Author Topic: On the Nonolith Labs CEE  (Read 7345 times)

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Offline slateraptor

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On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« on: January 17, 2012, 10:51:22 am »
It's an honorable attempt, but the Nonolith Labs CEE looks so much like an under-spec'd NI MyDAQ whose only redeeming factor is that it's open source. :-\
« Last Edit: January 17, 2012, 10:53:33 am by slateraptor »
 

alm

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2012, 11:07:26 am »
Is the MyDAQ available for anyone but US/CA students/educators yet? A agree that the specs are limited for its price.
 

HLA-27b

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2012, 11:23:03 am »
It's an honorable attempt, but the Nonolith Labs CEE looks so much like an under-spec'd NI MyDAQ whose only redeeming factor is that it's open source. :-\

Which is the big deal really. To rephrase what you said in a different way:
Although NI MyDAQ has better specs it is still not as good as a simpler but Open Source instrument like the CEE.
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2012, 06:21:34 pm »
NI's MyDAQ is not available to anyone except students and teachers. So it is really not a contender. It is just a marketing gimmick to give students their first LabView fix for cheap. The old "you need to get them while they are young" thing.

TI might be part of the deal, too. Because NI prominently advertises the fact that they use TI components. One could expect both NI and TI subsidize it from their marketing budget.
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Offline slateraptor

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2012, 02:42:09 am »
Is the MyDAQ available for anyone but US/CA students/educators yet? A agree that the specs are limited for its price.

Not yet, and I suspect NI won't release it to the general public for quite a while considering how a bunch of notable universities have already adapted the device with a nominal fee tacked on to the applicable course. In the face of surmounting budget cuts, some universities are using it as a means to reduce (perhaps eliminate?) departmental overhead associated with maintaining a dedicated lab (which is disappointing since MyDAQ is by no means a replacement for hand-on experience with proper lab equipment). Others--in particular, the larger, more recognized universities--are using it to supplement course work which has been historically driven by theory i.e. a 2nd course in analog electronic circuits at the University of Florida.


Which is the big deal really. To rephrase what you said in a different way:
Although NI MyDAQ has better specs it is still not as good as a simpler but Open Source instrument like the CEE.

Quite the contrary, really. Based on what's been revealed, CEE is inferior to the corporate-backed MyDAQ that it blatantly attempts to copy (what they refer to as a "SMU" on their website). The fact that it's open source is redeemable from a communal and ethical perspective, but anyone with the talent and inclination to make any use of this fact would discover that the MyDAQ can just as easily be catered to achieve the same goals. The MyDAQ really isn't all that either; it's just an educational "big boy toy" that enables tinkering at home (or anywhere for that matter) a lot easier. My doubts of CEE actually stem from MyDAQ limitations, viz. if the MyDAQ was mediocre at best, surely the CEE will be a disappointment...but that's the engineer in me speaking. The student in me says both devices will serve well as an enabling educational tool, but nothing more. As for the CEE being simpler, I highly doubt it.


NI's MyDAQ is not available to anyone except students and teachers. So it is really not a contender. It is just a marketing gimmick to give students their first LabView fix for cheap. The old "you need to get them while they are young" thing.

TI might be part of the deal, too. Because NI prominently advertises the fact that they use TI components. One could expect both NI and TI subsidize it from their marketing budget.

The CEE is a contender amongst potential student buyers (they admit as much on their website). All it would take is NI to release the MyDAQ for sale to the general public and Nonolith Labs would soon find themselves in high water.

I agree that NI is definitely attempting to suck more students into becoming dependent on Labview; I don't think it has affect EE much, but it has definitely permeated non-EE disciplines, notable mechanical. However, the device does have its own stand-alone interface that's actually quite intuitive; it's almost identical to their ELVIS interface.

No doubt TI has heavily subsidized the project; I even suspect TI engineers were responsible for designing the hardware. But as a consumer, that level of cooperation isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially since it means a lower price for potential buyers.

I'd wager to say that TI's involvement with MyDAQ was an attempt to improve the status quo of engineers leaving uni with a relative poor background in analog concepts. Your average undergrad EE leaving uni lacks a fundamental understanding and general appreciation for anything that isn't digital. At my uni, senior level analog courses would be hard pressed to have 30 students enrolled, while senior level digital courses are always 100+ jam packed; the same trends can be seen at just about any university across the nation, and industry knows it. TI has recognized this dilemma too, and considering how they're now the world's largest manufacturer of analog silicon, they're definitely looking to ensure continued interest in analog amongst young graduating engineers.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2012, 02:44:07 am by slateraptor »
 

HLA-27b

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2012, 01:13:25 pm »
Which is the big deal really. To rephrase what you said in a different way:
Although NI MyDAQ has better specs it is still not as good as a simpler but Open Source instrument like the CEE.

