One of the most fundamental problems to modern crystallographers is not the data collection or even the finding of suitable crystals it has become the storage and management of data. How to simply manage the end user experience whilst providing internal records and snapshots of your processing?

Whilst at UMIST I tried to answer this with the DEPO project but as I progressed through that work I rapidly realised I could achieve a lot more from the web-backend than I was really achieving with the complex FORTRAN program. And so began the OLXportal or SMX portal project.

I had a small hiatus from active research shortly after being made redundant from the SRS and at this point I started to bring together large chunks of my old SMX@UMIST portal coupled with scheduling tools from my SRS days. The resulting project stayed as a personal archive until the procurement of a new Rigaku diffractometer at Liverpool. I then began to allow at the crudest access to the a cut-down version of the portal to help manage and schedule the diffractometer. But it was clear that the department and the workload I had also needed access to the full system. I polished up the frontend and released it to them for use whilst I was employed there.

But what next? Well I have embarked on a revision of the portal for use at the ALS beamline 11.3.1 and again whilst looking at the code as a cutdown version of my original system realised that it was too costly to keep moving sections of code base back and forth between different projects. So I began to unify the code base again with the aims to produce a final portal system from which one tool does all. A sonic screwdriver of data storage.

Things like:

  • Machine scheduling

  • User levels and groups

  • Extensive administrative and statistical diagnostic tools

  • File uploads

  • Revision history

  • Unit cell searching

  • Advanced sample searching

  • Simple status and information transfer

The project is still ongoing, still developing and because of this the source has not been released but hopefully one day when I get some where sufficiently stable it will. Until then I will continue to use it for all my collaborations and data handling.