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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 Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @08:54AM (#45199535)

    What does it imply not being certified as USB compliant?

    If you have USB and people use it and it works and reviewers use it and just say "it has USB"...

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

    • 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.....

      • I don't know much about USB 3, but USB 2 is technically horrible. And I would say that it only beat Firewire because it was the el cheapo standard that every Far Eastern PCB glue factory could afford to implement.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          if it can be done cheaply it's not horrible...

          but doing it right doesn't seem to be that cheap for a small run.

        • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:26AM (#45199821)

          Well that's often how standards work.

          Consider how VHS beat Beta (aside from the "having Porn" aspect). Consider how many of Sony's other proprietary formats failed to take off because a cheaper, "technically inferior" alternative exists. DAT, MiniDisc, "Sony Dynamic Digital Sound", ATRAC, HiFD... the world is uncompromising.

          Consider how Iomega beat the pants off of SyQuest (Zip drives vs EZ135), despite being slower, lower capacity, and prone to the media itself dying in a way that would actually destroy the drive (click of death [wikipedia.org]). How did they do this? By getting Gateway and Dell to pack in Zip drives on a ton of computers for about 5 years and then selling the media everywhere.

          And then Iomega tried for the Jaz drives, and competed with Castlewood's Orb drives, and both of them got smacked around by people going "hey you idiots, we can burn DVDs now."

          Consider how Blu-Ray has settled into the niche, high-end "I have a 800-inch TV and 13-point surround sound" video/audiophile nerd zone, while DVD still kicks its butt by being available to anyone who can scrape together $20 for a player, $20 for a tv of any sort (even an old CRT still works w/ it), and $5-10 a month for a Netflix subscription or some cheap movies from the local grocery store or walmart's bargain bin.

          Consider how the Atari 5200 couldn't manage to get buyers and was whomped by the Atari 2600. How the NES, woefully inferior to the Sega Genesis, nevertheless completely beat it in sales for two whole years before Nintendo finally got around to releasing the SNES (Genesis released 1989, SNES released 1991). How the supposedly "technically superior" PSP line have been a constant source of jokes and derision while Nintendo laughs their ass to the bank re-releasing old games on Gameboy/DS/3DS hardware that is, in terms of technical limitations, less powerful than an old Playstation and makes the games look more than a decade old.

          Look how hard Apple tried to push Firewire only to have nobody else want it. Look how hard they're now trying to push Thunderbolt, which they can only sell to people who by an Apple laptop or desktop machine. Thunderbolt is headed the way of Firewire, fast.

          It does you no good to be "technically superior" if you can't get your product into people's hands. History is littered with "technically superior" crap that nobody adopted.

          • History is littered with "technically superior" crap that nobody adopted.

            Mfh... n-- You take that back! My Dreamcast is Not CRAP! I'll show you crap!
            ...

            Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to change my HDDVDBVDs.

          • by umafuckit (2980809) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:50AM (#45200059)
            Nintendo's products are not a good example of technically inferior stuff doing better in the market place. They're games consoles and what Nintendo does is produce games that play well and that people love. Technical whizz-bang only gets you so far; if the games suck the sales will be slower.
          • 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.

            • You're just not telling the truth. I was there, and owned VHS, Super-VHS, Beta, and Super-Beta Machines. The Beta machines always had an image much closer to the original broadcast. The VHS machines lost all fine detail. The only time I saw them look the same was on a 13" Goldstar TV that made broadcast TV look as bad as VHS. VHS was only superior in recording time.
            • by sandoval88419 (765880) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:01PM (#45203543)

              Stop repeating this total bullshit fanboy crap.

              Yeah I agree with you, it's time VHS/Betamax fanboys stop this nonsense.

              It's 21th century now, there are more important wars to be discussed, ex. : Emacs vs. Vim :-)

          • by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:57AM (#45200133) Homepage Journal

            FWIW there's also the whole "Technically superior for you doesn't mean technically superior for me" stuff.

