Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

There was a lot of candy eating at GMCL today.   A selection of the best dressed GMCL staff, from left to right: Jen, Keith, Sarah, Roxana, Rob, and Linda.

DBDOC and Taglist Maintenance

Why is this worth talking about?  Many systems are burdened with numerous "stub" taglists, archives and everything under the sun.  People try to make sense of them, but there is nothing systematic.  The techniques available using DBDOC will let you unburden your system of deadwood, leaving useful information that is cross-checked.  Some sites give up on the process, but this prevents them from having a good cross-check on the HMI because they create logic and thus tags in the EWS.

INFI 90 HMI systems can be separated into these classes:
  • Master taglists in the HMI - 800xA, SPlus, PGP, PPB, Conductor NT and PCView
  • EWS contains the HMI taglists - Conductor VMS and WinSODG
As sites have moved to more modern HMI systems, reconciling the taglists in the EWS to match the master taglists in the HMI systems becomes important.  Here is how to do this using DBDOC.
  • Identify the actual taglists used by the consoles.  You should be building them in DBDOC already.
  • Identify the taglists in Composer or WinTools that need reconciliation.
  • Build as many subprojects as needed to have simple parallel lists of tags.
DBDOC has numerous resources for supporting taglist work if you need more:
  • Extracted SQLite database containing all the tags built into the project
  • Individual DBF files for the taglists from both EWS and HMI systems
  • Combined taglists of Composer and WinCAD tags
There can be significant benefits to keeping the HMI and EWS taglists synchronized.  We would be happy to help you understand the data DBDOC makes available to you and how to take advantage of it. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thoughts on 10.5

The most important feature in DBDOC 10.5 for everyone with INFI 90 is the Error Browser. We continue to find issues that cannot be found any other way, as we have done for the past seventeen years. Now, finally, we let the user examine, comprehend and resolve our messages. You will hide many, but mark some for attention. When you rebuild the DBDOC document, new issues will be highlighted. Things you have hidden will stay hidden. Finally, you can converge to a system with no significant errors.

We continue our search for a system with more than 200 sheets that has no errors worth fixing. So far, only systems that have used DBDOC and heeded our messages are even close.

AutoCAD 2012 is now supported as well as previous versions. XLS file support has been extended to handle more and wider columns.

Of course, we finally have released initial support for ABB SPlus Graphics, 800xA PG2 and IET800 CIU. You will still get the most data out of your INFI 90 system for DBDOC with the least load out using a conventional CIU with RoviSys OPC90Server Turbo. An unprecedented 100 values per second at 10 GMI fetches can be achieved.

Why an Error Browser?

I have now presented the new Error Browser by building DBDOC Version 10.5 at six Australian DBDOC sites this past four weeks. The response has been universally ecstatic.

Severe errors were relatively easy to work with before Error Browser. The messages highlighted things that were clearly wrong, whether or not they were actual problems. Every site with DBDOC worked over the error messages, because we find significant things that can bite.

However, we find many things that are "wrong" and that might cause problems, but that are likely to just be cosmetic. Looking for needles in haystacks (and they are there) could not be justified. Actual errors thus were missed. Furthermore, conscientious DCS people end up with a whole mess of things to be ignored for reasons including the following:
  • Logic, graphics and tags simply not used - by far the most usual reason for an otherwise significant error to be ignored.
  • Logic cannot be fixed without a shutdown - making notes on the CLD or CAD sheet and documenting problems that cannot be fixed without a cold reload is often necessary.
  • Issue is cosmetic - the error stems from a systematic approach like using a macro with functionality that is not needed in all instances.
Until now, the error messages we presented the DBDOC users came back each rebuild. Until the system configuration, graphics or tags could be changed, they were seen again and again.
The real strength of Error Browser, however, shows up in the messages we have traditionally called "CHECK" ones. They simply could not reasonably be examined and analyzed before. Now they can.
Error Browser makes it a whole new ball game. Sometimes all the messages in a particular class can be hidden as unworthy of further attention. The easy ability to walk through hundreds of messages can make it possible to find the few that need attention. Mark them all as hidden, walk through, star the ones that need attention, in fact, and unhide them. Clients reduced hundreds of mostly innocuous messages to a few nocuous ones (is nocuous the opposite of innocuous, I wonder).
Error Browser was first requested by a client in 2002. It is now here. My experience in Australia, with good DBDOC clients, is that it is not too late. The INFI 90 sites without DBDOC need it more than ever, because system integrity now is achievable on top of fast, effective, read-only fault-finding and trouble-shooting (Australians do fault-finding).

Friday, October 18, 2013

DBDOC 10.5 is ready to go!

I'm happy to report that we are finally in the process of actually burning DBDOC 10.5 DVDs at the office, so if you're expecting one, it should be arriving soon.  This release has been a long haul, but it contains some very interesting new features (along with plenty of general improvements and bug fixes as usual).

If you need it RIGHT NOW, you can download DBDOC 10.5 here.

DBDOC 10.5 contains beta-level support for PGP, SPlus and 800xA PG2 systems.  These are in the final stages of testing and integration, and will be added to the official release version in November.  If you have one of these systems, and would like to test drive this support before then, let us know.  We implement the support for these systems substantially by reverse engineering example files from clients, so the more trial users we have, the sooner our support will become complete.

Another major new feature in 10.5 is the Error Browser.  For the first time, the configuration errors identified by DBDOC while compiling a project file can be presented interactively by the Hyperview browser.  Although this error information has always been generated during builds, previously the only way of getting at it was to manually search the error text files produced, or build them into the M14 directly with a second build pass, a somewhat unwieldy method. 

In any case, there was no particularly easy way for the uninitiated to identify errors of interest and hide the irrelevant ones.

All this has now changed.   The Error Browser not only makes it easy to organize errors in a variety of useful ways (by severity, by document, by subsystem, by module, just to name a few), but also to flag errors, explicitly mark them as having been reviewed, and hide errors or entire categories of errors when they are not of interest.  The errors presented in the Error Browser link to specific location in the main project file, and there is built in error documentation to make the task of sorting and evaluating errors as easy as possible.

With this initial version of the Error Browser, individual users will be able to mark off errors for themselves, but shared error review is planned for the next DBDOC release.  It will then be possible for multiple users to collectively review and hide errors.

Other new features in 10.5 will be explored in upcoming posts.  Check out the official "What's New" document for an overview.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lamb, Kangaroo and Pavlova

Charlton Fuentes and Geoff Michaels at DBDOC
training session at Queensland Alumina.
We have just finished two days of DBDOC advanced workshop sessions at Gladstone.

Children have been enjoying their spring break from school this week and next. I was just offered and ate a delicious ripe tomato. As spring turns to summer, the tomato season is over in Queensland just as it is in southern California six months earlier. The summer season is too hot for plants like tomatoes to thrive.

Last night we visited with friends, and had a lovely home prepared meal of lamb and kangaroo. The meal was finished with a delicious Australian dessert of Pavlova and fresh fruit. I also found out there are several snowboarding and skiing resorts in southern Australia, open in their winter season (May to August).

Tomorrow is a driving day as we go further south. Geoff enjoys driving. Driving on the other side of the road seems to come naturally for him. We will be traveling through kangaroo country, so we are looking forward to see one or more as we drive by.