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An Engineers Take

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Being an avid runner (to be honest travel has stalled my training of late) I thought the recent infographic from Freescale, the official sponsor of the Austin marathon, was pretty interesting. I know a number of people that wear Garmin or Soleus GPS watches on their runs, others that have adopted Fitbit or the many other activity tracking devices. Preferring to run with an old school stop watch I’m still very impressed with the positive changes in behavior these devices result in for many people. It’s the combination of the device, the easy access to information via phones and of course the web that make them so effective. The infographic below highlights most of the devices in this area (from GPS watches, to activity trackers, to weight scales) so I won’t try and describe each of them.

Over dinner at a recent work event I was talking to a collegue who uses a Fitbit. With daily steps targets, and ability to easily know what his activity level is at any give time he described how he would decide to add a 30 minute walk over lunch if he didn’t get in what he needed to in the morning, or extend his run after dinner at night. This combined with an improved diet allowed him to reduce his weight in a controlled and steady manner. That individual story, and the impact convenient information that fits in with peoples daily routines makes me a believer in the future of these connected activity and health monitoring devices.

Garmin Vivofit Application Screenshots

Garmin Vivofit Application Screenshots

For me, training with Rogue Running in Austin I know I’m getting enough activity with a group that runs 50 to 90 miles a week (I’m on the lower end these days) so I haven’t had the need to track my activity. But I am getting curious about these devices will continue to evolve and work into helping people improve their performances in addition to the positive impact they are having on general health already.


Tagged: fitbit, freescale, garmin, gps watch, rogue running, soleus, vivofit, wearables

Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/3llstqqgaKs/
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For about a year my current marketing team has instituted a practice of a “Daily Sync”, similar but not identical to the concept of a daily stand-up meeting in Agile development. Coming from an engineering management background it was more of an experiment for me to see if the benefits of stand-up meetings for development would transfer to a marketing team. I’m always willing to try something, learn from it and if necessary drop the idea if it doesn’t work. In our case our Daily meetings have gone well and resulted in fewer meetings overall. I do ask the team if the meetings are useful, and they do say they are … but since I’m the “boss” I do worry sometimes if people are just saying it because it’s me asking. Since the meetings tend to be pretty dynamic and everybody participates I’m assuming they are serving their purpose for now.

Our team is split across 4 cities in the US so we make use of video conferencing for our meetings (Skype, Google Hangouts, WebEx would all do the trick) and they’re scheduled for 30 minutes. Some days we go over what each person is doing, other days we tend to focus on one area and people bring up issues and ideas by exception.

This daily sync has ultimately sped up our decision making time, resulted in eliminating per project weekly meetings and just connected our distributed team better. By using a video conference the body language and visual queues are obvious and ability to quickly collaborate on documents to knock out any edits or ideas is great. I’m on plenty of audio conferences on a daily basis too and they just aren’t the same (of course a video conference isn’t always practical, but tools like Google Hangouts do allow you to call in a participant by phone while others are on video).

If you’re a marketing team working on multiple programs (remote or at the same office) try it out, a quick 30 minute daily sync and see if you can also get rid of all the detailed project review meetings and eliminate those never ending e-mail threads :)


Tagged: agile, marketing

Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/VNU64vEltx4/
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On the recommendation of a colleague I recently read the The Lean Startup by Eric Ries ( Mark Mitchell wrote a review on this book if you’re interested). It got me to thinking about many projects I’ve worked on including launching online communities at National Instruments, to a new FPGA based software defined radio (SDR) tool, to a cloud based development environments and cloud based services for IoT devices. The online communities, with many follow-on iterations and improvements have proved extremely successful while the others have some more proving to do.

Even though these projects all went I think the projects could have been more effective, and executed more efficiently with less time and resource waste. In hindsight I and my teams would have better off by being more systematic and combining some of the points made in The Lean Startup while using a framework like the Diamond Strategy by Donald C. Hambrick and James W. Fredrickson to define our vision and fundamental assumptions.

