Logic Analyzer costs little, performs well

Adam Carlson over at Microcontroller Central wrote a short review of the OpenBench Logic Sniffer:

The OLS, the lowest-cost option, is both open-source hardware and open-source software. This is the product of a cooperative effort between Dangerous Prototypes and the Gadget Factory. To me, being open-source is not necessarily a plus. While it is great to know that I can modify the code or hardware if needed, I am not likely to do so. At the same time, though, I find that open-source products are pushing companies to reinvest in their stale product lines to make them better.

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  1. Sorry guys, I am not sure why the picture was uploaded to the blog post that way. It was not submitted in that fashion.

  2. Sad that some people still don’t quite get the whole point of opensource.

    “To me, being open-source is not necessarily a plus. While it is great to know that I can modify the code or hardware if needed, I am not likely to do so.”

    Its not just about you, sometimes others can make improvements and share that with everyone.

    In a few decenia’s time, I think opensource will be very important to society, sharing knowledge is good, and important for very one. Well except those greedy bastards of big cooperations who only are happy by filling their own pockets.

  3. Oliver,

    I think that you need to understand that I am not an open source evangelist. There are some areas where open source absolutely makes sense, and in other areas, it is absolutely the wrong method. As I stated, it is not necessarily a plus, but it also is implied that it is not necessarily a negative. As you read through, you can see that I chose the open source part because it was the best device to fit what I needed to do. Knowledge is also great, but to me, I would much rather know how to do something, then know what is in the device.

    In other words, it is how design decisions get made and why certain components are the way they are. Why is this more important than a design being open source? The reason is that if someone just puts out plans, then you either have to trust that they were done correctly or you have to go back and completly try to reverse engineer it. If you have no experience in this area, then it is very difficult to learn.

    At the same time, some closed source products are really great as well. Their being closed sourced does not necessarily mean that they should be avoided. I personally could care less about an OS and how it is constructed, but I do care that when I go to use a device that it works the way I intend it to without having to dig into command line. This does not mean that any -nix OS is bad, it just does not fit my needs, though it does not mean that others should not enjoy contributing to it as it does fit their needs.

    Where does that leave the OLS? I think that the projects that are found at DP are done very well in that they tend to document both the mistakes as well as the successes. I think that it is a great project with great support. I really think that the current OLS Client has come a long way, and makes the usability of this device top notch. If I did not feel that way, there is no way that I would have chosen to purchase the device, let alone write about it.


    PS The case that I am using is the one that I designed for it. Shapeways unfortunately did not properly prep the part in one of the stages of manufacturing. They have refunded me the cost and I have actually made some minor adjustments to the model based upon what I have learned. I will post pictures of it once it arrives (~3weeks).

  4. Drone,

    I have had the device for a while now. I did end up updating it once. I am on the current release firmware, though I cannot remember if it was shipped with an outdated firmware (compared to when I bought it).


  5. “This does not mean that any -nix OS is bad, it just does not fit my needs”.
    I’m stunned that any engineer could think it does not fit any of their needs. Today, one cannot avoid using UNIX type OS’s – and benefitting from it, even if you run Windows/OSX on your regular desktop.
    You also missed the point that Oliver mentioned – you may not have the OLS product in the state that it is today, if it was not open source.
    “I think that you need to understand that I am not an open source evangelist.” – You don’t need to be an “evangelist” and I think you need to understand that no-one in the comments asked you to be one, and so the sentiment from this sentence (and starting off with it!) creates poor form to start off with. It makes your remainder comments verge on irrelevancy for at least one reader.

  6. ” I personally could care less about an OS and how it is constructed”
    Do you mean _couldn’t_ care less? Because your sentence states that you do care about an OS and how it is constructed.
    Sadly, I feel you meant “couldn’t” – which not only shows extremely absurd sentence construction (but is forgivable because everyone makes mistakes) but again makes me feel your comments are approaching irrelevancy for some people if you truly have no interest in it.

