Bus control module for improving legacy support

Bus control module for improving legacy support
US 20020026548A1
(19) United States
(12) Patent Application Publication (10) Pub. No.: US 2002/0026548 A1
(43) Pub. Date:
Frank
(54)
BUS CONTROL MODULE FOR IMPROVING
Feb. 28, 2002
Publication Classi?cation
LEGACY SUPPORT
(76) Inventor: Andrew Frank, Woodland Hills, CA
(51)
Int. Cl? ................................................... .. G06F 13/00
(52)
Us. 01. ............................................................ ..710/100
(Us)
Correspondence Address:
SCHWEGMAN, LUNDBERG, WOESSNER &
KLUTH, P.A.
PO. BOX 2938
MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55402 (US)
(21) Appl. No.:
09/837,626
(22) Filed:
Apr. 18, 2001
(57)
ABSTRACT
Systems, devices and methods are provided for expanding
an interface to a computer. According to one aspect, a device
is provided, including a backplane and at least one expan
sion card. The backplane includes at least one expansion slot
and an upstream connector for connecting With the com
puter. The expansion card is adapted for coupling With the
expansion slot. The expansion card includes at least one port
to provide an interface With the computer. According to one
Related US. Application Data
(63) Continuation-in-part of application No. 09/551,299,
?led on Apr. 18, 2000.
aspect, an apparatus is provided, including a control module,
a hub coupled to the control module and adapted for
providing USB/USB+ outputs, and an external functions
unit coupled to the hub and adapted for providing outputs.
42
AC
40
CONNECTION
80
SURGE PROTECTED A/C LINES
REGULATED OR UNREGULATED DC VOLTAGES
|———— POI SLOT
UNINTERRUPTABLE POWER SUPPLY
SERIAL 8c PARALLEL PORTS
DOWNSTREAM USB PORTS
NETWORK (ETHERNET) AND COMMUNICATTON ———~*
(DSL, MODEM, CABLE-MODEM, ETC.)
ISA SLOT
PMOIA SLOT
Patent Application Publication
Feb. 28, 2002 Sheet 1 0f 4
US 2002/0026548 A1
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Feb. 28, 2002
US 2002/0026548 A1
BUS CONTROL MODULE FOR IMPROVING
LEGACY SUPPORT
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
APPLICATIONS
[0001] This application is a continuation of US. patent
application Ser. No. 09/551,299, ?led on Apr. 18, 2000, the
speci?cation of Which is incorporated herein by reference.
[0010] FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a system of one
embodiment of the invention.
[0011] FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a system of another
embodiment of the invention.
[0012] FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a mechanical imple
mentation that includes a backplane With tWo expansion
slots for expansion cards.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION
BACKGROUND
[0002] (1) Field of the Invention
[0003] The invention relates to systems and methods for
providing expansion capabilities outside of a personal com
puter.
[0004] (2) Background
[0005] Some prior art systems employ an uninterruptible
poWer supply (UPS) in Which an alternating current to direct
current (AC to DC) converter receives an AC signal, from
for example, a Wall socket, and converts the signal to DC
Which is used to charge a battery Within the UPS. A DC
signal is reconverted to AC and supplied back out to
connected devices. In the event of a poWer outage, the UPS
permits an orderly shut doWn of the system by supplying
poWer previously stored in the battery. Typically, external
devices expect to receive 220 or 110 volts AC from a
standard electrical outlet. The battery poWer is converted
from DC to the expected 110 or 220 volts AC. Such devices
typically each have their oWn internal AC to DC converter.
Using that converter, the poWer supplied is again converted
to DC for use in the device.
[0006] The traditional personal computer (PC) or Work
station market is based on expansion capability of the unit.
This has typically included such bussing structures as ISA,
EISA and PCI, as Well as PCMCIA cards, all of Which fall
under the broad category of legacy expansion methods.
