Computers Hiding as Solid State Devices

Prejudice. That is what it’s about. There is an old argument in the Pro AV industry about not using computers as video playback devices, or control systems, or anything else you can imagine that is mission critical.

I remember a few years ago on a certain project in Texas where the AV guys (I was the software consultant) absolutely refused to consider using an off the shelf Dell computer and a custom video playback app to run video to the screens. The options given to us were an Alcorn DVM-HD or a GVG Turbo. I mentioned to them that both of these systems were actually embedded PC’s with a custom PCI-E video output card (one ran XP pro embedded and the other some sort of Linux distro, or maybe even DOS- who knows). However, this didn’t seem to matter. it was all about how the non-computer felt and looked in the racks (and, they even threw the old argument- there isn’t enough rackspace). Come on, really? Maybe they didn’t trust my custom software solution, but Josh and I were building the master show control system running on multiple PC’s and servers, so I don’t see the logic.

Anyways, that project had a truckload of problems concerning video playback. My argument was that it’s the idiosyncrasies that end up dictating how these systems are run, and by holistically controlling one of the more important parts of the project (the video playback engine) we controlled the idiosyncrasies. After the system finally ended up stabilizing by buying twice as many devices (because the dual channel capability actually didn’t work too well in practice) the main issue was that the 74GB HDD size was way too small, but it was the biggest WD raptor drive available. oh well.

So, back to mission critical stuff running on PC’s. Here is a story about BAE systems installing Win XP & 2k as a mission critical command and control system in the Royal Navy’s Trafalgar and Vanguard class nuclear subs:

BAE Win XP and Win2k on subs

How about that? If we dial it back to the level of AV systems, consider personal mission critical stuff. Like your communications device. I bought an iPhone last week. It’s basically a mini computer. it’s now loaded with over 40 applications, and who knows who wrote these things? I’m not afraid this thing is going to “crash” if I dial 911, why would you be afraid if a video screen somewhere glitches for an hour or two? It’s obviously different if you are in a theatre situation, but that is what backup hardware, and, ahem, professional quality code and professional project management, is for.

PS, there is a whole slew of pictures on the internet of random massive LED screens in times square and other places showing windows error screens that stay up for DAYS. That’s just pathetic and reeks of poor planning. Why would you drop 1+ mil on that thing and not have a plan to service & monitor it?

here are some fun pics