Random Ramblings on LabVIEW Design

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swatts
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Hello Lovelies,

Sorry I've been quiet, I have been VERY busy. One downside of large contracts is that they need a lot of support (which is only a downside if you don't like supporting people I guess).

 

Anyways, last week on consecutive days people reached out to me and essentially asked the same question....

 

"Is it worth continuing with LabVIEW in my career?", you could put this down as fall-out from NXG being nixed, but these people were current LabVIEW users and educators and have been to a high level for many years.

 

My initial thoughts are that this is more to do with NI than it has to do with LabVIEW. I think their change in course from doing EVERYTHING for the community to being less and less visible to their "smaller" accounts/users has left people a bit bereft. I guess the only solution that we have power over is to plug the gaps with some community organisation. <-- count me out of this one, I've done enough!

 

As to LabVIEW and careers I say the following...

 

Your career will probably be judged on how many things you build, how well you build them and how successfully the end user uses them. Notice LabVIEW is not mentioned here... A builder is not defined by their tools, too many in the software industry forget this.

 

So if you are currently most productive in LabVIEW, I would say use LabVIEW and be happy.

 

The next question I get is "everyone is using Python, should I learn Python", my response to these types of statements is that I personally would keep away from learning something that "everyone" is learning. I'm not arrogant enough to think I can compete with these particular masses. Also is the software they're producing the type of software I'm interested in. For me software is fun when it interacts with some sort of machine. I know Python can do this, but is it something its better than LabVIEW at?

 

Also for me returning to a text-based language seems retrograde.

 

This doesn't mean I'm against learning, currently I'm enthused about learning more about networks, Xojo and Linux. If I had time I would be learning how to program PLCs. These are all complimentary to my current skill-set, notice I'm not replacing, I'm adding.

 

Hope you all are keeping healthy, we're nearly at the end of the nightmare!

Lots of Love

 

Steve


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Terry_ALE
Active Participant

There is a transitionary period right now.  I also have noticed that the LabVIEW Idea exchange is out of date.  I wonder if as they move people out of NXG and back into Current Gen these things will get back on track.

 

The specific part that really stood out is not being tool focused.  I think if one is using the tool correctly, i.e. proper design and software engineering tools then they should be successful.  If not then it does not matter what they use, its technical debt will eventually crush the project.


Certified LabVIEW Architect, Certified Professional Instructor, LabVIEW FPGA expert
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swatts
Active Participant

Hi Terry,

How's being a published author suiting you?

I think it's being defined by the tool that is the issue for me, so I'm a systems integrator and one of the tools I use is LabVIEW. I will still be a systems integrator if LabVIEW didn't exist. The good practices I apply to my systems integration with LabVIEW should serve me well if I was using another language. In fact the fast through put of projects that I can achieve with LabVIEW has served me very well when doing project management consulting in other languages.

Steve


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Terry_ALE
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Things are going well.  It was quite the experience, there is still so much more to learn and write about!

 

I agree on the notion of tool independence.  Too often the tool defines things where it should be the other way around.


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Taggart
Active Participant

Unfortunately, I feel like people forget the tool system extends well beyond LabVIEW. Source Code Control, Issue Tracking, Testing, Continuous Integration, Deployment. To be a real master of your craft, you have to master those tools as well.

 

I share your general sentiment about NI. It seems like they are stepping back. I am hoping that it is just because they are reeling from the pandemic, the layoffs, and the death of NXG, but they were showing signs of retreating long before all that. I certainly hope they change direction, because I am not a fan of the current one and it makes me wonder about their long-term health.

Sam Taggart
CLA, CPI, CTD, LabVIEW Champion
DQMH Trusted Advisor
Read about my thoughts on Software Development at sasworkshops.com/blog
GCentral
Intaris
Proven Zealot

I've commented on this years ago.  Can't find the post, but I've been open in communicating my worries int hsi regard for a while now.  I pointed out what I saw was a mistake in NIs strategic focus. My opinion has not changed in the past years. I've considered re-skilling in a different direction. I saw the NXG failure coming from a long way back. At the CAB in Autsin, I essentially gave up because it was as plain as the nose on my face that the people designing it were simply not on the same planet as the people who were supposed to be using it. That was a real wake-up call.

 

I'm going to learn Python. Not because I think I'll be great at it, but because offering LV code with a Python module which makes integration seamless allows me to have my cake and eat it too.

 

I'm proficient in LabVIEW. It's only taken me 20+ years, but I'm comfortable saying that now. I'm not going to ditch that completely. But I only need it for the next 18 years professionally....... then it becomes purely a hobby.

EricR
Member

Good Morning Steve and to everyone else on the thread as well.

