Bookmarks – “Imaginary Numbers Are Real” by Welch Labs

Imaginary Numbers Are Real” by Welch Labs

Imaginary numbers are not some wild invention, they are the deep and natural result of extending our number system. Imaginary numbers are all about the discovery of numbers existing not in one dimension along the number line, but in full two dimensional space. Accepting this not only gives us more rich and complete mathematics, but also unlocks a ridiculous amount of very real, very tangible problems in science and engineering.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: A Little History
Part 3: Cardan’s Problem
Part 4: Bombelli’s Solution
Part 5: Numbers are Two Dimensional
Part 6: The Complex Plane
Part 7: Complex Multiplication
Part 8: Math Wizardry
Part 9: Closure
Part 10: Complex Functions
Part 11: Wandering in Four Dimensions
Part 12: Riemann’s Solution
Part 13: Riemann Surfaces


Rohde & Schwarz RTB2000 Oscilloscope Giveaways

Rohde & Schwarz launched a new oscilloscope series, RTB2000. A few YouTube channels reviewed the scope, and now they are planning giveaways for the reviewed units:

If you know more, please leave a comment.



The Wireless Protocol of a Sports Wrist Watch (Part 3)

– Computer, scan all the wireless codes!
– Scanning…, scanning complete.

– Computer, read the scanning summary.
– Tested: 8192 codes. Decoded as valid: 213 codes. Decoded range: from 30 to 239.

– Computer, why are there more valid codes than the range allows?
– There are 3 duplicated codes.

– Computer, list duplicates.
– Listing…

Wireless code:        Should display:     Displays as:
1111000000101100110   28                  92
1111000100101100110   92                  92
1111000000101101010   29                  93
1111000100101101010   93                  93
1111000000101111100   31                  95
1111000100101111100   95                  95

Well, it was not exactly like that, but I love the idea: Let a machine do the work for you.

OK, but how it actually was?

From where we left last time, we already had a computer controlled radio Tx. To test all the possible 8192 codes, we can write a script to Tx all the codes one by one, while looking at the number displayed on the wrist watch.

For a solid radio connection, it would be nice to send first a known working code and confirm the displayed number is as expected, then send a known invalid code and confirm the display shows invalid.

Then, send the code we want to test and read the display.

Now, save the results. Job done.

For a computer, the most difficult part is to read the display of the wrist watch, so a compromise was made: No optical recognition of the displayed number, recognize just if the heart symbol is blinking on the display.

If blinking, then we have a valid code, so take a snapshot from the WebCam and save it on the disk. We will look later at all the taken pictures. If not blinking, then the code is invalid, go to the next one.



Data flow setup:

Python script that parses all the 8192 codes ->
Arduino radio transmitter ->
110KHz radio waves ->
Wrist watch radio receiver/decoder ->
Wrist watch displayed number ->
WebCam streaming the wrist watch display ->
OpenCV video stream preprocessing/filtering ->
OpenCV blinking recognition ->

Snapshot save and text logging of the results.

Hardware setup:

OpenCV and computer vision:

Never did this before, so I went head first. After watching a few OpenCV YouTube tutorials from the sentdex channel – thank you sentdex – it was the time to write some OpenCV based code:

# Usage:
#   - plug the USB camera and the Arduino UNO programmed with 'Crivit_ChestBelt_TX_Emulator.ino'
#   - set the 'COM_PORT' number taken by the Arduino UNO
#   - if it's missing, create folder 'captures' near ''
#   - 3 windows will open, 1'st is a color live image, 2'nd a black and white, 3'rd with your selection
#   - put the Crivit HRM wrist-watch in front of the USB camera and set it to HRM monitor mode
#   - in the first 2 windows, adjust the sliders for the camera sensitivity and the black and white threshold
#   - in the 2'nd window, select (by mouse dragging) a blinking area from the blinking heart displayed by the watch
#   - tip: a single point selection (a click instead of a drag) works very good
#   - the selected area will be seen live in the 3'rd window
#   - all the bitstreams written in 'captures/input_bitstreams.txt' will be sent one by one to the radio Tx
#   - the script will look in the 3'rd window if the heart symbol displayed by the wrist-watch is blinking
#   - if blinking, a jpg snapshot will be saved in 'captures'
#   - results will be displayed on the command line, then added to the log file 'captures/working_bitstreams.csv'
#   - NOTE: Do not close the live windows. To exit teh script, press the 'ESC' key.
# Installation:
#   pip install numpy
#   pip install pyserial
# to install OpenCV (32-bit) download and unpack, then go to folder
#   'opencv\build\python\2.7\x86\'
#   and copy the file 'cv2.pyd' into folder 'C:\Python27\Lib\site-packages'
# To check the OpenCV installation, open Python and type
#   >>> import cv2
#   >>> print cv2.__version__
#   3.2.0

This is a print screen taken while adjusting the light and the B&W filter threshold:

After a few days of automated testing, puzzling results:

The encoding scheme has a limited display range, between 30 and 239, and 3 duplicated codes.