  7. Go easy EE, no need for this to escalate into a flame war. Adam wasn’t saying he doesn’t like Open Source, he was saying that it didn’t make the difference in terms of his choice for this application, the fact that it was most suited to the application did.

    My thinking is much like Adam’s. I like Open Source for what it is, but that doesn’t mean I have to live and breath OS, nor do I think it’s right for everything. I have plenty of designs of HW and SW that are used in commercial applications that aren’t OS and there’s reasons for that that could be (and unfortunately frequently is) argued ad nausam. Everybody has their own opinions, indeed it could be argued that’s part of the OS ideals, so no need to start verbally attacking.

    One of the key things that has attracted me to DP, was the relatively low level of negative comments from people, whilst still being able to voice an opinion and I, for one, would like to try to keep it that way :)

    1. Absolutely – and I am voicing an opinion here too.
      Thinking about it so more perhaps it is no surprise that a poster who states that he couldn’t care less about an operating system and how it is constructed, and that UNIX type operating systems do not meet his needs, would naturally miss some of the obvious benefits that open source can bring.

      It is not an attack; it is a statement that is directly questioning the statements that I had interspersed above, and if one cannot question, then what is the point of replying?

      If it needs defending by you, then it can be defended without imputing a flame war to it when one does not exist. Just because you say that there is a flame war, doesn’t mean it exists. You seem to be moving the argument to a discussion of commercial closed source designs being occasionally apporopriate, whereas I was replying to the specific comments that the poster had made and that I had interspersed in my original response.

      1. EE, I’m not looking for an argument. I’ve been on DP for about 2 years now and have *NEVER* in that time felt the need to say something to stand up for somebody else until now. On this occasion I did, because, whatever way you want to put it and whatever you want to hang on me, you *WERE* attacking Adam, having a dig at him about a typo, then excusing yourself, but continuing on. Your exact words were Sadly, I feel you meant “couldn’t” – which not only shows extremely absurd sentence construction (but is forgivable because everyone makes mistakes) but again makes me feel your comments are approaching irrelevancy for some people if you truly have no interest in it. . That *WAS* derogatory any way you look at it and it is plain that you intended it that way, so please don’t now come and try to say it wasn’t.
        You are more than welcome to your opinion, as am I and Adam and Ian (who doesn’t use OS in all situations) – and I’d be willing to bet, that if you are *absolutely* 100% honest, you don’t use OS in all situations either. I’m saying not to have a go at somebody, or make out they are a fool because their opinion differs to yours. I’m not having a go, I like OS, I use it where it’s good for me, I support it where I feel it’s justified. I am a paid member of donationcoder.com because ScreenshotCaptor is a tool that worked better for me than any other (no affliation). I don’t think it’s OS, but it’s freeware and a great tool (the best I’ve found) written by somebody who relies on your support, so I support it. I do the same where I can with OS and I support the OS concept, but the OS alternative isn’t always the best, when it is, I use it. I use Firefox on all my machines, because for me it’s far better. My next phone will be Android, because it’s better for me. I just built a BP that was featured on the blog of DP, Do I run Linux on this machine? Nope – because it doesn’t suit my needs. I do use Puppy Linux when I have to access a screwed up Win PC, because it does the job best for me, but as an everyday operating system, no, it’s not the best for me, but if it is for you, then that’s great.
        I welcome your opinion – BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS – that is not the free way, not the OS way and not the DP way I’m sure. Express by all means, but don’t attack.


  8. Oops, yes I made a typo and it was supposed to be ‘ad nauseam’, so no need to point that out :)

    1. There is an idiotic trend to intentionally state “could care less” when one actually means “couldn’t care less”, so it deserved clarification.

      I asked for clarification, because the two mean quite different things. Now you trying to take it to an extreme and implying that I may get picky about “ad nausam” isn’t clever; it’s weak.

      1. At least from my viewpoint, it was quite clear that he simply didn’t type it the way he was thinking – in essence, a typo. You sound like an educated person, so I would have thought it would have been clear for you too, though I do agree with your comments about people using it more, although I feel it more-so just a lack of education in most cases, rather than a deliberate thing. Asking for clarification is fine, going on to belittle somebody else’s comments in not in the spirit of things and that’s what I’m trying to point out. If you want to think of what I posted as “weak” and “not clever”, then go right ahead.

