Friday, July 25, 2008

Wonderware selects Kepware as endorsed partner for expanding device communications offerings

Wonderware selects Kepware as endorsed partner for expanding device communications offerings. They're offering a branded version of KepServer Ex as "Kepware for Wonderware".

This move leads me to wonder if Kepware plans on supporting Archestra or if Wonderware made the intelligent decision of "3rd partnering" OPC connectivity. The latter makes sense since Kepware supports such a wide variety of devices, and, frankly, is so much better at device drivers than Wonderware.

Rockwell did it, why not Wonderware. I'm a fan of collaboration and standardization. Sounds good to me.

Java VM on way for the iPhone

Su-weet! You know what this means!? FactoryPMI on an iPhone or iTouch. What a cool idea! Unfortunately, they're currently only developing the ME (Micro Edition), which may only contain a subset of the necessary JVM.

It's good to see this level of commitment from Sun. Java is moving forward without support from Apple in this arena. It reinforces the applicability that Java is powerful on the cutting edge in the client/UI arena, not just with Servers/web applications!

update - Walt Boyes is talking about an SPC application for the IPhone on his blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Political Campaign Video

Couldn't believe that I followed the link on a forum post. This video equitably knocks everyone, and it's damned funny.

Remember to vote in November!

Free AB Linux data logger

WebDock has been running a highly capable Linux version (60k transactions/min) in a plant since 2000. It works with Allen Bradley Ethernet PLC 5s and SLCs. I haven't had a chance to try it, so I'd appreciate, and will update this post with, feedback. Be warned, of course, that you get no promises, support, etc. That said, awesome! Maybe someone will put the project on Slashdot and get it moving!

Product Page
Download link post

Dell Serious About Ubuntu: Launches First Consumer Linux PCs

From Toms Hardware News. Pretty self explanatory.

As an aside, you get real *interesting results doing a Google image search for Ubuntu Linux - crazy Hot European Computer geek chicks ;-). Link on a blog post covering it (may not want to click at work or with children or the wife around).,5932.html

What does it take to get a PC with XP?

Industrial software users always seem to dependent on old operating systems. Browse the PLC forums and you'll quickly realize everyone's asking about XP and complaining about Vista. This article provides good info on the Major PC vendor's stances on shipping machines pre-installed with XP.;1496591483

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Top 20 OPC Questions Asked By Integrators

Sign up for a free, vendor-neutral webinar on the Top 20 OPC questions for integrators and end users presented by representatives from: Kepware, Software Toolbox, and the OPC Training Institute.

From the OPC Training Institute web page:

Join the session to get insight into some of the following issues:

  1. When should I consider using an OPC Tunneling product?
  2. Can OPC UA (Unified Architecture) be used on non-Windows Operating Systems?
  3. What are the security holes when working with OPC?
  4. Why can I not see OPC Servers when ‘browsing’?
  5. How many OPC servers can I install on a single PC?
  6. What is OpcEnum and why do I need it?
  7. My OPC application cannot connect to an OPC server. Why?
  8. In light of the OPC UA (Unified Architecture) specification, should I avoid OPC servers based on the DA (Data Access) specification?
  9. Can I run an OPC Server as a Windows service and what would be the benefits?
  10. Why do I get DCOM error 0x80040202 when my OPC application fails to receive a callback from an OPC server?
  11. What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous reads?
  12. What ports does DCOM use?
  13. What is the OPC Interoperability session?
  14. What is the OPC Subscription feature and when would I use it?
  15. Why can I not ‘browse’ an OPC Server?
  16. Where does OPC get its timestamp from?
  17. How do I know when my OPC Server has lost its connection with the PLC?
  18. How fast can an OPC Server transfer values?
  19. Will OPC work across a firewall?
  20. What is OPC self certification?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IT Blogger touches SCADA

It's interesting to see the shift from nobody knowing what SCADA is to the emphasis of security in the space. IT Blogger Matt Hines comments on SCADA vulnerabilities and tips on keep SCADA systems safe. It's pretty obvious that he has no industrial/controls experience, but his tips and points are sound. These systems are no longer proprietary and often touch public networks. It's time we apply the standard security practices used by corporations and the military to defend our assets from cyber-crime. Chances are if you're reading this blog you have a good idea of the disconnect here.

Java and the future of SCADA systems

Web based, web launched, AJAX, Java, OPC UA - these terms are commonly thrown around along with HMI, SCADA, and even DCS these days. What's the big deal? More importantly, what's the point and what does it mean for you? The common thread is ubiquity. Yes, I'll say it again, ubiquity. I don't know why there's not a more common word with the same meaning - to be, or appear to be, everywhere at once. It's the perfect word to describe the Internet. So when somebody says, "Web based", think, "That means I can access it anywhere". That means it's firewall and VPN friendly. Nobody said anything about web browsers, static HTML, http, or the likes! Web applications, particularly Java and Macromedia Flash, run and feel just like local applications. They support multimedia, run constantly, and can initiate and receive updates without "refreshing". They're locally running programs with the huge benefit of not requiring a traditional "installation" process!

