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USB Implementers Forum Won't Play Nice With Open Hardware

timothy posted about a year ago | from the keeping-the-universal-out-of-universal dept.

Input Devices 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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Terrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199519)

Terrible

Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#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?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45199559)

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.....

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45199601)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199669)

Well, horrible or not, it's de facto standard. So what's your point?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#45200239)

Its not a "defacto standard".

What I want is a non SHITTY high speed serial interface.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#45200325)

Do you know what de facto means?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45199797)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199953)

if it can be done cheaply it's not horrible

How does the first (cheap) cancel out the second (horrible)?

You make no sense.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#45200229)

I don't see what's so horrible about it beyond the fact that it doesn't conform to your particular brand fetish of being associated with Apple.

It's cheap, ubiquitous, convenient, and good enough for all but the corner cases.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200277)

if it can be done cheaply it's not horrible

How does the first (cheap) cancel out the second (horrible)?

You make no sense.

It's cheap and it does work, it's horrible just for a small number of people doing low level stuff with it. Overall no so bad deal

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45199991)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (4, Interesting)

umafuckit (2980809) | about a year ago | (#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.

CAN THE VHS/BETA MYTH FUCKING DIE NOW (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:CAN THE VHS/BETA MYTH FUCKING DIE NOW (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about a year ago | (#45200387)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200101)

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.

Apple aren't the only ones pushing Thunderbolt as it's an Intel product. Look at any motherboard manufacturer and you'll probably find an expensive motherboard that comes equipped with Thunderbolt.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#45200271)

> Apple aren't the only ones pushing Thunderbolt as it's an Intel product. Look at any motherboard manufacturer and you'll probably find an expensive motherboard that comes equipped with Thunderbolt.

"find an expensive motherboard" versus "find any cheap motherboard".

Yes. Apple are the only ones "pushing" Thunderbolt.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200127)

You do realise that Sony invented VHS, but sold it to JVC(?) because they felt Betamax was superior. Furthermore, blu-ray came out a decade after DVDs, and both were led by that company you want to diss: Sony. The PS2 and PS3 were major factors in both formats being accepted into the home under the TV. You, sir, are a complete twat.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (2)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#45200247)

PS2 came out about 5 years after DVDs were introduced.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (4, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#45200133)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (3, Interesting)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year ago | (#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!

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#45200211)

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 settle down. Now that they're over prices are dropping rapidly and support is appearing in more devices.

Firewire's failure begat USB 2.0 (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Firewire's failure begat USB 2.0 (1)

mindbooger (650932) | about a year ago | (#45200217)

> 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.

Um, you mean some of you _aren't_ doing that? :-\

Re:Firewire's failure begat USB 2.0 (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#45200333)

Only the noobs that dont know better are using USB 2.0 for external storage. My external raid boxes are firewire 800 and esata. Anyone needing REAL speed and is not using the drive as occasional use for small files went straight to eSata or FW800

Re:Firewire's failure begat USB 2.0 (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#45200327)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Informative)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#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.........

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (4, Informative)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about a year ago | (#45199581)

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:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199627)

What if the not-for-profits went for USB-compatible rather than "compliant" or "certified", much like we had IBM-compatible in the past?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

guruevi (827432) | about a year ago | (#45199689)

If I'm not mistaken, you cannot buy or resell USB-based hardware if you're not certified. You can buy units like USB-Serial bridges and implement them but you can't solder a connector on yourself. It's basically buying a license to the patents of USB.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199763)

Depends, some microcontroller manufacturers are allowed to sublicense the certification to their customers.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (2)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45199983)

Compliance certification is different to VID/PID allocation. MCU manufacturers can and do sublicense their VID; how would they sublicence certification for a product they've never seen?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45200153)

Presumably the licence that gives them the right to sublicence includes an obligation to actually look at the products. Don't be mistaken, I'm not justifying what this group did, I'm pointing out that an alternative existed.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (2)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45200045)

The problem here is not compatibility or certification or compliance. The problem is identification.

