Author Topic: Reasons for hacking DSOs  (Read 88976 times)

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Offline jixe

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Reasons for hacking DSOs
« on: March 18, 2016, 03:22:18 pm »
Hi,

There seem to be a lot of people hacking DSOs. I was interested to find out why. Why do you do it?
I mean both from a technical requirement point of view and any other reasons come to that. Do you have a specific requirement for high bandwidth? What sort of hobby project would need 300MHz B/W investigation more than once in a year?

I had considered hacking my Rigol 70MHz up to 300MHz, but am having second thoughts. My previous plan was to probe my basic 74HC circuits with a simple LED " in/out/shake it all about " logic probe , just a monostable really. That would have told me all I needed to know maybe 95% of the time. But then I got fascinated by the idea of (a) getting something for nothing and (b) enabling some future extreme high tech project. But what extreme high tech project?

I guess some people have a need for regular fixing of complex digital circuitry that is prone to random ghost glitches, but that would more than likely be a work environment. And similarly expensive serial decoding / triggering would be more in a work environment too, I guess. But why would the everyday hobbyist need more than 70MHz and basic triggering functions?

I had considered putting this in the beginners forum, since I am obviously missing the point here somewhere. Do people have specific projects or kinds of work in mind when they hack scopes, or is my motivation of " if it can be hacked, it should be hacked " the order of the day? If you hack your scope are you also a PC overclocker?
 

Offline Philfreeze

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2016, 04:10:19 pm »
For me it isn't really about needing it but more about being able to do it. There isn't really a downside to doing it so why not?


Oh and yes, I am a PC overclocker. Same reason.
 

Offline grouchobyte

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2016, 04:52:12 pm »
In order to really understand the nature of engineering, you have to understand what makes an engineer tick. Its his or her natural curiosity about the way things in our world work and why. We are problem solvers. We see a problem and we want to fix it. It gives us the same joy that a care giver obtains from helping others.....they get a smile, we get a blinking led, so to speak.

Its all about learning and the facination with technology around us. Even though we are bound by morals and dont wish to harm others, the curiosity factor in an engineer is huge. This is why hacking is a favorite engineering activity. It has little to do with need, more like hacking is something you do because you can. I am very sucessful but I love hacking because there is an instant reward and its fun. True, company revenues are compromised when one does that and everybody pays in the end for such activity. I have a very high end Agilent, er Keysight MSOX scope that I wrote a check for with many options enabled. Totally legit. However, I hacked a Rigol DSA815 spec analyzer for 10 hz resolution BW because I thought it should be included in the selling price of the instrument. I dont feel guilty.

Dont listen to the nay-sayers of hacking. Be true to your principles and follow your engineering instincts. The accountants will get their money and the hacking community will continue to find leaks and vulnerabilities as they have always done. Remember Steve Job and Steve Wozniack got their start with the blue box dialer that used access codes to hack long distance phone calls. I made one in the seventies and it was the most fun I had ever had with hacking.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 05:38:21 pm by grouchobyte »
 

Offline jixe

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2016, 05:08:19 pm »
Thanks for the replies guys, it's as I thought, people do it because it's there - very much my motivation. But I guess I feel it would be nice after hacking, to put the new capabilities to work. Maybe it's true, hacking has to be enjoyed for its's own sake.
 

Offline cio74

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2016, 05:25:23 pm »
Most people do not 'hack' their scope, they don't have the skills to do that. A few smart guys are doing that and the rest are just copying the process.

If you're talking about hacking serial numbers or/and unlocking features on your scope, that's plain stealing  >:D
 

Online mnementh

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2016, 05:32:26 pm »
From my viewpoint, it's about both. I'm looking into one of the hackable cheapies; I need some of the features for my primary hobby and I can't afford to buy the features on a hobbyist budget unless I buy used or hack.

My primary hobby right now is Model Aviation; in particular, I mostly build and fly FPV acrobatic quads. The ones that do this:

http://qz.com/638661/a-teenager-just-won-drone-racings-biggest-ever-prize/

I'm no where NEAR as good a pilot as these guys; I enjoy the building as much or more than the flying.

