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Hacking the Rigol DS1052E Oscilloscope with Linux

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Picture of Hacking the Rigol DS1052E Oscilloscope with Linux
I was in the market for an oscilloscope, but I didn't want to spend much.  I found out about Rigol and their line of $300-400 scopes, and was getting ready to buy one.  Then I found a post on how to make your DS1052E, which costs about $400 into a DS1102E, which costs about $700 with a simple firmware modification!  I bought the scope right after, and I received it in the mail today.  It's pretty nice by default, but doubling the bandwidth is always a plus.

The DS1052E has a 50Mhz maximum frequency, but it has exactly the same hardware (as far as the reverse-engineering folks can tell) as the DS1102E, which has a 100Mhz maximum.  This guide will show you how to make the switch very easily using Linux.  You can do it in Windows too, but it's a bit more involved, and Linux makes it really really easy.

I've attached the Rigol user guide for both units, in case you don't have one.

WARNING: It's entirely likely that this completely voids your warranty.  Make sure you know what you're doing - you can brick your scope if you screw anything up.
 
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Step 1: Spec Comparison

Here are the specs of the 2 scope models.  Our test to see if we've succeeded is by looking at the Time Base Range minimum setting - the DS1052E has a 5ns/div setting, where the DS1102E has a 2ns/div setting - a much more accurate view for sure!

Step 2: Get Linux Running

Picture of Get Linux Running
The first step is to get Linux going if you don't already have it.  I use Ubuntu 10.10 as my desktop OS, so I was able to skip this step.  If you don't want to continue running Linux, and just want to get this scope flashed, you can download the Ubuntu LiveCD, burn it, and boot from it.  
malonph5 months ago

I have firmware 00.04.01.00.02 with HW version 58. Is it still possible to hack the scope?

malonph malonph5 months ago
Yes it is
Analog bandwidth is NOT "maximum frequency".
dougie 102 years ago
I have this scope and i am very happy, bought it from rigol-uk at only £245. see http://www.rigol-uk.co.uk/ds1000e-series-digital-oscilloscope/ not sure how long they will have this offer for...
Nice job man, thats a great mod, definitely worth the time.

How do you like that unit in general? Does the quality feel lacking or is it sufficiently well made? I'd like to hear your thoughts on the device.
hardwarehank (author)  mattthegamer4633 years ago
Having used Agilents a bit in College (I'm CS by trade, not EE, but I had a couple EE classes), this probably doesn't quite compare, but it's still a bargain at $300. The unit is pretty heavy (maybe 8 lbs?), knobs are well-made, it's responsive, I like the button layout, the menus are fine. But I haven't tested it thoroughly - it's my first scope, and I'm a EE novice, but there's a pretty large community that seems to like this scope. I wish I could give you a more detailed response :).

I really like that it's so low-profile - it's not deep like most of the scopes I've seen. It's about the size of a small shoebox. I think it's a great scope for a beginner, but if one had more stringent requirements, they should look elsewhere and spend more.

Thanks for reading!
"The unit is pretty heavy"

lol wut? It's light compared to my old analog scope! For something like this, lighter is better.
I have the Rigol scope at home and another similarly-priced Chinese scope at work (JingCe), and the Rigol is much better. Better build quality, memory size, and firmware.
I have the same scope, but I wouldn't upgrade until I finally get to the >50MHz level with my hacking.

Overall its a very nice scope. Big, glowing buttons, easy to navigate interface, and long list of features.

One problem: I'm coming from using university-level HP Analog oscilloscopes, so I was a bit spoiled with the near instant Auto-Scale times. The Rigol takes about 2-3 seconds to lock onto a signal, which once again wasn't a deal-breaker for me, just something I missed when switching from analog to DSO.

I suggest playing with it first if it is within your budget. Like many other tools, you get what you pay for. I wish I had ~10k to buy an HP/Agilent, but I don't so I had to go for this.

