A Survey of Open Hardware Debugging & Analysis Tools

One of the biggest brags of open source is that it reduces the cost of achieving a result to 1/5 or 1/10 of a commercial solution.

Of course, open hardware developers usually don’t include research & development costs. If someone wants to build their own project, the realization that development tools can cost far more than the small project they produce can come as a shock. Why would someone want to spend a thousand dollars on a tool to debug a ten dollar project?

Nathan Willis’ LinuxCon talk comes by way of LWN.net. Details of open source oscilloscopes, logic analyzers and more after the jump.

  • Oscilloscopes (three tiers)
    • High-range, justified by supporting multiple inputs, higher sample rates, higher sample resolution and larger frequency ranges
    • Mid-range, based on PIC microcontrollers, start at $60. A typical example seems to be this one from Sparkfun
    • Low-range, based on AVR, can be less than $30. An example is the Nano-DSO ($100)
    • There are also open source software oscilloscopes, like xoscillo (USB) and OsciPrime (microphone port)
  • Logic Analyzers
    • DIY friendly: Open Bench Logic Sniffer ($50) which uses USB and depends on SUMP analyzer software
    • Microcontroller-based: FX2 ($20-$150), MSP430 ($25-$35), AVR ($35-$50)
    • Major player: Sigrok, a flexible API means that it is quickly supporting more and more protocols
  • Other
    • Bus Pirate, creates a serial port interface for chips
    • JTAG, several options
    • CAN bus (automobiles), converting the signal into something Sigrok can understand is cheap

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