 

I want to acknowledge Steve that you aren't the only one getting that question.  When you combine the whirlwind of 2020, NI's announcement about LabVIEW NXG, NI's changes in our sales force and a lot of other factors that are all occurring simultaneously, I do not blame anyone for asking the questions. 

 

I think your response, and your thoughtful explanation here is well stated.  I even plan to borrow parts of it in my future discussions because I think it shows both good insight and kind, but straightforward, truths.

 

  1. LabVIEW is an excellent tool, specifically designed for developing test and measurement applications.  To that end, NI will continue our constant investment in LabVIEW to make sure it continues to be the most productive software for developing test and measurement applications.
  2. People are almost never evaluated on the tools they used.  It is almost always how well or how quickly they solve the challenge they are faced with. The tough challenges faced by people today require a lot of different tools to be used.  To that end, a lot of the investment in LabVIEW recently has been improving the interactions between LabVIEW and other commonly used tools. Things like Python/C# integration, CI toolchain improvements, modern SCC integration, Web UI development, MATLAB integration, etc.
  3. The model of "NI doing everything" doesn't scale and never did.  Recently, we created the LabVIEW Community Edition to better enable the community to grow and create new functionality with LabVIEW.  I've also spent a reasonable amount of time working with partners and community developers to include functionality in LabVIEW that was designed by the community. I have wholeheartedly encouraged that engagement and I intend to continue doing so.  LabVIEW now ships, package managers, project managers, JSON parsers, and other tools that were built by LabVIEW enthusiasts in the community.  I'd love to see this trend continue. GCentral, LAVA, VIPM.IO, NI's forums and other centralizing repositories have helped to gather and advertise this work in the past and I'd like to see this continue to strengthen and grow as well.

When people ask me about learning Python (or C#), I almost always answer that it never hurts to have more tools in your tool belt.  You never know when you will encounter a problem that is made easier by having another tool.  I have personally found LabVIEW's integration with web front ends, hardware interfaces, and Python libraries to be very useful.

 

I have one other comment related to the comment about the LabVIEW Idea Exchange. The LabVIEW Idea Exchange has continued to be a wonderful source of ideas from the community of how NI can continue to enhance LabVIEW.  We have implemented many features from it in our releases since it was first created and we regularly review it throughout the year.  It is true that I've found there are always more submissions than what we can add.  Keep helping me and the LabVIEW development team find the gems that we need to add, but don't despair that we didn't add them all. I'd love to find ways to have LabVIEW enthusiasts provide many of the ideas that are discussed there and if you are interested in exploring this further, I would love to talk with you about how.

 

Steve, thank you for taking the time to engage with people and answer their questions.  Thank you again for posting this here in the forums so others can see your thoughts.  I hope people will read them and find what they need. 

 

For everyone reading this reply, please send me email (or Teams chat me) if you have additional questions or want to talk about what else you need to address the test/measurement/analytics challenges you are facing today.

 

I look forward to continuing to work with you all, and to hearing your feedback. Your feedback is key to helping us continue to make LabVIEW the best tool for you to use.

Taggart
Active Participant

Eric,

           your posts give me a lot of hope. I certainly hope that NI as a company gives you lots of support and that you are not swimming upstream, because I really like your approach. All 3 of your points are dead on.

 

As to learning Python, I have been doing it a bit lately and, as you said, I find it useful to have another tool in the toolbox. I don't envision it replacing LabVIEW but rather augmenting it.

 

And as to the Idea Exchange, I can vouch that NI does listen. We don't get everything we want (sometimes it's not even possible), but if we make enough noise and it is feasible, we do get heard.

 

Thanks for all you do Eric, I hope NI realizes how valuable you are.

Sam

Sam Taggart
CLA, CPI, CTD, LabVIEW Champion
DQMH Trusted Advisor
Read about my thoughts on Software Development at sasworkshops.com/blog
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Taggart
Active Participant

oh and I have noticed and do appreciate the efforts at integrating LabVIEW with 3rd party tools and some of the changes in direction with training in regard to that.

Sam Taggart
CLA, CPI, CTD, LabVIEW Champion
DQMH Trusted Advisor
Read about my thoughts on Software Development at sasworkshops.com/blog
GCentral
Terry_ALE
Active Participant

To clarify on the Idea Exchange statement.  Yes, NI listens.  However some of the posts seems unanswered or not updated.  It seems like dust has been collecting which you can tell when you visit a section.  In my specific case we were looking at the LabVIEW FPGA part of the Idea Exchange.  I am not drawing conclusions but merely making observations.

 

Eric, I will reach out to you directly.


