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Beware of Rigol DG5252 ARB generator

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Mr Stonebeach, Sep 14, 2012.

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  1. Dear Colleaques,

    I have acquired a Rigol DG5252 signal generator some time ago, and
    just have used its built-in waveforms so far. Recently I tried to
    activate its ARB capability, which has turned out to be a nightmare.
    The instrument apparently eats .RAF waveform files, but the user guide
    gives no hint about how to generate them. I was thinking it's as
    simple as processing a datapoint table through some utility, and move
    the file to the generator on a USB memory stick. Not a chance. The
    instrument came bundled with a CD-ROM, but the installation
    instructions were limited to a very terse readme file:

    1¡¢Download the USB driver from NI website-"NIVISAruntime.msi".
    2¡¢Execute "NIVISAruntime.msi" to install the driver program.
    3¡¢Execute and install the application software.

    I already hated the idea of installing the NI runtime, as I have
    encounterd too many mysterious conflict and instability problems
    before, and would prefer not to install anything which is not
    absolutely necessary. Still, after NIVISA installation, the Ultra
    Signal Studio (sounds like the program for creating the .RAF files,
    although I didn't find it documented anywhere) installer just popped
    up a window saying 'archive not found'. After surfing here and there
    in the Rigol web pages I finally found out that one needs to first
    install the 300-megabyte Ultra Sigma software and run that at least
    once (the fact was not documented in material found in the CDROM).
    Well, a whole lot more crap code to install, likely to destabilize my
    PC. And as it comes from China I don't know how many keyloggers and
    pieces of spyware I got installed with it, either.

    Let me digress a bit, as the european Rigol web pages were really not
    functioning well at all - I got a feeling that they are hosted in
    China, and suffer from their web censorship. At least I felt the same
    as when surfing in a hotel in Beijing last summer: weird omissions and
    unavailable files, as well as latched-up connections which take
    forever to load. The north american Rigol web pages were much better,
    maybe hosted somewhere in the West. Anyway, access to the FAQ and
    download sections requires a registration, which is OK, but the
    registration pages don't work well. For instance, the 'forgotten
    password' service requires typing a CAPTCHA, but the picture does not
    show up - the browser shows the red 'X' indicating that the picture
    file is missing. So I was stuck, no help from here either, had to
    proceed with trial and error.

    The final A-HA was that the Ultra Signal Studio installation file
    must be moved to the directory where the Ultra Sigma software is
    installed, and launched there (this too is undocumented - there's no
    instructions beyond the readme file, see above). Now the application
    window opens, but asks me to type in an 'Attest' code from the
    Certificate of Ownership, and refuses to work. I do have the
    instrument (with the S/N in the back panel), I do have the warranty
    card (with the S/N printed in), I do have the installation CD-ROM, but
    I don't have the slightest idea about the Certificate of Ownership.
    Looks like they are paranoid about their waveform-creating software
    getting pirated.

    So I now have megabytes after megabytes of all sorts of crap
    installed, I have registered and shall no doubt receive piles of spam
    which I'll have to figure how to block, and I still cannot create my
    first 'hello world' -style waveform. The Rigol is a nice sine and
    squarewave generator, but if you're after arbitrary waveforms, stay
    far away. It's a pity, because the hardware looks quite nice actually.

    Maybe I shall still collect my remaining stamina, go back to the
    Rigol web page, trying to figure out how to get the 'attest code'.


    P.S. Has anyone reverse engineered the .RAF file format? It might be
    easiest to generate them form ones own C code...
  2. Jamie

    Jamie Guest

    I believe my AB rigol gen came with a CD with the software on it
    however, I do not have your model. Not sure if the software with mine
    would work on yours?

    I have a 25 Mhz model..
  3. Hi Jamie,

    Did you install your software, are you now able to create the ARB
    waveform files? Is their filetype extension .RAF ?

    I also have an installation CD, but there were no instructions and
    the installation procedure turned out to be rather cryptic. Actually,
    I finally got the Ultra Signal Studio working last night (it allows 15-
    day evaluation period without validation, but it did not tell me that
    before I shut down and relaunched the program), but I could not figure
    out whether it can write the .RAF files before I went to bed. I got an
    impression that the software can talk to the generator only over the
    LAN, USB or GPIB connection, and the waveforms dumped to the generator
    that way cannot be stored.

