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Unread 04-19-2008, 10:57 AM
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Arrow C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

As a team that hasn't developed a very strong programming base yet, we are considering switching from C/MPLAB to LabVIEW next year. I think that it would be much easier for inexperienced students.

1) What is your team planning to use?
2) What do you think will become the new standard?
3) What will most rookie teams pick next year?
4) Do you think FIRST will give us the standard LabVIEW, or will we have a customized interface for the CompactRIO?
5) We have some NXTs. Would programming them using LabVIEW be a good way to get some experience before next year's kickoff?
6) Will there be any limitations to using LabVIEW? Will there be any features that are easily accessibly throught LabVIEW but require complex C? What are the main advantages/disadvantages?

Thanks so much, any advice is greatly appreciated.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 11:50 AM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

generally lab view isn't bad, there really isn't any thing wrong with it, it makes programming sensors easier. But it feels like i'm programming in photoshop. And when you can type 100 wpm (words per minute), the click and drag feels slow.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 11:58 AM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

1). well we used WPILib this year so there woulnt be a problem with use codeing in C/C++ next year. with that said we are already looking in to how to use labview because we think that we will be able to do alot more with labview than with C/C++ ( well in 6 weeks that is)

2). I think labview will become the new standard

3). rookies will pick what every has the better how too videos, or the best "getting started with _____" documentation. on that I see them using labview

4). no idea on what first will use . . but for specializations sake it will be standard labview with some custom first functions.

5). I think programing any thing for real is better than programing for "fake". so if you've got some NXTs go a head and use labe view to try some things out.



6). I think the only limitations to labview till be the learning curve, and with the exception of maybe some very easy "push button - raise arm" code every thing will be "more difficult" with C/C++
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Unread 04-19-2008, 12:38 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

1) What is your team planning to use?
Not sure at this point. I know LabVIEW pretty well, and C very well, but I'm graduating after next year and I don't really want the C knowledge to die off.

2) What do you think will become the new standard?
LabVIEW. It's a very robust system and it'll be picked up.

3) What will most rookie teams pick next year?
LabVIEW. There will be a lot of documentation (more than previous) on how to use it. Plug fancy videos and everything. It's also easier to look at and trace. These things will prevail when it comes to a rookie team choosing.

4) Do you think FIRST will give us the standard LabVIEW, or will we have a customized interface for the CompactRIO?
They already give teams LabVIEW, I'm going to guess it'll be some addon for it so we can use FIRST functions in it. At least I hope. I don't want a dumbed down version of LabVIEW =(

5) We have some NXTs. Would programming them using LabVIEW be a good way to get some experience before next year's kickoff?
YES. What kind of a question is that? =p

6) Will there be any limitations to using LabVIEW? Will there be any features that are easily accessibly throught LabVIEW but require complex C? What are the main advantages/disadvantages?

Can't say. LabVIEW can seriously do pretty much anything C can. I've made really complicated things in LabVIEW because I couldn't think of an easy way to do it (and it'd have been easy in C), only to find later an easier way, or the function already existed. (I made a function to convert a unsigned to a signed.. I still don't know if such a function exists. When you use LabVIEW functions it truncates the number instead of making it negative, I think).
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Unread 04-19-2008, 01:03 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

I will be using C. I will also modify whichever WPILIB's we use to work the way WE program.

Generally speaking, if you know how to program, any time you add an additional layer of abstraction between you and your robot it is a bad thing. It creates issues (look up the disable to auton switchover that created issues because it went through teleop using an additional layer of abstraction).

In addition, Labview is not a common environment. I understand that it's used - but C is MUCH more widely used and will serve the students better in the future. I'd rather they have a good grasp of programming so they can actually fix problems they run into later rather than having someone else write them a new labview library that functions.

Both have their uses. As far as I'm concerned, Labview is very nice for data acquisition - because as someone said you can grab your sensor module library and plug it in and read your thermocouple temperature, etc. That's not something that's as easy in C. However, it is not for programming complex robotics, no matter how much playing you do with it. Even in industrial applications (we have a large number of test stations in our plant) they use C and underlying ladder logic and rely on Labview for data acquistion. Not control.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 02:17 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

1) What is your team planning to use?
I am planning on coding in C++, as it is what I'm most comfortable in. However, our coach may "strongly suggest" us to use LabVIEW... which would be unfortunate... When I'm faced with graphical programming, I just can't do it. It's not how I work.

