The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 103 www.windmill.co.uk February 2007
Hello. Thank you everyone who completed the survey in
our last issue. The results are below. I hope you
enjoy the newsletter but should you wish to cancel your
subscription, you can do so at
* Windmill News: Survey Response
* Windmill Tips: LabIML Checklist
* Excel Corner: How to Plot One Variable Against Another
on a Column Chart
* DAQ News Roundup
Windmill News: Survey Response
Last month we asked you to fill in a survey to help us
improve this newsletter and our support service.
Thank you very much to all who did.
The most popular topics were the Excel corner, tutorials,
and stories about real-world instances of data
acquisition. Over 90% of you were very or fairly
interested in these topics.
The least popular section was the exhibition listings,
with 53% being not at all interested. Because of this
we plan to reduce the frequency of the exhibition
listings to once every four months - that is in
December, April and August.
The most common request was for a step-by-step guide
to configuring Windmill software. Starting today
we'll include a series of checklists on using
If you haven't yet completed the survey, but would like
to have your say in the direction of the newsletter,
go to http://www.windmill.co.uk/monitor102.html
Windmill Tips: LabIML Checklist
LabIML is the Windmill 4.3 serial driver which is
free to our subscribers.
Once you have unpacked and installed your Windmill
programs, follow these steps. You only need to do this
the first time you use Windmill. From then on you can
simply load the Logging and Charting programs.
1. Run Windmill ConfIML.
This detects the device drivers on your computer
(such as LabIML for serial devices) and lets you
select the appropriate settings for these drivers.
2. In ConfIML press the Add button and select the
LabIML RS232 ASCII Instrument Handler.
3. Type the name of your instrument and the number
of channels of data you want to collect. If you
were collecting latitude, longitude and depth
readings for example, you would need 3 channels.
4. Choose the Reading Protocol of your instrument.
- If your instrument automatically sends data at
regular intervals choose Continuous flow.
- If your instrument needs a command before
supplying data choose Request/Response.
5. You can generally leave the other instrument
settings at the defaults, but make sure that
the data persistence time is longer than your
idle time (if using).
6. You now need to define how to extract data.
(Windmill doesn't just store the entire message:
it extracts the relevant data from each message,
directing each data item to a channel.)
Press the Channels buttons and enter a Reply
Parse string. See Issue 69 of Monitor or
http://www.windmill.co.uk/parse.html for more
7. The next step is to enter your communications
settings: baud rate, com port, etc.
8. Save your settings and close ConfIML.
9. Run the SetupIML program. This lets you specify
how you want to use your instrument. Select
LabIML from the Device menu and double-click
your channels to choose names, units, ranges and
10. You are now ready to use the Windmill logging,
charting, display and control programs.
We have guides to configuring the software with
specific instruments, including Mettler Toledo balance,
Parallax BASIC Stamp and Transcell Digital Indicator.
These are listed at
You might find our Technical Support FAQ and
Installation Guide useful at
If you find any of our technical support documents
difficult to understand please let us know!
Excel Corner: How to plot one variable against another
on a Column Chart
The most common way to plot one variable against another,
temperature against rainfall say, is to use an
x-y scatter chart. However, if you wish you can
instead use a column chart.
Imagine you have a spreadsheet with three columns. The
first contains the time the data was collected, the
second contains the temperature reading and the third
the rainfall reading.
1. Insert a blank row before the column headings.
2. Select the temperature and rainfall columns,
including the blank cell before the column headings.
3. From the Insert menu choose Chart.
4. Choose a column chart and step through the chart
wizard, leaving everything at the default values.
5. The x values will be temperature and the
y values rainfall.
6. Right-click one of the columns and choose
7. For the series name type Rainfall.
For more tips on charting with Excel see
For more tips on using Excel for data acquisition and
DAQ News Roundup
Welcome to our roundup of the data acquisition and
control news. If you would like to receive more
timely DAQ news updates then grab our RSS newsfeed
at https://www.windmillsoft.com/monitor.xml. Read
http://www.windmill.co.uk/newsfeed.php for notes
on how to display the news on your own web site,
read it via e-mail or through a newsfeed viewer.
From Farm Waste to Fuel Tanks
Scientists have devised a methane storage system,
derived from corncobs, that may encourage mass-market
natural gas automobiles. The new system commprises
carbon briquettes with complex nanopores capable of
storing natural gas at an unprecedented density of
180 times their own volume and at one seventh the
pressure of conventional natural gas tanks. The
breakthrough is a significant step forward in the
U.S. effort to fit more automobiles to run on methane.
Source: National Science Foundation
Sea Creatures to Be Tracked Electronically
In a modern update of "fish and chips," researchers
are planning a worldwide effort to track the movement
of sea creatures tagged with electronic devices.
Sea life will be tagged so they can then be tracked as
they swim past arrays of sensors placed at critical
locations in the oceans.
The goal is to eventually have 5,000 ocean receivers
arranged in 60 lines worldwide, capable of tracking up
to 1 million animals at the same time.
Source: Environmental News Network
EU Directives Increase Water Automation System Uptake
Many parts of Eastern Europe and Iberia suffer from
poor infrastructure with respect to water distribution
and waste water treatment. Accession countries (to the
European Union) will face the maximum impact of EU
regulation. According to a Frost & Sullivan report
large-scale investment in water treatment plants in
Eastern Europe and Iberia is already happening, as
well as in parts of Italy and Benelux, with a
resulting increase in the uptake of automation and
control solutions. One of the key challenges for
manufacturers is to provide systems that seamlessly
integrate with existing plant infrastructure. This
explains the need to provide automation and control
systems that are compatible with, and easy to
integrate into, current systems.
Source: Frost & Sullivn
Bulging bumper could speed journey to computerised carriageways
Investigations by engineers at The University of
Manchester into an extendable car bumper could help
speed along the arrival of computer-controlled
motorways. A paper presented at the Intelligent
Transport Systems World Congress and Exhibition
offers a glimpse of how a high-tech motorway network
could operate safely in the future. Vehicles would not
be independently driven, but regulated and controlled
via information beamed from transmitters at the side of
the road. The authors scooped Best Scientific Paper
for their 'bridging damper' in the event of a signal
failure. This would be an intelligent bumper, which
would extend to touch the car in front, should the
main communication system break down.
Source: The University of Manchester
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