Macs in Chemistry

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LabView on the Mac

I got this email from Urs Lauterberg that summarised two off-track sessions on "LabView on Macs" he organised at the NIWeek meeting.

Dear LabVIEWers on the Mac,

The annual worldwide Virtual Instrumentation Conference ''NIWeek'', which took place from August 7.-9. 2007 near the NI headquarters in Austin, TX has again broken the record number of attendees by gathering a large population of industrial engineers, academic scientists and educators.

During my visit of NIWeek2007 I staged two off-the-tracks presentations about how we use LabVIEW to bring the knowledge of physics to the attention of our students at the University of Bern's Physics Institute. For your information I would like to summarize the content of the brainstorming sessions about the status of LabVIEW on the two side-track-platforms MacOS and Linux that followed each presentation:

1) The momentum of Apple's present steady success in science and education as well as in the creative home domains asks for an adequately balanced and a thoughtful, well tuned selection of LV related software and hardware driver support for the Mac.

2) The above selection should of course include the existing DAQ and GPIB hardware support for PCIe desktop machines but should definitely be extended to high-speed/high-performance NI-USB-DAQ pads as well as more of the low cost ones which are presently supported by the DAQmxBase driver on the Mac. Because of Apple's soaring sales of their laptops there is certainly a substantial demand for USB (or even better IEEE1394) portable DAQ-hardware.

3) Many participants also optionally demand the full featured DAQmx as an addition to the existing DAQmxBase DAQ driver for LabVIEW on the Mac. Some LV-Realtime development should again be possible too.

4) The consistent service of the NI-VISA developers who have been releasing the VISA drivers for all major platforms was honored and perceived as a good example for how the LabVIEW programmers on the Mac would like to be supported.

5) Because of the Mac's strong foundation for scientific graphics and image applications there should be a Vision Toolkit and at least some basic image acquisition, display and analysis support for industrial IEEE1394 digital cameras.

6) A number of users who develop some very specialized LabVIEW based high-end imaging systems would embrace to use Macs in order to offer their edge cutting custom-made systems with Macs instead of being restricted to the actual Vision package on PCs only. For their types of applications it would make great sense and free them of lots of support issues.

7) On the other end people have expressed demand in very low cost hardware support like USB 6009 etc. for educational purposes as well. This, combined with a general cross platform licensing scheme that should make it possible to extend an existing MS-platform LV-license for a handling fee to additionally include the MacOSX or Linux platforms not only in the academia but also for the various industrial license packages, could help to increase the use of LabVIEW on non-MS OSes.

8) As the time consuming and in many ways cumbersome pre-release testing of LV by running all kinds of test routines seems to be the major drawback for cross platform releases of a given piece of software the Mac/Linux users expressed their willingness to cooperate in this domain, thus helping NI with this particular work load. The exact mode and how it should address the NDA issues is subject of an ongoing discussion. The efforts of the strong and active fraction of LV beta testers on the Mac was acknowledged for the useful engagement.

9) Even if the Mac-LV-wireworker fraction is not the largest, it's there and growing, at least in the domains of education and science which could be taken as an indicator of future trends.

10) Finally there was also the question from the participating LV-developers about what type of LV features are mostly needed for the Mac. Shared Variables seems to be the most wanted missing component along with DAQ- Occurrences, Timed Loops, 3D-Graphs, TEDS, TDMS and some I probably forgot about.

If you have further constructive comments or specific demands for future projects along the lines above you may communicate these to this group and/or to Michael Neal who seems to be the present contact for Mac related matter at National Instruments. Michael may be reached by mail through:

Finally, I would like to wholeheartedly thank all those who attended the ''LV on the Mac'' gatherings during NIWeek2007 and those who expressed their interest through numerous mails. Many emails were from users who conduct academic research and who appreciate the power, the stability and the convenience of a solid MacOSX foundation. Some individuals urged me to push for more Linux support as well among the same lines I keep asking for support on the Mac.

Thank you again for supporting the alternative LabVIEW platforms and happy wireworks to everybody


Urs Lauterburg
Physics demonstrator
Physikalisches Institut
University of Bern
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