Logic 4 is now shipping! Woo! Thank you Logic 4 backers, and thanks for your trust and patience! Also, if you haven’t received an email to send us your shipping address please write us (email@example.com), you may have missed it.
More on Logic 4 further down, let’s move on to:
What is this HDL/Software Development Backlog Nonsense?
This is what I would be thinking, and maybe I would be just a little bit annoyed (or maybe a lot) if I was reading that after following along with our updates over the past months.
First of all the good news: there are no material / assembly constraints any more — everything is in stock or on the way.
The bad news is that HDL development has some quirks that need to be resolved before we can safely ship. In addition (and to a lesser extent) we need to make sure the software is working perfectly well in conjunction with the HDL. For Logic 8 we don’t expect this to take more than a week, and the reason we have two weeks above is because our intrepid HDL developer Mark is unavoidably detained for a week, which we’re all a little bit stressed about but there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Specifically, there are some remaining HDL issues with the CIC digital filter (a glitch/bug), some timing constraints issues, and some minor security development work. On the software side a bit more time needs to be put on USB 3.0 support for OS X and Linux. The firmware also needs to be fully reviewed. In the scheme of things, this isn’t much, but it is frustrating to us and I’m sure to many of you reading this. For what it’s worth, I offer my apologies. We’ll try and make it up to you by shipping a beautiful, refined, and ‘it just works’ product you can be proud to own and have waited for.
Did we mention Logic 4 is shipping?
Woo! Logic 4 is the smallest and least expensive of the new product family, but believe it or not it’s actually really cool. Here are some fun facts.
Logic 4 Fun Facts
The code name for Logic 4 for was “Logic Student”
136 components (Logic16 only has 163!)
Uses the Cypress FX2 chip in the tiny 8x8mm 56-VFQFN package
Uses an I2C crypto chip for resistance against cloners
Has an RGB led with a cool light pipe (James even built a “light pipe insertion tool”)
Has a USB micro connector (unlike Logic and Logic16)
Has a -.23V charge pump IC (helpful for not clipping ground in an op-amp circuit)
Has dual 74AHC573 latches to make fast 4-bit sampling possible with the FX2
Has a 7th order passive ant-aliasing filter: 1 resistor, 3 inductors and 3 capacitors
PCB is 6-layer, .032 thick, 1.5″x1.5″
The tooling for the logo badge on the top cost the same as a decent used car
Uses #2-64 screws (Logic/Logic16 used #0-80)
Has custom machined “feet”
First units shipped in red!
James is in China
Most parts of Logic are made/assembled in the United States, but the aluminum case is currently not. James is over in China right now making sure that the machined aluminum enclosures are top quality. I’ll see if we can’t get a blog post from him about that. We also should get a post in about our own assembly operation, which is pretty cool.
Testing Software / Hardware
Some of the delays with Logic 4 right towards the end involved getting the testing setup ready for prime time. I’m happy to report it is now happily logging calibration data to an online database.
We’ve just pushed the latest software, and for the first time this includes analog support. It’s a little more rough around the edges than I’d like but the software team is cranking away and it’ll be nice and refined before too long. Chris has added drag-and-drop and it is AWESOME. Try it. Try multiple selections too (shift-click). Analog measurements are a bit rough, but it’s getting there and is going to be fantastic. Behind the scenes, Aparna has been working on securing our software against the cloners.
Software – bug backlog, UI/UX refinement, and and more testing/fixes for Logic 8/Pro 8/Pro 16 integration.
HDL / Firmware – Fixing timing constraint issues and filter-related data glitches.
Hardware – Improvement of automated test software/hardware
This has not gone as smoothly as we had planned. I particularly dislike pushing back the ship dates instead of moving them forward! If any of you, in your own lives, have shipped things early –and properly managed expectations — and have some tips or a recommendation for a book or something please do write into support!
Thanks so much for your trust and patience. You’re going to love the new products.
This is Mark Garrison – Chief Technical Officer at Saleae and Joe’s younger brother. I haven’t written a blog update in a while, but I’m excited to share with all of you our third pre-order update! You may know me if you’ve written into support about the beta software updates, or with technical questions. I lead the software team and write the firmware and HDL for the new products.
As always, thanks again for your support, feedback, and commitment! This is our third pre-order update, and we will be updating this blog post with more information over the next few days. Right now, this is the same information we included in the customer update email.
