Fascinating Experiments with PSLab

PSLab can be extensively used in a variety of experiments ranging from the traditional electrical and electronics experiments to a number of innovative experiments. The PSLab desktop app and the Android app have all the essential features that are needed to perform the experiments. In addition to that there is a large collection of built-in experiments in both these experiments.

This blog is an extension to the blog post mentioned here. This blog lists some of the basic electrical and electronics experiments which are based on the same principles which are mentioned in the previous blog. In addition to that, some interesting and innovative experiments where PSLab can be used are also listed here. The experiments mentioned here require some prerequisite knowledge of electronic elements and basic circuit building. (The links mentioned at the end of the blog will be helpful in this case)

Op-Amp as an Inverting and a Non-Inverting Amplifier

There are two methods of doing this experiment. PSLab already has a built-in experiment dedicated to inverting and non-inverting amplification of op-amps. In the Android App, just navigate to Saved Experiments -> Electronics Experiments -> Op-Amp Circuits -> Inverting/ Non-Inverting. In case of the Desktop app, select Electronics Experiments from the main drop-down at the top of the window and select the Inverting/Non-inverting op-amp experiment.

This experiment can also performed using the basic features of PSLab. The only advantage of this methodology is that it allows much more tweaking of values to observe the Op-Amp behaviour in greater detail. However, the built-in experiment is good enough for most of the cases.

  • Construct the above circuits on a breadboard.
  • For the amplifier, connect the terminals of CH1 and GND of PSLab on the input side i.e. next to Vi and the terminals of CH2 and GND on the output side i.e next to Vo.
  • Usually, an Op-Amp like LM741 have a set of pins, one dedicated for the inverting input and the other dedicated for the non-inverting input. It is recommended to consult the datasheet of the Op-Amp IC used in order to get the pin number with which the input has to be connected.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The resistors displayed in the figure have the values R1 = 10k and R2 = 51k. Resistance values other than these can also be considered. The gain of the op-amp would depend on the ratio of R2/R1, so it is better to consider values of R2 which are significantly larger than R1 in order to see the gain properly.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1 kHz and magnitude to 0.1 V. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope.
  • CH1 would display the input waveform and CH2 will display the output waveform and the plots can be observed.
  • If the input is connected to the inverting pin of the op-amp, the output obtained will be amplified and will have a phase difference of 90o with the input waveform whereas when the non-inverting pin is selected, the output is just amplified and no such phase difference is observed.
  • Note: Take proper care while connecting the V+ and V- pins of the op-amp, else the op-amp will be damaged.

Diode as an Integrator and Differentiator

An integrator in measurement and control applications is an element whose output signal is the time integral of its input signal. It accumulates the input quantity over a defined time to produce a representative output.

Integration is an important part of many engineering and scientific applications. Mechanical integrators are the oldest application, and are still used in such as metering of water flow or electric power. Electronic analogue integrators are the basis of analog computers and charge amplifiers. Integration is also performed by digital computing algorithms.

In electronics, a differentiator is a circuit that is designed such that the output of the circuit is approximately directly proportional to the rate of change (the time derivative) of the input. An active differentiator includes some form of amplifier. A passive differentiator circuit is made of only resistors and capacitors.

  • Construct the above circuits on a breadboard.
  • For both the circuits, connect the terminals of CH1 and GND of PSLab on the input side i.e. next to input voltage source and the terminals of CH2 and GND on the output side i.e next to Vo.
  • Ensure that the inverting and the non-inverting terminals of the op-amp are connected correctly. Check for the +/- signs in the diagram. ‘+’ corresponds to non-inverting and ‘-’ corresponds to inverting.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The resistors displayed in the figure have the values R1 = 10k and R2 = 51k. Resistance values other than these can also be considered. The gain of the op-amp would depend on the ratio of R2/R1, so it is better to consider values of R2 which are significantly larger than R1 in order to see the gain properly.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1 kHz and magnitude to 5V (10V peak to peak). Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope.
  • CH1 would display the input waveform and CH2 will display the output waveform and the plots can be observed.
  • If all the connections are made properly and the values of the parameters are set properly, then the waveform obtained should be as shown below.

Performing experiments involving ICs (Digital circuits)

The experiments mentioned so far including the ones mentioned in the previous blog post involved analog circuits and so they required features like the arbitrary waveform generator. However, digital circuits work using discrete values only. PSLab has the features needed to perform digital experiments which mainly involve the use of a square wave generator with a variable duty cycle.

PSLab board has dedicated pins named SQR1, SQR2, SQR3 and SQR4. The options for configuring these pins is present under the Advanced Control section in the Desktop app and in the Android app Applications->Control->Advanced. The options include selecting the pins which we want to use for digital outputs and then configuring the frequency and duty cycle of the square wave generated from that particular pin.

Innovative Experiments using PSLab

PSLab has quite a good number of interesting built-in experiments. These experiments can be found in the dropdown list at the top in the Desktop App and under the Saved Experiments header in the Android App. The built-in experiments come bundled with good quality documentation having circuit diagrams and detailed procedure to perform the experiments.

Some of the interesting experiments include:

  • Lemon Cell Experiment: In this experiment, the internal resistance and the voltage supplied by the lemon cell are measured.