    The Ultra Sigma installer dropped a User Guide as a .chm file into
    its install folder, unfortunately the guide only handles the Ultra
    Sigma usage (the part that communicates with the generator over the
    LAN, USB or GPIB link), not the Ultra Signal Studio (the part which I
    assume creates the ARB waveforms). The U.S.S. may have a help menu in
    its application window, but it refuses to launch if it cannot see the
    instrument, over the LAN in my case. This makes everything quite

    Why all this must be so complicated and tedious is beyond me...

    But hey, thanks for your help.

    Rgrds, Mikko
  4. Jamie

    Jamie Guest

    I have UltraWave with my CD and I personally did not install my copy
    however, the guys at work also got the same unit as I when they were on
    sale. I know they have install theirs and no one that I know of said
    anything about a trial period.
    I have the DS10x2 which is a 25 mhz model. I edit my AB's at the panel
    and I am able to save those to the U disk (USB), just by simply plugging
    in a USB mass storage in front. I only use a flash stick but I've been
    told it'll also work with some usb drives.

    There are 10 local storage memories for specific instrument set up
    but those get over written.

    Looking at the CD, it appears the supplied driver xxxx.sys is only for
    95, 98 and NT. Maybe the driver isn't needed for newer PC's? This leads
    me into believing that the interface maybe a standard FT232 or something
    like it. Most newer OS'es know these chips.

    Later on maybe I'll install UltraWave here and see what it looks like,
    I don't have the GPIB/LAN option with mine.

  5. In the DG5252 it is also possible to create the waveform by entering
    it from the front panel, point at a time, then store it to a .RAF
    file. That is the only way of creating them which I'm aware of. But
    I'd prefer to create the waveforms by software - filling the DG5252's
    128Msample memory by hand is really too much. Not to mention getting
    the amplitude of each point just right by turning the knob.

    If pre-XP driver files are involved, I'm suspecting that your
    colleaques' waveform files may be incompatible with the DG5252.

    What I'd like to try is whether I could create a chirp, play it out
    sync'ed with the data capture of our HP89640 vector spectrum analyzer,
    and use the combination for measuring vectoral (amp+phase) transfer
    functions of things. This was orginally motivated by my aim to find a
    replacement for our retiring HP89410's, but the lowest RBW setting in
    the HP89640 is 1Hz, so it really does not sound like a good tool for
    extremely low frequencies.

  6. Jamie

    Jamie Guest

    Have you tried the UltraWave program? I'll have to look but, it's
    possible the wave form extension is xxx.RDF here..

    THe RAF format isn't a standard as for as I know, it is a raw format
    and not fitted to any one vender. So you need to know where device it
    was generated for. This means that in the header of the file, there are
    lots of other information, most likely.

    I think if you look around, some camera models also generate files
    wit h that extension however, they are in no means the same as the ones
    coming from the ABg.

    I do write software myself and maybe it would be an interesting project
    to reverse engineer a file that gets saved on the USB storage stick.

    It would be interesting to know exactly how the USB link between the
    ABg and PC is actually being used? Serial link or maybe it just looks
    like a remote storage unit where you simply read and write to it as a
    file.? I guess If I was to plug in the Gen into my PC, it should respond
    with something to indicate either or.. I'll have to ask the guys at work
    how it comes up..Or, I'll just use my XP min 10" acer and plug it in to
    see what happens :)

  7. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Guys, I believe that at least the Rigol DG1000 can also handle CSV and
    ASCII format. Might be worth trying to find out.

    It is. That would be the Royal Air Force :)

    With most such gear it's the plain old FTDI serial port emulation. Which
    is nice. When I needed to figure out why my check engine light was on
    without paying $50-$100 at the shop I bought a OBD-II converter for
    around $10, plug it in, and the netbook immediately connected to it
    because it was FTDI.
  8. Jamie

    Jamie Guest

    Come to think about it, I think you are most likely correct because,
    the Rigol I think has the same connection and that is serial. After all,
    if you remember, that is how the 50mhz models got upgraded :)

    It would be nice to have a document explaining the protocol being used
    to interact with the devices. I can see some fancy software coming.

  9. OK, with the help from the Rigol support desk I can finally make it
    play PC-generated ARB waveforms. But phew, what an ordeal it was!

