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How to Make Retrofits Work With Legacy Systems

Dec. 8, 2014
What's Old Is New
About the Author:

Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Pollard has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.

Legacy is experience, and experience is relevance. And boy did I find that out in a hurry.

A customer of mine has an IBM computer with a Rockwell 1784-PKTx card running Wonderware 6.0 under Windows NT. They powered it down for some silly reason and blew the power supply.

A newer retrofitted power supply was used, but the computer didn't spark up. That made them very nervous since this is the only SCADA node that they had to run their conveyance system.

So a legacy system that went poof creates a huge amount of relevance for experience, yes? Like whom do you know who has experience with Windows NT, Wonderware, Rockwell Automation's Data Highway Plus and PCI-based communication cards?

They were lucky they are my customer. So I get the phone call. Sure, no problem. I was sure it was Windows 95, and a migration to Windows XP would be easy. It had to be Windows XP because they didn't want to pay for upgrading Wonderware since the application worked well, and it wasn't going to change — a common refrain, I'm sure.

The original PKTx card was going to be used. First brain cramp — the PKTx is a full-height PCI card. The computer I bought was a slim line, thinking the PCI slots were sideways, but nope. So, a full-height box was purchased.

So, first, off the blocks when I arrive — oh, it's NT. How do I back up the box or even get the application files off this beast? USB, of course. No drivers, so I whip out my cell phone, create a hotspot, download the drivers for NT and for USB and install. Nope. I couldn't do that since I didn't have a floppy with me. My Netbook didn't have a CD burner, nor did any of the machines at the client's facility.

Also Read: Control Software Is Sweeter in Suites

So, after getting a CD burned and installing the USB drivers, I plugged in the 64 GB USB stick, which promptly was not recognized, and the machine hung. Oh no, I thought, a power cycle.

And my fears were greeted with a blinking light and no power. So, before I could even start the process, I had terminated the work schedule for the original PC, or so I thought. Twenty minutes later, it fired up. Comical.

So, armed with a bit more information, I put XP on the new box and installed everything. All was good, except for testing the communications, since it is card-based. I couldn't take the existing one out, so I had to buy a new card. At $3,400 for new, here I decided to visit www.plchardware.com. Seven hundred bucks Canadian sounds a lot better, doesn't it?

Now, this is where the fun really begins. The I/O driver I had was too old and didn't run on XP. But the new one will, won't it? But, where to find it?
I was introduced to Christophe Joubert, who works with Invensys/Wonderware support for eastern Canada. Remember, I am not a customer of theirs, and this stuff is way old. And he actually responded to me. He zipped up the latest I/O server for me to test and emailed it.

I fought with it a bit, and, after a few emails and some Internet reading, I needed the infrastructure installed (FactorySuite 2000).
Well, I asked, and Christophe responded by zipping the CD — how he had a copy is beyond me — and setting it up on Dropbox for me to download.

After I picked up my jaw off the ground, I downloaded and installed FactorySuite 2000, still remembering I am trying to get this stuff running on XP — an unsupported OS for anything Wonderware in this vintage.

And the I/O server just would not work. After a few emails and head scratching, I went with Windows 2000. I got a video driver from Dell that ran on Windows 2000, and I hoped.

Nope, not yet. It seems the I/O driver from back then required the installation of the Rockwell INF file to register the card with the device manager. I found it, uploaded and installed, and the card didn't show up.

This is where my memory kicked in. Install RSLinx, Rockwell Automation's communication software, and it will find the card and install the INF so the card can be seen by any application.

Voila! It all worked. I was astounded that I was still relevant. My experience allowed me to solve this problem, albeit with some speed bumps, but none of it possible without the customer service of Wonderware Canada East and Christophe. After this up-and-down install, thank an engineer for making our jobs so much easier today. Hello Windows 10 and Ethernet.

About the Author

Jeremy Pollard | CET

Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Pollard has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.

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