Thursday, July 30, 2009

New test magazine

Well, I said in my last post that I was going on vacation. But this post was already mostly written, so what the heck.


Keithley is sponsoring a new magazine called Project Test. According to the press release, it is a "unique 32-page electronic magazine edited for test and measurement engineers." In my opinion, the jury is still out. It's obviously meant as a marketing tool - most of the articles in the first issue are written by Keithley employees and spotlight Keithley equipment. I'm not sure if that fits the press release though.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this sort of self-marking document, if it's done right. Hewlett Packard did a good job at this with their Journal this back before the split. The articles were usually written by HP engineers (sometimes in conjunction with marketing), and they often conveyed a great deal of solid technical detail. That is the standard I would hold Keithley to.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting LabVIEW certified

Well, I've decided to get my Certified LabVIEW Developer (CLD)... certification? diploma? license? Regardless, I plan on shelling out the money and taking the test probably by the end of the year.

A couple of years ago I was ambivalent about certification. But I've modified my opinion for the following reasons. First, NI now offers a CLD renewal test, which was one of my original gripes. Second, the CLD test used to be one long test - half written and half practical - and it seemed like overkill to me. Now the written part is given as a separate test - Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer (CLAD) - and is often offered as a free test. Third, I took the CLAD a couple months back and passed it easily. I figure I'm halfway there already.

Finally, given the state of the economy I think it makes good sense to get recognition for my skills. Another engineer friend of mine just lost his job, and that sort of thing reminds you to be prepared in case you need to find another employer.


Over the next few weeks I'll be taking some extended vacation time. I have at least one or two other posts partially written, but I may not get to them until late August or even September.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Test gear history

I found this picture back in April and thought cool. It looked like it could come from a Hollywood period movie yet it was real. I noted the page for future reference and then forgot about it.

My current company is in a huge building that's over a century old. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use reinforced concrete, and it used to be the headquarters for the United Shoe Machinery Company. The halls are decorated with little mementoes of the company's past: poster-sized pictures 50 to 100 years old, historical vignettes of life in the company's heyday, old-style shoes, and equipment used on the manufacturing line. One day I stopped to stare at this display.

It's an old poteniometer used for equipment calibration. So I dug around online and found out that it was manufactured by Leeds & Northrup in Philadelphia - evidently they were quite the test and measurement company back in the day (see this or this).

I connected this piece of equipment with what I'd seen back in April and thought a lot about old test equipment, where it goes, and the history of the equipment and the people who make them. Does the equipment eventually sit on a shelf for decades before it is tossed (or sent to theSmithsonian)? Do the people who devote so much time & effort to create this equipment get any recognition (other than a brief summary on Wikipedia)? Normally I'm not a very reflective or pensive person. But sometimes you just have to think about these sorts of things.

Friday, July 3, 2009

LAVA flows once more

The LAVA (Labview Advanced Virtual Architects) website is back up and running after a several month absense. While I don't read that forum on a regular basis, it is definitely a useful resource. Along with the NI-hosted forums and the Info-LabVIEW mailing list, it's part of the top three online resources for programming with LV.

I'm glad to see it's back up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two year anniversary

So, it has now been about two years since my first post. When I recognized my one year anniversary, I noted that I'd posted on average once a week for a year. Well, I haven't been quite as prolific since then: only 32 posts. But still, considering the job changes the past year, that schedule is not too bad, considering I do this "just because."

There was an article a few weeks ago in the New York Times about blogs getting abandoned after people lose interest in maintaining them. It's an interesting piece, but I expect it's probably a retread article of what happened a decade ago when there was a rush of people creating their own webpages, and then they gave up on them. I know I did that at one time.

But two years... it's not abandoned yet.