Skip navigation
All Places > Keysight Blogs > Oscilloscopes Blog > Blog > 2016 > October

As both an electrical engineer and a Halloween enthusiast, I decided to make my Halloween dreams (or nightmares) into reality with my first animated prop. I set out to make a skeleton lady that rocks back and forth as the centerpiece of our haunted house.

To build the animated skeleton, I started with:
- an old dress
- a skeleton head 
- a remote control car toy


First we took apart the remote control car and hooked it up to an L293D motor control IC (H-bridge circuit) and we made our first prototype with styrofoam rods.

We used a micro-controller to send control signals to the IC. The H-bridge was used to control the direction of the DC motor to enable both forward and reverse movement.

Using a microcontroller and a DC motor

After a successful dry run, we added the dress and realized we had a big mechanical problem. With the weight of the dress on top of the long rod, the torque was too much for our little remote control car motor. It could move forward, but the motor could not return to it’s starting position.

Next we tried a little servo motor. For a moment it looked like it would work, but after struggling against gravity one too many times, the gears were sheared.

The third time must be the charm, because next we tried a motor with a little more "umph" and found success! With a working prototype it was time to construct the final structure.


Base for the animated prop

We used balsa wood and another foam rod to keep the frame light-weight but sturdy and secured it to a heavy base for stability. We topped it with our skeleton head and some purple hair.

We dressed the frame in its vintage gown, and found we had torque issues again. In order to lighten the design, we had to remove several layers out of the dress and the hair. Then, to give the motor just a little help against gravity, we tied a string from a support behind the frame to the arm attached to the motor. This took some weight off the motor when the frame was in full extension. That way the motor wasn’t strained to operate in reverse. Ta da!!! A successful rocking skeleton lady!


We probed the signal going into the motor to get a better understanding of what was going on electronically.

We used the servo library in the Arduino programming language to program our IC. We adjusted the angles and time of the movement, time between movements, and repetition of movement. The signal sent to the motor is digital, 0V or 5V so we suspected that we would observe a pulse width modulated signal on the oscilloscope. Servo motors, in a nutshell, consist of gears attached to a DC motor with a control circuit which manipulates potentiometers to change the motor’s movement. The resistance of the potentiometers is adjusted to send the customized movements to the motor.

Here is what we found:

A pulse width modulated signal!

Here we have the motor hooked up to the frame and are probing the signal to the motor simultaneously so we can see how the pulses coordinate with the movement. The smaller pulses are the rock forward and the large pulses correspond to the rock back – which makes sense as it probably takes a lot more power to go against gravity then with it.

All that was left was a few finishing touches and this prop is ready for Halloween and its debut in the haunted house. 


Happy Halloween!!

By Rachel Beddor

The surge in low-speed serial buses in the consumer market has brought about the need for accurate protocol decoders. Traditionally, decoding a serial bus would mean a trip back to your introductory engineering class— lots of counting 1s and 0s. This method is tedious and prone to errors, so a better option is to use technology to decode serial buses. As oscilloscopes become the all-in-one lab instrument (some InfiniiVision scopes even include a function generator), separate protocol analyzers are no longer needed. I was able to explore this as an intern with Keysight this summer when I worked on the release for the I2S Protocol Triggering and Decode Software for Infiniium oscilloscopes.

The three crucial signals in an I2S bus: data, word select, and clock

The three crucial signals in an I2S bus: data (yellow), word select (blue), and clock (red).

The I2S bus is used to transfer data within audio systems. It’s a straightforward protocol consisting of a data line, word select signal and clock. From cars to laptops, the I2S bus is becoming pervasive in a range of industries, and this makes it an exciting protocol to work on as an intern. In August, Keysight released the I2S Protocol Triggering and Decode Software for Infiniium (Option N8811A). This Infiniium add-on features I2S serial bus hardware triggering*, I2S protocol decoding, and user-selectable signal alignment selections including support for time division multiplexed signals (TDM).

The increasingly popular TDM I2S signals allow for multiple lines of data to be sent over the same bus. For example, this technology could be used in an automobile, where digital audio data can be sent to front speakers and a rear woofer through the same bus. Since TDM signals might include several channels in the same packet, these signals are particularly difficult to debug without advanced software.

time division multiplexed signals in I2S protocol decode

Using TDM technology, four unique channels of data are sent through a single I²S data line.

