Brain Transplant ... PC-BOT 914 Gets Core2Duo Brain

Info provided below was valid on the post date of 09 April 2007.

The process of replacing sluggish VIA SP13000 motherboard with iGoLogic MBI3899-F (also known as i3899F) board and Intel Core 2 Duo CPU is described below. The preliminary test shows that the MBI3899-F board is compatible with robot's M2-ATX power supply without any modifications. Some wires (power/reset switch, LEDs, etc) are too short for the new board, and need to be replaced or extended. The overall performance improvement is remarkable, from nearly 100% to around 10% of CPU utilization running standard factory installed software.

One anecdotal evidence: while running BRIAN service and GUI, lean video capture, and remote desktop, all under Windows XP Pro, the CPU utilization is only 15% +/- 2%. The remote desktop client run on an old Pentium 3 laptop does not experience any delays. The video is smooth and in real time at 15fps with no noticeable delay. The voice coming from the bot is uninterrupted and sounds much better. Even BRIAN application seems to be less chaotic when reporting distances and obstacles. Now we are talking real possibility of telepresence!

More info about iGoLogic MBI3899-F (aka i3899F) board can be found here:

I think the same board is sold elsewhere as iBASE MB899F, but do investigate it yourself before making a decision. My transplant kit was purchased at Newegg, and here is my shopping list:

1x iGoLogic Inc MBI3899-F Socket 478 Intel 945GM Mini ITX Intel Motherboard - Retail
Item #: N82E16813202004 ... $319.99

1x Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 Merom 2.0GHz Socket M Processor Model BX80537T7200 - Retail
Item #: N82E16819111302 ... $299.99

1x Dynatron I61 40mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - Retail
Item #: N82E16835114055 ... $19.99

1x Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM
Item #: N82E16835100007 ... $5.99

2x BUFFALO Certified 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) D2U667C-1G - Retail
Item #: N82E16820150029 ... $131.98 for 2 GB

1x Western Digital Scorpio WD1600BEVS 160GB 5400 RPM Serial ATA150 Notebook HDD - OEM
Item #: N82E16822136071 ... $104.99

1x Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2b 1pk - OEM
Item #: N82E16832116175 ... $139.99

TOTAL $1,022.92 (including a copy of WinXP Pro)

Use proper ESD grounding techniques when working with sensitive electronics!

The notes below are not a complete installation guide but rather an outline of the process with some pointers to potential "gotchas". Test often, at every logical step of the process.

A. Prepare, assemble, and test iGoLogic MBI3899-F Board.

While following the guidelines provided by iGoLogic MBI3899-F board and Intel Core 2 Duo CPU User/Installation Guides proceed with motherboard assembly:

01. Install the CPU. Watch for a corner key to properly position the CPU.

02. Try a mock-up heat sink install first. Try to position the heat sink in either direction. Watch for other motherboard components like capacitors touching the heat sink. Either reposition the heat sink or gently move the touching component slightly away from the heat sink.

03. Install the heat sink. Don't forget about the thermal compound or thermal pad that go between CPU and heat sink. Connect heat sink fan to FAN2 connector on motherboard.

04. Install both memory modules. Align a slot in memory module with a divider in memory socket and gently push the memory module in until the side clips snap.

05. Connect the board to power supply and monitor, and test it. The computer should be able to complete POST and/or display BIOS setup screen on request (when you press DEL key during POST). The POST should report properly the CPU model and correct amount of memory.

B. Prepare the chassis, install motherboard, connect and route the cables.

06. Disassemble and remove the computer bay from robot's chassis. Start by disconnecting all cables and wires from existing motherboard. Remove motherboard and back plate. Remove power switch and LED bracket from computer bay. Remove plastic skin from outside of computer bay. Finally, if you are planning to reposition the motherboard, then unscrew and remove the entire computer bay from robot's chassis.

This step is optional, only if you want to move motherboard  to create extra space for edge plugs and connectors.

07 a. Reposition and prepare stand-offs for new motherboard. Gently remove (wiggle out) four existing motherboard stand-offs. Mark new stand-off placement. I moved the board 1.0" inwards, and 0.1" upwards. This is more less central placement that will not interfere with plastic skin mounted on the outside of computer bay. Drill new holes using drill bit slightly bigger in diameter than diameter of stand-off screws.

