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SMALL FORM FACTOR FORUM

Happy Holidays from SF3

BY COLIN MCCRACKEN

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Twas the night before shipping, the deadline was near

Not a creature was stirring but one engineer

His systems were staged in burn-in with care

In hopes that a serial console prompt soon would appear

Small form factors were nestled all snug in their racks

While delusions of interoperability pervaded each stack

Ops started the bake and then left for the night

While the engineer settled down to consider his plight

When out on the floor there arose such a clatter

He sprang from his bench to see what was the matter

Away to the chamber he flew with his flash

Checking for failures, he re-booted the batch

The glossy datasheets on the engineer’s bench

Hinted at plug-and-play with the modules entrenched

When what to his wondering eyes should appear

But an LPC super I/O and eight COM-port gear

With a Win32 driver, migration was quick

He knew in a moment to use a USB stick

More rabid than squirrels his vendors once came

Selling I/O he had purchased by name:

Now, ARINC! Now, PATA! Now, DO-160!

On, COM ports! On, 1553! On A-to-D!

On top of each stack, screwed to the wall

A thermal solution that’s excessively tall

As wide temp now dictates a heat transfer plate

Both to a COM module and enclosure must mate

So up like a smokestack, the modules they grew

With a tray full of cables and pin/socket connectors too!

He scratched his head and was turning around

When the custom BIOS re-flashed with a bound

He stressed out while awaiting re-boot

His 5-vendor COMe RFQ had become moot

A bundle of cables he had flung on his back

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack

He thought back on how he got into this mess

The “legacy-free” mantra pushed by COM Express

The promise of inter-op’rability

With the carrier design guide from the PIC-M-G

The words of his boss were doomed to repeat

“Your stacking approach is way obsolete

The size, weight, and power budget must shrink.”

The consultant appeared before he could blink

His eyes—how they twinkled! His design skills—how merry!

His schematics like roses, his layout a cherry

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

The consultant said we had nothing to dread

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work

And redesigned the baseboard; then turned with a jerk

“In COM Ex Type III, IDE is not there

This pinout type uses a differential pair…”

He dipped into his bag of proven design tricks

Then pulled out a heat spreader plate for x86

He spun the design, a right jolly old elf

Now smaller than the stack built commercial off-the-shelf

As he sprang to his sleigh, the consultant gave a whistle

And away he flew like the down of a thistle

Leaving behind our poor engineer

To debug the pilot ’fore the end of the year

Integration had our friend jumping through hoops

Of the finest standards from many trade groups

And then in a twinkling he heard in his head

A voice reminder of an SF3 column he’d read

About ISA vampires and legacy I/O

The LPC COM ports need BIOS initialization to flow

He plugged his flash drive into each system’s port

With new firmware, the serial ports didn’t abort

The characters were displayed through console redirection

And he restarted the burn-in after one last inspection

Then our hero exclaimed ere he drove out of sight

“Happy troubleshooting to all during many a long night!”