Software developments span the spectrum of user needs

Software tools for engineers, scientists, and programmers are flooding the market. This month`s Computers and Software column is devoted to describing some of these wide-ranging packages.

Software developments span the spectrum of user needs

Software tools for engineers, scientists, and programmers are flooding the market. This month`s Computers and Software column is devoted to describing some of these wide-ranging packages.

Program enhancements speed data analysis and visualization

Research Systems (Boulder, CO) has released the latest version of its IDL math, science, programming, and documentation software. The IDL 4.0 package, geared for scientists, engineers, and professional programmers, includes mathematics and statistics aimed at replacing dedicated analysis packages. Connectivity allows users to call outside programs or install IDL as a graphics driver, and improved scientific functions are available to speed application development.

Peter Hallet, director of marketing for Research Systems says that, with the new package "cross-platform data analysis and visualization applications can be built in a fraction of the time that it takes in C or Fortran." Users in organizations with a mix of platforms can use the IDL development tools to formulate applications on one operating system and distribute versions with a natural "look and feel" to others working on other platforms. Programmers can visually debug program syntax using cross-platform code editors, cutting compilation times.

Engineering and scientific changes to IDL for computation and visualization improvement include support for double precision complex numbers for more accurate iterations used in complex systems simulation. Also included is support for missing data that simplifies calculations and visualization of sparse datasets (the IEEE not-a-number value represents missing data) and spherical gridding for global-scale data researchers that automatically interpolates irregularly gridded data into regular grids.

Other highlights include easy access from developers` C or Fortran programs to IDL`s graphics, plotting, image processing, and numerics. Analysis functions incorporate 50 new statistics functions including correlation analysis, hypothesis testing, multivariate analysis, probability functions, statistical fitting, and time series analysis and forecasting. Most current versions of HDF, CDF, and netCDF are fully supported by the package. Fully indexed on-line manuals with hypertext links allow efficient document navigation.

Windows, Windows NT, Macintosh, and native Power Macintosh versions (North America) cost $1500. Unix and VMS workstation packages start at $3000.

Software tests closed-loop imagers

Imagers can now be closed-loop tested using Test Measurement Technologies (Carson, CA) software. Available in a user-modifiable Windows-based format, the package`s modules can be tied to most visible or blackbody sources and framegrabbers. Testing functions include modulation transfer function, noise-equivalent temperature difference, uniformity of field and field-of-view shape and size, minimum resolvable contrast, and boresight functions.

Simulator analyzes/optimizes circuits

The Serenade 6.5 release by Compact Software (Paterson, NJ) includes linear, nonlinear, and electro-optic simulators. The frequency-domain simulators run under Windows and are used for analysis and optimization of lightwave, RF, and microwave circuits. An editor automatically updates schematics when element values are changed. Other features are a nonlinear device library and a converter that flags both unrecognized elements and differences in reference-plane definitions between two simulators.

Software saves up to 8 million data points

Improved memory management in the latest version of the HEM Data (Southfield, MI) Snap-Master data-acquisition program saves up to 8 million pretriggered data points prior to an event such as a test component failure. Often the user does not know the data will be of interest until after such an event occurs, and recovery of precursor information may be difficult. Applications include capturing intermittent events or malfunctions during long-term durability and reliability testing. Real-time plotting of up to 110,000 samples/s is also available with the package.

Programming environment integrates multidata formats

The ProtoPIPE graphical programming environment by General Imaging (Billerica, MA) has been developed for rapid prototyping of signal and image-processing applications. A multiformat data viewer and library of optimized signal and image algorithms and utilities are combined with an object-oriented design "canvas." Groups of library functions can be linked by the user to create custom algorithms or applications. And a user`s existing algorithms can be integrated within the ProtoPIPE environment to preserve past programming investments.

Optical design program update available

Version 4.0 of the ZEMAX optical design program is now available from Focus Software (Tucson, AZ). The package includes both polarization ray tracing and aberrations and thin-film modeling. Users can define coating characteristics for mirrors and glass or design with uncoated dielectrics, metals, and dielectric mirrors. The upgrade also features improved optimization, calculations, and graphics. A demo disk is available.

Prism database fills design needs

Kidger Optics (Crowborough, England) WinPRISM module for its SIGMA optical design software contains a database with 150 ready-to-use prism designs, representing 60 basic prism types. The company aims to fill a need because, while prisms are part of many optical systems, they are infrequently discussed in the optics literature. Thus, many professionals are not familiar with all types available. The database can be queried by prism categories such as inverting, roof, mirror, anamorphic, spectral, and splitting.

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