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Serious compatibility problem with NI DAQ card PCI-6733?


I have encountered a serious compatibility problem with National Instruments (NI) data acquisition device PCI-6733. The observation is related to a wide-ranging research at the Tampere University of Technology, Department of Signal Processing. At the present, my PCI-6733 works only with a single PC. For example, running the card with a recently purchased HP Compaq dx2250 results in error messages etc. Even the NI's Measurement & Automation Explorer software's self-testing fails totally. Only old PC-hardware appears to work with PCI-6733, and I'm running the damn device on a legacy PC with MSI845 Pro2 motherboard, 1700MHz Pentium4 processor and 1.5 GB 133 MHz SDRAM memory.


For some reason, the NI's customer support provides no tips or possible solutions to this rather odd problem (although they admit that the compatibility problem exists, and at least one other user has reported the same problem). Recent software updates have not been helpful either. As the PCI-6733 is still quite an expensive piece of equipment, you could expect some immediate action, but so far NI's support has been negligible. Could anyone inform me, e.g., of other possible PC components that provide trouble-free performance?


Thanks in advance,


Jarmo Kauppila

Department of Signal Processing
Tampere University of Technology

jarmo.kauppila (at) tut.fi
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Jarmo,

I am sorry you have run into so many apparent compatibility problems using the PCI-6733.  From time to time we receive similar reports of compatibility problems using various of our boards with specific computers.  In general most customers are successful and do not run into these problems, but when these problems occur they can be very difficult to diagnose and even harder to understand fully.  

In a few cases we have requested that a customer send us (National Instruments R&D) their system to be able to further diagnose and explore the problem.  In most if not all of these cases the issue has been with the chipset or the computer rather than some design flaw in our board.  It is very hard to motivate a manufacturer that makes 1000s or millions of these computers or chipsets to modify their design, even if it is incorrect.  In some cases we can work around these issues in software, but in many of them we cannot.

We cannot possible test every chipset that exists on the market or every computer that comes out from every manufacturer.  We are continually working to have a more diverse set of computers, but some computers will still end up with issues.  Unfortunately, these cases can be very frustrating as you have discovered.

To speak to your specific configuration, I would like to make a few points and would like to ask a few questions:

First, one source of incompatibility is the addition of a PCI Express bridge between the PCI bus and the PCI Express bus.  In most computers that support PCI Express (Such as the HP DX2200), the chipset is actually natively PCI Express and a PCI to PCI Express bridge is placed between the PCI bus and the PCI Express bus.  Depending on the performance and behavior of this chip we have seen issues.  We have even updated boards to overcome issues presented by these bridges.  Could you let us know what bridge is used in the computers that do not work?  Also could you provide the part number of the 6733s that you have.  The part number should be written on the board and should be something like 187992E-01.

Second, the power requirements for our boards must be met by the bus.  In some cases, more notably on industrial computers, some of the power rails that are typically supplied a PCI bus are missing.  Our boards, including the PCI-6733 require the 3.3 V, 5 V and 12 V rails.  If any of these rails are missing this can prevent the card from operating properly.  In other cases this power rail has excessive noise or could not provide the power necessary.  These cases are very rare but have surfaced before.

Third, in general, a typical Dell Precision is a good choice when using our hardware. I am by no means trying to make a sweeping recommendation or say that Dells are the only computer that will work.  I say this only since many of our employees use Dells, so problems are usually identified earlier.

Hopefully this information has been helpful.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if there is anything I can do to help.

Regards,

Neil S.
Product Support Engineer
Multifunction DAQ
Research & Development
National Instruments
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Neil,


Thanks for your quick and detailed answer.


Overcoming newly purchased dx2250 sources of incompatibility interest me the most. To go to your questions, the north bridge of dx2250 appears to be ATI RS485 and south bridge ATI SB600 chipset. The motherboard is much likely MSI 0A7C (maybe also sold as model MS-7242) with ATI Radeon XPRESS 1150. If it helps, PCI is possibly on the base of Realtek RTL8100C controller, but power specifications of the PCI bus are unclear. Do you know if the 3.3V, 5V and 12V rails are missing with MSI 0A7C? Are there any known compatibility problems with the above chipsets? My PCI-6733's part number is 187992D-01.

Thanks also for recommending a Dell computer with the PCI-6733. After all the trouble I’ve seen, you learn to appreciate this sort of tips.


Regards,

Jarmo Kauppila

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