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    on using open source software to control and acquire data from optical bench experiments



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    on using open source software to control and acquire data from optical bench experiments

    Post  danolo on Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:38 am

    I open the discussion on using Open Source software to control devices and acquire data in optical bench experiments, instead of using commercial solutions.

    Optics bench experiments mainly require software in the two following situations:

    1) manage individual control and/or data acquisition of each independent device. It is necessary for manually adjusting optics components on the bench (motor, camera, laser diode, shutter, analog to digital, digital to analog etc..). This may not be a problem from the software point of view since any commercial hardware device has its own control and/or data acquisition software shipped with it.

    2) perform global control like automated scans or control loops involving cooperation between hardware devices on the bench. It requires data and control coordination between heterogeneous devices. Only an integrated software solution can satisfy this point.

    There exist software commercial frameworks providing solutions for point 2). They may seem attractive because of their apparent simplicity, especially to project managers not expert in software who often start new projects with a simplified context in mind. However, experience tells that with time, increasing experiment complexity requires a growing level of expertise to handle such commercial frameworks. Additional complications arise due to a lack of software engineering vision impeding software components re-use and modifications. In the long term, the critical mass necessary to reach a sustainable level of expertise risks to be unattainable.

    What is the alternative ? This is where comes Open Source in the discussion.
    1) Open Source is free, fully accessible and modifiable which appears as the best model to sustain increasing complexity in the long term.
    2) Open Source original mission is to be as generic and compatible as possible with the largest range of hardware. Not only the resulting software may be compatible with a specific hardware, but will be with a whole range of hardware company independent.
    3) Open Source community has always grown bigger and stronger since the beginnings. It can be considered today mature enough to bring high-performance solutions to the most demanding experiments. Biggest and most complicated experiments like LHC at Cern are true incubators of Open Source software technologies. Big industrial hardware companies have understood that and provide Open Source drivers compatible with their hardware products on a regular basis.
    4) Open Source is the ideal bridge between academic and business realities. Students and trainees already know a bit of academic programming languages. A student will feel immediately comfortable building his application using Open Source resources.

    Laboratories and companies may keep in mind that the decision to be taken on the software framework will have important consequences in the long term...
    So navigate the web and try Open source resources and links!

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