Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Using Agilent Command Expert to Help Write Programs

Happy New Year everyone!  

I am writing this on New Years Eve 2013 and I want to wish everyone a happy and safe 2014.  Ed, Gary, and I had a goal of getting 4 blog posts out a month this year and with this being the fourth blog post this month, we have met that goal!  Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read our blog.

Today, I am going to provide a short intro to  Agilent Command Expert (hereto referred to as ACE). ACE is a free tool that Agilent offers that helps you program your instruments. You can write simple scripts in ACE that you can save and share with other programmers.  The coolest feature of ACE is that it allows you to export the sequence to different programming languages.   You can find the latest version of Command Expert at: 

Using ACE is pretty easy.  The first thing that you need to do is set up your instrument.  My instrument is an Agilent N6700B.  Here is what the setup/edit screen looks like:  

Once you choose the instrument, ACE will download the command set so you do not need to have the programming guide handy.  This is a great feature since you can easily see all of the commands as well as all of the inputs and outputs of the commands. 

Here is the set voltage screen:

You can see here that it shows you all of the programmable items in the command (in this case the voltage and the channel list).  Once you set everything up as you'd want, click add step and it adds it to the sequence.

You can also do queries with ACE.  Here is how you would do a MEAS:VOLT? query:

Again, it shows you all of the programmable items (in this case only the channel list).  It also shows you that there is returned data.  Click add step to get it added to the sequence.

I am going to continue using the same SCPI command as I used in my example last week, here is completed sequence from the example from last month:

Now for the fun part!  You can export the sequence to just straight SCPI:

To C#:

To C++:


To Matlab:

It gives you the option to copy the text to the clipboard so that you can paste it into the text editor for your programming language.  

There is also a tool included that allows you to create sequences in Labview.  There is a really good tutorial included with the software that shows you how to do this.

There is a ton more info on the ACE webpage link at the beginning of this blog post.

I hope that this short intro to Agilent Command Expert was useful to everyone.  Please feel free to leave a comment.  Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Shower by cell phone and the attitude of gratitude

As I type this, I’m sitting on an airplane, clean, comfortable (as much as that’s possible sitting in economy), clean shaven, well fed, flying home to New Jersey from Frankfurt. Things could have been different…
I started my travels today from a hotel in Sindelfingen, Germany, drove to the Stuttgart airport, and took a short flight to Frankfurt where I connected with this much longer flight home (8.5 hours). I was visiting some of Agilent’s distribution partners in Germany and France over the last ten days to present training on our newest power supply products.

Last night, before I went to sleep, I called the front desk of the hotel to ask for a 6 am wake-up call. I wanted to have time to shower, shave, dress, eat breakfast, check out, gas-up the car, drive to the airport, return the car, exchange my leftover Euros for US dollars, and finally make my morning flight. I also set my new cell phone alarm for the same time (6 am). I recently purchased my first smart phone, so I’m happy to be using its features!

6 am rolls around, my cell phone alarm goes off (yes, I managed to set it correctly), and I wake up momentarily not knowing exactly where I am or what is happening (typical for trips where you change hotels a lot). 5 seconds after the alarm starts its intermittent beeping, I come to my senses in my nearly pitch-black, normally very quiet room. The only light is a dim glow from a tiny LED on the room thermostat and the only sound is a low hum from the heating system fan in between the alarm beeps. 10 seconds after the alarm started beeping, the room suddenly become absolutely pitch-black. No light at all! I wonder if I’m dreaming and I feel like I have completely lost my eyesight! But then I noticed that the heating system fan went from humming to silent, and the thermostat LED is no longer glowing. Totally dark and totally quiet (between phone beeps) with no thermostat LED and no fan? OK, perhaps I’m not dreaming and most likely, this is a power failure! In the absolute darkness, I fumble for my beeping cell phone and manage to push a button on it partially illuminating the screen. I turn off the alarm, and now can see just enough to try the lamp switch next to the bed. Click, click on the lamp….no light. Yeah, definitely a power failure. I know that the cell phone, an Apple 5S, has a flashlight feature that is a nice, bright white LED. Turning that on, I’m now able to easily maneuver around the room. I pick up the room phone, but it is dead. I look outside, and it is dark everywhere. Yep, it’s not just my room, nor is it just the hotel. The power is out everywhere. Guess I won’t be getting my 6 am wake-up call!

Next, it is time to shower. I strategically place the cell phone on the bathroom counter angled just right so the light bounces off the ceiling and I can see reasonably well in the shower. Shaving is a bit more difficult with the limited and oddly angled light, but I manage. Then the lights come back on. Whoo-hoo!  About 10 minutes later, the hotel phone rings and the manager is very apologetic about the wake-up call being 40 minutes late. I tell him “no problem” and explain my phone alarm still woke me on time.
So had my cell phone alarm not awakened me, I may have slept too long resulting in a missed flight. And if I did not have the flashlight feature on the phone, I would not have been able to shower and shave making me more comfortable during a full day of travel. Earlier in my trip, the cell phone GPS also saved my colleague and me by guiding us to our hotel, to the office, and enabling us to find our way back to the hotel after walking around town for lunch.

Cell phones play a very large role in our lives today. While we humans survived the vast majority of our existence without them, smart phones and all electronic technology have vastly changed our lives. While I regularly wonder how my life would have been different had I lived in a time without electricity, today, my smart phone changed my experiences. I could have missed my flight had my cell phone alarm not gone off. I could have been less comfortable during my long travel day had I not been able to shower by cell phone light. Despite a power failure preventing a wake-up call and no light in my hotel room for the early morning, my day was not really disrupted thanks to my cell phone. While these things are minor in the grand scheme of things, I am still grateful for the technology we have that allows us to do the things we do. And I’m glad to be a part of that technology by working with power products. Many cell phone manufacturers use Agilent power products during their design, verification, and manufacturing processes and I am happy to be a part of that chain.

May all of your travels during this holiday season be uneventful…and Happy New Year!