At work, I use NI controllers to make test rigs which pretend to be jet engines. Here's some stuff other people have used them for:
I'm got a NI DIO 96 for my robot from E-bay for $50. I found NI's software on Linux rather frustrating. I was trying to write a JNI interface to the card. NI had some bugs in it which did not allow this. I wrote a crude socket server to get around this bug, but I was not very happy with the solution. Luckly, the brilliant people at comedi have written uber code for many control and digital aquisition cards. Now I use the comedi drivers, and they work great! And its open source! Which invites itself to all kinds of mucking about !
Are you sure 96 lines is enough? LOL.
$50 is a jolly good price for that. I find teh NI software very very good. When it's broken, they're pretty fast to find workarounds. That said, it it's absolutely not in the hobbiest's budget. Which is a pity, because something like LabVIEW is perfect for enthusiasts who are not programmers. Good old Comedi.
Have you made anything portable with it yet? I'd be intersted in developing a 12V PSU which could run a PC. I've seen lots of car PSUs on the web, but they're massively complex because of the massively noisy car supply. I think it would be simpler to start with something knowing it's a clean 12V.
Are you sure 96 lines is enough? <-- uh .. No, there is always more stuff to control (bwahahaha), but I'll multiplex it :)
I have heard alot of praise for LabView. I've never used it myself - unfortunately it looks like a student edition is $95. I'm interested in keeping all the software on my bot free. Linux, Comedi, Java (glassfish), and OSROS (open source robotic operating system - my attempt of making a service orientated messaging system catered to robotics) are all open souce.
Have you made anything portable with it yet? <--- piece O' cake, (look here) I'm using a 12V PSU now - simple as pie - it plus a 12V battery = mobile puter. I have not tested the amount of noise it can take or the upper and lower voltage limits. Actually, I have tested the lower, I think @ 11.2V it cuts power completely - which is a very good thing. Its worked like a charm so far !
Bought-in? - yeah, I'm good with it. I prefer DIY but you need to know when to pick you battles, even if you do decide to buy I prefer to support open source solutions like robotpower for example... but I do not know of any open source 12v psu circuit made specifically for a mobile atx mainboard (maybe start a new project there)...
Real men wrap their own motor windings :)
Cooaal (Arnold S) !