            - VHS vs Beta - Ability to record an entire movie (or two!) on one tape vs marginally (and questionable) better image quality.
            - Storage system (the Sony and IOMega formats you mention) - works anywhere devices vs good but not compelling advantages hampered by unavailability of readers. (And in Sony's case, often proprietary, crippled, software that damaged the utility of the supposed advantages in the first place.)
            - DVD/Netflix vs Blu-ray - wide range of low cost movies that work reliably on supported hardware vs marginally higher quality (in most cases) in exchange for unreliability, higher cost, and limited selection.

            I can probably go on with the other technologies. The one that I'm noticing going the same route as "VHS vs Beta" (ie insistent fanbois insisting the failed system is technically superior but ignoring reality) is LCD vs Plasma. The latter is a system of fragile televisions that have problems showing anything other than native aspect ratio content without risking problems for hours later. The former is a system of rock solid TVs where owners don't have to worry about the type of content they're viewing (4:3, 16:9, 21:9, paused video games, etc) whose color range was once poor but these days is about equal except in exceptional conditions. By any reasonable count, LCD is now a technically superior option for most people. But the videophile community doesn't want to hear that, and I guarantee you that in twenty years, LCD "winning" over Plasma despite "poorer quality" will continue to be pushed just as the VHS vs Beta thing is today.

          • by NJRoadfan (1254248) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:59AM (#45200151)

            Firewire died mostly because of Apple's high licensing costs and the fact they wouldn't let anyone use the "Firewire" name and that "Y" symbol. This resulted in weird things like Sony calling it "iLink" and everyone else resorting to using its IEEE standard number, which was just awkward. Dell labelled all their laptop firewire ports as simply "1394" as a result.

            Thunderbolt isn't going anywhere simply because of its high cost. Its an Intel backed standard, but nobody seems interested. Many non-Apple laptop models that had the port have already been discontinued.

            On the subject of dead Sony standards, you forgot Elcaset. Reel-to-reel quality in a cartridge format!

            • by omnichad (1198475)

              high licensing costs and the fact they wouldn't let anyone use the "Firewire" name and that "Y" symbol.

              25 cents per port (down from $1 originally). And I'm fairly certain that fee included use of the symbol if not the name. Sony called it "i.Link" to make it sound like their own thing. How many names have you seen for HDMI CEC? Anynet+, CE-Link, EZ-Sync, Bravia Theater Sync, SimpleLink. The idea is to make it look like buying only their brand gives you an advantage you can't get by mixing brands.

            • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @11:40AM (#45201375)

              slightly OT, but one great use of the firewire cable is inter-box i2c cabling.

              when I build hardware projects that run i2c between boxes, I use firewire pc connect tabs (like you'd see on the back of a pc, where the pci cards would be) but just without the tab and keeping the bulk-head style mount of the firewire jack and cabling. 2 of them, one on each box (for me, they are DIY audio boxes) and then a bog-standard I-dont-have-to-make-it-myself firewire cable to connect them. building cables and having a strong strain relief is hard for DIYers but using factory made cables is a huge benefit and cost-savings.

              FW has 2 shielded signals (I use them for i2c clock and i2c data) and then has 2 beefy power wires, which I use to ship 5v across boxes so that the 'remote' box doesn't even need a local 5v psu. at the highest i2c speed, this cable is robust enough and exceeds the i2c specs in terms of crosstalk between clock/data (they are both shielded coax) and you can get short or long FW cables.

              I've never seen anyone do this before but its a handy DIY trick. and even if you do plug this cable into a pc, by mistake, you still are using the 5v wire for 5v and gnd for gnd, so no harm should be done. it won't 'init', but no damage happens.

              (end diy-CSB)

          • by Enry (630)

            Consider how Blu-Ray has settled into the niche, high-end "I have a 800-inch TV and 13-point surround sound" video/audiophile nerd zone, while DVD still kicks its butt by being available to anyone who can scrape together $20 for a player, $20 for a tv of any sort (even an old CRT still works w/ it), and $5-10 a month for a Netflix subscription or some cheap movies from the local grocery store or walmart's bargain bin.

