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Apple Hardware Technology

Apple's Lightning-to-HDMI Dongle Secretly Packed With ARM, Airplay 392

New submitter joelville writes "After noticing artifacts and a 1600 × 900 image in the output from Apple's new Lightning Digital AV Adapter, the Panic Blog sawed it open and found an ARM chip inside. They suspect that video bypasses the cable entirely and instead uses Airplay to stream three inches to make up for the Lightning connector's shortcomings."
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Apple's Lightning-to-HDMI Dongle Secretly Packed With ARM, Airplay

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  • Re:Security? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:06PM (#43056123)

    Wouldnt it be easier to do it on the device itself?

  • Re:Wireless wire? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ghinckley68 ( 590599 ) <> on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:09PM (#43056137) Homepage

    Some one anlized the video its only 1600x900 not 1080P. That will probably come out later for you to buy.

    But yea basically they left the parts out o the newer iCrap and then charge you for more for capabilities the older stuff had.

  • Good engineering? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SpeZek ( 970136 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:12PM (#43056159) Journal

    Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

    How the mighty have fallen. Really, needing a computerized cable is just silly.

  • by SpeZek ( 970136 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:24PM (#43056213) Journal
    Thing is, MHL sends uncompressed 1080p over a cheap, standardized cable. Apple's standard, evidently, does not. And like you said, it's worse than the old docking cable in this regard. Regression is extra silly.
  • by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:28PM (#43056243)

    Thing is, MHL sends uncompressed 1080p over a cheap, standardized cable. Apple's standard, evidently, does not. And like you said, it's worse than the old docking cable in this regard. Regression is extra silly.

    Looking at most MHL cable prices from vendors, they're cheaper than Apple's adaptor, but not cheap.

    And as I mentioned, MHL drives up device prices because it requires additional circuitry in the device. Standardized cable you say? Try plugging an MHL cable into a Nexus 7. Won't work? That's because the chips required for MHL were too expensive and they were left off the Nexus 7.

    Shifting half the expense to the device and half the expense to the cable isn't cheaper, it's just moving costs.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by romiz ( 757548 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:34PM (#43056271)
    Don't get confused. The high-tech Intel interconnect once known as LightPeak is called Thunderbolt. Here, we are talking the proprietary, low-tech, USB-like symmetrical connector Apple uses on their recent iOS devices, whose name is on purpose confusing everyone with its better counterpart.

    And from what we see here, it's markedly worse than the alternatives Apple shunned, but that were based on standards (MHL, USB3), because those would have prevented Apple from imposing drastic licensing conditions on accessory manufacturers.
  • Nice speculation (Score:1, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:43PM (#43056323)

    Too bad there was basically nothing in the article demonstrating they'd attempted to test the hypothesis. They cut it open, found an SoC, and started speculating.

    Any of this is certainly testable.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:49PM (#43056365) Homepage Journal
    Someone looks under your car while you're driving, and notices the that while you do have axles and a transaxle, none of them are turning even though you're moving. The main engine runs a generator, the power is sent by wire to each wheel, which have their own electric motors. All the axles are just for .. ballast.
  • Re: Car analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, 2013 @06:15PM (#43056525)

    Airplay is a network streaming technology. The network can be wired or wireless.

  • Re:Wireless wire? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @06:17PM (#43056551)

    The new dock connector is superior in exactly two ways:
    1. Thinner.
    2. You can put it in either way up... because the device has additional electronics to detect which way around the cable is and adapt accordingly.

    The second of those is a triviality: It really doesn't matter hugely if you can put the connector in first time without looking. It saves the user only a few seconds at most. The first is the only reason for lightning. Consumer demand and Apple policy are towards thinner and thinner products, with Apple leading the charge: They introduced lightning for the same reason the Macbook Pro lost ethernet. The connector became the limitation on thinnness, so it had to go.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thepainguy ( 1436453 ) <> on Saturday March 02, 2013 @06:23PM (#43056597) Homepage
    It's like a car company offering a stabilized phonograph in your car, for your ultra-high fidelity analog listening pleasure, and then not being able to make the interface between the phonograph and the stereo work and bailing and having the phonograph input through an FM band transmitter that plays through the radio.
  • by nbahi15 ( 163501 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @06:44PM (#43056741) Homepage

    Fact: Apple has an ARM processor in the cable. It is fair to assume the video is processed by the chip in the cable.

