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v4.14 - 22 Sep 2015
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v4.14 - 22 Sep 2015
(8,371,416 bytes)

ComCap User Manual
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22 Sep 2015
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ComCap v4
Data Capture Utility

23rd September 2015 - New release, ComCap 4.14 today, recommended for Windows 10.  

ComCap is a Windows application designed to capture data received on PC RS232 serial communications ports or using network TCP/IP and UDP streams and save it.  Captured data is shown in scrolling windows and is written to text files, and may also be printed, written to SQL database tables or echoed to other PCs using network protocols or serial ports. Captured data can have text added such as date and time, a serial number and remote IP address. Data from up to 999 serial ports and network streams can be captured simultaneously, in separate files, with various file rotation schemes to start new files periodically. ComCap will capture to files on two separate disk drives for redundancy and will send email and SMS alerts if problems occur. ComCap is both a system tray and background service application that can be set to start automatically when windows starts, and remain unobtrusive.  When using the background service, captured data may be still be viewed as it arrives. 

 ComCap Main Window

ComCap Features

  •  Capture from up to 999 serial COM ports, TCP/IP Server, TCP/IP Client and UDP/IP network protocols simultaneously, with suitable hardware. Many network appliances output log information, typically using the UDP/IP 'syslog' protocol, and as telephone switches become network aware they are offering network logging instead of the serial port.

  •  Serial COM ports are dynamically detected as they are installed and removed from Windows, so capture will automatically start if a USB serial device is plugged in, and stop if it's unplugged.

  •  Capture from serial ethernet device servers that ‘convert’ serial port data to network protocols, from Brainboxes, MRI, StarTek, Lantronix, Lavalink, RE Smith and Tysso eCov for instance, easing data capture distances, Audon in the UK sells eNet converters.

  •  ComCap supports IPv4 and IPv6 network standards, and SSL/TLS network capture and echo, to provides encryption of data sent over the internet, and to confirm the identity of the other party with X509 SSL/TLS certificates.

  •  Email may be captured, such as the alert emails sent by internet aware appliances, such as firewalls, security monitors, power distribution units, uninterruptible power supplies, remote sensors, transponders, etc. The emails may be written to a SQL database or used to trigger
    alerts.

  •  GPS NMEA 0183 sentences and Concox TR02 vehicle tracker output can be parsed into simple comma separated records, allowing location information received from a serial or network connected GPS sensor to be easily saved to a SQL database. A map window shows a GPS track to ensure everything is working.

  •  GPS location data may be captured on Windows tablets and high end laptops that have a GPS location sensor built-in.

  •  Captured data is optionally shown in scrolling windows as it arrives, and earlier data can be viewed as well. Coloured tabs indicate which channels have started capturing data and which are stopped.

  •  Data from multiple serial or network capture channels may be merged or consolidating, allowing all data to be displayed in a single window, written to a single log file, and added to a database using a single connection.

  •  Capture files may be in separate directories for each capture port and new files may be created daily or multiple per day (at specified times), weekly (Monday), monthly, hourly, every few minutes, after an inactivity period, when a new page character is received, each new record, or a fixed file name may be used. Multiple channels may optionally capture data into a common file, to reduce the number of separate log files.

  • When a capture file is closed and rotated for a new file, it may be moved to another directory for further processing or emailed to multiple recipients.

  •  Capture file names (and optionally paths) are automatically generated, with file name format customised with date and time in various ways, numeric or alphabetic.

  • Capture data may be written to a database, such as Microsoft SQL Server or MySQL. Data formats may be created to identify fields within each line of data, as fixed width columns, character separated columns (CSV) or variable named columns. ComCap examines the SQL tables or stored procedures for column names and types, and allows mapping of which field of data is written to which SQL column. ComCap protects data that can not be immediately written to the database due to network problems, and will write it once the database becomes available again.

  •  ComCap can echo or proxy captured data directly to serial communications ports or parallel ports to drive printers, or echo to the network using UDP/IP (syslog), TCP/IP Server or TCP/IP Client protocols. Network echo can be used to allow capture of the same data to a maximum of five PCs simultaneously for redundancy or for remote capture with one PC near the data source echoing data to a centralised location.

  •  ComCap displays the status of the serial port CTS, DSR and DCD lines, and if a TCP/IP connection is established is connected, and flashes when data is received.

  •  ComCap has options to safeguard captured data, closing the log after each line to force it to write to disk, or after an inactivity period or periodically every few seconds or minutes.

  •  A separate information log file is maintained showing when capture starts and stops and other ComCap events, it will log capture status hourly with the number of lines received from each port or stream and to which logs it is being written. The information log may be sent to a remote PC using network protocols, perhaps to another copy of ComCap, to ease central monitoring of remote capture.

  •  A sound file may be played when each new line of data is captured (with a minimum gap between sounds, in case of frequent data).

  •  Raw data may be captured unchanged from the COM port or network stream, or the data may be cleaned up with non-printing characters removed and trailing spaces removed.

  •  When capture is started or stopped, command strings may be optionally transmitted and periodically repeated, perhaps to trigger a remote appliance to start or stop. Optionally, extra commands may be transmitted on demand, perhaps to configure a remote capture device.

  •  Captured lines may have text added at the start or end, that can include escape sequences to add a serial number (of specified length), date and time in various formats, PC name, local or remote IP address.

  •  A comment may be added manually to any capture channel, using a pop-up dialog, this is intended to assist in documenting batch captures, perhaps from laboratory instruments.

