PCI housing is intriguing, though. The only thing I can think of that might be a problem is the conversion to USB. Most of the survey gear uses old-school DE-9 serial connectors, even the new stuff. We've had problems in the past with USB conversion corrupting the data stream. Don't know if we would have the same problem with an external PCI box, but it is that same old to new technology conversion that tends to cause problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Just another thought. We currently use a Pelican 1700 "gun" case to house our survey grade GPS and navigation laptop (you wouldn't beleive how that case freaks out the people at the check in desk at the airport - I love it! lady: "Sir we require all firearms to be declared, locked and unloaded" me: "OK" (uncomfortable silence while the lady stares at me). Lady: "sir, you MUST declare any firearms" me: "I understand" (more silence). lady "sir, WHAT'S IN THE CASE????". me: "a GPS navigation system". (silence while the lady stares at me). lady: "oh...". I just have to be sure not to tell them it has a laptop computer, because for some reason that freaks them out even more than the guns). Anyway, I digress. The laptop fits in the foam, as do the GPS unit and the cables and power supplies. We have an extra 1700 case which I can try out if I can find an external PCI case.

Another possible problem, though, is that the system is extremely sensitive to power issues. I have no idea if placing the card externally would affect that. I guess I'll have to experiment. Thanks for the suggestions.
 

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Panasonic Toughbook. Our outside technicians have dropped them off of telephone poles and still work fine :) Also weatherproof.
 

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I have LOTS of experience with managing a large fleet of Panasonic Toughbooks and I can tell you that they will take the abuse!

If you are leery about corruption in the datastream, buy just the pci to usb adaptor and use it on your current system that works fine. You can do a/b comparisons of card in slot vs. card adapted externally before you decide to make the decision to spend the dough on a rugadized laptop.
 
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