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Little-Known Programming Languages That Actually Pay

CaptainPhoton LabVIEW anyone? (242 comments)

I saw MATLAB mentioned here quite a bit. I cut my teeth on MATLAB in the 90s to prototype DSP algorithms, but LabVIEW has become my replacement workhorse for that sort of stuff since Y2K. Even through the dot-com bust there was no shortage of LabVIEW work. I'm mostly a C/C++ embedded guy these days, but LabVIEW is still in my grab bag for rapid app development.

about three weeks ago

How Relevant is C in 2014?

CaptainPhoton How relevant is the Linux kernel in 2014? (641 comments)

The largest program I build each day is the Linux kernel.

When I ask the question "How relevant is the Linux kernel in 2014?", the relevance of C becomes hard to question considering its 15 million lines or so. ;)

about 2 months ago

$30K Worth of Multimeters Must Be Destroyed Because They're Yellow

CaptainPhoton what about other yellow multimeters? (653 comments)

If I google "yellow multimeter", there are a ton of non-Fluke meters that show up.

The meter I have in my lab looks just like a Fluke, but I bought it at Fry's in my poor college days.

It's too bad SparkFun's product got snagged, they are a favorite local supplier for the Denver/Boulder electronics industry. I drive to their will-call all the time when I need cables, dev boards, and such.

Anyway, how did all the other yellow meters get through customs??

about 10 months ago

Exponential Algorithm In Windows Update Slowing XP Machines

CaptainPhoton ah, I've been seeing this (413 comments)

Wow, so I'm not crazy. I have to keep some old XP machines around for certain build tools. When I turned on my XP PC's recently for a sustaining engineering activity, the Windows update had them bogged down all night and all day. Was assuming a machine-specific problem, but this confirms it's a general problem. Thanks Slashdot for pointing this out, and thanks Microsoft for keeping IT interesting.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: What's On Your Hardware Lab Bench?

CaptainPhoton Oscilloscope and DMM (215 comments)

On my lab bench for 15 years:

Oscilloscope and Multimeter

about a year ago

Rice Professor Predicts Humans Out of Work In 30 Years

CaptainPhoton has everyone read Manna? (808 comments)

Manna is an interesting short story on the topic:


In U.S. society, as people who can't compete with automation become non-employable, they are forced to live on welfare in government housing that is essentially a prison camp. There is little opportunity for social mobility.

In the same short story, Australia redefines their economy to be more of an entitlement society, where people have equal access to education, vacation, etc. It becomes more of the utopia that was envisioned in the early 20th century with technology truly making life easy.

I enjoyed this short story, because it demonstrates how the U.S. population could gradually become dependent on a massive welfare state with the standards of living becoming very meager, while societies that are willing to reinvent their economy may thrive.

about a year and a half ago

Windows 8 Killing PC Sales

CaptainPhoton Re:Windows8 can be tamed, but why should you have (1010 comments)

I tend to agree that the desktop experience in Win8 is not so different from Win7. I have been doing pro HW/SW development using VC++, Eclipse, CAD tools, etc. on XP, Win7, and Win8, and I don't really notice such a different experience on Windows 8. I typically have a VirtualBox or XPmode instance, remote desktop connections, VNC, and Cygwin xterms active for testing, so for the rare cases that I switch to Metro, it's like working with another machine instance. I would argue that for IT people who are already accustomed to managing multiple VM's, the switchover to Metro just feels like going to another terminal.

The hybrid concept actually works really well for my work-life balance. I bought a Samsung ATIV Pro, which is similar to the MS Surface Pro, but I felt the Samsung had better specs. When I'm working, I'm docked to the keyboard and working mostly in desktop. When I'm at home, I'm un-docked and enjoy my mindless content consumption using Metro and touch. Rather than having a separate PC, iPad, e-reader, etc., the hybrid covers all my use cases!

For a serious critique of Win8, I would say that people need to use it for a few months. In my case, Metro has become second nature and I can use it equally well with mouse and touch.

Now, the thing that I really dislike about Metro from a developer standpoint is the inability to side-load custom apps. I often support small teams that are not domain joined, and Microsoft's restricted sale of sideloading keys are a huge deterrent to my desire to ever create a Metro app. I also dislike the developer license concept. When I'm prototyping, why should I have to deal with a license for my own app? Who ever thought we'd have to deal with licensing when writing "Hello World?".

Anyhow, Microsoft gave us a mixed bag here.

about 2 years ago

Radio Shack TRS-80 Vs. Commodore 64: Battle of the Titans

CaptainPhoton Re:Missing Option (135 comments)

The software was called Editor Assembler. I remember that it came with a large 3-ring binder of documentation, a cartridge, and some disks.

about 2 years ago

Air Force Looking To Beef Up Spacecraft Network Security

CaptainPhoton keep the prefix command code secret (31 comments)

If the enemy does not know the prefix command code of our spacecraft, then they cannot remotely command it to lower its shields.

about 2 years ago

Windows 8 RTM Benchmarked

CaptainPhoton audio performance has improved (398 comments)

I saw this cross-posted on ./ previously. Cakewalk benchmarked Win7 versus Win8 when running their digital audio software, and saw some significant improvements:

The Cakewalk software runs in desktop mode, which is fine since we're all going to ignore Metro after we log in, right? :)

I've been running the Win8 developer preview with Metro disabled for months now in my engineering lab, and it got to the point that I forgot it was Windows 8.

Is the rumor true that the registry setting to remove Metro is gone in the RTM version? Now that will be annoying!

more than 2 years ago

Robert Boisjoly Dies At 73, the Engineer Who Tried To Stop the Challenger Launch

CaptainPhoton Re:In perspective (380 comments)

As I'm currently writing some C++ software, I find this tangential thought experiment fun. With C++'s operator overloading, all possibilities such as 1+1=3 and 2+2=potato can be accomplished.

