Frequently Asked Questions

If you can't find the answer to your question here you can send your question to support@printcapture.com.

General Information

  1. What is PrintCapture primarily used for?
  2. I want to uninstall PrintCapture and reinstall it but I don't want to lose my program settings. What can I do?
  3. Do I have to uninstall PrintCapture before installing a new version, update, or upgrade?
  4. What's the difference between an update and an upgrade?
  5. I want to completely remove PrintCapture from my system. Do I need to do anything besides uninstall it with Add/Remove Programs?
  6. I saved the captured image in a GIF (or TIFF) file format but the file size is pretty big. What's going on?
  7. What hardcopy output data formats are supported?
  8. Obviously PrintCapture can't do everything for everybody. What are its limitations?
  9. Will you please show me PrintCapture's revision history?
  10. What test equipment have others used with PrintCapture?
  11. How do I get started with PrintCapture?

Configuration

  1. What can I do if my logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope doesn't have a serial printer or serial plotter output?
  2. What kind of serial cable do I need for my oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer?
  3. I want to use National Instruments' GPIB-232CV-A or GPIB-232CT-A to convert from GPIB to serial. How do I configure these devices to work with PrintCapture?
  4. I want to use a USB-to-serial converter. Will this work with PrintCapture?
  5. I want to use a Blackbox IC026A RS-232-to-IEEE-488 Interface Converter to convert from GPIB to serial. How do I configure these devices to work with PrintCapture?
  6. My test equipment has a GPIB output and my computer has a GPIB interface. Can PrintCapture be used with a GPIB interface?
  7. Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from National Instruments?
  8. Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Agilent?
  9. Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Capital Equipment Corp. (CEC)?
  10. Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from ICS Electronics (ICS)?
  11. Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Keithley Instruments?
  12. Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Measurement Computing?
  13. Can I use any of the GPIB-USB interfaces available from Prologix?

Troubleshooting

  1. Why do I receive only a partial image, or multiple incomplete images, from the same hardcopy request?
  2. I'm really having problems getting the serial data into my computer. What can I do to troubleshoot the serial interface?
  3. When I get a hardcopy in HPGL/2 format the image is too big or too small. What can I do about this?
  4. When I get a hardcopy in HPGL/2 format the image is in the wrong orientation. What can I do about this?
  5. When I try to get a hardcopy PrintCapture tries to process the data but then gives me a "This file was not recognized as an Epson, HPGL, PCL, or Text file." message. What's this mean?
  6. I'm having some trouble getting serial data into PrintCapture. How can I test the serial port that PrintCapture is using?
  7. Sometimes the aspect ratio (X-axis to Y-axis ratio) in an HPGL generated image is not quite right. What causes this and can it be improved?
  8. When a USB COM port is removed while PrintCapture is using it a run-time error occurs. What causes this?
  9. I sometimes see an Application Error message box with the message: "The instruction at 0xXXXXXXX referenced memory at 0x00000000. The memory could not be read". What causes this?

What is PrintCapture primarily used for?

PrintCapture was designed to emulate a printer or plotter. It is normally used to replace the printer or plotter connected to your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope. When you 'print' from your test equipment PrintCapture creates an image file on your personal computer that can be used in other Windows-based programs to help you document your hardware.

PrintCapture can replace a serial printer, serial plotter, parallel printer, parallel plotter, GPIB printer or GPIB plotter. The only requirement is that your logic analyzer, oscilloscope, or spectrum analyzer must transmit Hewlett-Packard Printer Control Language (PCL), Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language (HPGL/2), or Epson ESC/P Control Code commands.

One of the by-products of PCL processing is PrintCapture's ability to process "pure" text files and create a bitmap image from the text data. An HP1631D Logic Analyzer that we were working with had both a "graphics" mode and a "text" mode that it could use when it generated PCL data. Since we wanted to support as many print requests as possible we added the text mode support. As a result, PrintCapture will process any pure text file. Control codes and character codes outside of the normal alphanumeric characters will be ignored and may cause the file to be rejected as a pure text file.

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I want to uninstall PrintCapture and reinstall it but I don't want to lose my program settings. What can I do?

When PrintCapture is uninstalled it removes all the settings maintained in the registry. But don't worry. It takes less than a minute to reenter your program settings. If you are really concerned you can go through the configuration pages (Setup> Configuration) and write down all your settings so they can be reentered later.

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Do I have to uninstall PrintCapture before installing a new version, update, or upgrade?

No. Any new version, update, or upgrade of PrintCapture can, and should, be installed over the top of an existing installation. The new installation will simply replace the existing files.

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What's the difference between an update and an upgrade?

An update is generally a maintenance release. For example, moving from version 2.0.0 to 2.1.0 is considered an update. You must have an existing installation of the same major version number to install an update. Updates are free of charge. You can check to see if an update is available by visiting the downloads page.

An upgrade is generally made when some new functionality is added to PrintCapture. In this case the major version number will increase (e.g. move from 2.x.x to 3.x.x).

