Hardware hacking: Signal tracing

I'm trying to get into hardware hacking as a hobby.  I'm trying to find some good information on the reverse engineering bit.  Does anyone have any good directions or sources of information?  Primarily I'm concerned with signal tracing.  How can I track what bytes are sent accross a line?

I'm wanting to solder some wires into a circuit  and attach to a db9 connector that I can send some signals across to simulate what the button push does.  I'm hacking my sprinkler system.  Just having fun while voiding my warranty.

Thanks
phuff34Asked:
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babylonfiveConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Yes, of course it would matter.   8 )

If you are banging around with digital stuff, like signals to your DB-9 to your computer or some sort of controller or logic, you need the analyzer part,.. if you are looking at analog you need more of an oscilloscope, which shows actual analog levels over time.

If necessary you can even just use a voltmeter (digital ones are cheap and plentiful) to tell you the voltage or level NOW. The other tools I've mentioned show you those signal levels changing over a period of time, which is much easier to use.

Note that the link i gave you is for a device that acts as a O-scope and an analyzer together.

David
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babylonfiveCommented:
You should try a low-cost 'logic analyzer'. This is a tool similar to a oscilloscope, except that it captures the signal levels in a digital domain (active or inactive, depending upon voltage) and displays them with other associated signals.

This type of device in the low-cost department (expensive ones start at $25000+) can either be standalone or operate over USB with a computer.

I'll look up some links and post them in the next few hours for you. Such a tool is very helpful.
Here's an example until I can get more: http://cgi.ebay.com/PC-USB-Oscilloscope-Logic-analyzer-of-UART-SPI-I2C_W0QQitemZ120100014839QQcategoryZ104247QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem


david
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phuff34Author Commented:
Great thanks!  I look forward to the links.  Does it matter if the circuit board is analog or digital?  Or would I need to get a converter if it is analog?

Thanks.
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fullandbyCommented:
Here is a site where you can get "pinout" information. Also there is plenty of this stuff out there for hobbyists, just google away and you will find plenty.

http://pinouts.ru/
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babylonfiveCommented:
Thanks for the points!
I hope you make a lot of good progress. Fullandby is right, and that is a great site for pin-outs. You can also use the part number at most manufacturers sites and the pin-outs can be sometimes found in their data sheet.
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