    The rest of the facts in this case are just speculation:
    * Is design a 'limitation', or a design choice?
    * Is the 1600x900 output seen by Panic a Panic problem or an Apple one? Is it a bug or a limitation of the hardware? File a bug and find out
    * Is the connector providing Airplay over the 6cm cable? Pure speculation. Sounds plausible, even clever, but that is just a guess.

    It seems to me that there is certainly an interesting story in this adapter, but I don't think we know what that story is yet.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Saturday March 02, 2013 @06:51PM (#43056785) Homepage Journal

    10 seconds searching Amazon [] turned up an MHL cable for £3.50, extremely cheap. The Apple version [] is £37.

    Standardized cable you say? Try plugging an MHL cable into a Nexus 7. Won't work? That's because the chips required for MHL were too expensive and they were left off the Nexus 7.

    I'm not sure how that makes it non standard. Are you saying for something to be standardized every device must support it? That's crazy talk.

  • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @06:57PM (#43056809)

    I don't think you grasp the actual advantage to lightning. It has one HUGE advantage that no other cable would provide. It forces vendor lock-in while at the same time instanly obsoleting all previous Apple cables. It's a marketing dream! (nightmare for users, but since when has Apple ever cared about them?)

  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @07:14PM (#43056911)

    You're being extremelly disingenuous:

    1- MHL is cheap, there are plenty of $2 MHL cables. If you like paying for brands and stickers, that's your choice... they have nice ones with golden connectors and one-way flux optmizations, I'm told.

    1b- MHL is cheap, the cost to implement it is nowhere near whatever Apple are doing with their fake video cable.

    2- MHL is a standard. The fact that some chose not to have the feature does not change that. A bit like.. you know... you're PC not being an FM radio does not make FM radios un-standard...

    3- are you trying to imply that MHL is as expensive as having a failed proprietary interface + **active** components to fake a high-def video link, but that just the cost are split differently ? I can assure you that Apple's "solution" is several times more expensive both to implement in the device, and for the cable. And wayyyyy worse in terms of quality.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @07:16PM (#43056935)

    The Lightning connector appears not to have the signal integrity necessary to support the serial bit rate needed for 1080p video.

    There is no problem with data transfer rates across Lighting being any slower than the older cables, and I have never had an issue with 1080p content across USB2.0 (which has a lot of overhead).

    The number of pins has nothing to do with it.

    Which was one of my points. You can't just look at something and say "my, that doesn't have a lot of pins, the bandwidth must be terrible".

    Micro USB 2.0 connectors support 1080p video via MHI. I don't know why Apple were unable to match that relatively mature

    Wow, I don't get why Apple would drop an ancient technology used by very few people any more. No idea at all why they wouldn't support every standard back to bird-calls used by tribes in Africa.

    Apple did what they always do. Drop a technology a bit ahead of the point it's obvious the need for it is gone, and provide a legacy compatible bridge.

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Saturday March 02, 2013 @07:22PM (#43056975) Homepage Journal

    Sending video through Airplay is WAY easier than keeping cables around to hook up an iPad to a display

    As opposed to keeping cables around to hook up a $99 AirPlay receiver to a display?

    and having to know how to switch video inputs (still an unfathomable mystery to many)

    If it's unfathomable to switch inputs to the iPad, it's just as unfathomable to switch inputs to the Apple TV.

    I've fallen and am only outselling everyone else in the market by a huge margin!

    Do you want me to go dig up the story about Nexus tablets outselling the iPad? I will if you want.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quila ( 201335 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @07:29PM (#43057017)

    It's having a car designed to carry four people, but we fitted it out to carry six, the actual maximum it can carry at this time. But we wanted eight.

    And it's not sold as carrying eight either. Back to actuals, it's not sold as a Lightning to HDMI cable, but a Lightning to digital AV cable.

  • by ninetyninebottles ( 2174630 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @07:31PM (#43057031)

    If Apple are having the compress the high-rez signal to get it out or over the cable, then it's a step backward.

    Agreed. I did not mean to imply this was a good technology (either the port or the adaptor), just that conceptually putting a chip in the cable seems like an excellent idea.

  • by SplatMan_DK ( 1035528 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @07:52PM (#43057163) Homepage Journal

    The electronics involved have nothing to do with AirPlay, and this is not "news" in any way. Sorry to ruin excitement and conspiracy theories... :-)

    I am willing to bet serious money that all these chips do is decode whatever proprietary protocol Apple uses for transmitting video over the Lightning [] port to a standard HDCP [] protected HDMI [] signal. This is needed because the Lightning port has no other way of transmitting the video - and this has been clear from the day Apple revealed the Lightning port to the world. It is really just a high-speed 8-pin serial connector. Nothing else.