 

  • Sound Beats: In acoustics, a beat is an interference pattern between two sounds of slightly different frequencies, perceived as a periodic variation in volume whose rate is the difference of the two frequencies.

 

  • When tuning instruments that can produce sustained tones, beats can readily be recognized. Tuning two tones to a unison will present a peculiar effect: when the two tones are close in pitch but not identical, the difference in frequency generates the beating.
  • This experiment requires producing two waves together of different frequencies and connecting them to the same oscilloscope channel. The pattern observed is shown below.

References:

  1. The previous blog on experiments using PSLab – https://blog.fossasia.org/electronics-experiments-with-pslab/
  2. More about op-amps and their characteristics – http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/opamp/opamp_1.html
  3. Read more about differential and integrator circuits – https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook/semiconductors/chpt-8/differentiator-integrator-circuits/
  4. Experiments involving digital circuits for reference – http://web.iitd.ac.in/~shouri/eep201/experiments.php

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Electronics Experiments with PSLab

Numerous college level electronics experiments can be performed using Pocket Science Lab (PSLab). The Android app and the Desktop app have all the essential features needed to perform these experiments and both these apps have quite a large number of experiments built-in. Some of the common experiments involve the use of BJT (Bipolar Junction Transistor), Zener Diode, FET (Field Effect Transistor), Op-Amp ( Operational Amplifier) etc. This blog walks through the details of performing some experiments using the above commonly used elements.  

The materials required for all the experiments are minimal and includes a few things like PSLab hardware device, components like Diodes, Transistors, Op-Amps etc., connecting wires/jumpers and secondary components like resistors, capacitors etc. Most of these elements would be a part of the PSLab Accessory Kit.

It is recommended to read this blog here, go through the resources mentioned at the end and also get acquainted with construction of circuits before advancing with the experiments mentioned in this blog.

Half Wave and Full Wave Rectifiers

The Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) can be used as a rectifier. Rectifiers are needed in circuits to obtain a nearly constant and stable output voltage and prevent any ripples in the circuit. The rectifier can be half wave or full wave depending on whether it rectifies one or both cycles of Alternating Voltage.

The circuit for the Half and Full Wave rectifier is given as follows:

  • Construct the above circuits on a breadboard.
  • For the half wave rectifier, connect the terminals of CH1 and GND of PSLab on the input side and the terminals of CH2 and GND on the output side.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 100 Hz and magnitude to 10mV. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope.
  • CH1 would display the input waveform and CH2 will display the output waveform and the plots can be observed.
  • The plot obtained will have rectification in only half of the cycle. In order to obtain rectification in the complete cycle, the full wave rectifier is needed.
  • For the full wave rectifier, the procedure is the same but an additional diode is used. Use an additional channel CH3 to plot the extra input.

  • The plot obtained from the above steps would still have ripples and so a capacitor is placed in parallel to cancel this effect.
  • Place a 100uF/330uF capacitor in parallel to the resistor RL and an additional 1 ohm resistor in the circuit.

BJT Inverter

  • Transistor has a lot of functions. The most common of them is its use as an amplifier. However, transistor can be used as a switch in a circuit i.e. as an inverter.
  • The circuit for this experiment is shown below. For this experiment, it is recommended to use an external 5V DC supply like a battery. Connect the transistor and the diode initially and then connect the resistors accordingly. (Connect the terminals of diode and transistor carefully else they will be damaged).
  • When the circuit is constructed completely, connect CH1 to Vi and CH2 to Vo. Vi and Vo are input and outputs respectively and are marked in the figure.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 200 Hz and magnitude to 10mV.
  • Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope. Use the X-Y mode of the oscilloscope to obtain the plot between Vi and Vo which should look like the graph shown below.

Common Mode Gain and Differential Mode Gain in Op-Amps

Gain of any amplifier can be calculated by calculating the ratio of the output and input voltage. On plotting the graph in X-Y mode, a Vo vs Vi graph is obtained. The slope of that graph gives us the gain at any particular input voltage.

  • For finding the Differential Mode gain of an Op-Amp, construct the circuit as shown below.
  • When the circuit is constructed completely, connect CH1 to Vi and CH2 to Vo. Vi and Vo are input and outputs respectively and are marked in the figure. The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The power supply provided to the Op-Amp are set to + 12V. (If faced with any confusion, please refer to the resources mentioned at the end of the blog to learn more about Op-Amps before proceeding ahead.)
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1000 Hz and magnitude to 0.5V. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope. Use the X-Y mode of the oscilloscope to obtain the plot between Vi and Vo.
  • For finding the Common Mode gain of the Op-Amp, remove the waveform generator input i.e W1 from R3 and attach it to R2. The rest of the steps remain the same.

Schmitt Trigger

In electronics, a Schmitt trigger is a comparator circuit with hysteresis implemented by applying positive feedback to the noninverting input of a comparator or differential amplifier. It is an active circuit which converts an analog input signal to a digital output signal.

