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.