My 2 cents.
hardwarehank (author)  SuperSonik3 years ago
Yeah I noticed the AUTO is a little slow, but at this point, I really don't mind. I agree with SuperSonik 100%.
Quote "This guide will show you how to make the switch very easily using Linux. You can do it in Windows too, but it's a bit more involved, and Linux makes it really really easy."

Linux always makes things easier :)  And free too.
"Linux always makes things easier"

I totally, 100% disagree with this. Linux makes a few techy things easier, but most things that people want to do with their computers are much much harder.

Run Windows as your main OS, because it works well, is easy to use, and is actually compatible with the hardware it was shipped with, and then run Linux in a virtual machine for the few times you need it. It will work reasonably well with the virtual hardware, while it's pretty much guaranteed not to work with your real hardware.
hardwarehank (author)  moebuspcgold3 years ago
Everything except 3D gaming... and TurboTax :P

But otherwise, yeah I'm a huge advocate of Linux. Thanks!
raybent3 years ago
I've had one of these for a year or so. I installed this mod and it works great. I tested the frequency response with a signal generator. It rolled off (3dB) at 119 MHz. It "wriggled around" a bit before that, but that was where it took the dive. For comparison, I applied the same test to a Tektronix TDS3014 100 MHz DSO. It quit at around 120 MHz. Is it my imagination, or does the FFT function have more features now? Such as cursor position to ID frequency indicated.
Ray the old guy
hardwarehank (author)  raybent3 years ago
Thank you very much, Ray. I'm glad to hear it basically matched the Tek's performance. I haven't used the FFT function, so I can't confirm or deny any feature addition :).
polossatik3 years ago
Glad you liked my "changing the rigol DS1052E to DS1102E using USB , the dummy guide " ...
i'll add a trackback to this for Linux users,
aldo IMHO I think it might be a bit safer to use a windows pc for this stuff...
and it's not that a win pc is very hard to come by :)
And by the way, there is no need to have a "real" 1102E serial number, as note in my guide, simply use your serial and change the 5the letter D in to a B
hardwarehank (author)  polossatik3 years ago
Interesting - thanks!
hardwarehank (author)  polossatik3 years ago
Thanks for the trackback! Windows PCs are very hard to come by in my house, and amongst every one of my friends. Everyone I know either has an Apple (where this method should work with very slight modifications) or Linux.

I don't see what would be any safer in Windows - the USB driver in Linux is absolutely fine :). It seems like since there's so many more steps in Windows there'd be more to screw up. Here, it's just 2 commands - no software to download and install, etc. But, whatever floats your boat!

Thanks for writing up those instructions - I couldn't have done this without them.
vsurducan3 years ago
Ok, so you have changed the firmware.
How did you check than indeed the scope is measuring correct an input rectangular signal of saying 80MHz?
Meaning that you have the right rising and falling edges?

thank you, keep working!
hardwarehank (author)  vsurducan3 years ago
I sourced several other guides in making this instructable, and there have been several independent test results that have confirmed this does work. In fact, I saw one that showed the modified 1052 beating an actual 1102 in bandwidth (sorry, I tried to find this page again, but I can't).

I'll see if I can make a function generator for square at 80-100mhz. Thanks for the idea!
Manufacturing an 80MHz function generator can be a nice project.
However you need at least two different scopes (or two firmware loaded on the same hardware), else you will not be able to compare the results.

Rigol looks a nice scope. I'm playing with scopes since about 20 years (I've started with vacuum tubes scopes, now I'm using a Tektronix MSO4104, which btw is worse than old and real scopes), and can tell that the analog bandwidth is everything in a digital scope. With other words, is unlikely two different bandwith scopes have the same hardware in the input stage (high impedance amplifier and D2A converter) and just a different firmware. That is a stupid way of thinking for the scope designer. Usually even the hardware is the same, the cip used for D2A conversion is much slower on lower bandwidth scope.

