NI Week 2012 - Actor Framework

NI Week 2012 - Actor Framework

Well, NI Week turns 18 this year, so you’d figure it would be time to go out and buy a few lottery tickets and some Swisher Sweets (because nothing says grown-up like candy coated cigarettes.) Luckily, though, NI Week 2012 has shown that LabVIEW is neither a gamble nor an immature platform. I mentioned a few of my anticipated highlights yesterday, and today I was able to get a fast start out of the gate, attending a session on the Actor Framework in my very first hour.


Now, the Actor Framework has been around for a couple of years as a downloadable add-on, championed by NI’s Allen C. Smith and Stephen Mercer, but the big news this year is that it is now included directly with LabVIEW 2012! For me, this was the first real exposure to Actor Framework, but I have done some LabVIEW OO development, so I was excited to see how AF might extend and enhance the LVOOP experience.

The first major takeaway was that AF exists to help facilitate Overrides, Extensibility, and Appendability of functions between similar, inherited modules. As a huge proponent of DRY code, these were definitely 3 encouraging promises to hear. In the short amount of time that we had, the best I could tell was that the majority of these benefits come from heavily leveraging LVOOP. By also decoupling dependencies wherever possible and stressing the importance of proper inheritance, I got a very strong feeling that it wasn’t far off from an IOC implementation, which would be an invaluable construct to have for development, debug, simulation, test, and extensibility.

Using the now-built-in-to-LabVIEW tools, the Actor Framework was also able to offer a solution to phase out Variant Message / Event Data being passed everywhere. By making messages and events also object oriented actors, data can be internalized to the events (which all inherit from a generic event class) and explicitly unpackaged. This goes a long way to making LabVIEW more strongly typed, meaning issues can be found earlier (at compile time), not lingering unnoticed until they are uncovered under the right set of conditions at runtime.

Oh, and did I mention it also DOES run on LabVIEW RT?

In all, 45 minutes was definitely not enough time to learn everything I wanted to know about Actor Framework, but from what I saw, it seemed to have promise. With visions of object oriented DMC State Machines dancing in my head, I will definitely be looking into the future uses for Actor Framework.

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