All ICE products come with a 1-year limited warranty. Our return-for-repair rate over the last 4 years has been < 1% including cards outside the warranty period. To date, ICE has repaired or replaced every defective card ever produced by ICE for free, even those out of warranty. There are a few EPROM upgrades for the PCI interface that may be beneficial for some applications. A new version of the ICE software tree is released roughly every two months. In a few instances, new cards with new EPROMS will require a new software tree for proper operation. All software is designed to be backward compatible. The latest release of the ICE tree will support all cards in service. We do not guarantee new cards to work with old software. The following information is our attempt to justify our position on upgrades though we understand it cannot satisfy everyone completely.
Goal: products that do not break ... Simple Well Balanced Designs
All ICE products are designed with conservative power budgets and a minimal parts count. Board layout is also performed by hand to further minimize the number of possible failure modes. If you experience a problem, first check cables and configuration settings. Most problems with I/O Modules are bent pins or improper switch connections somewhere up the line. Another diagnosing technique is to take the suspected card and replace it with another card to see if the problem goes away. If you have the capability you can also try using the suspect card in another system to see if the problem follows the card. If you still find a problem with the card, please call us with the product in the system and we can help diagnose the situation.
Goal: software that can be maintained and enhanced by an appropriate number of qualified programmers ... Open Source Code
Our open source software policy allows engineers to deal with unexpected problems that arise in today's complex computer systems. New platforms and operating system patch levels sometimes require tweaks to driver code to meet interfaces changes. This is rare, but important. The high level interface libraries are designed to let the application programmer get at everything on the card, but there is a balance between flexibility and maintainability. Some applications may need to modify the ICE tree to get what they want and can do so easily. You must, of course, send any changes back to ICE if you want them in the next release.
To develop a compatibility matrix for ICE products, there are at least six configuration variables to consider:
- Low level drivers for nine different Operating Systems - (plus various versions and patch levels of each)
- PCI 5V/3V, 32b/64b, 33/66MHz on 20+ different hardware platforms
- Eight models of ICE cards in service (oldest is PIC2 at 5 years)
- Nine different IOC gate array configurations for each model card
- Four versions of digital tuner chips in use on different cards
- Eighteen different types of I/O modules in production
Disregarding the 20+ hardware platforms and software modes, there are still 839808 possible configurations.
What We Have Done for ICE 3.1.0.
To help large sites with maintenance issues, the ICE 310 release added routines to automatically detect the driver version and PCI EPROM versions for all ICE cards found on the system. Unfortunately, it cannot tell the driver version for releases prior to 310. That would be forward compatible code. New versions of the ICE software tree are designed to be fully backward compatible. It is safe to load the 310 driver for the detection function and still run older ICE option tree's user level code on top of the new driver. The new maintenance features include:
- backward compatible support for all cards in service
- drivers for all Operating Systems now have the ability to return the current version
- all EPROM's ship with version written on as well as in the part (for checking uninstalled cards)
- software DETECT function to sniff out all cards on the system and report EPROM and driver versions
ICE has also contracted professional documentation services from Low Noise Floor for future user/maintenance guides.
ICE Spares Pools
We have put together a page presenting a few possible sparing scenarios.
To be able to develop code for the MBT4, we ran into some interesting upgrade issues of our own.
- New Xilinx software was not supported on a 3-year-old computer running Windows 98.
- A 2-year-old HP printer installation on 1-year-old Windows XP? Three days, 4 hours of online support, and 2 computers later, no luck.
- Ended up having to have two Windows computers in the office. Ugh.
- Bought an identical model Linksys ethernet card to replace a failed card. It actually used a completely different chip set. New drivers were required.
- Midas community writes and maintains drivers and primitives for both competitor's products. Average card cost $12-20,000.
- ICE writes its own drivers and primitives, and has no maintenance contracts. Average card cost $3-7000.
What We Could Use From The Community
As is the case with all open source projects, ICE needs feedback from the user base. From the Midas community it would be nice to get:
- DRs when problems arise with different configurations.
- Installation feedback on Midas Forge User's Groups.
- An editable in-compatibility chart on Midas Forge for ICE and the community to fill in
ICE MasterCard Commercial
This was to be our final appeal slide at a briefing. The point being, we are happy to provide support, maintenance utilities, and repair service for our customers but are not able (or qualified) to coordinate the configuration control issues at all of our customer sites. We will do most anything short of that.