Adapted from Hambrick, D. C., & Fredrickson, J. W. (2001). Are you sure you have a strategy? Academy of Management Executive, 19 (4), 51–62. (Source: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/management-principles-v1.0/s09-06-formulat ing-organizational-and.html)

In the case of the LabVIEW DSP Design Module, targeted at FPGA synthesis for SDR applications we were able to successfully achieve real time LTE up-link and down-links with a high level graphical development and design capture tool. There were many lessons learned but early on one of the turning points was when we put the tool in front of real communications engineers. Their feedback resulted in significant changes to the graphical model for design capture and also helped us define what a minimum viable product needs to really be (quality of results, number of MIMO channels, wireless standards to support) before we could exposed to the tool to more people. You can see a demo in this video.

In other projects, ironically in some of my cloud based research projects which lend themselves to broader exposure and experimentation, we did more internal thinking and definition without validating key needs with prospects as we could have. This is more than likely because the “cloud” was so different from standard products we were used to, which if I think about it should have had us talking to real world prospects even sooner!

Taking an idea from a concept and vision, to implementing it and iterating on it is a real challenge whatever the market and application. In today’s fast paced and dynamic nature, most of us would be better off articulating that vision, our assumptions and doing what we can to validate them with a real customer and prospect. It’s always a challenge to resist the temptation to wait and deliver what “we” think is the ideal solution, but that delay and lack of input increases the risk we’ll miss the mark on functionality and time to market.


Tagged: agile, DSP, lean, sdr, strategy

Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/ZiwMbrmd3PA/
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The recent hoopla resulting from the decision by Instagram use any user content for ads reminded me of some of the lessons cited in the book by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph. D – Extreme Trust.

Extreme Trust

The book cites the example of Netflix when it split it’s service into two separate businesses as an example of what not to do. Netflix saw a business trend and for it’s operational efficiency thought it’s in it’s best interest to have two separate businesses. In the end Netflix did back track on some of the negative impact to customers of the decision (two different websites for example) but still made it two different services instead of one for people to deal with. Whatever your opinion of the decision, the market has not been kind to Netflix since the original decision. It was a series of decisions that set the mood and eroded trust in the intent Netflix had. There was the price increase in July 2001 and then the split of DVD and streaming services with Qwikster. None of this has helped NFLX, just look at the cliff in the stock price below from after July 2011.

NFLX Stock Price Trend

Of late Instagram has been the subject of much criticism with it’s decision (since somewhat reversed) to sell it’s customers photographs. The change to the terms that created the uproar have been quoted by many media outlets, included here for your reference:

“You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and  royalty-free, transferable, sub-licenseable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service … You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Instagram has since changed it’s mind and Kevin Systrom (co-founder, Instagram) has posted a blog titled “ Thank you, and we’re listening” that outlines the intent of the change and an update to the terms to clarify advertising, ownership and privacy concerns people have raised. So things are better but what do you think and how do you feel? That is the real question.

In the end we have many iterations with companies and services and the series of interactions with their actions and their employees are what we use to judge them. It’s as simple as that. On one hand I like the response from Kevin Systrom in his blog post, on the other hand I’ve seen the series of changes Facebook has made with it’s privacy policy, default settings etc and I can’t help associate this latest action by Instagram with that history. For me I say let’s wait and see, but it’s two strikes for Instagram at this point … this round cost two strikes. Of course that’s just my opinion. What really matters is what the majority of customers perceive is the intent of Instragram, that’s that they’ll use to make up their own minds. For Instagram’s sake they don’t suffer from the one two punch Netflix is still recovering from.




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/X-86vDwCQS8/
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How to Taper for a Marathon

Posted by KamranS. Nov 25, 2012

The answer is … I don’t know. There seem to be as many different schools of thought on how to taper as there are flavors of frozen yogurt (yes I’m craving some right now, who isn’t in the last week before their marathon!).

