Every month Australian electronics magazine Silicon Chip publishes a few projects, and in this quick kit review we’ll look at an older but still current example from September 2007 – the 3-state PIC Logic Probe Kit. This is an inexpensive piece of test equipment that’s useful when checking digital logic states and as a kit, a challenging hand-soldering effort.
The kit is packaged in typical form, without any surprises:
As mentioned earlier this kit is an interesting challenge due to the size of the PCB and the use of surface-mount components. The designer’s goal was to have the entire unit fit inside a biro housing (without the ink!). Thus the entire thing is using SMT parts.
Thankfully the LEDs are packaged individually into labelled bags, as alone they’re identical to the naked eye. Although the kit wasn’t expensive, it would have been nice for one extra component of each type – beginners tend to lose the tiny parts. The cost could perhaps be offset by not including the usual solder which is too thick for use with the kit.
Nevertheless with some care assembly can begin. After cleaning the PCB with some aerosol cleaner, it was tacked it to the desk mat to make life a little easier:
The tip on your average iron may be too large, so take this into account when trying to hand solder SMT components. The instructions include a guide on SMT hand-soldering for the uninitiated, well worth reading before starting.
Moving forward, soldering the parts was a slow and patient process. (With hindsight one could use the reflow soldering method to take care of the SMT and then carefully fit the links to the PCB). The instructions are quite good and include a short “how to solder SMT” guide, a PCB layout plan:
… along with an guide that helps identity the components:
When soldering, make sure you have the time and patience not to rush the job. And don’t sneeze – after doing so I lost the PIC microcontroller for a few moments trying to find where it landed. Once the LEDs have been soldered in and their current-limiting resistors, it’s a good time to quickly test them by applying 5V and GND. I used the diode test feature of the multimeter which generates enough current to light them up.
Due to the PCB being single-sided (!) you also need to solder in some links. It’s best to do these before the button (and before soldering any other parts near the link holes), and run the wires beneath the top surface, for example:
… and after doing so, you’ll need more blu-tack to hold it down!
One of the trickiest parts of this kit was soldering the sewing needle at the end of the PCB to act as the probe tip – as you can see in the photo below, solder doesn’t take to them that well – however after a fair amount it does the job:
At this point it’s recommended you solder the wires to the PCB (for power) and then insert the probe into the pen casing. For the life of me I didn’t have a spare pen around here so instead we’re going to cover it in clear heatshrink. Thus leaving the final task as soldering the alligator clips to the power wires:
What is a logic probe anyway? It shows what the logic level is at the probed point in a circuit. To do this you connect the black and red alligator clips to 0V and a supply voltage up to 18V respectively – then poke the probe tip at the point where you’re curious about the voltage levels. If it’s at a “high” state (on, or “1″ or whatever you want to call it) the red LED comes on.
If it’s “low” the green LED comes on. The third (orange) LED has two modes. It can either pulse every 50 mS when the logic state changes – or in “latch mode” it will come on and stay on when the mode changes, ideal for detecting infrequent changes in the logic state of the test point.
The kit uses a Microchip PIC12F20x microcontroller, and also includes the hardware schematic to make a basic RS232 PIC programmer and wiring instructions for reprogramming it if you want to change the code or operation of the probe.
The PIC Logic Probe is a useful piece of equipment if you want a very cheap way to monitor logic levels. It wasn’t the easiest kit to solder, and if Altronics revised it so the PCB was double-sided and changed the parts layout, there would be more space to solder some parts and thus make the whole thing a lot easier.
Nevertheless for under $17 it’s worth it. You can purchase it from Altronics and their resellers, or read more about it in the September 2007 edition of Silicon Chip. Full-sized images available on flickr. This kit was purchased without notifying the supplier. And if you made it this far – check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.
In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitter, Google+, subscribe for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other – and we can all learn something.
In this article we examine a new range of eleven electronic modules from Freetronics. When experimenting with electronics or working on a prototype of a design, the use of electronic components in module form can make construction easier, and also reduce the time between thoughts and actually making something So let’s have a look at each module in more detail…
This is a tiny switchmode voltage regulator with two uses – the first being regulation of higher voltage up to 28V carried via an Ethernet cable to a Freetronics Ethernet shield or EtherTen to power the board itself. The PCB is designed to drop into the shield or EtherTen as such:
… and converts the incoming voltage down to 7V which can be regulated by the EtherTen’s inbuilt regulator. The second use of this board is a very handy power supply for breadboarding or other experimentation. By bridging the solder pads on the rear of the board, the output is set to 5V DC, as such:
Note the addition of the header pins, which make insertion into a breadboard very easy – so now you have a 5V 1A DC power supply. For more information visit the product page.
This module contains an On Semi NTD5867NL MOSFET which allows the switching of a high current and voltage line – 60V at up to 20A – with a simple Arduino or other MCU digital output pin. The package is small and also contains enlarged holes for direct connection of high-current capability wire:
The onboard circuitry includes a pull-down resistor to ensure the MOSFET is off by default. For more information see the product page.