    In addition the chips probably try to introduce a classic vendor lock-in factor, making it hard for 3rd party vendors to provide similar cables and accessories for the Lightning port without paying royalties to Apple (read: legal tech-extortion).

    Also, the scaling-problems mentioned are without a doubt due to the screen-mirror scheme involved. If they streamed an actual 1080p video file directly, the result would likely be very different.

    The speculation in the article is so far from reality it almost hurts... They get points for taking it apart and all, but they could have reached the correct conclusion merely by reading up on the existing specs of the Lightning port (if they had bothered to add a bit of digital-video knowledge from Wikipedia that is).

    - Jesper

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:41PM (#43057467) Homepage

    Many German cars do, or rather did as the restriction is becoming less common. Similar to the situation with the Japanese manufacturers that agreed to artificially limit their engines' power, the larger German companies agreed together to limit their cars to 155mph. I don't know what the reasons behind this were, but it may have something to do with the tyres available at that time or general driver safety.

    With a 155mph limit, every carmaker can claim to sell the fastest car.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @10:03PM (#43057979)

    Next time you're driving behind me let me know by flashing your lights. When we take off at the traffic light going up the hill I'll put my foot on the clutch and then take a tea break while we count the number of horses powering my wheels while my foot isn't on the accelerator.

    Question, do you actually believe the garbage you wrote? Automatic gearboxes can be tuned for performance to shift at the ideal spot every time. Maybe not in your shitty sedan but there's a reason why many motorsports use automatic gearboxes.

  • "Based on a [December] survey of 2,400 consumer electronics stores in Japan, Google's Nexus 7 tablet had 44.4 percent of the market versus the iPad's 40.1 percent, according to Nikkei, Japan's largest business daily."[1]

    [1] Brooke Crothers. "Google Nexus 7 tops iPad in Japan: Is this a trend?" [] CNET, January 16, 2013.

    So how did I fail?

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evenmoreconfused ( 451154 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @11:17PM (#43058351)

    For me the difference is knowing what gear I will be in when I go around the next corner.

    I hate pressing the gas into a nice curve only to find a piss-poor response, followed by a laboured downshift and only some seconds later catching up to where I want to be. With a manual shift, I can put it where I want before it has to discover for itself that it's in the wrong gear. Also, it's way more fun.

    (Proud driver of a Mazda Miata for more than 15 years, not to mention a half-dozen other "fun but not high-performance" sports cars).

  • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @11:40PM (#43058423)

    Err, never? Simple, elegant design maybe, but engineering?

    Apple-style design requires a LOT of engineering.

    The first Macintosh, for example, has a fully modern GUI in 128kb of RAM. That's kb. Very few engineers today could get anything useful to run in an eighth of a meg, and even fewer could include an entire OS, a GUI, AND still have room for an application. They made some pretty major compromises to get it done, but they did it.

    More recently physical design has been more important for them. But that takes engineering, too. The Macbook Air doesn't look like it's been heavily engineered, but do you seriously think that a bunch of Art Majors figured out how to mass-produce a fully functional laptop that fits in a damn envelope with no engineering help?

    I'm not saying Apple should be known as an engineering company. It's not a company that lives and dies by technical specs. But Apple's designs just don't work without some damn good engineers. Their work is very hard to see, largely because Apple wants their products to look seamless, but that doesn't mean their work never happened.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:01AM (#43058523) Journal

    It's like having 1000hp hooked to an automatic transmission.

    Anyone generating serious horsepower is using an automatic transmission.
    The guys at Bugatti will sell you a 1,000* horsepower 7-speed manual transmission for $120,000.
    The guys at Hughes Performance will sell you a 3~4,000 horsepower 2 or 3 speed automatic transmission for $8,000.

    Really high horsepower cars don't even have transmissions, just a bunch of clutch plates that progressively engage until the tires are 1:1 with the engine.
    *The Bugatti has to electronically limit the horsepower at low speeds or it would destroy their manual transmission.

  • by tsj5j ( 1159013 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:08AM (#43058559)

    This is so extremely disappointing. The most informative post here describing exactly what's going on gets modded as Overrated. On the other hand, a whole SLEW of misinformation and "Apple hate" gets modded +5 Informative.

