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NIWeek 2011

August 2, 2011

Talk about a grand finale to the first day of NIWeek 2011! This year's annual Block Diagram Party featured a toast to honor the 25th anniversary of LabVIEW, a double-dare style trivia game, and an action-packed NIWeek Scavenger Hunt. Jeff Kodosky, better known as the Father of LabVIEW, kicked off the night's festivities with a toast to the original developers of LabVIEW 1.0, the entire LabVIEW community, and the current software development team, who put their brilliant heads together to design today's most exciting product release, LabVIEW 2011. As a robot powered by LabVIEW buzzed around the audience, the group raised their glasses to the past, present, and future of graphical system design.



photo1.jpgCheers to LabVIEW!

The LabVIEW 1.0 developers (above) and a copy of LabVIEW signed by the original team (below)


Next up: the much-anticipated Challenge of the Champions! Two four-person teams (the Challengers and the Champions) faced off, each answering trivia questions to avoid a coding challenge tie-breaker. Their LabVIEW knowledge was put to the test with simple questions like, "Who is the Father of LabVIEW?" (Hint: see above) to real toughies such as, "What four block diagram structures were available in LabVIEW 1.0?" In the final moments of the contest, the underdogs pulled through, ultimately defeating the LabVIEW champions and winning $50 gift cards (Don't worry, the former champs didn't go home empty-handed. NI just gave them $25 gift cards instead).

photo 2.jpg

Underdogs...Can't Help But Love 'Em.

In an exciting head-to-head competition, the challengers defeated the LabVIEW champions.


But the fun didn't stop there. NIWeek attendees finished their evening with a scavenger hunt that boasted some pretty awesome prizes, if we may say so ourselves: an Apple Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter, Apple Beats by Dr. Dre Solo Headphones, and Apple TV. The tasks integrated with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and the NI Community, and ranged from the simple, such as "Update your current Facebook status and tag NIWeek," to the straight-up silly: "Form a conga line for at least one minute and get at least five people to join you." After twenty minutes of racing around the expo floor, the teams turned in their score sheets and the lucky winner was announced.

photo 5.jpgTo the Winner Goes the Spoils...

First-place winner Michael Reed poses with his new Apple Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter



Think the Block Diagram Party sounds cool? You betcha...but it's only Day 1. Check in with the NIWeek Community tomorrow to catch more exciting news and events!


Every year there are sessions with titles that include "easy" or "explained" or "for non-experts". These sessions have various levels of success. I just walked out of one that was a clear winner. "Fuzzy Logic For Most of Us" by Norm Dingle took on the task of teaching an audience, most of whom are fairly far from their last math course, the principles of fuzzy logic and how to use the Fuzzy Logic Toolkit available for LabVIEW, all in one hour. And he did it. Multiple people leaving the session commented that they now understood the basic idea and felt they could apply the idea to some of their problems. Norm spent the first 20 minutes showing how the basic mathematics work, with a graphical approach that was easy to follow. Then he used the toolkit to build a fuzzy function for changing the speed of a motor based on the ambient temperature, with fuzzy concepts like "if hot then run fast". Then he showed a couple of example programs of other successful fuzzy logic apps. He moved through the topics quickly and made sure to deliver useful information in every sentence.


Definitely a successful session!


The NIWeek expo hall opens today! Meet with more than 200 exhibiting companies, which you can find on page 68 in the NIWeek program, and stop by the following pavilions:


  • LabVIEW Zone: The LabVIEW Zone highlights how graphical system design helps users tackle some of the most challenging engineering and scientific problems of our time. Stop by to see examples of systems built with LabVIEW and to hear from users about how LabVIEW has increased their productivity. Also sign up for the Challenge the Champions contest and the LabVIEW Coding Challenge in the LabVIEW Zone.


  • Connect @NIWeek Lounge: Take a break and relax in the Connect @NIWeek Lounge in the back of the Exhibition Hall. In the lounge you’ll find comfortable couches, Wi-Fi connection, and electrical outlets so you and your devices can recharge throughout the conference.


  • Technology Theater: Check out page 72 in the NIWeek program to see the schedule for the Technology Theater. These 30-minute sessions include presentations from NI, Intel, Xilinx, MIT, and more.


In addition, be sure to check out all the awesome demos showcasing NI hardware and software. If you’ve already had a chance to scope out the expo floor, leave a comment and tell us about your favorite demos so far!


After the much-anticipated release of LabVIEW 2011, an exciting keynote presentation, and an endless amount of cool demos, the expo floor was buzzing with excitement on the first day of NIWeek. This is the largest NIWeek to date, with more than 3,300 attendees, 222 sessions, and 108 exhibitors, and everyone is ready to see what else is in store.


We met up with Norm Dingle from Noblesville, Indiana, who is now attending his third NIWeek. Norm is most looking forward to meeting up with industry friends and enjoying this year’s NIWeek.



If you aren’t at NIWeek in person, make sure to stay tuned into the NIWeek Community for more updates on new product releases, keynote speeches, and inspiring demos featured on the expo floor.


At the LabVIEW Partners Network luncheon today, NI announced the winners for LabVIEW Add-On of the Year. These are products from our users that increase the power of other users.



Congratulations, again, to all the winners!