This step is optional, only if yo want to move motherboard to create extra space for edge plugs and connectors.

07 b. Install four stand-offs in new positions. Fastening a screw with a nut before screwing on a stand-off locks it firm. You can reuse the pulled stand-offs or use new ones. In any case, make sure that the stand-offs are not much longer that ones you pulled. You need to preserve space for 2U heat sink and still provide good airflow above it (without drilling new holes in computer bay's cover).

08. Install new motherboard. First, if was removed, install back plastic skin outside of computer bay. Next, install new motherboard. If you have moved the stand-offs to new positions, there is no easy way to install new back plate. I did not install mine.

09. Visually inspect the assembly. Check for any small parts such as a screw stuck between motherboard and computer bay wall. Make sure that the screws on the outside do not interfere with plastic skin and that the plastic skin lays perfectly flat.

10. Install the entire computer bay back into robot's chassis. If the computer bay was removed, fasten in the hinge and install back two side support wires.

Now you are ready to have fun with wires and cables ...

11. Prepare for rerouting of all wires and cables. Start with cutting away most/all of existing ties on power wires all the way to power supply bay, and undoing any kinks and bends. You will need every inch of the power wires to connect main power to new board. Also, disconnect and pull out all data cables.

12. Connect power plug to motherboard. Connect 20-pin connector to motherboard (J14). Route main power wires and start tying them together. You can also pull them away from motherboard by tying them to the walls of computer bay.

13. Connect IDE cable to motherboard. You will need most of this cable length. Make sure that the cable was pulled out from its original lengthy path. Connect it to motherboard (IDE1). Watch for IDE plug sleeve that tends to catch on power plug. It's a tight fit. Guide the sleeve in between the connectors. When both plugs are well inserted into their sockets, position the power wires, IDE cable, and ties to relief any tension exerted on plugs/sockets. Tie IDE cable with power wires and/or to the walls of computer bay.

14. Organize wires and cables. Organize main power wires, peripheral power wires, and IDE cable. Make provision for speakers and other peripherals. If needed or desired, you can pull extra length of peripheral power wires from power supply bay into robot's main body. Also see photo in step 21.

15. Inspect and test wire and cable placement. Close and open both bays multiple times and observe how cable and wires fold. Make placement adjustments. Bend wires a bit and use ties to force the desired path and bend points. Fold and tie any extra length of peripheral power supply wires.

16. Prepare existing or build replacement harness. You need to build a new harness for power/reset switch and two LEDs, or extend the existing four short wires to fit new motherboard layout. See the photo insert for system function connector schema. The polarity matters.

17. Install system function harness. Install the bracket outside the computer bay. Route and connect the shorter wires to motherboard (J3) as depicted above. The long wire goes across robot's main body to power supply bay to be connected to SWITCH connector of ATX1 PSU. The polarity matters. Also see photo in step 21.

18. Install HDD subsystem. If desire, install new hard disk drive. Connect original SATA cable combination plug to the drive. Connect the other power end to PER1a power connector from ATX1 PSU as per factory specs. Next, connect the other data end to SATA1 connector on motherboard (CN9). Let the SATA cable go across the computer bay as it is not long enough to go around motherboard.

19 a. Connect CDROM/DVD subsystem. Connect other end of IDE cable to the CDROM/DVD unit. Reconnect power, use PER1b small power connector from ATX1 PSU as per factory specs.

19 b. Connect USB ports to motherboard. Connect USB ports mounted on CDROM/DVD assembly to motherboard (J6). Note that the first row of pins is left to right order, and the second row of pins is right to left order (?). Try and test to get it right.

19 c. Connect speaker unit. Connect the speaker unit to Line-Out edge connector as it was connected before. If your speaker unit has stereo audio power amplifier connector, you can connect it directly to motherboard (J15). To do this you need a cable with four pin plugs on both ends. The order of pins and polarity matters, so try and test the right and left channel sound once you install drivers and operating system.

