Should FIRST Release the 2009 Control System beta Libraries and information?

The beta test teams currently have access to beta versions of the libraries for the compactRIO. While the limited number of compactRIO controllers obviously limits the size of the beta test, FIRST is compounding the advantage by limiting access to the programming libraries, and other controller information, to those teams.

While the explaination given for this is that they don’t want teams to panic/plan based on inaccurate or unfinalized information, I think it is patronizing of FIRST to presume that the non-beta test teams are incapable of handling this.

I may be in the wrong about this, and so I am putting this poll up to see what the rest of the FIRST community thinks.

I think the “panic” concern is legitimate, but at the same time I think that’s outweighed by the need to keep the playing field level. I’m still a bit put-off about the way the beta test is being handled, but the time for debate on that matter is passed.

I’d at the very least like a systematic overview of what capabilities are/are not offered and the general structure, if we can’t have code.

You know, it’s called “beta test” for a reason. If a video game is in the beta test stages, maybe a few thousand people are playing it out of millions, and NOBODY else has access.

The “test” part means that those libraries are most likely untested or not tested under “battle conditions”.

FIRST may be assuming that the other teams can’t handle it, but probably not. I would actually assume that they know that the teams (for the most part) can handle it, but choose not to so that there aren’t 1500+ solutions to a problem which could be more easily solved by fifteen teams finding a better solution.

I would actually say that by controlling the release of those libraries, they are doing us a favor by making sure that said libraries are complete. Which is worse: Knowing that a library is there and not having access, or having access only to find out the hard way that it doesn’t have what you need?

Or, for another example, say FIRST accidentally released part of the Manual early. One of the parts talking about the game, say, in early December. Maybe it’s missing a subsection; maybe it isn’t quite clear. Teams start planning. Then they release the game in January and lo and behold, there’s an extra subsection, it’s a whole lot clearer, and there’s a major change. Would you be confused? That’s probably why they’re holding it back.

The beta test teams’ advantage will disappear quickly as teams get their units and build on the beta testers’ data.

One of the reasons for the limited number of beta test teams was the limited availability of the cRio’s. a bigger reason is that the FIRST developers and NI developers working on this project can only answer questions to a limited number of ppl.
Even with the 18 teams, there is a lot of discussion going on and i am having a hard time keeping up with all of it, lots of bugs are being fixed.

at this stage, the codes are not very useful if you cannot ask questions from the developers and they cannon answer questions to everyone.
As soon as the code is in a stage that is usable by the FIRST commiunity, it will be released.

The primary issue with having access to the libraries is being aware of code structure. Just as the 2005-2008 controllers all had code that required a certain structure (user_rountines.c, different places for autonomous and teleoperated code), the CompactRIO is almost certainly getting a structure with a simliar function. While even if we cant program with the libraries, we can still design template code.

Current Poll Status:
16 For
4 Against

And if the libraries have a flaw? What happens to that code? Do you fix it? If so, do you publish the fix? What if 1500+ teams do the same thing?

If the libraries have a flaw, and teams design around the libraries, even in template, would you want to be responsible for the resulting confusion, failed code, etc.? I wouldn’t. Neither, apparently, does FIRST. Hence, the beta test.

I have one other question. Would you rather have had no “guinea pigs”? No beta testers to make sure the system works? Or would you rather have 1500+ teams having trouble?

Seeing as FIRST is doing a beta test, we have to accept the conditions. I’m sure that FIRST will release the libraries as soon as possible.

Does anyone know if the controller will be available early for rookie teams, from what I remember it will be available early for veteran teams. Just wondering if it will be the same for rookie teams.

The beta test is an important part of integrating the new controller into FIRST and I have no problem with that.

While I have no doubt that many teams will choose to sit out the beta test and wait for the results, there should be a way for teams who want to see the libraries to do so. To ensure that teams who look at beta code and information know about the risks of using beta code, perhaps they could register to get read-only access to the beta test forum. This would also prevent the problem of having 1500+ solutions generated for each problem.

Even with the libraries, without the CompactRIO the non-beta test teams are not going to be activly debugging them. We will just get an overview of how the robot is controlled. While we need a beta test, there is no reason why non-beta test teams shouldn’t have access to the beta information if they want it.

I think it’s first-come-first served… I seem to remember that it’s any team can ask for it to be sent early, but they pay shipping.

As a member of 1114’s beta-testing team, I’ve seen the C/C++ code for the new controller, and in my opinion it’s still somewhat rough around the edges. I think releasing it to teams now would just result in confusion, and dozens of people pointing out the same flaws to the code’s maintainers.

Tell that to FIRST. FIRST, for reasons known only to them, has chosen not to release the information. If this is to change, teams must ask for it. Also, there is the public forum.

Once again, if we want a change in FIRST, we must ask FIRST to change.

That’s what I am trying to do. I just plan to let the poll sit for a couple of days, and if the % in favor of releaseing seems impressive enough, I’ll write to FIRST asking them to release the information.

p.s. The public forum has very little information

I think one problem with the beta test are the group applications. Essentially, teams that applied together are getting access to all the information and code, even though they only have 1 compactRIO. Many more teams than the 18 beta testers have access to the code. Why shouldn’t every team.