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I want to completely remove PrintCapture from my system. Do I need to do anything besides uninstall it with Add/Remove Programs?

No. When you uninstall PrintCapture all its files and registry entries are completely removed.

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I saved the captured image in a GIF (or TIFF) file format but the file size is pretty big. What's going on?

LZW compression for GIF and TIFF files is not supported. To use this file compression scheme a license has to be obtained from Unisys Corporation. If you need LZW compression, many image file editors have obtained the license and support this scheme.

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What hardcopy output data formats are supported?

PrintCapture acts as a plotter emulator and a printer emulator. At this time, BMP, GIF, JPG, PCX, PNG, TIF, TGA, PCL, Epson ESC/P, and HPGL/2 printer or plotter outputs are supported from the spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope. Generally speaking, your test equipment can be configured to use one of these printer or plotter formats for your hardcopy print request.

PCL Data

PCL stands for Hewlett-Packard Printer Control Language. It is the command set used for Hewlett-Packard printers such as LaserJet, DeskJet, ThinkJet, PaintJet and QuietJet. PrintCapture acts as a printer emulator with this data.

 

Of the PCL data formats, ThinkJet seems to work the best. DeskJet and LaserJet printer formats sometimes add a top and left margin to the hardcopy output that results in an image that is larger than the useful data contained in the image. Limited color PCL processing is also supported.

 

If you feel the data from your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or other source device is not being converted to an image correctly, enable Keep Raw Data (Setup> Configuration> Image Processing> Image Processing> Keep Raw Data), print the image again, and e-mail the raw data file, along with as much information as you can provide to help us troubleshoot the program, to support@printcapture.com .

HPGL/2 Data

HPGL stands for Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language. It is the command set used for Hewlett-Packard plotters such as HP7470A, HP7475A, HP7550A, HP7580A, HP7580B, HP7585A, HP7585B, and HP7586B. PrintCapture acts as a plotter emulator with this data.

 

A pretty complete subset of HPGL/2 plotter data is processed at this time.

 

If you feel the data from your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or other source device is not being converted to an image correctly, enable Keep Raw Data (Setup> Configuration> Image Processing> Image Processing> Keep Raw Data), print the image again, and e-mail the raw data file, along with as much information as you can provide to help us troubleshoot the program, to support@printcapture.com .

Epson ESC/P Data

Epson's ESC/P Printer Control Language is used by almost every Epson compatible dot-matrix printer. Only a small subset of the Epson ESC/P Printer Control Language commands is processed at this time because most of the commands don't relate to creating bitmap files. PrintCapture acts as a printer emulator with this data.

 

If you feel the data from your logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, or other source device is not being converted to an image correctly, enable Keep Raw Data (Setup> Configuration> Image Processing> Image Processing> Keep Raw Data), print the image again, and e-mail the raw data file, along with as much information as you can provide to help us troubleshoot the program, to support@printcapture.com.

Pure Text

Pure Text processing is an off-shoot of PCL data processing. In this case the data consists of just text (ASCII) data and no graphics data at all. The text data is rendered into a graphics image the same as PCL, HPGL, or Epson ESC/P data. PrintCapture acts as a printer emulator with this data.

 

If you feel the data from your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or other source device is not being converted to an image correctly, enable Keep Raw Data (Setup> Configuration> Image Processing> Image Processing> Keep Raw Data), print the image again, and e-mail the raw data file, along with as much information as you can provide to help us troubleshoot the program, to support@printcapture.com.

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Obviously PrintCapture can't do everything for everybody. What are its limitations?

PrintCapture is a printer emulator and a plotter emulator and it was originally designed to work with CRT-based test instruments. As a result the PCL (Printer Control Language), HPGL/2 (Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language), and Epson ESC/P Control Code commands that are processed are subsets of the available commands. We keep adding more command processing to make PrintCapture more and more compatible with CRT-based and PC-based test instruments.

The data files that PrintCapture processes must be pure PCL or HPGL/2 commands - we haven't implemented processing of data files that contain both PCL and HPGL/2 commands. This isn't as big a drawback as it sounds. Most spectrum analyzers, logic analyzers, and digital oscilloscopes that we have seen 'print' either PCL or HPGL/2 data, but not both at the same time.

The HPGL/2 command processing implemented so far seems to work well with HPGL and HPGL/2 compatible test instruments. This includes both CRT-based and PC-based digital oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, and logic analyzers.

As of version 2.1.0, PrintCapture does a good job of processing data printed from a Windows 95- or Windows 98-based test instrument using one of Hewlett-Packard's HPGL plotter drivers (HP7470A, HP7475A, HP7550A, HP7580A, HP7580B, HP7585A, HP7585B, or HP7586B). Unfortunately, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP don't have these HPGL compatible drivers - and never will. Those versions of Windows moved on to HPGL/2 compatible plotter drivers.

As of version 2.2.0, PrintCapture also does a good job of processing data printed from a Windows NT- or Windows 2000-based test instrument using one of Hewlett-Packard's HPGL/2 plotter drivers (Hewlett-Packard HP-GL/2 or HP7550 Plus). Windows 95 and Windows 98 don't have these HPGL/2 compatible drivers - and never will.

