Plotting Digital Logic Lines In PSLab Android App

The PSLab device offers the Logic Analyzer functionality. A Logic Analyzer is a laboratory instrument that can capture and display digital signals from a digital system or circuit. It is similar to what an oscilloscope is for analog signals and is used to study timing relationship between different logic lines. It plots the logic lines/timing diagram which tells us the information about the state of the Digital System at any instant of time. For example, in the image below we can study the states of digital signals from channels ID1, ID2, ID3 at different times and find parameters like the propagation delay. It’s also used to find errors in Integrated Circuits (ICs) and debug logic circuits.

How I plotted ideal logic lines using MPAndroid Chart library?

Conventional method of adding data points results in the plot as illustrated in the image below. By conventional method I mean basically adding Y-axis (logic state) values corresponding to X-axis values (timestamp).

Result with normal adding and plotting data-points

In the above plot, logic lines follow non-ideal behaviour i.e they take some time in changing their state from high to low. This non-ideal behaviour of these lines increases when the user zooms in graph to analyse timestamps.

Solution to how we can achieve ideal behaviour of logic lines:

A better solution is to make use of timestamps for generating logic lines i.e time instants at which logic made a transition from HIGH -> LOW or LOW -> HIGH. Lets try to figure out with an example:

Timestamps = { 1, 3, 5, 8, 12 } and initial state is HIGH ( i.e at t = 0, it’s HIGH ). This implies that at t = 1, transition from HIGH to LOW took place so at t = 0, it’s HIGH, t = 1 it’s both HIGH and LOW,  at t = 2 it’s LOW.
Now at t = 0 & t = 2, you can simple put y = 1 and 0 respectively. But how do you add data-point for t = 1. Trick is to see how transition is taking place, if it’s HIGH to LOW then add first 1 for t = 1 and then 0 for t = 1.
So the set of points look something like this:

( Y, X ) ( LOGIC , TIME ) -> ( 1, 0 ) ( 1, 1 ) ( 0, 1) ( 0, 2 ) ( 0, 3 ) ( 1, 3 )  ( 1, 4 ) …

Code snippet for adding coordinates in this fashion:

int[] time = timeStamps.get(j);
for (int i = 0; i < time.length; i++) {
   if (initialState) {
       // Transition from HIGH -> LOW
       tempInput.add(new Entry(time[i], 1));
       tempInput.add(new Entry(time[i], 0));
   } else {
       // Transition from LOW -> HIGH
       tempInput.add(new Entry(time[i], 0));
       tempInput.add(new Entry(time[i], 1));

   // changing state variable
   initialState = !initialState;

After adding data-points in above mentioned way, we obtained ideal logic lines successfully as illustrated in the image given below


Expandable ListView In PSLab Android App

In the PSLab Android App, we show a list of experiments for the user to perform or refer to while performing an experiment, using PSLab hardware device. A long list of experiments need to be subdivided into topics like Electronics, Electrical, School Level, Physics, etc. In turn, each category like Electronics, Electrical, etc can have a sub-list of experiments like:

  • Electronics
    • Diode I-V characteristics
    • Zener I-V characteristics
    • Transistor related experiments
  • Electrical
    • Transients RLC
    • Bode Plots
    • Ohm’s Law

This list can continue in similar fashion for other categories as well. We had to  display  this experiment list to the users with a good UX, and ExpandableListView seemed the most appropriate option.

ExpandableListView is a two-level listView. In the Group view an individual item can be expanded to show it’s children. The Items associated with ExpandableListView come from ExpandableListAdapter.









Implementation of Experiments List Using ExpandableListView

First, the ExpandableListView was declared in the xml layout file inside some container like LinearLayout/RelativeLayout.

<LinearLayout xmlns:android=""
       android:dividerHeight="2dp" />

Then we populated the data onto the ExpandableListView, by making an adapter for ExpandableListView by extending BaseExpandableListAdapter and implementing its methods. We then passed a Context, List<String> and Map<String,List<String>> to the Adapter constructor.

