Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vendor books about testing - Agilent

About a month ago I talked about testing handbooks recently published by Agilent and Keithley. On October 15th I reviewed the Keithley book. Now I'm going to review the Agilent book, "Test-System Development Guide: A Comprehensive Handbook for Test Engineers," which is available here.

First Thoughts
This book, released in May 2007, is partly a repackaging of other white papers, many of which you can find here. I suspect that it was repackaged like this to compile what had been written separately as well as to heavily promote the LXI interface. I previously posted about Agilent's big stake in LXI, so I won't get into that again.

Other than the marketing-oriented aspects, I found the guide to be somewhat useful.

There are 4 main sections of this handbook - each section has numerous subsections. The first discusses test system design. The second section covers LAN networking issues. The third is devoted to LXI. The fourth and final section lists some details of RF/Microwave testing.

Section 1 - Test System Design
This section is devoted to going over the various aspects and theory of a test system. Parts of it I found insulting (it appeared aimed at a pure beginner), some of the things they talk about I have posted about in my rules for building systems (here and here), and some of it was actually pretty good.

For about 15 pages the guide discusses software architecture: defining the requirements, controlling instruments, storing data. It's all very general, but I found it extremely funny that whenever they mentioned LabVIEW, their competing product Agilent VEE was written first.

Section 2 - Networking Choices
Here the guide covers networking considerations for a test system. This might be a bit of overkill for some people, since it is aimed for the test engineer who knows very little about networking basics.

Section 3 - LXI: The Future of Test
Yes, that was the actual title of this section. Somewhat presumptuous, and very much market-speak, but that is what the section is called.

Section 4 - RF/Microwave Test Systems
I have no real experience with this kind of testing, so I cannot speak to it's accuracy or whether it was worthwhile or not. To be honest, I skimmed this section.

When you compare this book to the Keithley book, you can see that that they have two completely different intents. The Agilent guide is polished, views testing from a general point of view, and serves as a vehicle for pushing LXI. The Keithley guide is not so polished, goes over the guts of testing (i.e. - the many pages devoted to discussing passive and active components), and includes numerous examples.

In short, the Agilent book is written for a manager, VP, or someone looking for more information about testing. The Keithley book is written for the engineer. If you're a test engineer, I would recommend reading both of them, file away the Agilent book, and put the Keithley book on the shelf for frequent referencing.

There is a book about test engineering that is supposedly a college-level intro coursebook. Maybe I'll take a look at it for comparison. There is also a free handbook on LXI interfaces available. I haven't looked at it yet myself, but it may be worthwhile.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested in a similar guide from NI: http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/tut/p/id/3238
Also, I also have a blog on test you might want to check out: