Newsletter Issue # 6

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 

A Huge Thank You!
The 6.5 Rules You Need to Know
Rockwell's "John Carter" - RSLogix V20, AOP and EDS
Fun Facts and Trivia

Free flying RTA propellor toy this month only!

Email your name and address to: jladd@rta- by June 8th to claim your steal of the month.

EtherNet/IP EDS Update
Two Fathers with Recap
Moving Data into a PC
Serial Communications Questions RS232 & RS485

Mysteries of Serial Communications

Embedded Systems Conference


Practical tips and information for young engineers.



Thank You!

I have to take a minute to send a big thank you to the many of you who have emailed, called and stopped me at events to talk about my “Two Fathers” article in the last newsletter. I was really touched with the responses.

Many of you sent me stories of Dads that bought that first chemistry kit, the short wave radio or electronics set. Others sent memories of fixing the old Chevy or their first major league game. They were all fascinating but the most interesting was from a reader who finished the article, called his Dad, talked for 30 minutes and told him he loved him. Wow! I was really touched by that.

The experience was transformative for me. I started to think of how I want to be remembered. What are my granddaughter and grandson going to remember about me? What stories will they tell? How will they characterize the life I’ve lived? I’d encourage all of you to take a few moments and think about what images and memories you want your kids and grandkids to have 20, 30 or 40 years from now. Today is another day to make those future memories.


John Rinaldi

Trivia Challenge

· The old English time unit 'a moment' is how long?

· What animal reaches lengths of up to 7 feet long, has about 100 teeth, emits sounds to help them navigate, and reaches traveling speeds of about 35 miles per hour?

· What is the only type of rock that floats?

·  What is the shortest 5 syllable word in the English language?

· What color is hippo milk?


Answers located on bottom of page.

Are You a Gray Beard?

A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.

I am officially a “Gray Beard”; literally and figuratively. RTA is now so old, more than 20 years, that I can’t even remember the year I founded it. All I remember is coming home one day and telling my wife I quit my job! (Note: need to get your wife’s attention? Those words will do it!)

Those of you not in Aerospace or Defense probably won’t recognize the term. In those industries it refers to the senior technician. The one with the years and years of application experience, organizational memory and technical knowledge. Gray Beards have great sway over projects, technologies, processes and methodologies. If the Gray Beard approves it, it flies. If not, your project is dead.

I am now the one with the institutional memory. The knowledge of what we tried in the past; what worked, what failed miserably and the problems that were solved. Some by consistent application of engineering principles and some solved just by dumb luck.

Maybe you’re the Gray Beard in your organization. If you are, there’s set of rules that you have to follow. Something like the Hippocratic Oath that Doctors take but less rigid and less well-defined.
Here’s all 6.5 of them:

1. A LITTLE HUMILITY PLEASE. Yes, you’ve been through the wars, have the most experience, and probably the most technical knowledge. For the sake of all those folks that have to work with you every day, don’t be an arrogant s.o.b.

2. IT’S YOUR JOB TO BE A STUDENT. This is a basic tenet of my life since college, long before I became a Gray Beard. There is always something new to learn, to think about, to get creative with. Expose yourself to new and different ideas, ways of thinking and working.

3. IT’S YOUR JOB TO BE A TEACHER. The baby boomers are retiring and moving on. A lot of everyday knowledge accumulated over the last 40 years is leaving with them. Knowledge as sophisticated as how to control a refinery process or as simple as how to engage in small talk when visiting customers. you have a responsibility to pass all this knowledge on.

4. YOU’RE NOT AS IMPORTANT AS YOU THINK YOU ARE. Many of us forget this. Yeah, designing the process, building the machine, programming the PLC is your thing and you do it very well. But guess what? As important as you think you are, your nameplate will be taken down, the scavengers will hit your cubicle like a tornado and you’ll be pretty much forgotten before they throw out the remnants of the “Good Luck Charley” retirement cake. The good news is that you’ll live on for a long time in the hearts, minds and memories of your family and friends. Note: read Thank You section on page 3.

5. YOU HAVE TO THINK. You have the experience, knowledge and hopefully, the temperament, to think deeply about your products, the needs of your customers, your market and what directions the company needs to move in the future. If you don’t do it, who will? Thinking is almost a lost art in the world of instant everything. I know this is going to sound radical but one day a week I want you to put away the cell phone, turn off the computer and disconnect. Go for a leisurely lunch and a walk. Sit by a lake. Unclutter your mind. As the Gray Beard, you have to be the rational, calm, cool, reasoned one in the room. You won’t be the one with that unique answer to tough problems if you’re constantly monitoring a twitter feed, Facebook, your cell phone and checking email.

6. YOU HAVE TO ADD VALUE. Just because you’re the Gray Beard in the organization that doesn’t mean that you get to rest on your laurels. Just like everyone else in the organization you have to provide value to the organization so that the organization can provide value to the customer.

6.5:ENJOY LIFE. As a Gray Beard we’ve seen success but we’ve also lived through one crisis after another. Downsizing. Failed Projects. Major Customers Lost. Projects Canceled. Company Bankruptcies. Friends and Colleagues lost to illness and even death. We know that what happens at work is just work. Tomorrow is another day. Enjoy it. It’s another chance to learn, to teach and touch someone’s life in way that guarantees your legacy if not in the history books but in the minds and hearts of the people that will live on.

Enjoy the day!