This is a very simple and inexpensive method to interface 3.3V sensors to 5V microcontrollers in either direction.The module contains four independent channels, as shown in the image below:
However you can interface any low or higher voltage, as long as you connect the low and high voltages to the correct sides (marked on the PCB’s silk screen). For more information please visit the product page.
Surprisingly this module contains a RGB LED module (red, green and blue LEDs) which is controlled by a WS2801 constant-current LED driver IC. This module is only uses two digital output pins, and can be daisy-chained to control many modules with the same two pins. The connections are shown clearly on the module:
The WS2801 controller IC is on the rear:
There are several ways to control the LEDs. One way is using the sketch from the product home page, which results with the following demonstration output:
Or there is a unique Arduino WS2801 library available for download from here. Using the strandtest example included with the library results with the following:
During operation the module used less than 24 mA of current and therefore can happily run from a standard Arduino-type board without any issues. For more information please visit the product page.
This module allows the simple measurement of temperature using the popular DS18B20 temperature sensor. You can measure temperatures between -55° and 125°C with an accuracy of +/- 0.5°C. Furthermore as the sensor uses the 1-wire bus, you can daisy-chain more than one sensor for multiple readings in the one application. The board is simple to use, and also contains a power-on LED:
Using the demonstation Arduino sketch from the product page results in the following output via the serial monitor:
Using this module is preferable to the popular Analog Devices TMP36, as it has an analogue output which can be interfered with, and requires an analogue input pin for each sensor, whereas this module has a digital output and as mentioned previously can be daisy-chained. For more information please visit the product page.
For the weather-measuring folk here is a module with temperatures and humidity. Using the popular DHT22 sensor module the temperature range is -4°C to +125°C with an accuracy of +/- 0.5°C, and humidity with an accuracy of between two and five percent. Only one digital input pin is required, and the board is clearly labelled:
There is also a blue power-on LED towards the top-right of the sensor. Using the module is quite simple with Arduino – download and use the example sketch included in the sensor library you can download from here. For the demonstration connect the centre data pin to Arduino digital two. Here is an example of the demonstration output:
Although the update speed is not lightning-fast, this should not be an issue unless you’re measuring real-time external temperature of your jet or rocket. For more information please see the product page.
This board uses a 74HC595 serial-in parallel-out shift register which enables you to control eight digital outputs with only three digital pins, for example:
You can daisy-chain these modules to increase the number of digital outputs in multiples of eight, all while only using the three digital output pins on your Arduino or other microcontroller. For more information about how to use shift registers with Arduino systems, read our detailed tutorial. Otherwise for more information about the module please visit the product page.
This module contains a sensor which changes output from HIGH to LOW when a magnetic presence is detected, for example a magnet. The board also has an LED which indicates the presence of the magnet to aid in troubleshooting:
Using this module and a small magnet would be an easy way to create a speedometer for a bicycle, the module is mounted to the fork, and the magnet on the rim of the front wheel. For more ideas consider the speedometer project in this tutorial. Otherwise for more information about this module please visit the product page.
This module performs two functions – it can return the sound pressure level (SPL) or the amplified audio waveform from the electret microphone. The LED (labelled “DETECT”) on the board visually displays an approximation of the SPL – for example:
… however the value can be returned by using an analogue input pin on an Arduino (etc). to return a numerical value. To do this connect the SPL pin to the analogue input. The MIC pin is used to take the amplified output from the microphone, to be processed by an ADC or used in an audio project. For more information please visit the product page.
This module uses the TEMT6000 light sensor which returns more consistent values than can be possible using a light-dependent resistor. It outputs a voltage from the OUT pin that is proportional to the light level. The module is very small:
Use is simple – just measure the value returned from the OUT pin using an analogue input pin on your Arduino (etc). For more information please visit the product page. And finally, the:
This module contains a piezoelectric element that can be used to generate sounds (in the form of musical buzzes…):
Driving the buzzer is simple, just use pulse-width modulation. Arduino users can find a good demonstration of this here. Furthermore, as piezoelectric elements can also generate a small electrical current when vibrated, they can be used as “shock” detectors by measuring the voltage across the terminals of the element. The procedure to do this is also explained clearly here.
Now for a final demonstration – we use the light sensor to demonstrate making some noise with the buzzer module:
One final note I would like to make is that the design and construction quality of each module is first rate. The PCBs are strong, and the silk-screening is useful and descriptive. If you find the need for some or all of the functions made available in this range, you could do worse by not considering a Freetronics unit. Finally, although this has only been a short introduction to the modules for now, we will make use of them in later projects.
Disclaimer – Modules reviewed in this article are a promotional consideration made available by Freetronics
Have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitter, Google+, subscribe for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other – and we can all learn something.