Unfortunately, there have been a few new delays since our last update. It wasn’t until yesterday that we were able to secure updated promise dates on the delayed orders, and the new ship dates are as follows:
Logic 4: Monday, August 11th, 2014
Logic 8: Monday, August 25th, 2014
Logic Pro 8: Friday, September 5th, 2014
Logic Pro 16: Friday, August 29th, 2014
I’m very sorry for the additional delays! Here is a summary of the status of each device, and I will add more information about these delays soon.
The aluminum enclosure has been delayed and won’t arrive at our location until August 7th. This is the last component needed to ship Logic 4. We will be assembling the units over the weekend and begin shipping the next week.
The electronic components are the main bottleneck now – I spent much of last week changing suppliers and orders to make sure all of the parts for all products should be at our office by August 11th. The day after, we ship them to the assembly facility located not far from us in the Bay Area, where a 7 day build will begin. (Ultimately, it was the op-amp that had the longest lead time that we couldn’t improve.)
The biggest risk to the shipment date of Logic 8 is the arrival dates of the electronic components, followed by our ability to validate the first panel on assembly day. More on that soon.
Logic Pro 8:
The main bottleneck for Logic Pro 8 are the PCBs themselves. We’ve had several issues with the assembly company, and the new arrival date for the PCBs is August 21st. Note that Logic Pro 16 will actually ship sooner – more on that below.
Logic Pro 16:
Logic Pro 16 has been the biggest concern for us this month. Not long ago we discovered a show stopper design flaw in the PCB that was already in production – potentially delaying the shipment of Logic Pro 16 significantly. However, we were able to fix the design flaw, bring on another PCB manufacturer, get a slightly lower price AND get the promised ship date sooner than Logic Pro 8! We are currently investigating using this new partner for our other builds in the future, and we have used them a number of times in the past for prototype PCBs. This is why Logic Pro 16 will actually ship slightly sooner than Logic Pro 8.
First, thanks to everyone who tested out the 1.1.20 beta and wrote in with feedback! That’s helped an enormous amount, and I look forward to getting the next release out soon. We’re taking a short break from new features to complete release-critical features – specifically improving the reliability of the firmware & FPGA designs, implementing the anti-clone features, and fixing critical device related bugs. The good news is that all four products are working pretty well now, and the systems are in place to be able to easily release no-risk firmware updates with the software. In fact, each release of the software automatically ensures that the correct version of the firmware is installed on our device, and the process is completely automatic. It’s the same process we’ve used to keep the Logic and Logic16 firmware up to date since we launched those products. I look forward to diving into much more detail in future blog updates, but we now have USB 3.0 working very well on Windows and OSX, and we’re working hard on getting the Linux USB 3.0 support up to speed. In fact, I’ve already done testing with Logic Pro 8 at 20% above our original advertised bandwidth – something I hope to release as a software & firmware update later on down the road. We also now have a USB 3.0 host controller from every USB 3.0 host vendor, and we’ve started testing all of them to determine if we will have any PC hardware specific issues. You can expect quite a bit of information about USB 3.0 on our support site in the future. We’re also working on expanding backwards compatibility for our software on Linux to support more business customers running distributions like CentOS. We will also be releasing a new version of the analyzer SDK that supports the protocol search feature for third party developers very soon. Finally, the next beta release of the software will include the new drag & drop channel re-ordering feature that we’ve just finished. We’re about to start working with a new graphic designer, so unfortunately the next release will still have a decent amount of “programmer art” but we will have the final UI perfected in the not too distant future.
We’ve had a lot of concerns about the machining quality and delays we’re experiencing with the new aluminum enclosures, but we have a lot more confidence now in their quality and shipping times. We’ve recently started a daily call with the factory to check in on the daily progress, process control and address any issues as they come up. It’s critical that these metal cases are delivered on time and defect free, and we’re really excited about the new cases – especially the red ones! We’re currently working out a delivery date issue with the anodization process of the metal feet – we just discovered that they were not included in the expected ship date of the first batch of enclosures, and we’re working on making sure they arrive on time to ship the new products.
I’m excited to get the first release of the software that supports the new products out soon – on or before August 11th, 2014. And we’re finally going to get out of beta!
Thanks again for your support and commitment! If you have any questions at all, please let us know.
This is my personal, heartfelt and practical recommendation, assuming you have the freedom to do this:
1. Move to the Bay Area — San Francisco or Mountain View or anywhere close enough to commute to those places.
2. Work at the most exciting start-up you can find. If you can’t do that, then work a Silicon Valley firm like Apple or Google where you’ll learn super fast.
