Tech Marinade
Uncovering Hidden Innovation in DIY Electronics
Improve Your Hardware Debug Cycle With Tiq
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 5.11.2014 News

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As a maker, you need ways to debug fast and accurately without adding too much time to the design cycle. This means making a choice to use a simple probe to check a connection’s voltage, and only bringing out the oscilloscope if something is absolutely wacky. In some cases you might have a problem where you need to check for more than just a voltage level, maybe a quick pulse, and a multimeter or logic probe won’t do.

That’s why Mark Henderson of Innavatus (@Innavatus) from Long Beach, CA created the tiq a logic probe with advanced features for super quick debugging. Mark saw a big gap between simple and complex testing tools and decided to fill it with a device that’s as quick an easy as a logic probe, but takes some advanced logic and pulse measurements that can save precious time in debugging a circuit.

The first thing you might notice about the tiq is the big LED near the probe tip. It’s a logic state indicator using color. For example, green is LOW, CYAN is 3.3V HIGH, and BLUE is 5V HIGH. The tiq is all about providing fast and accurate measurements right at your fingertips — literally! The tiq features a 32 character LCD display located near the tip that shows all of the relevant information in an easy-to-read graphical format.

The display changes automatically depending on what type of signal detected by the tiq. If the signal is pulsing, the display shows signal frequency, duty cycle, HIGH pulse width, and LOW pulse width. In static mode, the screen shows a bar graph of voltage thresholds for the detected logic level alongside the voltage measurement. It can also measure non-logic voltages (anything between -13 and 28 Volts).

So, how does it know which mode you want to look at? It’s automagic! Well, it’s auto-ranging – a not very new or magical feature of many electronics measurement devices. Basically, the tiq can detect the voltage level and the pulse variation which is enough information to show you the right screen. No settings, no adjustments, just automatic. That might seem restrictive, but that’s the point: don’t worry about it, just debug!

The tiq showing off its pulse display mode.

The tiq showing off its pulse generation mode.

Another feature of the tiq is pulse generation. It’s a little extra bonus that could be useful on-the-go or if you don’t want to set up your Agilent generator for an easy 1 MHz, 50% duty cycle pulse. Handy.

The cherry on top is single-shot capture. While this doesn’t bring pulse measurement to the levels of a decent logic analyzer, it’s a handy feature to check if a UART is at least sending something, or to see if the PWM timing is correct. In single-shot capture mode, as long as the intended pulse is greater than 30 nanoseconds (that’s about a 33 MHz frequency sine wave) the tiq will grab the next pulse it measures.

So, why would you want the tiq?

First off, your project needs to use either 3.3V or 5V logic levels because that’s what the tiq can measure (there’s some discussion here about extending its features in the future). For maker-level projects, that’s completely reasonable – Arduino’s popular units only come in those two logic flavors.

Second, you find yourself using a voltmeter a lot for a tiny voltage range in your digital projects and grasping for the logic analyzer to measure really simple dynamic signals. The tiq fits snuggly between these two categories of measurement tools to give you quick results for the measurements you need most.

Third, you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a tool to check if PWM is working. The tiq can be yours for only $89 ($79 if you hurry!).

And no, the tiq isn’t trying to replace the tools you already love and use. It’s a first-step tool: designed to give quick, insightful information and speed up debugging. It will let you know if your circuit is functioning or if you need to step up to some more advanced troubleshooting hardware.

If you are ready to speed up your debug cycle, check out tiq on Kickstarter now!

Look below for an updated image of the LCD display along with a video from the Kickstarter campaign.

Happy Making!

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A Further Look at DSLogic
by Kyle Patrick Cayabyab ▪ 1.29.2014 News

Mentioned previously, small all-in-one tools are gaining ground on the Kickstarter scene. This is a further look at the DSLogic, a multifunctional instrument developed by DreamSource Labs based out of Beijing. This project recently completed its funding, earning more than ten times the goal ($111,497 with a goal of $10,000 to be exact). The project has also reached every one of its stretch goals, meaning an even better product for backers and future consumers.

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Smart All-In-One Tool For Makers Hits Kickstarter
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 1.23.2014 News

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2014 is turning out to be the year of the smart oscilloscopes. Red Pitaya was announced on Kickstarter last year and DSLogic is a new Kickstarter that reached its funding goal and was officially funded today. Just recently, a new contender hit the scene. A new team from Belgium called LabNation is offering a 50 MHz bandwidth digital “smart”-oscilloscope for a very reasonable $179. It’s called the SmartScope. Marketing spent most of their budget on that one.

The SmartScope is pretty reminiscent of the average USB based digital oscilloscope. It’s a small box with two co-ax connectors for two 100 MS/s analog signals, a USB connector, and power. But, wait… there’s more!

LabNation touts the SmartScope as “for makers, by makers”, and it shows. The SmartScope also features digital logic analyzer capability as well as a function generator. It’s basically the Swiss Army Knife for maker tools. The 100 MS/s rate should allow you to capture 50 Mhz digital signals, which covers most Atmel microcontroller clock speeds. On the other hand, 50 MHz will only provide a good analog measurement of waveforms up to 17 Mhz or so, but that will cover the majority of your communication interfaces such as SPI or I2C.

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