Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence

May 2010

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 142           May 2010
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

Welcome to Monitor, the data acquisition and control 
newsletter. I hope you find it useful, but should you 
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* Windmill News: Reduce energy costs and carbon emissions 
  with Windmill
* Windmill Notes: Opening the COM Port
* Spreadsheet Corner: Data Acquisition with Open Office
* DAQ News Roundup

Windmill News: Reduce energy costs and carbon emissions 
  with Windmill

Data from Windmill's energy logging unit - the 826 - can 
now be analysed in Energy Lens software from BizEE 
Software.  Energy Lens turns the energy-consumption data 
collected by Windmill into charts and reports. These show:
- How much progress you've made at reducing consumption
- When and where you're wasting energy
- How much energy you're wasting 

Regular logging of energy consumption, every half-hour 
say, shows you how much energy you're using at different 
times of the day, or on different days of the week.

Energy Lens is an Excel add-in that makes it much easier 
to analyse the detailed energy data logged by Windmill. 

The Windmill 826 unit connects to a utility meter.  
Battery-backed, it saves readings from the meter locally 
and also regulaly sends its data files to the computer 
for analysis by Energy Lens.

Windmill runs in the background as a "Windows service". 
It is therefore invisible to the end user.

Further Reading
Windmill 826 - Utility Meter Monitoring

Energy Lens - Energy Management Software

Windmill Notes: Opening the COM Port

Our free ComDebug program lets you communicate with 
almost any RS232, RS422, RS485 or Modbus serial device.  
Its extensive trouble-shooting capabilities make it ideal 
for solving communication problems.  You can download 
ComDebug from

This month a ComDebug user asked us "Why is ComDebug 
telling me that it 'failed to open the com port'?

There are two possible reasons for this.

1. The COM port you chose is already in use. ComDebug 
   needs sole control of the port - if other software 
   has already opened the COM port, ComDebug will not 
   be able to access it. 

2. If you are using a USB-Serial device which is 
   "designed for Windows" then it will have a unique 
   serial number. Windows reads this and uses it to 
   remember what COM port number to use for that device. 
   This means that when you unplug the converter, Windows 
   continues to consider its COM port number in use.  It 
   also means that if you swap converters the port number 
   assigned will be different.  You can over-ride this 
   with Device Manager. More details are at

Spreadsheet Corner: Data Acquisition with Open Office

The "Excel Corner" has transmuted to the "Spreadsheet 
Corner" this month, as we are focusing on Open Office. 

Open Office is a free suite of software which includes a 
spreadsheet and word processor. You can use the Open 
Office spreadsheet with Windmill for data acquisition.  

To download the Windmill software subscribe to 

To download Open Office go to

To collect data with Open Office and Windmill

1. Start collecting data with Windmill DDE Panel.
2. Open an OpenOffice sheet and format the first column 
   to show Time (Format menu > Cells > Time).
3. Create an OpenOffice macro and copy the example macro
   given below into it.
4. Change the channel name (in our example 00001) to 
   match yours. 

Practice collecting data from the Signal Generator before 
employing your device. The Signal Generator in Windmill 
simulates a measurement instrument.  It generates data 
values which you can collect in Open Office. Using the 
Signal Generator lets you test the macro without worrying 
about the hardware settings. It is shown as "Device 0" in 
SetupIML and its channels are 00001, 00002, etc.

Example Open Office Macro

REM  *****  BASIC  *****
Sub SampleData()

'When the number of rows is equal to the number
'of sets of samples requested, the macro will stop.
'If NoOfRows = 0, the first reading will be placed in row 1.
'If TimeCol = 0, the date and time will be placed in column A
'If DataCol = 1, the readings will be placed in column B.

TimeCol = 0
DataCol = 1
NoOfRows = 4
FirstRow = NoOfRows

'Ask for number of sets of samples and sample interval.
NoOfSamples = Val(InputBox("Enter how many samples to collect", "Samples"))
SamplePeriod = InputBox("Enter sample interval in millisecs", "Sample Interval")

' Opens a DDE conversation with the Windmill DDE 
' Panel using the Service Name "Windmill" and the  
' Topic Name "Data"
ddeChan = DDEInitiate("WINDMILL", "Data")

'Keeps conversation open until the required number of samples
'have been collected.
While NoOfRows < NoOfSamples + FirstRow

'Requests data from a channel called "00001" and stores it in 
'memory as mydata.
mydata = DDERequest(ddeChan, "00001")

'Selects first sheet in workbook.
Sheet = thisComponent.Sheets("Sheet1")

	'Writes the time and date
	Cell = Sheet.getCellByPosition(TimeCol, NoOfRows)
	Cell.Value = Now
	'Writes the data reading
	Cell = Sheet.getCellByPosition(DataCol, NoOfRows)
	Cell.Value = mydata

'Waits for the specified sample interval in milliseconds
Wait (SamplePeriod)

'Increments number of rows, 
'so next set of samples is inserted in the next row down.
NoOfRows = NoOfRows + 1

'Stops loop when required sets of samples collected.
DDETerminate (ddeChan)

End Sub


For more information 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 live news on your own web site.

Infrared cameras could stop road tunnel fires
   A new automated system could save lives by spotting 
   overheating components in vehicles before they get 
   into the tunnel. Many tunnel fires start when defects 
   in a vehicle's brakes or engine cause them to run 
   dangerously hot.
   Source: New Scientist

Bats Help Robots "See"
   Detailed studies into the way bats use sound to see in 
   the dark could soon be used to create robots that can 
   find their way around hazardous environments.
   Source: Strathclyde University
Smart Meters Market to Grow
   A recent study published by IMS Research, The World Market 
   for Smart Meters - 2010, forecasts a surging RF-Mesh 
   market in the US while PLC shipments are expected to 
   dramatically increase in Europe and Asia.
   Source: IMS Research

* 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 
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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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