3. To do that, learn hands-on practical CODE. That said, you can also do EE, mechanical, and so on, but learn coding too.
4. The most important thing about code is that it is clean and readable and makes sense to anyone who looks at it. Everything else is secondary or not important at all.
By the way, this isn’t an attempt to recruit, just wanted to share some ideas I was thinking about. Not everyone is in a place in their life to follow through on some of this, but if you can, embrace the opportunity for all its worth.
Constraint: Aluminum case (scheduled for late July)
PCBA: Assembled and ready
Estimated shipping date: August 15
Constraint: Aluminum case
PCB: scheduled for mid-July
Electrical components: scheduled for on or before August 6
Logic Pro 8
Estimated shipping date: August 15
Constraint: Aluminum case / PCB
PCB: scheduled early August (working to bring this in)
Electrical components: scheduled for on or before August 6
Logic Pro 16
Estimated shipping date: August 15
PCB: scheduled late 8/13 (working to bring this in)
Electrical components: scheduled for on or before August 6
Machined Aluminum Cases
The aluminum cases required another round of first-article approvals – in particular the factory needed a dimensional change to aid manufacturability, there were some cosmetic issues with the metal finishing of the Logic ‘feet’ components, and we added laser etching to the back of the part. The new first articles are being finished right now and after approval we should be three weeks out from production parts. I was hoping to have these production parts right about now, allowing us to ship Logic 4, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way.
The PCBs also added some lead-time mainly to some design changes on our end and a lot of back and forth over getting things approved (stackup, panelizations, impedance, and so on). This only affects Logic Pro 8 and Pro 16, with the Pro 16 PCB currently having the longest lead time of 8/13. I’ve requested that to be brought in to the 1st but I don’t have confirmation they can do that yet.
I was able to bring in lead times on almost everything, but there is still one component stuck at 8/6. I think this part can be moved up to the 1st with some expedited shipping – our rep is exploring that now. If we can get the PCBs pulled in to the 1st as well then this will be helpful.
*Other company updates*
The software team, headed up by my brother Mark, continues to do very well.
They are still on a two-week Scrum cycle, and have a Scrum meeting once per day. The team is getting more and more experienced with the software and able to help each other more and more – rather than relying on Mark as much. Mark has been running these various software ‘bootcamps’ where a developer is asked to thoroughly research a topic and then explain it to the team – optimization and multithreading for example, and that seems to be going well.
Our focus remains on polishing the software ahead of the official launch. Performance is key – this application is extremely, extremely data intensive. Other tasks on the final two sprints include security, calibration, simulation, drag and drop of channels, keyboard shortcuts, and bug fixes and UX improvements. Proper support for Mac gestures and non-Ubuntu Linux is also on the list.
Security / Clones
Regarding security, we’re taking it pretty seriously this time around. Logic has been cloned, and there’s not much we can do about that, but we expect to be able to protect Logic16 and all the new products from cloning from here on out. Mark reads the forum posts by our various friends in Asia who have successfully cloned Logic16; it’s very interesting and kind of a weird experience reading about how your product was cloned, I can assure you. In the case of Logic16 we’ve developed a weird sense of respect for our advisories, and have learned a lot about how they see the world – and can imagine how if raised in similar circumstances, we would probably do the same thing and feel just fine about it. All that said, we don’t expect that Logic16 clones will be able to work with any new versions of our software.
We have received a lot of questions from mainly European customers asking how we will be shipping the new products. For the pre-order only, we will be shipping directly from the US, and yes, you will most likely get a bill from FedEx for VAT. After the pre-orders we will be collecting VAT on our website, and for all EU countries – in addition to as many other countries – we will be able to guarantee that you will not get a customs bill. We’ve worked with FedEx to get super accurate country-by-country customs information. On a country-by-country basis we will set it up so we are billed for customs, and any charges we just charge for up front. For EU countries for example, this will just be VAT.
Inventory & Financial Systems
With the assistance of our new interim CFO, we have been looking at inventory management and financial packages. The landscape of accounting packages starts with QuickBooks and Xero, which are inexpensive. Up from there you have Intacct, which from all accounts is great for accounting, but you need to be at least a $20M company for that to make sense. At the same time as Intacct starts to make sense, so to the enterprise ERP systems, like NetSuite. But as nice as that would be, it’s not going to happen at our size. So… QuickBooks or Xero. Xero is out because its inventory capability is too primitive (this should be different in a year, they are working on that right now).
