Typica: Software for Coffee Roasting Operations

Typica 1.8.1 Now Available

It hasn't been very long since Typica 1.8.0 was released and now Typica 1.8.1 exists. If you're already using Typica 1.8.0 on Windows or Linux, you can probably skip this release. If you're using Typica 1.8 on a Mac there were some issues with how the Qt framework was built for that release and those are fixed, so everybody using Typica on a Mac should grab the latest version unless you're using National Instruments hardware, in which case you mustn't attempt to upgrade past 1.7 without either switching to Windows or changing your data acquisition hardware. If you have to stick with an old version, you can stop reading here. If you haven't upgraded to 1.8 yet, that added a lot of new features that you might want to use so you should also grab the new 1.8.1 release and check out the 1.8.0 release notes to see all the new stuff you can use with that.

The main reason that Typica 1.8.1 exists is to add support for new data acquisition hardware.

About the same time as Typica 1.8 was released, Phidgets Inc. released a new hardware communications library and a new product line. Unfortunately, communication around that was not very good. There's an expectation that if you get the new version of a library for communicating with hardware that's going to continue to work with existing software. Phidgets Inc. broke that expectation. The library name is different in a way that a linker searching for phidget21 won't pull that in, which is the right decision in light of the fact that phidget22 exposes a completely different (incompatible) interface for programs to use. That means that any program that was using phidget21 needs to be updated if it's going to also support phidget22. I got several emails from confused people because they were trying to use Typica or other programs that support the same hardware and it wasn't working because of this. I asssume the authors of other programs that supported phidget21 had a similar experience.

While previous versions of Typica only supported the four thermocouple channels on the Phidget 1048, Typica 1.8.1 supports all temperature sensor channels on any device in the Phidget product line through the phidget22 library. The old phidget21 code still exists so if you have a working configuration that you're happy with, you don't need to install the new library, you don't need to change your Typica configuration, and everything is going to continue to work exactly as it currently does. New installations, however, should go for the phidget22 library for the broader selection of hardware available.

That brings me to the new product line. Previously I've recommended the Phidget 1048 as the best balance of price v. performance. That was about $100 but shipped as a circuit board and a bit of mounting hardware so you probably also needed to spend a few dollars on a case. The equivalent VINT module is a $35 part, but that doesn't have a USB port. Rather, it has a little three pin connector. A $1.50 cable connects that to a VINT hub that's $30, but you don't need extra cases for any of these parts so you're saving about $40 just by going with the new hardware. Feel free to send some of those savings to me to help support ongoing development of Typica. Here's a nice little form you can use to put that (or whatever amount you think is fair) on your credit card. Thank you to the three of you who have done that so far this year. You know who you are. That's incredibly helpful.

Also, thanks to Phidgets Inc. who, once I asked for it, sent me a VINT hub, a 4x Thermocouple module, and the cable to connect those so I could test that new code in Typica works correctly with that hardware. They also sent an RTD module so Typica also works with that. I'm not sure how useful that's going to be. With thermocouples, you can just jump off the thermocouple with some matching thermocouple extension wire so the same thermocouple can be connected to multiple devices and that should work. If you open up the control panels on different roasters you'll find that a lot of manufacturers are doing exactly that to connect the same thermocouple to a panel display, a high limit safety, and possibly to other hardware as well. I have a video that goes over how to do that. RTDs work on different physical principles and you can't really use the same trick. That means that roasters designed to use RTDs are making indirect connections to different parts or hooking into something more integrated like a PLC. If you just disconnect your RTD from whatever it's connected to and plug it into a Phidgets module you're probably going to end up with either a roaster that doesn't work or one that no longer has an important safety feature. I can't recommend doing that modification unless you're completely sure that you know what you're doing and you know that it's safe on your particular machine. If you're adding a new temperature probe to a roaster and you like RTDs, you can use this and it'll work. Personally, I'd still prefer to go with a thermocouple for the faster response time.

There are other modules in the product line that I don't have available to test but that I also don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. There's one that adds some isolation hardware to a thermocouple module that might be good if you know you tend to have ground loop issues. Ambient temperature sensors will work. The VINT hub lets you connect up to 6 modules at the same time. If those are all 4x thermocouple modules that gets you 24 thermocouples (and 6 ambient temperature sensors) that you can read from. If you need more than that, you can add more VINT hubs. Chances are good that you'll run out ideas for what to measure or screen space to sensibly display the data before you hit any limitation in Typica. Other sensor types are not currently supported, but it wouldn't be difficult to modify Typica to add those as well. If there's interest (especially if that interest comes with funding) I might do that in a future release.

The only other change is that licenses for the various pieces of open source software that Typica uses have been split out of the About Typica window and into a new window that shows the various projects that Typica uses directly and lets you bring up the relevant license or attribution information for each of those.