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DO PLCs have OPC?
I have one question -- does PLC have OPC server (or client)?
By james fang on 22 May, 2002 - 4:42 pm

I have one question -- does PLC (like siemens s7, ab's slc-500's) have OPC server (or client)? I've checked many web sites including the "WWW.OPCFOUNDATION.ORG":http://www.opcfoundation.org . None of them has a very clear answer. If not, how can a pc_based server exchange data with connected PLCs ?

By Daniel Chartier on 23 May, 2002 - 6:46 am

Hello;
If you open the link you posted to the OPC foundation, and go to the Member area list, you will find links top Siemens, Rockwell, Schneider, Mitsubishi, Moeller and many other PLC manufacturer sites. They ALL have OPC server/client connections (or risk losing market share). If you would rather have a 3rd party view, try the sites for Kepware, Synergetics, Matrikon and other automation software companies who develop OPC link for different PLCs.

Hope this helps,
Daniel Chartier

By Steve Myres, PE on 23 May, 2002 - 8:39 am

A PLC as such, does not have an OPC server. OPC is a standard for communications interfaces which run under Windows on a PC connected to the PLC.

Most PLC's, and many other industrial control devices have OPC servers written for them. You can think of an OPC server like a device driver. It is written to communicate with the PLC, using the PLC's standard proprietary comm commands, while providing a consistent interface for OPC clients running on the PC, or other PC's networked with it.

Frequently the OPC server is available from the PLC manufacturer, but many are also available from third parties like Kepware and Iconics, and can also be provided with communications cards for the PC, like the 5136 DH+ card from SST.

By Donald Pittendrigh on 24 May, 2002 - 12:11 pm

Hi All

Some PLC's.... As such..... Do have OPC servers, take a look at the PLC Direct range for one.

Bye
D. C. Pittendrigh

By Carl Zimmerman on 23 May, 2002 - 9:03 am

The answer to your question is they can have both. In general, OPC servers will serve data to OPC clients.

In a typical situation, your PLC would be an OPC server for a HMI package like IFix or Wonderware (which would be the client)

I find that Matrikon is a good source of OPC information. see "www.matrikon.com/drivers/opc/whatisopc.asp":http://www.matrikon.com/drivers/opc/whatisopc.asp .

cheers,
Carl

By Frank Iwanitz on 23 May, 2002 - 11:19 am

Hi,

up to now (released) opc specs are based on Microsofts Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM).
Therefore OPC products need the DCOM runtime to work. DCOM runtime is available for Windows OS (9X/ME/NT/2000/XP/CE) for VxWorks and UNIX flavors (including Linux).
I guess about 98% of opc products are running under Windows OS. That's the present.
OPC is specifiying a OPC XML and a OPC DX specification.
The first will support reading and writing of data by interchanging XML constructs, i.e. products based on this spec could run on any platform that supports XML. This also could be a PLC. OPC DX specifies peer-to-peer interaction between servers. To make this running on field devices is a goal of the spec. Then opc products can run on plcs.
There are two ways to make this happen.
Either to use OPC XML as the way as DX products interact with each other or the port a subset of DCOM to the devices.
There are two example for the last approach - PROFInet introduce by Siemens that provides a public domain DCOM implementation and a solution from Rockwell. They have shown a solution at Hanover Fair where a DX modul was running in a PLC. But they did not gave any information how this works.
About your last question - how to access data from a device by using an opc server.
The opc specs define the way how server and client interact with each other. The spec does not define how data is obtained by the server from the process (or whatever) and send to it.
There are a lot of protocols that can be used for this purpose - to exchange data between a program on the pc and peripheral devices.

Regards,

Frank

By Kriebel, Rick on 23 May, 2002 - 2:42 pm

We currently have AB, Siemens S5 & S7, and Omron PLCs communicating through OPC servers. The Siemens and Omron OPC servers run on a PC with Rockwells's RSView. RSview collects process data from our manufacturing process via OPC and then writes the data to a SQL database running on a remote server. This data is then available, in real time, via an intranet to our engineering
staff. Works well with little problem. Getting the OPC severs to communicate with their PLCs took a bit of tweaking, but getting the OPC
servers to communicate with RSView was easy. Siemens sells its own OPC Server. Omron recently came out with it's own, but we're using InGears OPC server for the Omrons.
Reagrds,
Rick Kriebel, RKriebel@US.TIAuto.com

By Greg Goodman on 23 May, 2002 - 11:31 am

There's no reason a PLC cannot have an embedded OPC server. (There are probably some that do.) But there's no reason that a PLC manufacturer has to go to all that trouble to provide OPC access to their device. All that's required to provide OPC access to any PLC is a program running on the PC that implements:

a) the industrial protocol for talking to the PLC, and
b) the OPC server interface for talking to other PC programs

You'll find that there are hundreds of commercially available OPC servers that wrap the OPC interface around the comm protocols for
industrial devices.

Greg Goodman
Chiron Consulting

By Anonymous on 23 May, 2002 - 11:28 am

Hi,

visit this one:
http://www4d.ad.siemens.de/skm/frameset.asp?lang=en&url=1&Query=opc&TOPIC=Product%20Information&searchID=1016788952&smart-id=

I think you can find alot

By Michael Griffin on 24 May, 2002 - 11:39 am

To perhaps add a wee bit more clarification to this subject - a PLC does not
need or use OPC. It is the application program which is running on a PC which uses OPC to talk the protocol which the PLC understands.

As someone else put it, an OPC server can be thought of as just a driver for the PC. This "driver" is the OPC "server". The application program is the OPC "client" which talks to the driver. OPC is used with WIndows operating systems. I'm not aware of an equivalent standard for any other operating system (although I've never really looked either). Before the OPC standard, the drivers were part of the application program which meant that your choice
of software was often limited by what protocols it supported.

So the way it works is, the PC application (the "client") talks to the OPC
"server", which in turn spits out the appropriate protocol on the industrial network. The PLC (or other device) sees the message and responds to it in the other direction (I'm obviously simplifying the networking here). The PLC doesn't know anything about OPC, it just talks its normal protocol.

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************

By Curt Wuollet on 24 May, 2002 - 3:39 pm

It's a matter of perspective, here's mine.

Yes, just think of it as another kludge you need because things can't communicate directly and a great way to make your system as reliable as Windows. And best of all, it's Windows only and no interfaces need be exposed without a credit card.. :^) It is a universal kludge though,
effectively discouraging more suitable and open, not to mention less lucrative, interfaces and reinforcing the monopoly. You get to sell and maintain at least one Windows box with each system. Microsoft thanks you, and for the privilege of moving a few bytes between two digital machines, you get roped into a whole MS infrastructure. What a deal! If you like that, I've got this "bridge".........

Regards

cww
--
Free Tools!
Machine Automation Tools (LinuxPLC) Free, Truly Open & Publicly Owned Industrial Automation Software For Linux. mat.sourceforge.net.
Day Job: Heartland Engineering, Automation & ATE for Automotive Rebuilders.
Consultancy: Wide Open Technologies: Moving Business & Automation to Linux.

By Michael Griffin on 25 May, 2002 - 10:40 am

> It's a matter of perspective, here's mine.
>
> Yes, just think of it as another kludge you need because things can't
> communicate directly and a great way to make your system as reliable
> as Windows. And best of all, it's Windows only and no interfaces need
> be exposed without a credit card.. :^)

Well, yes - it's Windows only. Why wouldn't a Windows "driver" be Windows only? If you ignore all the OPC mumbo jumbo, all it really is, is a driver. It is certainly an improvement over the days when every Windows MMI program came with its own set of drivers and your software selection was limited by the available drivers.

> It is a universal kludge though,
> effectively discouraging more suitable and open, not to mention less
> lucrative, interfaces and reinforcing the monopoly.

It's not a "universal kludge" - you just said so yourself. It's Windows only, and only for so long as Windows supports the methods OPC uses.

> You get to sell and maintain at least one Windows box with each system.

I think you've got things backwards. You don't buy Windows to use OPC, you buy OPC if you are using Windows. If you are using an operating system other than Windows, then you use some other driver format. What is the standard, universal, industrial communications driver interface for Linux? Can you tell us how that is done the "right" way?


> Microsoft thanks
> you, and for the privilege of moving a few bytes between two digital
> machines, you get roped into a whole MS infrastructure. What a deal!
> If you like that, I've got this "bridge".........
<clip>

The people at Microsoft who make the real decisions as to how Windows works don't even know this market exists. They're not plotting to take our money, because we don't have enough money to interest them.