Facts are facts, but communication of the facts can fail if we don't agree on how to interpret the written symbols (operator+ in this case). :)

more than 2 years ago

Google 'Solve For X' Website Goes Live

CaptainPhoton Solve for X is already registered trademark (80 comments)

My previous client Carrier Access used "Solve for X" in all of its marketing.

A Google search reveals its usage in many of their product manuals:
+"solve for x" +"carrier access"

They were purchased by a California-based company called Force 10. I wonder if they will allow Google to use their trademark. Every time I hear "Solve for X", I think of cell site backhaul. I haven't RTFA yet, so wondering if the Google concept is anything close. :)

more than 2 years ago

Microsoft Upgrading Windows Users To Latest Version of MSIE

CaptainPhoton Microsoft did this before, what is new? (476 comments)

When IE8 came out, it was sent by default through the automatic updates on XP. To prevent installation, they offered an IE8 blocker tool.

Reading the article, there is still a blocker tool for people who don't want the latest update.

So, what is so different now and why is it a big deal?

more than 3 years ago

"Wi-Fi Refugees" Shelter in West Virginia Mountains

CaptainPhoton I worked for NRAO Quiet Zone enforcement (627 comments)

I worked at this observatory in the 90's to help enforce the quiet zone. The people in the area were highly educated, not typical hillbillies. I met a few nobel prize winners and had the opportunity to meet Grote Reber who was there one summer delivering his memoirs to the observatory.

Green Bank has easy access to a ski resert, whitewater rafting, caving, rockclimbing, and mountain biking. That part of W Va is quite an outdoor sports mecca. The location and the people should not be dissed at all, since they are exceptional compared to the average Slashdotter!

The quiet zone is a regulatory creation, and I know local folks in the area sometimes had non-compliant transmitters. For those obsessed with EM, note that just because there's a regulatory quiet zone, it doesn't mean that people aren't still using Wi-Fi. They just haven't been busted yet!

It was usually only an issue if an astronomer complained about interference swamping out their observations. The interfering frequency would have to be in the RF passband of the observation. If the signal source was in the band, it still has to be in the beam of the antenna or couple into the system via cabling, etc. to be a problem.

There is a schedule that shows which receiver is installed for the observations being done today:

If interference was seen, we tried to identify the modulation on a spectrum analyzer to decide if it was a faraway source such as a TV transmitter, satellite, or aircraft. We had a communications receiver where we could snoop conversations to identify the nature of the broadcast. If we suspected a local source, we would drive around town in a truck fitted with a spectrum analyzer and a directional antenna. When we found the source, we would help the individual or organization come to compliance. Interference could be nonintentional, such as power lines or even a farmer's tractor. :)

I have fond memories of the observatory, I got to experience Ethernet when it was coax and TCP/IP before the Web existed! (Gopher, Archie, telnet BBSes and such). One former employee ran a MUD at the observatory that wasn't discovered for years. If that's not Slashdot-worthy, I don't know what is! :)

more than 3 years ago

Oscilloscopes For Modern Engineers?

CaptainPhoton go for 4 channels (337 comments)

If you're a C.S. person, it's likely that you are a digital person, and you will most frequently use the oscilloscope to troubleshoot digital busses. Don't skimp on the channel count, go for 4! For things like serial busses (RS-232, SPI, I2C, etc.) you will want to watch clock, tx, and rx simultaneously. For a parallel bus, you can get your clock, chip select, and a couple addy or data lines. For most problems on your board, you can get by with the scope instead of an expensive logic analyzer if the scope has enough channels. The scope is better than the logic analyzer in many ways as you can watch for issues with noise, bus contention, etc.

Every engineer has their bias, I say go for Tek! LabVIEW and DAQ are cool for repetetive measurements under automation, but there's just no substitute for a physical front panel interface with knobs and buttons when you just want to spend a couple minutes looking at a few levels.

Try to find something with Ethernet or USB. Many of the used scopes on ebay have the old 3.5" floppy, and that becomes annoying when noone in the office remembers floppy disks and you need to get a plot off the scope to send to an FAE! :)


more than 4 years ago

For Automated Testing, Better Alternatives To DOS Batch Files?

CaptainPhoton LabVIEW (426 comments)

Most electronics companies where I've worked or consulted use LabVIEW for automated product testing.

You can download an eval copy from http://www.ni.com/labview/optin/trylabview

LabVIEW is graphical programming. I'm still loyal to C/C++, but all those text languages are so 20th century! ;) Until we achieve natural language programming, LabVIEW is as good as it gets for 21st century.

Putting humor aside, LabVIEW apps are very simple to write and deploy. The Application Builder allows you to create an EXE from your app and bundle it with the runtime in a nice Windows installer that you can send to your customers.

I've seen some suggestions on here for PowerShell. One limitation of DOS batch files is the inability to interact directly with .NET. Anyone on modern Windows should learn .NET since it is the preferred framework now for that OS. PowerShell can give you the .NET access, but LabVIEW will have a much quicker learning curve if you ever have the urge to delve into .NET.

The LabVIEW forums are very active, and the community gurus provide quick turnaround on support questions. For long-term maintenance of your test app, you're likely to find more engineers in the Test&Measurement arena that use LabVIEW versus DOS.

Good luck in your choices!

more than 4 years ago

David Brin Laments Absence of Programming For Kids

CaptainPhoton he should've asked Slashdot (355 comments)

The author must never have written in BASIC, because I can still run the programs I wrote as a kid with GW-BASIC in the 1980's on my Turbo XT. I bet I could still lend him the 5.25" floppy, assuming he has 360k free and can read double sided disks. People writing an opinion piece on technology should always check in with Slashdot first! :)

more than 8 years ago


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