Price pressures and siZe reduction demands have necessi
tated providing for relatively small number of external
connectivities. The recent trend has been to move the PC in
the direction of a sealed box. This trend tends to increase the
relative dif?culty of poWer management of the overall
system, as Well as legacy support.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
[0007] According to one aspect, a device is provided,
including a backplane and at least one expansion card. The
backplane includes at least one expansion slot and an
upstream USB connector for connecting With the computer.
The expansion card is adapted for coupling With the expan
sion slot. The expansion card includes at least one port to
provide an interface With the computer.
[0008] According to one aspect, an apparatus is provided,
including a control module, a hub coupled to the control
module and adapted for providing USB/USB+ outputs, and
[0013] FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a system of one
embodiment of the invention. A legacy free PC 136 has
coupled thereto a mouse 138 and a keyboard 140. The legacy
free PC provides at least one external connectivity (in this
embodiment, USB). Accordingly, the legacy free PC 136 is
coupled to a combined uninterruptible poWer supply and bus
control module contained Within the housing 40. The USB
connection 80 provides both the USB signaling as Well as
poWer to the legacy free PC 136. In addition to the unin
terruptible poWer supply 50 and the USB control and
monitor module 26, support for alternative connectivities
and various legacy expansion systems may be provided
Within the housing 40. For example, the housing may be
equipped With various serial or parallel ports 64, additional
doWnstream USB ports 66, as Well as netWork and commu
nications ports, such as Ethernet ports, DSL modem or cable
modem ports 70. Additionally, the housing may be equipped
With a PCMCIA slot 72, an ISA slot 74, a PCI slot 76, or any
other legacy support slot. Various regulated or unregulated
DC voltages can be supplied to external nodes 60. Addi
tionally, surge protected AC lines 62 may be provided to
Which external devices may be coupled. A standard poWer
cord 42 may provide AC connection via a standard Wall
socket.
[0014] It is also Within the scope and contemplation of the
invention for various legacy support modules 79, such as
support for PCI or ISA to be fabricated to modularly attach
to the housing 40. In such embodiments, housing 40 pro
vides coupling points 75 for engagement by the snap-on
modules 79. Mechanical and electrical connections 77 on
the housing 40 retain each module ?rmly in place While
providing poWer and communication betWeen the module
and the main unit. PoWer and communication may be
provided through a USB link in one embodiment of the
invention. The housing 40 may also provide connection
ports for non-legacy I/O, such as USB or 1394 buses. In this
manner, an extra port 81 may be modularly added to the unit.
[0015] FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a system of one
embodiment of the invention. PC 36 is coupled to a USB
controller monitor module 26 through Which PC 36 is
supplied external connectivity and poWer. PC 36 may be, but
need not be, a legacy free PC. In this ?gure, unless otherWise
speci?ed, poWer distribution lines are represented by thick
lines, While thin lines represent control or signal lines. An
incoming poWer signal, typically 220 or 110 volts AC, is
supplied to the poWer conditioning circuit 14. The poWer
an external functions unit coupled to the hub and adapted for
conditioning circuit 14 may provide surge protection. In
providing outputs.
some embodiments, the poWer conditioning circuit 14 may
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
[0009] FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a system of one
embodiment of the invention.
also provide poWer phase correction. The output is supplied
to AC/DC charger circuit 12 Which converts the AC poWer
signal into DC and uses the DC to charge battery 16. The
output of the poWer conditioning circuit 14 is also supplied
to a backup sWitch 20 that is provided betWeen poWer
Feb. 28, 2002
US 2002/0026548 A1
conditioning circuit 14 and a set of switchable power output
nodes. Backup sWitch 20 selects Which of the poWer con
plane 74 includes tWo or more expansion slots for the
expansion cards 72. One of the expansion slots is the Master
ditioning circuit 14 and the battery 16 supply poWer to the
slot 76 While the remaining one or more expansion slots are
output nodes. In the event of a poWer failure, battery 16
Slave slot(s) 78. The Master slot 76 is connected to the Slave
slot(s) 78 via a communication link 84 such as a USB signal
pair. An expansion card 72 is inserted into the Master slot 76,
and other card(s) 72 are able to be inserted into the Slave
supplies poWer through DC/AC inverter 18. DC/AC inverter
18 converts the battery poWer supplied to the output nodes
110/220 VAC.