When building the quad, you get the fun of assembling the mechanical frame, then laying out and wiring the motors, ESCs and flight controller hardware. You have oodles of options regarding the radio control and camera and wireless video equipment; you can even add Telemetry and OSD/HUD to your setup. This ALL requires extensive learning and working in wiring, component selection, mechanical design and programming. You have to connect to and update both the ESCs and flight controllers and even the OSD units; they're all Atmel (Arduino) or similar Silabs CPUs.

In essence, you build a flying blender with telepresence and aerial photography gear, all controlled by a radio link to a scratch-built Beowulf cluster. ;)

Does that sound like fun to you?


mnem
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« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 05:34:54 pm by mnementh »
 

Offline jixe

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2016, 05:38:52 pm »
Most people do not 'hack' their scope, they don't have the skills to do that. A few smart guys are doing that and the rest are just copying the process.

If you're talking about hacking serial numbers or/and unlocking features on your scope, that's plain stealing  >:D


I see your point of view cio74, but I can't help wondering what most people would do if they bought a bottle of water and found that the vendor had included a bottle of brandy in the pack, on the understanding that, although he didn't want it returned, you should keep it but not drink it. That seems to me to be similar to the keygen hack on the Rigol.
 

Offline jixe

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2016, 05:47:50 pm »

Does that sound like fun to you?

It certainly does sound like fun. Maybe I'll look into it.
I'm starting fairly basic and trying to produce a propeller clock and finding there's more to it than I thought.
Hmm
 

Offline theirishscion

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2016, 05:48:23 pm »
Most people do not 'hack' their scope, they don't have the skills to do that. A few smart guys are doing that and the rest are just copying the process.
Agreed, most of the folks running the keygen against their Rigol gear (myself included) are being the EE equivalent of script-kiddies, not that there's anything fundamentally wrong with that in this context.
If you're talking about hacking serial numbers or/and unlocking features on your scope, that's plain stealing  >:D
With all due respect, I think you're mistaken, again at least in terms of Rigol. Their decision not to close any of their licensing security holes, either with firmware updates or new designs for new equipment, fairly clearly illustrate the reality that 'hacking' their equipment is a marketing/segmentation exercise for them. They've done what so many companies long to do, they've worked out how to charge different prices for the same product, dependent on the individual customer's willingness (and possibly ability) to pay. If Rigol _didn't_ offer the ultra-hackable DS1000Z and DS2K series scopes, I'd be furiously trying to decide between all the low-cost scope options in the marketplace. But since they do, the decision becomes easy, I'll buy theirs and feel like I'm getting a ton more for my money. I wasn't going to spend more than $500 for the scope anyway, the question is solely one of which company gets my money. And it costs Rigol _nothing_ for me to hack, assuming that I wasn't going to pay for the feature in the first place. And I wasn't; as a hobbyist, if I need to decode I2C and I don't have a scope that'll do it, I'm going to spend $30 on a USB dongle to do the job, not $120 on a license for my scope. But they do get the sale, and more important than a piddly little sale, they get me using their products, getting used to their interfaces, making happy memories showing my kids what music looks like as a waveform, all on my Rigol Brand Digital Storage Oscilloscope™

And that could be priceless (or at least worth a lot more than a $400 scope).

Same with the DP832 I'm also about to buy. Feels like a bargain, even if it's not really. It absolutely does feel like it to me. Bloody genius.
If anyone is interested in the topic, this is an _excellent_ Joel on Software article, well worth the read if you have any interest in marketing; http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CamelsandRubberDuckies.html
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 05:50:15 pm by theirishscion »
 

Offline c4757p

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2016, 05:51:22 pm »
The notion that unlocking something that's already in the scope you bought is "stealing" is frankly hilarious and not really worth the energy behind a serious response...
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Offline theirishscion

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2016, 06:23:42 pm »
The notion that unlocking something that's already in the scope you bought is "stealing" is frankly hilarious and not really worth the energy behind a serious response...
I wouldn't go that far. It's easier to make that argument for the frequency unlock, which is very obviously handicapping a device for the sole purposes of market segmentation and future revenue stream. It's clever, effective, but it feels a bit skeevy. Charging for decoding modules and other software features is a different matter, you're adding functionality, not just de-restricting. As someone who writes software for a living, I'd be in real trouble if my work product could be taken so lightly. Without some reasonable acknowledgement of pure intellectual property rights, we would have a very different society. However, with that said I'll refer to my earlier comment about Rigol and positioning/market segmentation. If they actually wanted to stop the privateer unlocking their cheaper scopes, they would have stopped us years ago.
 