            BR isn't that much more expensive than DVD (which was also horribly overpriced at the time it came out, even though it was far superior to VHS). Players can be found in PS3 and soon to be XBOne, standalone players can be had for $20-$50, usually with lots of other bells and whistles like Netflix integration and wifi. I've been picking up BR discs for $15-$20, sometimes more than the equivalent DVD, but much better quality.

            Wide implementation was delayed while the consumers waited for the HD-DVD/BR wars to

          • by TeknoHog (164938)

            Consider how VHS beat Beta (aside from the "having Porn" aspect). Consider how many of Sony's other proprietary formats failed to take off because a cheaper, "technically inferior" alternative exists. DAT, MiniDisc, "Sony Dynamic Digital Sound", ATRAC, HiFD... the world is uncompromising.

            IMHO, DAT would have been technically very nice for its time, but it was hampered by the copyright mafia's insistence on copy management [wikipedia.org].

            Minidisc, likewise, would have been nice in many technical senses as a replacement for floppies for general data storage, though I guess its limitations were put in by Sony itself.

        • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:34AM (#45199883)

          USB2.0 didn't "beat" Firewire, because Firewire had already failed. USB2.0 was an attempt to plug the resulting gap in the market for a high-speed bus. If Firewire hadn't been an expensive pain in the ass, we'd be using USB for our keyboards and printers and Firewire for our portable drives as originally intended.

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            Expensive pain in the ass? as in REAL hardware processing using a chipset instead of spare IO pins on the chipset and let the processor waste time doing the job?

            Yeah... And explain why it was and still is the standard in pro video and audio? Oh it's because USB is crap for transferring huge amount of of data.

            USB 3.0 requires the "pain in the ass" that yu complain about as it requires a chipset to do the processing instead of being cheap crap that requires the processor to waste cycles on it.

      • 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 number17 (952777)
          The title should read "USB-IF asks company to stop reselling its product as per their agreement."
        • by dissy (172727)

          The USB-IF has long had a VID/PID process for hobbyists.

          *snip*

          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":

          Arguably claiming "A two thousand dollar fee for your unique VID" combined with "hobbyist" is pretty dishonest at best.
          The fact of the matter is, before Arachnid Labs requested a VID for this purpose the policy DID allow transfers and sub-allocations!

          Very few hobbyists have that type of money to purchase one VID nor has need of all 65535 PIDs contained within.
          I would also venture a guess that of the subset of hobbyists that can afford it, it is a smaller percentage wanting and willing.

          Worse, the usb

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        afaict being compliant and buying a VID ($5000) isn't even enough to use the logo, you also need become a member($4000) or logo licensee ($3500)

        I can understand that they need to get someone to pay for making the USB standard, but they could have provided something like a dummy VID so that
        you don't get conflicts from people just picking random numbers

        Seen it suggested else where that we should all just start using 0xF055 as VID

        • Seen it suggested else where that we should all just start using 0xF055 as VID

          Wouldn't that just make the conflict problem worse instead of better?

          • Not if you set up an unofficial registry of PIDs using that VID and all the open hardware people agree to play nice. I'm not really clear what USB-IF could do about this. Of course, if some open hardware thingy takes off in the marketplace and they also 'officially' allocate 0xF055 to some other company then there will be conflicts, and you can bet the complaints will come back to the big company and thence to USB-IF, not to the unofficial registry.

            Of course, PIDs are 16-bit, and I'm guessing 65,535 PIDs

            • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:52AM (#45200085)
              If the maker community gets behind it and settles on 0xF055, the odds of collisions is low. And, if the first 65k addresses are taken up, then like a flock of locusts they shall move on to the next identified 'abandoned' address. Either that, or USB-IF could learn to play nice and assign some 'open spectrum'... or just realise the gig is up. If enough product vendors decide collectively to ignore their assignation of numbers, they effectively lose power over their own empire.

              Also, the great thing about open source is that often times you can change things yourself if you do have problems.
            • Ah, brain fart. I conflated VID and PID for some reason, so in my head it turned into everyone using exactly the same identifier.

              I blame piss-weak coffee. Pay no attention to the putz behind the keyboard.