As of version 2.5.0, PrintCapture processes a small subset of the Epson ESC/P Control Codes since most of the control codes aren't needed to create a bitmap image from the data. We will add more processing if it is necessary and as we receive more sample Epson files to work with.

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Will you please show me PrintCapture's revision history?

We continuously update PrintCapture's graphics data processing engines (HPGL, PCL, and Epson) as we get more and more raw data files to work with. If you feel the data from your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope is not being converted to an image correctly, enable Keep Raw Data (Setup> Configuration> Image Processing> Keep Raw Data), print the image again, and e-mail the raw data file, along with as much information as you can provide to help us troubleshoot the program, to support@printcapture.com.

The revision history list has gotten too large and has been moved to its own page. Click on revision history to see the list.

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What test equipment have others used with PrintCapture?

The equipment list table lists some of the test equipment that others have used with PrintCapture. If you have used something not listed we would like to hear from you. We would also like to hear from you if you have used one of the models listed with a different print mode or if you have additional information that you would like to share. Please send your information to support@printcapture.com.

Note of Interest: The use of PrintCapture has grown far beyond the initial target of oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and spectrum analyzers. Customers are now using PrintCapture with many devices that we didn't envision or even know about.

The equipment list table has gotten too large and has been moved to its own page. Click on equipment list to see the list.

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How do I get started with PrintCapture?

The biggest problem you will face is assembling a data cable from your source device (logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, etc.) to PrintCapture. We created this web page to help you get started.

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What can I do if my logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope doesn't have a serial printer or serial plotter output?

Generally, there are two, or perhaps three, other interfaces available for hardcopy output:

Parallel Printer or Parallel Plotter Port

If your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope has a parallel printer or parallel plotter port there are several parallel-to-serial converters available that will convert the parallel output from your test equipment into a serial format.

 

Please see What input/output interface have others used with PrintCapture.

GPIB Printer or GPIB Plotter Interface
(IEEE-488 Interface)

If your logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope has a GPIB printer or GPIB plotter interface you have a couple of options. If your computer has a GPIB interface you should read this FAQ.

 

.Please see What input/output interface have others used with PrintCapture.

Ethernet Interface

If your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope has an Ethernet connection to your Local Area Network (LAN) you may be able to use the Network Interface I/O that was added in PrintCapture 4.5.0.

 

.Please see What input/output interface have others used with PrintCapture.

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What kind of serial cable do I need for my oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer?

PrintCapture uses standard serial protocols to communicate with your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer. PrintCapture only receives data from your test equipment - it does not transmit any data back to your test equipment.

The serial communications signals discussed below are:

TxD - Transmitted Data
RxD - Received Data
RTS - Request To Send
CTS - Clear To Send
DTR - Data Terminal Ready
DSR - Data Set Ready

The serial port on a Windows-based computer is configured as DTE (Data Terminal Equipment). Some logic analyzers, spectrum analyzers, and oscilloscopes are also configured as DTE but some are configured as DCE (Data Communications Equipment). This configuration has more to do with the serial connector pin-outs than it does with operation. It is important to know the type of configuration on your test equipment in order to select the correct serial cable for the connection.

If your test equipment is configured as DTE you will need a cable to connect DTE to DTE, or what is referred to as a "null-modem" cable, as shown below for 9-pin serial connectors. Use a Belkin F3B207 or equivalent for this cable.

Null modem serial cable for connecting DTE to DTE

If your test equipment is configured as DCE you will need a cable to connect DTE to DCE, or what is referred to as a "straight-through" cable, as shown below for 9-pin serial connectors. Use a Belkin F2N209 or equivalent for this cable.

Straight through serial cable for connecting DTE to DCE

Hardware handshaking (flow control) is used to ensure error-free data communication between PrintCapture and your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer. Hardware handshaking uses voltage signals on the control lines of the serial cable to control whether sending or receiving is enabled. PrintCapture and the test equipment must agree on the type of handshaking used for a communications session. The following table describes the control signals, the direction of flow control, and the signal's effect on PrintCapture or the test equipment. For purposes of this discussion RTS/CTS handshaking is assumed. For DTR/DSR handshaking just switch the RTS/DTR and CTS/DSR labels.

RTS
Input Flow Control

The RTS line is controlled by PrintCapture. If the serial input buffer has enough room to receive data (at least half the buffer is empty), RTS is set high. If the input buffer has little room for incoming data (less than a quarter of the buffer is empty), RTS is set low.

CTS
Output Flow Control

The CTS line is controlled by the test equipment. CTS is set high to indicate that the test equipment can receive data and set low to indicate that it cannot receive data.

DTR
Status Information

The DTR line is controlled by PrintCapture. It is set high to indicate that PrintCapture is up and running (ready). Some test equipment requires this signal to operate.