  • Construct the circuit as shown below. Although the diagram shows a variable resistor be used, a constant value resistor would also work fine.
  • When the circuit is constructed completely, connect CH1 to Vi and CH2 to Vo. Vi and Vo are input and outputs respectively and are marked in the figure. The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The power supply provided to the Op-Amp are set to + 12V. (If faced with any confusion, please refer to the resources mentioned at the end of the blog to learn more about Op-Amps before proceeding ahead. If done incorrectly, Op-Amps will be damaged)
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1000 Hz and magnitude to 0.5V. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope. Use the X-Y mode of the oscilloscope to obtain the plot between Vi and Vo which should look like the graph shown below.

Resources:

  1. Read more about Half wave and Full wave rectifier and their applications – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectifier
  2. Read more about the Bipolar Junction Transistor and its use as a switch – http://www.electronicshub.org/transistor-as-switch/
  3. Understand the common mode and differential mode of Op-Amp – https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/video-lectures/op-amps-common-differential/
  4. Find more about Schmitt Trigger and its uses – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmitt_trigger

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SPI Communication in PSLab

PSLab supports communication using the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) protocol. The Desktop App as well as the Android App have the framework set-up to use this feature. SPI protocol is mainly used by a few sensors which can be connected to PSLab. For supporting SPI communication, the PSLab Communication library has a dedicated class defined for SPI. A brief overview of how SPI communication works and its advantages & limitations can be found here.

The class dedicated for SPI communication with numerous methods defined in them. The methods required for a particular SPI sensor may differ slightly, however, in general most sensors utilise a certain common set of methods. The set of methods that are commonly used are listed below with their functions.

In the setParameters method, the SPI parameters like Clock Polarity (CKP/CPOL), Clock Edge (CKE/CPHA), SPI modes (SMP) and other parameters like primary and secondary prescalar which are specific to the device used.

Primary Prescaler (0,1,2,3) for 64MHz clock->(64:1,16:1,4:1,1:1)

Secondary prescaler (0,1,..7)->(8:1,7:1,..1:1)

The values of CKP/CPOL and CKE/CPHA needs to set using the following convention and according to our requirements.

  • At CPOL=0 the base value of the clock is zero, i.e. the idle state is 0 and active state is 1.
    • For CPHA=0, data is captured on the clock’s rising edge (low→high transition) and data is changed at the falling edge (high→low transition).
    • For CPHA=1, data is captured on the clock’s falling edge (high→low transition) and data is changed at the rising edge (low→high transition).
  • At CPOL=1 the base value of the clock is one (inversion of CPOL=0), i.e. the idle state is 1 and active state is 0.
    • For CPHA=0, data is captured on the clock’s falling edge (high→low transition) and data is changed at the rising edge (low→high transition).
    • For CPHA=1, data is captured on the clock’s rising edge (low→high transition) and data is changed at the falling edge (high→low transition).

public void setParameters(int primaryPreScalar, int secondaryPreScalar, Integer CKE, Integer CKP, Integer SMP) throws IOException {
        if (CKE != null) this.CKE = CKE;
        if (CKP != null) this.CKP = CKP;
        if (SMP != null) this.SMP = SMP;

        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SPI_HEADER);
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SET_SPI_PARAMETERS);
        packetHandler.sendByte(secondaryPreScalar | (primaryPreScalar << 3) | (this.CKE << 5) | (this.CKP << 6) | (this.SMP << 7));
        packetHandler.getAcknowledgement();
    }

 

The start method is responsible for sending the instruction to initiate the SPI communication and it takes the channel which will be used for communication as input.

public void start(int channel) throws IOException {
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SPI_HEADER);
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.START_SPI);
        packetHandler.sendByte(channel);
    }

 

The setCS method is responsible for selecting the slave with which the SPI communication has to be done. This feature of SPI communication is known as Chip Select (CS) or Slave Select (SS). A master can use multiple Chip/Slave Select pins for communication whereas a slave utilises just one pin as SPI is based on single master multiple slaves principle. The capacity of PSLab is limited to two slave devices at a time.

public void setCS(String channel, int state) throws IOException {
        String[] chipSelect = new String[]{"CS1", "CS2"};
        channel = channel.toUpperCase();
        if (Arrays.asList(chipSelect).contains(channel)) {
            int csNum = Arrays.asList(chipSelect).indexOf(channel) + 9;
            packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SPI_HEADER);
            if (state == 1)
                packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.STOP_SPI);
            else
                packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.START_SPI);
            packetHandler.sendByte(csNum);
        } else {
            Log.d(TAG, "Channel does not exist");
        }
    }

 

The stop method is responsible for sending the instruction to the stop the communication with the slave.

public void stop(int channel) throws IOException {
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SPI_HEADER);
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.STOP_SPI);
        packetHandler.sendByte(channel);
    }

 

PSLab SPI class has methods defined for sending either 8-bit or 16-bit data over SPI which are further classified on whether they request the acknowledgement byte (it helps to know whether the communication was successful or unsuccessful) or not.

The methods are so named send8, send16, send8_burst and send16_burst . The burst methods do not request any acknowledgement value and as a result work faster than the normal methods.

public int send16(int value) throws IOException {
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SPI_HEADER);
        packetHandler.sendByte(commandsProto.SEND_SPI16);
        packetHandler.sendInt(value);
        int retValue = packetHandler.getInt();
        packetHandler.getAcknowledgement();
        return retValue;
    }

 

Resources:

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I2C Communication in PSLab

PSLab supports communication using the I2C protocol and both the Desktop App and the Android App have the framework set-up to use the I2C protocol. I2C protocol is mainly used by sensors which can be connected to PSLab. For supporting I2C communication, PSLab board has a separate block for I2C communication and has pins named 3.3V, GND, SCL and SDA. A brief overview of how I2C communication works and its advantages & limitations compared to SPI communication can be found here.