          • by joostje (126457)
            It looks like it's grummonds idea from this page [fourwalledcubicle.com]; as linking directly to the comment seems to fail, here's the text of the comment:

            Oh, and here’s an idle thought train – let’s take the negative rights idea a step further:-

            1) identify a VID that is yet uncommitted (I presume there is a list). Choose a number that has some vague recognition value, say 0xF055 (FOSS), but don’t call it a VID, it’s just the name of an online community.

            2) start (i.e. publicise) an online communit

      • So just say "uses an interface that is physically and electrically compatible to the USB standard".

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Replying to myself, in case someone else is interested, it's just about the logo:

      Start using the USB Logo Now! [usb.org]

      Download the USB-IF Trademark License Agreement and Usage Guidelines for the USB-IF Logo. The license agreement must be signed to access Logo artwork and obtain the right to use the Logo with products that pass USB-IF compliance testing.

      The agreement necessary for gaining access to the graphics approved for linking to the usb.org web site are also available.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      You pay a small fee per device to the consortium that created the standard, and in exchange your USB port is certified as not unleashing terrifying cyber-demons to everything that connects to it.

      • by Amouth (879122) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:16AM (#45199721)

        your USB port is certified as not unleashing terrifying cyber-demons to everything that connects to it.

        But what if that is it's advertized and intended purpose? IS there something saying i can't sell a device that unleashes terrifying cyber-demons?

        I see this as just plain discrimination. Won't someone think of all the cyber-demons sitting around looking for work? Please people let them work, in turn they will create more work for SysAdmins and therefor will be a job creator, please people think of the jobs!

    • 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 Sockatume (732728)

        Hardware vendors can negotiate a licence agreement that allows them to sublicence. It strikes me that maybe that's what Arachnid Labs should have tried to do, rather than taking the "forgiveness is easier than consent" approach.

      • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@carp a n e t . net> on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:46AM (#45200009) Homepage

        Just looking over this: http://www.linux-usb.org/usb.ids [linux-usb.org] first list I could find of Vendor IDs.

        Seems a simple solution. Name a new standard "CSB" or Compatible Serial Bus. It is identical to USB in every way, except reserves several sections of the VID range that are currently unused (there are many there is plenty of ID space) to be designated through this new body.

        Then tell them which ranges you chose and that they can go fuck themselves, as they will be screwing over any vendor they assign those VIDs to, knowing that somebody else is claiming them and they are likely to cause conflicts.

        Problem solved.

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:58AM (#45200145) Journal
          It has been proposed that, since some of the companies that had VIDs at one time are now defunct, and not even functioning as zombie brands anymore, that an 'unofficial registry' be set up to allocate PIDs from one or more of the VIDs whose owners are dead.

          It is 'playing chicken' with the USB-IF, since they could decide to sell the VID in the future; but the idea is that, if there are enough squatter PIDs, along with whatever devices the dead company released during its life, in the wild, anybody paying actual cash to buy a VID would tell the USB-IF to go to hell if they were offered a 'used' VID.

          I would hope that this absurd overreaction is just the legal/management assholes overreacting(the USB-IF is made up of technology companies; but their consortium's management and legal services are provided by an outside company that specializes in providing management and legal services to consortia, not in technology), and that the actual USB-IF stakeholders will see the wisdom of working with 'indie' device makers who are trying to work with them (rather than just wildcatting), especially now that hardware capable of implementing a USB slave device, with an arbitrary VID/PID prgrammed in, is so cheap.

          If they don't, though, I would certainly be inclined to take the 'find a dead VID and squat on it' approach. Probably won't get your drivers past the WHQL process; but if it makes the Linux kernel maintainers' jobs easier, that's better than nothing.
          • by robmv (855035)

            Can not be created a simple USB protocol that host devices use to identify it, ignoring the standard IDs? I believe mass storage devices are not identified by ids, so a new protocol called "Open Hardware Identification" can be tried when specific a USB ID is found, if successful, then identify it as the correct device, if not, use the Forum tables (if they decide to give somebody the specific ID open hardware settles). This at least can help with proper identification on FLOSS OSs that can implement this pr

        • Mmmm. Might be regarded rather as the nuclear option of USB identification.

