5 Ways Defense Vendors Can Survive Sequestration

dod cutsArmy Maj. Gen. Lynn A. Collyar, former director of Defense Logistics Agency’s logistics operations, is not scared of sequestration and he doesn’t want you to be either.

“Our budget still has almost $500 billion,” he recently told an audience of anxious Defense vendors. “We can’t afford to just throw money around…,” but “there is still a lot of money out there.”

One person who doesn’t need convincing is Rob Culver, Director of Program Management for AMREL.  After serving in 23 years in the Army with half his career spent in Special Operations (18A), Rob also spent 8 years managing Defense acquisition programs, covering the complete product life-cycle.  Having experienced procurement as an acquisition officer, a Defense vendor, and as a grunt in the field, he has a uniquely well-informed point-of-view about the Defense budget.

“General Collyar is absolutely right,” he said. “Vendors are scared, because they don’t understand the acquisition process.  The ones who learn how to work the system will be the ones who survive and prosper.”

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How do I maximize battery life for my mobile computer?

Supposedly, a high number of people call a repair man to fix their television, when all they really need to do is plug it in. Similarly, most actions for maximizing the life of a battery for a mobile computer may be characterized as excessively obvious. Here is a list to help you “remember the obvious.”

1) Avoid unnecessary applications. Especially those that constantly run in the background. One expert suggested going as far as to uninstall them. We all know this instinctually, but how often do you actually check this? Even if you think you there is nothing unnecessary on your computer, take time out every once in a while and examine exactly what applications are running. Read more

My laptop isn’t as bright as I want it to be. What can I do?

Let’s assume that you already maxed out the brightness controls.  Did you check the power management?  If you’re running the laptop on batteries, it will often default to power savings mode, which will dim the screen. Also, crank up the contrast ratio to 5 to 1 or even higher.  Does your computer think it’s dark out? Verify the dimming range is adjusted for the daytime, not the night.  Adjust the viewing angle of the display screen. It sounds trivial, but the angle can make a big difference in how the screen is viewed.

Transmissive, transflective, and reflective

In describing computer displays, what do the terms “transmissive,” “reflective,” and “transflective” mean?article page main ehow images a07 r9 0e adjust brightness desktop computers laptops 800x800

Transmissive is the most commonly used means of illuminating a computer display.  The display is lit up from the back. While this method is fine for indoor use, strong sunlight may overwhelm it, making the computer screen difficult to read.

Reflective method does very well in the bright outdoors.  The computer is illuminated by the reflected light of the computer’s surroundings. The brighter the sun, the brighter the display.  However, it does not do well in dim settings, i.e. indoors.

Transflective combines the transmissive and reflective methods of illumination.  This gives the viewer the best of both worlds, enabling the display to be optimized for the greatest variety of environments.

Even though transflective appears to be the best method, it may not be the best for you. You need to consider your applications specific needs, including energy usage, heat generation, and issues such as compatibility with night vision goggles.  Display brightness may also be affected by chemical treatment of the surface (anti-glare coating), viewing angle, contrast controls, and a host of other factors.  For more information, see Are nits the only important rating for hi-bright display?

Are nits the only important rating for hi-bright display?

No.  Life is not simple and neither is buying a bright monitor. Manynits  factors besides nits can interfere with the visibility of a screen. Computer displays are usually protected by see-through shielding material (glass or plastic) on top of their displays.  How this shielding is bonded to the underlying surface can have a huge effect on the amount of glare (reflection) that is created. Anti-reflective coating on the shielding material can also affect the overall illumination. Even the mounting of the internal components of the computer can affect the brightness. So, it is theoretically possible that a display with a high nit rating will be dimmer than one that has a lower rating.  To be sure you get what you want, consult your computer professional.

Do I need a hi-bright display?

Do I need a hi-bright display?

Brighter is not always better.  It’s true that hi-bright displays are
more visible outdoors. However, they also use a lot of power.  While this can be compensated for with appropriate power management schemes, an overly bright display can be a problem for a demanding application that relies heavily on batteries. When more power is used, more heat is generated. So heat-sinking needs to be looked at as well. Don’t forget about the other end of the brightness scale. That bright display may need to be ratcheted down a lot to work with night-vision goggles.

Does your rugged computer need legacy Wi-Fi?

Some computer manufacturers are eliminating IEEE 802.11b protocols, claiming that it will improve 802.11g.  Since 802.11n is the fastest WLAN standard, why have any legacy Wi-Fi at all?

You need a, b, and g, because not all hot spots are running n. For example, if you’re operating an MQ-1 Predator by a wireless control system, while sipping a Frappuccino at Starbuck’s (you have your fantasies; I have mine), your computer better accommodate legacy Wi-Fi networks.  If you know that your computer will be solely dedicated to a network that only supports 802.11n, then you don’t need connectivity for the older standards.

By the way, when you use your computer to conduct major combat operations from the local coffee house, be careful where you sit; data throughput dramatically decreases the further away you sit from an access point.

Custom Rugged Computer Quiz

Mobile_mesh_networkAt AMREL, we see a lot of other people’s mistakes. Clients frequently come in with tales of woe, asking us to clean up messes made by them or their previous customization company. Some errors are specific to the customization process; others are true for rugged computers in general.

Of course, we’re happy for the business, but we think a little bit of knowledge can save everyone a lot of headaches.  So, before you begin your journey through customization, take this short test to see if you’re ready.

Part One: True or False

Please indicate which of the following statements are true.

1) Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is a valid way of comparing quality of parts from different companies.

2) Customizations must be done by third parties.

3) The manufacturer’s warranty never includes customization.

4) Low-volume customizations are too expensive to be practical.

5) The warranty and purchase price reflect the true cost of the computer.

6) A signed obsolescence agreement with your vendor ends your worries about End of Life issues.

7) No such thing as “Customized COTS.”

Part Two: Name three wrong things the narrator did in the following story

“I needed a customized application for rugged computers. It was quite tricky.  My team sat down, created a solution, and wrote the specs for it. We weren’t sure which rugged computer company to use, so we picked a large one, assuming they had the best capabilities. They explained to us that our specs weren’t practical. For one thing, the solid state hard drive required by our specs was much more expensive than we expected. We had to eliminate some of our wireless capabilities and other features in order to meet our pricepoint.”

Part Three: In one word, what is the most important thing to look for in a supplier of customized rugged computers?

For the answers to these questions, click here.


Do you need a Solid State Drive (SSD) for your rugged computer?

For this question, we can give you an absolute, definitive answer: maybe.

If you are among the rarified few who have no problems with budgetary constraints, this is a no-brainer; SSDs are clearly superior.  Fewer moving parts, greater high-temperature endurance, lower power consumption, and just general all around superior ruggedness are a few of their virtues. Not only will your mobile computer solution suffer less damage, but operators will deal with fewer reboots induced by physical shocks.

On the other hand, if you’re like the rest of us, and live in the real world of limited financial resources, you should consider traditional spinning drives. They are MUCH cheaper, and have been successfully used in rugged solutions for years.

Before you determine the specs for your hard drive, take a clear-eyed look at the true needs of your application, and consult your rugged computer professional.  If you do decide to use SSDs, keep in mind that single-level cells (SLC) are more expensive, faster, and reliable than multi-level cells (MLC).

Got a question about rugged computing? Send them to editor@amrel.com