PXGEN: A General-Purpose Graphical User Interface for Protein Crystallography Experimental Control and Data Acquisition

S. Kinder, S.M. McSweeney, E.M.H Duke, D.W. Fry, S.G. Buffey, G.M. Ellis
Daresbury Laboratory, Synchrotron Radiation Department

PXGEN is a general purpose graphical user interface (GUI) for experimental set-up and control of protein crystallography data collection. PXGEN is not linked intrinsically to any software package or proprietary hardware and should be transportable to other experimental facilities. The experimental techniques supported are single wavelength data collection and multi-wavelength anomalous dispersion (MAD). The GUI runs on a UNIX based workstation exploiting the hostŐs power to manage ultiple programs. PXGEN provides a mechanism for making data collection much easier and less error prone. PXGEN is now installed on protein crystallography beamlines 9.5 and 7.2 of the Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) at Daresbury Laboratory.

The image plate detector systems now in use at many laboratories and synchrotrons come with control software available to run on UNIX workstations. Synchrotron experimental facilities generally have a number of additional pieces of equipment not controlled by standard delivered image plate control software. New hardware and software has been developed at Daresbury Laboratory for local hardware control e.g. client-server software with network communication to dedicated VME processors. A complex hardware and software set up has evolved.

UNIX workstations provide the possibility for new and easier to use user interfaces hiding the complexity and details of the hardware and software involved. These interfaces can reduce the learning time required by new and re-visiting users of experimental facilities. GUIs also offer the opportunity to limit the possibilities for user errors e.g. by the use of option menus allowing selection from a known set of possibilities. These factors are particularly important at synchrotron sources. These facilities have a rapid turn around of users, as well as constant new visitors, so the efficient use of limited beamtime is essential.

(posted 17-Oct-97 jw)