Monday, August 29, 2011

Lesson Plans Down the Drain

Today, I thought I would be writing to say "Yay, I got a few lesson plans done so I won't be totally scrambling in my first few weeks". It turns out, last night, I found out my first Lab Module for my class, and first two lectures are completely wrecked. Plus, all my subsequent labs/lectures (which build on the first one), are all screwed too. I need to back up for second to give some context.

Part of the Lab Course I'm teaching will deal with data acquisition and signal processing. Currently, many of the students use LabVIEW but hate the interface. So, as part of the course, I was going to introduce them to Data Acquisition in Matlab, something I've been doing for the better part of 4 years (and talked about my love of Matlab here).

I wrote a whole new lab based on using Matlab as the data acquisition and data manipulation environment. I made fancy pictures, charts, snippets of code, etc. Then, last night, as I was working on my lectures to compliment the lab, DrWife had a great idea. We were giving NanoGEARS a bath and she was playing with some rattling toys. As she was shaking them, the pitch (obviously) changed when she was loosely holding it versus tightly holding it or when it was underwater. DrWife suggested that would be a great classroom demonstration. I could tie in damping (via water) or adding stiffness (holding tighter). And, because it was audible, it's much more interactive than just showing sine waves to the students.

I could use Matlab to acquire the signals, analyze the signals in the Fourier Domain. Add filtering, etc. So last night, as I was trying to acquire a simple audio signal with Matlab [using instrhwinfo('winsound') ], all hell broke loose. It turns out, in the new x64 version of Matlab (R2011a) only CompactDAQ devices are supported!?!?!? WTF? So all that legacy code that I've built up over 4 years is entirely down the shitter. So none of my sound examples will work using the standard code (now called legacy interface). And basically any DAQ card you purchase from NI, Agilent, or any other vendor won't work. CompactDAQ devices are such a small part of the possible hardware spectrum for data acquisition that this is a joke.

And the beauty of all of this is the computer lab at SnowU just fucking upgraded to x64 Matlab R2011a. So none of those computers can use Matlab to acquire signals with the data acquisition toolbox. Basically, I've planned 5 labs around using a used-to-be-mainstay piece of software that now is completely worthless. Now I have to scramble to make new lectures and a new lab manual centered around LabVIEW (another worthless software).

I've emailed, I've called, I've posted on the forums but I can't get any response as to when Matlab's going to fix their problem. And it is a fucking problem. Researchers want the new x64 Matlab because it supports 8+ GB of RAM, meaning much higher computation rates and memory. But for researchers dealing with instrumentation, like me, I also first need to acquire the fucking signals!

I would love to rant more but I have lectures and labs to redo. Fuck!

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