In this article we examine the Agilent Technologies Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A Mixed Signal Oscilloscope. Please note that the review unit has the latest version 2.0 firmware (existing owners can upgrade with the free download).
Unlike smaller instruments the packaging is plain and non-descript, however the MSO is protected very well for global shipping and arrived in perfect condition. Inclusions will vary depending on the particular model, however all come with a calibration certificate, user guide on CD and a power lead.
Four passive 300MHz probes are included with the MSO-X3024A:
Due to the constant upgrading of the firmware the lack of a printed user manual is no surprise. You can download the manual as well as the service, programming and educational lab guides from the documents section of the product web page - which make good reading to get a feel for the unit.
Now for a tour around the unit. Coming from a smaller DSO or an analogue model, the first thing that strikes you is the display. 8.5” diagonal with 800×480 resolution:
Unlike cheaper brands the larger screen is not extrapolating data from a smaller image – each pixel is separately used. The front panel is clean and uncluttered. Each button and knob feels solid and responsive, and if pressed and held down, a small help window appears with information about the item pressed. Note that each analogue channel has independent controls for vertical position and V/div sensitivity (the minimum sensitivity is 1mV/division). This saves a lot of time and possible confusion when working on time-sensitive applications.
Around the back we find the cooling van ventilation on the left, the IEC AC power socket on the bottom-right, manufacturing data and so on. The fan is just audible, however the noise from a desktop computer drowns it out. On the far right near the top are separate USB connections for device and host mode, and the external trigger input and output sockets. Apart from the trigger out signal the socket can also be set to give a 5V pulse on a mask test failure or the optional WaveGen sync pulse.
Finally, there is a compartment on the top of the unit that can hold two probes comfortably, and four at a pinch:
As the unit is can be considered a small computer, it takes time to boot up – just over thirty seconds. (The operating system is Windows CE version 6.0). The user-interface is quite simple considering the capability of the unit. The six soft-keys below the display are used well, and also can call a separate list of options under each button.
When such a list is presented, you can also use the “Push to select” knob on the right hand side of the display to select an option and lock in by pressing the knob in. Below the soft keys from left to right are: BNC output for the optional function generator, digital inputs for logic analyser, USB socket for saving data to a USB drive, probe points for calibration and demonstration use, and four probe sockets. Connections exist that can interface with optional Agilent active probes.
This instrument falls within the range of Agilent’s new Infiniivision 3000-series oscilloscopes. The range begins with the DSO-X3012A with 100MHz bandwidth and two channels, through to the DSO-X3054A with 500 MHz bandwidth and four channels. Furthermore the range is extended with the MSO-X models that include a sixteen channel logic analyser.
Some of you will know there is also the Infiniivision 2000-series, and wonder why one would acquire a 3000-series. There are three excellent reasons for doing so:
- Waveform update rate is 50000 per second on a 2000, one million per second on a 3000;
- Memory depth on a 2000 is 100 kilopoints; 3000s have 2Mpts standard or 4Mpts optional;
- Eight vs. sixteen digital channels when specified as an MSO-X model.
For a full breakdown of specifications please download the Agilent data sheet located here.
Getting Started and general use
The process from cutting open the packaging to measuring a signal is quite simple – just plug it in, connect probes and go – however some probe compensation is required, which is explained quite well in the manual. There are strong tilting bales under the front side which can be used to face the unit upwards. At this point the unit is ready to go – you can start measuring by using the Auto Scale function and let the MSO-X3024A determine the appropriate display settings.
However there is no fun in that – the vertical scale can be manually adjusted between 1 mV and 50V per division, the horizontal between 2 nanoseconds and 50 seconds per division. These values can be selected rapidly or (by pressing the knob in) in a fine method for more precise values. If working with more than one channel, each can be labelled using a pre-set description or select a label from a list. One can also alter the display between X-Y, horizontal and roll modes.
Each channel has separate controls for coupling – DC/AC but no GND, as the earth point is shown on the LCD. Impedance can be 1M or 50 ohm. One can also limit bandwidth to 20MHz to remove high-frequency interference.
Capturing data is very easy, you can save images as .png or .bmp files in grey scale or colour , data in .csv form and so on. You can also assign popular functions to a “Quick Action” button – one press and it is done. For example I use this as a “save bitmap” button to send the screen image to the USB drive. If the optional LAN/VGA module is installed screens can be captured by the host computer via the network. Finally there is a very basic file explorer available to find files on the USB drive as well.
Waveforms can also be stored and used later on as references for other measurements. When reviewed they appear as an orange trace – for example R1:
The horizontal zoom mode activated using keys to the right of the horizontal control is very useful. Agilent call this “Mega Zoom” and it certainly works. Consider the following screen shot – the 32.768kHz square-wave from a Maxim DS1307 real-time clock is being analysed:
The time base is 10uS per division – and using the zoom we can get down to two nanoseconds per division and investigate the ringing on fall of the square-wave. This is great for investigating complex signals over short periods. Awesome.