When a USB device is connected to a host, the host asks for its VID and PID. On this basis, it decides what driver to load. There are other things that a host can ask to decide what to do - for instance, if it's an HID device then the device class is enough for the host to pick a driver (usually - people do some odd things with HID) - but for devices that require a driver specific to that device, VID and PID are how it's done.

Heading off on your own doesn't make this situation better. Once there are two devices out there that are even vaguely popular and have the same VID/PID combination, OSes can't decide what driver to load for them.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (2)

ssam (2723487) | about a year ago | (#45200221)

Collisions are a real problem. As an example, https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/devicekit-power/+bug/507247 [launchpad.net] Ubuntu recognises a whole bunch of things as a power meter, because they all use the same usb-serial chip, and so have the same IDs. Here they all use the same low level driver, but programs that try to talk to the device over that serial link have issues.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#45200351)

Most deivces can get away with reporting and acting as a high speed serial interface or other device that already exists. Just copy the VID and PID of an existing device and call it done.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199683)

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

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year ago | (#45199891)

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?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45199967)

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 are not going to last that long. So I doubt 0xF055 is a long- or even medium-term fix.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (3, Interesting)

Kell Bengal (711123) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200163)

the OSs could add special handling of that VID e.g. use more of the descriptor to choose the driver, all without stepping on or changing anything for the paid VIDs

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200165)

The trident logo doesn't require complicance or logo licensing - that is only for the ugly red and blue ones that look like a spade.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | about a year ago | (#45200135)

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

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#45199603)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199637)

Yeah, companies like to play this shit a lot to fuck over small guys and make a buck. Same shit with COLLADA, an "open" standard which praises itself on openness and how it's supremely open, just as open as the goatse guy. Of course, if you want to use the term "COLLADA" in your application, you have to pay up and get certified. My answer to that is "fuck you, fuck your trademark, I will do whatever I please like corn on peas". I suggest everyone else should do the same.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199673)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (4, Funny)

Amouth (879122) | about a year ago | (#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!

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199775)

Yeah John Carmack was furious, but what are you going to do?

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45199711)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199787)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (5, Informative)

nicksdjohnson (1625665) | about a year ago | (#45200281)

That is precisely what I was attempting to negotiate, and what inspired that response from USB-IF.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (4, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#45200009)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45200145)

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.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45200189)

and then use terminology such as "compatible with USB2.0 interfaces" to reduce consumer confusion.

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45200213)

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

Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200315)

There are two main issues here:
  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.
 

Duplicate VID/PIDs are going to be more common because the space is not infinite and, as best as I can tell, sold at random. There is no specific subsequence to identify a printer from a scanner from a controller from a storage drive. My (anecdotal) evidence is I have a Power-A xbox360 USB controller that uses the same identifier as some printer from a manufacturer I've never heard of. As such, I had a hell of a time getting the xboxdrv as well as the linux built-in joystick libraries to recognize the controller at all. Fortunately, as of roughly 6 months ago the repository sorted itself out. This is coming from a CS guy, so I was hacking away at libraries, the USB listing built into the OS, anything I could find to tweak the identifier to show what I was wanting to connect and how it should be treated.

  One potential fix is for this group to identify some subset of capabilities they care about and buy enough VIDs to handle it. For example, if they know they are going to have data storage, robot arm, some sort of transmitter/receiver, etc..., they buy a VID for each type of device. Then they can publish those ID's as needed.

The biggest problem the USB folks have with this, I think, is the resale part. I liken it to my buying a serial number for some software (Windows, Photoshop, etc...), then turning around and selling that serial number for my own gain, with no money back to the source. That I don't have a solution for.

Or missing the point entirely. (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45199539)

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.

Re:Or missing the point entirely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199599)

Yes you do. It's like DVD, you're paying for the use of the logo but no-one actually verifies compliance.

Re:Or missing the point entirely. (4, Informative)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45199611)

No. [usb.org]

Re:Or missing the point entirely. (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199659)

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.

