Application Note 30 - Computer Crashes

Application Note 30 - Computer Crashes

Why do computer and computer systems lock up or crash?
Assuming the software is not at fault, or that you don't have conflicts caused either by the improper installation of programs, misbehaving TSR programs, or even program addresses, page faults, interrupt, or DMA conflicts between expansion boards, the most common problem is poor contacts either in the computer (including the expansion boards), the keyboard, or in the connectors which attach the computer to its keyboard, printer, scanner, LAN'S, or other peripherals.
Can these crashes be prevented?
Yes, most of them can be prevented. As good as connectors are, they are still the weakest link in your computer's operation. There are hundreds of these connections in a typical computer system. Outside of the obvious ones such as the connector that connects the computer to the printer, or LAN connections, the computer itself is full of electromechanical contacts. These range from the card-edge connectors that are used on the various plug-in cards, to the numerous types of sockets into which IC's are plugged. The interdependence of the components within the computer is such that the erratic operation of virtually any one of the contacts in any of these connectors can "hang', 'crash' or 'lock-up' the computer. What is even more frightening, is where the computer doesn't hang up, vital data or the execution of a program sequence may be altered such that key data is overwritten on a disk and thus lost.
What do these crashes cost?
Many users are not aware of the cumulative costs of computer crashes. But consider: if you're a programmer and have been working on a program for an hour when the computer crashes, and you didn't save anything during that time; the crash just cost you an hour's work, not to mention the additional time required to re-adjust your overview of the program on which you were working. If you're developing program you'll have to call up the previous version, put your brain in reverse, and try to remember just what it was you did during that hour. If you've ever had to d this, then you know just how frustrating it can be. Thus the loss of that hour's work can cost you a lot more than just that hour.

Consider a person processing a batch run of invoices. What was the last invoice that was processed? Did the computer program rewrite the FAT file every time an invoice was processed or was it waiting until the completion of the run to update the directory in the computer? Did your program handle all the interdependent files in an identical manner? Do you even know? Well, if it happened to one of your staff and you have to sort out the mess, you're going to find out the hard way!

Consider someone working on a spreadsheet who didn't save it before the computer crashed! Not only would it be frustrating to have to go back and figure out just where they were in its development at the previous save, if any, but can you be sure that they will be able to match their previous performance?

As you probably know, when a deadline is hanging over your head, it's human nature to try and speed things up by ignoring some of the details which prevent problems, you get "on a roll" and that's when accidents happen. Gee..forgot to save it did you? Now what will the additional delay and a missed deadline cost you?

What about the hidden costs of client dissatisfaction? Could you have lost a number of jobs because you missed a deadline. Sure, you know why it couldn't be met, but does your client understand? Then again, perhaps you couldn't really do your best work because of the pressure or because of the lack of time?

What about an engineer involved in a complex CAD-CAM problem? Can you imagine how he feels when part way through a day of intensive work, his input device freezes leaving several hours work in a non-recoverable state?

Or consider newspaper reporters, working against a deadline. How often have we heard of stories which have gone off into limbo because of a terminal crash?

And then, consider the problems imposed by computer crashes in process control or experimental date acquisition. The disruption in even a fail-safe process control could cost more than the computer; and in data acquisition, the whole experiment might have to be re-started from scratch.

If you're responsible for servicing a system wouldn't you like to increase the reliability of the equipment in your charge? And if your part of a team marketing complex systems think of how an increased reputation for reliability could aid you in the sale of replacement or even new systems!

Too often, people tolerate problems on the basis that so long as their system is just as reliable as the other parties, then that's all they have to achieve. In fact we often run across managers who tell us that on the basis of the proceeding philosophy, 'They don't have any connector reliability problems at all!" But when we talk to their service personnel we find out otherwise.

Connector unreliability is like a time-bomb, waiting to go off in the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times! Very expensive preventative maintenance programs attempt to stop these unexpected events. But connector problems seem to elude even the most thorough maintenance; perhaps because of the sheer quantity and diversity of the connections in even a simple system.

What can be done to reduce the number of these crashes?
Mainframe computers are usually operated in humidity and temperature controlled rooms using specially filtered and regulated power lines just to obtain reliability. Military computers are designed with special shock-proofed and electrically isolated cases; "Hardened" for use in the field. You probably can't afford the costs of these types of solutions. And you may not realize how vulnerable you are as the complexity of your installation grows; until, one day, it comes to a halt! Often it is at this point that the person responsible for the system is faced with a major re-planning of the system to be sure that the problem does not occur again. At the same time, the system has to be made operational once more as soon as possible! The amount o planning and the re-organization of the system at this point can be very expensive and the words fail-safe often seem very ironical. Usually the planner finds out that some of the older and often key elements in the system may have to be replaced due to diminishing reliability. Are the equivalent new units compatible? After all, there are probably more non-standard standards in the computer industry than anywhere else!

If you need reliability shouldn't you start dealing with the least reliable component in the system? Of course! And that's where our product comes into use; a connector reliability upgrade based on a simple one-time treatment of all the connectors in the computer.