Where people are going to run into trouble with OPC is with the following.
Microsoft will change Windows and the old OPC drivers won't work. You won't be able to get new OPC drivers for all your old production machines with proprietary protocols because the manufacturers won't bother supporting all
the hardware they aren't selling anymore. If you ever have to replace a computer with a new one (and there's no "if" about that), you are going to have machines you can't talk to anymore.

OPC is an improvement over the old situation where every application program
came with its own set of proprietary drivers. That's all it does though. It's not a long term or universal solution to industrial communications. It can't be when it's so closely tied to one company's proprietary software (Windows), and changes to that software are driven by factors totally outside of this industry.
The only real "solution" to the industrial communications question is to use
communications protocols which are open and come with no strings attached. I won't criticise OPC for being only a partial solution. I would criticise anyone who makes it out to be more than it really can be. Perhaps you ought to direct your attention in that direction rather than pursuing red herrings with Windows.


--

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************

By Curt Wuollet on 25 May, 2002 - 11:22 pm

Hi Michael

Actually, we're closer on this than most but the idea was to start a dialog, so here goes.

Michael Griffin wrote:
>
> On May 25, 2002 12:20 pm, Curt Wuollet wrote:
> > It's a matter of perspective, here's mine.
> >
> > Yes, just think of it as another kludge you need because things can't
> > communicate directly and a great way to make your system as reliable
> > as Windows. And best of all, it's Windows only and no interfaces need
> > be exposed without a credit card.. :^)
>
> Well, yes - it's Windows only. Why wouldn't a Windows "driver" be Windows
> only? If you ignore all the OPC mumbo jumbo, all it really is, is a driver.
> It is certainly an improvement over the days when every Windows MMI program
> came with its own set of drivers and your software selection was limited by
> the available drivers.

And now your software selection is limited by the fact that the only OS supported is Windows. A sub-optimal choice by any standard. And entirely in the control of folks not noted for their benevolence.

>
> > It is a universal kludge though,
> > effectively discouraging more suitable and open, not to mention less
> > lucrative, interfaces and reinforcing the monopoly.
>
> It's not a "universal kludge" - you just said so yourself. It's Windows
> only, and only for so long as Windows supports the methods OPC uses.
>
> > You get to sell and maintain at least one Windows box with each system.
>
> I think you've got things backwards. You don't buy Windows to use OPC, you
> buy OPC if you are using Windows. If you are using an operating system other
> than Windows, then you use some other driver format.

That's the whole problem, you _can't_ use some other driver format because either one end or the other requires support from the builder of the equipment or a cartel and they _only_ support Windows. If it were that easy, I would be busily supporting everything out there. That's the "Let them eat cake!" argument that ignores reality. The reality is that if you are going to use the automation equipment that's available, you are going to buy and use Windows or it's useless to you. As an experiment, try to do otherwise and let me know what you find. There are a few exceptions but I'll bet you can't find them. It's like arguing that you can start your own Electric Utility or Gas company or other monopoly. As a practical matter, their exclusive support for the monopoly binds you to that monopoly and dictates the surrounding infrastructure. Or course, you can build your own PLC and automation system but that hardly disproves the above. It never looks like exploiting a monopoly from the inside.

What is the standard,
> universal, industrial communications driver interface for Linux? Can you tell
> us how that is done the "right" way?

Absolutely. It shouldn't be neccessary to use Windows, or Linux, or any particular vendors product to achieve trivial communications. It is glaringly obvious that no automation and control processor will always be standalone anymore. They should share at least one common protocol and transport that is universal, vendor blind, and open so that this silly neccessity to kludge things just goes away. It should be reasonable to code on any platform and retrofit to existing equipment with perhaps a coprocessor if needed.(EG BASIC modules, C modules). It should support both serial and Ethernet transport to make use of the greatest commonality and the most ubiquitous network existing. It need not be perfect or a be all, end all solution. We could make do with almost anything reasonable that you could _always_ count on to be supported. This level of comms is simply common sense and would solve enormous numbers of problems for everyone. Whether you are using SCADA or not, no matter which vendor you favor, any two intelligent entities should be able to pass data without an intermediary or regard for your existing infrastructure. It needn't replace the more specialized, proprietary, Tower of Babel offerings, but it could in the 80 or 90 percent of cases when all you need is to move a few bytes back and forth. It should be the "No Big Deal" method of choice.

What's the downside of that?

> > Microsoft thanks
> > you, and for the privilege of moving a few bytes between two digital
> > machines, you get roped into a whole MS infrastructure. What a deal!
> > If you like that, I've got this "bridge".........
> <clip>
>
> The people at Microsoft who make the real decisions as to how Windows works
> don't even know this market exists. They're not plotting to take our money,
> because we don't have enough money to interest them.
>
> Where people are going to run into trouble with OPC is with the following.
> Microsoft will change Windows and the old OPC drivers won't work. You won't
> be able to get new OPC drivers for all your old production machines with
> proprietary protocols because the manufacturers won't bother supporting all
> the hardware they aren't selling anymore. If you ever have to replace a
> computer with a new one (and there's no "if" about that), you are going to
> have machines you can't talk to anymore.

It would make a lot of sense to avoid that since it's a known problem.

> OPC is an improvement over the old situation where every application program
> came with its own set of proprietary drivers. That's all it does though.

No one would argue that, but what you get in trade has proven to be an even bigger set of problems. People ignore them because everyone has them so they're no "automation" problems, but they never existed before. And they predominate the problems posted to the list if you keep count.

It's
> not a long term or universal solution to industrial communications. It can't
> be when it's so closely tied to one company's proprietary software (Windows),
> and changes to that software are driven by factors totally outside of this
> industry.
> The only real "solution" to the industrial communications question is to use
> communications protocols which are open and come with no strings attached. I
> won't criticise OPC for being only a partial solution. I would criticise
> anyone who makes it out to be more than it really can be. Perhaps you ought
> to direct your attention in that direction rather than pursuing red herrings
> with Windows.

As I said, we're closer than most on this issue. But if everyone keeps using Windows without question and expects someone else to make things change, it will never happen. Conversely, if half the folks here merely asked twice for alternatives that favored them instead of the vendors, I and everyone else, could use whatever was needed to automate things. Accepting the status quo is how we got here. And apathy is the lifeblood of the monopoly.


Regards

cww

By Michael Griffin on 31 May, 2002 - 12:56 pm

Curt Wuollet wrote:
> Actually, we're closer on this than most but the idea was to start
> a dialog, so here goes.
...
> >
> > I think you've got things backwards. You don't buy Windows to use
> > OPC, you buy OPC if you are using Windows. If you are using an operating
> > system other than Windows, then you use some other driver format.
>
> That's the whole problem, you _can't_ use some other driver format
> because either one end or the other requires support from the builder
> of the equipment or a cartel and they _only_ support Windows. If it were
> that easy, I would be busily supporting everything out there. That's the
> "Let them eat cake!" argument that ignores reality.
> The reality is that if you are going to use the automation equipment
> that's available, you are going to buy and use Windows or it's useless
> to you.
...

I'm not disagreeing with you, but I think you are confounding two separate problems - proprietary communications protocols and OPC as a "solution" for it. OPC isn't even a solution for proprietary protocols when using Windows. If the owner of the protocol doesn't want to update their OPC "driver" you are just as stuck when using Windows as you are any other operating system.

This is a rather compelling argument for me at the moment, because I am facing an analogous situation with a proprietary driver for a special board from a well known major company (who will remain nameless). The old driver won't work with new PCs - it needs a minor "tweek" in a timing loop. The company who made the product has decided to not support it any more. There is no new driver available, no replacement, no upgrade path, and they don't want to discuss it. I can't even pay someone else to fix the problem.

In a couple of years, this list will be receiving a steady stream of sob stories from people who are in the same boat with their OPC servers. Their old computer died, the old OPC stuff doesn't work with the new computer, and they can't get a new OPC server for the proprietary protocol because the company who originated it doesn't feel like updating it any more. And spouting all the OPC/DCOM/WXYZ acronym mumbo jumbo isn't going to get their machine running again no matter how much they beg and plead.

This doesn't mean that OPC is bad. It just means it doesn't solve the main problem of proprietary protocols - which is the risk involved in using them at all.

--

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************

By Curt Wuollet on 4 June, 2002 - 5:02 pm

Hi Michael

Michael Griffin wrote:
<clip>
> I'm not disagreeing with you, but I think you are confounding two
> separate problems - proprietary communications protocols and OPC as a
> "solution" for it. OPC isn't even a solution for proprietary protocols when
> using Windows.