Re:Or missing the point entirely. (3, Funny)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Or missing the point entirely. (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#45199879)

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.

She said her PID was clean (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199549)

But now I have a VID :(

Re:She said her PID was clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199809)

Her pelvic inflamatory disease was clean...? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?

Overreaction or conspiracy? (1)

disposable60 (735022) | about a year ago | (#45199561)

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

dark conspiracy against open hardware (0)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | about a year ago | (#45199587)

Once open source software is pervasive, where else are NSA back doors going to hide? The Hardware.

Re:dark conspiracy against open hardware (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#45199693)

Don't be ridiculous, the NSA control the backbone and one you have control of the backbone you don't NEED backdoors, all you need is a datacenter fast enough to process the data. Say someplace in Utah maybe?

As for TFA all the group does is let you use the little USB logo, who cares? How many people actually look for or even know WTF the little USB logo is? Not many. Just call it "USB compatible" and all it a day.

Re:dark conspiracy against open hardware (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45199819)

Um, except that as well as the logo you need to pick a VID/PID for your device. This is how operating systems tell which driver to connect to a USB device. So if you and someone else pick the same ones...

Re:dark conspiracy against open hardware (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#45199945)

Where they have always been hiding - in the hardware itself. It's pretty safe to say that there will never be open-source silicon, and there will probably never be DIY silicon fabbing at home.

The USB Implementers Forum (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#45199593)

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.

Re:The USB Implementers Forum (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199675)

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

Re:The USB Implementers Forum (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199681)

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

Re:The USB Implementers Forum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199777)

But their little games shouldn't be legally enforceable.

Re:The USB Implementers Forum (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199843)

Their "little games" are just the fact that, as the developers of the technology, they own it and they can sell it. Now, there's a whole debate about the ownership of designs and technologies here that entirely determines whether you agree with what the USB-IF does, but so long as they created the technology, in today's intellectual property environment, they can sell it as a product. And the way they sell it is, you don't get a vendor ID unless you're a customer.

Re:The USB Implementers Forum (1)

guruevi (827432) | about a year ago | (#45199719)

(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.

Re:The USB Implementers Forum (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199743)

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.

gatekeepers will keep the gate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199609)

Did you expect anything else ?

Sue them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199619)

Next up, don't raise funds for licencing, raise funds to sue their asses instead unless they can give a valid, legal reason not to.

Quite understandable (4, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Quite understandable (1)

nicksdjohnson (1625665) | about a year ago | (#45199803)

The issue at hand is obtaining VIDs and PIDs; certification is entirely independent of this. Obtaining a VID doesn't allow you to claim your device is compliant, or use the logo.

Re:Quite understandable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199833)

And what prevents such a vendor to make destructive hardware anyway that plugs into your USB without the magical "USB compliant' words on it ?

Re:Quite understandable (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199917)

USB-IF stops issuing PIDs for your products, so you can't make any more USB devices.

Re:Quite understandable (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45199947)

I am now informed this is incorrect.

Re:Quite understandable (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#45199897)

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.

Re:Quite understandable (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#45199899)

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.

easy to use != easy to build (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199729)

As an electrical engineer who loves his homebrew, I would not trust myself to roll my own USB compliant device. I could probably build something that wouldn't bring down the bus but a fully compliant device is a whole 'nother story.

We could always take the Palm Pre strategy and just spoof a USB address and behavior. It fooled iTunes. But even that changes if you are gonna sell stuff.

Re:easy to use != easy to build (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45199895)

You don't have to implement the USB device specification in discrete logic gates, you know. Chips such as the TI MSP430 series do the physical layer for you, just leaving you with the device-specific protocol to implement in software.

Re:easy to use != easy to build (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200053)

USB-supporting chips already have their own compliant implementation and VID, so it's a non-issue with USB-enabled micros or even simpler chips like the ones from FTDI.

