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Is SMART Really Useful?

Being in technology for a long time, I have seen my fair share of disk failures. However I have never seen a single instance where SMART has issued a sufficient warning to backup any data on a failing disk. The following is an example of this in action.

Toshiba MQ01ABD050
Toshiba MQ01ABD050

Here is a 2.5″ Toshiba MQ01ABD050 500GB disk drive. This unit was made in 2014, but has a very low hour count of ~8 months, with only ~5 months of the heads being loaded onto the platters, since it has been used to store offline files. This disk was working perfectly the last time it was plugged in a few weeks ago, but today within seconds of starting to transfer data, it began slowing down, then stopped entirely. A quick look at the SMART stats showed over 4000 reallocated sectors, so a full scan was initiated.

SMART Test Failure
SMART Test Failure

After the couple of hours an extended test takes, the firmware managed to find a total of 16,376 bad sectors, of which 10K+ were still pending reallocation. Just after the test finished, the disk began making the usual clicking sound of the head actuator losing lock on the servo tracks. Yet SMART was still insisting that the disk was OK! In total about 3 hours between first power up & the disk failing entirely. This is possibly the most sudden failure of a disk I’ve seen so far, but SMART didn’t even twig from the huge number of sector reallocations that something was amiss. I don’t believe the platters are at fault here, it’s most likely to be either a head fault or preamp failure, as I don’t think platters can catastrophically fail this quickly. I expected SMART to at least flag that the drive was in a bad state once it’s self-test completed, but nope.

Internals
Internals

After pulling the lid on this disk, to see if there’s any evidence of a head crashing into a platter, there’s nothing – at least on a macroscopic scale, the single platter is pristine. I’ve seen disks crash to the point where the coating has been scrubbed from the platters so thoroughly that they’ve been returned to the glass discs they started off as, with the enclosure packed full of fine black powder that used to be data layer, but there’s no indication of mechanical failure here. Electronic failure is looking very likely.

Clearly, relying on SMART to alert when a disk is about to take a dive is an unwise idea, replacing drives after a set period is much better insurance if they are used for critical applications. Of course, current backups is always a good idea, no matter the age of drive.

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Contec CMS-50F Pulse Oximeter Teardown

Rear Case
Rear Case

The rear has the specifications, laser-marked into the plastic. The serial numbers are just sticky labels though, and will come off easily with use.

Contec CMS-50F
Contec CMS-50F

This is the Contec CMS-50F wrist-mounted pulse oximeter unit, which has the capability to record data continuously to onboard memory, to be read out at a later time via a USB-Serial link. There is software supplied with the unit for this purpose, although it suffers from the usual Chinese quality problems. The hardware of this unit is rather well made, the firmware has some niggles but is otherwise fully functional, however the PC software looks completely rushed, is of low quality & just has enough functionality to kind-of pass as usable.

Top Cover Removed
Top Cover Removed

A total of 4 screws hold the casing together, once these are removed the top comes off. The large colour OLED display covers nearly all of the board here. The single button below is the user interface. The connection to the probe is made via the Lemo-style connector on the lower right.

Lithium Cell
Lithium Cell

Power is provided by a relatively large lithium-ion cell, rated at 1.78Wh.

Main Processor
Main Processor

All the heavy lifting work of the LCD, serial comms, etc are handled by this large Texas Instruments microcontroller, a MSP430F247. The clock crystal is just to the left, with the programming pins. I’m not sure of the purpose of the small IC in the top left corner, I couldn’t find any reference to the markings.

Aux Processor
Aux Processor

The actual pulse oximetry sensor readings seem to be dealth with by a secondary microcontroller, a Texas Instruments M430F1232 Mixed-Signal micro. This has it’s own clock crystal just underneath. The connections to the probe socket are to the right of this µC, while the programming bus is broken out to vias just above. The final devices on this side of the board are 3 linear regulators, supplying the rails to run all the logic in this device.

Main PCB Rear
Main PCB Rear

The rear of the PCB has the SiLabs CL2102 USB-Serial interface IC, the large Winbond 25X40CLNIG 512KByte SPI flash for recording oximetry data, and some of the power support components. The RTC crystal is also located here at the top of the board. Up in the top left corner is a Texas Instruments TPS61041 Boost converter, with it’s associated components. This is probably supplying the main voltage for the OLED display module.

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EpEver MT50 Control Panel Teardown

MT50 Control Panel
MT50 Control Panel

Here’s the MT50 controller from EpEver, that interfaces with it’s Tracer MPPT solar charge controllers, and gives access to more programming options on the charge controllers, without the need for a laptop. The display is a large dot-matrix unit, with built in backlight. Above is the display on the default page, showing power information for the entire system.

PCB Rear
PCB Rear

The rear plastic cover is held in place by 4 machine screws, which thread into brass inserts in the plastic frame – nice high quality touch on the design here, no cheap self tapping plastic screws. Both power & data arrive via an Ethernet cable, but the communication here is RS-485, and not compatible with Ethernet! The PCB is pretty sparse, with comms & power on the left, LCD connection in the centre, and the microcontroller on the right.

RS-485 Transceiver
RS-485 Transceiver

On the left of the board is the RS0485 transceiver, and a small voltage regulator. There’s also a spot for a DC barrel jack, which isn’t included in this model for local power supply.

STM32 Microcontroller
STM32 Microcontroller

The other side of the board holds the main microcontroller which communicates with the charge controller. This is a STM32F051K8 from ST Microelectronics. With a 48MHz ARM Cortex M0 core, and up to 64K of flash, this is a pretty powerful MCU that has very little to do in this application.

PCB Front
PCB Front

The front of the PCB has the ENIG contacts of the front panel buttons, and the LCD backlight assembly. There’s nothing else under the plastic backlight spreader either.

LCD Rear
LCD Rear

The front case holds the LCD module in place with glue, and the rubber buttons are placed underneath, which is heat staked in place.

LCD Model
LCD Model

The LCD is a YC1420840CS6 from eCen in China. Couldn’t find much out about this specific LCD.