DSR
Status Information

The DSR line is controlled by the test equipment. It is set high to indicate that the test equipment is up and running (ready). This signal is not required by PrintCapture but its status is displayed in one of the Status Bar indicators (CONN) to show whether the serial cable is connected.

You can change the serial port handshaking from Setup> Configuration> Serial Port> Handshake.

Note: This information is also available in a PDF file that you can download by clicking here.

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I want to use National Instruments' GPIB-232CV-A or GPIB-232CT-A to convert from GPIB to serial. How do I configure these devices to work with PrintCapture?

You should be aware that both of these GPIB-to-serial converters require a null-modem serial cable to connect the converter to your computer.

Several of our customers have reported problems (read that as frustration) getting these GPIB-to-serial converters to work with their logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope. And, of course, we are the first place they turn to for help. Here's a little hint for you. If you decide to buy one of these GPIB-to-serial converters, and you don't know which converter will work with your test equipment, contact your local National Instruments Sales Office and talk with them. In many cases they will loan you one of their GPIB-to-serial converters, for up to 30 days, for you to try before you buy.

GPIB-232CV-A

This National Instruments GPIB-to-serial converter can be used in a GPIB bus with or without a GPIB Controller. All you need is your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer, a GPIB-232CV-A, and PrintCapture. The GPIB-232CV-A operation is set using dip switches SW1 and SW2.

 

This is the configuration that worked well with our Tek 430A when its GPIB Controller was set to Talk Only:

 

GPIB Address (SW1-1,2,3,4,5): Set to Listen Only (D Mode).

 

Config (SW1-6,7): SRQ disabled, small serial buffer.

 

Mode (SW1-8): D Mode.

 

Baud Rate (SW2-1,2,3): 38400 (or your choice).

 

Parity (SW2-4): Even parity (actually it doesn't matter).

 

Parity Generation (SW2-5): Disabled.

 

Stopbit (SW2-6): 1 stopbit.

 

Data Size (SW2-7): 8 bits.

 

Handshake (SW2-8): XON/XOFF disabled. This enables RTS/CTS handshaking.

GPIB-232CT-A

This National Instruments' GPIB-to-serial converter requires a GPIB Controller on the GPIB bus to configure the GPIB-232CT-A and arbitrate the bus. In this case the 232CT-A would operate in G Mode.

 

Unfortunately we haven't tried this configuration so this is all the information that we have. If we find out more it will be posted here.

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I want to use a USB-to-serial converter. Will this work with PrintCapture?

Yes - and no. The most important property for a USB-to-serial converter to work with PrintCapture is that its device driver must make the USB interface look like a serial port. All USB-to-serial converters based on the FTDI chipset cause the USB device to appear as an additional COM port so PrintCapture can access the USB device in the same way as it would access a standard COM port. Some FTDI USB-to-serial converters are available here. There are other manufacturers of USB-to-serial converters but FTDI devices are the ones we are most familiar with.

It appears that at least some of the USB-to-serial converter drivers don't duplicate the functionality of a normal serial port very well. The one USB-to-serial converter that we tried (it is a popular item) doesn't support handshaking at the driver level so we had to add method of controlling handshaking within the PrintCapture program. We called handshaking at the driver level automatic flow control because it is handled automatically by the serial port driver. The method of controlling handshaking within PrintCapture is called manual flow control. Beginning with version 2.9.1, the type of flow control (automatic or manual) can be changed in PrintCapture's Configuration dialog box (Setup> Configuration> Serial Port> Flow Control).

This is what we found with our USB-to-serial converter:

We will add more information to this FAQ as we learn more about USB-to-serial converters.

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I want to use a Blackbox IC026A RS-232-to-IEEE-488 Interface Converter to convert from GPIB to serial. How do I configure these devices to work with PrintCapture?

You should be aware that this GPIB-to-serial converter requires that you build your own serial cable to connect the converter to your computer. A standard straight-through or null-modem serial cable will not work correctly. There are serial cable wiring diagrams in the documentation for the IC026A.

Several of our customers have reported problems (read that as frustration) getting this GPIB-to-serial converter to work with their logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope. And, of course, we are the first place they turn to for help. Here is how one of our customers configured his Blackbox IC026A to work with his HP8568B.

Blackbox IC026A

This Blackbox IC026A GPIB-to-serial converter can be used in a GPIB bus with or without a GPIB Controller. All you need is your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer, an IC026A, and PrintCapture. The IC026A operation is set using dip switches SW1, SW2, and SW3.

 

This is the configuration that one of our customers used with an HP8568B:

 

Baud Rate (SW1-1,2,3,4): 57600 (or your choice).

 

Handshake (SW1-5): RTS/CTS.

 

Data Size (SW1-6): 8 bits.

 

SRQ on Last Terminator (SW1-7): disabled.

 

Stop Bit (SW1-8): 1 stopbit.

 

GPIB Mode (SW2-1): peripheral mode.

 

Talk-Back on Timeout (SW2-2): enabled.

 

Serial Terminator (SW2-3,4): LF only.