They are actually facets of the same problem, giving others control over your vital functions by using their secret IP to accomplish them. You
can never truly own it, you are totally at their mercy. And some are less than merciful.

> If the owner of the protocol doesn't want to update their OPC
> "driver" you are just as stuck when using Windows as you are any other
> operating system.

Actually you are stuck more often with Windows because you can guarantee that even if the vendor remains faithful your platform will be
obsoleted.

> This is a rather compelling argument for me at the moment, because I am
> facing an analogous situation with a proprietary driver for a special board
> from a well known major company (who will remain nameless). The old driver
> won't work with new PCs - it needs a minor "tweek" in a timing loop. The
> company who made the product has decided to not support it any more. There is
> no new driver available, no replacement, no upgrade path, and they don't want
> to discuss it. I can't even pay someone else to fix the problem.
>
> In a couple of years, this list will be receiving a steady stream of sob
> stories from people who are in the same boat with their OPC servers. Their
> old computer died, the old OPC stuff doesn't work with the new computer, and
> they can't get a new OPC server for the proprietary protocol because the
> company who originated it doesn't feel like updating it any more. And
> spouting all the OPC/DCOM/WXYZ acronym mumbo jumbo isn't going to get
> their
> machine running again no matter how much they beg and plead.

Open Source is the obvious cure for that.

And that isn't all. If the big software folks get their way, they will be entitled to "self-help" where you keep paying or your software simply stops working. That's a bit from UCITA. It's really strange, people always use the example of "what if the company goes out of business" when actually that's the best they can hope for in some cases.

> This doesn't mean that OPC is bad. It just means it doesn't solve the
> main problem of proprietary protocols - which is the risk involved in
> using them at all.

I do disagree there, OPC is bad exactly because of this exposure and the risk that it can be scuttled at any time it is profitable to do so.
I wonder how many people actually consider these things before they just use whatever is provided. That's an awfully trusting attitude considering who you are dealing with and the examples that have been made. Taking the easy way out can have big implications for the future. I think it's a reasonable expectation that once you build a solution no one should be able to shut you down and needed tools and facilities should not expire. Perhaps legislation that when a company stops support for a product, they need to open it up so the customers can take over. Pretty soon we would have quite a collection of old, but
supportable software.

Regards

cww

--
Free Tools!
Machine Automation Tools (LinuxPLC) Free, Truly Open & Publicly Owned
Industrial Automation Software For Linux. mat.sourceforge.net.
Day Job: Heartland Engineering, Automation & ATE for Automotive
Rebuilders.
Consultancy: Wide Open Technologies: Moving Business & Automation to
Linux.

By Heavner, Lou \[FRS/AUS\] on 6 June, 2002 - 1:27 pm

Curt Wuollet wrote:
>>>>>
I do disagree there, OPC is bad exactly because of this exposure and the risk that it can be scuttled at any time it is profitable to do so.
I wonder how many people actually consider these things before they just use whatever is provided. That's an awfully trusting attitude considering who you are dealing with and the examples that have been made. Taking the easy way out can have big implications for the future. I think it's a reasonable expectation that once you build a solution no one should be able to shut you down and needed tools and facilities should not expire. Perhaps legislation that when a company stops support for a product, they need to open it up so the customers can take over. Pretty soon we would have quite a collection of old, but
supportable software.
<<<<<

Hey Curt,

Do you drive a car? It's pretty risky, dontcha know! Do you really believe that in the cut throat automation business, somebody is going to risk alienating their customer base by scuttling OPC? Or maybe you believe that all of these competitive automation companies would be capable of conspiring together to kill it. There is a pretty big gulf between possible and plausible. And besides, don't you stand to make a huge "killing" by making things right if that were ever actually to happen.

Regards,

Lou Heavner
Consultant
Advanced Applied Technologies Team
Emerson Process Management
Phone: (512) 834-7262
Fax: (512) 832-3199
e-Mail: lou.heavner@emersonprocess.com

By Curt Wuollet on 7 June, 2002 - 2:47 pm

Hi Lou

Haven't heard from you for a long time.

"Heavner, Lou [FRS/AUS]" wrote:
> Hey Curt,
>
> Do you drive a car? It's pretty risky, dontcha know! Do you really believe that in the cut throat automation business, somebody is going to risk alienating their customer base by scuttling OPC? <

I wasn't thinking about the automation companies, they would be victims along with their customers. Let me illustrate with a parable ripped from the headlines as it were.

Some folks have invested a great deal of time and effort using another MS technology for file sharing and print service and the like. They have
been very succesful at it and it's widely installed and would cause a lot of disruption and much litigation if it went away. MS changed it's
protocol enough to require updates and it's licensing to disallow their use, citing patents they hold on the technology. They can use their
"old" technology but, it won't work with Microsoft's new stuff. And MS will sue if they use the new stuff, probably even if they reverse engineer it.

I don't make this stuff up, that's the situation with SAMBA today. Do you know of any reason they couldn't do the same with OPC if they so desired? And they may desire, so that everybody has to get on board bloat.NET or whatever they decide is to be the new way. The disruption is simply a market opportunity to them, they could do it and almost
everybody would meekly go along or risk jumping off the gravy train. I am glad I don't have "partners" like that.

> Or maybe you believe that all of these competitive automation companies would be capable of conspiring together to kill it. There is a pretty big gulf between possible and plausible. And besides, don't you stand to make a huge "killing" by making things right if that were ever actually to happen.<

No on the first clause and the second. I doubt that I could somehow coerce users to flood me with money for software that is and always will remain free. That's what _our_ license is about. We might build a community more quickly, but that would be in the public interest. I suppose we would be happy to see it, but you could still leave your credit card in your wallet.

Regards

cww
--
Free Tools!
Machine Automation Tools (LinuxPLC) Free, Truly Open & Publicly Owned
Industrial Automation Software For Linux. mat.sourceforge.net.
Day Job: Heartland Engineering, Automation & ATE for Automotive
Rebuilders.
Consultancy: Wide Open Technologies: Moving Business & Automation to
Linux.

By Michael Griffin on 7 June, 2002 - 3:13 pm

On June 5, 2002 09:41 am, Lou Heavner wrote:
<clip>
Do you really believe that in the cut throat automation business, somebody is going to risk alienating their customer base by scuttling OPC? Or maybe you believe that all of these competitive automation companies would be capable of conspiring together to kill it. There is a pretty big gulf between possible and plausible.
<clip>

I'm sure that Mr. Wuollet has his own answer to this question, but I found your comments so peculiar that I couldn't let them pass. Are you actually suggesting that automation suppliers never leave their customers stuck
without a solution when computer operating systems have changed? I have seen this happen so many times in so many ways that I find it difficult to believe that you are in the same business as the rest of us.
How many times do we see people posting questions on this list about their old software won't run with their new version of Windows? What is the solution people often give - "stockpile old computers". We tried that one, and our stockpile just ran out recently. Now what?

You mentioned yourself that the business is "cut throat". This means these companies are not going to always provide upgrades to old software which is not intended for current products. If it doesn't help generate new sales with current product lines, they often won't support the old software. They take the position that they don't control Windows, so it isn't their fault. What is so special about OPC that will make it different from all other automation
software in this respect?

French economist Frederic Bastiat said to look at things from the point of view of the consumer, because the interests of the consumer are the interests of the human race. When it comes to industrial communications, the consumers
today are being poorly served.

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************

By Ranjan Acharya on 10 June, 2002 - 5:19 pm

<clip>
French economist Frederic Bastiat said to look at things from the point of
view of the consumer, because the interests of the consumer are the
interests of the human race. When it comes to industrial communications, the
consumers today are being poorly served.
</clip>

I think that Mr. Griffin has provided an excellent point. It is not just with OPC either. Consider the following:

- Cheesy IEC field bus standard (61158) that is not really a standard but eight non-interoperable buses that represent political wrangling and voting blocks and not the interests of the end users or real "engineering"

- Cheesy IEC programming standard (61131.3) that was originally supposed to be the Holy Grail of industrial system programming. I remember going to presentations that showed it as a programming package that would go to any PLC. Take your software from brand A and load it on brand B. Not really I think. Instead we have each manufacturer deviating from the standard however they please

- Non-interoperable top-layers for Ethernet - Modbus over Ethernet TCP/IP, PROFInet, EtherNet/IP and so on. The only solution has been to push OPC-DX and OPC-DA, but I think we all know where that will lead

At the end of the day all we have is complex and cumbersome systems. We spend an incredible amount of time on any project working with
non-interoperable (either because the OEM said it would work and it doesn't or because the OEM is not going to provide a solution or because there isn't an OEM anymore) systems. Customers are frustrated and angry, often at the integrator. "We just bought this from you a couple of years ago, and now you are saying that we have to upgrade to version 7, but we cannot import the version 6 application directly and therefore you are charging us X thousand republic credits to re-write code that has nothing wrong with it to begin with".

