I’m tracking down a few issues at work that require automating a logic analyzer, in this case the task is as simple as monitoring a SPI bus and looking for particular patterns. The Saleae Logic16 is a decent low-cost USB logic analyzer that can sample a four channels at 50MHz and provides a C++ API that enables you to write a custom application.

I went ahead and downloaded their API (version 1.1.14 in this case),

wget http://downloads.saleae.com/SDK/SaleaeDeviceSdk-1.1.14.zip
unzip SaleaeDeviceSdk-1.1.14.zip
cd SaleaeDeviceSdk-1.1.14

This provides a 32-bit and 64-bit library in ./lib as well as one header file in ./include. Saleae provides an example program in ./source but no Makefile (I don’t think they know how to write one, instead they provide a Python script that tries to call g++ directly, quite a mess).

“Installing” the SDK

Let’s write an application to talk to this analyzer. First copy the library and header file and run “ldconfig” to let the system know about the former:

sudo cp lib/*.so /usr/local/lib
sudo ldconfig
sudo cp include/SaleaeDeviceApi.h /usr/local/include


Now change to a directory where you’ll develop your application and create a proper Makefile. Here’s my simple one that builds main.cpp and links against Saleae’s library:

APP = analyzer
PREFIX ?= /usr/local
CXXFLAGS += -std=c++11 -fpic -g -Wall

ifeq ($(shell uname -m),x86_64)
LDFLAGS += -lSaleaeDevice64
LDFLAGS += -lSaleaeDevice

SRCS = main.cpp

OBJS = $(patsubst %.cpp,%.o,$(SRCS))

%.o: %.cpp
  g++ $(CXXFLAGS) -c $< -o $@

$(APP): $(OBJS)
  g++ $^ $(LDFLAGS) -o $@

install: $(APP)
  install -d $(PREFIX)/bin
  install $< $(PREFIX)/bin/$<

  @rm -f $(OBJS) $(APP)

.PHONY: install clean


To use the Logic16, your C++ application simply needs to:

  • register handlers for connection and disconnection via the RegisterOnConnect() and RegisterOnDisconnect() methods. The OnConnect handler should use RegisterOnReadData() to register a handler for incoming data and you may want to register an error handler as well via RegisterOnError(). Finally, the OnConnect handler should configure the channels you wish to sample via SetActiveChannels(), set the sample rate via SetSampleRateHz(), and use ReadStart() to begin recording.
  • spin up a worker thread to deal with data from the logic analyzer. A pointer to the incoming data buffer will be provided to your OnReadData handler, however that handler shouldn’t process the data in place (and depending on how high your sampling rate is, it can be several megabytes of data). The handler should instead queue that pointer up and signal to the worker thread to process it. The worker should then free that memory by calling the provided DeleteU8ArrayPtr() method.
  • call BeginConnect() to connect to a Logic16
  • join the worker thread, there’s nothing further to do in main()

I tried implementing the worker thread using pthread (pass -pthread as one of the CFLAGS if you want to do that) and then used the “new” C++11 std::thread in its place, either way works fine. You can use std::queue or std::list or some other approach to buffer up data for the worker thread but whatever you choose should be thread-safe since you’re dealing with an asynchronous producer and a consumer who are using the same queue. pthread provides mutexes and semaphores for this and C++11 includes several concurrency schemes.

The Saleae API is a bit crufty and misses some common best practices but is otherwise functional and well-documented in its header file. I would like to mention a few things:

  • You may ignore the SALEAE_DEVICE_API and __stdcall cruft that you see in SaleaeDeviceApi.h and their sample application.
  • SetSampleRateHz() must have a valid sample rate passes to it, otherwise the program proceeds and then segfaults.
  • SetActiveChannels() takes a pointer to an array and a number of elements. Although it’s not marked const, that array seems to be copied or otherwise used safely so a stack variable is acceptable. You must use this array to map what channels are active (and their order in the bitmask you get back in the OnReadData handler).
  • You’ll be given a pointer to an array of U8’s in the OnReadData handler. This however contains 16-bit samples (regardless of which channels you’ve enabled) and you should process it accordingly. That is, if channel 0 is your SPI SCK, channel 1 is your MISO, channel 2 is MOSI, and channel 3 is ENABLE, you would have mapped something like:

    U32 channels[4] = { 0, 1, 2, 3 };

    and you’ll care about the lower four bits of each 16-bit chunk of that block of data. The size argument given to your OnReadData handler is in bytes and it may be anything (the documentation says that it’s roughly a 20Hz rate of block retrieval, so whatever number of bytes that comes out to given your chosen sampling rate).

  • std::bitset makes printing bits (either for debugging or as part of the output of your program) quite easy.

Of course with this “raw” API, you’re responsible for making sense of the data, “triggering”, and so on. You can implement that with a fairly simple state machine (for example, look for ENABLE and SCK transitions for SPI), just be sure to sample your data bits at the right time based on the bus in question and its configuration – for instance a SPI bus may be used in such a way that data is available on the falling edge of SCK and sampled on the rising edge.