The PSLab Python and Java communication libraries have a class dedicated for I2C communication with numerous methods defined in them. The methods required for a particular I2C sensor may differ, however, in general most sensors utilise a certain common set of methods. The set of methods that are commonly used are listed below with their functions. For utilising the methods, the I2C bus is first notified using the HEADER byte (it is common to all the methods) and then a byte to uniquely determine the method in use.

The send method is used to send the data over the I2C bus. First the I2C bus is initialised and set to the correct slave address using I2C.start(address) followed by this method. The method takes the data to be sent as the argument.

def send(self, data):
    try:
        self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_HEADER)
        self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_SEND)
        self.H.__sendByte__(data)  # data byte
        return self.H.__get_ack__() >> 4
    except Exception as ex:
        self.raiseException(ex, "Communication Error , Function : " + inspect.currentframe().f_code.co_name)

 

The read method reads a fixed number of bytes from the I2C slave. One can also use I2C.simpleRead(address,  numbytes) instead to read from the I2C slave. This method takes the length of the data to be read as argument.  It fetches length-1 bytes with acknowledge bits for each.

def read(self, length):
     data = []
     try:
        for a in range(length - 1):
             self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_HEADER)
             self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_READ_MORE)
             data.append(self.H.__getByte__())
             self.H.__get_ack__()
       self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_HEADER)
       self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_READ_END)
       data.append(self.H.__getByte__())
       self.H.__get_ack__()
    except Exception as ex:
       self.raiseException(ex, "Communication Error , Function : " + inspect.currentframe().f_code.co_name)
   return data

 

The readBulk method reads the data from the I2C slave. This takes the I2C slave device address, the address of the device from which the data is to be read and the length of the data to be read as argument and the returns the bytes read in the form of a list.

def readBulk(self, device_address, register_address, bytes_to_read):
        try:
            self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_HEADER)
            self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_READ_BULK)
            self.H.__sendByte__(device_address)
            self.H.__sendByte__(register_address)
            self.H.__sendByte__(bytes_to_read)
            data = self.H.fd.read(bytes_to_read)
            self.H.__get_ack__()
            try:
                return [ord(a) for a in data]
            except:
                print('Transaction failed')
                return False
        except Exception as ex:
           self.raiseException(ex, "Communication Error , Function : " + inspect.currentframe().f_code.co_name)

 

The writeBulk method writes the data to the I2C slave. It takes address of the particular I2C slave for which the data is to be written and the data to be written as arguments.

def writeBulk(self, device_address, bytestream):
        try:
            self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_HEADER)
            self.H.__sendByte__(CP.I2C_WRITE_BULK)
            self.H.__sendByte__(device_address)
            self.H.__sendByte__(len(bytestream))
            for a in bytestream:
                self.H.__sendByte__(a)
            self.H.__get_ack__()
        except Exception as ex:
  self.raiseException(ex, "Communication Error , Function : " + inspect.currentframe().f_code.co_name)

 

The scan method scans the I2C port for connected devices which utilise I2C as a communication mode. It takes frequency as an argument to set the frequency of the communication and is by default set to 100000. An array containing the addresses of the connected devices (which are integers) is returned.

def scan(self, frequency=100000, verbose=False):
        self.config(frequency, verbose)
        addrs = []
        n = 0
        if verbose:
            print('Scanning addresses 0-127...')
            print('Address', '\t', 'Possible Devices')
        for a in range(0, 128):
            x = self.start(a, 0)
            if x & 1 == 0:  # ACK received
                addrs.append(a)
                if verbose: print(hex(a), '\t\t', self.SENSORS.get(a, 'None'))
                n += 1
            self.stop()
       return addrs

 

Additional Sources

  1. Learn more about the principles behind i2c communication https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/i2c
  2. A simple experiment to demonstrate use of i2c communication with Arduino http://howtomechatronics.com/tutorials/arduino/how-i2c-communication-works-and-how-to-use-it-with-arduino/
  3. Java counterpart of the PSLab I2C library https://github.com/fossasia/pslab-android/blob/master/app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/pslab/communication/peripherals/I2C.java

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Creating Multiple Device Compatible Layouts in PSLab Android

The developer’s goal is that PSLab Android App as an app should run smoothly on all the variety of Android devices out in the market. There are two aspects of it – the app should be able to support maximum number of Android versions possible which is related to the core software part and the other being the app should be able to generate the same user experience on all sizes of screens. This post focuses on the later.

There are a whole range of android devices available in the market right from 4 inch mobile phones to 12 inch tablets and the range in the screen sizes is quite large. So, the challenge in front of app designers is to make the app compatible with the maximum  number of devices without doing any specific tweaks related to a particular resolution range. Android has its mechanism of scaling the app as per the screen size and it does a good job almost all the time, however, still there are cases where android fails to scale up or scale down the app leading to distorted layout of the app.