My rant for the day. I feel much better.

RA

By Heavner, Lou \[FRS/AUS\] on 11 June, 2002 - 1:58 pm

Ahhh it is always good to find others who are familiar with one of my favorite philosophers, Frederic Bastiat.

I wouldn't suggest that suppliers never leave their customers high and dry. It has happened and it will happen again. It was a much more common with older systems which really weren't designed with consideration for the changes that would follow in the technology market. Technology doesn't stand still and it is still hard for vendors to compete on new projects while supporting legacy systems without facing some product disconnects. Each vendor has their own strategy and track record. All I am saying is
that vendors are much more acutely aware of the problems of technology obsolescence today and in the highly competitive industry of automation they
are more reluctant to abandon their installed base. As Curt W pointed out, the vendors may not be able to control their destiny if MS decides for them to pull the plug on certain technology. The world is what it is. However, IMHO, the value of something like OPC far outweighs the risk of it being abandoned. I can't say why I believe that and I certainly can't guarantee
it. And in the event that it ever was abandoned, the cost might be high and painful for some, but somebody will come up with a solution. I'll put my faith in the entrepreneurs out there to keep the world from coming to an end. End users aren't stupid. They have dealt with product obsolescence in the past including the mother of them all (Y2K) and continue to buy from MS and other suppliers that have arguably "screwed" them. There must be a reason. I am sympathetic to integrators who probably bear a larger burden
in this respect. But that is the cost of doing business in this market space and heaven knows there are a lot of integrators out there making a
living.

Speaking only for myself,

Lou Heavner
Consultant
Advanced Applied Technologies Team
Emerson Process Management
Phone: (512) 834-7262
Fax: (512) 832-3199
e-Mail: lou.heavner@emersonprocess.com

By Curt Wuollet on 14 June, 2002 - 2:51 pm

Hi Lou

Heavner, Lou [FRS/AUS] wrote:
> I wouldn't suggest that suppliers never leave their customers high and dry. It has happened and it will happen again. It was a much more common with older systems which really weren't designed with consideration for the changes that would follow in the technology market. Technology doesn't stand still and it is still hard for vendors to compete on new projects while supporting legacy systems without facing some product disconnects.

True, but these things can be managed. There are strategies that work better for handling the pace of change in technology. What you say is true as long as they slavishly hang on to a model that is poor in this regard. As technology has changed exponentially, might it not be reasonable to consider changing the business model to reflect at least a fraction of that change? This model seems
to have the same problems as most verticals, high among them being customer relations. That is the price of absolute control. If it's working well, by all means, keep it. I don't think it very difficult to imagine models that would work better for all concerned. Automation technology is hardly bleeding edge.

> Each vendor has their own strategy and track record. All I am saying is that vendors are much more acutely aware of the problems of technology obsolescence today and in the highly competitive industry of automation they are more reluctant to abandon their installed base. As Curt W pointed out, the vendors may not be able to control their destiny if MS decides for them to pull the plug on certain technology. The world is what it is. However, IMHO, the value of something like OPC far outweighs the risk of it being abandoned. I can't say why I believe that and I certainly can't guarantee it. And in the event that it ever was abandoned, the cost might be high and painful for some, but somebody will come up with a solution.

But you are missing the point. Why adopt a compromised technology as a basis when this problem is known and well understood? And especially when the technology was remarkable in being unsuitable for the task and designed for
another arena entirely. And it was obvious to the most casual of observers that this way lies lock-in and total dependence on a vendor noted for its treachery. I question the competance of those who made that decision and the rationale behind it. Against the backdrop of Open Standards that have served well and produced growth that could not even be dreamed of, it seems they have chosen very poorly. Using anything not under the control of the monopoly could hardly have been a worse choice and would certainly look better now, albeit in retrospect.

> I'll put my faith in the entrepreneurs out there to keep the world from coming to an end. End users aren't stupid. They have dealt with product obsolescence in the past including the mother of them all (Y2K) and continue to buy from MS and other suppliers that have arguably "screwed" them. There must be a reason.

Perhaps they don't know any better? I haven't seen any alternatives tried, have you? I'm certain those decisions come from the top down, perhaps even from outside the automation divisions.

> I am sympathetic to integrators who probably bear a larger burden in this respect. But that is the cost of doing business in this market space and heaven knows there are a lot of integrators out there making a living.

No, that's an artificial cost that we can ill afford.

Yes, think of it, an entire class of people who spend their lives fixing the problems their vendors created intentionally. How ironic.

Regards

cww

By Tim Linnell on 14 June, 2002 - 3:15 pm

Curt Wuollet wrote:
>another arena entirely. And it was obvious to the most casual of observers that this way lies lock-in and total dependence on a vendor noted for its treachery. I question the competance of those who made that decision and the rationale behind it

I question the assertion that Microsoft is noted for treachery. As a matter of fact, they have provided a coherent range of operating systems for nearly 20 years, so that at any one time I have only had to support a single platform to reach customers with any particular toolset. This is a clear benefit over the Unix world I was supporting 10 or 15 years ago, where competing open standards and rather poor interfaces to (for example) serial
ports and subtle differences between hardware platforms made life an absolute nightmare. I gladly abandoned this when Windows became predominate, and do *not* want to go back there with Linux. I am broadly happy with my Windows tools, my PC does not crash every 25 minutes (as Linux FUD merchants would have us believe), and frankly the O/S upgrade issue is not a major issue - even when 16 bit migrated to 32, legacy Dos applications still ran. Yes, there were issues, but they could be dealt with relatively easily.

It does not follow that corporate equals evil, and it is certainly not true that open equals good. I am a great fan of Microsoft, who have effectively
enabled a software industry by providing a stable platform for development. I see no evidence of any evil intent, except the desire to make money, which is common to anyone on this list using technology to make things.

All opinions personal, of course

Tim

By Curt Wuollet on 18 June, 2002 - 4:29 pm

Hi Tim

Linnell, Tim wrote:
>>another arena entirely. And it was obvious to the most casual of observers that this way lies lock-in and total dependence on a vendor noted for it's treachery. I question the competance of those who made that decision and the rationale behind it
>
> I question the assertion that Microsoft is noted for treachery.

They have been convicted by the courts and are named in lots of lawsuits with more to come. This is typically a good indicator.

> As a matter of fact, they have provided a coherent range of operating systems for nearly 20 years, so that at any one time I have only had to support a single platform to reach customers with any particular toolset. This is a clear benefit over the Unix world I was supporting 10 or 15 years ago, where competing open standards and rather poor interfaces to (for example) serial ports and subtle differences between hardware platforms made life an absolute nightmare.

I've heard the MS offerings described many ways but this is the first time I've heard coherent. However, if that's what makes sense to you, go for it. I'm all for choice myself. Wouldn't have a problem with MS if they weren't bent on eliminating my choices.
As for the UNIX wars:
That was just as surely an abuse of the term Open as the usage in this market. If you've been watching, we've fixed that with a single product that can't be corrupted by commercial competition. A lot of these folks (like me) have a
very long memory and are taking pains to do it right this time. Don't get me wrong, I love UNIX, but, Linux is UNIX done right. Like UNIX was before money destroyed it. I do have to laugh when you disparage the UNIX interface to serial
ports. I find being able to control every nuance much handier than some OS's where you can't even get to the serial ports, but that's personal preference I suppose.

> I gladly abandoned this when Windows became predominate, and do *not* want to go back there with Linux. I am broadly happy with my Windows tools, my PC does not crash every 25 minutes (as Linux FUD merchants would have us believe), and frankly the O/S upgrade issue is not a major issue - even when 16 bit migrated to 32, legacy Dos applications still ran. Yes, there were issues, but they could be dealt with relatively easily.

As I said, use what you want. I would merely want to be able to use something else to do automation work. And now that's 5 people whose Windows systems never crash. And to think I've corresponded with all 5. What're the chances?!.