So Many Flavors, Such Few Days to Try Them All

It’s too late to really change my tapering plans, but as with any taper the mind does get a little warped so I decided to go back and look at my previous tapers and also do some reading. There’s calls for 3 week tapers, 10 day tapers, 2 weeks tapers, very little up tempo work, quite a bet of up tempo work. The only thing that seems consistent is reduce your overall effort … when to do it, how much to do it by, what type of workouts to do result in different opinions. And no one opinion is right or wrong when you look at the results from these groups and athletes.

So what has worked for me. I went back and looked at my running log for the last few years. Since the first season with Team Rogue my taper has been around two weeks and hasn’t been a huge drop in mileage. Below are my last two taper weeks from two different races (both at CIM), the first from 2008 (sub 3:00 race) and the second form 2010 (sub 2:50 race).

CIM 2008

Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total
Miles
Miles
of Base
Rest 9 M
(5 Steady)
10 M 7 M
(4 Tempo)
Rest 13 M 7 M 46 84%
Rest 7 M
(6 @ MGP)
7 M 7 M Rest 7 M Race 54.2 99%

CIM 2010

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
Miles
Miles
of Base
4 M 10 M 12 M 13 M
(5 Tempo)
Rest 13 M 11 M 63 90%
Rest 8M
(4 Tempo)
11 M 7 M
(4 Steady)
Rest 5 M Race 57.2 82%

So it’s really about a 10 to 15% drop. If you exclude the actual marathon the week leading up to the race is around 50% of the base so the day of the marathon I tended to feel relatively fresh. I’ve found the shorter tempo or steady work 5 to 12 days before the race is really valuable too, keeps the legs primed. I remember going into a race once without much MGP or Tempo work in the two weeks before the race and my legs felt really loose, almost too loose and unresponsive. This approach has worked for me in the past so I’m sticking to something similar for CIM this year.

CIM 2012 Taper Plan

Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total
Miles
Miles
of Base
Rest 8 M
(10k Ladder)
8 M 9 M
(4 Tempo)
4 M 14 M 9 M 52 90%
Rest 8 M
(5 MGP)
8 M 8 M Rest 5 M Race 55.2 95%

The 2012 plan is somewhere between 2008 and 2010 so should be good for me. My training from a volume and pace standpoint also happens to be between the 2008 and 2010 seasons. All there is left to do is just run the race … and keep the taper mental daemons and phantom leg pains at bay.


Tagged: california international marathon, marathon, taper

Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/YjXvFpcdSrs/
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Well it’s just over two weeks till the CIM marathon. This will be my third time running this marathon, both the previous two times were PRs. In 2008 I ran under 3 hours for the first time and in 2010 under 2:50 for the first time. When you hear about CIM you can be decived into believing the course is downhill, it is net downhill for sure and a fast course but it is rolling. Keeping under control early in the race seems like a good way to approach this race, after mile 18 the course is flat to downhill and if you have anything left in your legs you really can open it up.

What does 2012 hold at CIM for me? Well you never know until the day of the race. I’m positive this isn’t a PR year for me, but I do hope to run somewhere between 2:50 and 3:00, ideally sub 2:55. When this year started I was coming off an inconsitent year of running and I told myself being back in the shape I was in for CIM 2008 would be the goal for this year. My training indicates I’m there so goal accomplished. Now I just have to go run the race with the rest of the Team Rogue crew training with El Jefe.

This has been the first season with Jeff as the Team Rogue coach and I’ve enjoyed working with him. It’s been interesting having him get “comfortable” and “get to know” all of us in the group, I can see him tuning things to us individually now as he’s gotten to know us, what we need and what we respond to.  After CIM we’ll roll into Boston marathon training. It’ll be the second season with Jeff and I’m excited about how he adjusts our training now that we’ve had a full training season together. If you’re looking for a group of committed people to train and run with come join us.




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/H0ccABXLQVg/
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Not a running post, been a while. Driving back from the San Antonio half marathon today I was reminded by many mentions on the radio that it’s veterans day today. It reminded me of a really moving experience that was recounted to me, and also of a recent disappointment. First the good.

