As a student or professional engineer it is important to pay attention to where your resources are being allocated. Time spent traveling to and from laboratories fixing minor embedded systems project issues is often disregarded for the sake of project completion, but can be avoided altogether with the right benchtop tools. One recently released solution is the Digital DiscoveryDigital Discovery, a portable logic analyzer, digital pattern generator and protocol analyzer. This hardware can help engineers shorten project timelines and extend financial resources as a high-speed tool for debugging digital signal projects on-the-go or from the comfort of home. In this blog post I will cover important resources provided by the creators of the Digital Discovery and show you how to get this device up and running with your embedded projects in no time.

 

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Introduction to the Digital Discovery

Earlier this year Digilent released the Digital Discovery as an addition to their Instrumentation line. The Digital Discovery shares the same form factor as the popular Analog Discovery 2Analog Discovery 2, with significant improvements in digital signal monitoring capabilities. Compatible with the free WaveForms 2015 software toolset (offered for most Digilent Instrumentation devices), the Digital Discovery provides users with six tools ideal for digital signal analysis. Removing the analog specific tools allowed the hardware engineers to increase the number of channels and sample rates available, while using the same Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA found on the Analog Discovery 2. With a selectable logic high level, 32 possible channels and up to 800 MS/s*, this new hardware provides greater flexibility to users working on any digital signal design project.

 

*Note: Increased sampling rates can only be achieved while using the High Speed AdapterHigh Speed Adapter and Logic ProbesLogic Probes.

 

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Installing WaveForms 2015

One of the best features of this new hardware is the current documentation and easy setup. This documentation is easy to find on the Digital Discovery’s product page under the “Support Materials” menu. Clicking on the “Resource Center” button redirects users to Digilent’s Digital Discovery documentation page where readers can find additional product information, reference manuals, technical support, and (in my opinion the most important) “Getting Started” button.

 

Clicking on the “Getting Started” button presents three different guides for setting up WaveForms 2015 with Windows, Linux, and MAC operating systems. After choosing your operating system, you are redirected to a tutorial that covers everything from software installation to taking your first measurement. The installation process takes only a couple of minutes and then you are ready to connect your device and explore the six tools in the navigation bar (found on the left side of the screen).

 

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Getting Started with the Digital Discovery

With WaveForms 2015 up and running, you can quickly begin debugging embedded projects from your desk. Simply connect your device to your computer and select “DDiscovery” (followed by your serial number) from the device manager. With your device now open in WaveForms, you are ready to use any of the available tools to take your first digital measurement!

 

Whether you have some experience or you are still learning about portable instrumentation devices, you can find detailed tutorials explaining how to use each tool offered in WaveForms on the Digilent documentation website. Without a specific project in mind, users can also refer to community projects listed under the “Example Projects” section. One project by Instructables member Brmarcum does an excellent job of showing readers how the Digital Discovery is used to monitor a 7-segment display circuit. This project includes detailed descriptions and clear photos that demonstrate the circuit build and how to connect your Digital Discovery. Brmarcum describes how pins 0-10 are connected and used with the logic analyzer tool to monitor the digital signals and draw project conclusions.

 

Another excellent project steps through how the Digital Discovery and High Speed Adapter are used to decode a VGA signal from an FPGA. In this project, Instructables member Commanderfranz uses this device to check whether the VGA signals are being sent correctly and how they affect the final image. Again, pictures and detailed instructions for setting up the Digital Discovery probes are provided to help readers replicate the project at home.

 

 

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Additional Resources and Projects

When starting with the Digital Discovery users can find a handful of free resources like the projects summarized above on the Digilent documentation website. Device users who experience difficulty can also find technical support on the Digilent Forum from community members who offer helpful project suggestions or solutions. Whether you’re an embedded developer looking to troubleshoot designs or a student progressing through upper level coursework, the Digital Discovery is a great new tool to help with digital signal projects.

 

You can also look forward to the arrival of useful resources and additional support as the upcoming element14 RoadTesters review their experience!