In addition to TDM alignment, the I2S Protocol Triggering and Decode Software supports standard I2S, left-justified and right-justified signals. Any decode only requires three inputs: the data, word select, and clock line of an I2S bus. On a Keysight MSO, these can be either analog or digital inputs.

Keysight Infiniium protocol search option

The protocol search tool makes finding errors effortless. Trigger on specific packets, conditions and errors.

Throughout the industry, protocol decoding has never been simpler, more flexible or more reliable. With this new technology, you can be confident in your ability to decode any I2S signal – including TDM – and customize your decode to suit your specific application. Want to read your results in Hex? It’s just a tap on the screen. Want to use a digital clock signal but an analog data signal? It’s a touch of a button. Want to turn your instrument into an alarm clock? Well…you might want to check out this video first

In all seriousness, ultimately what I found most impressive about Keysight’s software throughout my internship experience was the ease of use. I came to the office with only two years of engineering school and I knew absolutely nothing about serial buses—I complained that a spec that used the term “slave mode” wasn’t PC.

To be honest, the Infiniium oscilloscope software made my job really easy -- it’s not just accurate, it’s intuitive. Every scope has a built-in help menu and demos for protocol decode applications so I could figure everything out on my own.

Infiniium oscilloscope software has built-in help menus and demos for protocol decode

You really can’t mess this up.

Keysight’s I2S Protocol Triggering and Decode Software for Infiniium oscilloscopes may be the best I2S protocol application. But it wasn’t programmed for a serial bus, it was programmed for people. That’s what sets Keysight apart, and that’s how you’re going to solve your signal integrity problems.


*S-Series only

Remember back on September 1st of this year when we posted about the new 5.60 Infiniium features? Or on September 14th when we talked about how the S-Series scopes keep getting better?  Good news: the S-Series, as well as the other Infiniium oscilloscopes, have been updated again to give you even more measurement solutions with the new Infiniium 5.70 software release.  This software release includes FFT enhancements, analysis diagrams, and new protocol and decodes to make using Infiniium oscilloscopes even easier!


FFT enhancements


You can quickly and accurately calculate transmitter power and bandwidth with these new FFT measurements:

  • Channel power- automatically calculates integrated power over a specified bandwidth
  • Power spectral density - measures normalized channel power over a specified bandwidth to quantify normalized power/noise density
  • Occupied bandwidth - calculates where 99% of the transmitted power resides in a given bandwidth to verify proper transmitter bandwidth requirements


We also added spectrum analyzer capabilities to the Infiniium oscilloscopes. You can specify the detector type and number of peaks that are displayed on screen.  Just choose from Sample, Positive, Negative, Normal, or Average detector type to customize the data displayed, like on a spectrum analyzer.


And if you are measuring out-of-bound signals, you can create a mask test for your FFT and view a list of violations that occur.  This table will tell you the number of failed waveforms, at what frequencies the violations happened, the peak amplitude, and the delta between the limit of the mask and the amplitude of the violation to give you more insight into when and how your signal is going out of the limits you specify.


Analysis Diagrams


Analysis diagrams are great if you have a complicated test setup with multiple functions running on the oscilloscope.  Analysis diagrams can help you understand the signal displayed on your screen by showing you the signal path, the functions being applied and in what order they are applied.  


Protocol and Decode Additions


The Keysight 5.70 Infiniium oscilloscope software release also provides a protocol decode and triggering bundle called AERO. This includes MIL-STD 1553 and ARINC 429, which are used in both commercial and military applications.


Traditionally, debugging serial buses has meant manually counting bits – which is not only tedious but prone to errors.  But Infiniium oscilloscopes with the AERO bundle you can set up your protocol decode and start debugging in under 30 seconds, so you can validate your designs quickly and easily.


Infiniium on Your Oscillocope and PC

As you can see, the Keysight Infiniium team is constantly updating our software to bring you new measurements, functions, analysis capabilities, protocol decode options, and more.  Another great feature of the Infiniium software is that you can get all the same capabilities and features with an identical GUI on your PC with Infiniium Offline.  You can try it for free here.

It seems like all we hear about today in the test and measurement industry is “solutions.” Why is the word “solutions” such a popular buzz word? Well, it has a great double meaning. The first (and most obvious) definition of solution is an answer or resolution to a problem or situation. The second meaning of “solution” comes from as far back as the year 1590, and means a liquid mixture that is completely mixed (solute into solvent). When we talk about solutions, we really imply both of these definitions. One of them literally, and one of them metaphorically.