Quite the contrary, really. Based on what's been revealed, CEE is inferior to the corporate-backed MyDAQ that it blatantly attempts to copy (what they refer to as a "SMU" on their website). The fact that it's open source is redeemable from a communal and ethical perspective, but anyone with the talent and inclination to make any use of this fact would discover that the MyDAQ can just as easily be catered to achieve the same goals. The MyDAQ really isn't all that either; it's just an educational "big boy toy" that enables tinkering at home (or anywhere for that matter) a lot easier. My doubts of CEE actually stem from MyDAQ limitations, viz. if the MyDAQ was mediocre at best, surely the CEE will be a disappointment...but that's the engineer in me speaking. The student in me says both devices will serve well as an enabling educational tool, but nothing more. As for the CEE being simpler, I highly doubt it.

It is obvious what a source-measure unit is supposed to do and every engineer out there would approach the design in more or less the same manner. Given that both units use off the shelf silicone there is not much wiggle room in terms of design. In that sense, calling the CEE "a blatant copy" is unjustified. Recreating the MyDAQ "as is" would be a blatant copy but this is not the case here.

As it is just a start-up it is natural that they would try to keep it as plain and simple as possible. Maybe they would even down play the specs a bit. Open source projects evolve with time just like their closed source counterparts, we should see improvements in the future.

Maybe you are right in saying that SMUs in their current state look rather puny and toyish in a proper electronics lab however they have many applications in chemistry labs, material science labs etc. where sophisticated electronics equipment is unjustifiably expensive.

When I was a student (architecture) our class had an assignment to measure and document the thermal performance of our building and suggest improvements that would pay for itself. The quirky bit is that we had to measure, not estimate. Needless to say in order to do that we needed to measure sun, wind, surface temperature, air temperature etc. etc. at hundreds  or preferably thousands of points. We did it using glass thermometers and pieces of tuft glued to the building exterior for indication of wind. The measurement uncertainty was so high that the results were borderline useless.  If we had source measure units back then (or any type of affordable data logging equipment for that matter) we would have bought two each. Considering the plethora of other uses it has I wouldn't regard it as a toy at all. It is a very valuable piece of equipment in its own right.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2012, 01:33:09 pm »
It looks to me that the CEE is a pretty smart design. They do not have a huge budget, so they have started with a conservative design. If they are successful, I am sure they would have an improved Gen 2 design. NI have had decades of experience to fall back on in getting high speed from interfaces, and CEE is a startup design.

I took a look at MyDAQ and it is expensive. Something like $175 without the software, and if you pay extra for Labview, you only get a 12 month license.

CEE is going to work through a browser, and that is a great idea. The design is open source and so the hardware could potentially be extremely cheap. The A/D is 12 bit 40KHz so the IC should only be at most a few dollars.

I think this could work.
 

Offline slateraptor

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2012, 12:51:21 am »
It is obvious what a source-measure unit is supposed to do and every engineer out there would approach the design in more or less the same manner. Given that both units use off the shelf silicone there is not much wiggle room in terms of design. In that sense, calling the CEE "a blatant copy" is unjustified. Recreating the MyDAQ "as is" would be a blatant copy but this is not the case here.

The stark contrast in SMU design between Agilent, Keithley and National Instruments begs to differ on your claimed obvious design approach and lack of wiggle room. The CEE design may not be "infringing" so to speak, but it doesn't take a patent lawyer to spot an outright respin of a fairly unique product; this point is made even more obvious if you're a student at a US/CA university hoping on the MyDAQ push. Perhaps "blatant copy" was taken too literally; it's more like a blatant attempt at copying a novel device in terms of form factor, functionality, and target market in the same sense as Launchpad to Arduino.


Maybe you are right in saying that SMUs in their current state look rather puny and toyish in a proper electronics lab however they have many applications in chemistry labs, material science labs etc. where sophisticated electronics equipment is unjustifiably expensive.

To imply that chemistry and materials labs can get away with less performance and precision than an electronics lab is huge misunderstanding; in fact, considering the sensitive nature of their affairs, they often require at least an order of magnitude better precision than a standard electronics lab. It's not uncommon for chem and materials students to go so far as designing their own tools, e.g. a certain chem-e ex-girlfriend designed her own low-temp nuclear magnetic resonance probe for use in whatever research she's involved in. Nevertheless, neither MyDAQ nor CEE are intended as replacements for a proper lab environment with proper lab equipment, and it surely doesn't justify replacing a device on one extreme of the price spectrum with another on the opposite end.


I took a look at MyDAQ and it is expensive. Something like $175 without the software, and if you pay extra for Labview, you only get a 12 month license.

