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What To Do About GDevCon

Hello Everyone,

As you can imagine, there is a lot of uncertainty in the GDevCon team right now about how we handle GDevCon and COVID-19. We have been trying to figure out the right path to take with GDevCon. One of the things I think that we could have done more is communicate the options and the approach we’re taking to you all, so you can plan and try and understand what the future holds.

So this post is an attempt just to reset that a little bit, help you understand where we’re coming from, and also solicit any feedback, because we’re making assumptions about what is most useful to you as well. 

A couple of caveats upfront:

  • This post is my interpretation of the discussions in the GDevCon team (with their blessing). Conjecture may not be the same as everyone on the team.
  • No-one has a crystal ball so please don’t make hard plans based on this post!

Responsible Timing

So the first thing to say is we didn’t want to rush any decision. Obviously in March the severity of the situation became very obvious. With the event in September, six months later, we didn’t want to try and predict the future. We want GDevCon to go ahead if it can. We think it’s a very valuable event and quite frankly if it is able to go ahead, it’ll be a nice relief after these lockdown times.

So we made a decision early on to hold off a final decision until June. I don’t think that people are making many travel plans anyway so I expect this delay will have a minimal impact on attendees but is a big benefit to us to see what is happening in the world.

The Options

So what are we considering as the options to decide between:

  1. GDevCon #3 going ahead.
  2. Postponement (probably to early 2021)
  3. Online Event

Going Ahead

To go ahead though I think we will need to be confident that three conditions are in place by September:

  1. International travel needs to be easy. GDevCon is a global event with attendees, sponsors and speakers coming from all over the globe.
  2. CERN needs to be happy that they can host us in a way that everyone is safe.
  3. Companies need to be happy to send their staff in the confidence that everybody will be as safe as possible. There may be a situation where travel is possible but companies are still not allowing it. This is a harder one to define but worth discussing.

As I write these down, to be perfectly honest, I find it hard to see that we will hit one of these points, let alone all three. As countries begin to ease restrictions over the next month though this will probably become clearer.

Postponement

Postponement is probably the most likely option. We would look to postpone the event, perhaps to early 2021. 

We have had a great response from sponsors for GDevCon #3, and the presentations submissions have been fantastic. This takes effort from us and from presenters and sponsors so we would like to avoid throwing that effort away and take the same speakers, sponsors and attendees with us to a later date.

No-one would be obliged though, and full refunds would be available in this case.

The hard part of this decision is when will it be safe?

Online Event

We have had some basic discussions about an online event but are in broad agreement.

To be perfectly honest we’re not keen. Since we started GDevCon we saw the kind of team building and community building aspects to be as important as the content. So that’s why it was a two day event from the start, we wanted that evening event for people to mix and talk and continue conversations. And so we feel that we would prefer to avoid an online event, and focus on getting an in person event going.

 

The Future

The good news is we have been very aware of risk through this whole process and GDevCon 2020 is no exception. We are in a position where we can cancel the event, refund everyone and we will still be around and as strong for 2021.

Feedback

I hope this helps explain where we are and the options we are considering. 

This event is about you though so tell us what you think. Does making a decision earlier help you significantly? Has your company/spouse already ruled out travel in September anyway?

Understanding your position will help us to understand the options in front of us. So either comment below or get in touch with the team via email or social media.

e: admin@gdevcon.com
t: https://twitter.com/GDevConference
l: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gdevcon/

2018 Review

Its that time of year – the arbitrary point to review what is going on in our lives! To that end, I thought I would review my LabVIEW life here.

What has worked well this year?

LabVIEW CLI

Probably my most exciting LabVIEW element this year has been working on the LabVIEW CLI toolkit (well it launched in 2016 but let’s not quibble).

It has gained a lot of traction as CI has become more popular in the past 12 months and it is great to have something you have put out there used by other people and even receiving contributions back to the code.

It is so useful that NI are building something similar into LabVIEW 2018!

There are still improvements to be made in handling cases when LabVIEW might already be open, I hope to get to these soon, or we will have to see if NI’s release solves this and so may supercede what we can do.

Getting More Organised

Over the past 12 months, I have better defined how I structure my code and documentation which, while tedious, helps me to focus on the important bits. I’m not done yet – but it is getting better all the time and creates the opportunity for one of my themes for 2018 which will be automation.

What do I need to do better?