slot(s) 78. According to one embodiment, the expansion
[0016] In any case, the battery 16 supplies poWer to a
DC/DC converter 24 Which generates desired DC voltages,
such as +5 volts, for use by USB and other circuitry.
cards 72 are “plug-n-play” cards. The Master slot 76 is
Moreover, by supplying devices With DC rather than AC
nicate via the communication link 84.
additional conversion steps are avoided. Since current exter
nal devices expect AC, integration of the USB hub and
functions With the control module and UPS permits those
devices to be supplied DC directly reducing system costs.
[0017] It is also Within the scope and contemplation of the
invention to supply the PC 36 With DC poWer via the control
and monitor module 26. Alternatively, the poWer supplied to
the PC may be the traditional 220 or 110 volts AC. The USB
and monitor module 26 monitors each subunit of UPS 50.
Additionally, the control and monitor module 26 controls a
plurality of sWitches 22 Which provide external poWer. Thus,
in loW poWer modes, the control and monitor module can
select to leave one, all, none, or any combination of the
alWays populated. If both the Master and Slave slot(s) 76
and 78 are populated, multiple cards 72 are able to commu
[0022] Each slot 76 and 78 has a slot identi?cation signal
that alloWs expansion card ?rmWare to determine if the
expansion card 72 is a Master 76 or a Slave 78 card. There
is no need for any hardWare modi?cation to set up a Master
or a Slave device. The Master card’s upstream USB con
nection 84 comes from an external device While the Slave
card’s USB upstream connection comes from the Master
card, both through the backplane 74. According to one
embodiment, the Master slot 76 contains one upstream
(from an external device) and one doWnstream (to the Slave
slot) USB connection (from the Master slot). The Master slot
also contains UPS status and control signals.
externally poWered devices poWered. Control and monitor
[0023] According to one embodiment, the expansion card
module also controls and monitors the poWer supplied to
72 is a USB card that is capable of being plugged into one
of the expansion slots 76 or 78 of the backplane 74.
According to one embodiment, the expansion card 72 pro
internal functions 30 and external modems 54, as Well as
USB hub 32. By providing additional independently con
trollable sWitches 28, internal functions 30 may be poWered
or left unpoWered depending on the desired poWer state of
the system.
vides combinations of one or more of the folloWing: legacy
RS232 serial port(s) 102; legacy IEEE 1284 parallel port(s)
104; Internet connector(s) 106; modem connector(s) 108 for
a regular modem or DSL modem; netWork connector(s) 110;
[0018] Firmware Within the control and monitor module
can provide legacy conversion from various legacy proto
cols to USB so that data received using such legacy proto
or application speci?c connector(s) 112; and USB/USB+
expansion ports.
cols can be forWarded to the PC over the USB link for
[0024] The expansion card 72 is poWered from the back
processing.
plane board 74. As such, it draWs no poWer from the
upstream USB port, and reports itself as a self-poWered
[0019] By moving the legacy support to an external mod
ule outside of the PC, cost and siZe of the PC is diminished.
device to the operating system. The USB Upstream port 116
provides a data connection to the host computer. According
Additionally, by providing control of each subunit and each
to one embodiment, it draWs no poWer from the USB cable.
external connection through a central control and monitor
The USB Upstream port is not connected directly to the
upstream port of the internal USB function. It is routed to the
backplane board instead Where it is routed back to the
upstream port of the internal USB function in the Master slot
and not connected anyWhere in the Slave slot(s). This alloWs
the same cards to be used in both the Master and the Slave
slots. The USB/USB+ DoWnstream port(s) 114 provide a
module, control of the overall poWer consumption of the
system is facilitated. Moreover, While legacy support can be
moved outside the PC, the UPS and control unit also serves
as an ideal connection point for non-legacy devices.
