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Test Lab Basics -- Helpful Hardware Accessories

Lab needs for driver testing can vary widely depending on what your specific driver is designed to do. The number of platforms, required peripherals, size of your company, and number of products to be tested all factor in to what you’ll need to effectively test your driver. We’re not about to propose a setup that will work for everyone. However, there are a couple of small hardware additions that will prove to be useful to any driver testing lab, regardless of the setup.

KVM Sharing Switch
As you add test systems to your test lab, it quickly becomes apparent that having a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse for each system requires a lot of space. A 4 port keyboard/video/mouse sharing switch will enable the connection of 4 different systems to one monitor, one keyboard and one mouse, drastically reducing the desktop space required per system. Be sure to select a switch that allows port switching using a simple keyboard hot-key sequence in addition to pressing a button on the unit. One such example is the StarView 4-Port KVM Switch with 3-in-1 Cables (SV411K) from StarTech.com. The benefits of this switch are its small footprint (3 ¼" x 7 ¼"), low cost (around $150), the 3-in-1 cables to reduce cord tangling, and its ability to prevent boot-up errors by providing keyboard and mouse emulation to the non-selected PC. To switch between systems simply press Ctrl-Ctrl-# of system. If you want to go to system 3 press Ctrl-Ctrl-3. To go to system 1, press Ctrl-Ctrl-1.

USB Serial Adapter
Now that you have 4 test systems set up using the KVM sharing switch – maybe running different versions of the operating system or different drivers under test – you need separate debugger systems to attach to these test systems (debuggees) for testing/debugging purposes. But do you really need four different debuggers? Keyspan  has a USB 4-port Serial Adapter (around $140) that will enable the use of one debugger system for debugging 4 different debuggee systems. Obviously, the debugger system must have a USB port to use this handy device. You connect the serial adapter via the USB cable to your USB port, connect the test systems to the four serial ports on the adapter with serial cables, install the software that comes with the device and you now have four additional serial ports available for use. Assuming you already have two serial ports on the debugger system, the four new ports will be COM3, COM4, COM5 and COM6.

Running multiple versions of WinDbg on the same system is not a problem. Simply specify the port to be used for each test system and you can have four debugging sessions going at any one time. Hmmm, you may need to invest in a large monitor for this system…

Do you use any indispensable pieces of hardware in your test lab that you’d like to share with the driver community ? Tell us about them and we’ll pass on the information in a future edition of The NT Insider.


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