For inventory, we looked really closely at Aligni. It supports electrical components really well – in particular version control, octopart integration, great quoting, tiered pricing/order minimums, and a formalized build cycle. There’s also Fishbowl and a few other ones. The biggest problem with Aligni was that it would require a lot of work to integrate properly with QuickBooks. Getting large numbers of parts and assemblies into QuickBooks is cumbersome to say the least, but there are some third party tools to make it less painful. In particular we’ve used Transaction Pro Importer 5 with good success. The QuickBooks API is SLOW.
We ultimately decided to just use the QuickBooks inventory and upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise so we could add “Advanced Inventory” which adds a couple of useful features. On top of this we’ll be adding custom software to help in figuring out what needs to be ordered and when, which we’ve been doing for a while. We also were able to create some log-ins for the assembly team that had restricted permissions – so they can directly use QuickBooks without seeing (or editing haha!) salary information, etc.
For planning/forecasting/budgeting we’re pretty set on starting to use Adaptive Insights. This is not cheap, but is barely affordable for a company our size. But with the help of our interim CFO I’m hopeful that our forecasting will be much, much more useful.
For manufacturing the assembly team is using Kanban with great success – just cards, no software. I hope to apply this to reordering supplies soon (supplies not tracked in inventory). In addition we will be linking the Kanban cards with various QuickBooks activities so that the inventory status stays perfectly in sync with production. Lastly, I’m hoping to start tracking assembly time for individuals and specific Kanban jobs – with the goal of at least having COGS (cost of goods sold) contributions from the different production activities.
New Marketing Agency
As some of you on Facebook may have noticed, we’ve engaged with a marketing agency on a trial basis to see if we can explore some different marketing channels and find one that works. They will also be optimizing our Google AdWords efforts among several other areas. Historically most of our sales come through personal recommendations, which is awesome. We’re hoping that though some new marketing efforts we can grow more quickly than we have in the past and support a larger team to take on bigger projects in the future.
A few months ago we started to do some status meetings every two weeks, and I think it’s been very helpful for top level planning. We have one for software, manufacturing, and marketing. The one I like the most is the ‘big picture’ meeting which allows me – for a couple of hours – to forget all the things going wrong at the particular moment step back and dream up what we could be doing next – both in terms of a few months and in terms of a few years out. It’s a breath of fresh air and I think will help us keep in mind where we want to go even when on the day-to-day level we’re only thinking a month out or so.
Lastly, we get a temporary Saleae mascot a recently — Charlie. Charlie is my friend’s bunny that we will be watching for a little while. Initially this was because she went on vacation, but I’ve convinced her to let us keep Charlie a little longer. Shh, don’t tell building management.
The Logic 4 launch unfortunately will be delayed to August 1st due to a delay with the metal case manufacturing. Everything else for Logic 4 is actually done, including the PCBA. The metal case is going to be very high quality, but we’ve had to go back and forth about it a couple of times and that’s the source of the delay.
I’ll be providing the 2-week update in a few days, and provide more details then.
Hi everyone – thanks again for supporting us by being a part of our pre-order! We’re super excited about these new products and can’t wait to start shipping them.
Current status at a glance:
Estimated ship date: July 1
Constraint: Aluminum case
PCBA: currently in assembly
Estimated ship date: August 1
Constraint: Electrical component lead times
PCBA: awaiting arrival of production PCB panels, parts
Logic Pro 8 & Logic Pro 16
Estimated ship date: August 1
Constraint: Electrical component lead times
PCBA: awaiting arrival of production PCB panels, parts
Aluminum cases (all products): expected July 1 or sooner
Custom neoprene carry cases: expected ~June 15
Wire harnesses: ready & more in production
Test clips: ready & more in production
USB cables: ready
PCBs: Logic 4 on hand, all others on order, all expected on or before July 1.
Electrical components: Logic 4 on hand, all others on order, all expected on or before August 1. Will attempt to expedite and use alternate sources as possible.
First beta was released May 31st.
Current efforts focused on bug fixes and refinements (to be followed by 2nd beta release)
June 15 – August 1: speed improvements and new product support refinement/bug fixing
Stability improvements / fixes for firmware and HDL
We’re a little late, but things are going very well
I do personally apologize that our lead time for three of the four products has slipped to August 1. I had really hoped that we would be shipping exactly when we had originally estimated. Getting production prototypes turned around and fully evaluated took considerably longer than we had budgeted for. The good news is that everything is working and we don’t anticipate any issues with the board design at this time. Everything is currently on order.
