Open Design Oscilloscope Could be (Almost) Free

If you could only own one piece of test equipment, it should probably be an oscilloscope. Then again, modern scopes often have multiple functions, so maybe that’s not a fair assertion. A case in point is the Scopefun open hardware project. The device is a capable 2-channel scope, a logic analyzer and also a waveform and pattern generator. The control GUI can work with Windows, Linux, or the Mac (see the video, below).

The hardware uses a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA. A GUI uses a Cypress’s EZ-USB FX2LP chip to send configuration data to the FPGA.  Both oscilloscope channels are protected for overvoltage up to +/- 50 V. The FPGA samples at 100 Mhz through a 10-bit dual analog-to-digital converter ( ADC ). The FPGA handles triggering and buffers the input before sending the data to the host computer via the USB chip. Each channel has a 10,000 sample buffer.

There are also two generator outputs with short circuit and overvoltage protection ( +/- 50 V ). Generator channels have 50 Ohm internal impedance and also operates via the GUI using the same USB chip. The FPGA generates signals at 50 Mhz using counters, algorithms, or simple waveform data and feeds a DAC.

A 16-bit digital interface can be set as inputs or outputs. The FPGA samples inputs at 100 MHz. The output voltage can be set, but inputs are 5 V tolerant.

According to the developer, you can build the scope from the information provided by using free sample chips from the various vendors, only paying for the small components and the cost of the PCB.

We’ve looked at several low-cost scope options before. Labtool even boasts some similar features.

Choosing A ‘Scope: Examining Bandwidth

A few weeks ago I asked the Hackaday community for some help and advice in buying a new budget oscilloscope. Thank you very much to those of you who responded both here online and in person among my friends closer to home. I followed the overwhelming trend in the advice I received, and bought myself a Rigol DS1054z, an instrument with which I am very happy. It’s a nominally a 50 MHz scope, but there’s a software hack that can bring it up to 100 MHz. How fast can it go?

My trusty Cossor, its 2 MHz bandwidth as yet unverified.
My trusty Cossor, its 2 MHz bandwidth as yet unverified.

This question became a mini scope-shootout after a conversation with my Hackaday colleague [Elliot] about measuring oscilloscope bandwidth, and then my fellow Oxford Hackspace members producing more than one scope for comparison. You know who you are, thank you. I found myself with ready access to several roughly equivalent models and one very high-end one in specification terms representing different strata of test equipment manufacture, and with the means to examine their performance.

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Ask Hackaday: Help Me Choose A ‘Scope

If there is one instrument that makes an electronic engineer’s bench, it is the oscilloscope. The ability to track voltages in the time domain and measure their period and amplitude is one akin to a light in the darkness, it turns a mere tinkerer with circuits into one in command of them. Straightforward add-on circuits can transform a basic oscilloscope into a curve tracer, frequency response display, and much more, and modern oscilloscopes offer a dizzying array of useful measurement features unimaginable to engineers only a few years ago. And I need your help to pick a new one.

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Yet Another Inductance Measuring Scheme

How do you measure the value of an unknown inductor? If you have an LCR bridge or meter, you are probably going to use that. If not, there are many different techniques you can use. All of them rely on the same thing my Algebra teacher Mr. Harder used to say back in the 1970’s: you have to use what you know to get what you don’t know.

[Ronald Dekker] must think the same way. He took a 50-ohm signal generator and a scope. He puts the signal output to about 20kHz and adjusts for 1V peak-to-peak on the scope. Then he puts the unknown inductor across the signal and adjusts the frequency (and only the frequency) for an output of 1/2 volt peak-to-peak.

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[Alan Wolke]’s How To Use An Oscilloscope

If you were to create a Venn diagram of Hackaday readers and oscilloscope owners the chances are the there would be a very significant intersection of the two sets. Whether the instrument in question is a decades-old CRT workhorse or a shiny modern digital ‘scope, it’s probably something you’ll use pretty often and you’ll be very familiar with its operation.

An oscilloscope is a very complex instrument containing a huge number of features. Modern ‘scopes in particular bring capabilities through software unimaginable only a few years ago. So when you look at your ‘scope, do you really know how to use its every feature? Are you getting the best from it, or are you only scratching the surface of what it can do?

[Alan Wolke, W2AEW] is an application engineer at Tektronix, so as you might expect when it comes to oscilloscopes he knows a thing or two about them. He’s spoken on the subject in the past with his “Scopes for Dopes” lecture, and his latest video is a presentation to the NJ Antique Radio Club which is a very thorough exploration of using an oscilloscope. The video is below the break and at an hour and twenty minutes it’s a long one. We make no apologies for that, for it should be fascinating in its entirety for any oscilloscope owner. Even if you find yourself nodding along to most of what he’s saying there are sure to be pearls of ‘scope wisdom in there you weren’t aware of.

