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Top Takeaways from NIWeek 2016 Sessions: Part 1

Several members of the Erdos Miller team attended National Instruments NIWeek 2016 Aug.1-4. In this post as well as a later companion post, we’ll share the most useful/interesting information we learned at conference sessions.

Session: Designing Attractive and Effective User Interfaces (UIs) in LabVIEW

Summary from: Sri Harsha Atluri, Electrical Engineering Lead | CLA, CLED

Always a popular topic among LabVIEW users, this session covered different ways to optimize your UIs. With an effective UI, the user can more intuitively interact with the program, giving the user a good impression of the software and making their job easier. 


Flat UI from one of Erdos Miller’s Projects

Below are the top tips for designing effective UIs:

  • Maintain consistency within the UI design, for example, in areas such as color schemes, the design and type of controls/ indicators and the types of symbols used.
  • Keep the UI simple, clear and distinctive.
  • Provide prompt feedback to the user by creating movement to show interaction with the application. This shows the responsiveness of the application, offers a fluid experience and shows that the program is doing something.
  • Add color last. The simplest color to add is one - consider varying it by altering hue, saturation and/or brightness to get different shades of the color. Use the Adobe Color Wheel to create the color scheme.
  • Remember, less is more - too much on the screen is distracting. By keeping your design clean and simple, you enable users to focus on what is important.
  • Keep users in mind - they probably don't know as much as you do. Give clear instructions and forgive mistakes.
  • Keep the software environment in mind as it will guide UI design principles:
    • Where the software will run – a PC, Tablet or a small screen.
    • Where the software will be used – indoors in low light conditions or outdoor in bright light.
  • Stick to current UI design trends, such as flat UI, material design or card and tile design.

Session: DCAF - A Framework for Efficiently Developing Robust Control

Summary by: Sri Harsha Atluri, Electrical Engineering Lead | CLA, CLED 

This session provided an overview of the new Distributed Control and Automation Framework (DCAF), an open-source framework developed by NI engineers for building robust, feature-rich control applications in less time by combining out-of-the box functionality and a configuration based workflow. This framework provides a powerful, scalable platform for developing control applications on NI embedded platforms. 


Visual overview of the DCAF framework


Some of the features of DCAF are:

  • Configuration-based workflow
  • Scalable and extensible plugin architecture
  • Ability to define and configure plugin parameters
  • Ability to reuse existing plugins
  • Single-point I/O with processing and data services
  • Rules for correct-by-construction software
  • Ability to configure timing and error handling
  • Optimized for real-time execution

Using the framework's built-in diagnostic capabilities, developers can efficiently track down errors.  

DCAF advantages:

  • Proven architecture from NI teams
  • Scaling capabilities
  • Open source
  • Fast development time
  • The framework automatically handles most of the common functionality, such as error handling and inter-module communication

DCAF drawbacks:

  • Ramp-up time – a developer may need a few days to a few weeks to get up and running with the framework
  • Software load and deployment times may be slow
  • EXE build issues can be common, so users need to leave time at the end to deal with such issues

For more information on DCAF, visit ni.com/dcaf , where NI has set up a robust community site with content such as tutorials and case studies as well as an active discussion board.

Session: Building Your Own Kernel and Modules

Summary by: Antionio Alexander, Senior Integration Architect | CLA, CLED 

This session was RSVP-only, and geared towards very technical users who were already modifying the kernel or were interested in writing drivers. It provided a step-by-step walk-through of why and how you may want to recompile your NI Linux Real-Time Kernel.  

Reasons to not modify the kernel:

  • You need to add a new daemon/library
  • You need to modify the startup application
  • LabVIEW needs access to non-NI hardware

Reasons to modify the kernel:

  • To enable/add additional in/out of tree driver
  • To enable new kernel-wide functionality (e.g., enable kernel debugging)
  • To add a user-created driver
  • To debug kernel issues

Although it’s not an easy process for a beginner, by modifying the kernel you can take advantage of the fact that LabVIEW runs on top of a Linux kernel that has a myriad of features, libraries and functionality to enable and use.  During the session, the speaker was able to recompile the kernel to add drivers for a USB sound card (which looked like a Beats Pill) to which he was able to play music to from a LabVIEW VI.

Additional resource for Kernel development:

In part 2 of our NIWeek recaps, we’ll cover sessions on XNodes, dynamic FPGA interfaces, integrating C/C++ and LabVIEW on NI Linus Real-Time embedded hardware, and an in-depth look at the IEEE 802.11ax wireless standard.