Rockwell's "John Carter" - RSLogix V20, AOP, and EDS

There’s a lot of hype in Hollywood. Thousands of people are drawn to theaters to see a new movie with hype that “It will alter the way Hollywood makes movies. It is the coolest movie in years, and the hottest movie in decades. It’s "Spectacular!" and "Life-affirming!" No one will ever be the same after watching it.” And it goes on and on.

I can’t say that Rockwell hyped the latest release of RSLogix 5000 v20 like that. More likely, it’s that we’ve been waiting for this release for so long that the expectations just started increasing with time.

And like one of those over-hyped movies, we’re all standing around now looking at each other saying “Is that really all there is?”

Before we get into v20 let’s step back and talk about EtherNet/IP and EDS (Electronic Data Sheets). EDS files are the text files that describe an Adapter device to the network. (Scanners can have them too but they’re of little importance to this analysis). The EDS files describe what the device is, its model number, revision and most importantly, the size of the I/O Assemblies and other connection configuration fields. It also describes all the Objects in the Adapter, what attributes exist, if they are readable or writeable and sometimes if the vendor wants to be complete, the range of values for each of these Attributes.

The concept of an EDS file got customers excited back when EtherNet/IP was new. It looked like this file would move the heavy lifting of providing a configuration tool to a standard tool provided by someone else. And since, everyone using
EtherNet/IP has RSLogix, EtherNet/IP vendors, integrators and end users all thought that there would be a common configuration tool for Adapters.

The customers, integrators and vendors all thought this because, well, that was a lot of the EtherNet/IP Marketing hype. The truth was that until V20, an EDS file was necessary for the Conformance Test Lab but was actually of little use in the field. I’ve had to explain this over and over to many customers over the last 10 years, many more times than I wanted.

But now V20 is here! It’s all fixed, right?

Sorry, but no. Just like the over hyped movie; V20 in the end is disappointing. My spies in Mayfield Heights say that even in the hallowed halls, there is disbelief in how little V20 accomplishes in this area.

Well, let’s take a look at it in depth and see what they did (and didn’t do).

First the kudos. There is one new feature that is really cool. V20 now provides a network Browse facility. It can search for EtherNet/IP devices on the network and lets you automatically add those Adapters to the PLC scan list. RA calls this Automatic Device Configuration which makes it sound a lot more sophisticated than it is.

To understand what we have for EtherNet/IP in V20, let’s take a look at how it operates for various kinds of Adapters:

3rd Party Adapters with no EDS File – These devices typically come from 3rd party vendors with no relationship to RA. The EDS may not exist or not be available. V20 handles these devices exactly like RSLogix did in previous versions. Other than allowing the PLC programmer to find the device on the network and automatically capture the TCP/IP Address, it doesn’t do much for these devices. The I/O Assembly Sizes must still be entered manually. The I/O Assemblies must be manually assigned to simple blocks of some data type (Ints, Dints, Floats…etc). And the Configuration data, the block of data that a ControlLogix PLC sends to an Adapter with the EtherNet/IP Forward Open, must be entered manually. No awards here. A bit of added functionality, but nothing stellar.

Party Adapters with an EDS File – Rockwell calls these devices EDS AOP where AOP means Add On Profile. We’ll discuss AOPs a little later. The big difference between V20 and previous versions is that V20 actually reads and uses the EDS file. Besides populating the IP Address, V20 can now also automatically populate the I/O Assembly Sizes. And instead of manually selecting the assembly data types, they can get populated from the EDS file. (Note that a vendor has to make that information available in the EDS file. Most don’t so don’t expect a lot in the short term.) There is still no way to access the I/O Assemblies other than as an array of raw data. No awards again. Some “fat finger” protection but little to crow about.

Adapters from Encompass Partners – Rockwell provides special functionality for devices from Encompass partners. This functionality is also called Add On Profiles (AOPs). AOPs allow V20 to not only find and load the IP Address and Assembly Sizes but also to define the Assemblies as a series of Tags for ease of use in the Controller. Configuration data can be defined for loading when the Forward Open is issued. A configuration wizard exists to walk the user through configuration of the Adapter. Still no awards here. Encompass Partners always had the ability to work with RA to get this level of integration.

Adapters from Rockwell – V20 works identically for RA Adapters as it does for Encompass Partner devices. As always, they have the ability to highly integrate everything with their ControlLogix PLCs.

In general, V20 is a better tool than previous versions. It has some advantages but most of what it offers is mitigated by the fact that most vendors’ EDS files are simply stub files. These are stub files that have the minimal amount of information needed for the Conformance test. Users with these kinds of devices will have only a slightly better experience with V20.

A lot is missing from V20. Where is the support for Modular devices? Why not add support for identifying the data within the Input and Output Assemblies for 3rd Party devices? Vendors might take advantage of that if the facility was available.

V20 won’t win any academy awards. Too little new functionality. Too much focus on keeping special advantages for RA and Encompass partner devices. Just one of those movies you have to see but don’t expect too much.

Fun Facts


· A donkey will sink in quicksand but a mule won't.

· Wearing headphones for just an hour will increase the bacteria in your ear by 700 times.

· During your lifetime, you will eat about 60,000 pounds of food. That's the weight of about six elephants.

· The normal static electricity shock that zaps your finger when you touch a doorknob is usually between 10,000 and 30,000 volts.


  Trivia Answers:1.5 minutes; Dolphin; Pumice; Ideology; Pink
  RTA Website