> It does not follow that corporate equals evil, and it is certainly not true that open equals good. I am a great fan of Microsoft, who have effectively enabled a software industry by providing a stable platform for development. I see no evidence of any evil intent, except the desire to make money, which is common to anyone on this list using technology to make things.

Evil in the persuit of money is still evil. The ends do not justify the means. I'd like to hear some examples of Open being bad. I'll concede that there may be an ethical, moral corporation out there somewhere. I'm not buying tht MS is it.

> All opinions personal, of course

And valued I might add

Regards

cww

By Ranjan Acharya on 14 June, 2002 - 3:50 pm

Microsoft treacherous?

I think that is a strong word. However, they have Cleary engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. Also their platforms are hardly coherent.

I believe the following examples (plus many others should be noted) when imagining the world where Microsoft are brilliant and infallible:

- Poor security
- Lack of independent review of their code
- Hidden API and undocumented features that are used by MS software but not available to third-party developers
- Assault on Netscape
- Assault on WordPerfect
- Assault on Lotus 1-2-3
- Funny business when OS/2 came out and then Windows came out and then OS/2 died
- Bloated code base
- Clean installations on so-called Windows-compatible hardware from top-notch manufacturers that crashes
- Having to re-boot when you change something (not as bad with the newer OSes, but still not as good as Unix)
- Decreasing product lifetimes
- Horrible new licensing agreements

Obviously they make some good stuff, but they have done some things that a lot of us do not like.

The aforementioned and many other reasons are why I am worried about OPC being the be-all and end-all of industrial automation. Microsoft are not a control systems provider.

RA

By Ranjan Acharya on 18 June, 2002 - 4:33 pm

Microsoft treacherous?

I think that is a strong word. However, they have Cleary engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. Also their platforms are hardly coherent.

I believe the following examples (plus many others should be noted) when imagining the world where Microsoft are brilliant and infallible:

- Poor security
- Lack of independent review of their code
- Hidden API and undocumented features that are used by MS software but not available to third-party developers
- Assault on Netscape
- Assault on WordPerfect
- Assault on Lotus 1-2-3
- Funny business when OS/2 came out and then Windows came out and then OS/2 died
- Bloated code base
- Clean installations on so-called Windows-compatible hardware from top-notch manufacturers that crashes
- Having to re-boot when you change something (not as bad with the newer OSs, but still not as good as Unix)
- Decreasing product lifetimes
- Horrible new licensing agreements

Obviously they make some good stuff, but they have done some things that a lot of us do not like.

The aforementioned and many other reasons are why I am worried about OPC being the be-all and end-all of industrial automation. Microsoft are not a control systems provider.

RA

By Bob Peterson on 18 June, 2002 - 4:34 pm

Ranjan Acharya wrote:

> Microsoft treacherous?
>
> I think that is a strong word. However, they have Cleary engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. Also their platforms are hardly coherent.<

I would say they have engaged in the typical behaviour of any organization. They do what makes them money. That no competitor has been able to do it as well and still serve the market as well as it has, is a remarkable
achievement. It can be argued that they may have engaged in behaviour that was illegal, but I suspect the main reason the Clinton DOJ went after them had more to do with not ponying up to the political contribution table then anything else.

> I believe the following examples (plus many others should be noted) when imagining the world where Microsoft are brilliant and infallible:
>
> - Poor security

It could be better, but I suspect the main reason it has so many security lapses is largely due to its ubiquitius nature. Its everywhere, thus
encouraging the hackers amongst us to attack it. And its public. Linux advocates tend to deemphasize the holes, they can even be quite secrative about them. I''d be willing to bet that if there were as many Linux systems in general use as windows systems, Linux might be as bad.

>
Can I review your proprietary code?

> - Hidden API and undocumented features that are used by MS software but not<

Wow! What an awful concept. Not helping your competition. I suppose that you regularly assist your competitors in doing business against your
interests.

> - Assault on Netscape
> - Assault on WordPerfect
> - Assault on Lotus 1-2-3

Assualt is hardly the word. In the Netscape battle, MS probably did them and all of us a favor by deciding that the Interne was part of our computing environment and tieing the O/S to it more tightly. Its clear thats the way things are headed and it benefits us all except for Netscape. Quite frankly, I do not see how any of us were harmed by MS giving away IE. Arguably,
Netscape may have been harmed, but guess what? They got bought by AOL anyway.

As for WP and Lotus, I was a dedicated WP user in the DOS days when MSWord was a joke. WP never did adapt well to the GUI environment. I know, because I stayed with it through version 6 or maybe 7. I ended up using both WP and MSWord, and gradually ended up using just Word because I found it easier to use. I never used OLE or any other MS only stuff either. Just basic document creation. And I have created any number of 100+ page technical documents in both Word and WP. I am not longing to go back to WP.

And I was a huge fan of Borland's Quattro Pro in the DOS world. Far superior to DOS Excel, yet they did not adapt well to the GUI environment either and gradually I stopped using it as well and ended up using Excel instead.

Can't tell you much about Lotus, since I have not used it.

> - Funny business when OS/2 came out and then Windows came out and then OS/2<

OS/2 died because IBM was not committed to it. Not because of any funny business. They knew when they were licked and decided to cave rather then be destroyed in the marketplace. If it was such a great OS, they would have kept at it, or sold it to someone. The fact that they did not tells you a lot.

>

Can you honestly say you create only perfectly optimized code? I myself do not care anymore about bloatware. RAM, diskspace, and CPU power is dirt cheap - in large part because of MS.

> - Clean installations on so-called Windows-compatible hardware from top-notch manufacturers that crashes<

I used to run an Intergraph CAD system on a Vax 751 system. I'd bet at least half the time I installed new software it would crash at least once, and this was in a very tightly controlled environment. MS is not immune to this, but they are exposed to it more then any other OS for several reasons. The biggest reason is the wide variety of hardware and software they support.
Would you prefer they decide what hardware is allowed as the Apple Macintosh did? This reduces dramatically the potential varients you have to support and makes your code less susceptible to problems..

> - Having to re-boot when you change something (not as bad with the newer OSs, but still not as good as Unix)<

This is an annoyance that I wish they would fix. But so what?

>
This is really a problem with technology in general and not MS. Many instruments that were state of the art just a few years ago are laughably behind the times now. Should we ban innovation or improvement? Or maybe you would prefer that any improvement or innovation be approved by some government bureaucrat first? That kind of thinking is why the Soviet Union
no longer exists.

> - Horrible new licensing agreements<

I agree they are not friendly. However, their biggest user base is big corporations with hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of PCs. Those guys love it and are eating it up. I don't know why exactly cause I do not have to support but one PC, but there must be something about it that their biggest customers do like.

> Obviously they make some good stuff, but they have done some things that a lot of us do not like.<

I don't like everything that Jeep does either, but I still bought one and overall I am quite happy with it. My Jeep is not a good choice to substitute for a bulldozer either. But I did not buy it to use as a bulldozer. If I did, I would have to live with the inherent limitations of what I bought.

> The aforementioned and many other reasons are why I am worried about OPC being the be-all and end-all of industrial automation. Microsoft are not a control systems provider.<

This is the first real truth you speak. Even though it is very possible to make a MS OS system very reliable, the fact is that it would probably be even more reliable under another OS such as QNX or Linux. But, the huge installed base of MS systems and the massive infrastucture that supports MS OS's in the rest of the world makes it attractive to live with the minor limitations imposed by using Windows. The fact that a "free" and "better" OS exists that few people want tells you there is something their user base gets from using their products. You Linux lovers should get on your hands and knees and thank MS. Its an almost certainty that without MS, there would be
no Linux, since the inexpensive mass produced PCs would not exist, and there would be no reason to have Linux.

Bob Peterson

By Ranjan Acharya on 19 June, 2002 - 10:40 am

Did not read the whole reply, you either approve of Microsoft, you do not approve or you do not care, but I noticed the question "Can I review your proprietary code?"

Yes you can, if you are my customer. When I sell you my services you get all the source code that I write. No excuses, no passwords, no encryption.
Just well-documented code (I hope ;) ) on a CD and print out (if practical, or just the CD). Documents and engineering drawings in soft-copy format, PDF (if required) and print out (if required). Technical manual explaining all algorithms if you want too.

I liked the line "Clinton DOJ" too. Perhaps the hold-out States and European Union are secretly being run by the "Clinton DOJ" too. Maybe the
term "Star Chamber" would be more appropriate for such a super-secret organisation.

Either way I have to figure out a way of supporting various revisions of OPC as each level is killed off. I have no such problems supporting good old PLCs.