Context: for inflating the layout

List<String>: contains titles of unexpanded list

Map<String,List<String>>: contains sub-list mapped with title string

public SavedExperimentAdapter(Context context,
                                 List<String> experimentGroupHeader,
                                 HashMap<String, List<String>> experimentList) {
       this.context = context;
       this.experimentHeader = experimentGroupHeader;
       this.experimentList = experimentList;

In getGroupView() method, we inflate, set title and return group view i.e the main list that we see on clicking and the  sub-list is expanded. You can define your own layout in xml and inflate it. For PSLab Android, we used the default one provided by Android

public View getGroupView(int groupPosition, boolean isExpanded, View convertView, ViewGroup parent) {
   String headerTitle = (String) getGroup(groupPosition);
   if (convertView == null) {
       LayoutInflater inflater = (LayoutInflater) this.context.getSystemService(Context.LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE);
       convertView = inflater.inflate(android.R.layout.simple_expandable_list_item_2, null);
   TextView tvExperimentListHeader = (TextView) convertView.findViewById(;
   tvExperimentListHeader.setTypeface(null, Typeface.BOLD);
   TextView tvTemp = (TextView) convertView.findViewById(;
   return convertView;

Similarly, in getChildView() method, we inflate, set data and return child view. We wanted simple TextView as sub-list item thus inflated the layout containing only TextView and setText by taking reference of textView from the inflated view.

public View getChildView(int groupPosition, int childPosition, boolean isLastChild, View convertView, ViewGroup parent) {
   String experimentName = (String) getChild(groupPosition, childPosition);
   if (convertView == null) {
       LayoutInflater inflater = (LayoutInflater) this.context.getSystemService(Context.LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE);
       convertView = inflater.inflate(R.layout.experiment_list_item, null);
   TextView tvExperimentTitle = (TextView) convertView.findViewById(;
   return convertView;

The complete code for the Adapter can be seen here.

After creating the adapter we proceeded similarly to the normal ListView. Take the reference for ExpandableListView by findViewById() or BindView if you are using ButterKnife and set the adapter as an instance of adapter created above.

ExpandableListView experimentExpandableList;
experimentAdapter = new SavedExperimentAdapter(context, headerList, map);
Source: PSLab Android


We are planning to divide the experiment sub-list into categories like

  • Electronics
    • Diode
      • Diode I-V
      • Zener I-V
      • Diode Clamping
      • Diode Clipping
    • BJT and FET
      • Transistor CB (Common Base)
      • Transistor CE (Common Emitter)
      • Transistor Amplifier
      • N-FET output characteristic
    • Op-Amps
  • Electrical

This is a bit more complex than it looks, I tried using an ExpandableListView as a child for a group item but ran into some errors. I will write a post as soon as this view hierarchy has been achieved.


Handling graph plots using MPAndroid chart in PSLab Android App

In PSLab Android App, we expose the Oscilloscope and Logic Analyzer functionality of PSLab hardware device. After reading data-points to plot, we need to show plot data on graphs for better understanding and visualisation. Sometimes we need to save graphs to show output/findings of the experiment. Hence we will be using MPAndroidChart library to plot and save graphs as it provides a nice and clean methods to do so.

First add MPAndroid Chart as dependency in your app build.gradle to include the library

dependencies {
 compile 'com.github.PhilJay:MPAndroidChart:v3.0.2'

For chart view in your layout file, there are many available options like Line Chart, Bar Chart, Pie Chart, etc. For this post I am going to use Line Chart.

Add LineChart in your layout file

        android:layout_height="match_parent" />

Take a reference to LineChart of layout file in your Activity/Fragment

LineChart lineChart = (LineChart) findViewById(;// Activity
LineChart lineChart = (LineChart) view.findViewById(;// Fragment

Now we add dataset to LineChart of layout file, I am going to add data for two curves sine and cosine function to plot sine and cosine wave on LineChart. We create two different LineDataSet one for the sine curve entries and other for the cosine curve entries.

List <Entry> sinEntries = new ArrayList<>(); // List to store data-points of sine curve 
List <Entry> cosEntries = new ArrayList<>(); // List to store data-points of cosine curve

// Obtaining data points by using Math.sin and Math.cos functions
for( float i = 0; i < 7f; i += 0.02f ){
sinEntries.add(new Entry(i,(float)Math.sin(i)));
cosEntries.add(new Entry(i,(float)Math.cos(i)));

List<ILineDataSet> dataSets = new ArrayList<>(); // for adding multiple plots

LineDataSet sinSet = new LineDataSet(sinEntries,"sin curve");
LineDataSet cosSet = new LineDataSet(cosEntries,"cos curve");

// Adding colors to different plots 

// Adding each plot data to a List

// Setting datapoints and invalidating chart to update with data points
lineChart.setData(new LineData(dataSets));

After adding datasets to chart and invalidating it, chart is refreshed with the data points which were added in dataset.