20. TEST ... TEST ... TEST. At this point all integral system components are in place, and all system connections are made. With exception of speaker unit, you can test the entire system including PC power/reset switch, power and hard drive LEDs.

21. Close power supply bay. Inspect and adjust wires, cover the bay, and lock it in place.

22. Close computer bay. Adjust cables and wires, route and tie in all data cables. Inspect for any undesired kinks and bunches. Cover the bay, and lock it in place.

23. Rearrange external devices and wires. You can remove previously installed extension USB board and long ribbon cable. Both external peripherals, the USB WebCam and USB WiFi, can be connected directly to motherboard edge ports. There are four USB ports and one FireWire port on the edge of motherboard. Connect I/O Board's USB cable. Connect any other external peripherals you need or want (like a second microphone for testing as depicted in the photo).

24. DO THE FINAL TEST. Test everything again ... kind of final integration test. You will be able to test the sound system later once you install drivers and operating system.

25 a. Proudly affix the Core 2 Duo sticker in a prominent spot!

25 b. There are other things you can do while at it:

  • miniPCI wireless card and external wifi antenna,
  • second serial port to communicate with some other non-critical devices or subsystems like BASIC Stamp.


C. Drivers, operating system, and software installation.

This installation sequence assumes that you have installed a brand new or re-formated hard disk, and that this is a fresh MS Windows installation.

26. Install Windows XP Pro first. Follow the guidelines and prompts provided by Microsoft.

27. Next, use i3899 USER'S MANUAL as your guide and finalize BIOS settings as needed. Most/all BIOS default settings seem to be right out of box. You can adjust temperature alarm and emergency shutdown setting if you are concerned with heat buildup.

28 a. Again, using i3899 USER'S MANUAL as your guide, load iGoLogic i3899 drivers. Use provided CDROM to load the drivers.

28 b. If the provided CDROM is corrupted like it was in my case, you can download the drivers from iGoLogic site, and burn your own CDROM. Then, load the drivers in the following order:
  • IDE Driver
  • VGA Driver
  • Sound Driver
  • LAN Intel/Base Driver
  • LAN Intel/Ethernet Controller PRO/100 via Device Manager
  • LAN Marvell/YukonWin Driver
29. Load other device drivers using provided disks:
  • Linksystem WiFi G-USB
  • Logitech QuickCam
  • Any other devices like keyboard, mouse, etc.
Note: to avoid loading “helper” applications that usually are installed with devices like WiFi card or webcam, do not initiate the installation using manufacturer provided CDROM.
Instead and contrary to manufacturer instructions, connect the device first and let Windows discover it. Guide Windows hardware install agent to the CDROM where the required driver resides. All other helpful and not so helpful apps will not be installed ... until you decide to run a setup from the manufacturer provided CDROM.

30. Install all 1001 Windows updates. It is a critically important step. Some more recent Windows updates provide support for Core Duo and Core 2 Duo processors, as well as fix some problems with power management that can slow down dual processors.

Now the bot is ready for PC-BOT software ...

31. Using WBR's PC-BOT Installation document as your guide and software provided in PC-BOT Installation Software zip file, execute the eight steps installation process:
  • BIOS/SATA setting - nothing to change on i3899, SATA is in AUTO mode
  • M3 Drivers – two step process
  • .NET 1.1
  • .NET 2.0
  • Phidget Drivers (v.2.0 provided by WBR, or newer version 2.1)
  • BRIAN Software Install/Setup
  • Video Software (only if you are planning to use this service)
  • BRIAN GUI Setup
32. Next, using WBR's Quick Start Guide as your guide, make additional adjustments:
  • Power Option – Shutdown (section 2b)
  • Getting Started – Software (section 4)
33. Don't forget about Ernie's USB Port Latency Fix. If you have done it before, the setting was most likely preserved and is still there, but please double check ... it's an important setting.

34. Install any other software you need or want to use: WBOS, MSRS, Java VM, Skype, etc. You really do not need RealVNC if you have installed Windows XP Pro. Use Remote Desktop instead.

35. Double check for any additional Windows updates, and that's it ... you are done!

Have fun with your super-duper fast bot!