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Multiple RMs per PC


Typically, one can provide a PC with as many as eight serial ports which would allow eight RMs plugged into one PC. The software will monitor, data-log, plot the eight locations generating eight data sets. View all eight locations, real-time, with AW-GRAPH. This approach takes advantage of the PC's PIC (Priority Interrupt Controller) chip. Since our RM and software do not use all the I/O pins in a serial port, we can use these extra pins to carry out other tasks like triggering an external device such as a fan, send data to a radio modem, etc. (For info about Alarm Software + Solid State Relay Kit, see bottom of price list Price List).

Dolphin sells a four port serial card:
Four Port Serial Card
ISA BUS
Four (4) Ultra High Speed Serial Ports
Supports COMs 1-8 and HI IRQs 3-15
Supports IRQ Sharing
1.8432/3.6864/7.3728 MHz Clock Speeds
Supports Baud Rates of 115.2/230.4/460.8 Kbps
14.4K/28.8K/57.6 Kbps Modem Support
Includes one DB-37 male to 4 DB25 male cable adapter
Compatible with MS-DOS, Windows 3.X, Windows 95, Windows NT, and Unix

You can purchase this board from Aware Electronics for $75. Just add "Dolphin four port serial card: $75" to the list of items you would like to purchase. For general info. on how to order see Price List).

The advantage the Dolphin board has over other multi-serial port cards is each serial port IRQ can be set to any IRQ between 3 and 15. The address of each port can be set from COM 1 to COM 8. Base COM address can be set to one of four base addresses. Serial ports can share the same IRQs or be independent. Any port can be disabled. Two of these cards will provide a system with eight serial ports.

Also: (Boca Research sells a six port serial card for $95)

For the professional who desires the monitoring of several locations throughout a campus, one can use one or more copies of the above card and bare-bones PC (New bare-bones Pentium systems available from Aware Electronics for approx. $300). The bare-bones PC can be thought of as an embedded PC. It does nothing but run the Aware Electronics software and perhaps transfer data to a master PC. Software on the bare-bones PC can autoload from the autoexec.bat, and could include all the various features and options mentioned throughout this web site. Any combination of RM-60s,70s,80s etc., as well as PMI-30s can be used.

About IRQs: 11 of the PC's 15 IRQ lines are available to plug-in ISA-bus cards. These 11 IRQs are: 2(or 9),3,4,5,6,7,9(or 2),10,11,12,14,15. (Note: Since the advent of the 80286, IRQ 9 is re-directed to IRQ 2 therefore a plug-in card wired for IRQ 2 actually connects to IRQ 9).

The standard Aware RM software can use any of the above mentioned IRQs. On boot-up, our office PC (Pentium with PCI bus) has available for use IRQ 3,4,5,7,9,10,11,12. (Note: Aware RM software will show you which IRQs are available, that is, which IRQs are not masked on by other code). For more info. about IRQs see "More Tech. Info. About IRQs" at bottom of page.

About the PC's PIC controller: The PC includes two PIC controllers (Programmable Interrupt Controller). When the PIC receives an interrupt request, it passes it on to the CPU by way of hardware handshaking. When an interrupt occurs, further interrupts are disabled in the CPU and each PIC records (buffers) additional interrupt requests, but does not request further service from the CPU until it receives an EOI (End Of Interrupt) code from the CPU.

Four RM-60s with One LCD-60

Four RM-60s plugged into one LCD-60 and also jack for PC serial port

Plugging more than one RM into the same serial port. Each RM includes an open collector output, therefore one can plug more than one RM unit into the same serial port (ask for cable line splitter box, free when ordering). In such a case the software tallies counts from all RMs plugged into the same serial port, for one data set. An example: A work station hood area with three RMs (one on either side of the hood area and one on the back), plugged into the same serial port, would be better equipped to detect a radioactive spill, as compared to a single more sensitive detector, in that flux levels drop by the square of the distance. Also note one can plug RM(s) into both LCD-60 and the PC at the same time.