Capturing infrequent events is made simple by the combination of the one million waveforms per second sampling rate, and the use of infinite display persistence. In the following example a clock with very infrequent glitch is being sampled. By setting persistence to infinite, as soon as the infrequent glitch occurs it can be displayed and held on the screen. For example:
There is a plethora of triggering options available. Standard modes include: edge, edge then edge, pulse-width (customisable), pattern trigger (for logic analyser – you can create your own patter of high, low, or doesn’t matter with comparison operators for duration), hex bus trigger, OR trigger, customisable rise/fall time trigger, nth edge burst trigger which allows you to nth edge of a burst after an idle time, runt trigger on positive or negative pulse, setup and hold trigger, on video signals (PAL, PAL-M, NTSC, SECAM), and USB packets. Phew. Furthermore, if you have any of the optional decoding and analysis licenses, they include triggering on the matching signal type (see later).
Performing math waveforms on analogue channels is done via a seperate Math button, and the operations available are addition, subtraction, multiplication, differentiation, integration, square root and FFT.
When the time comes to further analyse your measurement data, there area variety of measurements that can be taken, and they can be displayed individually, such as in the following:
or all in a summary screen:
Or you can manually use the cursors to determine information about any part of a wave form, for example:
Everything required is included with the MSO-X3024A for the sixteen channel logic analyser, including a very long dual-head probe cable:
as well as sixteen grabbers and some extension runs:
Setup and use was surprisingly simple, just connect the probe cable head to ground, insert grabbers onto the ends of each channel wire, and connect to the signal pins to analyse. You can have all sixteen channels and the four analogue channels active at once, however when doing so the screen is quite busy. You can adjust the height for each digital channel. Here we are measuring two analogue and eight digital channels:
As always there are many forms of customisation. Automatic scaling is available the same as analogue measurement. You can set the threshold levels for high and low, and presets exist for TTL, CMOS, ECL and your own custom levels. The cable is very well-built (made in the USA) and the socket on the MSO is a standard, very solid IDC connector. Thanks to the use of the IDC connector you could also make your own probes or extension cable for the analyser. Digital channels can also be combined and displayed as a data bus, with the data values shown in hexadecimal or binary – for example:
Both the 2000- and 3000-series Infiniivision units have a variety of options and upgrades available either at the time of purchase or later on. Agilent have been clever and installed all the software-based options in the unit – when required they are “unlocked” by entering a licence key given after purchase. Trial 14-day licenses are generally available if you want to test an option before purchase. You can also upgrade the bandwidth after purchase – for example if you started with a 100MHz a licence key purchase will upgrade you to 200MHz , or 350 to 500MHz. However if you wish to upgrade a 200MHz to 350/500, this needs to be performed at at Agilent service facility. Surprisingly the logic analyser upgrade that converts a DSO-X to an MSO-X is user-installable. For more information on the upgrade options and procedures please visit here.
Memory Upgrade (DSOX3MEMUP)
A simple yet useful option – it doubles the total memory depth to 4 Mpts interleaved.
LAN/VGA Module (DSOXLAN)
This options really opens up the MSO to the world (and is a lot of fun..) – it is inserted into the port at the rear of the unit:
VGA output is very simple – no setup required. Just plug in your monitor or projector and you’re ready to go -for example, with a 22″ LCD monitor:
The educational benefits of the LAN/VGA module are immediately apparent – instead of having twenty classmates huddle around one MSO while the instructor demonstrates the unit, the display can be show on the classroom projector or a large monitor. The MSO display is still fully active while VGA output is used.
LAN connection via Ethernet was also very simple. The MSO can automatically connect to the network if you have a router with DHCP server. Otherwise you can use the Utility>I/O>LAN Settings function to enter various TCP/IP settings and view the MSO’s MAC address.
Once connected you can have complete control of the MSO over your network. Apart from saving screen shots:
There is a “simple” remote control interface that contains all the controls in a standard menu-driven environment:
Or you can have a realistic reproduction of the entire MSO on your screen:
The full remote panel is completely identical – it’s “just like being there”. The ability to monitor your MSO from other areas could be very useful. For example using the mask testing in a QC area and watching the results in an office; or an educator monitoring students’ use of the MSO.
Furthermore you can view various data about the MSO, such as calibration date and temperature drift since calibration, installed options, serial number, etc. remotely via the web interface.
GPIB Module (DSOXGPIB)
This allows you to connect your MSO to an IEEE-488 communications bus for connection to less contemporary equipment.
