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Introduction to BLU-ICE and DCS

BLU-ICE is a graphical Interface to the Distributed Control System (DCS) for crystallographic data collection at synchrotron light sources. Designed for highly heterogeneous networked computing environments, it uses an efficient message passing protocol for communication between underlying, disparate hardware control systems and multiple, fully synchronized instances of the graphical user interface. A server process at each beam line centralizes control over all beam line hardware and provides a central point through which all messages between user interfaces and hardware control systems pass. The server also embeds a scripting engine capable of handling complex operations spanning multiple control systems with a powerful event driven language.

The highly graphical BLU-ICE user interface simplifies sophisticated experimental protocols and complex motor relationships, hides the complexities of the control and computer infrastructure, and allows the user to concentrate on the problem at hand - the collection of diffraction data or the maintenance of a beam line. This high level of abstraction enables the user to cope with sophisticated experimental protocols and complex hardware.

BLU-ICE and the Distributed Control System is based on modern software development strategies and will serve as a model for the control of other crystallographic beam lines and home X-ray sources. Its design philosophy exemplifies the Collaboratory paradigm, featuring cross-platform portability, remote access capability, and collaboration enabling features. The unification of the graphical interfaces across multiple beam lines and home laboratories bears significant advantages in training and education.

This Distributed Control System environment will also form the basis for designing automated approaches as required for high-throughput data collection within the framework of structural genomics as proposed for the Joint Center for Structural Genomics.

Last modified:Monday, 03-Jan-2005 11:55:21 PST.