Intech interviews Curt W. about Linux PLC

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Perry Sink

Hey everyone, A few months ago I interviewed Curt Wuollet for Intech Magazine, and this has just been published. (Circulation 88,000, with a slant towards process control and instrumentation.) The print version has not hit the streets yet, but it is now online. See http://www.isa.org/journals/intech/feature/1,1162,575,00.html Best, Perry Perry Sink | Synergetic Micro Systems [email protected] ________________________________________________ One GPL Open Source driver, seven popular fieldbuses: see www.synergetic.com/linux _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Curt Wuollet

Thanks Perry It came out a little terse, but the main ideas are there. This was political, Mario's was technical. I'm still seeking a way to communicate the ideological, intellectual aspects. There is a power in using Open Source to circumnavigate roadblocks and solve problems that is difficult to describe. I am currently redoing a project that was mired in the problems of proprietary systems and on the verge of being canceled. I am awestruck with the vast increase in progress and simplification that the change in tools and approach has brought about. The folks who were sharpening the axe are now happy and have started talking about future enhancements and are bringing customers around to show off the technology. I of course, am elated and much happier to go in to work every day. I need to find a way to communicate to the automation audience the vast difference between being at the mercy of commercial vendors and truly being in control of the project and having the power to solve problems, smash roadblocks and get the job done. It is a miserable existence to be blamed for delays and dead ends and problems you have absolutely no control over. It is simply wonderful to have the tools, information, knowledge and means to execute according to plan. That's what I want to get across to the guys in the trenches. That's what it's about for me. That never seems to come across correctly. There's a reason if I'm a fanatic and a zealot. Regards cww _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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On Thu, May 10, 2001 at 10:40:23PM -0500, Curt Wuollet wrote: > > It came out a little terse, but the main ideas are there. This was > political, Mario's was technical. I'm still seeking a way to > communicate the ideological, intellectual aspects. There is a power > ... > to get across to the guys in the trenches. That's what it's about > for me. That never seems to come across correctly. There's a reason > if I'm a fanatic and a zealot. Hi Curt, I thought the article was a good read, and not overly political nor too fanatical. It'll probably get the attention of a lot of in-the- trenches sorts, and maybe open their eyes to the possibilities. Keep up the good work. Ken Ken Irving <[email protected]> _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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David Wilson

Curt, Just thought I would chime in. Your article is exceptionally well done. Just a bit over 18 months ago I left a place that said "we are going 100% to NT". After 17 years that was enough stupidity to scare me away. My thoughts have been you use what works, not what is politically correct. I have seen first hand what happens when you buy everybodys proprietary systems, modules and software. Some things do work well, but the unfortunate part was that lots of it was terribly redundant, difficult to program, poorly documented, and usually using someones custom programming equipment that was designed for profit. The one thing that surprised me was that the place I worked for was afraid to try something that they did not have a support number for. My take was they had to have someone to blame if things broke. If he happened to be on the other end of a phone line that made it easier. I would much rather have a chance of being able to fix the problem myself, instead of having to rely on someone else's proprietary and sometimes difficult to understand solution. Dave -- David R. Wilson WB4LHO World Wide Network Services Nashville, Tennessee USA [email protected] _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Curt Wuollet

Thanks Dave I just can't see why people want to be treated that way. I suppose when things go well it's OK, but when you run into problems it sucks. And when you want to color outside the lines, connect things together in ways that they don't approve of or didn't think of, you're on your own or even shunned. I am on the excrement roster of several vendors simply for doing what the customer wanted and integrating what they had instead of replacing it all with one vendor's products. Of course, since they weren't particularly helpful anyway, losing their support actually just saves me the time I would have wasted asking and waiting for a response that always seems to involve a few thousand dollars worth of new equipment. For some time now, every project includes a Linux box. It's amazing how many things that "can't be done" can be done when you control one end of the wire. I'm betting there will be very few commercial PLC's in projects going forward. They are fine as machine controllers but for what I do communications and interoperability are far more important. I can do logic far better on a Linux box than PLC's can solve integration problems. I hope GE is reading this. Once there's a Linux box in every cell, combining them or talking to the outside world is trivial. And the best part is that I don't have to waste half my time screwing around with Windows just to keep the tools working. As I said before, something's horribly broken when I can do full custom software on Linux faster than buying off the shelf. Regards cww _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Harald Albrecht