  •  Continuous data streams may be selectively captured to reduce the amount of data saved, for instance from GPS locators or environmental sensors.

  •  Alerts for problems are presented in a pop-up window and may be sent by email, by SMS to mobile telephones, using either a GSM modem or SMS internet gateway or to a remote PC using network protocols, perhaps to another copy of ComCap, to ease central monitoring of remote capture. Alerts may also be triggered for phrases in captured data.

  •  Data loss checking, to detect if other windows applications caused ComCap to possibly lose data. An alert may be triggered if new data is not captured after a period, configurable by time and day of week, or if the PC appears to hang for a short period.

  •  For redundancy, ComCap will capture logs on two different disk drives at the same time, and continue logging if one of the disk drives is lost, the drives may be across a network with remote logon details specified. ComCap makes multiple attempts to open files, in case of conflict problems such as backup and protects data until it can be written to the capture file. If disk space runs low, ComCap will send an alert.

  •  Captured data may be filtered, so that lines containing unwanted content are ignored. Alerts may be sent according to filtered data.

  •  ComCap usually runs as a Windows service that starts immediately the PC starts without needing a user to log-on. There is also a system tray application which can configure, monitor and control the service displaying data currently being captured, but which will also capture data if the service is not used.

  •  ComCap is supported on Windows 2003, Vista, 7, 8, 10, 2008 and 2012, both 32-bit and 64-bit editions. Note Windows XP and 2000 are no longer supported, but should still work. ComCap may be run with a higher priority than other windows applications to ensure stable data capture, although a dedicated PC is recommended for valuable information.

  • There are two editions of ComCap version 4:
  • ComCap v4 Standard edition is limited to three simultaneous serial or network channels and does NOT support database or data filtering

  • ComCap v4 Unlimited edition has no channel restriction and adds database and data filtering support
     

Ordering ComCap

ComCap licenses are ordered using a web form on our secure server, once payment is processed a license key is provided by email.  Until licensed, ComCap will only function for one hour before stopping, but it may be restarted for further testing. A Temporary Demo License for ComCap v4 Unlimited may be ordered valid for one week, if one hour at a time is insufficient time for testing.  

  ComCap v4 Standard ComCap v4 Unlimited Upgrade v3 to v4 Standard Upgrade v3 to v4 Unlimited Upgrade v4 Standard to v4 Unlimited
Single License VAT extra 50 75 25 50 30
Single License with VAT 60 90 30 60 36
2 copies VAT extra 90 135 45 90 50
3 to 5 copies VAT extra 200 300 100 200 150
6 to 10 copies VAT extra 400 600 200 400 250
11 to 25 copies VAT extra 800 1,200 400 800 500
Over 25 copies VAT extra 30 each 45 each 15 each 30 each 17 each

VAT is added to the above 'VAT extra'' prices at 20% for UK and personal European orders.
No VAT is payable for orders outside Europe or by businesses in Europe where a VAT number must be supplied.

In March 2016, 50 is about US$70, and 75 is about US$105, depending on the daily conversion rate used by your credit/debit card company from UK sterling to dollars.  For Europe, 50 is about 65 euros and 75 is about 98 euros. Please beware exchange rates are volatile at the moment going up and down daily.

ComCap Upgrades

The main benefits of upgrading from ComCap v3 to v4 are as follows:

  • Capture of TCP/IP Client, TCP/IP Server and UDP/IP network protocols
  • Increase from 30 to 999 maximum capture channels
  • Transmit commands on start and stop capture
  • Improved line ending and restart capture
  • Redundancy writing to two different log disk drives
  • Better error handling for log file errors
  • Higher program priority to avoid data loss
  • New multiple logs per day capture interval
  • More flexible text addition to capture data
  • Capture direct to a SQL database
  • Better printing options, bypassing Windows print queue
  • Echo captured data, using serial or network protocols
  • View data captured by the service version
  • Control service version from tray version
  • Configuration data in files rather than the registry
  • Alerts by email and SMS to mobile telephones
  • Main window does not show unused serial ports
  • View full and old logs in new larger window

ComCap Background

ComCap was originally designed to capture telephone call logging data from the serial port provided on most telephone switching systems (PABXs), typically called Call Data Records (CDR).  The saved data may then be used as input to telephone call management applications that will cost calls and produce reports on telephone usage or for security audit purposes.   

ComCap is application non-specific and will capture any data that arrives on a serial port or using network protocols.  It has been used for a wide variety of purposes, such as logging output from test, alarm and monitoring equipment and serial printer data (but it can not process printer control characters).

Please note that ComCap is not designed to monitor data between modems and PC applications, it requires exclusive access to the serial port so no other application can use the port at the same time.

The ComCap distribution includes the 'ComGen Data Stream Generator' application which is designed to generate various types of test streams using any or all of the PC serial COM ports and potentially dozens of network streams, UDP Client, TCP Client or TCP Server, and has been used extensively for testing ComCap capturing multiple channels.  There is also a small ‘Test RS232 Signals’ utility that may be useful in testing communication port and cabling problems.  If the requirement is to capture serial data from another application on the same PC, ComCap includes a Null Modem Emulator (com0com) from http://com0com.sourceforge.net/ that installs a linked pair of virtual serial ports, instead of needing to use a physical pair of COM ports and a null modem cable.


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Phone 020 8656 3636, International Phone +44 20 8656 3636
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