[0020] FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a system of another
embodiment of the invention. In this embodiment, the hub
33 is a USB/USB+ hub With USB/USB+ outputs 60, 62, 64
and 66. According to one embodiment, the external func
tions provide serial port(s) 68 and application speci?c
port(s). According to one embodiment, the serial port(s) 68
include poWered and non-poWered RS232. According to
other embodiments, the external functions include parallel
data connection or both a data and a poWer connection to an
external USB device. RS232 serial port(s) 102 and IEEE
1284 parallel port(s) 104 provide legacy connectivity for the
host computer.
[0025] An edge connector 122 connects the expansion
card 72 to the backplane board 74. The backplane board 74
port(s) 69, and modem, netWork and/or Internet port(s) 71.
carries the poWer and poWer return lines for both Master and
The USB/USB+ hub 33 and the external functions unit 54
are represented Within an expansion card 72, Which is
described in more detail beloW With respect to FIG. 4.
Slave slots. Furthermore, according to one embodiment, the
backplane board 74 carries the status and control lines of the
UPS for the Master slots, the USB signals betWeen the USB
connector and the Master slot, the USB signals betWeen the
Master and Slave slots, and the slot identi?er signal for the
Master and Slave slots.
[0021] FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a mechanical imple
mentation that includes a backplane 74 With expansion slots
76 and 78 for expansion cards 72. The backplane 74 contains
a DC poWer input connector 80, and a UPS control/status/
I/O connector 82. According to one embodiment, the back
[0026] According to other embodiments, the expansion
card 72 supplies a number of additional I/O signals that are
Feb. 28, 2002
US 2002/0026548 A1
read using an “out-of-band” mechanism separate from the
UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter)
ports provided on the card. This mechanism is supplied by
a number of “virtual” COM ports Which enable application
software to monitor and control the additional I/O functions.
In general, application softWare may treat a “virtual” COM
port in the same Way as a real COM port using standard API
(Application Programming Interface) functions.
[0027] Although speci?c embodiments have been illus
trated and described herein, it Will be appreciated by those
of ordinary skill in the art that any arrangement Which is
calculated to achieve the same purpose may be substituted
for the speci?c embodiment shoWn. This application is
intended to cover any adaptations or variations of the present
invention. Therefore, it is intended that this invention be
limited only by the claims and the equivalents thereof.
What is claimed is:
1. A device, comprising:
a backplane With at least one expansion slot and With an
upstream connector for connecting With a computer;
and
at least one expansion card for coupling With the expan
sion slot, the expansion card including at least one port
to provide an interface With the computer.
2. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card includes at least one USB+ port.
3. The device of claim 2, Wherein the at least one
expansion card includes at least one USB port.
4. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card includes at least one serial port.
5. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card includes at least one parallel port.
6. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card includes at least one application speci?c
port.
7. The device of claim 1, Wherein at least one the
expansion card includes:
at least one USB+ port;
at least one RS232 serial port; and
at least one IEEE 1284 parallel port.
8. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card further includes at least one modem connec
tor.
9. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card further includes at least one netWork con
nector.
10. The device of claim 1, Wherein the at least one
expansion card further includes at least one Internet con
nector.
11. The device of claim 1, Wherein the backplane includes
a master slot coupled to at least one slave slot via a
communication link.
12. The device of claim 1, further including a port for
providing UPS status and control communication.
13. An apparatus, comprising:
a control module;
a hub for providing USB/USB+ outputs, the hub being
coupled to the control module; and
an external functions unit for providing outputs, the
external functions unit being coupled to the hub.
14. The apparatus of claim 13, Wherein the control module
includes a port for providing a communication link to a
computer.
15. The apparatus of claim 14, Wherein the communica
tion link includes a USB and further includes poWer.
16. The apparatus of claim 13, Wherein the control module
includes at least one port for providing UPS status and
control communication.
17. The apparatus of claim 13, Wherein the external
functions unit provides at least one serial port.