System Testing and Analysis

You should hopefully all be aware I love unit testing. It is built into the way I work and has improved my code greatly. I need to take this a step further and make sure I increase my testing at a system/integration level to catch things unit testing can’t. I don’t yet know what that looks like – it is especially hard in LabVIEW since there is so much hardware involved but what I have learnt is I need to try to automate whatever I can to make sure it happens consistently.

Architectural Framework

2018 is the year that I am going to adopt a basic framework at a structural level. This will just save time and increase consistency which will make code easier to maintain and open up more options for collaboration. The only problem is that I’m not a fan of frameworks!

My idea is I need to work out why not. Starting from principles of what I need, I can then evaluate existing frameworks or just build a couple of templates to work from. The best example is that I find most frameworks don’t have the concept of a time-based process, e.g. DAQ, but this is in every system we work on! I’m sure I will share more as I go.

Time for Personal Development

I have found it really hard to date to make sure I spend enough time experimenting, learning and developing tools in LabVIEW (as well as other areas of expertise). This year, I am going to figure this out! Hopefully, that means more posts here as well as this time is the best source of ideas for this site.

What Am I Excited About?

Business Changes

2018 is going to represent something of a new era for Wiresmith Technology. I have decided that I need to focus more on application areas rather than LabVIEW to expand my reach and make marketing much easier.

The area of focus is Automated Measurement Systems. This means an emphasis on applications where we are taking dynamic measurements and analysing or logging this on the fly. While I expect there to be some areas of control in these systems (for example, stimulating the system we are measuring), this represents a move from our previous split of measurements on the one hand, and control on the other.

Why is this exciting from a LabVIEW perspective? This narrower focus also helps me to allocate development time better and prioritise certain technical assets that fit the applications well. It should improve reuse and let me dive deeper into some interesting areas.

VIMs and Channels

My projects all exist in LabVIEW 2015 still, but this year I will move to 2017. While some of these recent releases have been mocked for having very few material changes (I’m looking at you, 2014 icon change!) the few productivity improvements have really made a difference day to day.

2017 also sees some new language features though. I’m excited to try channels – I’m not sure exactly how I will use them yet but I like the idea that the top level of my code can look like an architecture diagram.

VIMs on the other hand look game changing for me. So many re-use ideas are scuppered by the idea that I must create loads of versions for different data types, but this is the solution. Simple things like a “has changed” VI or stall data flow mean that we can produce much more valuable reuse code without the penalty of having to go to variants.

Events!

With a new baby at home, I’m supposed to travel less, but the calendar is already looking at bit exciting! You will find me at:

  • CLA Summit Europe 2018: We are in Madrid this year. I volunteered as co-chair, so I’m going to have to be a bit responsible this year. I’m also going to be banging on about unit testing again.
  • NI Week 2018: I was planning on not going this year due to family and financial commitments, but I got an excellent price on flights yesterday! Skype should keep the family happy.
  • GDevCon 2018: With the lack of a UK event for advanced LabVIEW developers, some of us decided to make our own! Go to the site to sign up for updates on tickets and content.

I hope I will get to meet you at some of these through the year, say hello!

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.

vipm_homepage
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 vipm.jki.net. 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)
cRIO-9033
(New Top Dog)
Change
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!

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

Announcing the Design Your Own DAQ Service

We love LabVIEW FPGA.

It takes LabVIEW to areas that very few other languages can go, let alone the fact that it works across all of the usual platforms as well.

For this reason we want to spread the love and help other people achieve incredible things with FPGAs. We have put together a package of work for people that want to take advantage of the capabilities of FPGAs with the time or money to learn the tools and develop the firmware in-house.

For a fixed price we will develop the firmware and a host API to allow the FPGA’s to be used like a standard DAQ card. If you are interested, or know someone that might be, take a look at www.wiresmithtech.com/services/custom-fpga

Whats more, before 20th June 2014 we can offer a 10% discount on the DYOD+ package.

Exciting Times

Yesterday was the first day as a graduate that I haven’t worked for National Instruments which is a very strange thought!

I have spent a good chunk of it getting this site running so I hope you like it, expect a few changes over the next few weeks as I refine, tweak and fix things.

If your here looking for some help then feel free to call me and see how we can help you.

If your here as a member of the LabVIEW community then I hope to continue my blog here, moving from my old site. Although I have been busy setting this up over the last few weeks I have still managed to keep a good backlog of posts to keep me busy for a while!

For now, take a look around and don’t forget to check back for future posts.


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