A good measurement system is only half of the story: software is necessary as well, to acquire data easily according a flexible experimental protocol; to manipulate and ready it for analysis; and finally to make computations of radiation dose and age by an increasing large number of methods. We introduced TLapplic over 20 years ago, paying special attention to ease of use. It has evolved considerably over the years, and now is at revision 4.30. Over the past several years we have made a major effort to add a completely new fitting suite and methods for all protocols in general use, and to add capabilities as required for current research. TLapplic has remained a DOS program for many good reasons, but Windows offers advantages that are too attractive to pass up. FirstLight 2.0 is a Windows-based program suite that replaces TLapplic with a great increase in versatility, including inter-operability with other programs, and will be XML-compliant. We see everything now in the context of XML databases, from archiving and retrieval of data, to data sharing, to presentation. It will take some time to implement the higher hierarchical layers, but the lowest (sample) layer is in place.
Two major advances have been made recently: measurement scripts and universal data file format. The idea for a script-based approach to data taking came at the Rome meeting in 1999: no one made measurements the same way, and many novel ideas were tried and rejected or adopted over the course of one person's research. Canned methods that could not be easily changed were no longer acceptable. We devised a simple scripting language and it has been in use successfully now for a year. We are providing a complete set of scripted methods that may be used as is (with user-provided parameters) or modified as needed. The data taking portion of TLapplic now runs directly from scripts.
We have also implemented a very flexible means of specifying file format using a 'schema file' similar to the defining file for a data base. This schema file carries the file format with variable names and types, and is used in reading or writing data files. Ultimately it will become an XML tag. We have this running for binary files now, and are extending it to ASCII files (to be our new standard). In order to translate between file formats, there need to be schema files for each, and a 'glossary' for equivalences. We are going to be providing a translator free of charge for file transfer between the various file formats now being used, provided that their originators participate in the project. It is our hope that two things will happen: first, that it will encourage people who have written useful software for analysis to make it available to others (for free or fee) if data files can be made compatible through translation, and second, that it will encourage people writing software to include more data in their files. The Daybreak file format as presently defined contains a very complete set of information, making it possible to determine automatically what data is to be used for any computation method. Other formats need auxilliary data or special knowledge to enter data files into computations. Perhaps a general form of standard can be agreed upon, not so much the 'form' of the data, but its minimum content.
(see FirstLight link for information on these developments)