May 31st Software Beta
Mark and team successfully pushed out the very first beta of our new software on time, I’m happy to report. It’s a little rough around the edges so we’re continuing to work on that. We won’t be working on any new features (vote for your favorite at ideas.saleae.com) until after the launch – we’re focused on making sure the software is a real pleasure to work with, and ‘just works.’ In addition, these new products dump an enormous amount of data at the software, so we’ll be working on making sure the software is as fast as possible.
We were originally planning on building production panels without any additional prototypes, but we decided it would be best to run prototypes of the very final design before ordering the production panels. As it would turn out the prototypes are flawless – and so the production panels would have been too. We did order the Logic 8 panels because they were not as expensive as the Logic Pro panels – so we will have those fairly shortly.
Component Lead-time & Bonded Inventory Program
We are building the PCBs in the US, and are going to be managing the electrical component supply chain ourselves. We’re using Avnet’s bonded inventory program, which I’m excited about – basically it’s a way to have Avnet make sure you always have key parts available to purchase – without Saleae needing to actually purchase and hold those parts ourselves. Basically it’s two services: they manage getting long lead time items on the shelf so they will be there when you need them, and they carry the cost of holding that inventory so we don’t have to incur that working capital expense.
However since we’ve just started this program of course we have to wait the lead-times this first time. I’ll be working with them this week to explore any ways we can bring some of those lead-times in to have a shot at beating our August 1 date.
The aluminum cases are all on order from our new supplier. In addition to machining the cases, they are also doing the metal finishing – and they have been doing an absolutely outstanding job with the Logic and Logic 16 cases these past few months, so I’m really happy to be working with them.
We make all our own wire harnesses in house now, and we’ve been building the new version by the 100s to get ready for shipping the new products.
We’ve had an automated test system in development for some time – it’s C# based and it talks with the various test equipment and runs analysis in Matlab. It’s a pretty good but a little clunky. I’m hoping to make something a bit more streamlined for production before launch.
Product Serial Numbers
All the product PCBAs are getting barcoded with unique serial numbers now, so the ideas is the operator just scans the bar code, and the appropriate semi-automated tests starts running. It keeps a log of all results and data captures. When you first plug in your device, calibration information will be downloaded from the cloud for your specific device. It should even know what color your device is.
Software Next Steps
We want to make sure people have an excellent experience using their new Logics for the first time, and so that is our software focus from now until shipping.
After that, it’s all about real-time view!
Future Updates – every 2 weeks
I will be sending out an email to all pre-order customers every two weeks to keep you appraised of the status of your order and our estimated ship date.
Questions or Concerns?
Please send me (Joe) a note at support.saleae.com.
A huge and heartfelt thank you to all of our customers who stepped in, believed in us, and pre-ordered their new Logics. We are truly grateful and humbled by your trust and support. Thank you!
I really think you’re going to love the new products when you get them.
We just finished our 30-day pre-order with 528 backers and $222,717 raised, which is fantastic. The majority of our customers are businesses who have little incentive to participate in a consumer-style pre-order, so we are quite happy with the results and really look forward to shipping these things as soon as humanly possible.
We started to seriously consider a pre-order when our good friend Colin did one with the Light Blue Bean here: https://launch.punchthrough.com. I was intrigued by how they did it outside of Kickstarter, and with a simple one-step pre-order form that didn’t even collect the shipping address — kind of a radical notion. Certainly this whole Kickstarter phenomenon has not been without its share of fraud and controversy, but we felt that we had a pretty good reputation and that people would probably not think it was all that strange, all things considered.
Kickstarter itself wasn’t a great option for us because they keep the money for at least for 30, if not 60 days (I forget at the moment), which is kind of a nasty cash flow gap for a company with real operating expenses. The first rule of sales is “sell what you have” and we would already be breaking that rule and cannibalizing sales of our existing products, so a large cash flow gap would have hurt to the point of it not being viable.