The story is short and sweet and about a veteran. The story ends with a first mortgage payment. One of the realizations of the American dream many would say. The road to that first mortgage payment wasn’t easy though. This veteran used to be one of the many homeless veterans (17% of the homeless are veterans) in Austin. The veteran got off the streets, was part of a transitional housing program that Green Doors provides. The veteran then moved into an affordable housing program (again with Green Doors), managed to find employment, moved into his own apartment and eventually his own home … and made his first mortgage payment. When I heard this story I really was lost for words, the good that comes from enabling somebody to transform their own lives is immeasurable.

So now the bad. The affordable housing I mentioned would not have been possible without the 2006 housing bounds approved by the citizens of Austin. Proposition 15 which failed to pass last week was going to enable organizations in Austin like Green Doors to expand their affordable housing programs, something that is desperately needed. What’s done is done.

Anyway, I also wanted to thank all of you that supported Prop 15 and continue to support organizations like Green Doors with your time and money.

 




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/KWXRYZA-rzk/
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That question has to be one most people training for marathons wonder about all the time. You have a good workout, then you have an ok workout, once in a while you just have an all out shitty workout. And then there’s the season where every run, every workout is amazing and the race just sucks. It’s never about one run, or even one season really. You just have to keep going. The most important thing has to be believing in your training, the ups and downs are just what they are.

If you haven’t been able to tell from my previous few blogs my mental angst has more to do with comparing myself to 2010, undoubtedly my best training and racing season so far. My overall fitness at a poorer level but comparing my log from 2010 to this year things look to be in a decent place. A few people have been sharing a couple of articles lately, one on Lydiard and the other on Canova. In both cases there is an acknowledgement that the base in important, there is some difference in what do once you have the base. Maybe less than the articles would indicate. I noted one thing in the article on Canova:

Once a long run of similar duration to your marathon feels comfortable, then you’ll know it’s time to enter the specific period. At that point, Canova says, “What you need for stimulating is to increase the intensity of the duration.”

Point taken. I have to say that 2008 to 2010 was more of a traditional Lydiard approach for me. But I do remember that in 2010 running 20 miles on a Saturday was just normal to do, it wasn’t hard, it was just something you could do. I feel like this season that’s where I am again. I can run 20 or 22 miles without worrying about it, it’s comfortable so faster work is good. I really needed that year and half in ’09 ’10 to get my base to where it is (something the article also talks about). This season Jeff has had us working in faster paced workouts earlier in the season than I did from 2008 to 2010. I like it, it’s good. The 7 to 8 mile Steady runs, the workouts more at lactate threshold and tempo pace, some faster 10k work on the track.  The paces for each of the workout ranges is slower than 2010 (the price I’m paying for being lazy in 2011) but for where my fitness is I’m managing the workouts so things are lining up for CIM 2012 and beyond.




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/uAmwNm9c96I/
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I’d be lying if I said I’m where I “would like” to be with my fitness. But then where I “would like” to be and “where I should realistically” be are two different stories. 2011 was just a crappy year for training, laziness, lack of motivation, lots of reasons and excuses can be made but it was all on me.

The year and half that ended with CIM in 2010 was my most consistent injury free period of training and the results showed it. Looking at my log since my re-start before Boston this year I noticed that from the beginning of May I’ve managed to run just over 1000 miles! It hasn’t been easy, new job, more travel, difficulty to motivate myself knowing I’m not going to be in PR shape this year (ok time to be realistic, next year this would be nice to be back in the 2010 shape I was in) … in any case I was surprised that I’ve managed to get my average training volume back to the same run rate as 2010. Just need to keep it going for a another year!

