Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence

June 2010

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 143           June 2010
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

Welcome to Monitor, the data acquisition and control 
newsletter. I hope you find it useful, but should you 
wish to remove yourself from our mailing list please go 

* Windmill Notes: Using the Free Data Acquisition Software
* Excel Corner: Speeding Things Up
* DAQ News Roundup

Windmill Notes: Using the Free Data Acquisition Software

As a "thank you" for being one of our subscribers, we offer 
you some free software to gather data from devices with 
a RS232 port. 

You can configure the data acquisition software to work 
with hundreds of devices: balances, GPS receivers, 
pH meters, fluorometers, etc.  This means that the 
initial set up procedure has to be flexible. However, 
if you are not sure of some of your instrument settings 
then the configuration can be a matter of trial and error.  
To help you we have a Technical Support section at 
and a Setup Library at

If we haven't covered your device, and you are not sure 
of your settings, you might get an "Error 114" message. 
This means that the Windmill programs are not getting 
data values from your instrument. There are three 
possible causes for this.
1. A Cabling or communication problem.
2. A Parsing problem.
3. A Timing problem.

1. A cabling or communication problem. 

   To check for this:
   - Right click the LabiML icon on the task bar and 
     select "Debug Options". The LabIML Debug window 
   - Select all the options. 

   If the window shows the raw data from your instrument 
   then the cabling and communication settings are fine. 
   If not then investigate further. See our page on 
   "Trouble-Shooting Serial Port Communications" at	#Serial

2. A parsing problem.

What is parsing? When your instument sends a message it 
doesn't just send one data reading.  Its string of 
characters may contain many different values, commas, 
time stamps, identifiers and so on. You need to "parse" 
the message to extract just the data items in which you 
are interested.

   To check for parsing problems: right click the LabIML 
   icon on the task bar and select "Debug Options". Does 
   the LabIML Debug window say "Parsing Failed"? If so
   - Close all Windmill programs and IML Device icons. 
   - In ConfIML select your instrument. 
   - Press the Settings button. 
   - Press the Channels button and enter the Reply Parse 
     String. Note that when parsing data you need to:
     a. Locate the position of the data in the message 
     b. Extract the data to be logged.
     For more information see our Parsing Help page at

3. A timing problem.

   In Windmill you can set how long data should remain 
   valid: the data persistance time.  With continuous flow 
   instruments, if this is shorter than your sampling interval 
   then Windmill will report that no valid data is available. 
   In ConfIML lengthen the data persistance.

I hope this helps you get started with the free software.  
If you need any more help please get in touch. 

Further Reading
Windmill FAQ:

Windmill Technical Support:

Trouble-Shooting Serial Port Communications:	#Serial

Parsing Messages:

Excel Corner: Speeding Things Up

When you have large amounts of data in a spreadsheet 
moving around it becomes tedious. And the shortcut keys 
are not always obvious. Here are some you might 
find useful.

Moving to the Last Data Item before a Blank Space

Move to the end of a column: Ctrl and Down Arrow
Move to the top of a column: Ctrl and Up Arrow
Move to the right of a row: Ctrl and Right Arrow
Move to the left of a row: Ctrl and Left Arrow

Selecting Cells

Select column cells below the current location (until a 
blank space occurs): Ctrl and Shift and Down Arrow
Select column cells above current location (until a blank 
space occurs): Ctrl and Shift and Up Arrow
Select entire column: Ctrl and Spacebar

Select rest of row to right of current location (until a 
blank space occurs): Ctrl and Shift and Right Arrow
Select rest of row to left of current location (until a 
blank space occurs): Ctrl and Shift and Left Arrow
Select entire row: Shift and Spacebar
Select rest of row to the far left: Shift and Home

Extend the selection to the beginning of the worksheet: 
Ctrl and Shift and Home
Select entire worksheet: Ctrl and A, or double-click the 
top-left square above the Row numbers.

Extend the selection to the lower-right cell of a 
worksheet: CTRL+SHIFT+END 
(This is very useful for finding the end of the worksheet. 
If you have removed data, you may have many blank cells 
taking up room which you could safely delete, thus reducing 
the size of your spreadsheet.)

Select cells directly referenced by formulas in the 
selection: CTRL and [
Select cells that contain formulas that directly 
reference the active cell: CTRL and ]

Inserting Text
Start a new line in the same cell: ALT and ENTER 
Insert the date: Ctrl and ;
Insert the time: Ctrl and Shift and ;


For more information on data acquisition with Excel see and

If you have a question about using Excel for data 
acquisition, please get in touch.

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.

Flying robots could monitor forest-fire effects
   Swarms of flying robots may one day soar into blazing 
   forest fires, cling to undamaged trees and deploy 
   crucial sensors and tools to track the inferno and 
   its effects.
   Source: The Engineer

NASA Demonstrates Tsunami Prediction System 
   A NASA-led research team has successfully 
   demonstrated, for the first time elements of a 
   prototype tsunami prediction system using GPS 
   technology that quickly and accurately assesses 
   large earthquakes and estimates the size of 
   resulting tsunamis. 
   Souce: Nasa

Soil tester to help crop yields
   A non-invasive acoustic method of soil testing 
   is being developed, to help improve crop 
   yields in times of water shortages.  The 
   interaction of sound with soils can provide 
   information on soil strength, moisture 
   content and permeability.
   Source: Open University

"Internet of Things" Advances
   ZigBee wireless Alliance and IPv6 Forum have formed 
   a strategic alliance with the IPSO Alliance 
   to speed adoption of IP networked smart objects.
   Source: IPSO Alliance

Shipments of Industrial Control Equipment Surge in USA
   Industrial control shipments in the USA increased 
   on a year-over-year basis for the first time 
   since 2008.
   Source: NEMA

* 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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