Segmented Memory Option (DSOX3SGM)
This options allows you to capture infrequent multiple events over time. For example, you want to locate some 15 mS pulses that occur a few times over the space of an hour. All you need to do is set the triggering to pulse-width, specify the minimum/maximum pulse width to trigger from, then hit Acquire>Segmented, the number of segments to use and you’re off. When the pulses have been captured, you can return and analyse each one as normal. The unit records the start time and elapsed time for each segment, and you can still use zoom, etc., to examine the pulse. For example:
Embedded Serial Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3EMBD)
Debugging I2C and SPI buses are no longer a chore with this option. For example with I2C just probe you SDA and SCK lines, adjust the thresholds in the menu option and you’re set. Apart from displaying the bytes of data below the actual waveform, there is a “Lister” which allows you to scroll back and forth along the captured data along with correlating times. In the following example a Maxim DS1307 RTC IC has been polled:
The Lister details all – in the example we sent a zero to address 0×68, which caused the DS1307 to return the seven bytes of time and date data. This is an extremely useful option and is very useful when working with a range of sensors and other parts that use the I2C bus. The SPI bus analysis operates in exactly the same manner. Adding this option also allows triggering on I2C data as well.
FlexRay Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3FLEX)
The optional FlexRay measurement applications offer integrated FlexRay serial bus triggering, hardware-based decoding and analysis. The FlexRay measurement tools help you more efficiently debug and characterize your FlexRay physical layer network by having the ability to trigger on and time-correlate FlexRay communication with your physical layer signals. So if you are working on the ECU of your Rolls-Royce or new BMW 7-series, you can use an MSO that matches the quality of the vehicle under examination. Here is an example of the FlexRay being monitored in the lister:
RS232/UART Serial Decode and Trigger (COMP/MSOX3000-232)
This option allows RS232, 422, 485 and UART decoding and triggering, as well as the use of the Lister to analyse the data. For example:
Advanced Math (DSOX3ADVMATH)
This option adds more math functions to enhance your waveform analysis, including: divide, base-10 logarithm, natural logarithm and exponential.
CAN/LIN Triggering and Serial Decode (DSOX3AUTO)
Again, allows decoding of automotive CAN and LIN bus signals, and the use of the Lister. For example:
Military Standard 1553 and ARINC429 Standards Serial Triggering and Decoding (DSOX3AERO)
The option exists for decoding and triggering of the above bus types. According to Agilent the Mil-STD 1553 serial bus is primarily used to interconnect avionics equipment in military aircraft and spacecraft(!). This bus is based on tri-level signaling (high, low, & idle) and requires dual-threshold triggering, which the 3000X supports. This bus is also implemented as a redundant multi-lane bus (dual-bus analysis), which is also supported by the 3000X.
The ARINC 429 serial bus is used to interconnect avionics equipment in civilian aircraft (Boeing & Airbus). This bus is also based on tri-level signaling (high, low, & null) and requires dual-threshold triggering, which the 3000X supports. Since ARINC 429 is a point-to-point bus, multi-lane analysis is also required to capture both send and receive data. So if you need this capability – Agilent has you covered.
Video Triggering and Analysis Application (DSOX3VID)
The DSOX3VIDEO option provides triggering on an array of HDTV standards, including:
- 480p/60, 567p/50, 720p/50, 720p/60
- 1080i/50, 1080i/60
- 1080p/24, 1080p/25, 1080p/30, 1080p/50, 1080p/60
- Generic (custom bi-level and tri-level sync video standards)
The 3000X Series oscilloscope already comes standard with NTSC, PAL, PAL-M, and SECAM support. Example of video analysis:
Audio Serial Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3AUDIO)
And not surprisingly this is an option to allow decoding of and triggering from I2S digital audio data. For example:
Mask Limit Testing (DSOX3MASK)
This is another interesting and useful option, idea for quality testing, benchmarking and so on. First you create a mask by measuring the ideal waveform, and then feed in the signal to be compared with the ideal mask. Mask limit testing can operate at up to 280000 comparisons per second. You can view pass/fail statistics, minimum sigma and so on, for example – a perfect test:
… then a change of frequency for a few cycles:
Furthermore you can specify the number of tests, change source channel, specify action upon errors, etc. Finally you can create and save to USB your own mask file for use later on – which can also be modified on a PC using any text editor software. Or for other monitoring options the external trigger socket on the read of the MSO can be configured to give a 5V pulse on a mask test failure.
If you have the LAN/VGA module you could place the MSO on in a lab or factory situation and monitor the testing over the network using a PC – very handy for QC managers or those who need to move about the workplace and still monitor testing in real time.
20MHz Function Generator/Arbitrary Waveform Generator (DSOX3WAVEGEN)
The “WaveGen” function is a versatile option that offers a highly controllable 20 MHz function generator and arbitrary waveform generator. It offers eleven different types of waveform: sine, square, ramp, pulse, DC, noise, sine cardinal, exponential rise and fall, cardiac and gaussian pulse.
