Remote Control of Scientific Instruments
General-purpose Java Class Libraries
In order to facilitate the construction of interactive remote contol
interfaces, researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab are developing
a set of Java Packages containing classes of general use
for secure instrument control on-line.
Security, ease-of-use, and cross-platform access are the focus
areas of the research. These three areas often are at odds with
one another with some facilities wanting high security at the
expense of ease-of-use while other facilities want a more balanced
Authentication and secure transmission of data are common elements
in all three of the packages described below.
In order to use a limited resource such as a one-of-a-kind instrument
or national research facility, there must be a method to schedule
time on the facility. It would be useful to have an on-line tool
that allowed researchers to check on the usage schedule for an instrument.
This tool could also allow researchers to submit proposals on-line
for time on the facility. Users could learn if the instrument
is down for repairs and how the schedule is shifted because of down time.
The Scheduling Package could also include classes for describing
input parameters to a off-hours batch job.
For example, at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) an experiment
is generally non-interactive.
But it may be scheduled to begin at midnight and run for 30 hours.
The researcher could predefine the input and not have to be logged
on when the experiment starts. See
DIXIE Home Page
for an prototype HFIR Web interface.
Interactive Control Package
Some instruments such as the Electron Microscopes in ORNL's
High Temperature Materials Lab, require interactive control.
We are developing a class library of general Java widgets
that can be quickly combined into a custom control panel
for a particular instrument.
While each instrument has its own unique controls and
safe input ranges, the number of different types of physical
controls (knobs, buttons, sliders, and keyboard) is quite small.
Having general-purpose screen analogs to standard inputs,
as well as widgets that are designed to be particularly
easy to use with a keyboard and mouse will comprise
the Interactive Control Package. See
Electron Microscope Control Page
for an example interface.
Data Retrieval Package
At the end of a long scientific experiment, the remote researcher
wants to be able to retrieve his data and have it presented
in a pleasing fashion. The Data Retrieval Package is concerned
with making sure data can not be accessed by anyone who is not
authorized and to provide classes to graph data.
The package is not planned to include elaborate analysis functions
or presentation methods. Our purpose is not to reinvent such software,
but rather allow the remote research to securely pull his data
to his local site where he can apply his favorite analysis tools
to the data. See
DIXIE Home Page
for an example data retrieval/display interface.
Last Modified June 22, 1996 by