This blog discusses some of the tricks that needs to be kept in mind while designing layouts that work independent of screen sizes.

Avoid using absolute dimensions

It is one of the most common things to keep in mind before starting any UI design. Use of absolute dimensions like px, inch etc. must be avoided every time as they are fixed in size and don’t scale up or scale down while screen sizes are changed. Instead relative dimensions like dp should be used which depend on the resolution and scale up or scale down. ( It’s a fair assumption that bigger screens will have better resolution compared to the smaller ones although exceptions do exist) .

Ensure the use of correct layout/View group

Since, android provides a variety of layouts like Linearlayout, Constrainedlayout, Relativelayout, Tablelayout and view groups like ScrollView, RecyclerView, ListView etc. it is often confusing to know which layout/viewgroup should be used. The following list gives a rough idea of when to use a particular layout or view group.

  • Linearlayout – Mostly used for simple designs when the elements are stacked in ordered horizontal/vertical fashion and it needs explicit declaration of orientation.
  • Relativelayout – Mostly used when the elements need to defined relative to the parent or the neighbouring elements. Since, the elements are relative, there is no need to define the orientation.
  • Constraintlayout – It has all the features of Relativelayout and in addition a feature of adding constraints to the child elements or neighbouring elements.
  • Tablelayout – Tablelayout is helpful to when all the views/widgets are arranged in an ordered fashion.

All the above layouts can be used interchangeably most of the times, however, certain cases make some more favourable than others like when than views/ widgets are not present in an organised manner, it is better to stick to Linearlayout or Relativelayout.

  • ListView – Used when the views/ widgets in a screen are repeated, so using a listview ensures that the volume of the code is reduced and all the repetitive views are identical in nature.
  • RecyclerView – More of an improved version of ListView. It is recommended to use this view over ListView. Additionally this view group supports features like swipe to refresh.
  • ScrollView – Used when the UI screen cannot fit within the given screen space. ScrollView supports one direct child layout. So, to implement a scrollview, all the views must be under a particular layout and then masked by scrollview.

Choosing the correct layout or view group would help to create a better UI.

Use of layout_weight

Ensuring the layout width assigned in XML file covers the entire width on the screen. For ensuring this, one possible solution is to use layout_weight instead of layout_width.

Example –

<TextView
   android:id="@+id/tv_control_read9"
   android:layout_width="0dp"
   android:layout_weight="1"
   android:layout_height="30dp"
   android:layout_marginTop="10dp"
/>

 

In order to use layout_weight, layout_width must be set to 0 else it would interfere with the width and as layout_width is a compulsory parameter it cannot be omitted. Layout weight can be any number and the space is allocated to each view in proportion to the weights assigned. Since it does not involve numerical dimensions, the distribution would be uniform for all types of screens. The result is clearly evident here. The same UI in different screen sizes is displayed below.

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Fig: Screenshot taken on a 6” phone and on a 4” phone. Although the screen area of 4” phone is 44% that of the 6” phone, the UIs are identically the same.

Create different layout directories for different resolutions

  • Creating different layouts for different screen sizes ensures that the limitations of smaller screen sizes are taken care of and the advantages offered by bigger screen sizes are put to the best use.
  • The Android documentation here mentions the conventions to be followed while designing.
  • Although over the years, android has become better at auto-adjusting layouts for different screen sizes. However, if the no. of views and widgets are high, auto-adjusting does not work well as in case of PSLab and it is better to create different sets of layouts.
  • As evident from the picture of the 8” tablet, although the auto-adjusted layout is manageable, the layout looks stretched and does not utilize the entire screen space, so it a better UI can be made by creating a dedicated layout directory for bigger screens.

Additional resources

 

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Using Sensors with PSLab Android App

The PSLab Android App as of now supports quite a few sensors. Sensors are an essential part of many science experiments and therefore PSLab has a feature to support plug & play sensors. The list of sensors supported by PSLab can be found here.

  • AD7718 – 24-bit 10-channel Low voltage Low power Sigma Delta ADC
  • AD9833 – Low Power Programmable Waveform generator
  • ADS1115 – Low Power 16 bit ADC
  • BH1750 – Light Intensity sensor
  • BMP180 – Digital Pressure Sensor
  • HMC5883L – 3-axis digital magnetometer
  • MF522 – RFID Reader
  • MLX90614 – Infrared thermometer
  • MPU6050 – Accelerometer & gyroscope
  • MPU925x – Accelerometer & gyroscope
  • SHT21 – Humidity sensor
  • SSD1306 – Control for LED matrix
  • Sx1276 – Low Power Long range Transceiver
  • TSL2561 – Digital Luminosity Sensor

All the sensors except Sx1276 communicate using the I2C protocol whereas the Sx1276 uses the SPI protocol for communication. There is a dedicated set of ports on the PSLab board for the communication under the label I2C with the ports named 3.3V, GND, SCL & SDA.

blog_post_7_1

Fig; PSLab board sketch

Any I2C sensor has ports named 3.3V/VCC, GND, SCL, SDA at least along with some other ports in some sensors. The connections are as follows:

  1. 3.3V on PSLab – 3.3V/VCC on sensor
  2. GND on PSLab – GND on sensor
  3. SCL on PSLab – SCL on sensor
  4. SDA on PSLab – SDA on sensor

The diagram here shows the connections

For using the sensors with the Android App, there is a dedicated I2C library written in communication in Java for the communication. Each sensor has its own specific set of functionalities and therefore has its own library file. However, all these sensors share some common features like each one of them has a getRaw method which fetches the raw sensor data. For getting the data from a sensor, the sensor is initially connected to the PSLab board.