After plotting graph output would look like the image below:

You can change the dataset and invalidate chart to update it with latest dataset.

To save graph plot, make sure you have permission to write to external storage, if not add it into your manifest file

<manifest ...>
    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE" />

To save the photo of chart into Gallery:


To save a some specific location:

lineChart.saveToPath("title", "Location on SD Card");

If you want to do some resizing in chart or save two three charts in a single image, you can do so by taking out the Bitmaps and processing them to meet your requirements:



Packing and Unpacking Data in PSLab Android App

In PSLab we communicate with PSLab Hardware device, to exchange data, i.e we give a command or instruction and it responses accordingly. So this giving and receiving is in terms of packed byte string. Thus, we need some solid knowledge to pack and unpack data. In python communication library, there is struct module available. In JAVA we can use NIO’s ByteBuffer or implement our own functions. In this blog post I discuss both methods.  

In Python we have struct module for packing data in byte strings. As different languages interpret data types differently like Java takes 4 bytes for int and C++ takes 2 bytes for int. To send and receive data properly, we pack data in a byte string and unpack on other side with it’s data type properties. In PSLab, we have to communicate with device for various applications like getting calibration data during power up time as raw data doesn’t make much sense until calibration is applied on it.

You also need to take care of order of sequence of bytes like there are generally two types of order in which a sequence of bytes are stored in memory location:

  • Big – Endian: In which MSB is stored first.

    Source: Wikipedia
  • Little – Endian: In which LSB is stored first.

    Source: Wikipedia

In Python

The standard sizes and format characters of particular data type can be seen in the image below.

Format C Type Python Type Standard
x Pad byte No value
c char string of length 1 1
b signed char integer 1
B unsigned char integer 1
? _Bool bool 1
h short integer 2
H unsigned short integer 2
i int integer 4
I unsigned int integer 4
l long integer 4
L unsigned long integer 4
q long long integer 8
Q unsigned long long integer 8
f float float 4
d double float 8
s char[] string
p char[] string
P void* integer

Source: Python Docs

For Packing data

import struct
struct.Struct(“B”).pack(254)   # Output ->  b’\xfe’
a = struct.Struct(“I”).pack(2544)   # Output -> b’\xf0\t\x00\x00′

Now a is the byte string that has packed value as 2544, this can be send to some device byte by byte and reconstructed on receiving side by knowing how many bytes does the data type received contains.

For Unpacking data

import struct
struct.unpack(“I”,a)  # Output -> (2544,)


For Packing data

Suppose you have to pack an integer, in java int takes 32 bits (4 bytes)

Using JAVA’s NIO’s ByteBuffer

byte[] bytes = ByteBuffer.allocate(4).putInt(2544).array();

If you want hardcore method to see what exactly is happening, use

byte[] intToByteArray(int value){
 return new byte[]{
     (byte)value >>> 24,
     (byte)value >>> 16,
     (byte)value >>> 8,

“>>>” is used for unsigned shifting, you can use according to your requirements.

After you have your byte array, you can easily create a string out of it and transmit.

For Unpacking data

Using JAVA’s NIO’s ByteBuffer

int fromByteArray(byte[] bytes){
int a = ByteBuffer.wrap(bytes).getInt();
return a;

It assumes that byte array is stored as Big Endian, if bytes in byte array is stored as Little Endian, add order() after wrap()

int fromByteArray(byte[] bytes){
int a = ByteBuffer.wrap(bytes).order(ByteOrder.LITTLE_ENDIAN).getInt();
return a;

Note: Make sure the bytes array that you provide has same number of bytes as that of the data type that you are trying to unpack. For example: if you want int, bytes array should have 4 bytes as int type in JAVA has 4 bytes. If you want short, bytes array should have 2 bytes as short type in JAVA has 2 bytes.

To visualise underlying implementation, see

int from byteArray(byte[] bytes){
return bytes[0] << 24 | bytes[1] << 16 | bytes[2] << 8 | bytes[3];

In all above implementation big-endian order was assumed, you can modify function if you are using little-endian or some other sequence.