RA

By Michael Griffin on 19 June, 2002 - 11:25 am

On June 18, 2002 02:15 pm, Bob Peterson wrote:
<clip>
> > - Horrible new licensing agreements
>
> I agree they are not friendly. However, their biggest user base is big
> corporations with hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of PCs. Those
> guys love it and are eating it up. I don't know why exactly cause I do
> not have to support but one PC, but there must be something about it
> that their biggest customers do like.
<clip>

The answer to this paradox is simple. The license agreements for small customers and the license agreements for large customers are completely
different.

Large customers (with thousands of licenses) can license on a global basis, rather than location by location. This means that they can move unused
licenses from one country to another as their needs change, resulting in fewer licenses overall being required.

IT departments in many (if not most) large companies don't operate the way they did several years ago. These days, most specify standards for hardware and software, but don't get involved with any problems the individual users may have with the results. If your PC doesn't work satisfactorily, that's *your* problem, not their's.

IT departments in large companies aren't generally too interested in the technical merits of the user software they specify. They don't really have the time, money, or manpower to properly evaluate all the available alternatives in detail. Typically, they just specify whatever everyone else is using. This tends to turn into a sort of circular reasoning, where something is popular because it's popular.

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************

By Ken Irving on 20 June, 2002 - 1:20 pm

On Tue, Jun 18, 2002 at 02:15:16PM -0400, Bob Peterson wrote:
> In a message dated 6/14/02 2:26:48 PM Central Daylight Time,
> Ranjan Acharyawrites:
> ...
> > - Hidden API and undocumented features that are used by MS
> > software
> > but not
>
> Wow! What an awful concept. Not helping your competition. I suppose
> that you regularly assist your competitors in doing business against
> your interests.
>
> ...
>
> As for WP and Lotus, I was a dedicated WP user in the DOS days when
> MSWord was a joke. WP never did adapt well to the GUI environment. I
> know, because I stayed with it through version 6 or maybe 7. I ended up
> using both WP and MSWord, and gradually ended up using just Word because
> I found it easier to use. I never used OLE or any other MS only stuff
> either. Just basic document creation. And I have created any number of
> 100+ page technical documents in both Word and WP. I am not longing to
> go back to WP.

On the one hand you suggest it's ok that MS uses (or used) secret APIs to their advantage, that that's normal competitive behavior. Then you note that you gave up on a major MS competitor because they didn't "adapt" well to the GUI environment, etc.. I'd suggest that a major reason for their difficulties was that necessary information was
deliberately kept from them, information that had nothing whatsoever to do with "word processing", but the basic guts and workings of the operating system they were trying to (had to) run on.

In such an environment the only hope for WP or other application developers would (have been) for them to create and promote their own operating system (i.e., be another Apple). It's hard for me to understand how this can be viewed as acceptable behavior. In my opinion, Microsoft abused their insider knowledge so that they could
bootstrap their (initially lame) applications into the market.

I (hardly) hesitate to dream up YATA (yet another tired analogy)... a large foundry figures out a way to make cheap titanium, but hides a crucial aspect from their competitors, but not only their foundry competitors -- they also invest in making cars out of the stuff, and no one else knows how. So they sell lighter, stronger, more efficient cars while other carmakers are forced to compete using heavier or weaker materials. Of the carmakers can buy the MS-titanium but aren't
clued in to some secret process to make it actually work well. Whew, that's a stretch, but the basic notion is that the OS and applications
are two very different sorts of things, and insider knowledge in the former can be used to killing advantage in the latter.

> And I was a huge fan of Borland's Quattro Pro in the DOS world. Far
> superior to DOS Excel, yet they did not adapt well to the GUI
> environment either and gradually I stopped using it as well and ended up
> using Excel instead.

Sigh. Same scenario as above.

> Can't tell you much about Lotus, since I have not used it.

They didn't invent the spreadsheet, but they pushed the thing beyond VisiCalc and SuperCalc. My guess is that they were similarly hamstrung
by withheld API information, at least long enough for MS's version to get up and running.

>
> > - Funny business when OS/2 came out and then Windows came out
> > and
> > then OS/2
>
> OS/2 died because IBM was not committed to it. Not because of any funny
> business. They knew when they were licked and decided to cave rather
> then be destroyed in the marketplace. If it was such a great OS, they
> would have kept at it, or sold it to someone. The fact that they did
> not tells you a lot.

The way I picture it is that MS one day realized that they could put out their own version of OS/2 ... er NT... without having to share the wealth with IBM. The way IBM handled the leftovers is largely immaterial, they were left in the lurch and successfully ran the thing into the ground.

> ...
> ... You Linux
> lovers should get on your hands and knees and thank MS. Its an almost
> certainty that without MS, there would be no Linux, since the
> inexpensive mass produced PCs would not exist, and there would be no
> reason to have Linux.

Maybe that's true in your imagined scenarios, but I'd prefer to pretend that technology would have kept marching right along even if the OS leader didn't abuse their power to control the application markets. If you can come up with evidence to support this claim, I hope you use the same powers of insight and deduction to decide the case of Global Warming when you get a moment. ;) (Sorry for that, but it's hard for me to take such a position seriously.)

Ken

--
Ken Irving <jkirving@mosquitonet.com>

By Michael Griffin on 21 June, 2002 - 6:30 am

I'm not sure that I want to get involved in the rest of the argument, but to clarify the historical record I believe that Mr. Irving has the right of it on this point. OS/2 was a joint venture between Microsoft and IBM (as were several of the later versions of DOS). OS/2 died because *Microsoft* was not committed to it. OS/2 was Microsoft's intended replacement for Windows 3.1 and Windows for Work Groups. IBM ought to be commended for providing support for it long after Microsoft had abandoned it.

Windows NT orginated from research conducted (if I recall correctly) by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC was not actually involved with WIndows NT, but Microsoft hired one of the project leaders from DEC's operating system organisation. This fellow apparently brought a considerable amount of knowledge with him which was incorporated in the original design of
Windows NT. Microsoft did not have the expertise at that time to design a sophisticated operating system on their own (which was why they originally had a joint venture with IBM for OS/2).

On a slightly different topic, I would like to also question certain comments (although not from Mr. Irving) I have heard here repeatedly that Windows NT (in its various incarnations) is more reliable than WIndows 95/98 in typical automation applications. I haven't seen any evidence for this, just a general assumption that this must be so.

In my own experience, I haven't seen any difference between the two in this respect. If anything, we have had fewer problems with test systems using Windows 95/98 than with Windows NT.

A possible explanation for this lies in the commonly stated opinion that the problems with Windows NT are largely due to "bad drivers" and not Windows itself. If this is the case, then I should point out that I am lead to understand that it is much more difficult to write drivers for Windows NT than it is for Windows 95/98. Indeed, writing a good quality Windows NT driver is supposedly almost a black art.

If this is so, then it would appear reasonable to expect Windows NT to be *less* reliable overall than Windows 95/98 in automation applications. Indeed this could probably be generalised to say that the reliability of any operating system should be strongly affected by the ease of developing drivers for it.

Does anyone see any problems with this theory?

*********************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
*********************

By Ranjan Acharya on 23 June, 2002 - 3:01 pm

Ken,

There is no contradiction. You will note on closer inspection that my (RA) comments are marked with a ">>" in the original note. The ">" symbolise someone else's comments.

I stand by my original assertions.

