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Input Devices Open Source Hardware

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

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?

  • 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 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 []). 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.

  • 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 TheCarp ( 96830 ) <> on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:46AM (#45200009) Homepage

    Just looking over this: [] 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 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 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.
  • 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 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 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 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)

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