SERIES: Linux Support at Comtrol – Part III

Leveraging older PC hardware to perform daily tasks using Linux and Comtrol hardware

All too often, older PC hardware is thrown out merely because of it being unable to keep up with commercial operating system(s). Comtrol products, used together with the Linux operating system and older PC hardware you may have been considering throwing away, can be leveraged to perform daily tasks without the expense of a new PC being purchased.  This relates not just to Linux and it’s inherent ability to function well on older PCs, but also specifically to the Comtrol’s RocketPort® and DeviceMaster® hardware itself, and the design put into it.

– Nick Thompson

The Linux kernel is written in a manner wherein it can be compiled to squeeze every bit of performance out of the PC it’s running on.  When used with a Comtrol RocketPort or Comtrol DeviceMaster, the older PC runs as fast as it can for two reasons. The Linux kernel is compiled to squeeze performance, and the RocketPort and/or DeviceMaster are smart devices – they do not force the PC to put forth any of its computing power to run the devices, unlike ‘dumb’ multi-port serial boards which are essentially standard serial ports slapped onto a PCI board.  These take resources to run, and let’s remember we’re working with an older system here.  We can’t afford to use those resources, or the PC may be too slow to perform the task it has been selected for.

Pre-build vs. Compiling your own: Kernel issues to be considered on older machines  
One very nice thing these days within the Linux community is the fact that you can now download distributions which are designed from the get-go for older machines.  They will save you the trouble of installing a standard Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, etc. and having to then re-compile your own kernel.  This obstacle is the biggest in squeezing every bit of performance out of older machines. (Again, the RocketPort – because of its ASIC processor – and the DeviceMaster itself take the load of the standard serial ports that a ‘dumb board’ would put onto the machine, and offload that onto the Comtrol RocketPort or DeviceMaster. This saves CPU cycles and RAM for the operating system and the task at hand.) There are many distributions out there at the moment that do this.  One I would recommend is Puppy Linux, though again there are many and much like with standard Linux distributions.  You’ll want to select one that uses the package management system you are used to, that has the features you want/need when planning an installation on an older PC with Comtrol products.  You can find links to various resources related to such things as Linux distributions that are good for this purpose at the end of this post.

Linux Comtrol RocketPort DeviceMaster  Untitled-1Linux Comtrol RocketPort DeviceMaster

Don’t throw away that Pentium II just yet! 
This post is not theoretical. I speak with customers who are using a Pentium II 450 megahertz system (or similar) to accomplish tasks that others use a brand new $600-$1000 PC for.  The reason they are able to accomplish this is offloading of load to the Comtrol products, as well as the fact they’ve chosen to use a Linux distribution aimed at just such a thing: to accomplish a task, and accomplish it well.  Not attempt to install a fully functioning desktop PC, but to accomplish a task.  Comtrol products, together with Linux, will allow you to do just such a thing, and with no PC budget to speak of – disregarding that old Pentium II you keep meaning to throw away.

For more information >> Comtrol’s DeviceMaster device servers, RocketPort multi-port serial cards and RocketLinx® industrial Ethernet switches

Linux Distribution Links Updates on new versions of distributions, etc.

Puppy Linux Older PC Linux Distribution

If you have any questions whatsoever regarding Linux support, please contact Nick Thompson with Technical Support at [email protected] or (763) 957.6138.


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