The Windows 8 operating system adds some exciting new functionality to the toolbox of the application developer. This article discusses some new features in Windows 8 and how developers can use and understand them.
Create Portable Measurement Systems with Windows 8 Tablets
This idea of tethering a DAQ device to an off-the-shelf computing device is not a completely new concept for portable measurements. Previous attempts, such as miniature laptops, used conventional power-hungry processors and therefore provided unusable short battery life. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) offered longer battery life and were useful for some applications, but their underpowered processors limited their functionality.
These devices have evolved into today’s smartphones and tablets. They now pack more processing power than standard desktop PCs did 10 years ago and can be used to write more powerful processing routines for inline analysis directly on a device. The processors consume less power than standard PC processors so the devices are useful for longer periods of time. They include gigabytes of data storage, providing ample room to save logged data. Touch-screen technology offers an intuitive way of interacting with the user interface, which can be designed to mimic application-specific knobs, buttons, and controls. The features in mobile computing devices have evolved to create a viable platform for portable measurements that exceeds the capabilities of traditional methods.
Above: New tablets capable of running Windows 8 will allow for more advanced portable measurement solutions.
LabVIEW and NI hardware drivers are already supported on versions of Windows 8 with Intel processors. This means you can port existing LabVIEW code to run on Windows 8 tablets, or in other words, use LabVIEW to create mobile apps. Even though you may need a few tweaks to make your front panel “touch friendly,” you can avoid rewriting everything from scratch in another programming language, as would be necessary for iOS and Android. Most Windows 8 tablets also include USB ports and built-in Wi-Fi so you can connect any USB or networked DAQ device to create portable measurement systems based on LabVIEW.
Understanding Windows Store Apps and LabVIEW
The Start screen, also called Metro or Modern UI at various points in development, creates a clean and modern look with large and often live-updated application tiles, similar to the functionality of gadgets in Windows 7. Applications that display in these live tiles are known as Windows Store apps and have different permissions to the low-level operating system functions.
Installed applications created with National Instruments software will appear as static tiles to the right of the live tiles for Windows Store apps. Scrolling to the right in the home screen will reveal these app tiles. National Instruments software will not operate as a Windows Store app and applications created with NI software will also not be able to operate as a Windows Store app. This is because the operating system limits necessary access to the Win32 API. For more information, read the article "What Does Windows RT Mean for My LabVIEW Applications?"
Moving Your Existing Applications to Windows 8
In general, existing Windows 7 applications should continue to function in Windows 8, but hardware drivers may need updating. National Instruments has worked extensively with preview versions of Windows 8 to determine compatibility between the new OS and NI software. For more information on compatibility between Windows 8 and specific NI software, check this article outlining the version of each driver and application software that is required to guarantee Windows 8 compatibility.
As mentioned above, installed applications developed in previous Microsoft OSes will appear on the Start screen to the right of the live tiles. There is no folder hierarchy in the Start screen, so developers should be aware that a large number of support files or utilities installed in the Start Menu in Windows 7 will all appear at the same level as the main application in Windows 8.
You may want to check out some additional caveats and known compatibility issues between NI application software and Windows 8 to keep in mind while moving applications.
Visit ni.com/windows8 for more information about how Windows 8 affects your test and measurement systems.