An analog multimeter being used as a ping display

Classic Multimeter Tells You If Your WiFi’s Working

Debugging network issues isn’t easy; many a sysadmin has spent hours trying to figure out which of the many links between client and server is misbehaving. Having a few clear pointers helps: if you can show that the  internet connection is up, that already narrows down the problem to either the server or, most likely, the client computer.

After hearing “is the internet up” one too many times, [whiskeytangohotel] decided to make a clearly visible indicator to show the status of the local uplink. He used his father’s old Simpson 260 VOM as a display, with its large analog indicator pointing at a steady value if the internet’s up, and wagging back and forth if there’s an outage. The exact value indicated is determined by the average ping time for a couple of different servers, so that you can also tell if the connection is slower than normal.

The ping times are measured by an ESP8266 connected to WiFi, which checks a predefined list of web servers and calculates the average ping time every fifteen seconds. An analog value in the 2.5 V range is then generated and measured by the meter. The smooth motion of an old analog meter stands in nice contrast to the modern-day problem of unstable WiFi.

While analog multimeters definitely have their uses, we’re the first to admit that our classic meters don’t see as much action as they could. Repurposing them as [whiskeytangohotel] did is a neat way of keeping those heirlooms around for the next generation. Of course, if you don’t have an analog multimeter, you could also use an analog clock for your ping meter. Continue reading “Classic Multimeter Tells You If Your WiFi’s Working”

Multimeters Go Big Screen

We’ve noticed lately that some cheap meters have gone to having big colorful screens. The screens aren’t dot matrix, but still have lots of graphics that could be useful or could be distracting eye candy, depending. The really cheap ones seem more like a gimmick, but [OM0ET] took a look at one that looked like a fair midrange instrument with some useful display features, the GVDA GD128.

A lot of the display shows the current function of the meter. No need for an expensive multiposition switch or rows of interlocking pushbuttons. Many of these new meters also have non-contact voltage sensors, which is handy. Otherwise, it looks like a pretty conventional cheap meter. Continue reading “Multimeters Go Big Screen”

The HP3458A: King Of Multimeters For Three Decades

[Marco] looks at a lot of meters. However, he considers the HP3458A the best even though they were introduced more than 30 years earlier in 1989. Someone donated one to [Marco] but it presented some error messages on startup and exhibited erratic behavior, so he had some repairs to do.

The error codes hinted there were issues with the multislope analog to digital converter and that’s what sets the meter apart, according to [Marco]. The meter has 8.5 digits, so a normal conversion stage won’t cut it.

Continue reading “The HP3458A: King Of Multimeters For Three Decades”

Hackaday Podcast 127: Whippletree Clamps, Sniffing Your Stomach Radio, Multimeter Hum Fix, And C64 Demo; No C64

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams help you get caught up on a week of wonder hacks. We don’t remember seeing a floppy drive headline the demoscene, but sure enough, there’s a C64 demo that performs after the computer is disconnected. What causes bench tools to have unreliable measurements? Sometimes a poor crystal choice lets AC ruin the party. We dive into the ongoing saga of the Audacity open source project’s change of ownership, and talk about generator exciter circuits — specifically their role in starting grid-scale generators from shutdown.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

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Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 127: Whippletree Clamps, Sniffing Your Stomach Radio, Multimeter Hum Fix, And C64 Demo; No C64”

Fixing Noisy Measurements On An Owon XDM2041 Bench Multimeter

After purchasing an Owon XDM2041 bench multimeter for an automated test setup, [Petteri Aimonen] was disappointed to find that at especially the higher mega Ohm ranges, the measured values were jumping around a lot and generally very inaccurate. Since this is an approximately $170 bench multimeter and Owon support wasn’t cooperating, [Petteri] set out to fix the issue, starting with a solid teardown.

As noted by [Petteri], there’s not a whole lot inside one of these multimeters. The main board with the guts of the whole system contains a GigaDevices GD32F103CBT6 MCU coupled with the star of the show: the HYCON Technology Corporation’s HY3131 multimeter chip. After a peek at the HY3131 datasheet, the culprit was quite apparent: while sampling the presence of mains voltage noise is usually suppressed through the selection of an appropriate crystal.

Unfortunately, instead of the recommended 4.9152 MHz crystal per the reference schematic for the HY3131, Owon’s engineers had apparently opted for a 4 MHz crystal instead, and so it’s essentially aliasing the line noise.

[Petteri] figured that the resulting sampling timing might work well enough with 60 Hz line frequency, but clearly with 50 Hz there was a lot of noise sneaking into the measurements. After swapping the crystal with a 3.072 MHz one, there was a marked improvement, as the plot shows.

Lightwave Multimeter Teardown

You tend to think of test equipment in fairly basic terms: a multimeter, a power supply, a signal generator, and an oscilloscope. However, there are tons of highly-specialized test equipment for very specific purposes. One of these is the 8163A “lightwave multimeter” and [Signal Path] tears one part for repair in a recent video that you can see below.

If you’ve never heard of a lightwave multimeter, don’t feel bad. The instrument is a measuring system for fiber optics and, depending on the plugins installed, can manage a few tests that you’d usually use an optical power meter, a laser or light source, and some dedicated test jigs to perform. Continue reading “Lightwave Multimeter Teardown”

Handheld Multimeter Converted For Bench Top Use

A few years ago [Mechatrommer] got one of the low-cost Aneng Q1 multimeters and has converted it into a bench top meter. He first tried and failed to do an LCD modification and set it aside. It remained in a storage box until he needed another meter to repair his rubidium frequency standard. Finding that off-the-shelf bench multimeters were literally off-the-shelf — they were too deep for his bench — he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He dug out the dismantled an Aneng Q1 and undertook a more drastic modification than before, slicing the multimeter into three pieces and mounting each piece in a new enclosure. The power-draining back-lit display of the Q1, problematic in a battery-powered handheld meter, isn’t an issue in a bench top design. [Mechatrommer] replaced the battery pack with a mains powered supply. Next he reconnected all the signals which had been interrupted by the bandsaw, and now the meter lives again.

The resulting meter is pleasing enough (ignore the sideways input jacks) and looks like a typical piece of home-brew test gear. The enclosure has a lot of empty space, which he uses to stow test leads and sandwiches (we saw a similar storage compartment in [Dave Jones]’s recent teardown of a portable Fluke 37 multimeter). Kudos to [Mechatrommer] for coming up with this unusual conversion project.

We’ve written about the differences between these low-cost and more professional multimeters before if you want to learn more.

Thanks to [Adrian] for the tip.