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I have to create an application which will run in or near a kitchen. That means high humidity, temperature, and perhaps even fat splatter.

I doubt standard PC hardware will work very long under these conditions.

I know there are some notebooks available, which are designed for extreme weather conditions which can even handle drops from high altitude, but those are very expensive. Perhaps there's something in between.

Is there any hardware available, which can be used here and doesn't cost a fortune?

A PC would be perfect, but anything capable of running Java would do as well.

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is an embedded system an option, or you need a full pc? –  Nick Kavadias Oct 6 '09 at 16:37
    
Yes, if it fully supports J2SE including Swing and Co., i.e. no subset like J2ME. –  Daniel Rikowski Oct 6 '09 at 16:49
    
So what are we talking about here, a professional kitchen and special order/menu software, or your kitchen and recipes you can find online? –  Ernie Oct 6 '09 at 16:53
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Professional kitchen :) –  Daniel Rikowski Oct 6 '09 at 16:54
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6 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Frequently, this kind of hazardous computing environment is accomplished using thin clients terminals. Thin clients will generally have no problem being enclosed in a NEMA enclosure, impervious to heat or moisture.

If you're feeling adventurous, you could buy a demarc NID Enclosure (from ebay or from your local electronics supply store), and mount a mini-ITX system like this one inside. Put the OS on a flash drive, and you're in business.

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I was just about to post the exact same thing. There are a lot of medical-grade components that can be wall or bench mounted (and thus wiped down with a normal cloth), and usually covered in latext to keep moisture out, and a thin client that generates almost no heat to connect to a terminal server of some sort. –  Mark Henderson Oct 6 '09 at 20:17
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If you can place the PC in a relatively safe location (like inside a cabinet), you don't necessarily need a hardened PC... Just hardened input/output devices.

There are keyboards made of membranes that you can rinse off. You could also house a standard monitor behind glass or plastic.

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A low performance machine that produces little heat might be the way to go. Perhaps with some extra airflow. I doubt it'll be an issue, but maybe a Core 2 Duo with an aftermarket cooler. If necessary, step back the clock on it. You can also buy heat spreaders for memory, though I really doubt that it'll be necessary if the computer its self is protected from splatter and can get sufficient airflow. I would recommend staying inside the relatively newer Intel Processors (Pentium M, Core 2, i5/i7) as they have lower power usage.

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If you can get away with a 600mhz CPU, a device like a Gumstix or a Beagleboard that uses an OMAP3530 CPU and it'll run all day at 150F. Gumstix rates theirs up to 85C (about 175F).

http://www.gumstix.com/

http://beagleboard.org/

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Don't overcomplicate.

  • Use a high-quality PC from a vendor like Lenovo
  • Configure it with the lowest voltage CPUs available
  • Use SSDs disk if possible
  • Give the customer a manual with advice like "Do not spray with hose", "Do not place in dishwasher", etc.
  • If you're selling/building a solution, price in or provide a fee schedule for the cost of replacement or maintenance.

Forget about the exotic crap. A tough, survivable dumb terminal requires a server -- you're reducing the risk of one type of failure, and introducing new types. (ie. network, server). You can spend $10k on a bulletproof Toughbook, but when your end users spill a bucket of grease on it, it's still "down". The computer may work, but nobody's going to use it.

I have a friend who is a mechanic. New York State DMV requires all mechanics who perform annual inspections to use a computer purchased from the state to pull data and run diagnostics from every car and report back to DMV. My mechanic friend bought his IBM PC in 2004 or so and it sits on a 35 gallon drum of transmission fluid sitting on a dolly. (so he can wheel it closer to the car he's working on) To the right of it is a bench grinder (think flying bits of metal coated in oily crud). To the left a container for waste oil. It hasn't broken yet -- if it does, the cost to replace is about $750.

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I could only recommend those expensive laptops you mention - such as the Panasonic Toughbook range.

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