 

Serial Echo (SW2-5): disabled.

 

Serial Parity (SW2-6): disabled.

 

Serial Parity (SW2-7,8): Irrelevant when SW2-6 is closed.

 

GPIB Address (SW3-1,2,3,4,5): 5 (or your choice).

 

GPIB Terminator (SW3-6,7): LF only

 

EOI (SW3-8): disabled

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My test equipment has a GPIB output and my computer has a GPIB interface. Can PrintCapture be used with a GPIB interface?

Yes - and no. As of version 3.0.0, PrintCapture supports GPIB interfaces that use National Instruments' NI-488.2 device driver. This includes nearly all of NI's GPIB interfaces and, perhaps, a few GPIB interfaces from other manufacturers. It is up to you to make sure that NI's NI-488.2 device driver and GPIB interface are properly installed before you attempt to use the GPIB interface with PrintCapture.

See these links for specific manufacturer information: National Instruments, Agilent, Capital Equipment Corp., ICS Electronics, Keithley Instruments, Measurement Computing, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from National Instruments?

Yes. Any of their GPIB interfaces that use the National Instruments' NI-488.2 device driver will work.

National Instruments provides a handy chart on their website to help you match your operating system, an NI GPIB interface, and an NI-488.2 device driver. For a PC with a Windows operating system the typical NI GPIB interfaces include, but are not limited to: AT-GPIB ISA card series, GPIB-232CT-A RS-232 serial, GPIB-485CT-A RS-485 serial, GPIB-1284CT parallel port, GPIB-1394 Firewire, GPIB-ENET Ethernet, GPIB-USB USB, PCI-GPIB PCI card series, and PCMCIA-GPIB PC Card series. Make sure you fully understand the configuration among your computer, the NI GPIB interface, and the NI-488.2 device driver before spending your money on any of these interfaces. If you have any questions send us an email and we'll try to help you make a choice.

One of our customers has both a PCMCIA-GPIB and a GPIB-USB-B interface. He found that PrintCapture worked just fine with the PCMCIA-GPIB interface but he couldn't get use his GPIB-USB-B interface at all. He solved the problem by tuning off System Controller in NI MAX (part of the NI-488.2 device driver installation) and setting PrintCapture to Listen-Only GPIB address.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: Agilent, Capital Equipment Corp., ICS Electronics, Keithley Instruments, Measurement Computing, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Agilent?

No, not at this time. We tried to add support for the Agilent device driver but ran into too many API incompatibilities. We will revisit the Agilent interfaces at some time in the future. For now, the only GPIB interfaces that can be used are the ones from National Instruments and Prologix.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: National Instruments, Capital Equipment Corp., ICS Electronics, Keithley Instruments, Measurement Computing, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Capital Equipment Corp. (CEC)?

No, not at this time. We tried to add support for the Capital Equipment (CEC) device driver but ran into too many API incompatibilities. We will revisit the CEC interfaces at some time in the future. For now, the only GPIB interfaces that can be used are the ones from National Instruments and Prologix.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: National Instruments, Agilent, ICS Electronics, Keithley Instruments, Measurement Computing, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from ICS Electronics (ICS)?

No, not at this time. We tried to add support for the ICS Electronics (ICS) device driver but ran into too many API incompatibilities. We will revisit the ICS interfaces at some time in the future. For now, the only GPIB interfaces that can be used are the ones from National Instruments and Prologix.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: National Instruments, Agilent, Capital Equipment Corp., Keithley Instruments, Measurement Computing, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Keithley Instruments?

No, not at this time. We tried to add support for the Keithley device driver but ran into too many API incompatibilities. We will revisit the Keithley interfaces at some time in the future. For now, the only GPIB interfaces that can be used are the ones from National Instruments and Prologix.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: National Instruments, Agilent, Capital Equipment Corp., ICS Electronics, Measurement Computing, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Measurement Computing?

No, not at this time. We tried to add support for the Measurement Computing (MCS) device driver but ran into too many API incompatibilities. We will revisit the MCS interfaces at some time in the future. For now, the only GPIB interfaces that can be used are the ones from National Instruments and Prologix.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: National Instruments, Agilent, Capital Equipment Corp., ICS Electronics, Keithley Instruments, Prologix.

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Can I use any of the GPIB interfaces available from Prologix?

Yes. There are two choices available from Prologix. The Prologix GPIB-USB Controller use an FTDI device driver that creates a virtual COM port on your PC. And the virtual COM port can be used by PrintCapture. The Prologix GPIB-Ethernet Controller uses your network as an interface. Be sure you printout the online manuals to help you configure these devices. We have created a PrintCapture Prologix Setup Document that will hopefully help you configure PrintCapture and Prologix to work together. These a nice little products that works well and and are very good alternative to the pricey National Instruments product lines.

Please see these links for other GPIB interface manufacturer information: National Instruments, Agilent, Capital Equipment Corp., ICS Electronics, Keithley Instruments, Measurement Computing.

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Why do I receive only a partial image, or multiple incomplete images, from the same hardcopy request?