Communication by pySerial python module in PSLab

In the PSLab Desktop App we use Python for communication between the PC and PSLab device. The PSLab device is connected to PC via USB cable. The power for the hardware device is provided by the host through USB which in this case is a PC. We need well structured methods to establish communication between PC and PSLab device and this is where pySerial module comes in. We will discuss how to communicate efficiently from PC to a device like PSLab itself using pySerial module.

How to read and write data back to PSLab device?

pySerial is a python module which is used to communicate serially with microcontroller devices like Arduino, RaspBerry Pi, PSLab (Pocket Science Lab), etc. Serial data transfer is easier using this module, you just need to open a port and obtain serial object, which provides useful and powerful functionality. Users can send string (which is an array of bytes) or any other data type all data types can be expressed as byte string using struct module in python, read a specific number of bytes or read till some specific character like ‘\n’ is encountered. We are using this module to create custom read and write functions.

How to Install pySerial and obtain serial object for communication?

You can install pySerial using pip by following command

pip install pyserial

Once it’s installed we can now import it in our python script for use.

Obtain Serial Object

In Linux

>>> import serial
>>> ser = serial.Serial(‘/dev/ttyUSB0’)

In Windows

>>> ser = serial.Serial()
>>> ser.baudrate = 19200
>>> ser.port = ‘COM1’


>>> ser = serial.Serial(‘COM1’, 19200)

You can specify other properties like timeout, stopbits, etc to Serial constructor.

Complete list of parameters is available here. Now this “ser” is an object of Serial class that provides all the functionalities through its interface. In PSLab we obtain a serial object and implement custom methods to handle communication which isn’t directly provided by pySerial, for example if we need to implement a function to get the version of the PSLab device connected. Inside the version read function we need to send some bytes to the device in order to obtain the version string from device as a byte response.

What goes under the hood?

We send some sequence of bytes to PSLab device, every sequence of bytes corresponds to a unique function which is already written in device’s firmware. Device recognises the function and responses accordingly.

Let’s look at code to understand it better.

ser.write(struct.Struct(‘B’).pack(11))  #  Sends 11 as byte string
ser.write(struct.Struct(‘B’).pack(5))   #  Sends 5 as bytes string
x = ser.readline()                      #  Reads bytes until ‘\n’ is encountered   

To understand packing and unpacking using struct module, you can have a read at my other blog post Packing And Unpacking Data in JAVA in which I discussed packing and unpacking of data as byte strings and touched a bit on How it’s done in Python.  

You can specify how many bytes you want to read like shown in code below, which is showing and example for 100 bytes :

x =

After your communication is complete you can simply close the port by:


Based on these basic interface methods more complex functions can be written to handle your specific needs. More details one how to implement custom methods is available at python-communication-library of PSLab which uses pySerial for communication between Client and PSLab device.

An example of custom read function is suppose I want to write a function to read an int from the device. int is of 2 bytes as firmware is written in C, so we read 2 bytes from device and unpack them in client side i.e on PC. For more such custom functions refer of PSLab python communication library.

def getInt(self):
      reads two bytes from the serial port and
      returns an integer after combining them
      ss =  # reading 2 bytes from serial object
          if len(ss) == 2:
              return CP.ShortInt.unpack(ss)[0]  # unpacking bytes to make int
      except Exception as ex:
          self.raiseException(ex, “Communication Error , Function : get_Int”)


Establishing Communication between PSLab and an Android Device using the USB Host API

In this post, we are going to learn how to establish communication between the PSLab USB device and a connected Android device. We will implement our own custom read & write methods by using functions provided by USB Host API of Android SDK.

At first we need to enable communication to PSLab device by connecting it to Android Phone by an On-The Go (OTG) cable. We are communicating via the USB Host API of Android.

About Android USB

Android supports USB peripherals through two modes:

  • Android Accessory: In this mode external USB device acts as host.
  • Android Host: In this mode Android Device acts as host and powers the external device.
Source : Android Developers Docs

Obtaining Permission to access USB device

When a USB device is connected to Android device, you need to obtain permissions to access the USB device. You have two ways, I have used intent-filter method to obtain permission in PSLab project, but you can also use the approach to implement a broadcast receiver.

Option 1:

Add a intent filter in the activity which would handle that connected USB device. This is an implicit way to obtain permission.