Some additional notes for the professional multi-RM user:

If you plan on using our RMs under any version of Windows including 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP, for highest performance please purchase our new 32 bit Windows Program Aw-Radw
Info: Aware's New Aw-Radw Program

The following applies to our dos program Aw-Srad (included free with each RM):

As indicated near the bottom of Running with Windows, to be considered by the professional for only the most critical high radiation situations, highest performance with multi-RMs per PC can be achieved by using Real Mode (comment out DEVICE=EMM386.EXE in config.sys) and use the Aware TSR programs to collect the radiation data, and AW-GRAPH to view the data real time. Dedicate one machine for this purpose. If it is desired to view the rad. data semi-real time under WIN95-98-NT (and/or on a network), use Aware's AW-FETCH program (additional cost) to periodically transfer data from Real Mode PC to the WIN network PC. For a large complex, one could scatter several real mode PC's around the complex, with up to eight RMs per PC, all connected to WIN Master PC by way of AW-FETCH and standard modems, radio modems, direct serial port connection (approx. 1000 feet), etc. (Direct serial port connection can daisy chain several remote PCs by inserting a diode in-line with each remote PC's transmitter out RS232 pin. Radio modems can share the same channel).

Never-the-less, for reasons given near bottom of Running with Windows one WIN 95-98-NT PC can be used with up to eight RMs in a professional environment with very satisfactory results.

For a typical multi RM setup, see multi-rm.txt file on the disk supplied with the RM.

More Tech. Info. About IRQs

Normally it is no problem finding at least four IRQs on a typical PC that can be used for collection of rad. data from four RMs, without compromising other operations, namely four of the following: IRQ 3,4,5,7,9 and 10.

We are able to use the following IRQs with the above pictured serial card, on our office PC (Pentium PCI, Award PnP Bios with PCI SVGA, four IDE hard drives using IDE controller on motherboard): IRQ 3,4,5,6,7,9,10,11. This allows eight RMs plugged into the PC, using two of the above serial cards, with each RM using a separate IRQ. We should also be able to use IRQ 12 except for a design flaw in the generic motherboard used in our PC (see below). Note we are not using a mouse or sound card or any other card that might use one of these IRQs.

Following is more info. about IRQ usage:

IRQs 3 and 4 are normally used with serial ports(COM ports). IRQs 5 and 7 are normally used with printer ports (LPT ports). Even if the PC has LPT ports installed, one can still use IRQ 5 and 7 for installed serial ports because the IRQ line in the printer port is not connected to the IRQ line in the PC unless software turns on the IRQ line in the printer port. Since most if not all printing programs never turn on the IRQ in a printer port, one can use the LPT IRQs with the serial cards, collect radiation data through the serial port, while at the same time print through the LPT port with no problem.

IRQ 6 is normally used with the floppy disk controller. If one needs to use IRQ 6 for a serial port (the above serial card allows the use of IRQ 6), depending on the PC, on boot-up, one can enter the BIOS setup screen and disable on-board floppy disk controller, after which IRQ 6 will be free for use with the above card. The floppy disk will not be available during this time but one need merely re-enable the floppy disk controller to use it. The IRQ 6 serial card can remain in the PC's ISA slot even while using the floppy disk because like the LPT ports, the COM port IRQ line is not actually connected to the PC's IRQ line unless software turns on the COM port's IRQ line. (The LPT and COM port IRQ drivers are tri-state and default to a floating output).

On a modern PC with PCI bus and PnP (Plug and Play) technology, often IRQ 11 is used for the PnP BIOS auto-config steering circuit (used to provide auto assigned IRQ for any PCI card that might need to use an IRQ) which means normally IRQ 11 line on the ISA bus is not connected to the main bus (the PCI controller chip connects the ISA bus to the main bus). In such a case, to use IRQ 11 with the above serial card, at boot-up enter setup, find "PCI Configuration Setup" and set PnP BIOS Auto-Config to "Disabled" (terminology used by Award Bios). On our office PC with PCI, Award PnP BIOS, SVGA PCI card, on-board IDE hard drives, disabling PnP BIOS Auto-Config makes no difference to the performance of the machine but allows the use of IRQ 11 with the above serial card.

