Application Development Tools for Remote Maintenance


Thread Starter

Young Duh Song

Dear List,

1. When I need to develop control application (VxWorks or QNX, for example) which can be debugged or maintained from a (Windows) PC 2000 miles away, what is the best approach in terms of
development time, cost and performance? Are there any commercially available so called RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools?

2. I thought about using PC Anywhere like tools for remote debugging. But those are not really capable of debugging application, are they?

Thanks in advance.

Young Song

James Ingraham

Boy is this a loaded question. Do you want to start a control platform from scratch, or do you want to buy an off-the-shelf control system based on QNX, VxWorks, or similar?

If you're starting from scratch, what RAD tools there are ain't all that rapid, especially if you're not familiar with the real-time operating system (RTOS) you've selected. If you want fast, you pretty much need to buy a package.

If you use QNX, there are built in utilities to let you dial in via modem and edit source code, run programs, etc., or to do a PC Anywhere-esque "you see what they see" monitoring of the system. This works from a QNX system or a Windows system to a QNX target. Presumably, other RTOSes have some similar feature, depending on setup. We've done this with QNX for years with no problems, other than convincing customers to run a dedicated phone line to the equipment.

Note that I don't recommend QNX, just that I know they've got the ability to do what you've asked, and I'm not sure about other systems.

We have used Windows NT as a control package with CA's ControlIT (similar to PC Anywhere but cheaper in volume pricing) to do the same thing.

I guess what I'm saying is start narrowing things down. Pick a vendor and ask them point blank if you can do remote debugging/monitoring via modem/Internet/whatever.

Suggestions for control packages: Several IEC-1131 packages exist, including Altersys (QNX and WinCE), VMIC's IOWorks (VxWorks, WinNT, and WinCE) and Steinhoff's DACHS (QNX). Flowcharting inclues Think and Do (WinNT and WinCE, and my personal choice) and Steeplechase (WinNT but actually running on an RTOS on the same processor). For that matter, you can stick a terminal on an Allen-Bradley SLC-500 and do remote debugging (not a solution I recommend).

A quick search on the Internet will turn up more off-the-shelf packages than you can shake a stick at, many of which will offer what you're asking for. I don't recommend starting from scratch, unless you have specific needs that can't be met by off-the-shelf solutions.

Curt Wuollet


Take a look at VNC, there is support for many platforms and works with even non-windowed apps in some environments. The bandwidth requirements are more reasonable than many alternatives and it's free. Doesn't QNX do telnet?



John Wheatley

We use pcAnywhere for some fairly fancy remote testing and debugging and it is quite powerful.

Hullsiek, William

> 2. I thought about using PC Anywhere like tools for remote
> debugging. But those are not really capable of debugging
> application, are they?<

I have used remote debugging on QNX-2 and QNX-4 systems in supporting Bailey's PCV product.
The nice thing about QNX-2 and QNX-4 is that I can create a bootable floppy, that allows my home system to run QNX-2 or QNX-4 (from the floppy). (You can't do that with Windows-NT).

Today, I use PC-Anywhere, and rPC based tools to do remote-dial-in from home.
I use IP/PPP dial-on-demand (also called RAS), to dial into the network.

PC-Anywhere works on HMI issues --although screen refresh at 28.8 is slow.

For database applications, MS Query Analyzer works over TCP/IP connection if you keep the record set from the query very small. I could even have a PLC monitoring program on my home system, if I am using IP as the transport
mechanism for HMI to PLC connections. I have "issues" with the engineer that ordered CTC's MAC based network interface rather than their IP based transport.

PC-Anywhere is integrated with NT based security, and works reliable for me most of the time. (It hung up once-- when I had to do a remote reboot of a client).

In terms of RAD tools, I would look at 3-tier architecture based tools. E-Mongoose looks

William F. Hullsiek
MES Software Engineer