Windmill Software Ltd
Windows Engineering Software

October 2005

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 87        October 2005
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

Welcome to Issue 87 of Monitor.  This month, a diesel 
engine monitoring story that shows how free data 
acquisition software can save time and reduce errors.

We hope you find the newsletter useful, but should you 
wish to cancel your subscription you can do so at

* Windmill News: Free Software used in 
  Diesel Engine Research
* Excel Corner: Speedy Charts
* Windmill Notes: Understanding Setup Files (*.ims)

Windmill News: Free Software Used in 
Diesel Engine Research

Diesel particulate emissions need to be reduced to 
produce a cleaner environment.  A recent draft package 
from the European Union proposes that such emissions be 
slashed by 80%.  Researcher Edward Winward at 
Loughborough University is investigating how 
compression ratio and fuel composition affect engine 

To control the research engine and eddy current 
dynamometer (AG150HS) he uses a Froude Consine 
Texcel V4.  This is operated from its front panel 
which indicates the current engine speed and torque.  

Until recently these figures had been recorded manually. 
Due to the long duration of the tests this became 
laborious and prone to error.  The original Froude host 
software was too expensive for the project's budget 
and so Winward investigated alternative methods.  From 
reading the operator's manual for the controller he 
realised that it uses standard ASCII text commands 
and responses via a serial interface.  Rather than 
developing an application to communicate with the 
controller he did some research on the subject on the 
internet and found the free Windmill software.

Using the Windmill ConfIML software Winward 
established that he could command the controller to 
send data packets with the engine speed, torque and 
configuration settings.  He could then parse these to 
extract the required information. 

        "I found the process of configuring Windmill to 
        do this relatively straightforward and soon had 
        a total of ten separate channels recording the 
        current state of the engine and dynamometer." 

He then used the Windmill Logger and DDE Panel 
applications to collect data for later processing.  
Windmill stores the data in a text file which can be 
imported into almost any Windows analysis software, 
such as Excel. 

Ultimately, he plans to send commands to the 
controller to control the engine and dynamometer 
via a PC and therefore precisely control a test from 
beginning to end.  To do this he could use the 
Windmill IML Tools ( 
or Test Sequence ( 

The Windmill applications have even helped Edward Winward 
with LabView software from National Instruments...

        "After learning LabView recently, I have now also 
        applied the ASCII command and response parsing 
        technique I learned in Windmill to experiment with 
        using LabView to collect the data from the controller. 
        This has worked but has proven more difficult than 
        with Windmill due to way in which commands are sent 
        in LabView and the responses parsed. I made great 
        use of ConfIML during the debugging process when 
        developing the LabView VI." 

Eventually, both the Windmill and LabView set-ups will 
find use outside the project for research and teaching 
purposes in the Loughborough Powertrains Laboratory.

More Information...
or contact [email protected]

Excel Corner: Speedy Charts

To instantly create a chart in Excel just select the 
cells to be charted and press the F11 key.  A column 
chart of your data appears.

To change the default chart type from column to 
something else:
1. From the Chart menu, click Chart Type 
2. Select the Chart type you want and click the 
   Set as default chart button.
3. Click OK.

For more tips on using Excel see

Windmill Notes: Understanding Setup Files (*.ims)

Once you've installed the data acquisition drivers, you 
can configure all your measurement equipment with one 
program: Windmill SetupIML.

SetupIML  scans your measurement hardware and creates a 
complete default set-up to get you started.  When you 
edit this set-up the menus and dialogues show only those 
options available with your hardware, so you cannot 
go wrong.

All the details are stored in *.ims files and you can 
create a library of files for different procedures.  
Your chosen channel names and details are used 
consistently throughout the Windmill system, even 
when data is exported to other applications. 

The *.ims files are text files containing rows of 
information like this

I 00000 N=Chan1 E=1 M=A T=G O=0 R=07 S=1 U=volts
I 00001 N=Chan2 E=1 M=A T=G O=0 R=07 S=1 U=volts
I 00002 N=Chan3 E=1 M=A T=G O=0 R=07 S=1 U=volts
I 00003 N=Chan4 E=1 M=A T=G O=0 R=07 S=1 U=volts
I 00004 N=Chan5 E=1 M=A T=G O=0 R=07 S=1 U=volts
I 00005 N=Chan6 E=1 M=A T=G O=0 R=07 S=1 U=volts

You don't need to know what this all means to use 
Windmill, so if you aren't interested skip the rest 
of this section and download the software to see 
for yourself what it can do.  

Back to the *.ims file.  Each line refers to one 
channel of data.  The first letter indicates the 
type of channel. I, for example, indicates an 
input channel.

Channel Numbers and Names
Next comes a 5 digit channel number.  The final 
two digits of this number pin-point the channel 
whilst the second and third digits identify the 
instrument or module providing the channel.  Some 
systems are rack- or frame-based and in this case 
the first digit identifies the rack.  For example, 
a system may comprise two racks of modules, each 
module providing several measurement channels.  A 
channel number in the this case may be 10305: 1 
refers to the rack, 03 refers to a module in the 
rack and 05 refers to a channel provided by that 

SetupIML lets you identify the channels by name 
rather than by number.  In the *.ims file the 
channel name comes after "N=".  So if N=Chan1 
the name of the channel is Chan1.

Turning Off Channels
You can tell Windmill not to try to read or 
write to a channel.  This is shown in the *.ims 
file by the E= setting.  If E=1 a channel is 
enabled, if E=0 it is disabled and cannot be used.

Types of Measurement
M= refers to the type of measurement available 
with this channel. M=A means Analogue voltage or 
current will be measured, M=D specifies a digital 
channel (relays, switches, etc).

Channel Ranges
SetupIML lets you specify the range of a channel.  
It's best to choose the smallest range that 
encompasses your signal as this optimises the 
resolution.  The R= setting specifies the range. 
For example, R=00 sets Windmill to automatically 
pick the most appropriate range.  The other settings 
start at "01" for +/-100 V down to "26" for 0 to 0.01 V.

Engineering Units
Finally O, S and U all refer to converting the 
raw reading to other engineering units. O is for 
an offset, S is for a scaling factor and U is for 
the name of the units. 
New Units = Scale x Standard Units + Offset

Although you can change the *.ims file by editing it 
directly, we recommend that instead you use the 
SetupIML program to do so.  SetupIML will not let you 
enter conflicting settings.

More details on Windmill and SetupIML...

Sign up to the Monitor newsletter and download your 
ree copy of Version 4.3 of the Windmill 
data acquisition software.

* 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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