 




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/M7lbmfZuoa0/
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I’m not a coach, I’m not a scientist … so I just get to disagree and explain it from my perspective from personal experience, some reading (not as much as James or John), and conversations. What made we want to write about this, these two recent posts:

So why do I disagree. Well I’ve only “bonked once” and that was on a Sunday recovery run after listening to Steve Sisson (who has since changed his mind about not taking any nutrition) and not taking a single Gu for 2 weeks but with not bonking I’ve consistently gotten fitter and faster, going from a 3:57 first marathon to a pr of 2:48 … so YOU CAN GET FASTER WITHOUT BONKING!

I read all this teach your body to burn fat stuff but any reading I’ve done on this brings up a couple of points consistently:

  • fat is a plentiful store and we have lots of it compared to carbs
  • fat per gram is around twice as much energy as carbs
  • fat based energy processing occurs at lower intensities (50ish % of max heart rate) and takes more time
  • your body can only become so efficient at fat burning, and it is good for lower intensities

So it’s those last bullets. Marathon goal pace is more in the 75-80% of max heart rate. So what the hell is fat burning going to do for me there. I can easily keep my body topped off with easy to process carbs with GUs in a marathon. But Kamran you’ll be better off making use of some fat stores too … ok whatever but if I can keep my glycogen stores up I will perform better than not doing it so why only take one GU in a marathon? And since your body can only really become so efficient at processing fat, and it’s really for lower intensities why should I train my body in that state? I don’t really want to enter a deficit and train for a deficit of energy for my marathon. I’m going to hydrate, take electrolytes and enough energy to be able to go as hard as I can for the entire 26.2 miles … carbs are the way to go for me.

Now I don’t want to discount everything John and James said but wanted to make the point strongly so people get a different perspective. I’ve been coached by Steve, who James cited, for a many years and that man (apart from being crazy) is an awesome coach. James used a quote from Steve: “The body can adapt to any stress if you give it enough time.” I completely agree with this, but I don’t think this means I should bonk by not taking any energy in during a workout. Running longer than you did the last time is stressing it, making sure you rest to give it enough time to take effect is adapting to the stress. To reach that breaking point both physically and mentally I like what Steve called Race Preps (well that was the p.c. name they used to be called Soul Busters), here’s my recap of one of those and below is an interview with Steve himself after one of them.

That type of workout is the toughest physical and mental challenge I’ve ever done. I took a GU like I was racing, one every 30 to 40 minutes but it didn’t matter, the workout stressed my body to the point where I just couldn’t handle it, being able to keep running was victory! You remember those workouts when you’re racing, you remember you were running half marathon pace on a 28 f$%king mile run … you can handle 4 more miles … suck it up. I don’t really want to remember “bonking”, I want to remember a damn tough workout where I mentally held it together.

So yeah during training you don’t have to Gu every 20 minutes but if you do, well you’re probably taking in more calories than you really need but let’s say you wait an hour and then every 45 minutes or so … that seems like a good idea to me. On a race day take GUs (plural), take electrolytes, drink water, drink Gatorade.

Did you see the Olympic marathoners this year? Did you see them picking up their specially made drinks with the right balance of electrolytes and energy? Well they seem to think it’s a good idea, and they make their living off of this, and I think they’re way way more efficient than me so why the hell would I not take multiple GUs in my race?

Lining up for their bottles at the Olympic Marathon




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/R0PElTjuWQM/
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Consistency is back

Posted by KamranS. Aug 19, 2012

Looks like training is back to something I can sustain regularly. Looking back post Boston Marathon the weekly average mileage has been 60 miles/week. Three and half months till CIM so still a long way to go. It’s been good get back into a regular running habit again, helps with Asia being there to make sure I don’t sleep in the mornings or slack off with the gym work :)




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/RrnK306zYPw/
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Another first for my running

Posted by KamranS. Apr 23, 2012

This weekend was a blast. I ran my first official trail race. It was a 30k race at Walnut Creek Park in Austin, part of the Rogue Trail Series. It’s such a different way of running, a lot more up and down, cutting back and forth, uneven terrain, a little water to run thru and a grilled burger at the finish line. For this coming season of training the crew has been discussing trying to get in some trail runs. After the run this Sunday it’s obvious I do need more strengthening of my lower legs so we’ll hopefully manage a trail run every other weekend for a little variety.

