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Input Devices Open Source Hardware

USB Implementers Forum Won't Play Nice With Open Hardware 273

Posted by timothy
from the keeping-the-universal-out-of-universal dept.
DeathToBill writes "Hack A Day reports on the attempts of open hardware hackers to obtain a vendor and product ID for their devices to be able to sell them as USB compliant: 'A not for profit foundation [in this case Arachnid Labs] could buy a VID, give PIDs away to foundation members making open source hardware, and we would all live in a magical world of homebrew devices that are certified as USB compliant.' The USB Implementers Forum, which controls the sale of PIDs, has lawyered up, responding to the effort with a cease and desist notice, requiring Arachnid Labs to stop 'raising funds to purchase a unique USB VID' and 'delete all references to the USB-IF, VIDs and PIDs for transfer, resale or sublicense from your website and other marketing materials.' A slight over-reaction? Or dark conspiracy against open hardware? You decide!"
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USB Implementers Forum Won't Play Nice With Open Hardware

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  • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @08:56AM (#45199559) Homepage Journal

    afaik no but you can't use the logos.

    I guess the usb guys are doing this to raise moar money for them. you see if you just need a few why would you buy a whole batch at a crazy cost.....

  • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @08:57AM (#45199581) Homepage

    What I mean is: Is it forbidden by law to say "It's got USB" if it's not certified as USB compliant?

    USB is a trademark. They don't let you use it if you're not compliant.

  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:02AM (#45199611)

    No. [usb.org]

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:14AM (#45199711) Journal
    There are two main issues here:

    1. If you don't go through whatever song-and-dance the USB IF wants you to to be 'certified', you can't use any of the trademarked logos (the little trident-thing symbol, possibly various words and phrases associated with 'USB'). Technologically, this isn't an issue, legally it might be(unless you are willing to use some janky-sounding circumlocution to suggest that, while not a 'USB device' your widget would probably do something useful if plugged into that rectangular, 4-pin port...)

    2. VID/PID combinations are (ideally) supposed to be helpful in identifying USB devices without playing ugly little games of "20 questions" to try to discern what the hell you are talking to by fingerprinting its behavior. Device presents VID/PID, OS looks up appropriate driver, no muss, no fuss. There isn't anything the USB IF can do legally about a device declaring whatever VID/PID it wants (sure, just try to defend a trademark claim on a bunch of arbitrary numbers); but it would certainly be a huge pain for everyone involved if duplicate VID/PIDs start showing up in any quantity, since the OS would have to resort to fingerprinting heuristics to try to guess what it is actually talking to, and what driver should be used.

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason(despite the fact that the namespace is huge), the USB IF is notably unhelpful for anybody who wants to do a small-run; but do so commercially. They, in their goodness, deign to make some "prototype" VID/PID blocks available, ostensibly only for noncommercial use; but getting a proper VID is some thousands of dollars, plus paperwork, and (as here) they are apparently pretty touchy about the (otherwise quite sensible) "Well, we have a lot of small hobbyists who can't afford a VID, and won't be putting out enough products to warrant one anyway, why can't we buy a single VID and hand out PIDs?" plan.

    Some vendors, as a value-add for their USB-enabled silicon (FTDI for their USB/serial converters, some microcontroller makers with their USB-slave capable micros, etc.) will provide PIDs, for use with their products, for free, which is apparently OK for some reason; but they don't appear to like this idea very much.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:52AM (#45200083)

    I worked on both VHS and Betamax video tape recorders as both an operator and a repair technician from the time the bloody things were invented until Beta finally died.

    Consumer Betamax video tape recorders were not technically better than VHS. They just weren't, no matter how many times people parrot this nonsense. I personally set them up, ran them, fixed them for at least a decade. The tape path and mechanics of beta were fucking retarded compared to VHS, and that's why even cheap shoddy VHS mechanisms worked just as well as expensive Sony betamax machines!