So where does SCADA come in? An important aspect of a modern SCADA system is to be able to get detailed realtime and historical process information. For most production managers, this is the most important data for their day to day work. It's like checking stock quotes - a 30 second glance should give you an accurate summary and a warm fuzzy feeling that you know what's going on. If something demands action you want to know. How much sense does it make to go to your stock broker every time you want a quick update? Should you fly out to Wall Street? No, it's valuable for you to be able to easily pull this up from your office desk, or home. What does this have to do with SCADA? Same principal applies. Who wants to go to the control room or plant floor every half hour? Ideally, you should get a portal or summary page that provides a high level summary with reports. The idea is that you have access to the same underlying data, but formatted as useful information to you.

What actually happens in an organization that provides "frictionless" data access to their core process is that everyone comes up with separate requirements. QA wants summaries, management gets reports, maintenance looks at long term statistics, etc. All that it really takes is a system that can be run anywhere and easily expanded - "easily" referring to without additional licensing pain.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Say it like it is, Hoff!

Hoff's one smart dude when it comes to computer and network security - truly top notch. The context of this commentary was his field, but it's scary how spot on he is with respect to Industrial Automation software - particularly the early stages of FactorySQL and FactoryPMI. Sigh...

Ah, the innovator's dilemma...

If you have a product that well and truly does X, Y and Z, where X is a feature that conforms and fits into a defined category but Y and Z -- while truly differentiating and powerful -- do not, you're forced to focus on, develop around and hype X, label your product as being X, and not invest as much in Y and Z.

If you miss the market timing and can't afford to schmooze effectively and don't look forward enough with a business model that allows for flexibility, you may make the world's best X, but when X commoditizes and Y and Z are now the hottest "new" square, chances are you won't matter anymore, even if you've had it for years.

The product managers, marketing directors and salesfolk are forced to fit a product within an analyst's arbitrary product definition or risk not getting traction, miss competitive analysis/comparisons or even get funding; ever try to convince a VC that they should fund you when you're the "only one" in the space and there's no analyst recognition of a "market?"


A vendor's excellent solution can simply wither and die on the vine in a battle of market definition attrition because the vendor is forced to conform and neuter a product in order to make a buck and can't actually differentiate or focus on the things that truly make it a better solution.

Who wins here?

Not the vendors. Not the customers. The analysts do.

The vendor pays them a shitload of kowtowing and money for the privilege to show up in a box so they get recognized -- and not necessarily for the things that truly matter -- until the same analyst changes his/her mind and recognizes that perhaps Y and Z are "real" or creates category W, and the vicious cycle starts anew.

So while you're a vendor struggling to make a great solution or a customer trying to solve real business problems, who watches the watchers?


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Opto 22 leveraging web 2.0

Walt reports on Opto22 utilizing web videos "optovideos" and other web technology user education.

Superconductors in commercial power

Pretty cool article about using superconductors for commercial power. In a nutshell, superconductors are materials that have a zero electrical resistance below a threshold temperature. These particular "warm" cables have to be maintained between 65-75 K, which is still pretty cold. Electrical current can flow indefinately without a power source meaning that you don't "lose" any power during transmission (i squared r loss). From a practical perspective in the energy industry, this technology allows great amounts of power to be transferred over physically small lines. Also beneficial for safety, is the fact that superconducting properties are quickly lost during "fault circuits" - reminds me of built in nuclear reactor safety mechanisms where the system can't function when it goes to a certain range out of spec.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Top Ten Worst Uses for Windows

This Top Ten Worst Uses for Windows article is an interesting read. It shows the general outlook on control software that you're going to get from IT geeks - and a part of me totally agrees. I think that the author, while experienced in computer security, has absolutely no idea what he's talking about with the majority of his ten topics. It's about like waking up one morning and going to Asia, then reporting on how odd it is that everyone uses chopsticks. How dare they when metals exist - diners should simply cast a fork.

There are merits to his examples, but he's totally oblivious to the problems and available tools.

Microsoft to end OEM licensing for Windows 3.11 in 4 months

Is this going to be a problem for anyone? LOL

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Linux for housewives. XP for geeks

ZDNet article on shifting Linux demographics. (substitute "server" with "sub-$300 PC")

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Google Format

Google recently released their proprietary storage format, Protocol Buffers, to the Open Source Community. It's a platform independent format to serialize (programmatically store/encode) data and objects. The big advantage is that it is fast and tight - at least an order of magnitude over XML (Extensible Markup Language), which often seems to be touted as the magic bullet. The truth is that, like everything else, there are strengths and weaknesses to each - it really depends on your application. Need to be human readable - go XML. Don't know who you'll be talking to on the distant end - XML. But if you want to use a small, fast format for large data transfers, Protocol Buffers may be for you!
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On one hand new formats and technologies are beneficial, particularly open source ones like this. On the other, standardization is king. "Don't reinvent the wheel" seems particularly relevant here. Ultimately, it's unlikely that you'll ever deal with this directly. Hopefully you reap the benefits inside an application that you didn't even realize was using the technology!