We launched the new website and the pre-order all at the same time, Sunday (April 6) night at 10 pm. The entire team was on site for the festivities. It was mainly a chance for everyone to watch as Mark and Chris freaked out as various things exploded, failed to work and what have you. I was busy putting together the email to go out to our existing customers that night and the next morning. It wasn’t long before each member of the software team – Chris, Aparna and Charles — had each written some sort of “launch tracker” software that played various songs and/or videos each time we had a sale. Here’s what we’ve been hearing blaring out of Chris’s computer for the last month:
The new website was a long time in the making. Chris has been our official web developer as of late and that’s going awesomely, he is super up to speed on that stuff. Mark put in a lot of foundation much earlier but it was all behind the scenes. Now we’re running a truly modern site and we finally feel like we can make lots of front-end changes easily. (Perhaps I feel like making changes “is easy” because Chris will be the one doing it, haha)
We use ASP.NET MVC as the primary server-side technology. It’s hosted on AppHarbor, which is a service on top of Amazon EC2. Mark had a fun time optimizing the site before we launched, using New Relic and various load testing services that are now common and very good. On launch night we had a chance to actually load test the site in the real world for the launch which was fun for everyone. There’s still a ton of stuff we can do to make the site scale-able, but it’s fairly trimmed up. All static content is being hosted by the Amazon CloudFront CDN which helps a lot. Further optimizations were made by caching server-side generated content that rarely changed — in our case, content was generated with the Razor syntax. Very interesting and fun problems — one I kind of which we had the web traffic to push the limits on. The next step would be modifying the site so that it could be run in parallel, which apparently it’s pretty close to being able to do right now. It would take maybe a day to fully implement that, then we could spin up as many instances as needed. Right now we can’t scale past a single instance, so you can put it on a faster machine but you hit a hard limit pretty quickly.
New Support System, Feature Voting System, and Review System
We have integrated a full-featured ticket system that’s the best we could find and have fully switched to it. It’s been working really well so far! It is much more scale-able than what we were doing before. Now we can add articles that address common concerns and reduce both the sheer hours that support requires and at the same time as getting people to the information they need faster.
We’ve also added a new features voting platform which has been really popular: http://ideas.saleae.com. A lot of customers have great ideas for where the product and software could go, and now they have an outlet for all that creativity — and the outlet is public facing and helps us prioritize what we need to be working on next. As a side benefit I think it helps to show that we can’t do everything: we have to prioritize.
Chris built a full-featured review platform so people can leave reviewed for the products. We haven’t turned it on yet because we haven’t started to ship the new products yet. But once that’s working it will be very helpful for people I think.
For all the improvement the site has seen, it still badly needs help. It was really interesting seeing how people actually responded to the site, especially on forums where people sometimes speak their minds with a little less than the typical level of reserve — but once you get over the fact that your life’s work is being insulted, you can really get to the root cause why someone is saying something and realize that it’s a problem with how we’ve presented some information. The site is full of opportunities to fix things like this. Unfortunately I’m a little bogged down with making sure we ship on time, or as close to on time as humanly possible, but I look forward to really improving the site shortly. We’ll be doing lots of tests and experiments and I’m really excited to be able to work on that more soon.
Customer Survey : what we learned
About a month before we launched the pre-order I sent out a survey to all of our customers (that we have emails for!). The response was awesome and extremely interesting. A staggering 2,276 responded to the survey! Thank you so much, the data is super helpful.
Our customers are roughly 55% professional engineers, 35% hobbyists, and 10% students. Other than Saleae, people’s favorite test equipment brand was Tektronix (29%), followed by Fluke (20%), followed by Agilent (18%), followed by Rigol (11%). Ease of use ranked #1 for most desired attribute. We asked about oscilloscopes: 200MHz would meet the needs of about 60% of our customers. Only about 6% of our customers are looking for something faster than 1GHz. Overall people rated Logic 4.58/5 stars, and people most wanted to see specific features added to keep or improve their rating. 50% of people said our prices are “just right”, and 43% say they are “a little high.” Approximately 9% of people would be “very interested” in a referral program. When responding to the statement “We have been slow releasing new software features recently” 11% of people responded “I agree and this bothers me a lot” and 41% of people responded that “I didn’t notice / it doesn’t bother me.” 40% are bothered “a little.” I asked that because I had been fretting a lot about that and wanted to see how many people it was bothering.
856 people took the time to write us in response to “Anything else you’d like to tell us about.” Many of these were just over-the-top nice and supportive and encouraging, it was really a boost to read these. Tons of great ideas in there too.
Since we’re just about to release some amazing software features, I feel pretty good about how things are going with regards to this survey. I think that overall people really like our stuff, but want to see some more features – and that I’m happy to say that we have basically 2.5 people who are writing software full time for exactly that reason.