Let’s start with the literal meaning. When I say that our DDR solution kicks booty (metaphorically, not literally), what I mean is that we have a robust, industry-proven oscilloscope that will simplify the complicated task of triggering, analyzing and debugging parallel buses. If you work with DDR, you’re probably now thinking, “tell me more about this solution.” Ok, here goes:

“The Keysight Infiniium V-Series oscilloscopes also have the world’s fastest digital channels, which means you can probe at the various command signals to easily trigger on the different DDR commands such as read, write, activate, precharge and more. DDR triggering makes read and write separation easy, providing fast electrical characterization, real-time eye analysis and timing measurements. The DDR protocol decoder can decipher the DDR packets and provide a time-aligned listing window to search for specific packet information.”

So I may have copied that from our DDR webpage, but it doesn’t count as plagiarizing if it’s from my own company. And, it’s one heckuva solution because it does the job you’ll need it to do, and it does it well. If it didn’t get the job done, it wouldn’t be a solution. I also can’t just call it an oscilloscope, because it’s more than that. It’s a combination of hardware, software, and probing – it’s a whole solution.

But here’s what it comes down to, we call it a solution because it’s the answer to a lot of your DDR problems, and it’s so much more than just a piece of hardware for your bench.

Ok, I hinted above about how this could get metaphorical. The literal, chemistry definition of solution is a liquid mixture that has a fully dissolved (same root word as solution!) solute in a solvent. I don’t literally work with solutions. But when we at Keysight are combining and integrating software and hardware, we’re creating a metaphorical solution. For us to do the job 100% of the way, our software has to fully integrate (or dissolve) with our hardware. That’s what makes it a solution. It flows, it integrates, it works as one!

Ok, I also hinted that I’d get (possibly too) philosophical.  I’ll go so far as to say that we can’t really call it a solution until it’s in the hands of an engineer and being used to find solutions to bugs in their design. A solution can only be a solution when the test equipment is fully integrated (dissolved) into an engineer’s workflow and design process. The solution consists of the test tools (the solute) and the engineer’s skill and wit (the solvent). In chemistry, the solute is considered the “minor component” and the solvent is considered the “major component.” This holds true for our metaphorical solution. We can only do so much to provide the solute, the real quality of the solution is dictated by you, the solvent!

So, there’s really two main reasons we talk about solutions. 1st, we want to convey that we can help solve your problems with a combination of tools. 2nd, we want to partner with you to create and find the real solution, a combination of quality equipment and quality engineering.

In closing, a haiku:

Solutions, complex
Combine wit and expertise
to solve tough problems

Or more traditional English:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I’m an engineer not a poet

Author’s note: there may or may not have been a challenge to see how many times I could use the word “solutions” in a blog post. The answer is 32. Solutions. 33.

Keysight recently introduced the industry’s first (and only) certified Thunderbolt 3 transmitter compliance application, N6470A


What is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt is the brand name of a hardware interface that allows the connection of external peripherals to a computer.  Thunderbolt 3 was developed by Intel and was announced in the first half of 2015.  Its claim to fame is speed; two independent 20 Gbps links into one logical 40 Gbps link.  Thunderbolt 3 is a revolutionary I/O technology that supports high resolution displays and high performance data devices through a single compact USB Type-C port.  It sets new standards for speed, flexibility, and simplicity.  Multiple devices can be daisy chained to create a Thunderbolt network.  While Thunderbolt one and two just specified active electrical and also optical cables, version three also supports connecting devices with passive cables at full speed. The Type-C connector brings more speed, more pixels (4K), more power (100 Watts), and more protocols (Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB, and PCIe).   From the Intel Thunderbolt website, they depict the following:  

