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Evaluating Linux for Your Test, Measurement, or Control Applications

Publish Date: Aug 27, 2018 | 2 Ratings | 3.50 out of 5 | Print


National Instruments hardware devices and software packages can be used along with several operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Specific device and software support varies for each operating system; it is important to carefully consider this support when evaluating an OS choice for your test, measurement, or control system. This paper provides a primer on the Linux operating system, an introduction to NI’s Linux support strategy, and a brief overview of different options for using NI hardware and software with Linux.

Table of Contents

  1. Linux® Primer and National Instruments Linux Support Strategy
  2. Overview of NI Hardware and Software Support on Linux Operating Systems
  3. Running Linux on National Instruments Embedded PXI Controllers
  4. Next Steps

1. Linux® Primer and National Instruments Linux Support Strategy

Linux is a UNIX-like operating system that runs on a wide variety of hardware platforms. Like other operating systems, its primary task is to help one or more users make the most of computer processors and I/O hardware to accomplish computing tasks. It was originally created by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland in 1991. With the help of many programmers across the Internet, Linux has evolved into full-featured operating system complete with true multi-tasking, virtual memory, shared libraries, TCP/IP networking, and multi-user capability.

Linux is typically installed using a Linux distribution – a bundle containing the Linux kernel, a graphics windowing system, applications, installer, and utilities needed to form a complete working system. Hundreds of different Linux distributions are available and geared for a variety of use cases. Some of these distributions, such as Red Hat, are backed by a company, while others are completely driven by a community of developers.

Most Linux distributions are available free of charge. In addition, as an open-source piece of software, Linux source code is available to the public under the GNU General Public License.

The lack of standardization between Linux distributions has lead to significant differences between many Linux distributions, with each distribution typically focusing on specific optimizations, such as ease of use for the end user, installed footprint, or stability during embedded execution. This can make understanding the differences between distributions daunting and finding the best distribution a challenge. The absence of standards also prevents many software and hardware vendors from providing support on more than a limited number of Linux distributions.

With a growing community of Linux users, National Instruments is committed to providing Linux support for as many NI hardware devices and software packages as possible, while working under the constraints posed by the large number of Linux distributions available today. This support spans a number of technologies mentioned below: LabVIEW and C support for multi-device drivers such as NI-DAQmx, instrument connectivity with NI-VISA, communication with FPGA devices, and more.

NI supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux, OpenSuSE Linux, and CentOS Linux. See the detailed support information for each hardware or software product before purchasing. To request support for alternate Linux distributions, please contact your local NI Sales engineer.

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2. Overview of NI Hardware and Software Support on Linux Operating Systems

Development Software Support for Linux (LabVIEW and LabWindows/CVI)

Each yearly version of the LabVIEW Full or Professional development system is available for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, OpenSuSE Linux, or CentOS Linux distributions. The LabVIEW Application Builder also enables users to create standalone executables for use on Linux systems.

Not all features contained in each LabVIEW for Windows release will be available in the corresponding LabVIEW for Linux release. In addition, not all LabVIEW modules, toolkits, and other add-ins are available on Linux. To request support for additional features and add-ins, please contact your local NI Sales Engineer.

The LabWindows/CVI development environment is not currently available for Linux, however C applications created using LabWindows/CVI can be run on Linux systems with the LabWindows/CVI Run-Time Module for Linux.

For detailed reference information on NI development software support for Linux, please visit the paper: Developing LabVIEW and LabWindows/CVI Applications on Linux.

Driver Support for NI Hardware and Instrument Connectivity

Multi-device NI drivers are available for use on Linux (distribution varies) including NI-DAQmx for data acquisition on PCI/ PCIe and  PXI/PXIe devices. For USB devices the NI-DAQmx Base driver offers a subset of the features of the full NI-DAQmx driver. There is not currently driver support for CompactDAQ on Linux. NI-SWITCH for switches, NI-SCOPE for high speed digitizers, and NI-RIO for FPGA boards are also supported for use on Linux.

Device support may vary with OS for a given NI driver. For detailed information on hardware devices supported with Linux and their corresponding software, visit the National Instruments I/O Driver Support for Linux reference.

Along with the NI-RIO driver, the FPGA Interface C API for Linux enables users to communicate with NI FPGA devices from applications on Linux. This enables creating a wide variety of custom, high-speed measurement and control systems that can meet the needs of very demanding applications. For more information on the FPGA Interface C API, see the Communicating with FPGA Devices from Linux Applications using the C API for LabVIEW FPGA reference.

The NI-VISA driver for Linux provides connectivity with GPIB devices, Serial or USB ports, Ethernet interfaces, VXI systems, and even PCI/PCIe registers – all using one straightforward API. Visit the Instrument Control in Linux paper for more details.

Finally, for situations where a custom device driver is needed, including OEM applications, The National Instruments Measurement Hardware Driver Development Kit (MHDDK) provides development tools and a register-level programming interface. Note that the MHDDK is only available for selected NI hardware devices.

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3. Running Linux on National Instruments Embedded PXI Controllers

NI has validated the use of certain Linux distributions with individual PXI embedded controllers. To view detailed information on tested controller/distribution combinations, see the document: Using Linux on a PXI Embedded Controller.

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4. Next Steps

With several options for hardware and software support on Linux, users should carefully evaluate different possibilities and confirm specific device or package support prior to purchasing. To speak with an NI technical representative about your application, select the Contact NI section above.

>> Return to the National Instruments Linux Portal

Linux® is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries.

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