It is notable that many of the disenters are either from Beta Teams or in the beta testing groups. Your teams obviously feel themselves prepared to deal with the perils of beta code and information, why do you want to deprive that right from others.

While I think many people in the beta teams disagree with me about the release of information, please remember that FIRST is a competition, and they are being given an advantage. Thier programming and electronics people will be much better prepared at the start of the competition than the rest of the teams. While I don’t resent them for being accepted into the beta tests, and I understand this test is necessary, as part of the FIRST community and pillars of the FIRST competition, they should be using thier influence to level the playing field, not fight against it.

When a beta tester says that he doesn’t think the other teams are ready to see what his team is allowed to, he either being condesending, or trying to retain his teams competative advantage.

Give them time. The teams got their units earlier in the week. You don’t expect teams to do ALL the testing in one week or less, do you?

It is notable that many of the disenters are either from Beta Teams or in the beta testing groups. Your teams obviously feel themselves prepared to deal with the perils of beta code and information, why do you want to deprive that right from others.
I have not been on the team I graduated from for two years. This year, I will have no team by my own choice. And it isn’t just the beta teams, it’s WFA winners. Remember 159 teams applied, but only 18 were accepted. I’m sure FIRST would have liked 159 teams, but that’s the way things are.

When a beta tester says that he doesn’t think the other teams are ready to see what his team is allowed to, he either being condesending, or trying to retain his teams competative advantage.
Or, he sees something that he thinks is not right and is buying time for a fix to be implemented.

Remember, the beta teams are required to teach other teams about what they learn. If they don’t, FIRST could have them send their unit back.

EDIT: Elliot, I think someone beat you to it.

okay to all of you who think the code and stuff should be released early, take a second, go back and read some of the stuff in the technical forum here on chiefdelphi. find a thread with more than 50 posts in it, got one good, now read all the replies, I will give you a sec… good no sort through all those replies, and tell me how many were useful… good now out of those useful replies tell me how many were someone repeating that information over again, now tell me how many contratict each other, now how many are just someone saying something like this is great or i agree or i dont like it or just a random post not relaying any useful information. now imagine that x 10 and that is what you will get if you open all this early to everyone so Dave Lavery has said it before, and although its raining in NJ right now i’ll reitterate GO OUTSIDE get some fresh air enjoy life, then worry about robots.

I think that in this stage a limited number of people should have access to the codes and clean it up. no one meant any specific team neither they intended to be condescending.

FIRST has a limited number of developers working on this new control system and if they are bombarded by hundreds of email per day asking almost the same questions, they cannot efficiently isolate problems and fix it, nor they can answer the questions.

Teams don’t need the golden code, but it would be nice to see the libraries and VI’s. They may have bugs but what is important for now is to see the over all structure that we will be programming into. That way teams can plan for training.

That’s exactly why I think we at least need some sort of documentation. We have 3-4 new programmers and little time to teach them – I’d like to be able to use that time as wisely as possible.

The thing I’m most curious about is what we’ll have in terms of vision libraries to go with the camera.

More eyes on the code will result in better code. Hardware is not required to do “code review” or read and digest documentation. However, time is required for all these tasks.

FIRST success is based on thousands of volunteers putting in hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours. The build season is already intense enough. I have given many FIRST software and hardware workshops. For a new topic, my preparation starts several months ahead of the scheduled date (I have to squeeze the work in around the day job and family committments). 18 teams cannot possibly meet the need for all of the training and workshops that need to be given for the 2008/09 season. Get all the information out ASAP so that we can ALL begin digesting, learning, and preparing.

FIRST created the Beta Test public forums so that teams could ask specific questions like this. Unfortunately, no teams have really taken advantage of that resource. So go there and ask away.

I am planning for training. I hear mid November release. I’m planning for December training. A whole month. If we’re lucky it’ll be early November release, or after Thanksgiving. Not so lucky if it’s released when I’m eating my turkey. :slight_smile:

What would you like? See it now with all it’s mistakes? From what I’ve seen (and here too) it’s being polished up and final corrections made. The Beta people have to wade thru all the text and make things work. Think MPLab or EasyC with instructions that has sections missing or – worse – sections that may or may not have errors in it.

There are places that are showing off the new system – check the 2009 FRC Control System Beta Test Public Forum for locations. I did your work for you, none yet in the SF area. But I’m sure there will.

I’m not a beta tester, and though I was contemplating it, it turns out New England wasn’t in the running as WPI was here.

Beta testing is tough work. You have to take time out from your regular work (or schoolwork) to figure stuff out, and that’s only part of the whole testing. You have to make it presentable, then present it all to other teams – and that’s still only part of the job. After the release you have to explain details of everything, how you got that, and all your findings, plus all your code you created with the beta testing. (You did see the agreement in the FIRST forum, didn’t you?) Then, after Kickoff, you still have to be available to other teams to explain things, which takes time out from your programming.

I don’t think that was called for.

Yes, I’d like the info early, too. I’d like the 2009 Game early, for that matter. It’ll get here soon enough.