    Really, sometimes I feel that the majority of Slashdot's posters are high school students who haven't learnt the basics of research and verifying information before shooting off a comment.

    P.S. I'm neither pro nor anti Apple. I disagree with their consumer lock-ins but appreciate that they sparked off the smartphone revolution and development.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zyzko ( 6739 ) <kari.asikainen@gmail. c o m> on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:39AM (#43059027)

    Also, I can shift faster than an automated manual, and I'd bet most other experienced manual drivers can too.

    No you propably can't. Even the consumer-grade gearboxes now used in VAG cars have change-time measured in a few hundreds of milliseconds (worst case scenario when shifting to gear the transmission is not prepared for), the best case scenario being the Ferraris with gear change time measured in tens of milliseconds. So I call this bullshit, even if you are capable of superhuman speed gear changes, most experienced manual drivers are not. (I'm driving a manual, but that is because it is cheaper, if I had the money my car would have double-clutch automatic gearbox.)

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @05:24AM (#43059773)

    How quickly you change gear makes absolutely no difference to performance. *When* you change gear is crucial, and no automatic gearbox can solve that problem.

    So what you are saying, is that I can take 17 seconds to change a gear, but if I change it at just the right moment, ill lose no performance at all compared with somebody who changes gears in 1 second?

    Sir, I am in awe of your logic.

    You clearly dont drive a manual.

    I can accelerate into a corner, put the clutch in, slow and gear down as I turn and use heel to toe whilst releasing the clutch as I come out of the turn for better acceleration. Admittedly, I do this at roundabouts more often than I should.

    An Automatic gearbox has to wait until I start to accelerate to drop back down a gear. Automatic gearboxes are always reactionary, a good manual driver is proactive. There is no way, any current production auto can pre-empt what a driver is going to do. Maybe when we've invented enough AI but then again, if we have computers advanced enough to tell what a person will do with that regularity, a person will be sitting in the back sipping martini's whilst the car does all the work.

    When I drive auto's, especially "sports" automatic transmissions, they always gear up when I put my foot down, then when they realise I've put my foot down they drop a gear and jump 2000 RPM. Not smooth at all.

    What the GP should have said, is that when you drive a manual, you can be in gear before you need it, an Auto is always going to be in gear after you need it... then again if you drove a manual you'd know that (or be really, really crap at driving a manual, in either case my point stands).

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @11:52AM (#43061401) Homepage

    Dual Clutch Transmission in a BMW 135i here. Long time manual driver prior to getting this car, and in fact my last car before it (BMW 545i) I went all the way to North Carolina to buy because it had a stick instead of an auto.

    My car is really a truly clutchless manual that happens to have an automatic mode. When I start my car in the morning and shift it to "drive", the first thing I do is click the shifter into the gate to the left and then click up once. That puts the transmission in a pure manual mode that will hold a gear until you shift it. I could drive to work in first gear if I so desired and the transmission wouldn't upshift. Of course, I wouldn't be doing much good for my gas mileage either, but the point is that I could. There are paddles on the steering wheel, but I tend to use the shifter because it's natural for me to reach down there for gear changes anyway; I flip the shifter away from me to downshift, toward me to upshift. It's incredibly natural.

    As for performance driving, I can anticipate the curves and downshift appropriately every time, far faster than I ever could with a stick and clutch. Sure, it's sequential in the same sense that my motorbike is; I can't go from 6th gear to 3rd, I have to click through all the intervening gears. However, the incredibly fast shifts mean that I can get from 7th (my top gear) all the way to 3rd in about the same amount of time as it would've taken me with a stick. I lose nothing.

    And for those that say that shift times make no difference; I have dragged (on a track, thank you) two identical cars; one with the DCT and the other with a stick. We did two runs in our own cars and two in each others... the result was always that the DCT equipped car was a good 3/10 quicker consistently in the quarter. Part of that is final drive (the DCT has a different final drive that gets better acceleration at the cost of slightly worse gas mileage) but even calculating that in we figured the shift times were gaining 1/10 on the quarter. Not much, but still faster.

    Having said all this, have you driven the most recent 8 speed autos coming out? I have driven a BMW 535i with the 8 speed and was incredibly impressed by that thing. Yes, it's a torque-converter automatic but the technology has come a long way. Modern automatics really don't lose anything to a stick unless you happen to be a professional race driver. Of course, that would have to have been a professional race driver before 1992 because almost all race cars today use sequential manuals or dual clutch transmissoins... the days of rowing your own gears on the racetrack have been over for decades.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller