Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clearing my mailbox, pt 3: VB6

I subscribe to various magazines online. Yes, the subscriptions are free, and yes most of those articles are written by the marketing arm of a company trying to peddle something. But sometimes you can still find interesting stuff.

One case in point is an article in the June edition of Evaluation Engineering. A marketing person from NI wrote a piece about life after VB6, since Microsoft is ending support for Visual Basic 6 at the end of this year. The question the author addressed was 'what do I need to know to upgrade from VB6 to VB.Net?' And I would say she did a credible job of covering the high points, as well as listing other references for further reading.

Back in 2000-2001 I programmed almost exclusively in VB6, with a smattering of C++ as well. When the time came to consider upgrading to VB.Net, the VP of engineering at my firm decided it was too expensive at the time. A contractor I worked with left after that - he felt that he needed to keep his skills current - and I started thinking about migrating back to LabVIEW. So this article had a personal historical interest for me.

Clearing my mailbox, pt 2: joys of dual monitors

Someone forwarded an article to me from the New York Times about the productivity improvements using dual monitors. The article is a little dated (2006), but makes a valid point. But if you program in LabVIEW, once you go dual you'll never want to go back. The advantage to having the front panel on one screen and the block diagram on the other is huge in my opinion. I liked it so much at work, that I found a cheap monitor on craigslist so I could do it at home as well.

Of course, now I also feel a little like an evil genius in a secret lair....

Cleaning my mailbox - LabVIEW vs C

My various email inboxes have been filling up with things I want to keep until I've had a chance to look at them. Today (Saturday) I had time to go over a couple.

National Instruments has a semi-monthly email newsletter where they publish details about new white papers, new products, etc. Some of the time it's just marketing and not useful, sometimes it's good. The article that made me keep this latest issue was about comparing LabVIEW with C. I was particularly interested in this white paper since I had blogged about this subject a year ago.

I judged this paper on two different levels. The first level is a marketing level: it's apparent goal is to convince C programmers that LabVIEW can do about anything that C can do for test engineering. Does it convince? Ehh, maybe. It certainly goes through a list of typical things that a C person may ask about. SO on that level I would give it good marks.

The second level I considered to be more philosophical: does it address why LabVIEW would be better than C, at least for test engineering? On this level it really falls flat. After I read it I couldn't come up with any single reason it gave me for why it would be preferable. But maybe I was asking too much.

Friday, July 4, 2008

One year anniversary, pt 2

As I said in my last post, I've been writing to this blog for a full year now. One of the things I said in my first post was that I hadn't found any blogs about regular test engineering. One year later, I should put a caveat to that statement. There are some blogs about test engineering, but they are usually written by someone who either a) works at NI (or some other huge test engineering firm), b) gets paid to write about test engineering (i.e. - a magazine), or c) written by a consultant (and writing a blog is a form of advertising for a consultant). This blog is still one of a very few in test engineering written not for profit or for promoting myself. It's just because I want to.

Having said all that, here's a list of test and engineering blogs that I read from time to time (arranged alphabetically). Maybe you'll find them useful and/or entertaining. But be warned - most of them focus on LabVIEW usage.

The Automated Test Blog
A director of marketing at NI posts here once a month or so.

Blogs on Test & Measurement World
This page is for a group of blogs written by people at that magazine, rather than a single blog. But it's useful to look at the summaries on this one page. These are often worth a quick read.

Expression Flow
This LabVIEW programming blog has several different consultants posting to it from time to time.

Ideas in Wiring
The author workss at NI, but the blog is more of an independent piece.

Open Measurements
Brian Powell is a senior R&D guy at NI. I've attended talks he's given before, & he seems like a great guy. As to be expected, his blog is specifically about LabVIEW.

Testing with NI
Another test engineer writing a blog on his own. Good for him.

Thinking In G
This blog is ran by Jim Kring, who co-wrote the great LabVIEW for Everyone book. He runs a consultant company.

VI Shots
This is written by a pretty active consultant, Michael Aivaliotis. I see his name pop up quite a bit in LabVIEW circles.