The following piece of code is responsible for detecting any devices that are connected to the PSLab board through the I2C bus. Each sensor has it’s own unique address and can be identified using it. So, the AutoScan function returns the addresses of all the connected sensors and the sensors can be uniquely identified using those addresses.

public ArrayList<Integer> scan(Integer frequency) throws IOException {
	if (frequency == null) frequency = 100000;
	config(frequency);
	ArrayList<Integer> addresses = new ArrayList<>();
	for (int i = 0; i < 128; i++) {
		int x = start(i, 0);
		if ((x & 1) == 0) {
			addresses.add(i);
		}
		stop();
	}
	return addresses;
}

 

As per the addresses fetched, the sensor library corresponding to that particular sensor can be imported and the getRaw method can be called. The getRaw method will return the raw sensor data. For example here is the getRaw method of ADS1115.

public int[] getRaw() throws IOException, InterruptedException {
	String chan = typeSelection.get(channel);
	if (channel.contains("UNI"))
		return new int[]{(int) readADCSingleEnded(Integer.parseInt(chan))};
	else if (channel.contains("DIF"))
		return new int[]{readADCDifferential(chan)};
	return new int[0];
}

Here the raw data is returned in the form of voltages in mV.

Similarly, the other sensors return some values like luminosity sensor TSL2561 returns values of luminosity in Lux, the accelerometer & gyroscope MPU6050 returns the angles of the 3-axes.

In order to initiate the process of getting raw data from the sensor in Sensor Activity, the object for the sensor is created and the method of getRaw is called. The following is the implementation for ADS1115. The rest of the sensors also have an implementation similar to this. There are try-catch statements in the code to handle some of the exceptions thrown during process of method calls.

ADS1115 ADS1115 = null;
try {
	ADS1115 = new ADS1115(i2c);
} catch (IOException | InterruptedException e) {
	e.printStackTrace();
}

int[] dataADS1115 = null;
String datadispADS1115 = null;
try {
	if (ADS1115 != null) {
		dataADS1115 = ADS1115.getRaw();
	}
} catch (IOException | InterruptedException e) {
	e.printStackTrace();
}

if (dataADS1115 != null) {
	for(int i = 0; i < dataADS1115.length; i++)
		datadispADS1115 += String.valueOf(dataADS1115[i]);
	}

tvSensorGetRaw.setText(datadispADS1115);

 

Additional Resources

  1. Sensor implementation in PSLab Python repository – https://github.com/fossasia/pslab-python/tree/development/PSL/SENSORS
  2. Using the sensors with Arduino in case you have worked with Arduino before – The basic connections are same as PSLab http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-MPU-6050-Getting-It-to-Work/

Continue Reading Using Sensors with PSLab Android App

Creating Custom Components in the PSLab Android App

PSLab Android App supports a lot of features and each of these features need components & views for their implementation. A typical UI of PSLab is shown in the figure below. Considering the number of views & components used in the figure, implementation of each view & component separately would lead to a huge volume of repetitive and inefficient code. As it is evident that the EditText and two buttons beside it keep repeating a lot, it is wiser to create a single custom component consisting of an EditText and two buttons. This not only leads to efficient code but also results in a drastic reduction of the volume of code.

Android has a feature which allows creating components. For almost all the cases, the pre-defined views in Android serve our purpose of creating the UIs. However, sometimes there is a need to create custom components to reduce code volume and improve quality. Custom components are used when a particular set of component needed by us is not present in the Android view collection or when a pattern of components is frequently repeated or when we need to reduce the code complexity.

The above set can be replaced by defining a custom component which includes an edittext and two buttons and then treating it like just any other component. To get started with creating a custom component, the steps are the following:

Create a layout for the custom component to be designed

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<LinearLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
   android:orientation="horizontal" android:layout_width="match_parent"
   android:layout_height="match_parent">

   <Button
       android:id="@+id/button_control_plus"
       android:layout_width="0dp"
       android:layout_weight="0.5"
       android:layout_height="20dp"
       android:background="@drawable/button_minus" />

   <EditText
       android:id="@+id/edittext_control"
       android:layout_width="0dp"
       android:layout_weight="2"
       android:layout_height="24dp"
       android:layout_marginTop="@dimen/control_margin_small"
       android:inputType="numberDecimal"
       android:padding="@dimen/control_edittext_padding"
       android:background="@drawable/control_edittext" />

   <Button
       android:id="@+id/button_control_minus"
       android:layout_width="0dp"
       android:layout_weight="0.5"
       android:layout_height="20dp"
       android:background="@drawable/button_plus" />
</LinearLayout>

The layout file edittext_control.xml is created with three views and each one of them has been assigned an ID along with all the other relevant parameters.

