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Remote and offline PC analysis software

Given the cost of electronic test instruments like oscilloscopes, most instrumentation suppliers are finding ways to access them more freely.  One way in which they are doing this is to offer software that supports remote access and offline analysis of saved data.  So, if you’re a technician working in the lab and you have a question, you can access the oscilloscope remotely and see what the problem is.  Or, if you finished a week of testing and discovered that some important measurements had not been made, you can fire up your PC and add the required measurements to your recorded data without having to go back to the lab.  All this is possible through these software tools.

All three major oscilloscope providers have offered remote and offline analysis tools. This includes Maui Studio from Teledyne LeCroy, TekScope™ from Tektronix, and Keysight’s PathWave BenchVue Oscilloscope software. Usually, they offer a free version with limited capability and an upgraded version (or versions) for a cost, with a full set of features.  This article is based on the Teledyne LeCroy Maui Studio, but other instrument suppliers have software with similar capabilities.

Maui Studio

Teledyne LeCroy’s Maui Studio software offers the ability to work remotely from your oscilloscope while having all the functionality of your oscilloscope available right at your fingertips.  Maui Studio also allows access to a remote oscilloscope, the ability to import data and setups using an enhanced LabNotebook file, the capacity to import waveforms from other manufacturers oscilloscopes for comparison and analysis, as well as the capability to model source-response testing using the built-in arbitrary function generator which can supply standard as well as arbitrary waveforms. All this from your local personal computer.

Remote control

Remote control of an oscilloscope is common to all the remote control and analysis software offerings.  Maui Studio connects to the remote Teledyne LeCroy Maui oscilloscope via a network connection.  Obviously, the network must be setup to allow the remote access.  Simply enter the IP address or the Hostname of the remote oscilloscope on the Maui Studio remote scope tab under the file pulldown and press the Connect button to link to the remote instrument as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 An example of a remote connection between Maui Studio and a remote oscilloscope. The connection is managed using the Remote Scope tab in Maui Studio.

Maui Studio can control all aspects of the remote oscilloscope this includes acquisition settings, triggering, trace control, and display. Data can be transferred from the oscilloscope to Maui Studio or from Maui Studio to the oscilloscope. When transferring data from the oscilloscope, not only are the settings and waveforms transferred, but Maui Studio is reconfigured to match the remote oscilloscope’s model and option content. Maui Studio can be configured as any of 6 different oscilloscope families and up to a total of 39 distinct models. This is a very important feature as it allows Maui Studio to have full access to all the capabilities of the model of the remote oscilloscope and all its available options.

The user can elect to synchronize Maui Studio with the remote oscilloscope on connection or to transfer data manually. In the example in Figure 1, a segmented waveform from an ultrasonic ranging device is transferred to Maui Studio. The signal can be processed or analyzed using any of the math or analysis tools available in the remote oscilloscope. Examples shown include the of averaging the five segments and applying a filter to the waveform. Parameter and cursor measurements can be performed as shown.

When your analysis is complete, the results can be recorded using the oscilloscope’s enhanced LabNotebook report generator which saves the entire state of the instrument including waveform traces, settings, measurements, and a hardcopy of the screen. Traces, settings, and hardcopy can also be saved manually. All the files can be transferred back to the remote oscilloscope for future reference.

Transferring files between Maui Studio and the remote oscilloscope

Maui Studio includes a file transfer function which facilitates transferring files, bidirectionally between Maui Studio and the remote oscilloscope. Access to the file transfer function is by pressing the Browse Remote Scope button in the File Transfer section of the Remote Scope dialog box that is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 The file transfer function of Maui Studio facilitates file transfer between the remote oscilloscope and Maui Studio. Files may be shared in either direction.

The Browse Remote Scope button provides access to the oscilloscope directories on the remote oscilloscope. The From Remote and To Remote buttons control the direction of the transfer. Selecting a file within any of the displayed directories will bring up a prompt to select a destination. When both ends of the transfer have been chosen, an OK prompt appears, pressing OK executes the transfer. This file transfer functionality is useful for moving reports, test procedures, and other documents between Maui Studio and the remote oscilloscope. 