RA

> On Tue, Jun 18, 2002 at 02:15:16PM -0400, Bob Peterson wrote:
> > In a message dated 6/14/02 2:26:48 PM Central Daylight Time,
> > Ranjan Acharyawrites:
> > ...
> > > - Hidden API and undocumented features that are used by MS
> > > software
> > > but not
> >
> > Wow! What an awful concept. Not helping your competition. I suppose
> > that you regularly assist your competitors in doing business against
> > your interests.
> >
> > ...
> >
> > As for WP and Lotus, I was a dedicated WP user in the DOS days when
> > MSWord was a joke. WP never did adapt well to the GUI environment. I
> > know, because I stayed with it through version 6 or maybe 7. I ended up
> > using both WP and MSWord, and gradually ended up using just Word because
> > I found it easier to use. I never used OLE or any other MS only stuff
> > either. Just basic document creation. And I have created any number of
> > 100+ page technical documents in both Word and WP. I am not longing to
> > go back to WP.
>
> On the one hand you suggest it's ok that MS uses (or used) secret APIs to their advantage, that that's normal competitive behavior. Then you note that you gave up on a major MS competitor because they didn't "adapt" well to the GUI environment, etc.. I'd suggest that a major reason for their difficulties was that necessary information was
> deliberately kept from them, information that had nothing whatsoever to do with "word processing", but the basic guts and workings of the operating system they were trying to (had to) run on.
>
> In such an environment the only hope for WP or other application developers would (have been) for them to create and promote their own operating system (i.e., be another Apple). It's hard for me to understand how this can be viewed as acceptable behavior. In my opinion, Microsoft abused their insider knowledge so that they could
> bootstrap their (initially lame) applications into the market.
>
> I (hardly) hesitate to dream up YATA (yet another tired analogy)... a large foundry figures out a way to make cheap titanium, but hides a crucial aspect from their competitors, but not only their foundry competitors -- they also invest in making cars out of the stuff, and no one else knows how. So they sell lighter, stronger, more efficient cars while other carmakers are forced to compete using heavier or weaker materials. Of the carmakers can buy the MS-titanium but aren't
> clued in to some secret process to make it actually work well. Whew, that's a stretch, but the basic notion is that the OS and applications
> are two very different sorts of things, and insider knowledge in the former can be used to killing advantage in the latter.
>
> > And I was a huge fan of Borland's Quattro Pro in the DOS world. Far
> > superior to DOS Excel, yet they did not adapt well to the GUI
> > environment either and gradually I stopped using it as well and ended up
> > using Excel instead.
>
> Sigh. Same scenario as above.
>
> > Can't tell you much about Lotus, since I have not used it.
>
> They didn't invent the spreadsheet, but they pushed the thing beyond VisiCalc and SuperCalc. My guess is that they were similarly hamstrung
> by withheld API information, at least long enough for MS's version to get up and running.
>
> >
> > > - Funny business when OS/2 came out and then Windows came out
> > > and
> > > then OS/2
> >
> > OS/2 died because IBM was not committed to it. Not because of any funny
> > business. They knew when they were licked and decided to cave rather
> > then be destroyed in the marketplace. If it was such a great OS, they
> > would have kept at it, or sold it to someone. The fact that they did
> > not tells you a lot.
>
> The way I picture it is that MS one day realized that they could put out their own version of OS/2 ... er NT... without having to share the wealth with IBM. The way IBM handled the leftovers is largely immaterial, they were left in the lurch and successfully ran the thing into the ground.
>
> > ...
> > ... You Linux
> > lovers should get on your hands and knees and thank MS. Its an almost
> > certainty that without MS, there would be no Linux, since the
> > inexpensive mass produced PCs would not exist, and there would be no
> > reason to have Linux.
>
> Maybe that's true in your imagined scenarios, but I'd prefer to pretend that technology would have kept marching right along even if the OS leader didn't abuse their power to control the application markets. If you can come up with evidence to support this claim, I hope you use the same powers of insight and deduction to decide the case of Global Warming when you get a moment. ;) (Sorry for that, but it's hard for me to take such a position seriously.)
>
> Ken
>
> --
> Ken Irving <jkirving@mosquitonet.com>

By Curt Wuollet on 24 June, 2002 - 12:24 pm

Hi Bob

Bob Peterson wrote:
>
> In a message dated 6/14/02 2:26:48 PM Central Daylight Time,
> Ranjan Acharya writes:
>
>>Microsoft treacherous?
>>
>>I think that is a strong word. However, they have Cleary engaged in
>>anti-competitive behaviour. Also their platforms are hardly coherent.
>
> I would say they have engaged in the typical behaviour of any
> organization. They do what makes them money. That no competitor has
> been able to do it as well and still serve the market as well as it has,
> is a remarkable achievement. It can be argued that they may have
> engaged in behaviour that was illegal, but I suspect the main reason the
> Clinton DOJ went after them had more to do with not ponying up to the
> political contribution table then anything else.

Enron didn't do anything that wasn't about making money either.

>
>>I believe the following examples (plus many others should be noted)
>>when imagining the world where Microsoft are brilliant and infallible:
>>
>> - Poor security
>
> It could be better, but I suspect the main reason it has so many security
> lapses is largely due to its ubiquitius nature. Its everywhere, thus
> encouraging the hackers amongst us to attack it. And its public. Linux
> advocates tend to deemphasize the holes, they can even be quite secrative
> about them. I''d be willing to bet that if there were as many Linux
> systems in general use as windows systems, Linux might be as bad.

I'll take that bet :^) And in the server world, Linux _is_ nearly as ubiquitous yet the security lapses are still far fewer and the damage is less and they are fixed more quickly. Even those analysts who cater to Microsoft don't debate that anymore. And it has changed priorities in Redmond. That's a good thing.

>
> Can I review your proprietary code?

Yes.

>
>> - Hidden API and undocumented features that are used by MS
>> software but not
>
> Wow! What an awful concept. Not helping your competition. I suppose
> that you regularly assist your competitors in doing business against your interests.

None of which is a problem _unless_ you are in a monopoly position and use it to inhibit and destroy competition. It's okay to have a hammer as long as you don't use it to bash someone's head in.

>
>> - Assault on Netscape
>> - Assault on WordPerfect
>> - Assault on Lotus 1-2-3
>
> Assualt is hardly the word. In the Netscape battle, MS probably did them
> and all of us a favor by deciding that the Internet was part of our
> computing environment and tieing the O/S to it more tightly. Its clear
> thats the way things are headed and it benefits us all except for
> Netscape. Quite frankly, I do not see how any of us were harmed by MS
> giving away IE. Arguably, Netscape may have been harmed, but guess
> what? They got bought by AOL anyway.

Assault is a very good word. They have been convicted for those escapades.

> As for WP and Lotus, I was a dedicated WP user in the DOS days when
> MSWord was a joke. WP never did adapt well to the GUI environment. I
> know, because I stayed with it through version 6 or maybe 7. I ended up
> using both WP and MSWord, and gradually ended up using just Word because
> I found it easier to use. I never used OLE or any other MS only stuff
> either. Just basic document creation. And I have created any number of
> 100+ page technical documents in both Word and WP. I am not longing to
> go back to WP.
>
> And I was a huge fan of Borland's Quattro Pro in the DOS world. Far
> superior to DOS Excel, yet they did not adapt well to the GUI
> environment either and gradually I stopped using it as well and ended up
> using Excel instead.

You don't suppose the difficulty in adapting had anything to do with the fact that MS included code to scuttle competing products running under it's GUI and exposed only third rate methods to the outside?

They have been/will be convicted for that as well.

> Can't tell you much about Lotus, since I have not used it.
>
>> - Funny business when OS/2 came out and then Windows came out
>> and then OS/2
>
> OS/2 died because IBM was not committed to it. Not because of any funny
> business. They knew when they were licked and decided to cave rather
> then be destroyed in the marketplace. If it was such a great OS, they
> would have kept at it, or sold it to someone. The fact that they did
> not tells you a lot.

I thought it sucked just as bad as Windows. But the market did have a part in bringing it down. If IBM wanted to sell windows on it's PC's, which is an economic necessity to stay in the low margin PC business, they had to choose because their pricing for Windows was manipulated to tank their PC business. To their credit, the pot didn't call the kettle black, but they are getting even now. Their small investment in Linux has caused major grief in Redmond. Talk about ROI :^

> Can you honestly say you create only perfectly optimized code? I myself
> do not care anymore about bloatware. RAM, diskspace, and CPU power is
> dirt cheap - in large part because of MS.

There are great many other things you don't care about either, suffice it to say that some of us dislike slipshod engineering.

>
>> - Clean installations on so-called Windows-compatible hardware
>> from
>>top-notch manufacturers that crashes
>
> I used to run an Intergraph CAD system on a Vax 751 system. I'd bet at
> least half the time I installed new software it would crash at least
> once, and this was in a very tightly controlled environment. MS is not
> immune to this, but they are exposed to it more then any other OS for
> several reasons. The biggest reason is the wide variety of hardware and
> software they support. Would you prefer they decide what hardware is
> allowed as the Apple Macintosh did? This reduces dramatically the
> potential varients you have to support and makes your code less
> susceptible to problems..

