The GB5 is available with a communication capability that allows it to exchange information with a PC. Information can flow in both directions, so you can both monitor and control your GB5 from a PC in your studio. If the studio PC is also connected to the Internet, you can configure it to allow any computer on the Internet to access it, so you can extend the range to the whole world — and beyond, if you happen to be an astronaut.
GB5 to PC:
Since the PC can receive information from the GB5, you can
- chart the progress of your oven,
view an enhanced version of the GB5’s display panel for each oven,
- save and display GB5 profiles on your PC,
- request the PC to send a text message to your cell phone or an email to your Internet account when the GB5 reports an error condition.
The charts and enhanced panel displays include both the actual temperature and the target temperature, the step number, and status information (running or idle, auto-hold, and whether an error condition exists).
Once the information is delivered to your PC, you can store it on your hard drive. Archived charts can be valuable as part of a quality control program, for troubleshooting your kiln, as a teaching tool, or for studying experimental firings. Save the profiles on your PC for display, editing, study, and long-term retrieval.
PC to GB5:
Since the GB5 can receive information from the PC, you can
- download profiles to the GB5,
- send commands to the GB5.
You can keep a virtually unlimited library of profiles on your PC and load them into your GB5. These profiles can be based on ones retrieved from the GB5 and edited on the PC, or they can be entered from scratch on the PC in any of three formats: the classic GB4 format based on total elapsed time, the standard GB5 format based on the time of each step, or a ramp expressed as degrees per hour. You can start, stop, or hold an oven, and you can clear error conditions (e.g., BAD1) when they occur, without having to actually go to the GB5.
Digitry’s communication software supports two different — cost-free — ways to access a PC from a remote location:
Microsoft’s “dial-up networking”, built into Windows, and
- “VNC” remote control software, free software that can be downloaded from various Internet sites (e.g., http://www.realvnc.com).
Using dial-up networking, you can access the file system of the studio PC, which allows you to view the graphs it is recording. Remote control software gives you more capabilities: you see the screen of the studio computer and control it with your keyboard and mouse, almost as though you were in the studio. It even works “cross platform”. You could conceivably control your GB5 using a Mac in an Internet coffee shop half-way around the world! Of course, for safety, somebody should be on-site to make sure nothing goes wrong while you’re in Tahiti.
A properly configured GB5 and a PC running Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, or NT 4.0 can communicate in both directions. Communication is via serial port. If your PC has a USB but no serial port, you can purchase a low-cost USB-to-serial converter for use with your GB5. In addition, remote capabilities require a modem or Internet connection. Email also requires an Internet connection for the PC. Cell phone text messages require both an Internet connection for the PC and cell phone service capable of receiving SMS text messages sent to an Internet address; this service is commonly available from most major cell phone providers. It is important to note that for reasons of reliability, the PC never directly controls any oven.
Below, you can see a sample of a graph made from an actual firing using a GB1.