Going into the run this Sunday I wanted to try and stay relatively easy for the first two 10k loops and then pick it up for the last 10k. Things went according to plan and the first two loops were around 55 minutes and the third loop in 50. I’m not sure if the first two laps were easy, it seemed to take 10k just to warm up but my breathing was under control It was a nice feeling to be able to open the legs up in the last lap and a good sign of where my fitness is.

Finishing the First 10k Lap

The next race in the series is at Emma Long Park on May 13th. That course is quite a bit more technical and I’ve only ever run the 10k version before so running 3 laps to get 30k will be challenging. Now it’s back to an easy week of running and then a base building phase of two to three months with the trail races in between.

Oh, my better half finished first overall woman and has the coolest hand made trophy to show for it.

 




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/zpo727i8o-I/
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We recently posted a pre-release version of a driver that allows you to use LabVIEW to interface with Ettus Research USRP hardware. This is an important milestone on the way to full support of Ettus Research hardware in LabVIEW. We’re looking for people that will be part of our early access program for the driver, to help provide feedback and also guide our priorities for Software Define Radi0 (SDR). If you are interested please visit the page, try out the driver and share your feedback on the site: http://decibel.ni.com/content/docs/DOC-14531




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/UPca_lX3_h0/
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It’s been an interesting week for Silverlight given the coverage and interpretation of Bob Muglia’s comments on HTML 5 at the Microsoft PDC and the subsequent re-framing from Bob Muglia and also Scott Guthrie. So hot on the heals of all the Silverlight/HTML5 hoopla we’re releasing the LabVIEW Web UI Builder, a Silverlight based graphical programming editor that creates Silverlight user interfaces! It’ll be “officially” released on Monday but is live today. You can see some previews of the types of applications you can create here and on the UI Builder page.

Heartrate Rate Monitor Sample

Windmill Monitor Simulation Sample

You can try the UI Builder out today, I really do mean today, since it’s a web hosted development environment. You can try its full functionality using your browser, even store your files on-line, for  …. well as long as you want to for now. I know our teams would love to hear your feedback so feel free to comment on this post or use the feedback link in the product itself. Now that the UI Builder t is ready for use I hope to be able to post more about what our teams have been working on, and also try to comment on some of the challenges we faced developing the UI Builder and some of the trade-offs we’ve made.




Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/wbZl6MY5QLE/
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Siliverlight 4 has a few features Chris highlighted during the Silverlight 4 launch keynote that I wanted to expand on as well as a few others that he didn’t demo that we’re trying out. We may not make use of all of them in the LabVIEW UI Builder but they do present some interesting possibilities. One features I wanted to write about today is the Out of Browser feature and ability to run trusted applications. The Web UI Builder is browser hosted and we have gotten some requests for is to be able to install the application locally. With the Out of Browser feature people could connect to the server, “install” the application on their machine (including desktop and start menu shortcuts) and be able to develop off-line.

The other feature related to running out of browser is “trusted applications”. One of the nice things with Siliverlight is the security it brings with sandboxing. This does however mean saving files to the hard drive in locations like the My Documents folder isn’t possible. With Siliverlight 3 this means that files are saved to what ends up being some obscure location on the hard-drive that you really can’t control. With Siliverlight 4 by giving permissions to an application like the UI Builder to run as a trusted application you can save to your local drive in your My Documents folder more freely. This let you logically organize any projects you create with the UI Builder and also to zip a directory up and share it with others.


Tagged: LabVIEW, Silverlight, UI Builder

Originally posted by Kamran at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/anengineerstake/~3/hcNbJQ_qyUE/
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KamranS.

KamranS.

Member since: Feb 21, 2000

At NI I’ve been involved in a number of areas, web (NI Developer Zone being one of them), LabVIEW R&D, as well as LabVIEW Product Marketing.

View KamranS.'s profile