Online mnementh

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2016, 06:27:14 pm »
Most people do not 'hack' their scope, they don't have the skills to do that. A few smart guys are doing that and the rest are just copying the process.
Agreed, most of the folks running the keygen against their Rigol gear (myself included) are being the EE equivalent of script-kiddies, not that there's anything fundamentally wrong with that in this context.
If you're talking about hacking serial numbers or/and unlocking features on your scope, that's plain stealing  >:D
With all due respect, I think you're mistaken, again at least in terms of Rigol. Their decision not to close any of their licensing security holes, either with firmware updates or new designs for new equipment, fairly clearly illustrate the reality that 'hacking' their equipment is a marketing/segmentation exercise for them. They've done what so many companies long to do, they've worked out how to charge different prices for the same product, dependent on the individual customer's willingness (and possibly ability) to pay. If Rigol _didn't_ offer the ultra-hackable DS1000Z and DS2K series scopes, I'd be furiously trying to decide between all the low-cost scope options in the marketplace. But since they do, the decision becomes easy, I'll buy theirs and feel like I'm getting a ton more for my money. I wasn't going to spend more than $500 for the scope anyway, the question is solely one of which company gets my money. And it costs Rigol _nothing_ for me to hack, assuming that I wasn't going to pay for the feature in the first place. And I wasn't; as a hobbyist, if I need to decode I2C and I don't have a scope that'll do it, I'm going to spend $30 on a USB dongle to do the job, not $120 on a license for my scope. But they do get the sale, and more important than a piddly little sale, they get me using their products, getting used to their interfaces, making happy memories showing my kids what music looks like as a waveform, all on my Rigol Brand Digital Storage Oscilloscope™

And that could be priceless (or at least worth a lot more than a $400 scope).

Same with the DP832 I'm also about to buy. Feels like a bargain, even if it's not really. It absolutely does feel like it to me. Bloody genius.
If anyone is interested in the topic, this is an _excellent_ Joel on Software article, well worth the read if you have any interest in marketing; http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CamelsandRubberDuckies.html

That is a flipping awesome article, and it reminds me of what I learned in two semesters pursuing an MBA before switching over to Network Administration so I could feel my brain cells working again:

Most of big business is complete and utter bullshit; what is most important is APPEARING to know what you're talking about and that you know correct usage of all the current buzzwords for the same old bullshit phenomena that hasn't changed for centuries.

As an aside; since you've used some (at least one) of the scopes in question... I think I'd like your opinion on my recent post here: https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/hantek-dso5102-vs-rigol-ds1102-vs-rigol-ds1054/


Cheers!


mnem
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Offline cio74

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2016, 06:49:42 pm »
The notion that unlocking something that's already in the scope you bought is "stealing" is frankly hilarious and not really worth the energy behind a serious response...

I write software for a living, I can't agree with you, I want to get paid for writing commercial software.

I think we shall all agree to disagree and carry on, this topic is a flame buster.
 

Offline Fungus

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2016, 06:53:10 pm »
The notion that unlocking something that's already in the scope you bought is "stealing" is frankly hilarious and not really worth the energy behind a serious response...
I wouldn't go that far. It's easier to make that argument for the frequency unlock, which is very obviously handicapping a device for the sole purposes of market segmentation and future revenue stream. It's clever, effective, but it feels a bit skeevy.

Whoosh.

That's not the marketing plan. The marketing plan is  that people make a shortlist of oscilloscopes, google each one for reviews, then notice that only one of them can be "unlocked" for free. That usually instantly closes the deal for Rigol, I've seen it happen several times in these forums.
 

Offline Fungus

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2016, 06:55:25 pm »
The notion that unlocking something that's already in the scope you bought is "stealing" is frankly hilarious and not really worth the energy behind a serious response...
I write software for a living, I can't agree with you, I want to get paid for writing commercial software.

I think I'd be happy if a lot of people were buying my basic version instead of the competition, even if they were hacking it to get the "pro version" features.
 

Offline theirishscion

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2016, 07:02:33 pm »
Whoosh.

That's not the marketing plan. The marketing plan is  that people make a shortlist of oscilloscopes, google each one for reviews, then notice that only one of them can be "unlocked" for free. That usually instantly closes the deal for Rigol, I've seen it happen several times in these forums.

