Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Last month, my circa 2005 Epox 9NPA Ultra motherboard died on me. Taking with it my olden AMD Athlon and some pretty pricey memory sticks which I cannot use anymore since there are no more mother boards supporting socket 939 processors that used to cost an arm and a leg, now they are just keychains, paper weights and junk.

The bad bad bad news about this is that my CNC, named Abacus Robot, was using that desktop pc as it's Linux-based terminal, and so I needed to get a replacement asap. Linux/Ubuntu and LinuxCNC (formerly EMC2) doesn't need processing power, Latency is far more important with these software and of course, a parallel port is needed for I/O processing. They can even run with old Pentium 1 processors!

Unfortunately, I was under the mercy of what is available in the market for pc parts. Fortunately, a fellow member from our PCB Gcode group recommended to me those ITX motherboards that comes with fixed processors, all you need to do is slap in a memory stick and a psu and you are all set.

Luckily, LinuxCNC listed motherboards that were already tested to have very good Latency scores and one of those was the Intel D525MW ITX mother board which is fairly new and should be available locally. It was listed at several online shops for Php3,600 and so I called up several shops in the Gilmore area and low and behold got a very good deal for an OEM (no box included) version which is just Php2,500!!! Got a 2x 2GB memory and alas, my CNC is back on track. The good thing about this ITX pc is that they are very efficient and consumes little power, also excellent for Music servers and HTPC apps as they also support HD and has no onboard fan so no noise!

Surely enough, all my former step config and HAL configuration files were all lost, but after struggling for some time, I was able to manage the new settings and it's even better than before. The good thing about this painful journey is that I was able to know more intimate knowledge about my CNC, it's stepper motors and servo drivers, hence, always look at the bright side of things and you'll be ok.

Finally, after a full reset, I was able to bring her back to life and is now chewing copper clad boards for breakfast... perfect.

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