“Hey everybody, this guy’s a phony!”

Well, I thought I could pull off an A in Chem.  Instead, I got a C.  Thank you failed exam.  Everything right, screw up one thing, BAM, it’s all over.

Interestingly enough I got contacted by someone at UCF today, re: tutoring from the university.  I’m wondering if somehow my name got passed along.  Biology is very cumulative, so I can’t fail the final, but at the same time, how in the #*$^* am I supposed to solve so many math problems in 3 minutes and 50 seconds per question?  This is nuts.

In other news, my academic withdrawal got approved, so…

Another post coming shortly.

Water is always a liquid… H2O(l)

It’s Saturday now.  Fell asleep sometime yesterday, woke up at 9PM, thought it was Saturday morning.  After a while I caught on to the fact that the sun was setting, not rising.  I dunno why this keeps happening.

It’s literally 3 days left of the end of summer semester 2020.  I had my moments, but I persevered and made it through.  At least in academia they can’t fire you from taking time needed to recover from the effects of life on your sanity.  Of course, online classes will only last for so long and then it’ll be back to the salt mines.  So I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Yesterday, we had a quiz in chemistry, the second to last quiz.  Of the 6 quizzes, only 5 count towards the grade, as the lowest quiz grade gets dropped.  I did alright.  Not great, but alright.

Same thing with the tests; there are 5 tests and only 4 count towards the grade.  So I have a good safety net at this point with the potential to do better.  The final exam is coming soon, on July 31st.

I’ve calculated that I need at least an 82% on the final to get an A, and a 44% on the final to finish with a B.  It’s cake at this point.

I don’t like having a test on Monday.  It means I have to study over the weekend, and I’d rather do other things.  Plus, I feel the depression coming again, so I just can’t be bothered.  The semester just needs to be over, I need a break.

Edit: It’s now 7/22, and I sunk into a pretty bad hole.  Yesterday I had therapy and my therapist was really helpful.  There’s no point in going to the hospital for every little thing, it’s just expensive and unnecessary.  Part of learning about being mentally ill is learning how to cope with the mood swings and level yourself out.  So, I’m still not out of it, but today was a lot better than yesterday, by far, and next week is the last week of classes before a 3 week break until fall semester.  A very much needed break indeed.

“NI” is now “NI”

For starters, I’ll introduce myself. I have worked at various companies over the last 10 years since finishing my Master’s degree in electrical engineering. Around the time I was graduating with my Bachelors, I started working in a Biology lab, and eventually, I got to get dirty with LabView. Back then, the latest release was 8.6.1. Several of the subsequent versions following were horribly unstable, and combined with my poor use of SubVIs, I accomplished my task, but LabVIEW was rather unwieldy.

I used to work at National Instruments, I hope I can say that here. I worked there for about 3.5 years, in Austin. Even back in 2012 the company was already started to change. The major rebranding of the company and the new website look were inevitable really. I had the opportunity as a RF test engineer to work on many of the key products NI wanted to bring to market. I won’t list them here for privacy reasons.

Oddly enough, I did my master’s thesis using a USRP version 1 from Ettus Research, which I later learned had been bought by National Instruments. It’s no surprise I wound up working at NI when I was already so familiar with their hardware. To this day, I still work in that same biology lab, and I have been on 2 expeditions to the Amazon to research south American Electric Knifefishes. We have come up with some very unique solutions to the challenges of working in the Amazon (not just the mosquitoes!). For example, the NI-6216 USB is self powered from USB, so we used it in combination with a ruggedized tablet computer and an amplifier or two to do in situ recording.

Enough about that, the new NI branding is a bit concerning. All of the places I have worked, with the exception of National Instruments themselves, were not overflowing with money (and neither was NI for that matter, it just so happens that when you can build your own test equipment, you tend to use it in your own test solutions for testing product. Quite simply, it’s cheaper (for them, anyway).

The 2nd to last company I worked for was so poor off, and hanging on for dear life, at least until the new owners in China figured out how to shut down this particular plant (I don’t know if they have or ever will), that they couldn’t properly license Windows on the PXI controllers in the test racks. There was a very serious problem, because the Chinese engineers would come in and survey the test equipment, study it, etc. Well, they didn’t have antivirus on the controllers, and apparently the Chinese don’t know what viruses are, so a worm found it’s way into the floor network. Every XP machine would broadcast itself out to other vulnerable machines. After enough time, those machines would eventually go into a boot loop. You couldn’t even boot into safe mode. Now you have a real mess, because the LabVIEW versions that run on XP are not the same as what runs on Windows 7.

Anyway, I’ve worked on and off as a test engineer between 4 jobs because either A) my health wouldn’t hold up, or B) I just couldn’t be bothered.

I’ve considered becoming a freelancer and writing LabVIEW code from home. More as a software engineer role. But for now, I’m a student who is actually studying Biology and I am happy to be back in academia again, right here in sunny and warm Florida.