The New Software
The new software has been under development for quite some time. The biggest obvious change is that it has been re-skinned with new art. On the back end, a lot of stuff has been cleaned up to make adding more interactive features easier and more maintainable. A lot of work has gone into analog support. For example, how do you display 8GB of analog data on the screen at once, at 60 fps? Good question. And what if you want to show beautiful full-color histograms of that data too? Well that last part isn’t going to see launch, but it’s certainly our longer term goal. And there’s a lot of DSP math going on for down-sampling and up-sampling the data for various reasons, which all has to be super fast.
As the website indicates, we’ve added or shortly will be adding protocol search, protocol list view, trigger-on-protocol, measurement annotations, unlimited timing markers, bookmarks, text annotations, new triggers and upload to the cloud. After launch the first order of business is “real time view.”
The Software & Web Team
We have Aparna and Charles working full time on the software, and Mark is at least 50% dedicated to it, and Chris maybe 10%. Chris is on the website maybe 90% right now. Mark manages the team, and is in charge of software architecture, all HDL and most firmware, and customer support. These guys do scrum every day and are doing awesome.
The Assembly & Manufacturing Team
Jimmy, James and Colt are doing a great job with manufacturing. James is doing a lot of CAD and quoting in preparation for launch and Jimmy is keeping tabs on inventory, purchasing and shipping. The guys created and use a Kanban board to manage all assembly tasks, which is awesome. Colt has logged tens of thousands of crimps on the crimping machine. Those guys are crushing it back there. It also happens to be the cleanest and most organized part of the office.
Allison was hired as an office manager, but is closer to a chief operating officer these days. I recently put together a list of what she is personally responsible for. Here goes: Invoices, Quotes, Bookkeeping, Budget, Fulfillment, Taxes, Sales Tax, VAT, Payroll, Health Insurance, HSA, PTO, Calendar, Orders, Shipping, Packaging, Inventory, Purchasing, Accounting, Distributors, Distribution Strategy, HR, Paychecks, Time-sheets, W2s, 1099s, Trademarks, Company Trips, Supplies and Snacks, Wire Transfers, Loan Draw-downs, Financial Reports, Office Organization, Curating Agencies/Vendors, and Happy Customers.
How am I doing, you may ask. Well it depends on the day, and the time of day, and whether things are currently looking up, or looking down, and all that. But honestly not too bad as a general rule. I’ve been biking once a day for the past month and that’s been really beneficial I think. I’m currently in charge of our four new products working like a champ and shipping on time. A lot of that is under control. There’s still some risks that should be worked out in a few weeks. Three out of four boards are in some state of going to fab, and the fourth should be getting released early next week. We’re seven weeks out from the promised ship date.
So we’ve had a few Nerf guns floating around the office for months, but a few weeks ago I make an Amazon order to assure that everyone in the office has at least one gun. That escalated quickly. Everyone wanted more firepower. So now many of u,s including myself, are armed with the ultimate in Nerf tech. And actually Nerf makes some really impressive stuff I have to say — this is is good quality and impressively engineered.
We’re going to Maker Faire! We’ll be at booth 302. Come by and say hi! If we owe you a pre-order t-shirt you can pick it up there — or if you want to pre-order on the spot you can also get a shirt. Anyway, it would be great to meet you and show what we’ve been working on so hard. San Mateo Event Center May 16th and 17th. http://makerfaire.com/
New Product PCBs
The PCBs for the new products are by far the most advanced we’ve created. Logic and Logic16 used 4 layer boards, and at the time we thought that was a pretty cool step up from 2-layer boards. 4-layer boards are great! They’re amazingly cheap and super versatile. With Logic 8 and Logic Pro 8 however, we took about x3 as many parts as are on Logic16, and made it fit in a case not much bigger than original Logic case. For the first time we found ourselves picking out the smallest possible parts, including 0201 passives. Yes, they can be solder-pasted and re-worked by hand – but I don’t recommend it. 0402 is a joy to work with in comparison. Some of these new 4, 5, and 6 ball BGA parts are absurdly small. Still, as long as you don’t need to rework them you have a decent shot at doing them by hand. With a stencil, paste and oven I mean. That said, if you can afford it, have someone else do it. You can “build” circuits out of 0402 for rework. With 0201 you’re re-spinning the board.