Incorporate the newly created custom layout in the Activity/Fragment layout file

<org.fossasia.pslab.others.Edittextwidget
       android:id="@+id/etwidget_control_advanced1"
       android:layout_height="wrap_content"
       android:layout_width="0dp"
       android:layout_weight="2"
       android:layout_marginLeft="@dimen/control_margin_small"
       android:layout_marginStart="@dimen/control_margin_small"
/>

The custom layout can be added the activity/fragment layout just like any other view and can be assigned properties similarly.

Create the activity file for the custom layout

public class Edittextwidget extends LinearLayout{

   private EditText editText;
   private Button button1;
   private Button button2;
   private double leastCount;
   private double maxima;
   private double minima;

 
   public Edittextwidget(Context context, AttributeSet attrs, int defStyle) {
       super(context, attrs, defStyle);
       applyAttrs(attrs);
   }

   public Edittextwidget(Context context, AttributeSet attrs) {
       super(context, attrs);
       applyAttrs(attrs);
   }

   public Edittextwidget(Context context) {
       super(context);
   }

  public void init(Context context, final double leastCount, final double minima, final double maxima) {
       View.inflate(context, R.layout.edittext_control, this);
       editText = (EditText) findViewById(R.id.edittext_control);
       button1 = (Button) findViewById(R.id.button_control_plus);
       button2 = (Button) findViewById(R.id.button_control_minus);

       button1.setOnClickListener(new OnClickListener() {
           @Override
           public void onClick(View v) {
               Double data = Double.valueOf(editText.getText().toString());
               data = data - leastCount;
               data = data > maxima ? maxima : data;
               data = data < minima ? minima : data;
               editText.setText(String.valueOf(data));
           }
       });

       button2.setOnClickListener(new OnClickListener() {
           @Override
           public void onClick(View v) {
               Double data = Double.valueOf(editText.getText().toString());
               data = data + leastCount;
               data = data > maxima ? maxima : data;
               data = data < minima ? minima : data;
               editText.setText(String.valueOf(data));
           }
       });
   }

   private void applyAttrs(AttributeSet attrs) {
       TypedArray a = getContext().obtainStyledAttributes(attrs, R.styleable.Edittextwidget);
       final int N = a.getIndexCount();
       for (int i = 0; i < N; ++i) {
           int attr = a.getIndex(i);
           switch (attr) {
               case R.styleable.Edittextwidget_leastcount:
                   this.leastCount = a.getFloat(attr, 1.0f);
                   break;
               case R.styleable.Edittextwidget_maxima:
                   this.maxima = a.getFloat(attr, 1.0f);
                   break;
               case R.styleable.Edittextwidget_minima:
                   this.minima = a.getFloat(attr, 1.0f);
           }
       }
       a.recycle();
   }
}

In the activity file Editextwidget.java, the views of the custom layout are defined and functionalities are assigned to them. For example, here there are two buttons which work as increment/decrement buttons and an edittext which takes numeric input. The buttons are initiated just like the way they are done in other activity/fragment using OnClickListener.

Define the attributes for the custom layout

<declare-styleable name="Edittextwidget">
     <attr name="leastcount" format="float" />
     <attr name="maxima" format="float" />
     <attr name="minima" format="float" />
</declare-styleable>

The attributes for the custom layout are defined in the attrs.xml file. Each attribute is assigned a name and a format which can be int, float, double, string etc.

Finally call the methods of the custom layout from the desired activity/fragment

Edittextwidget etwidgetControlAdvanced1 = (Edittextwidget)view.findViewById(R.id.etwidget_control_advanced1);

etwidgetControlAdvanced1.init(getContext(), 1.0, 10.0, 5000.0);

The init method of Edittextwidget.java is called while passing the relevant parameters like context, least count, maxima and minima.

Additional Resources on Custom Components

  1. Official Android Guide on Custom components – https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/custom-components.html
  2. Simple example of creating a custom component to get started – https://www.tutorialspoint.com/android/android_custom_components.htm
Continue Reading Creating Custom Components in the PSLab Android App

Trigger Controls in Oscilloscope in PSLab

PSLab Desktop App has a feature of oscilloscope. Modern day oscilloscopes found in laboratories support a lot of advanced features and addition of trigger controls in oscilloscope was one such attempt in adding an advanced feature in the oscilloscope. As the current implementation of trigger is not robust enough, this feature would help in better stabilisation of waveforms.

Captured waveforms often face the problem of distortion and trigger helps to solve this problem. Trigger in oscilloscope is an essential feature for signal characterisation.  as it synchronises the horizontal sweep of the oscilloscope to the proper point of the signal. The trigger control enables users to stabilise repetitive waveforms as well as capture single-shot waveforms. By repeatedly displaying similar portion of the input signal, the trigger makes repetitive waveform look static. In order to visualise how an oscilloscope looks with or without a trigger see the following figures below.

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Fig 1: (a) Without trigger  (b) With trigger

The Fig:1(a) is the actual waveform received by the oscilloscope and it can be easily noticed that interpreting it is confusing due to the overlapping of multiple waveforms together. So, in Fig:1(b) the trigger control stabilises the waveforms and captures just one waveform.

