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Unread 05-07-2018, 02:23 PM
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Driver Station Computer Specs

Our team is looking into a new computer for a drivers station and we are looking for advice on what laptop we should get or what features the laptop should have.

We currently have a Lenovo ThinkPad X140E and are considering getting the Lenovo Legion Y520.

Thoughts?
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Unread 05-07-2018, 02:28 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

For the driver station, I would recommend something cheap. You won't need a ton of processing power unless you are running your vision processing on it. Besides price, I would look for a large battery and an SSD (you should be able to buy a 120gb one separately for ~$40 and add it in) for faster restart times.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 02:31 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Personally, I would cut back on graphics performance and go into something with a longer battery life. If you're only planning on using it as a drivers station you want it to be able to last all day in case the charger gets lost or broken, and leave the money you'd put into a beefy laptop for CAD or programming computers.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 02:36 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

I would also make sure to get one with an Ethernet port and enough USB ports to connect all your controllers and joysticks so that you don't need to use a USB hub or Ethernet adapter. A lot of the smaller low power draw laptops now days only have a couple USB ports and don't have an Ethernet port.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 02:51 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

I think weight is fairly important. A heavy driver station laptop can add a lot of weight to the driver station setup which makes it more annoying to carry around.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 02:57 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Quote:
Originally Posted by keco185 View Post
I think weight is fairly important. A heavy driver station laptop can add a lot of weight to the driver station setup which makes it more annoying to carry around.
But it can also help prevent it from getting thrown off the station when rammed into by a robot/help it survive the fall.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 03:02 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Unless you are doing gpu-accelerated computer vision processing on your laptop, you really don't need much of anything. Like others have said, something cheap with an SSD, ethernet, and a few USB ports is all you need. We have found that it is somewhat nice to have a touchscreen when driving at home or tethering so it is easier to enable/disable. Even if you are doing processing on your laptop, I doubt you would be able to utilize much GPU power anyway since your input data is so limited by the bandwidth requirements.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 03:32 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

The Driver Station Best Practices whitepaper directly addresses your question.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 08:15 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Hi, I'm the main driver for our team (#4539) and might be able to provide a little insight into our situation.

The reason we are looking at a new laptop is that several times this year during matches we have experienced severe lag with our diver station causing it to continue driving forward even several seconds after I stopped telling the robot to drive forward. We have also had several issues with the CPU's becoming maxed out or nearly maxed out, which caused our laptop to become unresponsive. All of this has happened to the laptop even after restarting it right when we are qued for our next match.

To make things clear our laptop has a 256gb SSD and the processor on it is some type of an AMD processor. I wish I could give you the exact specifications of the processor but I am not sure what it is off the top of my head.

So what I would like to know is what type of processor is recommended for a driver station since the Driver Station Best Practices pdf does not address this? And also if you guys could say what type of computer your team uses for driver stations?

Thanks for any comments or suggestions!
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Unread 05-07-2018, 09:12 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Lag? Are you sure that was caused by a slow driver station?
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Unread 05-07-2018, 09:13 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arron1999 View Post
Hi, I'm the main driver for our team (#4539) and might be able to provide a little insight into our situation.

The reason we are looking at a new laptop is that several times this year during matches we have experienced severe lag with our diver station causing it to continue driving forward even several seconds after I stopped telling the robot to drive forward. We have also had several issues with the CPU's becoming maxed out or nearly maxed out, which caused our laptop to become unresponsive. All of this has happened to the laptop even after restarting it right when we are qued for our next match.

To make things clear our laptop has a 256gb SSD and the processor on it is some type of an AMD processor. I wish I could give you the exact specifications of the processor but I am not sure what it is off the top of my head.

So what I would like to know is what type of processor is recommended for a driver station since the Driver Station Best Practices pdf does not address this? And also if you guys could say what type of computer your team uses for driver stations?

Thanks for any comments or suggestions!
My team is looking for a replacement for the rookie KoP laptop and I think something with an Intel i3 or i5 should be sufficient. An older lenovo thinkpad x1 carbon is what we are currently considering.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 09:21 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyingJay View Post
Lag? Are you sure that was caused by a slow driver station?
Yes, I am sure it was caused by a slow driver station.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 10:03 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arron1999 View Post
Hi, I'm the main driver for our team (#4539) and might be able to provide a little insight into our situation.

The reason we are looking at a new laptop is that several times this year during matches we have experienced severe lag with our diver station causing it to continue driving forward even several seconds after I stopped telling the robot to drive forward. We have also had several issues with the CPU's becoming maxed out or nearly maxed out, which caused our laptop to become unresponsive. All of this has happened to the laptop even after restarting it right when we are qued for our next match.

To make things clear our laptop has a 256gb SSD and the processor on it is some type of an AMD processor. I wish I could give you the exact specifications of the processor but I am not sure what it is off the top of my head.

So what I would like to know is what type of processor is recommended for a driver station since the Driver Station Best Practices pdf does not address this? And also if you guys could say what type of computer your team uses for driver stations?

Thanks for any comments or suggestions!
Does the laptop have any Antivirus or Encryption software on it? I see this sort of thing a lot when teams are using "school laptops" as driver stations and it tends to cause issues. Assuming the SSD shipped with the computer and wasn't added later, pretty much any laptop ships with an SSD should be more than adequate for the FRC driver station. I would do a check of any background processes that are running and use task manager to see where your bottleneck is and what's causing it. It might also be worth trying a clean install of Windows and installing only the FRC software you absolutely need and nothing else.


In the past, I've seen two main issues that cause robot lag: Watchdog Errors and Bandwidth limits. The watchdog thing isn't very common anymore, but bandwidth is if you're sending any video back to the driver station from the robot, especially if it's going through the default dashboard. In theory, QoS should prevent a video stream from affecting robot performance, but depending on your code it's certainly possible. We had a number of issues with the stock dashboard view on our driver station and ended up disabling it completely (and removing all of the stock vision processing from our code) and connecting directly to the cameras web interface via a web browser instead, it worked flawlessly after that.
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Unread 05-07-2018, 10:04 PM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arron1999 View Post
So what I would like to know is what type of processor is recommended for a driver station since the Driver Station Best Practices pdf does not address this? And also if you guys could say what type of computer your team uses for driver stations?

Thanks for any comments or suggestions!
The processor shouldn't really matter, as long as it is relatively modern consumer CPU. The tasks that (most) FRC driver stations are doing are not CPU-intensive. Since you mention it has an SSD, I'm assuming the CPU is also fairly modern.

When you catch the laptop running at max CPU, what programs are using the most CPU and what amount of CPU are they using?

If it is the driver station itself, you might consider reaching out to NI to further debug what is happening.

If it is other programs, consider running only the driver station and dashboard when you come to the field. There is no reason to have Eclipse, Internet Explorer, Chrome, PuTTY, and Minecraft all running at the same time when you are at the field for a match.
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Unread 05-08-2018, 08:06 AM
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Re: Driver Station Computer Specs

Thank you for all of these possible solutions to our driver station, it was greatly appreciated. I will look into what you guys said to do.

But this thread wasn't intended to find our issue with our driver station, instead see what other teams are using as a driver station and what other people would suggest getting for a driver station. So I will look at what you said to do to with our driver station but let's try to go back to what this thread was originally intended for.

Thanks.
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