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swatts
Active Participant

I feel a tad embarrassed that Erics answer was 72% bigger than my entire article, I guess that is a mark of the time, effort and seriousness that you have committed to the response. That is truly appreciated.

 

Rather annoyingly I did leave very bright, bright point in LabVIEWs future and that is the community edition. I'm not a great believer in the expectation that everyone should "code", I don't even like the term "code" when related to software design. But anyone with a serious interest in graphical programming now has a professional environment at their fingertips, this is massive and should be pushed VERY hard indeed.

 

The other aspect of your reply I find really encouraging is this...

 

"3. The model of "NI doing everything" doesn't scale and never did.  Recently, we created the LabVIEW Community Edition to better enable the community to grow and create new functionality with LabVIEW.  I've also spent a reasonable amount of time working with partners and community developers to include functionality in LabVIEW that was designed by the community. I have wholeheartedly encouraged that engagement and I intend to continue doing so.  LabVIEW now ships, package managers, project managers, JSON parsers, and other tools that were built by LabVIEW enthusiasts in the community.  I'd love to see this trend continue. GCentral, LAVA, VIPM.IO, NI's forums and other centralizing repositories have helped to gather and advertise this work in the past and I'd like to see this continue to strengthen and grow as well"

 

I really want a broader LabVIEW, I want tools that will let me talk to anything and using any protocol. I want these tools to be platform independent where possible.

 

If this is the direction LabVIEW is going then I also want NI to SHOUT about it!, I want a roadmap - For NXG we had a roadmap for features. Let's have a Roadmap for LabVIEW...

 

I want targets - Android!. I want to be able to talk to OPC, DDS, Databases. Give me direct access to some of the interfaces on my PC. Generally anything that would be useful for a project, but would be too expensive to write from scratch for one project is fair game.

 

Thanks for input Eric, I echo Sam's points.

Steve


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EricR
Member

Steve,

 

"Bigger isn't Better".  I'm a verbose type.  Why say something with 10 words that I can say more clearly with 100.  Its not actually a good thing most of the time so I'll work on my replies here to make them more concise, just like my messages internal to NI.

 

😁

 

Terry,

 

There is admittedly a difference between teams at how much review the idea exchanges get.  I'll see what I can do on the FPGA side since that area is a new one in my sphere and I'm desperately trying to learn as fast as I can.  Take this as an opportunity to educate me on where we struggle and help me understand what we need to do better.

Terry_ALE
Active Participant

Eric,

I took a quick look at https://forums.ni.com/t5/LabVIEW-FPGA-Idea-Exchange/idb-p/lvfpgaideas/status-key/new/tab/most-recent  and some are months old without replies.

 


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riley.ilieva
Member

Very interesting thoughts, thank you for sharing!

 

I really agree with your statement on asking not what platform or programming language is used but what can be achieved with it. I recently read somebody using the ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny notion to describe the evolution in how software is written. We haven't moved away from programming in low level languages but rather they are encapsulated in the coding we use today. From that perspective LabVIEW offers not only the high level programming that Python does but the visual platform which for me personally means I get to achieve more in a shorter period of time but this is all a personal choice. 

James_McN
Active Participant

Always thought provoking Steve!

 

I can't make a secret that I share their concerns. Partly because the projects I'm working on are moving out of LabVIEW's comfort zone (more web, ML integration) and I hit limits in LabVIEW that you don't in other languages.

 

However I would always encourage someone, even if they are perfectly comfortable in LabVIEW, to explore other languages. More often than not you will come back to LabVIEW, but with new ideas or tools. Sometimes you will find something better suited to a job (such as Python and ML) and you will learn to make them work together.

 

Even in some instances you will appreciate LabVIEW more. As I've been exploring other GUI options it still amazes me how quick and easy LabVIEW is compared to many GUI libraries in other languages. It has a lot of room to improve, but damn it's easy to get going!

 

As you say though, focusing on building great systems has to be at the heart of it, then the tools will often choose you.

James Mc
========
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My writings on LabVIEW Development are at devs.wiresmithtech.com
Konan__
Member

Sorry but saying " retrograde" to text based programmers and systems is a flat insult and arrogant attitude.

 

When 99% of the planet is using text based language, and you are the 1% that use interconnected blocks calling the 99% as noobs.

 

Pretty pathetic IMHO.

 

swatts
Active Participant

Well you are quick to be insulted!

If you read the entire sentence (it's only 2 extra words and a comma, it says "For Me"), that is because I went from text based programming in the 1990s to graphical programming. So going back to text based is a backwards step FOR ME!

 

But if you want to spend the day enraged then you be you.

Steve


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Intaris
Proven Zealot

The irony of the Apple logo, a company who made huge inroads to advancing the GUI over a text interface is rather humerous.