18. The apparatus of claim 17, Wherein the external
function unit provides at least one parallel port.
19. The apparatus of claim 13, Wherein the external
functions unit provides at least one application speci?c
control.
20. The apparatus
function unit provides
21. The apparatus
function unit provides
22. The apparatus
function unit provides
23. The apparatus
of claim 13, Wherein the external
at least one modem port.
of claim 13, Wherein the external
at least one netWork port.
of claim 13, Wherein the external
at least one Internet port.
of claim 13, further including an
uninterruptible poWer supply (UPS) coupled to and con
trolled and monitored by the control module.
24. The apparatus of claim 23, Wherein the UPS includes:
an alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) con
verter to receive an AC poWer signal from an external
source;
a battery coupled to the AC/DC converter; and
a DC/DC converter to convert a DC signal of the AC/DC
converter into at least a ?rst predetermined DC voltage
for use by a device external to the apparatus.
25. The apparatus of claim 24, Wherein the UPS further
includes:
a charger circuit coupled betWeen the AC/DC converter
and the battery to charge the battery from an incoming
poWer signal; and
a poWer conditioning circuit coupled to the AC/DC con
verter to pass the incoming poWer signal through to an
output node.
26. The apparatus of claim 25, Wherein the UPS further
includes:
a DC/AC inverter coupled to the battery; and
a sWitch coupled betWeen the DC/AC inverter and the
poWer conditioning circuit to select Which of the bat
tery and the poWer conditioning circuit can supply
poWer to the output node.
27. The apparatus of claim 23, Wherein the bus control
module is coupled to monitor subunits of the UPS and
controls the sWitch.
28. The apparatus of claim 23, further including a plural
ity of sWitches independently controlled by the bus control
module to select Which of a plurality of output lines are
supplied poWer by the UPS.
29. The apparatus of claim 23, further including a housing
containing the UPS, bus control module and the bus hub.
30. The apparatus of claim 29, Wherein the housing
further includes a plurality of expansion slots.
Feb. 28, 2002
US 2002/0026548 A1
31. The apparatus of claim 29, wherein the housing
includes connection points for coupling an expansion mod
ule to the housing.
32. A system comprising:
providing a communication link to the computer;
providing a device for coupling to the communication
link, including:
providing a backplane With at least one expansion slot
and With an upstream connector for coupling to the
a legacy free personal computer (PC);
communication link; and
providing at least one expansion card for coupling With
the expansion slot, including providing at least one
a housing containing an uninterruptible poWer supply
(UPS), a bus monitor and control module, a USB/
USB+ hub, and an external functions unit; and
a bus coupling the PC to the bus monitor and control
module.
33. The system of claim 32, Wherein the bus is a Universal
Serial Bus (USB).
34. The system of claim 32, Wherein the bus monitor and
control module distributes direct current (DC) poWer to the
PC over the bus.
35. The system of claim 32, Wherein the control module
includes at least one port for providing UPS status and
control communication.
36. The apparatus of claim 32, Wherein the hub provides
at least one USB port and at least one USB+ port.
37. The apparatus of claim 32, Wherein the external
functions unit provides at least one serial port.
38. The apparatus of claim 37, Wherein the external
function unit provides at least one parallel port.
39. The apparatus of claim 37, Wherein the external
function unit provides at least one
40. The apparatus of claim 37, Wherein the external
function unit provides at least one application speci?c port.
41. The apparatus of claim 37, Wherein the external
function unit provides at least one netWork port.
42. The apparatus of claim 37, Wherein the external
function unit provides at least one Internet port.
43. A method for expanding an interface to a computer,
comprising:
port as an interface for the computer.
44. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one USB
port.
45. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one USB+
port.
46. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one serial
port.
47. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one parallel
port.
48. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one applica
tion speci?c port.
49. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one Internet
connection.
50. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one modem
connection.
51. The method of claim 43, Wherein providing at least
one expansion card includes providing at least one netWork
connection.
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