Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence

January 2008

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 114      January 2008
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

Welcome to the first Monitor of 2008.  We start the new 
year by asking a favour. Could you complete a short survey 
to help improve the newsletter and our service?  Also in 
this issue: how to connect a Sartorius balance to a 
computer, the Excel corner and the DAQ News highlights.

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* New Year Survey
* Windmill Notes: Connecting a Sartorius balance 
  to your PC
* Excel Corner
* DAQ News Roundup

New Year Survey

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1. Which sections of Monitor do you find the most interesting or useful? Please rank from 3 (very) - 2 (fairly) - 1 (not very) - 0 (not at all) Excel corner Exhibition dates DAQ news roundup New product announcements Real world examples of how Windmill is being used Tips on using Windmill General articles on data aquisition techniques 2. Are there any topics you would like us to cover in Monitor? 3. Would you prefer the newsletter in text format (as it is now) or HTML format (with pictures, colours, etc)? Text HTML Either 4. Are you using any Windmill data acquisition software? (If none please go to question 8) Free Windmill 4.3 with LabIML serial driver Free ComDebug download Windmill 6 Other 5. Did you experience any problems with the software and if so what were they? (Please say if you resolved the problems, or if you would like our assistance.) 6. What make, model and type of instrument you are using? 7. Monitor features real-world examples of how people are using their PC for measurement and control. Would you be prepared to share how you are using Windmill with our readers? If so please enter brief details and a contact e-mail here. 8. In what field of work are you? 9. Any other comments or suggestions on the Monitor newsletter or Windmill software?
Many thanks for your help. ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Windmill Notes: Connecting a Sartorius balance to the PC ________________________________________________________ With Windmill software you can log data from a Sartorius balance, and other instruments with RS232 ports, on a Windows computer. As a subscriber to Monitor you can download a free copy of Windmill 4.3. Alternatively you can purchase Version 6 of Windmill from There are three basic steps to starting to log data from a Sartorius balance using the free Windmill software. 1. Run the ConfIML (Windmill 4.3) or ComDebug (Windmill 6) program and enter your balance's communication settings. 2. Run the Windmill SetupIML program and choose names and units for your balance's data. 3. Run the Windmill DDE Panel or Logger program to display or save data from your balance. Once you have configured the Windmill software you can in future go straight logging data. * Windmill ConfIML This program detects and saves a record of the hardware you want to use, in our case a Sartorius balance. The settings below work with most Sartorius balances, but check your balance Manual to make sure. 1. Start ConfIML and Press the Add button. 2. Select LabIML RS232 ASCII Instrument Handler. 3. Type a name for the balance, a description and enter how many channels of data you will be collecting (one if you are just recording weight). Press OK. 4. Enter your instrument's settings, for example.. - Reading Protocol: Request/Response On Demand - Timeout: 5000 - Instrument Idle or Wait Time: 0 - Returned Message Length: 60 - Instrument Initialisation String: Leave blank 5. Press the Channels button. Enter the command to request data (the Prompt String) and the instructions to extract the reading from the string of data sent by the balance (the Reply Parse String). - Prompt String: Escape followed by P. This appears as \C027P - Parse String: The data string may look like + 32.157 g. To extract the weight you could search for the + and extract the characters after that until g. This appears as \S"+"\E" g" 6. Enter the communications settings being used by the balance. For example... - Baud: 2400 - Parity: Odd - Data Bits: 7 - Stop Bits: 1 - Flow: None 7. Save your settings, close ConfIML and start SetupIML. * Windmill SetupIML With the SetupIML program you can set units, alarms and so on. 1. From the Device menu select LabIML. 2. Your data channel will be shown as a number like 10000. Double click this channel. 3. Type name for your channel and make sure "Enable for Input" is checked. If you want to change the units enter an appropriate scale and offset. For example, if you wanted to convert grams to milligrams you'd enter 0.001 as the scale and 0 as the offset. 4. Save your settings in a *.ims file, close SetupIML and run DDE Panel or Logger * Windmill DDE Panel 1. From the File menu select Load Hardware Setup and choose the *.ims file you just saved. 2. Connect your weight channel. You should see the correct weight in DDE Panel. 