IRQ 12 is normally used with the built-in PS/2 mouse. In such a case, to use IRQ 12, one must disable the PS/2 mouse controller (Aware software doesn't need the mouse. Even WINDOWS can be executed without a mouse). On some PCs it might not be obvious how to disable the PS/2 mouse controller. Most often a PC with PS/2 mouse port uses the keyboard CPU to also interface with the PS/2 mouse. Also, a problem can arise when using IRQ 12 even on PCs without a PS/2 mouse port in that the motherboard might include a generic keyboard controller chip that has the ability to handle a PS/2 mouse, even though there is no PS/2 mouse port. This is the case with our office PC (8042 chip with additional unknown commands and a connection to IRQ 12). The keyboard CPU in our office machine connects to the IRQ 12 line, shorts it out and makes it useless for any purpose, even though the motherboard has no PS/2 mouse plug. If we try to use a serial port configured to use IRQ 12, the only time our software receives anywhere near the full complement of interrupts is when one holds down a key on the keyboard. Apparently operating the keyboard distracts the keyboard CPU long enough to allow a window of time when it is not shorting out and making useless the IRQ 12 line. Due to this possible design flaw, if one uses IRQ 12 with a serial port for radiation data collection, it is advisable that one check the operation of the system against the operation of another serial port with another IRQ to rule out the possibility of this design flaw interfering with the use of IRQ 12.


For the professional user of Aware RM systems we have a software package AW-RAD-PRO. It includes the ability to use shared IRQs. It stores rad. data from up to eight RMs in one data file.

The software includes AW-MDATA.COM program that can run either in TSR or normal mode. As indicated above, it monitors up to eight RMs (and/or PMI-30s), writes all data to one disk file, displays real time data, and controls alarms. Each channel has a high alarm and low alarm. (The low alarm is useful for auto-detecting a fault).

Aw-mdata.com can trigger external devices when any of the alarms are exceeded, by using up to three LPT ports. You can direct the software to bring high a pin in the LPT port when a channel's alarm has been triggered. The pin in the LPT port corresponds with the channel #. You can choose either high alarm to LPT port, low alarm to LPT port or both high and low alarm to LPT port. You can use up to three separate LPT ports (one for high alarm, one for low alarm and one for both alarms), or any combination thereof. The pop up TSR (or normal mode) control window allows you to change the alarm trigger points at will.

The control window includes all current values as well as up to 8 auto scaling, auto scrolling mini graphs (text mode scrolling bar charts). AW-GRAPH can be used to view the data real-time as well.

An auto-load program (AW-LOADM.EXE) is included. It reads an ASCII text file containing all the setup parameters. It will automatically create a new unique file for the data, or use a filename supplied as a command line argument. It can be triggered from the command line or a batch file, including the AUTOEXEC.BAT file.

A powerful utility program (AW-SPAWN.EXE) is included which monitors the TSR program memory area and will run any other program with high alarm, low alarm, or both, and can run a distinct program for each channel. This can trigger a program such as AW-PHONE.EXE which will phone a remote location, beeper, etc. Aw-spawn.exe can write to screen a summary of alarm triggers. It will also periodically feed a printer with rad. data and with each excursion through an alarm set-point. It can supply each alarm "spawned" program with a different set of command line arguments, including channel number, current value of the channel, and an indication of high alarm or low alarm. AW-SPAWN also generates a visual display of up to 64 channels, including alarm condition. AW-SPAWN gets setup info from an ASCII text file.

AW-PHONE.EXE can be triggered by AW-SPAWN and beep a remote phone to tell listener which channel has exceeded alarm set point. It can keep trying until it receives an answer, or retry a finite number of times, then return to AW-SPAWN. AW-SPAWN can re-trigger AW-PHONE (or any other program) that reports an unsuccessful link, after AW-SPAWN scans the other channels and triggers any other program(s) relating to the other channels.

The utility program DSECTION.EXE can split a large multi-rad data file into smaller parts, according to Date-Time strings or data points. This allows you to segment out, for example, one day, week, month, etc., from a file created over a year, or longer, to allow plotting, reporting, of smaller time periods.

Another utility program (MAK-DASC.EXE) converts a binary multi-rad file into an ASCII file with time codes (optionally with LOTUS 123, QUATTRO-PRO, EXCEL, UNIX-C time codes, and\or Date-Time string).

The complete AW-RAD-PRO package, including AW-MDATA, AW-LOADM, AW-SPAWN, AW-GRAPH, MAK-DASC, TSRCLEAR, AW-PHONE costs $390. In addition, all the standard software is included. LPT alarm interface board including eight relays, connector and cable: $149 For more info phone: (800)729-5397 or phone/fax:+(320)655-3800.


Email aware@aw-el.com

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