In general the commonly used trigger modes in laboratory oscilloscopes are:-

  • Auto – This trigger mode allows the oscilloscope to acquire a waveform even when it does not detect a trigger condition. If no trigger condition occurs while the oscilloscope waits for a specific period (as determined by the time-base setting), it will force itself to trigger.
  • Normal – The Normal mode allows the oscilloscope to acquire a waveform only when it is triggered. If no trigger occurs, the oscilloscope will not acquire a new waveform, and the previous waveform, if any, will remain on the display.
  • Single – The Single mode allows the oscilloscope to acquire one waveform each time you press the RUN button, and the trigger condition is detected.
  • Scan – The Scan mode continuously sweeps waveform from left to right.

Implementing Trigger function in PSLab

PSLab has a built in basic functionality of trigger control in the configure_trigger method in sciencelab.py. The method gets called when trigger is enabled in the GUI. The trigger is activated when the incoming wave reaches a certain voltage threshold and the PSLab also provides an option of either selecting the rising or falling edge for trigger. Trigger is especially useful in experiments handling waves like sine waves, square wave etc. where trigger helps to get a clear picture.

In order to initiate trigger in the PSLab desktop app, the configure_trigger method in sciencelab.py is called. The configure_trigger method takes some parameters for input but they are optional. If values are not specified the default values are assumed.

def configure_trigger(self, chan, name, voltage, resolution=10, **kwargs):
        
  prescaler = kwargs.get('prescaler', 0)
        try:
            self.H.__sendByte__(CP.ADC)
            self.H.__sendByte__(CP.CONFIGURE_TRIGGER)
            self.H.__sendByte__(
                (prescaler << 4) | (1 << chan))  
            if resolution == 12:
                level = self.analogInputSources[name].voltToCode12(voltage)
                level = np.clip(level, 0, 4095)
            else:
                level = self.analogInputSources[name].voltToCode10(voltage)
                level = np.clip(level, 0, 1023)

            if level > (2 ** resolution - 1):
                level = (2 ** resolution - 1)
            elif level < 0:
                level = 0

            self.H.__sendInt__(int(level))  # Trigger
            self.H.__get_ack__()
        
        except Exception as ex:
  	    self.raiseException(ex, "Communication Error , Function : " + inspect.currentframe().f_code.co_name)

The method takes the following parameters in the method call

  • chan – Channel . 0, 1,2,3. corresponding to the channels being recorded by the capture routine(not the analog inputs).
  • name – The name of the channel. ‘CH1’… ‘V+’.
  • voltage – The voltage level that should trigger the capture sequence(in Volts).

The similar feature will also be used in oscilloscope in the Android app with the code corresponding to this method  in ScienceLab written in Java.

Additional Resources

  1. Read more about Trigger here – http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/t_and_m/oscilloscope/oscilloscope-trigger.php
  2. Learn more about trigger modes in oscilloscopes – https://www.picotech.com/library/oscilloscopes/advanced-digital-triggers
  3. PSLab Python repository to know the underlying code – https://github.com/fossasia/pslab-python

 

Continue Reading Trigger Controls in Oscilloscope in PSLab

PSLab Code Repository and Installation

PSLab  is a new addition to FOSSASIA Science Lab. This tiny pocket science lab  provides  an array of necessary equipments for doing science and engineering experiments. It can function like an oscilloscope, waveform generator, frequency counter, programmable voltage and current source and also as a data logger.

pslabdesign
New Front Panel Design
psl2
Size:62mmx78mmx13mm

The control and measurement functions are written in Python programming language. Pyqtgraph is used for plotting library. We are now working on Qt based GUI applications for various experiments.

The following are the code repositories of PSLab.

Installation

To install PSLab on Debian based Gnu/Linux system, the following dependencies must be installed.

Dependencies
============
PyQt 4.7+, PySide, or PyQt5
python 2.6, 2.7, or 3.x
NumPy, Scipy
pyqt4-dev-tools          #for pyuic4
Pyqtgraph                #Plotting library
pyopengl and qt-opengl   #for 3D graphics
iPython-qtconsole        #optional
Now clone both the repositories pslab-apps and pslab .

Libraries must be installed in the following order

1. pslab-apps

2. pslab

To install, cd into the directories

$ cd <SOURCE_DIR>

and run the following (for both the repos)

$ sudo make clean
$ sudo make 

$ sudo make install

Now you are ready with the PSLab software on your machine 🙂

For the main GUI (Control panel), you can run Experiments from the terminal.

$ Experiments

If the device is not connected the following splash screen will be displayed.

SplashNotConnected
Device not connected

After clicking OK, you will get the control panel with menus for Experiments, Controls, Advanced Controls and Help etc. (Experiments can not be accessed unless the device is connected)

controlPanelNotConnected

The splash screen and the control panel, when PSLab is connected to the pc.

SplashScreen
PSLab connected
controlpanel
Control Panel – Main GUI

From this control panel one can access controls, help files and various experiments through independent GUI’s written for each experiment.

You can help
------------

Please report a bug/install errors here 
Your suggestions to improve PSLab are welcome :)

What Next:

We are now working on a general purpose Experimental designer. This will allow selecting controls and channels and then generate a spread sheet. The columns from this spreadsheet can be selected and plotted.

 

Continue Reading PSLab Code Repository and Installation