All of these -- and many more -- are available on the LabVIEW Tools Network. Visit it today to enchance the power of your LabVIEW application:


The first keynote event of NIWeek 2011 represented a veritable Chex Mix of fun for technophiles. From a crash course on the history of measurement technologies to the future of LTE communications and everything in between, no matter what industry you represent, there was something in the event for everyone to get their fix.


NI president, CEO, and cofounder Dr. Truchard opened the day by explaining how, when he entered the industry in the early sixties, general purpose analog instrumentation was king of innovation – and had been since the 1920s. The sensitivity and cost of those instruments, among other drawbacks, kept the process of invention and deployment at a snail’s pace compared to today. Then came the era of transistors and ICs, which started a continually accelerating trend of efficiency gains and miniaturization that carried engineering through the next 45 years, until now. Truchard then summarized how we are now in the era of graphical system design, where software, not instrumentation, takes center stage. How engineers can now reach new levels of productivity by using LabVIEW system design software as the tool that pulls together instrumentation of any type, for any application.


Following Truchard was Eric Starkloff, NI VP of test and industrial embedded marketing, who hosted several teams of NI engineers and customers who demonstrated all sorts of productivity gains achieved with NI products. The demonstrations included many new NI products, including the following:


  • NI VeriStand 2011 for real-time test, demonstrated in an avionics solution
  • The first multicore NI CompactRIO and one-slot Single-Board RIO, seen in evolving smart-grid technologies
  • The industry’s highest-performing 14 GHz RF PXI Vector Signal Analyzer, outperforming the Agilent PXA in head-to-head RF test combat
  • Multiple new products for semiconductor test, including new SMU and PPMU tools
  • Wireless CompactDAQ and other cDAQ devices, used to create an NI version of the popular Angry Birds video game – Angry Eagles. (Complete with a giant slingshot device on stage.)
  • LabVIEW 2011, of course, the heart of the NI approach to graphical system design


Starkloff and his team unveiled these and many other products as well as teasing the audience with talk and demos of some forthcoming NI innovations. It was a great opening to NIWeek 2011. And if today was any indication of what the rest of the week holds, we’re all in for an exciting time.


To get detailed information about the new products unveiled today, visit


Monday's technical session titled "The Actor Framework: Communication Among Independent Top-Level VIs" included a note that one of the demos during this morning's keynote would be powered by the Actor Framework, although that tidbit wouldn't be discussed in the keynote itself. Audience members were told to watch for the NI Eagle over a moonlit sea. Well, it appears that the keynote presenters decided to go with a sunny beach instead of a moonlit bay, but the Angry Eagles demo was still powered by the Actor Framework. There were multiple actors in that application, one controlling the actual drawing UI, one updating the physics engine, one monitoring the sensors and a few others for various internal processes to give a seamless application out of mutliple independent parts.


To learn more about the Actor Framework, including watching a video of yesterday's presentation, visit the Actor Framework in the Community forums:


On Monday at NIWeek, Ryan King presented "Advanced Error Handling". This session will be reprised today at 3:30pm. I encourage anyone writing applications with LabVIEW to attend Ryan's talk.


Error handling is a tricky topic. It is far more than "skip downstream functions if error in is set" and "display an error in a dialog box". There are times when you need to trap an error and translate it to a different error. There are times when you need to retry a function until the error does not occur. There are times when you just need to suppress the error. And then there are an endless list of activities that you might need to do in your particular app to compensate for a specific error ("hardware on fire" may require "start fire suppression system").


Ryan walks the audience through APIs available from National Instruments and third parties to create a truly robust error generation-propagation-handling-reporting system -- far more comprehensive than General Error Even if you don't absorb all the details about error handling in this one session, you will at least have a better awareness of the complexity of the problem, so the next time you're writing an application, you can pause and think about that error wire and whether it's really doing what your system needs it to do.


And we're back for another awesome NIWeek. In addition to all the tracks, summits, special events, and Peer2Peer roundtables that begin today, here are a few things to keep on your radar:


  • Dr. T's opening keynote at 8:30 a.m. in Ballroom D - Don't miss today's keynote, featuring Dr. Truchard and Eric Starkloff, NI Vice President of Marketing for Test and Industrial Embedded. Be sure to tune in as these NI leaders get us ramped up and excited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of LabVIEW. We'll also get to check out some of the latest product and technology demos and hear about real-world graphical system design solutions.
  • NI Community Block Diagram Party at 5 p.m. in the Expo Hall - I love that we will do anything to get "block diagram" into an official conference party name. Works every year! Anyway, don't miss the first party of NIWeek! Enjoy food and drinks and hang out with your fellow LabVIEW developers. And if you're up for a little friendly competition, participate in the third annual scavenger hunt (starting at 6:20 p.m. in the Connect @NIWeek Lounge) for a chance to win an awesome grand prize!
  • Texas Day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Austin Convention Center - Tuesday is also Texas Day at NIWeek! If you're an engineering professional from around the state, be sure to attend the special luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Expo Hall Cafe to meet local NI field engineers and NI Alliance Partners.
  • Challenge the Champions from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. in the Expo Hall - Sign up in the LabVIEW Zone to participate in an interactive trivia competition that puts a team of NIWeek contestants against the LabVIEW Champions for bragging rights and prizes.


Check back here all week for real-time conference updates, new product demos, videos of cool stuff happening on the show floor, and more. Also, for official conference info, or to tune into what attendees are saying about Shark Week, follow @NIWeek and @LabVIEW.