    No human being could tell the difference in picture quality after the machines were more than two weeks old, because there wasn't any once they'd been used for a while. We used to challenge customers on brand new machines and nobody could ever successfully do it, not ever. For all practical purposes they were identical, Beta's tiny horizontal sync advantage evaporated in real use and the resolution was the same.

    In the Real World[tm] VHS machines were more economical, more reliable, just as high fidelity, and recorded longer. Betamax was an also-ran second best and that's why VHS won.

    Wikipedia has plenty of proof if you won't believe hands-on experience. Stop repeating this total bullshit fanboy crap.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @10:09AM (#45200219)

    I guess the usb guys are doing this to raise moar money for them.

    Its also possible that in standard slashdot fashion the article / headline presents only one side of the story in an incredibly slanted fashion, and theres some important detail we're missing.

    Forgive the cynicism, but after so many years here one begins to think that the summaries-- and often even the articles-- dont tend to be an accurate snapshot of reality.

    Addendum: And of course, that appears to be the case. The letter sent wasnt a "screw you and your OSS tendencies", it was more of a "no, you cannot transfer PIDs like you want to; please cease pursuing that plan":

    The VID is provided to the assigned company to identify only its own products and neither the VID nor associated PIDs may be sublicensed, transferred or offered for resale in any manner.
    The policy of the USB-IF regarding vendor ID numbers (VIDs) is as stated in the attached policy statement. In general, VIDs are not transferable.
    The USB-IF has long had a VID/PID process for hobbyists.
    Please immediately cease.........

  • by nicksdjohnson (1625665) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @10:15AM (#45200281)
    That is precisely what I was attempting to negotiate, and what inspired that response from USB-IF.
  • by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @12:41PM (#45202219) Homepage Journal

    I have read the entire spec, except a few parts about the physical molding/construction of cables and some parts of the last chapter about hubs. I've read many of the change notices that come in the zip file with the main PDF. I've also read the entire HID, Mass Storage class specs, most of the CDC class spec, substantial parts of many of the others, and a good portion of the OHCI spec. I've also read the datasheets for numerous chips, API documentation for Mac, Windows and Linux (at least libusb on Linux), and numerous other related documents.

    Yes, there's a lot of documentation. No, I haven't gouged my brain out.

    I have implemented 2 USB device-side stacks on microcontrollers (a.k.a. "bare metal") from scratch. Both are commercially successful and in widespread use on Teensy 2.0 and 3.0 and numerous projects and products people have designed and incorporated my code.

    While you've done neither, I most certainly have done both: read the specs and implement portions of USB. I would disagree with your opinion that summarizes USB as "horrible".

    It's actually a pretty well though out system.

  • by neonsignal (890658) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:44PM (#45208393)

    This isn't a recent change; component distributors such as mecanique (see https://web.archive.org/web/20070825070852/http://www.mecanique.co.uk/products/usb/pid.html [archive.org]) used to on-sell blocks of PIDs from their VID many years ago, but the USB-IF started cracking down a number of years ago. Likewise, voti.nl was threatened with legal action (see http://www.voti.nl/shop/catalog.html?USB-PID-10 [www.voti.nl]).

    For some projects, you can obtain a PID from the manufacturer of a USB chip (eg http://www.ftdichip.com/Support/Knowledgebase/caniuseftdisvidformypr.htm [ftdichip.com]), but this generally means using the manufacturer supplied driver, and doesn't really help if you want to customize things more.

    There doesn't seem to be a reasonable solution for small runs beyond the prototype phase. So in effect the USB-IF is motivating hobbyists to simply reuse VID/PID pairs from similar devices, which is only going to lead to compatibility headaches in the future.

    I can understand that they wish to have an orderly process so that operating systems can have automatic device recognition and driver installation, but it is short-sighted not to provide an opportunity to licence a much smaller address space at a reasonable cost.

    (For futher information, the prototype VID is 0x6666 and many known VID/PID pairs in http://www.linux-usb.org/usb.ids [linux-usb.org])

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