Transferring waveforms between oscilloscopes from different manufacturers

Maui Studio, like the other remote access and analysis software packages can import waveforms from other instruments. Maui Studio can recall waveform data from all principal oscilloscope suppliers including Keysight, Rohde and Schwarz, Tektronix, and Yokogawa. Only the waveforms are imported, no other aspect of the oscilloscope is imported. Additionally, Maui Studio can recall ASCII waveform data with some minor editing and provides a more general-purpose import functionality extending to a broad range of instruments, sensors, and third-party analysis software. 

Using the Recall Waveform selection in the File pulldown will open the Recall Waveform Browser shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 Maui Studio can import waveforms from other manufacturers oscilloscopes including files from Keysight/Rohde Schwarz (.BIN), Tektronix (.WFM), and Yokogawa (.WVF).

By selecting the appropriate file type and the desired waveform file and by pressing the Recall Now button, the waveform will be imported into the selected destination memory and displayed in Maui Studio. At this point any of Maui Studios analysis and measurement tools can be employed on the imported waveform.

Figure 4 provides an example of a .bin waveform opened in Maui Studio with additional measurements and analysis applied. Note that the waveform data points are transferred along with the waveform’s record length, sample rate, horizontal offset, vertical gain and offset and trigger location which enable the proper display of the waveform and accurate measurement.

Figure 4 An RF signal contained in a .bin waveform trace is imported into Maui Studio memory M2 (upper left trace). Analysis and measurements reveal the signal amplitude, modulation envelope, modulation frequency, and the FFT of the imported multi-tone waveform.

The ability to integrate data from many different instruments can be extremely useful in design reviews and evaluating product performance. Especially in companies with multiple design centers where different equipment is encountered.

LabNotebook, more than a lab report

The enhanced LabNotebook was mentioned before as a report generator, but it is much more than that.  It is a virtual archive of a specific measurement. The enhanced LabNotebook is a database file that contains all the displayed waveforms, the setup, current screen image, and any user supplied annotation from the oscilloscope. When imported into Maui Studio, it also recalls the model configuration of the source oscilloscope and all its installed options as well as the waveform traces and settings.   This is an example of a property called inheritance and is illustrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5 Maui Studio’s original configuration, shown on the left, was as an HDO4024A. After importing a LabNotebook, it is reconfigured, as shown on the right, as a WaveRunner 9404M.  Note also, the increase in the listed options which are now available.

What are the applications for remote control and analysis software?

These programs extend access to their mated oscilloscopes, this comes with a lot of direct benefits, some are as follows:

  1. The return on investment for oscilloscopes is improved by spreading the time-consuming measurement and analysis functions offline to multiple people. This leaves the instrument available for more data acquisition operations, a more effective use of the instrument.
  2. They let you recall archived data and confirm original measurements and analysis.
  3. When design reviews determine that additional measurements and analysis are required, they can, in many cases, be made with the stored data without the need of repeating the physical experiment.
  4. Returned your rental equipment? It is possible to review and re-analyze data using the archived waveforms even if the original equipment is gone.
  5. Open, analyze, or compare waveforms from other manufacturers instruments.

And looking specifically at applications of Maui Studio with Enhanced LabNotebook (beyond those outlined above):

  1. Simulate signal impairments using built in filtering or third-party mathematics software.
  2. Simulate source-response experiments using the built-in arbitrary function generator (AFG) and the mathematical functions of the oscilloscope as modeling tools.
  3. Use Maui Studio as a training tool to provide real world examples for new colleagues. Teach them how to use the latest oscilloscope tools.

In a collaborative design venue, these remote control and analysis software packages are the focal point for cooperation, coordination, and collaboration between project team members, allowing sharing and joint analysis of data. The key to this type of productivity gain is the ability to share not only the data, but also to share the display, measurement, and analysis tools between team members.

Arthur Pini is a technical support specialist and electrical engineer with over 50 years of experience in electronics test and measurement.

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