Installing Kratos Vision2 Data Acquisition Software on Windows 7

Installing Kratos Vision2 Data Acquisition Software on Windows 7

The software package that came with our Kratos Axis Ultra DLD XPS system, Vision2, is designed to be run on Windows XP. This OS is not supported anymore by Microsoft and it also becomes increasingly difficult to install on modern PCs, due to lack of drivers and incompatible hardware.

One obvious route is to install everything in a virtual machine (VM). There are several software packages available, among others Oracle VirtualBox, VMWare Workstation Pro, and XPMode on VirtualPC, as offered for certain Windows 7 versions.

The main obstacle with legacy equipment and virtual machines in my experience is proprietary interface cards for communication between PC and the data acquisition hardware, i.e. ISA or PCI interface cards. There is usually no support for non-standard interfaces in virtual machine implementations.

In my case I was lucky: the computer talks to the Kratos hardware via parallel port. That’s a standard interface commonly supported by virtual machines. Or so I thought. I tried all three software packages mentioned above. Each time I managed to install all necessary drivers, X server, and software frameworks needed to run the main program on a Windows XP guest, each time the program hung while initializing the Kratos hardware. It worked flawlessly on an old PC with native Windows XP, though.

Google helped to learn that the problem was due to the bidirectional character of the communication between PC and the Kratos equipment. As it turns out contemporary virtual machine implementations of the parallel port hardware are incomplete. Neither VM I tested apparently supported the bidirectional mode needed to receive communication from the instrument. That blew my mind, I hadn’t expected that.

So I was back to square one. I decided to give it another try to install Vision2 on a more recent OS than XP. In the past I found the 32-bit version of Windows 7 to be best suited for these kinds of challenges.

Before the actual installation of the different packages it is necessary to deactivate the Windows 7 User Account Control (UAC). I found it interfering with the proper execution of the main program (Instrument Manager). Instructions to do this can be found online (google “windows 7 deactivate UAC”, for starters).

The NutCracker, the MKS/Xserver, and Vision 2.2.8 packages installed without issues. The MKS/XServer has to be registered in the MKS Toolkit control panel and the Xserver colors setting has to be set to “pseudo color'”. Starting the “Vision Configuration Editor” should bring up the XServer and the editor window shortly after. If the XServer throws an error, repeating the XServer installation (choose “Repair” when asked) should help.

Two different Pixelink drivers were needed. The first one (PixeLINK_Capture) installed without problems, the second one (PL-A6xxCameraKit) needed the compatibility set to “WindowsXP”. Once the drivers were installed the file “PimMegaApi.dll”, found in the windows/system32 folder had to be copied into the Program Files/Vision2/bin folder. Finally, the compatibility for the file manager_2k.exe (same folder) needed to be set to WindowsXP. After copying a configuration file (configuration.dset) into Vision2/Instruments, Vision Manager started up an began initializing the hardware. Success!

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