An example for a duplicated code snapshot:

I don’t know if this is a bug or a feature, and I must admit that I don’t understand how this encoding scheme was designed, but so far it was a lot of fun looking into it.


The Wireless Protocol of a Sports Wrist Watch (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of the The Wireless Protocol of a Sports Wrist Watch, and it is all about testing the hypothesis made so far.

axodus, K.C. Lee, killy.mxi (AKA Killy) and Asterek have all contributed to reverse engineer the radio protocol, and Killy came up with the following algorithm:

Encoded sequence has variable lenght. There are some stuffed bits for better signal recovery.

Output sequence:
* in1
* in2
* (in1 nor in2) stuffed if (in1 nand in2)
* in3
* in4
* (in3 nor in4) stuffed if (in3 nand in4)
* in5
* in6
* (in5 nor in6) stuffed if (in5 nand in6)
* in7
* in8
* (in7 xnor in8)
* (in7 nand in8)

Speaking simple, stuffing rule works like this:
* if pair of bits is 00, stuff 1;
* if 01 or 10, then stuff 0;
* if 11, don’t stuff anything here.

More details can be found in the Discussions section of

I want to thank you all for reverse engineering the encoding scheme, great job!


A computer controlled radio Tx

Now, it’s time to test the hypothesis.

To do this, it would be helpful to be able to transmit any code, valid or invalid, and see how the receiver will react. The Crivit chest belt can’t do that, so we need to build our own radio transmitter. With a carrier frequency of only 110 KHz, it should be easy to digitally synthesize the entire modulated carrier.

A few lines of code later, it proves out that a simple wire connected to a digital output is good enough as a Tx antenna, and an Arduino UNO is fast enough to generate the carrier, modulate it, and in the same time talk to a computer over the serial port:

This will allow us to put on air any combination of 0’s and 1’s that we might want to test.


New findings

  • for an invalid code, the wristwatch will keep displaying the last valid number received, but the heart symbol will stop blinking, just like in the case of no signal
  • there is no handshake protocol, so the watch will display any valid code received, even if the chest belt ID is changed. All the following codes were displayed as one hundred:
    S 111100 0101000100011
    S 111010 0101000100011
    S 111001 0101000100011
    S 110011 0101000100011
  • the total number of bits can vary, i.e. the following codes are both displayed as a valid one hundred:
     S 110011 0101000100011
    S 1100100 0101000100011
  • so far, the encoding scheme found by @killy.mxi can predict valid codes even for numbers that were out of reach for the original chest belt transmitter. The following codes predicted for numbers between 234..239 were displayed as valid:

    Still, for predicted codes corresponding to numbers greater than 239, the blinking heart stops. This might be because the receiver was designed to act like that, but this it’s not yet for sure.

Manually typing each code to be tested proves to be useful, but also very time consuming and prone to errors. Since our radio Tx is now able to transmit any codes coming from the serial port, it will allow us to do automated testing. This will be the next step.


DS1054Z tricks, less known or undocumented (Part 2)

DS1054Z is LXI compliant. What I like the most at any LXI ready instrument is that it can be operated over LAN without installing any drivers, and without any dedicated software.

Want to save a screenshot from your oscilloscope? You don’t need to install anything. No VISA, no IVI, no Rigol drivers, no UltraScope or any other application, nothing. Just plug the LAN cable, open a Terminal and type:

# save a screenshot from the oscilloscope's display to the file 'image.png'
echo ":DISPLAY:DATA? ON,OFF,PNG" | nc -w1 5555 | dd bs=1 skip=11 of=image.png

Now, this is beautiful, isn’t it? All the credit for the above command goes to S Clark, thank you!

Of course, you need to replace “” with your oscilloscope’s IP address, and it should work with any Rigol oscilloscope model from the series DS1000Z, DS2000, DS4000 and DS6000, not only the DS1054Z. It should also work under Windows using Cygwin, but I didn’t test it.

You can always use Telnet or Netcat (AKA ‘nc’) to send SCPI commands to any Rigol oscilloscope using the oscilloscope’s IP address and port 5555. Telnet is not recommended when binary data is expected because Telnet might mangle some characters (see RFC854 page 10). For text only it’s OK.

Netcat is safe for both text or binary data, and there is a free standalone Netcat for Windows that does not require any Cygwin installation. Please be advised that Windows might consider ‘nc’ as a potential threat and block it, so you need to add ‘nc.exe’ to the safe programs list in order to run it under Windows.