    • In general it is about putting a sticker on your product.
      However, that sticker means you need to follow the rules, and not have a product which may harm yourself or your hardware. If you do they can then intern punish you for making a non-standard compliment product.

      Just recently we heard of people getting electrocuted on their mobile phones, due to 3rd party knockoff chargers. Which probably were not USB compliant, but fit in the USB slot. Lets say I took a USB port, and just wired it straight to the AC

  • You don't make hardware USB-compliant simply by having a PID&VID. And the process - as with most processes where numbers are assigned (consider, for example, the IANA) - doesn't admit subversion by buying up a block of numbers then re-selling.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It's like getting a driver's licence and then lending it to your friends and relatives so they can go for a drive. You're completely ignoring the whole point of certification, whether you agree with certification or not.

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:37AM (#45199929)

        Getting USB certification is like getting a pharmacist's license from a drug dealer. Perhaps it's improved somewhat (been a few years since I worked w/ it), but lots of stuff out there is/was certified but horribly non-compliant. Depending on what you were using it for, the biggest problem by far was getting your stuff to play nice w/ other stuff, even though your stuff is compliant, and the other "certified" stuff isn't. We used to have an entire lab setup just for testing that.

    • by pla (258480) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:33AM (#45199879) Journal
      You don't make hardware USB-compliant simply by having a PID&VID. And the process - as with most processes where numbers are assigned (consider, for example, the IANA) - doesn't admit subversion by buying up a block of numbers then re-selling.

      RTFA. It specifically mentions three licensed vendors (Microchip, FTDI, and Openmoko) that already do exactly that. So no, this has nothing to do with quality control, and everything to do with control control.

      Personally, though, I don't see the problem. VTM apparently thinks much too highly of their coveted IP, blinding them to the reality of their situation - They have "Xerox"ed themselves. Kleenex. Escalator. Genericization sucks, suckas!

      USB has become so ubiquitous, products using it don't need to advertise that fact - If something comes with a visible USB A or B connector on it, end users will just plug it in without giving a second thought about what logos the box had on it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    But now I have a VID :(

  • Why not both?
    Don't cabals typically react with all the violence they can feel they can get away with?

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @08:59AM (#45199593) Homepage

    So, The USB Implementers Forum is a cartel intended to make sure only approved corporations can play the game then?

    And, once again, corporations take over everything and the rest of us can eat cake. Color me totally un-surprised.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pretty much... $5k for a single-page fax that has a little fucking number on it... just went through this not too long back.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      They designed and invented USB. They didn't take it over, it was theirs to begin with.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      (i) are obligated to license on a royalty-free and non-discriminatory basis, certain IP that would be necessarily infringed by products compliant with the final USB 2.0 interface specification or its adopted supplements

      USB is a closed, patented de-facto standard.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        It's the de facto standard for computer connections, in that nowhere does it say that computers should or must use USB. The USB interface and hardware are explicitly standardised though.

        • It's the de facto standard for computer connections, in that nowhere does it say that computers should or must use USB.

          Mobile phones sold in certain parts of Europe must either use a USB micro-B charging port or be bundled with an adapter from USB micro-B to the charging port.

    • It's about protecting their source of income. If organizations start reselling PIDs it cuts into their revenue stream which is needed to conduct activities maintining the standards. It's easy to paint the implementers forum as the bad guy but at least they are open enough to provide all documentation for free unlike organizations like IEEE that keeps an iron grip on their standards.

      If you don't like their system then switch to something like ethernet where the licensing fees are baked into the price of a MA

  • Quite understandable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:13AM (#45199699)

    It's quite understandable. Since a badly built commercial or home device can destroy the USB port on a computer or even feed back enough energy to destroy other components, making the "USB compliant" certification freely available without some trace of contractual responsibility is dangerousl. We went through this with Microsoft and their "Java" labels on their box. It would be too easy for those "magically freed" vendors to make, and sell, incompatible or even destructive hardware.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I'd agree with you but for one reason. There are two kinds of buyers for electronic devices:
      A - Those who don't know better.
      B - Those who do.