Did you perhaps 'whoosh' my earlier post? ;-)
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/reasons-for-hacking-dsos/msg898318/#msg898318
 

Offline grouchobyte

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2016, 07:45:32 pm »
With all due respect to the various opinions, especially those who write sorftware or develop these kinds of configurable technologies, I must maintain that hacking is purely an activity that can have two very opposing views.

On one hand, you can make the case that hacking is stealing. Pure and simple.

On the other hand, if you own the hardware that has a lock on features and you use a key ( legal or not) to unlock a feature that was not part of your orginal purchase agreement, you may not be stealing if you consider it to not be a breach to that original agreement by just trying it and then returning it to its original state.

Unfortunately many hackers do not just hack for the pure challenge. They want something for free and have a sense of entitlement....like "I  paid for this box and what I do with it is my business" These people do not understand nor respect the law.

If you are a honest person that respects the law then you should not hack. If you are a maverick like me who has no respect for rules written by corporate lawyers that are trying to squeeze every dime they can from you, then hack away to your hearts content.

We have an expression in french. It goes like this: chacun à son goût.....to each his own

The engineering and business  community will remain divided on this issue until the end of time

« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 07:47:36 pm by grouchobyte »
 

Online PA0PBZ

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2016, 07:59:09 pm »
It's easier to make that argument for the frequency unlock, which is very obviously handicapping a device for the sole purposes of market segmentation and future revenue stream. It's clever, effective, but it feels a bit skeevy. Charging for decoding modules and other software features is a different matter, you're adding functionality, not just de-restricting.

I happily disagree with you. The decoding modules are, like the frequency capabilities, already there, they are just turned off without the correct key. I don't see that being different from the frequency unlock.
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Offline RGB255_0_0

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2016, 08:07:16 pm »
People have been unlocking features since forever. Unlocking cores on processors or graphics chips or modifying them so they run on hardware supposedly not designed for it. These are things "you haven't paid for" but no company has turned round and said that you cannot do it. Intel recently turned round and told motherboard manufacturers to stop allowing non-K SKUs from being unlocked, but this is to the manufacturer of the boards and not to end users. Qualcomm ARM processors that now come with an eFuse when you unlock the bootloader; AMD etching out silicon to stop users unlocking cache and cores via a simple BIOS flash or BIOS unlock.

If Rigol and others want to stop users from unlocking features, they are well within their right to, but if they don't stop us from doing it, we will still do it. The fact Rigol haven't done so screams that theirishscion's viewpoint is spot on. Once Rigol have accomplished this, though, don't expect any easy hacks.
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2016, 08:49:30 pm »
Why do you need a scope with more than 70MHz bandwidth when observing logic signals?

Simple. Because a 70MHz measurement system (i.e. scope+probes) will have a risetime of 5ns, and modern digital signals are much faster than that. Even jellybean logic can have risetimes ~600ps, i.e. almost 10 times faster. Note that there is no mention of a signal's period/frequency, since that is completely irrelevant.

Why is that important? Because a 70MHz scope can miss things that will cause a digital system to malfunction either quickly or, worse, eventually. A primary use-case for a scope is to ensure the "signal integrity" of digital signals: verifying that the analogue waveforms (that are interpreted by the logic as being digital) are clean, so that they will be interpreted correctly.

What can cause signal integrity problems? Poor grounding, incorrect termination, stubs, crosstalk, and many other things.

And then of course, there are simple logic errors. Even 40 year old logic families can have "runt pulses" than can be missed by a 70MHz scope.

There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline theirishscion

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2016, 09:10:22 pm »
Once Rigol have accomplished this, though, don't expect any easy hacks.

This is the interesting question though isn't it? As Rigol becomes more successful, will their competitors be inclined to try copying their methods? If Rigol stops doing it because they don't feel they need to any more, will someone else pick up the mantle? Is there enough of a worldwide market for low end DSOs and other electronic test and development equipment to support that level of competition? As hardware and processing power gets ever cheaper, what is the justification for charging so much for the hardware itself?

I suspect that Rigol are to test equipment as Dell and Compaq were to the PC back in the early days. They're shaking the hegemony up and it's quite hard to say where the chips will ultimately fall.