The frequency can be adjusted between 100mHz to 20 MHz in 100 mHz steps; period from 50ns to 10s; full offset, amplitude and symmetry control; as well as logic level preset outputs (such as TTL, CMOS 5V, 3.3V etc.) Finally the WaveGen can be operated independently to normal measurement tasks, which is useful for ideal vs. actual comparisons and so on. Output is from the BNC socket at the bottom-left of the front pane and sync is also availble from the rear BNC socket. The arbitrary waveform generator is very simple to use - and copied waveforms can be edited or have noise added to them to replicate real-world waveforms.
Power Measurement (DSOX3PWR)
This is a power measurement and analysis option that is integrated into the unit and provides a quick and easy way of analysing the reliability and efficiency of switching power supplies. It also includes a user license for U1881A-003 PC-based power measurement and analysis software that provides even more powerful insight into power supply measurement. With this option you can:
- Measure switching loss and conduction loss at the switching device (to help improve efficiency)
- Analyse dI/dt and dV/dt slew rate (for reliable operation)
- Automate oscilloscope set-up for ripple measurements (to eliminate tedious manual oscilloscope set up)
- Perform pre- compliance testing to IEC 61000- 3- 2 standards (to reduce compliance testing time)
- Analyse line power with total harmonic distortion, true power, apparent power, power factor, and crest factor tests (to quickly provide power quality information)
- Measure output noise (ripple)
- Analyse modulation using the on- time and off- time information of a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) signal (to help characterize the active power factor)
- Measure how well a circuit rejects ripple coming from the input power supply at various frequencies with the Power Supply Rejection Ratio (PSRR) measurement.
Well not a feature as such, but it exists if you know where to find it:
There is no doubt that the Infiniivision 3000-series are a great line of instruments. The waveform sample rate, memory size and bandwidth options are very competitive, and the ability to add various options is convenient and also helps lower the final cost for purchasing departments. (Start with the base model then hit them up for the options over time)
However there are a few things that could use improvement. Although the display is excellent – the right-hand column with “Agilent” at the top is always displayed. This is a waste of LCD space and there should be an option to turn it off, allowing waveforms to be displayed across the entire screen. If a $400 Rigol can do this, so should a $5000+ Agilent. The build unit of the unit is good, no problems are evident however it could be a little more “solid”; and the option of a clear shield for the LCD would be a great idea to protect against forceful and dirty fingers.
Furthermore the ground demonstration terminal suffers from metal fatigue very quickly, it already is somewhat chipped and may need replacing if you used it quite often. Finally, it would have been nice to see Agilent include the a carry bag – already people have asked to borrow the unit and to wander around with it in the box is somewhat awkward.
For those who rely on their test equipment will have the peace of mind that Chinese discount suppliers cannot give you – Agilent support exists and will not ignore you once a sale has been made. It doesn’t take long to find a tale of woe on an Internet forum from someone who imported their own “high-spec” DSO via eBay or direct east-Asian sellers only to find there are no firmware updates, competent English-speaking support or warranty of any kind. Furthermore, the ability to combine many functions in the one piece of equipment saves space, time and reduces your support channel back to one supplier. There is also an iPhone “app” that may be of interest – however as an Android user I haven’t tried it.
The saying “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten” certainly holds true – and at the end of the day combined with the mix of standard and optional features at various price points – the Agilent Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A rises to the top echelon of test equipment.
Australian readers please note:
Trio Smartcal are the exclusive Australian Agilent distributors for all states except WA and NT – telephone 1300 853 407.
Measurement Innovation for WA and NT – telephone 08 9437 2550
High-resolution images are available on flickr.
Once again thanks for reading, have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitter, Google+, subscribe for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other – and we can all learn something.
Time for another competition! To enter is very easy. There will be six questions hidden within articles published in the month of July (but not this one!). Once you have answers to all six, email them to competition at tronixstuff dot com with “July 2011″ in the subject line before 05/08. On the 5th of August, I will compile a list of people with the correct answers, and randomly select two winners. Please note competition rules at the end of this article.
The first winner drawn will receive an ex-review Ikalogic “Scanalogic2” PC-based logic analyser and signal generator:
With the Scanalogic2, you can capture and analyse all sorts of signals, including I2C, CAN bus, SPI, UART, and more. The firmware is user-upgradable and allows the design team to add more features when they are developed. You can even capture data and play it back to recreate situations in the future, or transfer the data to other users for their analysis. For more information please visit the Ikalogic website, or read my quick review of the Scanalogic.
The second winner drawn will receive one brand new Gravitech Arduino Nano:
Made in the USA, the Gravitech Arduino Nano is a very, very small version of our Arduino Duemilanove boards. It contains the same microcontroller (ATmega328) but in SMD form; has all the I/O pins (plus two extra analogue inputs); and still has a USB interface via the FT232 chip. The prize version will have the pins soldered as shown above.