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Hackaday Links: July 17, 2016

There’s going to be a new Nintendo console for Christmas! It’s the NES Classic Edition. It looks like a minified NES, with weird connectors that look like the connector for the Wii Nunchuck. There are no other details.

A site called “Motherboard” reports assembling a computer is too hard and a ‘nerve-wrecking [sic]’ process. Tip of the stovepipe to the Totalbiscuit.

When I was in elementary school, the playground had a twenty foot tall metal slide that faced South. During my time there, at least three of my classmates fell off it, and I distinctly remember the school nurse’s aid running past me on the playground with a wheelchair. There wasn’t soft mulch or the weird rubber granules under this slide – just hard, compacted dirt. This slide was awesome, even if it was torn down when I was in third grade. [Brandon Hart]’s kid’s won’t look back fondly on their youth with experiences like these; he built a water-cooled slide in his backyard. He’s getting an 80°F ΔT with a trip to Ace Hardware, probably $20 in fittings, and a drill. Neat.

This is probably better suited for an ‘Ask Hackaday’ column, but [Arsenijs] has run into a bit of a problem with his Raspberry Pi Project. He’s trying to use a planarized kernel module to obfuscate the SPI bus, but he can’t do that because of a oblivated drumble pin. He could, of course, deenumerate several of the GISP modules, but this would cause a buffer underflow and eventually wreck the entire cloudstack. I told him he should use Corrosion, but he seems dead set on his Hokey implementation. If anyone has any ideas, get the glamphs and put it on the grumbo.

The Owon SDS7102 oscilloscope is a small, cheap, two-channel scope that is impressive for its price but noisier than you would expect. This scope has been thoroughly reverse engineered, and now Linux is running on this scope. This Linux scope has a working VGA display, USB host, USB device, Flash, and working Ethernet. The entire analog front end has been reversed engineered, and somehow this is now the most open oscilloscope you can buy.

The ESP32 is Espressif’s followup to their very popular ESP8266 WiFi module. The ESP32 will be much more powerful and include Bluetooth when it’s released in August. Until then, [Pighixxx] has the complete pinout for the ESP32.

Reverse Engineering The OWON SDS7102 Oscilloscope

It is something of a rite of passage for an electronics enthusiast, the acquisition of a first oscilloscope. In decades past that usually meant a relatively modest instrument, maybe a 20MHz bandwidth and dual trace if you were lucky. Higher spec devices were eye-wateringly expensive monsters, not for the Common People.

We are fortunate that like most other areas of technology the world of test equipment has benefited in the last few years both from developments in digital technology and from the growth in Chinese manufacturing. If your first ‘scope is that second-hand 20MHz CRT you will probably secure it for pennies, and the first ‘scope you buy new will probably have a spec closer to those unattainable super-scopes of yesteryear. Gone is the CRT and timebase generator, in its place a TFT, system-on-chip, and super-fast A to D converter.

[Christer Weinigel] has just such an entry-level modern digital ‘scope, an OWON SDS7102. He comments that it’s got an impressive spec for its price, though the input is noisier than you’d expect on a more expensive device, and the software has one or two annoying bugs. Having owned it for a while, he’s now subjected it to a lengthy teardown and reverse engineer, and he’s posted his findings in a succession of blog posts.

[Christer]’s interest lay mainly in the OWON’s digital section, it seems there is already a substantial community paying attention to its analog front end. He’s deduced how its internals are connected, ported Linux to its Samsung SoC in the scope, succeeded in getting its peripherals working, and set to work programming the Xilinx FPGA that’s responsible for signal processing.

The series of posts is a fascinating read as a run through the process of reverse engineering , but he points out that it’s quite a lot of information. If you are just interested in how a cheap modern oscilloscope works, he says, he suggests reading his post in which he recaps on all its different components.

He also makes a plea for help, he’s no slouch on the ‘scope’s software but admits he’s a bit out of his depth on some aspects of the FPGA. If you’re an FPGA wizard with an interest in ‘scopes, he’d like to hear from you.

This isn’t the first time we’ve featured ‘scope reverse engineering here at Hackaday, though it may be more in-depth than others. In the past we’ve seen a Uni-T screen grab protocol laid bare, and an investigation of a Rigol 1054Z.