The End-of-Data Processing timeout value is too short. This timeout value can be changed in PrintCapture's Configuration dialog box (Setup> Configuration> Serial Port> Timeout in seconds).

Data processing for PrintCapture operates differently than data processing performed by a printer or plotter. A printer or plotter processes the data in real-time so the image is created as the data is received. PrintCapture, on the other hand, has to wait for all the data to arrive before the data can be processed to create an image. We tried to use the data itself to determine when the end-of-data occurred but ran into problems. The problem is that some oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and spectrum analyzers have been found to send multiple end-of-data signals so PrintCapture can't really determine when the 'real' end-of-data has occurred. We settled on a timing solution. We wait for a user-selected number of seconds before deciding if the end-of-data has really occurred. If the timeout value is reached then it is assumed that all the data has been received. If more data comes in before the timeout then it is assumed that it is more image data to be processed.

The timer runs at a 500 millisecond resolution. This means that the timeout values can only be in 500 millisecond increments and the lowest value is 500 milliseconds. If the image created from the data is only a partial image, increase the timeout value. But use the smallest reasonable value that works with your equipment.

Note: If you print your data a second time while the data is being received from the first print request you will end up with a double image. Wait for an image to be created before printing again.

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I'm really having problems getting the serial data into my computer. What can I do to troubleshoot the serial interface?

Getting the serial link between your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer and your computer up and running can be a snap or it can frustrating as all get-out. Have patience! Sit back, take a deep breath, and let's get started.

You should first read this information to get an overview of the procedure before you start troubleshooting your serial link.

You need some basic information about your system in order to troubleshoot your serial link setup. And it doesn't matter if you are using a serial port straight from your test equipment or if you have to use a parallel-to-serial or GPIB-to-serial converter.

To easily test PrintCapture and it's serial port see FAQ How can I test the serial port that PrintCapture is using?

You should review the What kind of serial cable do I need... FAQ for background information on serial cables, signals, and hardware handshaking.

Determine what serial port connectors exist on your computer. The connector on your computer will be either 25-pin or 9-pin and it will always be a male connector. And the serial port on your computer is always configured as DTE (Data Terminal Equipment).

Determine what serial port connector is on your test equipment. The connector can be either male or female and it can be either 25-pin or 9-pin. There is no way to know by looking if the serial port is configured as DTE or DCE (Data Communications Equipment). You should refer to the test equipment documentation to see if you can determine if it is configured as DTE or DCE. If you don't know if your test equipment is configured as DTE or DCE don't worry about it. We'll still be able to tell using the tests below.

These are the items you are going to need to troubleshoot the serial link:

Two small paper clips to use as jumpers later on. Straighten them out and then fold them in half so the legs are about 1/4 inch apart.

An RS-232 Mini-Tester (Radio Shack 276-1401 or equivalent). This is a handy tool that uses bi-color (red/green) LEDs for monitoring the activity on the TxD (TD), RxD (RD), RTS, CTS, DSR, DTR, and CD signals. It also generally comes with 25-pin connectors so you may need the adapters listed below. The RS232 Mini-Tester looks like this:

RS232 MiniTester

You may need a 25-pin male to 9-pin female adapter if your computer has a 9-pin serial connector. This adapter will be used to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your computer.

You may need a 25-pin female to 9-pin male adapter if your test equipment has a 9-pin serial connector. This adapter will be used to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your test equipment.

You may need a 25-pin or 9-pin male gender changer (male connector on both ends) depending on whether your test equipment has a 25-pin or 9-pin connector. This adapter may be required to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your test equipment.

You may need a 25-pin or 9-pin female gender changer (female connector on both ends) depending on whether your test equipment has a 25-pin or 9-pin connector. This adapter may be required to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your test equipment.

A straight-through serial cable to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your computer. A straight-through cable has a female connector on one end and a male connector on the other end. This may be either a 25-pin or 9-pin cable depending on what your computer requires.

A straight-through serial cable to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your oscilloscope, logic analyzer or spectrum analyzer. A straight-through cable has a female connector on one end and a male connector on the other end. This may be either a 25-pin or 9-pin cable depending on what your test equipment requires.

A null-modem adapter to connect the RS232 Mini-Tester to your oscilloscope, logic analyzer or spectrum analyzer. A null-modem adapter generally has both a male and a female connector. This may be either a 25-pin or 9-pin adapter depending on what your test equipment requires.

A null-modem serial cable. A null-modem cable generally has a female connector on both ends of the cable. Depending on how the tests turn out below you may need this cable to connect your computer and your test equipment.

Now that you've gathered all the parts together it's time to start laying them out so you can see if you have everything you need.

It's always easier to follow if the example is a concrete setup, so this is how we connect our Tektronix 430A to PrintCapture. Our computer has a 9-pin serial connector and the Tek 430A has a 9-pin male DTE serial connector. You will have to adjust the items a little to match your setup but it's basically the same. Don't make any connections yet - just lay them out on a table top so you can see if you have everything.

