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NIWeek 2018

This year NIWeek 2018, was attended on behalf of our team by Chris Thoroughgood – Head of Systems, Matt Collett – Head of Commercial, and Chris Garratt – Business Development Manager. Held in Austin, Texas, between 21 and 24 May NIWeek exhibition and conference brings engineers and academics together with wide range of hardware and software innovations, training and technical sessions.

The theme this year was Future Faster and was heavily focused on the recent software developments National Instruments have been making and are looking to roll out in the near future, with an emphasis on solutions for transportation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G communications.

Looking to IoT, the session ‘How LabVIEW and SystemLink are Connecting to the Cloud with AWS, Azure and Elixir’ gave a high-level overview of some good new toolkits and APIs available within LabVIEW and SystemLink for talking directly to AWS Amazon S3 and Azure.

SystemLink software delivers improvements in operational efficiency and productivity by providing a centralised web-based management interface for connected devices, software, and data. Although aligned with NI products such as LabVIEW, TestStand, and hardware systems, it also offers an open architecture for incorporating a wide range of third-party software and hardware technologies.

The number of toolkits available for AWS is currently more extensive than those available for Azure. This is primarily due to the way each handle authentication. AWS offers global authentication, however, Azure requires separate authentication for each of web services.  

The Azure Toolkits and APIs use HTTP RESTful but currently only supports Blob and Queues.

Continuing to build on its core pedigree offering ‘What’s New in LABVIEW 2018 and NXG’ was a  brief overview of some of the new feature releases for LabVIEW and NXG.

Developments of note for LabVIEW 2018 include:

  • Simplifying system integration with the LabVIEW Command Line Interface that allows you to Automate software building and execution
  • Save time and reuse IP with Python Node that allows you to natively call Python scripts
  • A number of FPGA module improvements were announced including improved floating-point operations, new compile tools, and 64-bit FPGA Module
  • LabVIEW 2018 Run Time Engine supports/runs LabVIEW 2017 EXEs without rebuilding the exe. A useful feature that makes performing an upgrade simpler.

The LabVIEW NXG roadmap has introduced a number of new features including:

  • AAuto-discovery for an increased range of hardware that allows you to configure your hardware quicker and reduces system setup and validation time
  • The user Interface development allows users to manipulate front panels programmatically, configure and manage VIs to execute outside the editor, and use new controls.
  • The ability to abstract code with object-oriented programming, compare VI source code with Diff Tool and use more event-driven programming options.
  • The data management feature allows the system to publish tags using simplified data communication Vis and create reports in Microsoft Excel.
  • LabVIEW NXG code can now integrate with TestStand and call external DLLS offering an increased level of interoperability.

‘Diagnosing Memory Leads and Crashes in Complex TestStand and LabVIEW Applications’ offered an always welcome reminder of the need to take a structured and methodical approach to debugging and narrow down the issue/problem area. If possible run this isolated case and then use the recommended tools to aid diagnosis.

There are some good windows tools that can be used for spotting and debugging memory leaks. These include:

  • WinDbg Preview (currently a Beta application)
  • Microsoft Visual Studio Debugger
  • Task Manager
  • Performance Monitor

A useful tip to remember is that sometimes the NIER error pop up can contain key information, if possible open the log file and analyse it.

For memory leaks there area also NI Tools such as the Desktop Execution Trace Toolkit (DETT). DETT can be used on EXE as long as its complied with the “Enable Debugging” checked in the build spec.

Another useful session was ‘Using Assertions in LabVIEW to enable faster debugging and integration testing’. Assertions is an open source third party beta addon toolkit that is available on National Instruments Virtual Instrument Packet Manager (VIPM) or as open source on GITHUB. It is a debugging tool that can alert a developer if they have passed the wrong data to a SubVI during development.

There were also very interesting sessions on the data acquisition and control roadmap, and the Distributed Control and Automation Framework (DCAF) which is an open-source labVIEW framework designed to help create systems that are reliable, modular and configurable. Both are areas to follow closely.

As always NIWeek offered some interesting insights into innovation and developments in academia and industry.