Browse Month: August 2014

NI Week 2014 Highlights – All Y’All

Part 3. All Y’All

It is so great to meet up with a community of like minded engineers. Many of you I would not have seen for a couple of years and I met many new people (as well as adding faces to avatars).

Talking of community, thanks to Mark Balla you can download videos of many sessions. Thanks again Mark, these are a great asset for many events where people can’t attend. Remind me, and everyone else, to buy you a beer the next time the opportunity arises.

Also Fabiola De La Cueva of Delacor recorded her excellent session on unit testing, if your interested in the concept I recommend a watch.

  I don’t get on twitter very often but I find it great with events like NI week so I will leave you with some of my favourites, consider it a #ff post!

Hope to see you all at another NI Week/NI Days/CLA Summit soon!

NI Week 2014 Highlights – New Releases

Obviously a big part of NI week is getting to see the new releases. Whilst you can get this from the web what I found useful was attending some of the sessions on the new products as many of the R&D teams attend so there aren’t many questions that can go unanswered!

Here are some of the new highlights I saw this year…

LabVIEW 2014

In my previous post I spoke of evolution not revolution. On that theme, the LabVIEW 2014 release was a remarkably understated event at NI Week with few headline new features (though it was great to see the community highlighted again with John Bergmans showing his Labsocket LabVIEW addon in the keynote).

Having had the chance to review the release notes though there are a few that could be of benefit.

  • You can now select an input to the case structure and make that the case selector. This productivity gain will definitely build up, even if its only 20 seconds at a time.
  • New window icons to show the version and bitness of LabVIEW. A minor update but useful for those of us using multiple versions.
  • 64 bit support for Mac and Linux. I think the slow update of 64 bit LabVIEW is almost certainly hampering it’s image as a data processing platform in many fields and this seems like a great commitment to moving it forward.

The others seem like changes you will find as you work in 2014 so let me know in the comments what you like.

What is great is having more stuff rolled up into base packages. I strongly believe there is a software engineering revolution needed in LabVIEW to bring it to the next level so putting these tools into the hands of more users is always good.

LabVIEW Professional now includes Database Connectivity, Desktop Execution Trace Toolkit, Report Generation, Unit Testing and VI Analyzer. LabVIEW FPGA also includes the cloud compile service which gives faster compiles than ever with the latest updates or the compile farm toolkit if you want to keep your data on site.

VI Package Manager

One evening I was lucky enough to attend a happy hour hosted by JKI, who among other achievements, created VI package manager which is by far the easiest way of sharing LabVIEW libraries.

They announced a beta release of VIPM in the browser. This allows you to search, browse and install packages in your browser, promising faster performance than doing the same in the standard application. The bit I think will also be hugely beneficial is bringing in the ability to star your favorite packages. I’m very excited about this as I hope it will make it easier to discover great packages rather than just finding those you are already aware of.

You can browse the public respositories and find popular packages
Each package has it's own page and can be installed from here (launches the desktop app)
Each package has it’s own page and can be installed from here (launches the desktop app)

This is live now at Don’t for get to leave any feedback on their ideas exchange, feedback makes moving things like this forward so much easier.

The CompactRIO Revolution Continues!

Two years ago compactRIOs were fun as a developer, not so much if you were new to LabVIEW. They were powerful in the right hands but seriously limited on resources compared to a desktop PC.

A few years ago the Intel i7 version was release which offered huge increases in CPU performance but was big, embedded was a hard word to apply! (That’s not to say it wasn’t appreciated)

Last year the first Linux RT based cRIO was released based on the Xilinx Zync chip, this year it feels like cRIO has made a giant leap forward with the new range.

When you see some of the specs jump like this you can see why as a cRIO geek I am very excited!

cRIO-9025 + cRIO-9118
(Top spec of previous rugged generation)
(New Top Dog)
CPU 800MHz PowerPC 1.3GHz Dual Core Intel Atom
CPU Usage on Control BMark 64.1% 10.9%
RAM 512MB 2GB +300%
FPGA Multipliers 64 600 +837%!!
FPGA LUTS 69,120 162,240 +135%

These new controllers are no incremental upgrade, they are a leap forward. My only concern is that it will be easier to make applications fit which is/was a bit of a specialty of mine! The new generation of FPGAs really drives part of this, the same difference is seen on the R-Series and FlexRIO ranges as well.