      Group A could buy with no more information that the labels on the box but they wouldn't be able to differentiate between the "Official" USB Compliant label and a different but similar one.

      Group B could see the icon is not the official one, but they would probably know about a piece of hardware that destroys USB ports without needing the "Official" USB Compliant label.

    • by jrumney (197329)

      Having a USB VID and PID is not a "USB compliant" certification. Having a VID means you've paid some money to the USB-IF. Allocating a PID is done by the owner of the VID, not by any certifying body.

    • It's quite understandable. Since a badly built commercial or home device can destroy the USB port on a computer or even feed back enough energy to destroy other components...

      Yup...this happened to me. I bought a shoddily made media card reader that completely fried and destroyed my internal USB chipset, rendering all of the on-board USB ports useless....live & learn.

  • Clarifications (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nicksdjohnson (1625665) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:20AM (#45199755)
    To clarify: Issuing VIDs, and logo licensing & compliance testing are entirely distinct things. Every USB device must have a unique PID/VID combination, used to identify a device and load correct drivers. In order to produce your own device, you must have a VID of your own (in which case you manage PID allocation), or get a PID from someone else - a practice USB-IF frowns upon outside certain strictly defined circumstances. Obtaining a VID without USB-IF membership costs a one off fee of $5000. Having a VID doesn't entitle you to use the USB logo. Independent of getting a VID, you can become a USB-IF logo licensee or member ($3500, or $4000/year respectively) and certify your devices, whereupon they can bear the USB logo. The HaD post, and my original post that it's based upon, is entirely about the issue of obtaining VIDs and PIDs for hobbyists; certification is a separate matter.
  • These guys won't be able to pull it off now, but they could form a new corp with a new name, say they want to build usb connected gadgets, get their ID, *AND THEN* start sharing. It would probably help to get a device in the wild first so there isn't some sort of revocation issue.

  • Did anyone else misread the title as "USB Implanters ..." and think of http://xkcd.com/644/ [xkcd.com] ???

  • by dbc (135354) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @11:48AM (#45201469)

    The easiest way to blow this up is for the open hardware community to simply delcare, "Hey, USB-IF, we've decided we're going to sqat on this VID, namely , so be sure not to hand it out. We'll handle PID allocation under it.". The USB-IF is completely impotent to do anything about it. There are already numerous products that use randomly chosed VID/PID combinations that are *not* registered with USB-IF, and USB-IF does nothing about it. It is true that these products don't use the USB logo, no license fee paid, obviously, but also in part because they aren't USB devices in the traditional sense -- most of them simply used USB as a way to re-flash firmware or as debug ports, so consumers don't really buy the product for the USB functionality.

    IMHO, the best way to handle this, though, would be to simply squat on a VID *without* making a beligerant declaration to the USB-IF. After a dozen or so USB devices get popular, then USB-IF will have no recourse except to write off the VID as a dead loss and move on. After all, they've already had to do that with the VIDs used by the current squatters that we just never hear about.

    The only stick USB-IF can beat you with is the license needed to use the logo. If you don't care about the logo, then there is nothing, absolutely nothing at all, that keeps you from sqatting on a VID.

  • by rabtech (223758) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @12:30PM (#45202037) Homepage

    This may just be some crossed wires; the company tasked with handling the trademarks, legal papers, etc is just doing what they believe they are supposed to do: stop anyone from getting a Vendor ID, then subverting the normal USB process by sublicensing Product IDs. It is totally understandable that this would subvert the process and take control away from the USB-IF.

    USB-IF does offer some VID blocks for testing, hobbyist, etc purposes.

    They are also more than happy to sell you a VID block for $5000, even if you never bother to get a device certified or use the USB logo and trademarks.

    What they are not currently setup to do is offer a "small" block at a cheaper price to someone who wants to sell a product commercially, but one that has a very limited run. It seems like they could easily set aside one VID for this purpose, then "subnet" that into different PID blocks. Offer a set of 10 PIDs for $100 for small companies. Would that not solve the problem?

    You have to remember: USB-IF is not making money here; it is a non-profit itself. The fees go toward covering their costs.

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