That's why, if I'll be in your place I'll be very circumspect about the real effect obtained.
hardwarehank (author)  vsurducan3 years ago
There's some writeups on hardware teardowns of the scopes, and from the sounds of it, they've shown no discernable differences. In a way, it kind of makes sense from an engineering standpoint - if your main cost is research and development, just make one product and neuter it, but don't tell anyone. Usually this works great, but if anyone ever finds out, your more expensive model will sell less of the time (but for each of those sales, you're probably selling a cheaper one, and you have the added advantage of selling to a growing DIY community like this one that will choose Rigol since the scope can be modified).

Remember the Chevy Nova? You could get a lot of the same V8 engines offered in the Corvette, but at a much lower cost. Sure, you're not making as much per engine, but you're opening yourself up to a whole new market. At this point, most electronics hobbyists either don't have a scope or are buying used equipment since new scopes cost a fortune. This is one of the first decent and cheap new scopes. Also, since doing this modification voids the warranty, that reduces their cost even more.

So, I'm just saying, it's not necessarily bad business (or a "stupid way of thinking for the scope designer") to neuter a good product.
You may have right, I'm agree with your point. I'm also appreciate your work.
But, I'm an old designer involved in mixed, analog and RF design, and the way you're describing (which could be correct in those weird times) it hasn't any logic for me .

You have to prove that your modified scope works as expected. Find a way and please do it for yourself, not for me.

Is not enough to show a nice screen, borrow (from your school lab) a real signal generator, a real scope and test your modified scope. Show the differences of the rising and falling edges (measured between 10% and 90% amplitude as the standard require) within your scope and the reference scope.

best wishes,
hardwarehank (author)  vsurducan3 years ago
See Tazzz's comment with the YouTube link - he shows a before and after rise time measurement.
Tazzz3 years ago
Someone has a great youtube video on how do this hack, just search for oscilloscope hack.
hardwarehank (author)  Tazzz3 years ago
Yeah - the main difference between doing it now and in most (all?) of the videos is they locked out the method in all newer firmware than 02.02. That makes it a little trickier, so that's why I wrote up the structable. Maybe I can link to some of the inspirational videos in here though...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2dGKcMtAvg

hardwarehank (author)  Tazzz3 years ago
Thanks, Tazzz. That explains the process pretty well! This was the video that originally led me to buying the scope. Thanks for posting!
Fred826643 years ago
YES ! Linux to the rescue for fee Windows would of charged you two testes and an arm for this kind of software hack
carlos66ba3 years ago
Nice write up! Anyone knows whether there is a similar cheap unit but which digitizes at 10 or 12 bits instead of only 8?
Do you want a scope, or a DAQ ?
Why would you need that?
hailster3 years ago
One of my customers gave me a DS1052 to use on a temporary test fixture. Overall I'm impressed with the scope and highly considering buying one for myself at home. There are a couple things I don't like about them but overall I think they are great scopes for the price. I use the digital filtering a lot to help clean up noisy signals.

Once I pick one up for at home I'll be doing this upgrade.
gomibakou3 years ago
I have this oscilloscope, without upgrade -all upgrade is a risky and i don't need 100mhz for now- anyway i have all the files and instructions to upgrade it in the future ;).
I'm very happy with this tool, it's well finished, with specifications as a Tektronic DS101x equivalent serie -i don't remember the exact model-.

I think it's a good investment: low price and good quality.

I only find a problem: the fan is a little noisy, not annoying but... well but it's really easy to change.

The upgrade shouldn't avoid the specificatiosn because the ADC, and other componens are overrated to such frecuency. In fact, there's a picture of Rigol website with the same rigol DS1052E labelled with 100mhz !!!!

http://www.rigolna.com/products/digital-oscilloscopes/ds1000e/

Check the "view large image" and you'll see the model with the 100Mhz in the upper label over the screen. Hahaha
hardwarehank (author)  gomibakou3 years ago
Yeah after messing around with the scope today, I'm very pleased. I'm not sure how much I really need the 100Mhz upgrade, or how much I'll ever use it, but it's nice to know that I can use it.  

Since I don't keep the unit powered on all the time, the fan hasn't annoyed me yet, but it is loud.  If it ever gets on my nerves, I might be tempted to change it, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

Glad to know someone else likes this scope!