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System Integration

Starting with the only given being that the hardware is of solid quality; the challenge of the modern computer is in integrating the components into a working  whole; both functional and productive for the user. Not only is a detailed understanding of the hardware necessary; but, just as important is the knowledge of how the application software will interact with the operating system and hardware platform beneath it.

Their may be many technicians or engineers that can assemble a Pentium III with three com ports, two printer ports, three hard disk drives, with a CDRom and sound, that is on an ethernet network with SCSI, USB, a modem, and an internal PCMCIA adapter all functioning; but not many could have all of it functioning and be stable under Microsoft's wonderful Windows 98.

Each release of Windows has been published with hardware drivers that were always at least a year older and, when major hardware platforms have changed during that time, I have personally seen as many as 80% of the systems needing service having their primary problem be that the drivers were never correct in the first place. There is almost always a driver found, but it can often be the wrong one and if the hardware is running the wrong drivers, the system is prone to literal plagues of bizarre and mysterious behavior.

So, the first task of the integrator is to ensure that the system is running the O/S properly and that the devices are stable in the resources they use. This can be a tricky task, particularly when the system needs at least twenty interrupts to be happy. When this happens, the solution becomes an art form wherein the hardware behaves because of the choices made for each device.

Even after it is all working, there is still the issue of making the system be usable.

Applications and device specific software, such as that needed to use a CD R/W or digital camera, must be installed. Network access, including internet, needs to be configured. Icon's need to be made handy for the user, the software needs to be tested using the hardware associated with it, structures for saving work need to be created and set up, and backup procedures must be established.

Most computers I have seen would be far more productive if they had been properly integrated and set up. Far too many systems cost their owner's literally hundreds of hours per year in time lost. Time is wasted in launching programs, searching for the correct file to open, or getting some device to work properly. A mere fifteen minutes daily quickly becomes far more meaningful when you realize it is 61+ hours per year.

The reason it is not done is the cost. Usually the hardware can be properly set up in about three hours, unless it is very complex. Installing the programs is one of those bottomless pits. How many programs need to be installed and which of them will need updates to work? And then there is the task of setting up default file locations and making the system user friendly, which is an interactive task requiring the user's input.

Wouldn't it be nice to know that everything is working properly, that all of your data is really being backed up, and to have all the programs you use neatly arranged for handy use?

When all is said and done, an average system needs about one to two days and a complex system takes three or four.

At the currect rate of $100.00 and up per hour, few companies have been willing to spend the $1,000 plus per system to have them professionally integrated, even though it is truly a pennywise, but pound foolish decision.

A fully integrated computer system is easier to use, function's properly, and is the productive tool that it should be.

The integrator's task is to provide the user with a system that does what it is supposed to do with a minimum of training, day, after day, after day.....

If you have a system that you would like to have integrated, click the icon.

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and Design

There are many aspects to design and there are several types, as well.

System design is actually the precursor to integration. Depending on the use that the computer will be put to, there are requirements and specifications that need to be met for both functionality and speed. A system to be used for broadcast video editing has a completely different hardware needs than a system to be used for word processing or web authoring. Digital photography or imageing requires completely different hardware from a gaming machine.

The first step in purchasing a new computer or in adding new capability to an existing one is this type of system design. What you want to be able to do with the system determines what hardware will need to be supplied and integrated.

A second type of design is actually more akin to a redesign or update. An existing system is either outdated or has proven to be unreliable.

Many older business applications are still serving their function perfectly well; but, there has been growth or the hardware is aging and needs to be replaced. Far too often the local "expert" is not familiar with the operating system in use and reccomends total replacement when all that is needed is the transfer of the software to a newer and faster hardware platform. Many versions of Novell, Unix, CCP/M, PIC, and other lesser known operating systems can easily be moved to a new hardware base as long as a few specific requirements are met. Users notice the system is suddenly several times faster and the business avoids the confusion and productivity loss while learning to use new software.

A complex system may prove to be unreliable because of the choices made for the various components; hardware or software. Most major hardware manufacturers make extremely reliable products; but some of them do not mix well with other manufacturers products. Excessively rich featured drivers can be intrusive and cause problems, ironically most often with another device, which confuses matters to no end.

Even systems that are working beautifully need a periodic design review. Rapid changes in products often result in greater capabilities at a much lower cost . New software products can often replace custom written applications or make the system more useable.

The third type of design is, simply put, electronic engineering. Hopefully, this is either a simple project such as an interface between a digital camera and a serial port, or is part of an entirely new product in development. At this point, it is an exhorbitant and expensive mistake unless thorough research has found no "off the shelf" replacement to be available.

If you need assistance with system design, platform updating, redesign, or engineering, click the icon.

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