Why are we obsessed with packing so much awesomeness into a tiny package? Because it’s so cool! We moved to two sided boards, which generally I like to avoid. This has one glaring disadvantage that I didn’t fully appreciate until a ways into the project: When both sides of the PCB are densely packed with parts – it’s tough finding places were vias can fit. Especially as the layer count starts going up. In our experience you have to go to blind vias right away. That’s where the via doesn’t go all the way though the board, it just goes through some of the layers. For example, on Logic 8 we have blind vias from L1-L4 and from L5-L8. It has the normal“through all” vias too of course. Anyway when you do this you’re basically creating two boards in one, and one board only communicates with the other board through the full length vias. This is kind of cool if you happen to want to isolate the back of the board from the front of the board, which as it would turn out, we do. We have all the analog stuff on the back of the board, and all the digital stuff on the top of the board. And they are fairly isolated – with their own power and ground planes for example. But it gets pretty nasty of you need to route high speed from one side of the board to the other. The moral of the story is that blind vias are cool, but try to stick to single sided if you can afford to, it makes everything easier (and cheaper!).
By the way, you can get cheap and fast 6-layer boards no problem. At the moment, you CANNOT get cheap OR fast 8-layer prototype boards, especially with blind vias. Going to 8 layer means you’ll be spending much, much more on prototypes. Probably the cheapest I’ve seen is maybe $1000 for a straight-forward 8–layer board. Logic Pro 8 costs a tad over $3000 and 12 days just for the PCB. Ouch, that stings! It is a complicated board to make I’ll admit. And a lot of back and forth over the stackup and impedances and that sort of thing seems to be the norm.
We use Altium, which I personally think is the way to go. Could it be way better? Yes. But it’s not too bad or too expensive for us, although it is too expensive for hobbyists. They need to have some sort of non-commercial option I think. I’ll tell you want they need: they need to have a monthly subscription. Hell, a weekly subscription. That would make it a lot easier to get started with. Adobe is having great results with that with their Creative Suite and I am THRILLED to pay like $19/seat/month for Photoshop. Makes it a no-brainer. I really wish we could sell logic analyzers on a monthly subscription; I’ve actually thought about it but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Also we need a weekly or monthly subscription to HyperLynx and/or Agilent ADS. Although that could be like making a house payment.
New Product Tech
So the new products are pretty cool, a big step up from Logic16 tech. We’re doing BGAs now – which isn’t really all that impressive but it does make it considerably less desirable to assemble the board yourself. We have the Xilinx Spartan 6, the Cypress USB 2 (or 3) chip, a 50MS/s 8-channel ADC which is fully differential all around, and the analog front end circuitry that has 3 ADI op-amps in each path and a 7th order passive filter. The analog has been really tough for me. Everything else was fairly straightforward. The analog is hard to get right. I mean obviously you can get it to show a sine wave on the screen. But then you actually sample a pure sine wave, and take the FFT – after getting the frequency perfectly tuned so you get rid of the side lobes (something called synchronous sampling) and what do you know, there’s massive harmonic distortion. Or the noise floor has all these RF sources all over the place. Good times! Oh, the input capacitance of the op-amp is actually highly non-linear. Good to know! Oh, the kickback from the ADC isn’t getting filtered by the capacitor across it because it’s a common-mode disturbance not a differential one. Anyway we sure learned a lot. In the process we’ve found some great mentors too and at this point we can more or less say we know what we’re doing. My brother Mark will be knocking on wood when he reads that for sure.
I have been listing to the 500 Startups and This Week in Startups podcasts non-stop for months. Can’t get enough of that stuff. Obviously some episodes are better than others. But the great ones are truly fantastic and inspirational. Highly recommended.
The New Aluminum Cases
The new machined aluminum cases are really nice! The anodize quality is really good now, and we’ve got a beautiful new red color. The entire structure is machined aluminum now, including the bottom of the case. All the new products have RGB leds and we have a cool UI in the software to choose your favorite color. I love the logo on the top of the case; it’s made out of textured aluminum in a stamping process. The tooling for that wasn’t cheap. But they did a really nice job. We have two versions, one for the black cases and one for the red cases.
Good question. There are a few things we’re doing for sure: shipping the new products, improving the software, and improving the website/marketing. Obviously we have to ship and of course we want to make the software better. With regards to marketing I want to see how much sales we growth we can get with these new products. For every developer we would want to hire, we need to move the sales needle by a big chunk to afford that.
Beyond that, what should we do next? There’s lots of exciting options. We’re going to keep our options open for at least the next few months and do some research.
It really has been a eventful and sometimes crazy past 18 months getting ready for this launch. And we’re just around the corner from shipping and that’s super exciting. Thank you to everyone who participated in the pre-order, I can’t wait to ship you your brand new Logics!