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How to Keep Track of Test Systems

Hi all, I'm looking for ideas on how to keep track of what's installed on a lab PC or test system so that it is easy to restore or duplicate the PC. Most of our PCs do have LabVIEW applications on them, but not all of them do.

I want it to be specific enough that any of the engineers could set up the system if they had to, but not so cumbersome that no one wants to keep the information up to date.

What I'm thinking so far is a spreadsheet with the following info. Please tell me any ideas or things that have worked well for you. Thank you!

 

PC Name (ex: thermal_tester)

Alias (ex: Temp Test)

Location: (ex: Room X)

Operating System

Installed Applications / Drivers (ex: Office 2016, TempTest Ver 1.0.1, NI Package Manager...)

Specialty Hardware (ex: GPIB PCI Card, NI PCI-5122 Scope Card...)

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Have you taken a look at the SystemLink Software Configuration Module.

https://www.ni.com/en-us/shop/electronic-test-instrumentation/add-ons-for-electronic-test-and-instru...

 

You can create something called a "State" that allows you to specify all of the packages you want to install and the feeds you want to install them from.  In addition, SystemLink gives you the ability to replicate feeds from ni.com to your own local server and you can use tools like the NI Package Builder to create packages for 3rd party applications like Office and host them from your SL server and include them in the state as well.

 

Once you have a State you can apply it to any system and it will install everything you specified.

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Thank you for the info Joshua. It certainly looks nice from a LabVIEW developer's perspective. However, I will not be the owner of all these systems, and it will be hard to sell this way of managing systems to the IT people.
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This is a great question I've been considering moving it over to the LabVIEW board to get more exposure on it.   unfortunately, there really isn't a good way to train Engineers to maintain a configuration of a test system, or at least not one that they're willing to comply with, unless you lock the systems and require some kind of admin to make changes.   That makes it dang impossible for the users to install and have what they need in order to conduct their experiment.

 

I would love to be able to offer you some great advice after 20 years of dealing with this but unless you're in a regulated industry or regulations require you to maintain that kind of configuration management and everybody must be trained to document everything they do I just don't know how you're going to do it without a lot of pain.

 

You might want to try some sort of configuration audit approach where one of your head guys is given the task to go around and audit what's installed on what system on a routine basis.  I really don't know how that would work but it's stands a good chance of being successful IF you can sell the "Burden" hours to your manager's bean-counters. < Been there, tried that, failed and suffered from the pain... and "I TOLD YOU SO" just pisses decision makers off to no end>

The arguments that SystemLink marketing advances may be a resource that can help you "pitch" the need for configuration management to your boss.  Because,  it is no longer just you gazing into a crystal 8-Ball but, backed by industry evidence. 

Others? 

Scientists STAND on the shoulders of giants! They don't ride "piggyback" to keep their heads down.

"Should be" isn't "Is" -Jay
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