There's a world of difference between a VAX 751 and even a modern white box PC. Running CAD in the days of small memory and slow disks was a rather amazing accomplishment and totally impossible on anything less than UNIX. Large CAE/CAD/CAM and simulation systems are still often run on UNIX with some vendors simply skipping Windows and going from proprietary UNIX to Linux. It's not very funny if a verification that runs for a week blue screens four days in. And Linux somehow miraculously runs on at least 20 more platforms than Windows and does so reliably enough to dispel the old "It's the hardware" excuse. What you are saying simply doesn't reflect the reality. There are far too many huge server farms, Beowulf clusters, and lately mission critical OLTP systems to perpetuate the hardware myth anymore. I have fixed at least a dozen "BAD" PCs with a cdrom. I called it Service Pack RH6.2. Now that our whole
enterprise (with the exception of the automation lab) runs on Linux we don't have anymore bad PCs to fix. Just ask those wild and crazy radicals at Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch and of course, IBM, how reliable Linux is.

>
>> - Having to re-boot when you change something (not as bad with
>> the newer
>>OSs, but still not as good as Unix)
>
> This is an annoyance that I wish they would fix. But so what?
>
> This is really a problem with technology in general and not MS. Many
> instruments that were state of the art just a few years ago are laughably
> behind the times now. Should we ban innovation or improvement? Or
> maybe you would prefer that any improvement or innovation be approved by
> some government bureaucrat first? That kind of thinking is why the
> Soviet Union no longer exists.

Should there be only one innovator allowed to suppress or destroy all competition? That's really what we're talking about here. That doesn't
seem even as good as having a government doing it. The government might have a tiny bit of objectivity.

>> - Horrible new licensing agreements
>
> I agree they are not friendly. However, their biggest user base is big
> corporations with hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of PCs. Those
> guys love it and are eating it up. I don't know why exactly cause I do
> not have to support but one PC, but there must be something about it
> that their biggest customers do like.

Not having to change is about it, according to most studies. Just like in automation there has been major effort to make change as difficult
and expensive as possible. Only about 66% have signed on and it's after the first few deadlines. I'd read that differently.

>>Obviously they make some good stuff, but they have done some things
>>that a lot of us do not like.
>
> I don't like everything that Jeep does either, but I still bought one and
> overall I am quite happy with it. My Jeep is not a good choice to
> substitute for a bulldozer either. But I did not buy it to use as a
> bulldozer. If I did, I would have to live with the inherent limitations
> of what I bought.
>
>>The aforementioned and many other reasons are why I am worried about
>>OPC being the be-all and end-all of industrial automation. Microsoft
>>are not a control systems provider.
>
> This is the first real truth you speak. Even though it is very possible
> to make a MS OS system very reliable, the fact is that it would probably
> be even more reliable under another OS such as QNX or Linux. But, the
> huge installed base of MS systems and the massive infrastucture that
> supports MS OS's in the rest of the world makes it attractive to live
> with the minor limitations imposed by using Windows. The fact that a
> "free" and "better" OS exists that few people want tells you there is
> something their user base gets from using their products. You Linux
> lovers should get on your hands and knees and thank MS. Its an almost
> certainty that without MS, there would be no Linux, since the
> inexpensive mass produced PCs would not exist, and there would be no
> reason to have Linux.

PCs did predate the monopoly, but not by much. Progress was very rapid until MS and Intel started deciding what they should look like.

Regards

cww

By Michael Griffin on 18 June, 2002 - 4:31 pm

On June 10, 2002 05:31 pm, Lou Heavner wrote:
<clip>
> I wouldn't suggest that suppliers never leave their customers high and
> dry. It has happened and it will happen again. It was a much more
> common with older systems which really weren't designed with
> consideration for the changes that would follow in the technology
> market.
<clip>

It actually seems to be more common with newer systems than it was in the past. I suspect that it is driven by accounting considerations, not technological ones. Long term strategy has in many cases become subservient to short term financial targets.

> However, IMHO, the value of something like OPC far outweighs the risk
> of it being abandoned. I can't say why I believe that and I certainly
> can't guarantee it.
<clip>
I didn't say that OPC was itself bad - I was quite clear about that. What I said was that it wasn't a substitute for open communications protocols. If the protocols are open, there is at least a chance that someone somewhere can write a new "driver" version. If the protocol is "closed" or otherwise encumbered, then you are taking a much larger risk in using it.

> End users aren't stupid. They have dealt with product obsolescence in
> the past (...) and continue to buy from MS and other suppliers that
> have arguably "screwed" them. There must be a reason.

Microsoft's tactics and business ethics is another subject altogether which has been discussed at great length in the past. If you
can't remember these discussions, you may wish to search the archives, but I don't intend to repeat them here. However, I wasn't suggesting that automation suppliers have sunk quite that low.

> I am sympathetic to integrators who
> probably bear a larger burden in this respect. But that is the cost
> of doing business in this market space and heaven knows there are a
> lot of integrators out there making a living.
<clip>
It won't the integrators who will bear this cost, rather it is the customers who will. If anything, the integrators will get paid to
keep "fixing" the problem while the customer paces about in the background muttering dark thoughts.
However, if any particular integrator comes up with a system that doesn't need continuous maintenance and upgrade, even the slowest customer will notice this eventually. The customer will decide that this integrator has a much more professional solution, and that the other integrators whose systems need continuous "fixing" must be a bunch of clueless clowns who don't know what they are doing. This may perhaps not be a fair judgement, but as you yourself suggested, life isn't fair ...

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************

By Curt Wuollet on 11 June, 2002 - 2:13 pm

We need some Open Independent standards rather badly. But where will they come from? The industry seems quite incapable and unwilling to take the long term view. Sounds like a job for a users group with _no_ corporate representation. A special interest group selected from the community, an Unorganization. Hmmm... sounds familiar. I have a short list I would nominate :^) Some would be very surprised, but the very point would be their knowledge and experience, not their politics or affiliation.

Regards

cww

--
Free Tools!
Machine Automation Tools (LinuxPLC) Free, Truly Open & Publicly Owned Industrial Automation Software For Linux. mat.sourceforge.net.
Day Job: Heartland Engineering, Automation & ATE for Automotive Rebuilders.
Consultancy: Wide Open Technologies: Moving Business & Automation to Linux.

By Greg Goodman on 14 June, 2002 - 12:43 pm

Lou Heavner wrote:
> Do you really believe that in the cut throat automation business, somebody is going to risk alienating their customer base by scuttling OPC? Or maybe you believe that all of these competitive automation companies would be capable of conspiring together to kill it.

Not to put words into Curt's mouth, but I don't think he's talking about automation companies scuttling OPC. They've bought into it, support it, depend on it, and would almost certainly like to see it survive and prosper. All it takes to kill OPC is for Microsoft to decide that COM/DCOM is obsolete and unsupported, that the next generation of Windows boxes will do object comm exclusively with .NET (or .NEXT_BIG_THING, or
whatever technology they can sell and think they can force people to migrate to).

And make no mistake; Microsoft has obsoleted technologies out from under us before, are doing so now, and aren't particularly worried about
"alienating their customer base". As long as they occupy the catbird seat in the microcomputer software industry, they have a largely captive
audience. (By "captive" I don't mean "completely without choice". Users are captive if they believe that the cost to give up their dependency on Microsoft is greater than they can afford.) All those automation vendors with OPC-capable software represent a revenue stream for Microsoft... but how much greater a revenue stream if they can be induced to re-develop their products using some other (Microsoft-controlled) software technology?

Greg Goodman
Chiron Consulting

By Ranjan Acharya on 9 June, 2002 - 8:31 pm

I agree with Curt. The proprietary systems such as Windows are a bit of a pain to support. We already have dead systems out there (e.g., a SCADA package with no source code running on an older version of Microsoft Windows with no source code). How do we support them? They work, but the customer just needs one more feature that the SCADA software (and perhaps Windows too) are unable to support. The completely functional system has to be ripped out and replaced with an equally risky system (don't worry, we tell them, OPC is a standard ....).

I had an argument with a representative from a manufacturer regarding product life cycles. They thought it was no big deal that the product life
cycles were now much less than a year for many systems rather than the traditional fifteen years or so. I have probably used that story before, but I think it is indicative of OEM thinking, especially if they hold all the cards regarding closed systems. PLC-5 and Modicon 984 were closed too, but at least they were (or are still) around for ever.

Not to mention all the young keen chaps we hire that do not have a clue what to do at the command line.

:) :)

England 1 - Argentina 0

:) :)

RA

By Brian E Boothe on 19 June, 2002 - 3:07 pm

I CAN (on the other hand) do any-thing you want in a command line : Of course Ive been in PC's for 26 years...(What the hell is a computer without DOS anyway??) an idiot box...

By Greg Goodman on 24 June, 2002 - 10:31 am

You're kidding, right?