As with any other competition, there needs to be some rules:
- Prizes will be delivered via Australia Post domestic or regular international air mail. Winners may elect for other methods upon payment of real cost;
- Winners outside of Australia will be responsible for any taxes, fees or levies imposed by your local Governments (such as import levies, excise, VAT, etc.) upon importation of purchased goods;
- Prizes may take up to 45 days to be received;
- If you have won a previous competition you cannot enter;
- The Judge’s decision is final with regards to any dispute;
- Entries will be accepted until 2359h GMT on 4th August 2011.
So have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitter, subscribe for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other – and we can all learn something.
[Update 14/01/2013 - Now available locally in Australia]
Today we examine a tiny and fascinating piece of test equipment from Gabotronics – their XMEGA Xprotolab. Sure, that sounds like a lot – and it is. Yet the functionality of the Xprotolab is inversely proportional to its physical size. Try to imagine having an oscilloscope, arbitrary waveform generator, logic analyser and a spectrum analyser – including a display – in a package no larger than 25.4 x 40.6 mm (1″ x 1.6″) in size. Well imagine no more as here it is:
As described above, this tiny marvel of engineering has the following functions:
- Two analogue oscilloscope channels with a maximum sampling rate of 2 million samples per second;
- Analogue bandwidth of 320 kHz at 8-bits resolution;
- Buffer size of 256 samples;
- Fast fourier-transform;
- Analog and external digital triggering;
- Maximum input voltage of +/- 10V;
- Automatic average and peak-to-peak measurements;
- Logic analyser with eight channel maximum simultaneous monitoring;
- Firmware is user upgradable;
- Can also be used as a development board for the XMEGA microcontroller (extra items required);
- When powered from a USB cable, the board can supply +/-5V and +3.3V into a solderless breadboard.
The OLED screen is very clear and precise, which considering the size of 0.96″ – very easy to read. One can also set the display mode to invert which changes the display to black on white, bringing back memories of the original Apple Macintosh:
Using the Xprotolab took a little getting used to, however after pressing menu buttons for a few minutes I had it worked out. The more sensible among you will no doubt read the instructions and menu map listed at the website. Having the dual voltmeter function is quite useful, it saved me having to mess about with a couple of multimeters when trying to debug some analogue circuits I’m currently working with.
The display can be as complex or as simple as you choose, for example when working with the oscilloscope you can disable one channel and shift the waveform so it occupies the centre of the screen. Or when working with the logic analyser, you can choose to only select the channels being monitored, instead of filling the screen with unused logic lines.
There are a couple of things to take care with. When inserting the Xprotolab into your breadboard, be careful not to put pressure on the OLED display when pushing down; when removing it from the breadboard, try and do so evenly with the help of an DIP IC puller.
Generally in my reviews there is a video clip of something happening. Unfortunately my camera just isn’t that good, so below is the demonstration clip from the manufacturer:
As you can see the Xprotolab would be quite useful for monitoring various signals whilst prototyping, as you can just drop it into a breadboard. Furthermore, if your required range is measurable the Xprotolab saves you having to look back-and-forth between a prototype and the display from a regular oscilloscope as well.
As the purchase price is relatively cheap compared against the time and effort of trying to make an OLED display board yourself, one could also plan to build an Xprotolab into a final design – considering a lot of measurement and display work is already done for you it could be a real time-saver. The Xprotolab can run from a 5V supply and only draws a maximum of 60 milliamps. Product support is quite extensive, including source code, schematics, videos, a user forum and more available from the product page.
In conclusion the Xprotolab is genuinely useful, inexpensive and ready to use out of the box. It would make a useful piece of test equipment for a beginner or seasoned professional, and also integrates well into custom projects when required.
Remember, if you have any questions about the Xprotolab, please contact Gabotronics via their website.
Otherwise, have fun, stay safe, be good to each other – and make something!
[Note - the Xprotolab reviewed in this article was received from Gabotronics for review purposes]
Today we will take a first look at the Ikalogic “Scanalogic2” PC-based logic analyser and signal generator. This is a tiny and useful piece of test equipment that should be useful for beginners and experienced engineers alike. It has been developed by two guys in Europe that are dedicated to the craft, and I wish them well. First of all, let’s pull it out of the box and see what we have:
Upon opening the box, one finds a USB cable, the connector leads and the unit itself. It really is small, around 60 x 35 x 20mm. The USB cable is just under 900mm long. Finally a small instruction and welcome postcard which details a quick overview of the software and the unit’s specifications. Ikalogic are to be congratulated for the minimal level of packaging – finally a company that realises one can download the required items instead of printing books, burning DVDs and causing an increase in shipping weight.
The first thing you will need to do is download the latest software. It needs a Windows-based PC with .net framework. Installing took about two minutes, then the ubiquitous system restart. Finally the last preparation is to check for the latest firmware and update it. This is a simple procedure – download a .zip file, extract the .hexe file, then just file>update device firmware in the software. The desktop software checks for new versions before every startup, so you can be sure of having the latest version.
