You need to test, we're here to help.

You need to test, we're here to help.

16 January 2014

Mr. Oscilloscope, Meet Mr. Computer

Figure 1: WaveStation software enables full remote
control of an oscilloscope from a Windows PC
Some things just seem made to go together, such as peanut butter and jelly, baseball and hot dogs, and Lennon and McCartney. But in the engineering world, one great combination is the oscilloscope and the PC. Both are wonderful tools but together they go places that neither can without the other.

The marriage of oscilloscopes and PCs isn't new, of course, but the latest generation of instruments, PCs, and software for remote control of test equipment has taken that marriage to new heights. Let's look at some of the things one can do with Teledyne LeCroy's WaveStudio software, which is freely downloadable from the company's website and is compatible with many of its oscilloscopes (Figure 1). It's fairly representative of software of this nature from the various oscilloscope makers.

First, the software allows users to connect the instrument to the PC in various ways, including LAN, USB, RS-232, or GPIB interfaces. Establishing the link between the two is a simple matter. Once that's accomplished, you're off and running. The broad categories of tasks that WaveStudio facilitates are captures, viewing, analysis, and documentation.

WaveStudio's Display Capture function
Figure 2: WaveStudio's Display Capture function lets
you control the oscilloscope from remote locations
Users may load a waveform or screenshot into WaveStudio either offline or directly from an oscilloscope. When offline, you can open a trace (.trc) file from a USB stick or from an email attachment using the oscilloscpe's Save Waveform function. When connected to an instrument, just click on the Display Capture option in My Scope Explorer, or click any channel, math trace, zoom trace, or memory trace.

Display Capture is a particularly handy tool, as it makes for easy screen captures. Moreover, if you're controlling an LAN-connected oscilloscope in the lab from somewhere else in the facility, it's nice to be able to see the screen at update rates of as often as four times per second. Clicking on the screen with a mouse controls it just as if it were in front of you. If you prefer to do things via the front panel, you can have that too (Figure 2).

WaveStudio's built-in measurements
Figure 3: A host of built-in measurements give WaveStudio
an edge in terms of waveform analysis
Once a trace file or waveform is loaded, the next thing you'll want to do is view it. You can access trace and screenshot views in either tabs or windows; the former is best when working with a large number of captures. As shown in Figure 1, up to four windows can be tiled or cascaded.

One of the best things about software like WaveStudio is the analysis capabilities it brings to the table. The software provides x and y cursors for quick timing and amplitude measurements. Users can also turn on 21 built-in measurements for a more accurate profile of a waveform (Figure 3).

WaveStudio makes use of LabNotebooks
Figure 4: WaveStudio helps users to document waveforms
Documentation of your measurements and instrument settings is an important part of any design or debugging project. WaveStudio gives you full access to the LabNotebook feature built into many Teledyne LeCroy oscilloscopes. Users can save instrument setups and traces as LabNotebook entries, save screenshots as .bmp, .jpg, .png, or .tif files, and save traces in binary or text formats. You can also import, view, and analyze LabNotebook files from earlier design or debugging sessions. With custom text boxes, waveforms are easily annotated.

All of the above serves to illustrate what the marriage of oscilloscopes and PCs delivers to users. Remote-control software opens a lot of doors to creative uses of oscilloscopes, documentation of measurements, and ease of analysis. Let us know how you're using WaveStudio or any other remote-control software you may be using.

1 comment:

Mr. Pibb64 said...

it if important to note that you can also use SCPI / IVI-COM commands to create your own GUI tools as required for various OEM test gear. See http://www.ivifoundation.org for details. Additionally in your GUI you can create your own SCPI editor to create custom automation scripts. Besides obvious automated measurements, this is also important to perform repeated regression tests required by ISO, FCC, FDA, and other standards tests BEFORE your product prototype goes to the standards evaluation lab.

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