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Here's the scenario: A small boat (15-35ft) traveling on choppy or rough seas at various speeds can encounter several different kinds of motion, and that motion can shift very suddenly from going in one direction to going in a perpendicular or opposite direction. With the wrong hull design, cruising speeds or wave crest spacings, resonant vibrations can develop that can practically shake your teeth out of your head at times. Go over a big wave the wrong way and you can find yourself doing a belly-flop or nose-dive a dozen or more feet down into the trough behind it, with a nice resounding thump. Again entirely dependent on hull design and angle of incidence, but the harder you hit the water, the harder it hits back. Then there is the lovely continuous rocking (technically, pitching) and rolling that never really stops when you're in unprotected waters, and can vary from -85 to 85 degrees from one moment to the next. I can't imagine any of this motion being good for any kind of hard drive.
Now, a computer like a laptop or the Mac mini has a notebook-size 2.5" hard drive, which by all accounts will be more resistant to G-force shocks than a typical desktop-size 3.5" hard drive. I've read that this is mostly because of their use of "ramp load/unload" technology, where the drive head never touches the platters. Recently some desktop hard drives have started to use this ramp loading technology, so does that mean those desktop drives will be just as shock-resistant as notebook drives, or is the size difference also important? And just how motion resistant are the notebook drives, in a practical outside-the-testing-lab sense?
Some laptops and even drives these days also have motion sensors that will trigger the drive to park the heads during excessive movement, like when a laptop gets pulled off a table onto the floor. I have to guess on this but I'm suspecting these motion sensing systems would get triggered far too often, possibly interrupting the computer during important read or write activities, at best causing a performance hit and at worst crashing the system if it happens too often. So this doesn't seem like the ultimate solution for a drive that may be affected by nearly continuous strong G-forces.
Is anyone here experienced with building systems like this? I'm not talking about a typical car-PC traveling around on mostly paved city streets, I'm talking about a system that will stay functional and reliable while strapped in the back of a racing pickup while it goes through a thousand-mile off-road race through the Mojave desert. Does any company make mounting systems specifically for this kind of use, or is it totally nonsensical to expect any hard drive to survive under such conditions? My Google-fu may not be the best in the world, but I can usually ferret out what I'm looking for, and I've found basically zilch on ruggedized hard drives or mounting systems for either hard drives or computers in high G-force environments.
Keep in mind, one of my main goals is to keep costs as low as possible, so it would be interesting but pointless to discuss commercial solutions that cost a small fortune. The available specialized marine computer systems I saw seem to be designed for large commercial vessels and are horrendously expensive. We aren't talking about military clients here, just regular people who happen to live and/or work on boats. I just want to be able to take a regular computer and make a few ehancements that would allow it to be used on a boat reliably for years under any possible circumstances. Thus one of the main problems with solid-state media, it would cost 3-5 times as much to get 1/10th to 1/5th of the storage capacity, and that's comparing it to notebook hard drives. 160GB notebook HDD = $110, 16GB UDMA CompactFlash card = $300. With desktop hard drives the cost vs. capacity gap widens even further.
This is even more of a problem because one of the main advantages to using a system like the Mac mini would be its ability to run Windows in a virtual machine for access to a lot of Windows-only navigation, mapping/charting and GPS software as well as Windows-only drivers for GPS hardware, while still having access to the great stability and usability experience of Mac OS X, including the multimedia aspects like gigs of music and MP4/DivX rips of movies. The most recent versions of Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion both have snapshotting and reversion capabilities which would make it incredibly simple for non-technical users to recover from Windows software glitches while out at sea, and keep their software navigation systems working under almost any circumstances. But installing multiple operating systems (and keeping backups) and having access to all those multimedia files means you need plenty of disk space. For most people, obtaining an adequate amount of solid-state storage to really replace a 100+ gigabyte hard drive would be very cost-prohibitive.
If you were tasked with "ruggedizing" a computer system for use under similar circumstances, how would you go about it? How would you make a mounting system to protect a computer from G-forces that may sometimes be the equivalent of, let's say, being dropped on a carpeted floor from about desk height, over and over again? I don't think a couple of rubber feet will be quite enough, and I'm very interested in hearing ideas on simple padding and suspension systems that could isolate a computer from this level of G-shock. A bungie-cord type suspension system would probably just exacerbate the bouncing motion. It would need to be something different, something that would really dampen sudden motion rather than reacting to it. My only idea so far is complicated, probably expensive, and has something to do with counterweights, pulleys, copper tubing and neodymium magnets. Alternatives are welcome, as are any comments pointing out that I'm being ridiculous for thinking computers are so delicate. Am I? Please back up any such statements with references, of course."
To reduce load on their servers here are some Coralized versions of all the links above:We are pleased to announce that TrueCrypt 4.3 has been released. Among the new features is full compatibility with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista, support for devices and file systems that use a sector size other than 512 bytes (such as new hard drives, USB flash drives, DVD-RAM, MP3 players, etc.), auto-dismount when a host device (e.g., a USB flash drive) is inadvertently removed, and many more. In addition to new features, there are many significant improvements.
TrueCrypt home page
Future development goals
Forum thread about Mac OS X version
At least one software package I've seen can create 3D patterns from grayscale images. Are these sorts of graphics out there but only available to businesses who can afford to spend vast amounts of money to acquire them for commercial reproductions? What about all those computer reproductions they show on places like the History Channel, is all that stuff created from scratch or what? How would an individual who wanted to do for instance a reproduction in miniature of ancient Athens get access to the necessary data files to do it?
As a complementary question, if you were tasked with recording physical objects in 3D, how would you go about it, short of an MRI machine or 3D probe? What methods and software are out there for converting 2D images to 3D data? Is there some way to convert (for instance) stereoscopic image pairs into true 3D information? What other methods can be used to create detailed 3D patterns short of recreating objects from scratch with expensive CAD applications?"