What is this treatment?
It involves treatment of all the connectors with a "contact enhancer" called Stabilant 22. The use of Stabilant 22 or its isopropyl alcohol-diluted form, Stabilant 22A will make contacts from 10 to 100 times more reliable in operation, eliminating almost all "lock-ups" or crashes caused by connector malfunction. The Stabilants are not use repeatedly like a cleaner, instead they are applied to all the contacts and left in place!
What is Stabilant 22?
Stabilant 22 is an initially non-conductive block polymer which when used in a thin film between metal contacts becomes conductive under the effect of an electrical field. This occurs at an electric field gradient such that the material will remain non-conductive between adjacent contacts in a multiple pin environment. In addition, Stabilant 22 exhibits surfactant action, as well as lubrication ability providing a single component resident solution to virtually all contact problems.

When applied to electromechanical contacts, Stabilant 22 can provide the connection reliability of a soldered joint without bonding the contact surfaces.

What specific types of failures can it prevent?
When applied to socketed DRAM, RAM or SIMM's it will usually prevent the annoying PARITY ERROR message indicating a bad memory error. When used on the connectors of a hard disk drive it will usually stop intermittent malfunctions in drives that often occur once they warm up. We're sure that you've had error messages indicating that a peripheral device wasn't responding when you know that it was plugged in and turned on! And have you ever considered the slow-down in a LAN or data transfer operation because of the need to re-transmit data that was received incorrectly the first time?
Is Stabilant 22 reliable?
If Stabilant material is not lost during the repeated plugging and unplugging of a connector, the coating should last in excess of 5 to 10 years. Where a number of different connectors are being interchanged in a single socket there will be an obvious need to treat all the units to obtain this life. This is because the vapor pressure of the material is so low that the material is used in space applications.
What is its effective life?
If Stabilant material is not lost during the repeated plugging and unplugging of a connector, the coating should last in excess of 5 to 10 years. Where a number of different connectors are being interchanged in a single socket there will be an obvious need to treat all the units to obtain this life. This is because the vapor pressure of the material is so low that the material is used in space applications.
Isn't it expensive to use?
Not when you consider the time it saves! How long does it take you to take off a door panel to get to the contacts inside, or pull an instrument cluster for that matter? How much time have you had to spend trying to diagnose an erratic piece of electronics and how often have you had to repeat a job where you thought you had it fixed? The material is easy enough to apply that all the connectors in a system can often be treated in less time than it takes to isolate the problem to one connector! There are about 3000 drops in a 50 ml Bottle kit of Stabilant 22A and each drop could save you 5 minutes.
Why should we use Stabilant over less expensive alternatives?
Granted that the material itself is expensive, however it is unique in having a very long useful life once in place. Unlike other so-called contact treatments, Stabilant 22 will not cross-link (becoming varnish-like) under the action of sulfur based curing agents in elastomers, cutting oil residues, or the sulfur-bearing free-machining metal alloys used in some contacts. In most types of service work, the cost of the down-time involved in removing and replacing a board will be much greater than the cost of the Stabilant used to treat the board. Here what is important is that not only will the proper board treatment cure existing contact problems, it will prevent others from occurring, thus eliminating the necessity of repeating the treatment at a later date!

In other words, why do a job more than once?

What packaging is available?
Many manufacturers make large volume purchases, diluting the material for specific applicators used on their production lines. We can supply the concentrate (Stabilant 22), in 0.5 mL, 15 ml, 5O mL, lOO mL, 25O mL, 5OO mL and 1 litre bottles. The dilute (Stabilant 22A or Stabilant 22E, the latter which is available in a limited number of bottle sizes except on special order), are available in 5O mL, lOO mL, 25O mL and 5OO mL containers. We do not have a 1 litre container of the dilute as 500 mL is the largest size bottle that can be shipped by air (in single or multiple packages) without additional restrictions. We maintain our stock in depth and ship most orders the next day that they are received. ( On large quantities , more time may be required) For companies which want to use the material as a stock store item, we can produce custom labels with your part or stock number. The 15 mL sizes are in dropper bottles, and these are available on request for the 50 mL sizes as well.
Custom labelling has been provided for many manufacturers who wish to assign their own stock control number, or to distributors who wish to market the product under their own logo. Obviously this requires purchase in of the product in suitable quantities.
What is the difference in use of these materials?
Stabilant 22 is most useful where the connections are out in the open - such as card-edge connectors or where the lubricating properties of the material are useful -such as an aid to installing microprocessor IC's or on switches. Where the connections are not too easy to get at or where the user wishes to apply the material to something such as a socketed IC (without removing the IC from its socket), it is easier to use the alcohol diluted form (Stabilant 22A or Stabilant 22E). The alcohol diluent serves ONLY to carry the concentrate into the connector.
Is it available in a spray can?
No. Why waste the material? We would like to think we are environmentally responsible and safety conscious. This ruled out the use of either a chlorofluorocarbon or highly inflammable mixture of butane and propane as a propellant.
In addition even Stabilant 22A for example, has only about 71200th the solvent impact as conventional contact cleaning solvents, over a three year time span. As Stabilant 22 contains no solvent it has absolutely minimal environmental impact and is, therefore, becoming the treatment of choice for many service organizations!
Is Stabilant 22 just another contact cleaner?
No, Stabilant 22 is a resident potentially electrically active material which through a synergistic combination of effects enhances conductivity within a contact without causing leakage between adjacent contacts. Thus large quantities of the material do not have to be "hosed" on, as is the case with cleaners.
Just how much should be used?
Normally, a final film thickness of from 0.5 to 2 mils of the concentrate is all that it necessary. In other words, you want just enough to fill up the interstices between the contact's faces. When using Stabilant 22A, or Stabilant 22E, use enough so that once the isopropyl alcohol (or ethyl alcohol), evaporates the desired 0.5 to 2 mil film of Stabilant 22 remains.
In applications to moving surfaces, such as in slip-rings or potentiometers, film thickness should be minimized to the point where "hydroplaning" won't occur.
What is the 15 ml service kit?
This was made up at the request of several manufacturers who wanted a standard kit that they could issue to their service personnel. It consists of a 15 ml dropper bottle of Stabilant 22A and some applicators, all in a small capped cardboard tube that can be tossed into a tool box without damage. As noted, we can provide these kits with special labels when large volume orders are involved.
Why would anyone want to buy large quantities of the concentrate?
Many manufacturers make large volume purchases, diluting the material for specific applicators used on their production lines.