As far as “NI is now NI” goes, I don’t think we have seen just what NI is trying to accomplish yet. My NDA is long expired, but the pattern should be obvious. NI’s days of making test equipment won’t end; what NI is attempting to do is systems engineering and custom test solutions. Really, it’s that simple. The NI-STS uses PXI VNAs, for example. Imagine trying to build a test jig with a 48 port VNA inside? This is NI’s future plan for success, and I do hope they don’t lose track of that.

Personally, I am glad I left NI when I did. There’s a certain sense of pride in the company culture, or at least there was. I can only imagine how NI is now, with a new CEO after Dr. T stepped down.

I truly hope that LabVIEW TOG (The original generation) will not disappear. I refuse to use LabVIEW 2020 based on the reports of how they have crippled it. A lot of companies, quite frankly, don’t want the latest and greatest, because when you build a test station, you don’t won’t equipment drivers that are brand new… You want to fall back on a proven and stable system. NI will seriously shoot themselves in the foot if they stop supporting LabVIEW TOG and it’s associated drivers.

IMHO, this change is change for no particular reason, other than to highlight National Instruments as some sort of “game changer”. Here’s a thought for you NI: Lead by example. Prove your software and hardware is stable enough for a production environment. Down time costs money.

I haven’t touched LabVIEW NXG, except briefly when it first came out. All I can say is, I hope there is not a huge learning curve to it, or you’re just going to push customers away.

Don’t fix what ain’t broken, and don’t break it so you can “fix” it.


When I should have quit, but didn’t.

Back in Maryland, I was busy working away on my tasks, when it started to strike me (pun intended?) that something rather odd was going on outside weather-wise.  There’s only one window in the lab I worked in.  By the time I realized it was raining sideways, it was too late to protect the thousands of dollars worth of keysight equipment sitting on the desk for myself and my colleague to use, not to mention, prototype units of the DUT.

So, of course, as you can imagine, I immediately started unplugging things.  There wasn’t even time to safely shut things down, they wen’t unplugged right then and there.  You can hear the sound of transformers arcing outside from who knows what.

I guess my supervisor didn’t care if lightning blew up our equipment or DUTS.  The test boxes were on loan from Keysight anyway, so why should he care?  I think otherwise.  If there’s no UPS, and you have no ability to discern the weather that is coming, you’re basically throwing away money.  Which is ironic, because typically people try to avoid that sort of thing, not the other way around.

I’m sure the building, or at least the lab, was on some sort of power protection.  A brown-out can still damage a power supply.  I know from experience that power supplies in test equipment usually have to have some of the tightest tolerances in a power supply you can manufacture.  Dirty power can and will result in poor quality of measurement, for a variety of reasons.

This particular storm knocked out power all over the place.  This must’ve been a major thing for Maryland, because here in Florida we tend not to have issues like this.

After my DUT had been vibration tested, it was now receiving the “Act-of-God” test, aka HiPOT in the most visceral way possible.

For my own sake, I should’ve recognized this as a red flag.  First, you can’t work when the power is constantly on and off again.  Even if you could attempt to boot your computer, the power would fail anyway.  Second, while I understand prototypes are of limited quantity, if you’re going to take a good DUT and do vibration testing on it, what and how am I supposed to be sure that the measurements I make in my prototype software yield reliable, repeatable, accurate results?  Third, the LabVIEW API we were using to talk to the hardware was essentially a SSH terminal hidden behind the scenes, so to speak.  SSH is not meant to be used like this.  I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t have used an RS232 port, or even a RS232 to USB adapter to talk to the linux console running on the SoC.  At least then, you don’t need to pay for an SSH API from a 3rd party company.  It’s not a perfect solution either, but then, neither is GPIB, so what else is new?  Perhaps, better yet, JTAG could come in handy, but I wasn’t responsible for that so I don’t know if JTAG was used.

Anyway, yeah.  That job was ridiculous, and all because it was under the pretentious guise that since they were paying for an expert (at doing FFTs in Excel), I should’ve been done with all the code and ensuring everything was polished up nicely in about 5-6 weeks time.  I’ve worked in manufacturing.  I know what goes on in these places.  You don’t just sit down, cruise through the code, and then expect everything to work right from the start.

Add in to this the random occasional condescending attitude (not just from my supervisor), and you have the makings of the most horrible job I have ever worked.  Even putting 50 lb bags of dog food on a shelf at Target was better than this.

Mama give me my medicine, the one that makes me feel so tall.

Filter – Welcome to the Fold.

This one goes way back for me.  I remember on ECNet that there used to be a user who stayed in her own channel and pretty much hung around IRC all day.  People gravitated toward her.  Back then, ECNet had a shoutcast server, and I would volunteer to DJ for “ECNet Radio”.  One day I played this song, and after I did so, I got a request to send a copy to this particular person.

As it turns out, she was alone, no family or kids to take care of her.  If I recall, she had cancer and was terminal.

At Christmas time several years ago now, she asked for several people’s address, and I received a postcard in the mail from her, all the way from the UK.  I think I still have the card somewhere.

Not long later, she wasn’t on IRC anymore, and that was that.

I don’t know what else to write.