There is also a removable SD card slot, additional built in I/O and the headline grabber, support for an embedded HMI.

At the session on this we got to see this a bit closer. The good news is that it is using the standard Linux graphic support. This means it should support standard monitors and input devices rather than needing any specialist hardware.

Obviously it is going to have some impact on performance. In the benchmark I linked earlier they suggest you could see a 10% increase in CPU. I’m looking forward to trying this out, you could easily see 50% increase on the old generation just by having graphs on a remote panel so for many applications this seems acceptable.

There is also a KB detailing how to disable the in built GPU. This suggests that there is extra jitter which will become significant at loop rates of >5 kHz, so just keep an eye out for that.

Anyway, that got a little serious, I will be back with a final NI Week highlight later in the week but for now I leave you with the cRIO team:

NI Week 2014 Highlights – Buzzwords Galore

NI Week 2014 is unfortunately over (although it means I do get to return to temperatures I seem to be better built for!). I wanted to share some of my highlights which will hopefully get you as excited as I feel and who knows, even persuade you to come next year! As I started writing, this got longer and longer so for now here is part 1:

1. Buzzwords Galore

This year was certainly prime for buzzword bingo with “Internet of Things” and “Big Data” flying around.

The thing that frustrates me about these is the image they produce of some magic black art that you must pay thousands to get in the club and understand it.

The reality is we don’t wake up one morning and build an internet of things. It is a constant evolution of current technology towards blue sky thinking. As Jim Robinson from Intel said in the Wednesday Keynote,

[The internet of things] is the overnight sensation that’s been 30 years in the making.

The great thing about NI Week is that many of the people making those steps are around and it really makes you feel like progress is happening.

For me it was particularly exciting to have a customer of mine showcasing their work in these areas.

National Grid are working to connect 135 power quality monitors to substations in the UK, built with compactRIO, with the goal to collate this data to ensure the stability of the power grid. In the processed form, we will be capturing >11 Billion processed measurements per year from across the UK and connecting to the monitors live to allow power engineers to keep an eye on grid conditions.

You can see more by watching the video from the keynote.  (Wednesday – The Internet of Things for Jim Robinson and Wednesday – SmartGrid for National Grid)

As for big data, I found this to be somewhat demystified by a great talk from external speaker from Dell Software. Unfortunately I failed to take down his name and I’m pretty certain it isn’t who is listed (if so you need to update your linkedin profile pic!). I took away a few interesting points:

  • Big data is really all about analytics (which by the way has been done for years!).
  • He chose to define “extreme data” as when this processing cannot be done on data at rest in the database. Rather it must be done as the data is captured.
  • There are multiple stages to these analytics, from simple dumping to a database for mining working through more advanced structuring, deriving management dashboards up to neural networks and advanced analytics for decision making. Each step reduces the data and provides more insight.

Next year I have learnt I must take more pictures to make describing sessions easier!

As a result of NI Week 2014, I definitely feel I finally have a better feeling of what these mean to me and am excited that we are all part of this revolution evolution.

For Part 2 I will talk about some of the new products I am excited about…

NI Week 2014!

I am very excited to have made it to Austin, Texas this week for the annual NI Week conference. Hosted by National Instruments it represents a great opportunity to get together with like-minded LabVIEW developers and users of other NI technologies. It also heralds the release of many new products including LabVIEW 2014. As well as this I’m very excited that one of our projects will be on the Wednesday keynote stage.

No doubt I will be posting on here over the next week or so about some of the most exciting things that come out of the conference but in the meantime this represents one of the main times I actually pick up twitter much more so feel free to follow @JamesMc86 and/or @WiresmithTech and if your at the conference feel free to come say hello, I’m best described as the hairy one!

Headshot Jul 2014

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