Remember, this is the layout for our Tek 430A.

Start at the computer end of the serial link because it is the simplest to layout. Layout a straight-through 9-pin serial cable so the female end is toward the computer and the male end is toward the RS232 Mini-Tester.

Layout a 25-pin male to 9-pin female adapter so it can connect the above cable to the RS232 Mini-Tester.

Layout the RS232 Mini-Tester so it can connect to the above adapter.

Layout a 25-pin female to 9-pin male adapter so it can connect to the RS232 Mini-Tester.

Now jump to the test equipment end of the serial link. Layout a straight-through serial cable for the serial port of the test equipment so the cable will plug into the test equipment. (In our case, the female end of the cable is toward the Tek 430A and the male end is toward the RS232 Mini-Tester.)

Now you have to match up the connectors between the serial cable for the test equipment and the RS232 Mini-Tester. If they match up (male to female) then you are done. If they don't match up you will need one of the gender changers to create the match up. (For the Tek 430A we needed the female gender changer.)

Verify that you can connect all the cables and adapters together between the computer and your test equipment. If you can then we can continue with the actual tests.

Now that you have the serial link all laid out on the table we can start our tests.

Make sure your test equipment and any parallel-to-serial or GPIB-to-serial converters are turned off.

Connect all the cables and adapters together that you laid out up above. You should have a continuous "cable" between the end that plugs into your computer and the end that plugs into your test equipment.

Plug the cable into your test equipment but don't plug it into the computer yet!

Turn on your test equipment and any parallel-to-serial or GPIB-to-serial converters.

Take a look at the RS232 Mini-Tester. If the RD LED is on (generally red) then you are set to run some more tests. If the TD LED is on then you have to use the null-modem adapter to swap the RS232 signals.

Once you have the RD LED on you should also see the CTS and/or DSR LEDs light up (generally green). This indicates that the required hardware handshaking signals are also present in the test equipment. Note that the TD LED will still be off because you aren't connected to your computer yet.

Now use the paper clips to jumper two signals on the connector that would normally be connected to your computer's serial port. Be careful! Don't force the paper clips into the sockets - they should easily slide in with just a tiny bit of resistance. Jumper CTS to RTS (25-pin - jumper 4 & 5, 9-pin - jumper 7 & 8) and DSR to DTR (25-pin - jumper 6 & 20, 9-pin - jumper 4 & 6). You should now see RTS and DSR light up. This will fool the test equipment into thinking that the hardware handshaking lines are connected to your computer.

 

The 25-pin and 9-pin connectors are shown here so you can easily locate the sockets for the CTS, RTS, DSR, and DTR signals.

DB25 Serial ConnectorDB9 Serial Connector

At this point you should have the serial cable properly configured to complete the connection between your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer and your computer. However, there is one more test you can run to make sure serial data is being transmitted by your test equipment.

 

When you press the 'print' button on your test equipment you should see the RD LED wink and blink. You won't actually see the LED wink and blink but the LED will look like is has both red and green at the same time.

If you have made it this far you have all the information you need to successfully connect your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer to your computer. Now it's time to analyze the cable that you 'constructed' above and it's pretty easy to do at this point.

Turn off your test equipment and any parallel-to-serial or GPIB-to-serial converters.

If it will make you more comfortable you can also turn off your computer. We've never had any problems plugging in a serial cable when the computer is running - but you just never know.

Did you have to use the null-modem adapter to get your cable working? If you did then you need to use a null-modem cable. If not you need to use a straight-through cable.

Use the cable you selected just above (null-modem or straight-through) and lay it out on the table top.

Now use whatever adapters (25-pin to 9-pin) and gender changers you need to mate the ends of the cable to your computer and your test equipment. Don't use the null-modem adapter unless you are using it in place of a null-modem cable. Don't plug the cable in yet; just make sure that both ends will mate with your computer and test equipment.

Plug the cable into your computer first and then your test equipment.

Start up your computer and PrintCapture. Make sure PrintCapture's serial port configuration (Setup> Configuration> Serial Port) matches your test equipment.

Turn on your test equipment and any parallel-to-serial or GPIB-to-serial converters.

At this point you should be able to print from your test equipment to PrintCapture.

Note: This information is also available in a PDF file that you can download by clicking here.

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When I get a hardcopy in HPGL/2 format the image is too big or too small. What can I do about this?

The method of processing HPGL/2 (Hewlett Packard Graphics Language) files lends itself to scaling. Some HPGL/2 files describe images that are too large or too small for documentation purposes. If you run across one of these files you can choose to scale the output to something that you can use. You can scale to a maximum height and/or width and you can choose to maintain the image's aspect ratio during scaling. To turn off any scaling set the height and width to 0. See Setup> Configuration> HPGL Processing> Height and Width.

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When I get a hardcopy in HPGL/2 format the image is in the wrong orientation. What can I do about this?

