Is some Agilent E4980A the same as Keysight E4980AL?

There has been quite a bit of naming confusion for Keysight’s E4980A precision LCR meters. I emailed Keysight and they couldn’t give me a straight answers as it seems like there’s a change in their naming convention. Here’s what I understood from my research and experimentation with these 300kHz units I had:

Currently E4980A refers exclusively to one 2Mhz model. Everything else is called E4980AL-XXX. The first (leftmost) 2 digits of XXX is the max frequency of the unit divided by 100kHz (10X: 1Mhz, 05X: 500kHz, 03X: 300kHz). The lowest (rightmost) digit is the 0 for the older Agilent units that DCR measurement (aka multimeter’s resistance at 0Hz) that doesn’t come with it, 2 for newer Keysight units which this feature comes standard (mandatory option 200), so the default always look like E4980AL-XX2.

Yet my unit is called E4908A-030, no signs of AL. Nowhere this E4908A is mentioned in the manuals on Keysight’s website, but I found the old version that hints the transition that fell through the cracks of history:

So at some point, Agilent calls everything E4980A at factory level, but they as they were transitioning to rebranding the lower max frequency models to AL series, the AL-series used to be just an alias name for marketing. This was the unit I’ve got.

Of course later on we saw that Keysight eventually officially put the AL on the physical labels, not just for ordering, and hence the confusion.


Tektronix’s TDS/DPO7000 series Mechanical (Chassis) Design is Evil

I thought the TDS500~800 series design is already frustrating to service. But TDS7140 (or DPO7000) takes the cake. Whoever the a**hole designed the chassis made it a f*cking lettuce wrap. It’s not even an onion that you can predictably guess how you’d approach it.

To get any meaningful access to the insides, you MUST first remove the plastic front panel bezel, which is a fragile part that if you didn’t get the plastic hooks right, you’ll break it when you try to force anything. The service manual is not helpful. Likely written by somebody with a ‘fuck it. somebody’ll figure it out’ attitude.

This can be seen by the service manual giving an exploded view diagram without a precise order-of-removal dependency graph, nor the decency of telling you where each hook is and which of them are slides that must not be pried open like hooks. This is basically is tricking people to break the front bezel because those who didn’t know this already won’t know until they shine a flashlight to investigate the geometry around the hooks before releasing the front bezel.

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All in 1 Mini Card Reader Manufacturing Flaw (Bad USB connector)

Recently, I’ve bought this CF card reader on eBay but it doesn’t detect at all.

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I looked closely into the connector with a loupe and realized that the mini USB conductor was molded incorrectly. The center middle pin was pushed down because extra plastic was deposited above it:

The seller refunded in full but I figured that if the connector is malformed at the molding stage, buying it from another seller is not going to make it work, and the other form factors/connector configurations are inconvenient, so I tried my luck and see if there are exact matches for the connector they’ve used. Turns out it’s a 56 cents connector (price for 1 piece) available in Mouser (UJ2-MBH-1-SMT-TR):

In bulk, this connector can be bought for $0.22. For something that’s selling for $5/pc, the Red Chinese manufacturing had to go cheap to shave a few cents that ended up turning finished products into total trash. Most people are not electronics/troubleshooting savvy enough to figure out this shit, and the labor cracking the piece up and the SMD rework can easily buy 20pcs new. I just happened to have the tools (Metcal hot tweezers) so I can desolder the bad connector in seconds, but average users do not have that luxury so the neutered USB card readers go straight into trash.

We need more products NOT made in China!


Crack open wall wart (power brick): hot air method (READ or risk more damages!)

The power brick that came with my U1620A order has a rattling noise when I shook it. I suspected a piece of soldered cracked and was wandering inside so I chose not to power it on as it might short something. So I had to crack open the wall wart, which turns out many people have little luck open it up non-destructively.

Just prying it open by force with a screwdriver will ruin the plastics. I needed to somehow soften the glue first and work into it (like using a cutter) to dislodge/cut the glue. Rubbing alcohol doesn’t work that well. The glue is quite stuff so it’s not the easily dissolvable kind.

After some experimentation, I used my hot air station and set it to a temperature right below it melts the hard ABS plastic outside (143 deg C, max air flow), and carefully pried it after taking the heat away.

WARNING: Do not pry while the hot air is blowing as the ABS plastic might be slightly softened! The hot air might overshoot in its temperature feedback) so you might accidentally remold it. When working at the borderline temperature that barely soften the ABS plastic, the second you take the hot air away the plastic cools back (hardens) enough for you to pry.

Out of practicality, I heat up one edge at a time, then focus on 1/3 of the area at a time get an entry point prying one hook open at a time. It takes a lot of patience.

After I got all the 4 sides pried open for some reason I couldn’t release the case and it felt something was stuck in the middle. Turns out the wall wart I have happened to have a center screw hidden from plain sight under the label. The label quality was so good that just pressing it around with a pair of tweezers won’t find the screw hole (because of the tension). I used hot air (at the same 143 deg C) to probe with tweezers to locate the screw hole. I cut a hole in the label for the screw hole because it’d be a pain to use hot air to get the label off in one without ruining it and be able to put it back like new.

Bonus discovery: molded plastics have some memory!

I dented the ABS plastic case during prying (before I thought of using hot air), but I discovered this magical temperature (143 deg C) actually heals the plastic when I blow it in a direction that undoes the dent! The small (like 2mm) dents magically smooth itself out and went back to rough where it was before I screwed it up (pun intended)!

Yes, for molded plastics, small dents caused by prying and bumping, heating it up to the temperature right before it softens will return it to its near original shape without external forces!

Of course, do not go past the softening temperature (143 deg C). If you heat it to a melting temperature, the plastic will lose its memory so you need to apply external force to beat it to the shape you wanted (which is a pain in the butt and it requires a lot of post-processing to get it to look like original).


Agilent DSO6000 series was internally called 54670/54680?

Architecturally, the DSO6000A series shares common designs with 54830 series oscilloscope and 54640 series oscilloscopes. I noticed the Acq board numbers for my DSO6052A start with 54672 and the my M/DSO6104A starts with 54684. Looks like the 5467X means 500Mhz and 5468X means 1Ghz while the X is the number of analog channels.

This is ‘confirmed’ by a slip up in the documentation (user guide) which they forgot to update the model number in their vector graphics:

I think I’m getting a hang of Agilent’s oscilloscope’s hardware to do deep level board repairs as I have various model to compare. I used If you need yours repaired, please reach me at 949-682-8145.