<activity ...>
        <action android:name="android.hardware.usb.action.USB_DEVICE_ATTACHED" />
    <meta-data android:name="android.hardware.usb.action.USB_DEVICE_ATTACHED"
        android:resource="@xml/device_filter" />

And add device details like your vendor ID and product ID in device_filter.xml


    <usb-device vendor-id="1240" product-id="223" />


Now when you connect your USB device, permission dialog like below would pop up:

Option 2:

  • If you want to obtain permission explicitly, first create broadcastreceiver which would be broadcasted which you call requestPermission().

    private static final String ACTION_USB_PERMISSION =
    private final BroadcastReceiver mUsbReceiver = new BroadcastReceiver() {
        public void onReceive(Context context, Intent intent) {
            String action = intent.getAction();
            if (ACTION_USB_PERMISSION.equals(action)) {
                synchronized (this) {
                    UsbDevice device = (UsbDevice)intent.getParcelableExtra(UsbManager.EXTRA_DEVICE);
                    if (intent.getBooleanExtra(UsbManager.EXTRA_PERMISSION_GRANTED, false)) {
                        if(device != null){
                    else {
                        Log.d(TAG, "permission denied for device " + device);

    Register this broadcastreceiver in your onCreate method of your activity.

    UsbManager mUsbManager = (UsbManager) getSystemService(Context.USB_SERVICE);
    private static final String ACTION_USB_PERMISSION =
    mPermissionIntent = PendingIntent.getBroadcast(this, 0, new Intent(ACTION_USB_PERMISSION), 0);
    IntentFilter filter = new IntentFilter(ACTION_USB_PERMISSION);
    registerReceiver(mUsbReceiver, filter);

    And call requestPermission method to show a dialog for permission

    UsbDevice device;
    mUsbManager.requestPermission(device, mPermissionIntent);

    Now when you open your App permission dialog like shown below would pop up:

Obtain Read & Write Endpoints

Now that you have permission to communicate with a USB device connected. Next step is to obtain read and write Endpoints to read and write to USB device by using bulkTransfer() function.

The definition of bulkTransfer() methods is

int bulkTransfer (UsbEndpoint endpoint, 
                byte[] buffer, 
                int length, 
                int timeout)

endpoint : Usb Endpoint ( the endpoint for this transaction )

buffer : byte ( buffer for data to send or receive )

length : int ( length of data to send/receive )

timeout : int ( in milliseconds, 0 is infinite )

For code to obtain read, write Endpoint through Data Interface of USB device. Open() method of PSLab can be referenced.

There are two ways for communication :

  • Synchronous
  • Asynchronous

In PSLab, we use synchronous communication using bulkTransfer() method. Create a USB device connection object

mConnection = mUsbManager.openDevice(mUsbDevice);

As bulkTransfer methods are exposed by USB connection object. Using these you can implement your read & write functions to meet your project’s requirements. Or use bulkTransfer() directly to read & write data.

For example:

mConnection.bulkTransfer(mReadEndpoint, mReadBuffer, bytesToRead, timeoutMillis)

So this covers the required for obtaining permission to access USB device and basics of how you can read data from and write data to USB device.

Also if this project interest you, feel free to contribute or raise any issue. PSLab-Android.


Android App Debugging over WiFi for PSLab

Why do WiFi debugging when you have USB cable? PSLab is an Open Source Hardware Device which provides a lot of functionality that is required to perform a general experiment, but like many other devices it  only provides an Android mini usb port. This means developers can’t connect another USB cable as the  mini port is already busy powering and communicating with the USB device that is connected.

How can developers debug our Android App over WiFi? Please follow these steps:

  • Connect your Android Device to PC through USB cable and make sure USB-Debugging is enabled in Developers Option.
  • Turn on Wifi of Android Device if its off and make sure its connected to router because that’s going to act as bridge between your Android device and PC for communication.
  • Open your terminal and type adb tcpip 5555
  • Now see the IP of your Android Device by About Phone -> Status -> IP or adb shell netcfg
  • Then type adb connect <DEVICE_IP_ADDRESS>:5555
  • Almost Done! Disconnect USB and start with wireless debugging.

Now you would see your device coming up in the prompt when clicked run from Android Studio. All the logs can be seen in Android Monitor. Similarly as you see during debugging through USB cable.

To get in touch with us or ask any question about the project, just drop a message at

Also if this project interest you, feel free to contribute or raise any issue. PSLab-Android.