HPGL/2 (Hewlett Packard Graphics Language) files generally have their origin in either the top-left or bottom-left corner of the image. Since there is no reliable way to tell from the data which orientation the image has, it is left up to you to decide if you want the image automatically rotated and by how much (see Setup> Configuration> HPGL Processing> Automatic Rotation). Automatic rotation is only used when an HPGL/2 file is received via the serial port. If an HPGL/2 file is opened with the File/Open menu item the image will not automatically rotate. In that case you can rotate the image with the Edit/Rotate menu item.

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When I try to get a hardcopy PrintCapture tries to process the data but then gives me a "This file was not recognized as an Epson, HPGL, PCL, or Text file." message. What's this mean?

While processing the data PrintCapture couldn't find any size information in order to build the bitmap image. Usually this happens with color PCL data, although limited color processing is supported as of version 2.3.0. If you run across one of these files, enable Keep Raw Data (Setup> Configuration> Image Processing> Keep Raw Data), print the image again and e-mail the raw data file, along with as much information as you can provide to help us troubleshoot the program, to support@printcapture.com.

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I'm having some trouble getting serial data into PrintCapture. How can I test the serial port that PrintCapture is using?

Getting a serial link up and running can be frustrating. Sometimes there are so many components to your serial link that it's hard to determine where the problem may be. One of the components that's relatively easy to test is the serial port being used by PrintCapture. Here is a small batch file that you can use to send data from one serial port to another (note: you will need a null-modem cable/adapter for this test):

@echo off
mode com4: baud=19200 parity=n data=8 stop=1 >nul
copy /B %1 com4:

This batch file is used on our WinXP system to transmit data from COM4 to PrintCapture. COM4's serial port parameters (mode com4: ...) are set to match the parameters used by PrintCapture. You should change these parameters to match your system and setup.

The batch file parameter "%1" is the name of the file you want to transmit to PrintCapture. You should put the file name in quotes (e.g. "your file name.ext") so you can use long file names.

Assume the batch file is named "TestPC.bat" and the data file that you want to transmit to PrintCapture is named "Tek 430A PCL.pcw". The batch file and the data file should be in the same directory unless you install the batch file in a directory that is in your computer's environment path. To use the batch file you would enter:

testpc "tek 430a pcl.pcw"

You can download this batch file and its readme text file from here. For more help troubleshooting your serial link you can also look at FAQ What can I do to troubleshoot the serial interface?

Note: This information is also available in a PDF file that you can download by clicking here.

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Sometimes the aspect ratio (X-axis to Y-axis ratio) in an HPGL generated image is not quite right. What causes this and can it be improved?

You will most often see this problem when drawing circles. Can it be improved? No, not really. There is an HPGL command, Input P1 and P2 (IP), that, for all intents and purposes, defines the aspect ratio of the image. Sometimes (most of the time?) the HPGL output is targeted at a specific plotter model but there is no way to determine the actual plotter model from the HPGL data itself. Here is the problem.

There are several models of Hewlett-Packard plotters (7470A, 7475A, 7550A, 7580A, etc.).

Each plotter model can support several plotter paper sizes.

Each plotter model has its own built-in "default" IP data for each plotter paper size. If the HPGL data doesn't contain an IP command then the plotter uses its built-in default IP data. To make things even more complex I haven't seen any two plotter models that have the same IP data even for the same size paper. For example, a 7550A plotter Size A4 paper has IP data of 430,200,10430,7400 while a 7470A plotter Size A4 paper has IP data of 250,279,10250,7479.

PrintCapture does not emulate any one particular plotter model, but is designed to process generic HPGL data and render an image. It uses its own built-in default IP data when the IP command doesn't exist in the HPGL data. Obviously, the image is more accurate for HPGL data that contains its own IP command. PrintCapture does try to determine the plotter paper size from the IP command data so the image can be scaled to fit on the size of the bitmap.

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When a USB COM port is removed while PrintCapture is using it a run-time error occurs. What causes this?

The problem is that when you install or remove a USB device the computer system (Windows) is notified, but PrintCapture isn't. PrintCapture won't recognize a USB device that is plugged in while PrintCapture is running. And, conversely, if you unplug a USB device that PrintCapture is using PrintCapture doesn't recognize the fact that the device is gone and will generate some kind of run-time error. You should only insert USB interfaces before you start PrintCapture and remove them only after PrintCapture is terminated.

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I sometimes see an Application Error message box with the message: "The instruction at 0xXXXXXXX referenced memory at 0x00000000. The memory could not be read". What causes this?

First, this message only shows up when PrintCapture is starting up. It is a message generated by Windows and not by PrintCapture.

Second, the value 0xXXXXXXXX is a place holder for almost any number. The actual number depends on many factors including your Windows version, the software installed, etc..

The only time we have seen this message come up is when the default printer for your computer can no longer be found. In our case, the default printer was assigned to a printer on another computer on our network and that particular computer no longer existed. We simply picked another printer as the default printer and the message stopped showing up.

Also note, sometimes no Application Error message box shows up and PrintCapture simply terminates without ever displaying its main window. The symptom may be different, but the problem is still the one of the missing default printer.

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