Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A short tirade about cables and smart design

So I won't, and haven't attempted to disguise that I went into this whole CNC-retrofit business not knowing what the hell I was doing.

But I can't help but feel like there's a number of things that some manufacturers are doing to make things *harder* for people who are trying to make stuff, and make stuff work with other stuff. And one of those stupid things, that I think ought to be ridiculed until it is changed, is how attached so many hardware makers are to a DB-25 connector on their output/breakout board.

This could have been averted with some better planning - my original plan was to use a UIRobot breakout board with geckodrives, then my plan changed when I found some Rutex drives dirt cheap, and I've since scrapped that whole step/direction drive business for reasons I'll discuss in a future entry. Had I made a straight path from no-drives to a completed setup, I would have only needed one connection cable and maybe avoided some frustration.

But back to my original point, why the DB-25? I'm not sure that a printer sold in this country since I was born has actually had a DB-25 connector on the printer side. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING printer/scanner/all in one on the PC side has a Centronics connector on the printer side, at least until USB peripherals started replacing everything that was previously connected via PS/2, parallel or serial ports.

Complicating this further, is that there doesn't seem to be some sort of standard as to whether the breakout board should have a male or female plug on it, so upgrading or changing breakout boards could mean changing cables as well. I wouldn't harp on this so much, had I not backburnered my own project for 4 days by not paying enough attention to that little detail.

So, hardware manufacturers, take this as my plea to do something that makes some sense.

I know it might complicate things from a wiring diagram standpoint, but I don't think its too much to ask to give the end user a simple chart documenting which pins on the PC side translate to which output pins on the breakout board. As an end-user, I don't really care how the signal gets from point A to point B, just that it gets there intact and that I've properly configured my software to mesh with it.

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