[NOBUGS] web remote instrument control summary

James Fait fait at anl.gov
Thu May 17 14:52:09 BST 2007


Here at SER-CAT, sector 22 at the APS, we are routinely doing remote
beamline operations.  We use two packages for this.  The first package,
Access Grid, has been in use for several years, but is very difficult to
configure, and has several pitfalls, including performance that is very
dependent on the speed of the link.  It has extensive teleconferencing
capabilities that are not essential to beamline operations, but may be
useful in other contexts.
The second package is FreeNX and NX clients from NoMachine.com.  This
setup is very easy to install and configure, and runs over ssh.  In a
head to head test against Access Grid, it showed a very obvious
difference in performance, with updates, etc happening nearly in real
time.  The server is Linux only, but clients are available for most OS
A couple of notes, independent of the remote access protocol used.
1.	The beamline controls need to be optimized for safety and simplicity
of operations.  They should expose only those functions necessary to the
experiment.  They must offer information on all aspects of the facility
that are pertinent to the experiment, including the personnel and
equipment safety system status, and enough video feeds to cover the
2.	The facility will probably have some issues with experiment safety,
training, and other policy issues.  These should be worked out as early
as possible.
3.	Most experiments will need a remote method of changing samples.
Sample changers need to be very robust, and the methodology of getting
the samples to the facility, and accessible to the changer needs to be
well tested.
4.	Work out in advance how the data will be transferred to the remote
user.  Our facility can generate as much as 400GB or more in 24 hours,
which can swamp most WAN links.  We currently use USB or Firewire drives
shipped back and forth, and we are investigating DVD media.


James Fait
James Fait, Ph.D.
Beamline Scientist, SER-CAT
APS, building 436B-008
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 S Cass Ave
Argonne, IL 60439
phone 630-252-0644
fax   630-252-0652
email fait at anl.gov
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