Many end users have found that the material cuts their service costs so much that is more economical to purchase Stabilant 22 in the larger container sizes rather than run any risk of being without the material. The number of uses tends to increase users discover the large number of problems that can be solved by the material. One user routinely applies it to the flashlight switches and batteries it issues to its security guards and has reported that the number of requests for replacement units has dropped appreciably.

How can I be sure that Stabilant works?
The best way to find out just how well it works is to try it out; that's why we have samples available. Almost every service shop or manufacturer has equipment available where the switches or connectors have become erratic over the years. Use Stabilant 22/22A/22E on them and satisfy yourself. A word of caution. Don't try to evaluate Stabilant 22's performance on brand new connectors. Instead, use it on connectors that are corroded, or dirty or just plain unreliable. We are sure that any organization dealing with electronics will have at least one piece of unreliable equipment on which the Stabilants can be tested!
Can I use Stabilant 22 in other equipment?
Yes, it can be used in test equipment, cameras, just about everywhere there's a low-voltage signal or control connection. For example, the effect of Stabilant 22 in Computers is to reduce the number of times the system locks-up or crashes, sometimes it even eliminates non-software crashes completely.

When used on socketed IC's, photo-couplers/isolators, rotary, push button, or slide switches, or even on BNC connectors, the net effect is usually to make the proper operation of the equipment less erratic, and in the case of IEEE-488A buss- controlled equipment, to cut down on the potential for system lock-ups.

Is Stabilant hazardous to use?
Stabilants have very low oral toxicity. Under normal workplace conditions no skin sensitization effects have been noted. In the undiluted form, it is non-flammable although if heated above 200° Celsius the decomposition products would burn. And Stabilants are environmentally friendly materials.
What is the best way to apply Stabilant to a contact?
The 15 ml (and the 50 ml) container have "controlled-dropper" type caps that allows Stabilant 22A to be applied directly to such components as socketed IC's, switches, connectors, etc. Some end users prefer to use industrial syrettes to apply the material. Camel's hair brushes can be used to brush it on card-edge connectors or they could be dipped into the dilute material. Most metering type liquid dispensing systems can be used as well.
Does the action of Stabilants deteriorate with age or cause contact deterioration?
Our first concern has always been that Stabilants should not cause any problem when used in a system. Not only did we do lab-modeling and accelerated life tests, we delayed the introduction of the material for several years until we satisfied ourselves through field trials that real-life conditions did not show up any unexpected problems for the use of Stabilants.

Stabilants have been used in some applications for over fifteen years now without showing any sign of reduced effectiveness. The material has a high molecular weigh and a very low vapor pressure, thus it is not prone to evaporation.

The Stabilants do not affect elastomers save for some slight swelling of some materials. The diluants (either isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol) usually is responsible for any swelling problem, although the potential for this is gone as soon as the alcohol evaporates. Nor are plastics generally affected. There are a few restrictions, but they are very minor. For example we don't recommend the use of Stabilants on very low-cost resistive-non-heat-cured-paint-film type potentiometers. And we don't recommend that Stabilants be used on switches breaking inductive loads where sparking is present the decomposition temperature of Stabilant 22 is about 220' Celsius.

Once again let us emphasize the point that unlike some other contact treatment containing oils, Stabilant 22 will not cross-link when exposed to certain material such as high sulfur brass, in connectors having rubber or thermoset plastics containing accelerants or curing agents, or when used on contacts where cross-link promoting agents are present in the environment. This phenomenon of "Varnishing" does no occur with Stabilant 22.

Thus, besides their efficiency, the Stabilants are the safest long-term connection treatment available anywhere in the world!

Revision 4

Stabilants™ are a product of Dayton Wright research & development and are made in Canada

NATO Supply Code 38948
15 ml of S22A has NATO Part # 5999-21-900-6937