3. Proceed similarly for the Logger or Chart programs. * Getting the data into Excel You can use the Windmill Logger program to collect data, and after collection has finished import it into Excel. Alternatively, you can collect data with Excel in real-time by using an Excel macro to read data from the Windmill DDE Panel. For more details see our Excel page at * Trouble-Shooting If you are having problems receiving data from your Sartorius balance, right-click the LabIML icon on the tool bar and select "Debug Options". 1. If the LabIML Debug window says "Parsing Failed", go back to the ConfIML window and edit your Reply Parse String. 2. If the LabIML Debug window shows no incoming data at all, you may have a cabling problem. Sartorius's RS-232 cable is not a standard cable. You need to either purchase the correct cable from Sartorius, or re-wire the connections. See for details. 3. If you can't fix the problem contact [email protected] Tell us what steps you have taken so far, if you have received any error messages and send us a copy of your *.aid file, which you'll find in your Windmill folder. Further Reading =============== See our Sartorius page at ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Excel Corner: Deleting Web Objects ________________________________________________________ Sometimes, when you copy and paste information from a web page into Excel, you are left with annoying buttons and drop-down lists which you can't remove. Here is a simple macro to do the job for you. Sub DeleteClutter() Dim clutter As Shape For Each clutter In ActiveSheet.Shapes clutter.Delete Next End Sub The Dim statement declares the "clutter" variable to be a shape. The For...Next statement tells the macro to loop though all the shapes on the currently active worksheet and delete them. Caution. Shapes include not only the buttons and drop-down lists, but charts, diagrams and clipart. Running this macro will also remove any of these on your worksheet. To cope with this you could set the macro to ask you before deleting each item. Sub DeleteClutter2() Dim clutter As Shape For Each clutter In ActiveSheet.Shapes Answer = MsgBox(Prompt:="Delete item" & clutter.TopLeftCell.Address, Buttons:=vbYesNoCancel + vbQuestion) If Answer = vbCancel Then Exit Sub If Answer = vbYes Then clutter.Delete Next End Sub (Macro modified from one written by Bill Hooper. The "Answer =" statement and the following two lines should be all on one line.) 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, mobile phone or a newsfeed viewer. Software bugs squashed Mathematicians in America are developing an open- source tool that catches programming errors using "combinatorial testing". Compared to most other testing software, which has typically focused on testing interactions between just two variables, the tool excels at quickly generating efficient tests for 6-way interactions or more, saving time and money. Source: NIST Shrinking Sensors Engineers at MIT are developing a tiny sensor that could be used to detect minute quantities of hazardous gases much more quickly than current devices. The researchers have taken the common techniques of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry and shrunk them to fit in a device the size of a computer mouse. Eventually the team plans to build a detector the size of a matchbox. Source: MIT Intelligent foam could keep shop shelves stacked Store shelves that know when they need restocking are one of many potential applications for a novel sensing foam developed by researchers in Europe. The researchers developed cheap sensors by painting each side of a foam sheet with paint containing silver. These electrically conductive stripes act as capacitors, storing a small amount of electric charge. When an item sits on top of the foam, it is compressed slightly, changing the capacitors' ability to store charge. Source: New Scientist Versatile Computer Program Works For Detecting Best Blogs And Worst Water Being among the first to pick up on Internet news and rapidly detecting contamination anywhere in a water supply system are similar problems, at least from a computer scientist's point of view. Both can be solved with a versatile algorithm developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers. Source: Science Daily China PLC Market to Experience Strong Growth through 2011 Buoyant foreign direct investment flowing into China, accompanied by rising consumer demand, is propelling the country's manufacturing sector, which in turn is driving the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) market in China. Source: ARC Advisory Group ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ * Copyright Windmill Software Ltd * Reprinting permitted with this notice included * For more articles see We are happy for you to copy and distribute this newsletter, and use extracts from it on your own web site or publication, providing the above notice is included and a link back to our website is in place. 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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