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I'm trying to update a setup of a shipping and packaging unit, that makes use of two Digi ST-1032 'Terminal Server' units. I find it a strange name for the devices, but pre-the-nineties it apparently was the name for a device that offers a number of serial ports over a suitable bundled back-end, in this case SCSI.

The friendly people over at http://digi.com informed me they no longer support the device for about a decade, and no Windows XP drivers were written. So for now it looks like I'm stuck with the two (aging) NT4 servers that run the software controlling all the serial barcode-scanners and thermal printers that are connected.

What are my options, and what would you do? This is what I can come up with so far:

  • Keep the NT4 servers, just keep developing the software using the same Delphi 6 in use since the start.
  • Try to find out how to connect to the device directly and talk its speak. (I've been peeping around http://ftp1.digi.com but haven't found anything, I did saw some linux support when googling around, though.)
  • Upgrade the server hardware, but install Windows 2000 Server, which should be able to run the NT-drivers.
  • Install a virtual platform (e.g. VMWare) that is capable of patching through the SCSI device to a virtual image running NT4 or AIX or anything that can run the drivers, and use a homebrewn client-server or something like http://com0com.sf.net to patch the serial ports through to a decent server running the software.
  • Demand the budget get expanded to include new port-switches and retire the old SCSI ones (together with the NT4 servers)
  • Try to fit into current budget about 60 single USB-to-serial or TCP/IP-to-serial adapters (and learn to pray it works in seven languages)
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Update: I've had one more go at getting the thing to work on WinXP once more. From peeking in the registry, it appears the ancient install gets sts.sys to run, but the service registry key has an extra INITSTARTFAILED=1 DWORD value, and the Enum\Root\LEGACY_STS key isn't created, so I suspect the internal device doesn't get created. So I'll stick to the Win2k option for now. I also started this question: serverfault.com/questions/122875/… –  Stijn Sanders Mar 24 '10 at 22:23
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3 Answers

Option 5 is my bet.

(Aside - you won't be running an AIX guest under VMware. VMware is x86 virtualization, AIX runs on RS6000 or Power chips - totally different architectures.)

I would recommend that the software you're writing should depend on currently-supported hardware, so I'd look into the devices that come from the link @chris posted, or that EtherLite that you linked to, or anything else currently sold and supported by reputable manufactures. Since you're already familiar with Digi, maybe you should stick with them and ask them what the best thing to migrate to would be. Maybe they have something new that speaks a similar language to what you're used to with the old 1032 units.

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Its unlikely that VMware (or any other virtualization) will be able to expose an odd piece of hardware to a VM. –  Craig Mar 2 '10 at 20:25
    
I mentionned AIX because digi still provides legacy drivers for that system. If I have a quick peek on this 1.0.8 VMWare I have here, it allows me to add a 'Generic SCSI device', and connect it to a physical device. –  Stijn Sanders Mar 3 '10 at 7:11
    
@Stijn - but you will never be able to run AIX under VMware. Period. VMware is only for x86 virtualization, and they don't have AIX running on x86. –  mfinni Mar 3 '10 at 14:28
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What does this thing and the card it's plugged into look like?

PCI? ISA?

I've used similar "giant pile of serial port" devices in the past and basically you've got a bus extender to a box that has a stack of 16550 serial ports at exotic addresses. On the ones I've used, the thing that looks like "SCSI" is actually just a connector that connects the bus from the card to the box that has the electronics -- it isn't scsi or anything weird, just ISA with buffers to deal with the timing issues.

If it is just a box of 16550s, drivers in this case aren't really an issue.

Try booting the box off of linux and see if it finds the serial ports. Try drivers from companies that make similar devices, such as this place and see if they work.

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It looks much like a network switch/hub, with RJ45's at the front and two SCSI2 at the back, with dip-switches to set the SCSI-ID and termination. 'scsiscan' actually lists the device, which inspired my second option I listed. –  Stijn Sanders Mar 3 '10 at 7:13
    
Yeah, sorry for the misdirection -- in the early 90's they did make scsi terminal servers for the unix workstation market but they're rare as hen's teeth. What you have is officially impossible to support. –  chris Mar 3 '10 at 12:54
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Like Chris, I've never heard of a Digi board that plugged into a SCSI port. We had a smallish Digi board many years ago to get about 8 serial ports on one PC for a guy who had to log the readings from a bunch of electrical meters, but that just plugged into an ISA slot. When the time came to replace that, we were lucky that he didn't need quite as many serial ports and we got a PC with 4 onboard and then got a couple serial-USB converters.

If you don't need too many ports, you could go with serial-USB, otherwise the Etherlite products don't seem too expensive,

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