2) What do you think will become the new standard?
I think, with nothing to base this off, most teams will stick with programming in C/C++, since most already have an established programming team which knows how to do everything in C, and so, there would be little to no advantage of using LabVIEW.

3) What will most rookie teams pick next year?
I think most will use LabVIEW because, as mentioned before, they have great support and many videos to help out. However, this year, many rookie teams, like mine, chose C over EasyC.

4) Do you think FIRST will give us the standard LabVIEW, or will we have a customized interface for the CompactRIO?
I thought I read somewhere that they ARE doing this, but it was about midnight when I was reading the thread...

5) We have some NXTs. Would programming them using LabVIEW be a good way to get some experience before next year's kickoff?
Yes.

6) Will there be any limitations to using LabVIEW? Will there be any features that are easily accessibly throught LabVIEW but require complex C? What are the main advantages/disadvantages?
One /*dis*/advantage: no commenting out a huge block of code that doesn't work and consequently confuse everyone reading it. See? I need comments!
FIRST / National Instruments stated that there will be parity between the libraries for C and those for LabVIEW, so I think that with an equal understanding of LabVIEW and C, there will be no difference in difficulty.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 03:21 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

Quote:
Originally Posted by markulrich View Post
As a team that hasn't developed a very strong programming base yet, we are considering switching from C/MPLAB to LabVIEW next year. I think that it would be much easier for inexperienced students.

1) What is your team planning to use?
2) What do you think will become the new standard?
3) What will most rookie teams pick next year?
4) Do you think FIRST will give us the standard LabVIEW, or will we have a customized interface for the CompactRIO?
5) We have some NXTs. Would programming them using LabVIEW be a good way to get some experience before next year's kickoff?
6) Will there be any limitations to using LabVIEW? Will there be any features that are easily accessibly throught LabVIEW but require complex C? What are the main advantages/disadvantages?

Thanks so much, any advice is greatly appreciated.
Our team is going to be using C++. The code team is already fluent in C, and we're going to be able to do some amazing stuff with Object-Oriented Programming.

2. I have no clue what will be the standard. It will be interesting to see which way teams swing.

3. I think rookie teams will be using LabView more.

4. I think some sort of customized interface would be released. This will make things interesting.

5. Familiarizing yourself with a language or IDE is always good, regardless of the project. That way when you actually start programming the robot, you know what to do and how to approach it.

6. I personally will always prefer C++ over LabVIEW. While I admit I have no experience with LabVIEW, I like to deal with hard code so I can program line by line, command by command.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 03:32 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

Hmm... I'm considering buying an NXT to practice working with LabView between now and next year's season.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 06:16 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

What do you think is the "best" way to have students learn LabVIEW during the offseason? Is there something better than the lego NXT, something more similar to what FIRST will use? Is there a good simulator (built into LabVIEW??) that students could use at home?
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Unread 04-19-2008, 07:22 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

I think you can make a user interface that you can play around with.

A basic instructional video can be found here.
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Unread 04-19-2008, 08:14 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

1) What is your team planning to use?
I'll let the new programmers pick that. We are starting fresh next year, Our programming "staff" graduates this year.
For my money? I think LabView is amazing


2) What do you think will become the new standard?

I hope it is LabView, but C and C++ has a installed base

3) What will most rookie teams pick next year?

Great question, not sure. Someone stated it will be whoever has the best "How to..."
I tend to agree

4) Do you think FIRST will give us the standard LabVIEW, or will we have a customized interface for the CompactRIO?

I hope it is a full on dev pakage with specialized libraries. That way I will have all of the tools I am used to

5) We have some NXTs. Would programming them using LabVIEW be a good way to get some experience before next year's kickoff?

Yes and No.
Yes because you will learn the drag and drop method.
No because a Full Dev Package of LabView is SO much cooler, with more capability

6) Will there be any limitations to using LabVIEW? Will there be any features that are easily accessibly throught LabVIEW but require complex C? What are the main advantages/disadvantages?