Thunderbolt was developed to simultaneously support the fastest data and most video bandwidth available on a single cable, while also supplying power. The USB group introduced the USB-C connector, which is small, reversible, fast, supplies power, and allows other I/O in addition to USB to run on it, maximizing its potential. So in the biggest advancement since its inception, Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB-C at 40 Gbps, fulfilling its promise to create one compact port that does it all. As Intel states on their website, Thunderbolt 3 mode is a single cable that provides four times the data and twice the video bandwidth of any other cable, while supplying power. It’s unrivaled for new uses, such as 4K video, single-cable docks with charging, external graphics, and built-in 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking.  Simply put, Thunderbolt 3 delivers the best USB-C.   You can connect two 4K 60 Hz displays with amazing resolution, contrast, and color depth to see your photos, videos, applications, and text with remarkable detail.   Just to give you an idea of the performance, you can transfer a 4K high definition movie in less than 30 seconds. You can connect two 4K displays with nearly 16 million more pixels than an HDTV. The latest MacBook Pro 2016 Includes Thunderbolt 3 with USB-C.  Some other Manufacturers with notebooks and laptops supporting Thunderbolt 3 are HP, Acer, Dell, Alienware, Asus, Lenovo, MSI, and Razer Blade.


Who needs to do Thunderbolt 3 Compliance testing?

Manufacturers of Thunderbolt 3 chip sets, servers, workstations, laptops, gaming PC’s, industrial cameras, high speed PCIe storage, displays, and adapters are required to perform industry standard compliance and validation testing to the industry compliance specification “USB Type-C Thunderbolt Alternate Mode Electrical Host / Device Compliance Test Specification”. Their key issues are ‘how do I ensure the transmitter is in spec?’, ‘how much time will it take to make all the required measurements?’ and ‘how can I make sure my test results are repeatable?’   At 20 Gbps, signals are significantly impaired when conducted electrically over short distances. Analyzing these signals is critical for chip manufacturers characterizing silicon, or a system integrator doing debug, validation, or compliance.

The good news is that Keysight’s high speed Infiniium oscilloscopes are now the only scopes that are currently specified for Transmitter compliance testing.  Here is what this standard specifies for transmit compliance test equipment:


Required Test Equipment Capabilities

  • DC to 21±1GHz, -3db bandwidth or greater
  • 50G sample/sec sampling rate or greater, sampling 2 channels simultaneously
  • Sample memory: 2 channels at 50 M samples per channel or greater
  • 1st and 2nd order CDR capability
  • Equalization for USB3.1 model capability


Recommended Test Equipment:


Our N6470A Thunderbolt 3 electrical transmit compliance test application

The N6470A Thunderbolt 3 electrical test software gives you a fast and easy way to verify and debug your Thunderbolt designs for both silicon validation as well as end products like storage devices or motherboards. The Thunderbolt 3 electrical test software allows you to automatically execute Thunderbolt 3 electrical transmitter tests and displays the results in a flexible report format.

In addition to the measurement data, the report provides a margin analysis that shows how closely your device passed or failed each test. The N6470A Thunderbolt 3 electrical test software covers the prescribed test methods and parameters required for Thunderbolt electrical certification testing. This produces results that are consistent with those obtained during official certification at approved test labs and informational testing at plugfests.  In addition to automatic setup and execution of the transmitter tests, the N6470A Thunderbolt 3 electrical test software also provides automatic setup and control of the crosstalk generator source, a required condition for electrical testing during official certification tests.

N6470A Automation

  • Test setup wizard guides you through test selection, configuration, connection, execution, and results reporting
  • Measurement connection setups are displayed
  • Automated setup and control of the required crosstalk source(s), and the oscilloscope setup is automatically configured for each test
  • Test results report documents test configuration, measurements made, pass/fail status, margin analysis, and waveforms

N6470A Extensibility

  • Run tests with live or saved waveforms for easy regression testing if specification requirements change
  • Create and fully integrate custom tests, configuration variables, and connection instructions
  • Insert external application calls into the run sequence, such as MATLAB scripts or your device controller
  • Configure additional external instruments used in your test suite


Keysight provides a simple, repeatable automated and unattended calibration and test execution using automation software for transmit test.  All Type-C PHY standards are addressed by Keysight’s Test platform; Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, and DisplayPort. Our solution helps you with pre-compliance testing with jitter, rise time and voltage measurements. For a complete presentation please see this URL: Thunderbolt 3 over Type C - Overcoming Test Challenges.


The N6470A Thunderbolt 3 Compliance Test Software for Infiniium oscilloscopes is priced at $16,000* for a fixed license and $24,000* for a transportable license.

The full N6470A compliance test suite



N6470A Real-Time Eye diagram for 10 waveforms with margin analysis




*All prices are in USD and are subject to change