      2. EE,

        There is a time to know when to get out of the game. This time has come for you. I do not mind having a good debate about opinions in which one expresses his opinion and then supports it with details and facts. This is what good debate is all about. It is civil. Unfortunately it seems that many have come to think that what they see on televised political debates is how to debate.

        Let me diagram how you have been attempting to debate. Your first attempt was to take a quote from me about one of my positions. Then express shock about it. Once again, this is the political debate method. Your first problem was that you did not consider any of the supporting facts that I gave, instead you attempted to win the argument through belittlement and expression of superior, but unrelated knowledge. In this case I expressed my lack of interest in -nix operating systems. This is the statement. I then added supporting information for my personal preference in that I did not have a need to fiddle with the small low level things, I just need something that works for my general day to day tasks. I then reaffirm my stance that this is a personal preference, and that for others this may not work.

        If you had wanted to debate me on this, you probably should have started out with a question such as, “I do not understand why you are not inclined to use -nix operating systems; can you please give me more information as to your preference?” You might have followed up with even a small dig, but it would have been subtle by saying something along the lines of, “I did not know that it was possible for an engineer to get by without using a -nix operating system of some sort.”

        To this I probably would have responded, expounding the reasons behind my needs based upon the programs that I run on a day to day basis. I might have also then stated that I do have an Android phone, and hence it could be said that I do use a -nix based operating system.

        With this you would have scored a small victory as I would have capitulated the point that I do use a -nix based operating system in a very small way, though it still would not have fallen the greater point that I have a general preference for my desktop operating system to be Windows. With this, we both have a win, and enjoyed a good bit of debate.

        Your next error in your manner of debate has been to prove yourself incorrect while trying to call out the errors of others. You stated that I made a spelling error, but in reality it was a grammar error. As you are being picky on the details, you should have picked up on this subtle difference. You then go a post a link showing that this grammar error has been common in the US since the 60’s (1960’s that is). There is a further problem with your logic in that this link states that this phrase has become the accepted standard usage today in the US despite its apparent error in logic. It is also important to ask the question, how do you define a language? In reality language is what the people make it, for better or for worse. While usage of words and phrases today may be incorrect to 1500’s English, they have morphed to be correct usage in today’s English. This is how languages evolve. Even computer languages. The same language can evolve to the point of incompatibility. This is similar to Python 3 not being backwards compatible with Python 2 despite having similar appearance.

        Stepping back a bit, in this small instance of debate, what I did was take a statement that you said (the effort to repudiate what you called spelling as well as your statement for need of clarification of the obvious), and the supporting information that you gave (in this case the link). I then was able to get a small elbow in with the recognition that you also made a mistake in the effort to call out my mistake, and you were somewhat ironic in that you seem to be a person who could care less in my statement that should have been that, “I couldn’t care less” (the less common usage in the US). I then supported my statements with the fact that languages change in ways that make them incorrect from past usage both in words and phrases. What was incorrect yesterday is correct today. I then further supported it with an example with which you should be familiar.

        Once again, I am sure that if you look hard enough, you will find errors in the above post. I am up rather late tonight as I get to sleep in tomorrow. Due to this, my skills at proof reading an ~850 word response are not as good as they should be. I do look forward though to perhaps some improve debate from you here in the future.


  9. While going completly offtopic, lets put up an anlogy.

    “I think that you need to understand that I am not an organic evangelist. There are some areas where treehugging absolutely makes sense, and in other areas, it is absolutely the wrong method.”

    That’s how I view it. There is many people who don’t care about th eenviroment. As long as I can put whatever pollutant into my car/body, and it keeps going (AT THIS MOMENT) I’m happy and don’t care.
    When (and not if) those damn treehuggers and organic hippies are proven right, we’ll see.