Some one once told me that "LabView allows scientists to act like programmers. It makes the easy things hard but it makes the hard things easy"

I have programmed in LabView and in C (and Pascal and Fortran and...ok enough) and I prefer LabView. I don't even see the difference anymore between C and LV. But I can get up and running fast with LV

I am excited about this. I have always wondered if LabView is a good way to train a programmer.
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Unread 04-20-2008, 09:45 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

1. We will continue to use C, or C++ if OO is really useful for this (think driver control and complex modular end effector systems)

2. C is the industry standard, and frankly, I think that C will continue, at least with veteran teams, just because things like dealing with packet data and interfacing new systems are easier to handle with a text-based language. All experimentation, and complex robot code will probably be done in C. Debugging, though, is where Labview will begin to dominate, since building GUIs is so much easier, and teams can make really nice dashboards.

3. Rookie teams will probably use Labview, just because it doesn't look as intimidating as a C environment with all the functions and brackets, and everything. Things like functions, arguments, parameters, and variable types are all nicely obscured.

4. Was a new version of LabVIEW created specifically for this competition?
A: NI is creating a custom build of LabVIEW made specifically to meet the needs of the FRC
competition. The graphical programming environment, though, is the same one used by hundreds
of thousands of students and engineers worldwide.

That's from the FAQs on the WPI FRC Resources site.

5. YES, NXT would be a great way to prep for LabView (it familiarizes you with wires and stuff like that.) Data flow programming is a slightly different paradigm, and NXT would be good practice.

6. GUIs are very easy with Labview. I've tried Python, C, Java, and VB, and for GUIs related to I/O processing, nothing is easier than LabView. On the other hand, we did have problems with VIs crashing, i.e., CMU2Cam, but hopefully this has been fixed. It just works, and there is amazing documentation if you need it. On the other hand, it will be harder to do a lot of the low-level stuff hard-core embedded systems programmers love to do. Interfacing a custom router, or a PS3 would be a lot harder to code. The capabilities of the C libraries will be easier to modify, and existing C code can be easily ported over, so a lot more code exists. And innovative systems, like the Autoflex 2.0 might take more effort to code.

Personally, I'm planning on having the new programmers on our team write the debuggers and dashboards with LabView, so they learn programming concepts at least, and don't get overwhelmed by the power and complexity of C. But slowly, we will move them from debuggers and dashboards to real robot code, which we will continue to write in C.

Last edited by programMORT11 : 04-20-2008 at 10:42 PM.
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Unread 04-20-2008, 11:20 PM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

I prefer C++ myself, but I'm going to have to learn labview either way because I'll pretty much be the only programmer on my team next year ( subteam leader graduating...) I'd like to give the choice to new programmers about which one they want to use, and I'll be learning both to help them with whichever one they choose. Also, the simplicity of probing and analyzing video data is very tempting... The best option for me at least, is to hope that NI finalizes their compatibility stuff, so that we get to use vis with dlls interchangeably and vice versa instead of choosing one and sticking with it..
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Unread 04-21-2008, 12:18 AM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

ComradeNikolai made a comment about commenting above, and I thought I should comment on it.

1) Comments should be used for . . . comments. Aside from debugging during development, commented-out code is likely a bad thing. If you find yourself looking at code with large sections commented out, it may be time to consider cleaning up unused, broken, or out-dated code.

2) One of the structures in LabVIEW is a "diagram disable block" which acts like commenting out code in a text-based language. You can still see the underlying code, but a transparent block is above it and the code will not run.
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Unread 04-21-2008, 12:27 AM
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Re: C or LabVIEW: CompactRIO

I think what some people are going to label LabVIEW as is the rookie standard... which really isn't true at all. LV is powerful; extremely powerful. The 'flowgraph' portion of LV is very high level, yet based on modifiable low-level code. Anyone who makes their robot in C will quickly realize how un-needed it is at the level the FRC competition is going to. you only have 6 weeks to program, and lets say the challenge is to autonomously pick out 15 red colored balls from a pile of 150 multicolored balls. Anyone using C programming from scratch will be in the pit because no easy-to-use library really exists for the task at hand. in LV, however, the vision and manipulation libraries are extensive, and the ability to add new libraries further adds to the power.

true, labview's libraries probably could be ported to work with a standard C compiler, and probably already have.
but isn't it easier to maintain the code when you can see it all at once, while it is natively written in a followable flowchart form?
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