curt wrote: > I just can't see why people want to be treated > that way. I suppose when things go well it's > OK, but when you run into problems it sucks. > And when you want to color outside the lines, > connect things together in ways that they > don't approve of or didn't think of, you're on > your own or even shunned. Curt, you and others just expressed some -- in my opinion -- very important political aspects through thorough words. (Yes, being able to "color outside the lines" is something I have learned to regard as political although it is probably something along the lines of basic engineer's rights.) Wouldn't it be worth for these statements not to decay in hidden mailing archives, but instead put up in a prominent place at the (L/P)PLC web site? You might even decorate them with a "Danger Marketing! Political Incorrect Speech" sign... Back to silence, Harald -- Harald Albrecht Chair of Process Control Engineering RWTH Aachen University of Technology Turmstrasse 46, D-52064 Aachen, Germany Tel.: +49 241 80-7703, Fax: +49 241 8888-238 _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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David Wilson

Thanks Curt, Yes, one bit of experience I had in the past. We had two systems networked together that were tied into an elaborate control system for a large conveyor network. Those systems dropped the networking (for whatever reason) at least I would guess twice a week, causing several minutes worth of down time. I thought it odd that when I say something about failures like this, no one thought it was worth investigating. In my mind, 2 - 4 K$ a minute for down time is worth some thought. Apparently since I was one of those that would rather take the blame if it was my stuff that had a problem, and find the cause and fix it, the others seemed to take the stance of 'oh... well call them back and complain'. That did not go very far, and never did get the problem fixed. That is one of the things that I appreciate about the crowd that works with Linux. If something does not work, you can find someone that has been there before and has fixed it, or at least have a fighting chance of fixing the problem yourself. I will keep quiet for a while and watch for further progress. Regards, Dave -- David R. Wilson WB4LHO World Wide Network Services Nashville, Tennessee USA [email protected] _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Curt Wuollet

Hi Harald Do you watch the Automation List from our gracious host? I try very hard to keep the open vs closed discussion in front of the automation audience by picking off examples of the abuses of proprietary vendors and contrasting them with how Open Source software solves these problems. I agree a manifesto of sorts is appropriate or a white paper or two on the freedom and power of the Open Source approach. I have also done case studies and published quite a bit of PR material. The problem right now is that we are a paper tiger. I can drag eyeballs to the site, but they can't really do anything with the state the project is in at the moment unless they are developers also. Rather than alienate our audience and target market, I have been selling philosophy rather than goods. I have a really good general "Linux in Automation" story coming up as I finish up one of the very few Linux powered Intelligent Machining cells in existance. This is actual production machinery with robots, machine vision, NC lathes and an existing varnish cell with Linux running the show. I wish the tie in to LPLC was stronger. I did it with the first demo code I published, a DIO48 card and the industrial IO translator I just contributed. All LPLC stuff, but not what's in the archive. Regards cww _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Harald Albrecht

Hi Curt, > Do you watch the Automation List from our > gracious host? I have to confess: no (due to my own restricted (human) resources). There are currently too many interesting web sites and mailing lists to screen... > I agree a manifesto of sorts is appropriate or > a white paper or two on the freedom and power > of the Open Source approach. I have also done > case studies and published quite a bit of PR > material. The term "manifesto" always reminds me of rms ... which is always a touchy subject. I am still investigating what kind of "impact" rms' article in the German "atp" magazine (automation technology in practise) had. > The problem right now is that we are a paper > tiger. My impression is that you have to have the paper part ready by the time the source is there -- many people never want to touch the code, they just want to know about the ideas behind it (not in the sense of coding but concepts). To put it this way: people do fall in love for the presentation layer, seldom for the application logic. For my own project I'm always asked first about documentation, conference proceedings, etc. It's difficult not to tell them "RTSL". But then, these are just my worthless two (European) cents. Curt, you are already doing a really great job at PR. Harald _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Mario de Sousa