Here are the specifications of the unit from their web page:
Certainly there is a lot there to take advantage of. Personally I consider the logic analyser functions to be of great interest, and will now demonstrate those to see how they can be useful in debugging and generally figuring out what my designs are up to.
One can capture data in two ways, either by using a live sampling mode, or capture mode where you set the device to sample data into its memory, and then reviewing the data using the software. If you are using the live mode, the quality of the sampling will be affected by your PC resources. For example, consider this first demonstration. A very simple Arduino is setting a pin high and low:
In live mode you can still use the horizontal scroll feature to move backwards and forwards through the captured data. One can also expand the data display to the full width of the window. When using the live mode, I found that there was still some variation in the logic levels that was not programmed for. My PC is fairly up to date, consisting of an AMD PhenonII dual-core 3.1 GHz CPU, 2GB RAM at 1066 MHz, running Windows 7 x64. Perhaps I could use some more RAM? A better video chipset? Who knows… Unfortunately I don’t have a more powerful PC to test. Therefore I will stick to the normal capture mode. Doing so is also quite easy – here is the basic setup tab:
It is pretty self-explanatory. If you have a fair idea of your sampling rate, you can drop it down to increase the available sampling time. Here I have selected the lowest sampling rate, as I will just capture the pulses as shown in the earlier demonstration. Once your sample has been collected, you can scroll through it at your leisure, and also save the sample to disk.
In being able to save the data for later retrieval, there are three things that can be done with the data:
- As anyone can download the software, you can share your samples by emailing or sharing the files with colleagues – they can playback the sample without owning a Scanalogic themselves, by just using the software;
- You can keep the sample for later analysis
- You can blast out the captured data using the function generator feature. Neat! Let’s do that now…
Earlier on I captured the following from a TwentyTen board:
And now I can just right-click on the data (channel one) and select run data generator for this channel then click start on the left. Which results in the following output:
Very good (except for my old CRO). Also notice the log area at the bottom of the application screen – it relays unit status, error messages and so on.
Now let’s capture and look at some more interesting sample data. The following example is an example of captured data from an Arduino serial-out pin, which was programmed to send the letter “A” out at 2400 bps using serial.write();
Once you have captured the sample, you can select the parameters of the data stream and decode the sample. As you can see in the image above, the decoder shows the data stream in hexadecimal and the ASCII equivalent.
Next on the test is I2C. This is a common two wire data bus from Philips/NXP, used in many systems. More about I2C with Arduino is here. A very popular example of an I2C IC is the Maxim DS1307 real-time clock. We can use our Scanalogic to eavesdrop on the SCA and SCL data lines to see what is being said between the microcontroller and the DS1307 (click to enlarge):
So in the example above, the value 0×68 (binary 1101000) is sent down the bus. This is the unique identifier (slave address) for a DS1307 IC. So the Arduino is saying “Hey – DS1307 – wake up”. This is then followed by a 0×00 or directional bit. The DS1307 then replies by sending the time data back to the bus. The first piece of data in the reply is 0×68, which identifies to the I2C bus (recall that 0×68 is the DS1307 identifier) that the data is from the DS1307. Following this is the time and data data in hexadecimal, which is converted to binary-coded decimal in the microcontroller software.
When working with I2C, it really pays to have the data sheet for your IC with you. Then you can decipher the data, direction and timing with the sample data on one side and the timing diagrams on the other. For example, page twelve of the DS1307 data sheet. In doing so, it reminds me how much I dislike I2C
Moving along. Next we will have a look at some data from the SPI (serial peripheral interface) lines. Again, this is quite simple, you just connect the four hooks into the clock, MOSI, MISO and CS lines, and capture away. The software allows you to select which hook is connected to which line, so you can connect up quickly. At this point I will note that the IC hooks are somewhat inexpensive, and the designers could have spent a few more Euro on including some decent ones. Anyhow, here is the screen dump (click to enlarge):
At this point one can realise all sorts of monitoring possibilities. I wish I had one of these years ago when learning digital electronics – you could just monitor the highs and lows over four channels and debug things very quickly. Will keep this in mind when I get around to making a TTL clock.
Anyhow – the Scanalogic2 has a lot going for it in terms of data capturing ability, the price is right, you can update the software and firmware very easily, and the desktop software is freely available in order to share samples with others. There are a few cons though – the IC hooks could be better (I couldn’t connect four in a row onto an IC for the life of me); the unit could use some documentation in terms of a “Getting Started” guide or webpage – so due to this the learning curve is quite high. There is their version here, but I feel it could be expanded upon. Many beginners and amateurs will be attracted to this unit due to the price. However there is a support forum and so on, but answers can vary in quality and time.
However, don’t let the cons put you off – this thing is cheap, the software is very good – and it works. Two thumbs up!
To purchase a Scanalogic2, visit the Ikalogic home page. If you need to analyse some data, and don’t want to spend a bucket of money – this is for you.