My prediction (and I'm not prepared to argue the point, just my hunch) is that they've opened Pandora's Box (nice girl, Pandora) and things will never quite return to the way they were. There's no technical _requirement_ that a $400 scope be limited in the way an un-hacked DS1054Z comes from the factory, that's simply something that the market would bear at the time. I suspect that rather than Rigol giving up the practice, other manufacturers will instead start. Keep an eye out for a random noob signing up on EEVBlog and starting a thread to document their unexpectedly successful attempts to hack whatever the latest OWON low end offering is (or whatever, you get the point. A Challenger Will Appear, is the point, there'll be a ringer.)

Or if there's a truly _wise_ company out there that will realize that R&D equipment is these days much less about hardware than it is about software, and start selling the hardware for a reasonable margin, and the software in commercial and non-commercial/education/hobby licenses. Let the hobbyist pay $10 for the CAN bus decode option (or give it away for free), and the professional $100. Give no support with the hobby license and write it up as single user/educational/non-commercial use only. Large organizations will pay the $100 (or $1000, these costs are mostly financial noise for a large company, a competent engineer/developer/architect costs them over $100/hour) happily to keep in licensing compliance, and for good support.
 

Offline RGB255_0_0

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2016, 09:33:30 pm »
Normally these companies want to build a reputation and do it cheaply. They can only do it cheaply by having as few SKUs as possible and with as few hands and hours spent on it. So Rigol need a quick and dirty way to have "high end" products along with their core.

My feeling is that once Rigol's sales mean they can spend more on the dirty side they will just slowly remove the ability to hack.

The problem with likening Rigol to Compaq/Dell is really the opposite: Dell and Compaq removed people's ability to hack. No DIP switches or jumpers to change bus or multiplier speeds on them; no BIOS options either compared to off the shelf parts.

Hobbyists will always tinker. Business-centric companies like Keysight and Dell don't care for the enthusiasts so that's what Rigol and ASUS are there for. If Rigol wants to be consumer and enthusiast focused they will keep these Easter eggs but should they become successful, I'd be surprised if they kept them in because these hackable scopes just scream of lazy design.
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Offline theirishscion

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2016, 10:22:41 pm »
The problem with likening Rigol to Compaq/Dell is really the opposite: Dell and Compaq removed people's ability to hack. No DIP switches or jumpers to change bus or multiplier speeds on them; no BIOS options either compared to off the shelf parts.

Well, I'm likening Rigol to Compaq and Dell because those two companies were disruptors who stole the PC business from IBM. Compaq created and sold the first ever PC Compatibles (IBM didn't think to pay to exclusively license DOS from MS, and Compaq clean-room reverse engineered their BIOS, if memory serves, and most everything else was off the shelf), and very quickly started selling better/faster computers than IBM themselves were. And Dell stacked 'em high and sold 'em cheap. There was a _long_ time during which "Business Computer" meant "IBM" for many companies, just like HP/Agilent/WhateverItIsThisMonth, Tek, etc. They seemed unassailable. They were not.
 

Online TheSteve

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2016, 10:33:06 pm »
Hi,

There seem to be a lot of people hacking DSOs. I was interested to find out why. Why do you do it?


It's fun, it can be educational(if you're doing the actual hacking), and of course it can be useful to have the extra features/bandwidth/memory etc. I know my spectrum analyzer is way more useful now that it works to 6 GHz instead of the original 3 GHz.
And it isn't just DSO's. It is also spectrum analyzers, power supplies, signal generators, DMMs etc.

The crowd here at the eevblog don't just use electronics, we often take it apart just to see what is inside. Many of us also take a look at the firmware/software too, you never know what you might find.
VE7FM
 

Offline hamdi.tn

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Re: Reasons for hacking DSOs
« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2016, 11:14:16 pm »
you own what you buy , that's why it's called buying not borrowing. Standardizing hardware and software over a full range of products make it less expensive for manufacturer than to make different hardware and software for each product. but it's stupid to buy high end dso only to use a part of it just because the user manual say so, and will be unfair to the one who buy the high end product knowing that he basically paid the price for all those who bought the low end devices and hacked it ... imagine you buy a closet with one door locked just because you payed less than an other customer who payed full price for the same closet and can use two doors. that's stupid.
If a manufacturer want to offer multiple version of a product that he have to do what it take to make them different, either by taking out the additional hardware or the additional software.
 


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