“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.


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