    Coming back to the subject at hand. There is absolutely no place, anywhere, where open source is wrong. It should be the right choice, always. Should being key here. I know not every open source program is a successful alternative to the closed source counter part. But who’s fault would that be? The people trying their best to do this in their spare time? I would hope not. Give it time, report bugs, feature requests, send money or developers to help.

    And don’t even try to through up the ‘security’ card. We already long established that when security is concerned, open source wins. There’s only very limited proprietary systems that haven’t been compromised, if at all.

  10. Sleepwalker 3,

    Thank you for your words. I think that you and I have a similar perspective on this topic.


    I am sorry that I made a typo on a blog comment while being on little sleep and having an almost 3 month old in the house. I guess that I should stop getting up at 4:30am, working 12 hours, and then going to bed late ;) (really I wish I could) As to the -nix OS, yes I have an Android phone. This was purchased because I had a need and it fit the need better than other phones because I could find it with a physical keypad and application support. The other OS I considered was BB as they had the physical keyboard, but all of theirs were portrait mode. So once again the fact that Android was open source was not the motivating factor, but the hardware and applications. Even at this point, I am not tied to the OS. If there were a company that came out with an upgrade in hardware compared to the Droid 4 with the physical landscape keyboard, I would seriously consider it. As to the other reasons that I prefer Windows for my desktop OS, all the programs that I need to use professionally run on Windows. Sure some will run on alternative OS’s but most do not. I once again am making a practical decision and using what allows me to be productive in my respective field.

    As I stated before, this does not mean that my preferences should be the preference of another person. It also does not mean that I only support closed source, nor does it mean that I only support open source. Also, it does not mean that I do not support helping others learn. I am grateful for DP and that they have found a way for open source to fit their needs while meeting the needs of others as well. For that, I also give them my support as they have items that fit my needs, and as you can see in my article, I also showed others that the OLS exceeds the performance of some closed source devices. Hopefully this helps sell a few more devices, and allows for DP to continue to grow.


  11. Oliver,

    The application of absolutes leads to people thinking inside of a box and tends to narrow their field of view. I prefer to look at a project and see what fits the need of a project. With defined goals in hand, I can then measure the effectiveness of a solution. As a professional, I need to use MCAD programs every day. These are highly complex programs. If I have a program/job that requires me to meet a very tight timeline, and even with that I know that I am going to be working overtime to get it done, then a closed source program is absolutely the right solution as there is no current open source MCAD program that can match the functionality or efficiency of the either of the three MCAD programs that I use. It also does not look like there will be one in the near future as the interest in the community has yet to reach a sufficient level to dictate this growth.

    On the other hand, I have a wonderful calculator application that I use on my desktop program. This program is much more feature rich than even my closed source TI89 that I use. It is a great program, and it is one of the first programs that gets loaded on any new computer that I get.

    Similarly, if I am doing something for a hobby, then perhaps an ECAD program like KiCAD would be fantastic as it is free, offers significant functionality, though perhaps at a loss of efficiency in some areas.

    With this in mind, recognize that DP does not always use open source for their parts, as they use Eagle Cad for most of their designs. Once again, certain needs dictated this decision. I was very interested, though, when they posted their experiences on using KiCAD.


  12. Adam,

    Your analogy to MCAD programs is an interesting one – your problem, as I interpret it, is not that “closed source is the right solution”, it is that “the right solution happens to be closed source”. I think you’re branding open source as the problem when there doesn’t happen to be an adequate open source product.

    What you said earlier about having to go through an open source product to ensure that it is created correctly is a little silly. I’d sooner trust hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of programmers & engineers to scrutinise an open source project with no motivation other than getting a great end result, than a company whose main motivation is profit.

  13. It’s simply a matter of what a particular person feels is the right program to do the job for them, whether open source or not. I’m sure you evaluate programs to see if they fit your needs and doing so is not not a little silly, in fact not evaluating if a particular product fits your needs would be silly.

    There are no-doubt, open source products that are the best for many, Ian’s Bus Pirate being a prime example, but that doesn’t mean they are the best for everybody. So aspire to the very point of open-source in the first place – Freedom and the right to choose.

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