From the CEE Kickstarter link:

$20 - A bare CEE circuit board to assemble and use, or to decorate your bedroom.
$100 - Minimal CEE: Assembled and tested circuit board only, without case or cables.
$150 - Assembled and tested CEE, including a laser-etched acrylic case (as seen in the video), and cables.

Granted these are kickstarter prices, it's currently the only means of acquiring a functional CEE, thus the only viable means of comparison. That being said, a student paying $150 for a CEE vs $175 for a MyDAQ is hardly a contest. The $175 MyDAQ package includes the stand-alone ELVIS software front-end and trial versions of "everything else", which are unnecessary and don't have to be installed; the only real downside is that only US/CA academia can purchase the device.


It looks to me that the CEE is a pretty smart design. They do not have a huge budget, so they have started with a conservative design. If they are successful, I am sure they would have an improved Gen 2 design. NI have had decades of experience to fall back on in getting high speed from interfaces, and CEE is a startup design.

...

CEE is going to work through a browser, and that is a great idea. The design is open source and so the hardware could potentially be extremely cheap. The A/D is 12 bit 40KHz so the IC should only be at most a few dollars.

I think this could work.

A side-by-side comparison:

ParameterCEEMyDAQ
Sampling rate40KHz200KHz
ADC12-bit16-bit
Rails+5V (x2)+5V, +/-15V
Max power2W (upgradable)0.5W
USB cableincludedincluded
DMM probesN/Aincluded
Digital I/O channelsUnknown8
Analog I/O channelsat least 2 single-ended2 differential in, 1 single-ended out, 3.5mm audio jack
InterfaceUnknownDMM, Oscilloscope, Curve Tracer, others (can't remember)

From an objective price vs. performance standpoint, CEE simply doesn't cut the mustard. It's early in the development stage and open source, so it may still yet be competitive, although I highly doubt it.
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2012, 10:42:43 am »
From an objective price vs. performance standpoint, CEE simply doesn't cut the mustard. It's early in the development stage and open source, so it may still yet be competitive, although I highly doubt it.

But your problem is that you compare it with something the average Joe just can't get, because NI refuses to sell the MyDAQ to the average Joe. Effectively making the MyDAQ vaporware. The MyDAQ and any comparison with it is not relevant, because on can't get it. It might have the best specs in the world, as long as I can't get it it isn't a contender.
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Offline slateraptor

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2012, 11:34:54 am »
But your problem is that you compare it with something the average Joe just can't get, because NI refuses to sell the MyDAQ to the average Joe. Effectively making the MyDAQ vaporware. The MyDAQ and any comparison with it is not relevant, because on can't get it. It might have the best specs in the world, as long as I can't get it it isn't a contender.

Surely an opportunity will present itself in due time.
 

Offline ChrisGammell

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2012, 02:09:24 am »
Though I haven't used a "MyDAQ" since my student days, I can tell you the CEE and the original SMU are fundamentally different ideas. However, I think you're missing the point entirely, as I did for a while. However, I've had this explained to me directly from Ian (co-founder): this isn't a SMU. It has SMU like functionality, but really it's better to think of it more like "The Arduino of Analog Signals". It immediately pales against every SMU I've ever used (but as was stated above has lots of room to improve). But the interface is simple and the startup time is nil. Getting a student from clueless to tracing a diode curve is 2 minutes (believe me, I'm making the videos!). Give it a chance and keep an open mind. If you don't like it, as always, you have the option to not buy it/not pay attention to it...unless I insist on bringing it up on the show. If you're that worried about it, give me a shout and I'll send you the times when/if I mention it and you can skip over those parts ;-)
 

alm

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2012, 09:32:59 pm »
That's one expensive Arduino. I don't think their expected price is much (if any) lower than the $150 required during the Kickstarter drive. This is above the impulse buy threshold for many people, especially beginners and students.
 

Offline Andy

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2012, 11:40:29 am »
While its expensive, I don't think its unjustified. There is a lot of effort gone into making the client software. So while the hardware may not cost that much to manufacture, they have to make up their other costs somewhere. Personally I prefer paying $150 for the hardware and software combined than paying for each separately.
 

Offline slateraptor

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Re: On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2012, 04:06:23 pm »
There is a lot of effort gone into making the client software.

What part exactly? The design as a whole is a 2-man, single-semester affair that would have difficulty demonstrating sufficient complexity as an acceptable undergraduate senior design project.

$150 by however means of partitioning and/or orientation just doesn't float my boat. To each his own.
 

Offline Andy

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On the Nonolith Labs CEE
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2012, 07:49:12 pm »
All I am saying is that I personally would rather pay $150 and get the hardware and software than pay $50 and only get the hardware, then spend 12 weeks (or a semester) writing my own software.

Believe it or not, some people's time is worth money.
 


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