Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence

February 2007

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 103      February 2007
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

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 
the software.

If you haven't yet completed the survey, but would like 
to have your say in the direction of the newsletter, 
go to

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 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 
   alarm levels. 

10. You are now ready to use the Windmill logging, 
   charting, display and control programs.

More Help

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 
   Source Data. 
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 
analysis see

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  Read 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


* Copyright Windmill Software Ltd
* Reprinting permitted with this notice included
* For more articles see

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newsletter, and use extracts from it on your own web site 
or publication, providing the above notice is 
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An archive of previous issues is at
and an index of articles at

Windmill Software Ltd, PO Box 58, North District Office,
Manchester, M8 8QR, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)161 833 2782
Facsimile: +44 (0)161 833 2190
E-mail: [email protected]

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