Yet Another Rigol DS1054Z Viewer

Tired of squinting at the small numbers on the oscilloscope display, [Alfred] aka [Gaze@] decided to take matters into his own hands and wrote yet another tool to remotely view images from a Rigol DS1054Z. At least that was the initial idea. But, it grew unexpectedly — as [Alfred] says, “the more the project turned out to be fun, the more it got out of hand”. We know the feeling well.

In addition to being able to simply view and export the screen, the program implements waveform measurements (we’re not sure if it is using the measurement ability of the ‘scope, or actually performing measurements in the program). And as you can see in the animated GIF of the program in operation over on the GitHub repository, the numbers are certainly clear and legible. His problem of squinting at the small screen has indeed been solved.

This is coded in Pascal (FPC Lazarus), but we weren’t able to browse the program because [Alfred] hasn’t posted the source code yet. It is written only for Linux, and he has tested it on Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and Manjaro. The project relies on Python, PyVisa, and gtk2, and talks to your DS1054Z over USB or LAN. The installation instructions are well documented, but as [Alfred] himself warns, if you encounter trouble arising from subtle dependency version conflicts, you may need to be a nerd and/or a pensioner with unlimited time on your hands to solve them. There is no users guide nor extensive help according to [Alfred]. However, simple hints might be found in hover text or by pressing F1. Disclaimers aside, this looks like an interesting project to try out.

As [Alfred] notes, there are many other tools available to fetch data and images from your Rigol oscilloscope. [Jenny List] wrote a two-part series on using Python to control your test instruments, and here’s an example of a simple Python script that does a screen grab. Do you have a favorite way to remotely operate your oscilloscope? Let us know in the comments below.

Raspberry Pi Boots CP/M

Retrocomputing is an enjoyable and educational pursuit and — of course — there are a variety of emulators that can let you use and program a slew of old computers. However, there’s something attractive about avoiding booting a modern operating system and then emulating an older system on top of it. Part of it is just aesthetics, and of course the real retrocomputing happens on retro hardware. However, as a practical matter, retrocomptuters break, and with emulation, you’d assume that CPU cycles spent on the host operating system (and other programs running in the background) will take away from the target retrocomputer.

If you want to try booting a “bare metal” Z80 emulator with CP/M on a Raspberry Pi, you can try EMUZ80 RPI. The files reside on an SD card and the Pi directly boots it, avoiding any Linux OS (like Raspian). It’s available for the Raspberry Pi Model B, A+, and the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. Unlike the significant boot times of the standard Linux distros on the earliest models of Pi, you can boot into CP/M in just five seconds. Just like the old days.

The secret to this development is an open source system known as Ultibo, a framework based on Open Pascal which allows you to create bare metal applications for the Raspberry Pi. The choice of Free Pascal will delight some and annoy others, depending on your predilections. Ultibo is still very much in active development, but the most common functions are already there; you can write to the framebuffer, read USB keyboards, and write to a serial port. That’s all you really need to make your own emulator or write your own Doom clone.¬†You can see a video about Ultibo (the first of a series) below.

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