Curt Wuollet wrote: > The problem right now is that we are a paper > tiger. I can drag eyeballs to the site, but they > can't really do anything with the state the project > is in at the moment unless they are developers also. > > (...) What we are really missing is a working IEC language compiler. On the other hand, if you are willing to write your logic in C code, which I believe is exactly what you did, then the linuxPLC is open for business. With the io library started, I expect that the modules for the hilscher cards won't take too long. How would you like to re-write the DIO48 card module using the io library? It shouldn't be too difficult. All you have to do is write the functions declared in http://www.linuxplc.org/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/lib/io/io_hw.h?rev=1.2&content-type=text/vnd.viewcvs-markup The code is probably already written, all you will probably need to do is cut-n-paste... Cheers, Mario. -- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mario J. R. de Sousa [email protected] ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- The box said it requires Windows 95 or better, so I installed Linux _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
Hello Mario, Curt, Jiri, and company ... I am interested in experimenting with the source code (finally). I will be writing my logic module in C and calling the Puffin API in order to access points, etc. I would like to get started with the existing code and compile and run it, etc. Should I have a CVS account or can I download it from the web?? What is the best way to access everything?? I want to see how C modules can co-exist with the puffin PLC as well as seeing what it takes to write drivers for custom hardware. Thanks, ~Ken _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Hi Mario I would like very much to do that. What I will do is get a CVS snapshot and attempt same. As I have been out of the loop for some time, the questions I come up with and the things I don't understand should be good topics for documentation. Be advised that I'm not real good with other people's code :^) The dialog and issues might even be captured into a HOWTO. I'll probably start next weekend. I have been waiting for the proper moment to do this, having the API and the library means there's no time like the present. Regards cww _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Hi Harald Perhaps manifesto would be a bad choice of words. Mission Statement is the current buzzword but they tend to be rather shallow and self-serving. The white papers could be used for the depth. I find it difficult to even imagine rms and big automation finding any common ground. In fact, if one needed an antonym....... Your words are valued, we may have to switch to virtual beers as an exchange medium what with the instability in the market. You have reinforced my next direction, to see how badly I can document how to use this thing. If I were good enough at PR, I'd have guys from Microsoft developing for us:^). Regards cww _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
> Curt Wuollet wrote: > > The problem right now is that we are a paper tiger. Mario de Sousa: > What we are really missing is a working IEC language compiler. > On the other hand, if you are willing to write your logic in C code, > which I believe is exactly what you did, then the linuxPLC is open for > business. Or in stepladder and translate it to instructions manually, like you do for the entry-level PLCs: LD X01 AND X02 OUT Y03 You'll find that in the logic/il directory. BTW, on another topic > http://www.linuxplc.org/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/lib/io/io_hw.h?rev=1.2&content-type=text/vnd.viewcvs-markup I usually use the ~checkout~ URL, like this: http://www.linuxplc.org/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/~checkout~/lib/io/io_hw.h That way you automatically get the latest version and nothing extra. Jiri -- Jiri Baum <[email protected]> Connect the power cable, interface cable and ground wire only in the methods indicated in the this manual. It may lead to fire. -- OKIPAGE 8z user's manual _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Hi Jiri, Mario Thanks guys, I'm not sure you really want me in the code again. I've been hands off for various reasons, some of which I'm sure you've guessed. This trip I want to approach it as a user might, to the extent that's possible. I will be asking questions, lots of questions and pretty dumb ones too. But, not without good reason. We have to get to the point where mere mortals have a chance. You are now saying we have the stone for our stone soup. I think it scares the hell out of normal people, even normal programmers if there is such a thing. But, If you can cause me to understand it, I will attempt to share that and scribble down what I had to do to use it. I probably won't go as far as documenting how to port IO as that is not very general and requires carnal knowledge of the hardware. I must confess that I haven't worried about it a lot, but when I'm done I want to have a theory of operation in English and with the Petri net, etc.that should be quite an accomplishment. I'll try to ignore the differences in our philosophies:^) I hope our scribes can help capture the knowledge as I still am in crisis management mode at my day job. Someone has to be the guinea pig and expose their ignorance. This may take a while. Regards cww _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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Harald Albrecht

Hi Curt, > I find it difficult to even imagine rms and > big automation finding any common ground. In > fact, if one needed an antonym....... This statement made my day :) > If I were good enough at PR, I'd have guys > from Microsoft developing for us:^). We have a proverb, for which a coarse translation would be: Don't color the wall with the devil. Regards (going back to work again, torturing engineer students with differential equation solving...) Harald -- Harald Albrecht Chair of Process Control Engineering RWTH Aachen University of Technology Turmstrasse 46, D-52064 Aachen, Germany Tel.: +49 241 80-7703, Fax: +49 241 8888-238 _______________________________________________ LinuxPLC mailing list [email protected] http://linuxplc.org/mailman/listinfo/linuxplc
 
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