    It seems that the proper software for the DG4000 and DG5000 series
    is called "Ultra Station". One must first install the "Ultra Sigma"
    software, whose main purpose is communication and remote control of
    the generator over a physical link (USB, LAN or GPIB). On top of the
    "Ultra Sigma" one can install the "Ultra Station", which is the
    waveform generating plug-in. When generating the waveforms, the
    software must see the generator (it acts as a dongle, it seems), but
    it is possible to save the created waveform into a .RAF file, which
    one is then free to use. The .RAF file can be transfered to the
    generator by a USB memory stick, and the waveform can be used even if
    the generator is not connected to any communications (USB/LAN/GPIB).

    The Ultra Signal Studio was their previous waveform creation
    software (now replaced by the Ultra Station), and it was for-a-fee so
    that I should have purchased a license. Hence my the problems with the
    Cerificate of Ownership.

    My problems were primarily caused by the abysmally bad documentation.
    None of the relevant information was found on the CD-ROM which came
    bundled with the generator. Some information was available in the
    Rigol web pages, but behind registration, and registration was
    impossible because their CAPTCHA figure was faulty. The part of the
    information which *was* visible, namely the Ultra Station users guide
    does not open properly in my machine - it was just blank. And still,
    the trick needed to make the Ultra Station to install (move the
    installer to the Ultra Sigma directory and launch from there) is not
    documented - I'm not sure if the help desk people still believe that
    the trick is necssary, or that the users guide does not open, just
    because everything works OK in their PC's.

    Well, make your conclusions. My DG5252 works now nicely, anyway, and
    with the above tricks the next guy hopefully can make his unit alive
    much faster.

  10. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Sounds like the OBD-II interface I bought. Ok, only $10 which is a great
    price. But zero written documentation, you kinda have to know that it
    has a FTDI USB-serial interface in there. You also have to know that the
    device will error until it sees 12V on the OBD connector in the car,
    which only happens if you insert the ignition key and turn it on. Then
    one has to scour the web to find where to obtain the error code list and
    all that. But ... it saved me the drive to the shop which would have
    taken longer than to find all this out, plus they'd have charged me $50
    or more.
  11. Robert Baer

    Robert Baer Guest

    I tried that Rigol link; page was not blank, but got a lot of square
    boxes with 4-character hex code. like this (faking it):
  12. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Well, most codes are standardized and I found it on the web in minutes.
    It would have been nice if it came with the unit but ...

    It's Chinese.
  13. Actually, what I saw behind that link was a .RAR archive which
    seemed to contain the chinese and english versions of the manual, in
    the .chm format (complied HTML help file). My problem with the
    Ultra_Station_HelpDocument.chm was that it opened all right and showed
    a sensible directory structure (Contents, Index etc), but none of the
    pages contained any text. It gave some sort of a navigation error
    message in every page, which I would have intepreted as no HTTP
    connection to the source file if it were over the Internet, but that
    was supposed to be a local self-contained file. That was in two
    different PCs at the office, provided by my employer. Now at my home
    PC those .chm files display OK.

    It sounds to me that Robert was seeing the raw contents of the
    compressed archive.

    What I find annoying is that the continuously increasing unnecessary
    complexity of the IT world is taking a larger and larger fraction of
    my daily dose of problem-solving skills...

  14. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    That's what I am always lamenting. IT "professionals" even in large
    corporations do not get it into their heads that there are other
    corporations where people sit behind strict firewalls and can't see the
    stuff they want them to see.

    Case in point: I recently had to make a design decision where I came
    upon a site of a large semi mfg that required (!) Flash. I moved on and
    picked a competitor's part. That decision is now de-facto irrevocable
    because my clients hardly ever second-guess such decisions. For the mfg
    with the messed up web page this will now mean over a decade of lower
    than necessary sales numbers for the part. Which can ultimately have an
    impact on the number of jobs there, meaning this stuff affects real people.
  15. josephkk

    josephkk Guest

    Unfortunatly it seems to be impossible to beat this into the web designers
    heads. The feedback (if any) never get to them.

  16. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Not if you write to the CEO. Which is what I did at one large
    semiconductor company. What followed was a mid-size earthquake in the
    executive tower, and things were fixed, prontissimo (with some help from
    myself and others).

    It usually makes no sense to write to the web master.
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