Re:easy to use != easy to build (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#45200181)

This is not true. The MSP430, for instance, does not have its own PID, though TI offer to sublet their VID and assign you a PID. See this [ti.com] which says:

The use of TI's Vendor ID and an assigned Product ID can be shared with those who prefer not to obtain their own via the USB Implementer's Forum. This VID- sharing program is here to help your project get up and running as quickly as possible.

Re:easy to use != easy to build (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200265)

There are thousands of microcontrollers on the market that have USB peripherals built in. To "build something that wouldn't bring down the bus" means using a commercially available $3 microcontroller and copy/paste example software to run the USB engine, then putting your custom code on the other side of the gazintas and cumzatas of the demo software.

Clarifications (5, Insightful)

nicksdjohnson (1625665) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Clarifications (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about a year ago | (#45200107)

For those wondering about the original post, which contains a lot more information: Arachnid Labs: Usb-if: No VID for Open Source [arachnidlabs.com] .

Their argument is reasonably solid (VIDs are for a specific vendor, and if you sublicense the PIDs to somebody else, that makes the VID pointless - as it is, of course, but that's another discussion), and concerns raised in this discussion regarding e.g. microcontroller vendors doing this are addressed in the USB-IF Policy Regarding Vendor Identification Numbers (VIDs) [arachnidlabs.com]

Ultimately, hobby-level makers may indeed have to 'squat' F055 (shouldn't that be F054?) which may in return result in a backlash from certain operating system vendors in blocking these devices (by default) - but that shouldn't be a major barrier to actually doing this.

The only other 'reasonable' solution that I can think of right now would be to actually form a business, get a VID, and anybody who wants a PID would have to become part of that business. Tricky legal territory.

As an aside - the circuit patternstrading cards [arachnidlabs.com] are indeed awesome.

Transparency is the problem here (1)

punker (320575) | about a year ago | (#45199827)

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.

Wah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199865)

Another "open" group that has no money trying to get something for nothing. No, you cannot sublet your VID. It is assigned to your company. So of course these fools are breaking the rules; they knew they were going in (I assume they know how to read). Then they whine about how they are being stopped from breaking the rules. Good god! Guess what? Going open and free is HARD. It costs money besides just time and commitment.

USB Certified Experimental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199875)

Just make a new set of stickers, labels, etc which say "USB Certified Experimental" and let them use those.

If it's good enough for the FAA it should be good enough for USB.

Just love our new Internet Society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45199987)

Hey! You've spent lots of money developing something - WE WANT IT FOR FREE! What? You won't give it to us for free? You horrible monster...

Sigh.

They developed the technology behind the USB standard. They get to set the rules for its use. This is not some air-puffed patent (like wedge-shaped laptops or the 'look-n-feel' of an icon). This really is intellectual property that took effort to design. They have every right in the world to control how that technology is used and charge whatever they want to charge for it.

Our decision as consumers it whether to buy it or not.

Economics 101 folks. People have to make a living and in particular when real effort is expended on something, they have to show a profit for that effort.

Just make your own open spec. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200287)

Call it dip usb compliant no one gives a rats ass they just care it works.
I have been computing for neigh on to 35 years and have never siad is it this or that compliant standing in the line at fry electronics or the other stores that came before them.

Now have I heard from others or read an article about how good something is has talked me into trying it.

You can go around these butt munches with no ill effect.

Bad Fucking Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45200359)

TFA quotes that one sentence from the VTM Group lawyers. It needs to show more. Did they write more and TFA is deliberately concealing VTM Group's explanation since the facts might bias peoples' opinions? Or did the lawyers really write a letter containing only that one sentence (which would be interesting too)?

I'd actually like to know whether this is faceless reasonless stonewalling, or if maybe VTM Group had a justification (whether good or bad) for their request.

By concealing this, I think hackaday.com has shown poor editorial policy and Brian Benchoff is a basically dishonest and untrustworthy person. Of course, that's just my quick uninformed opinion, due to the nature of the story. But forming a quick uninformed opinions is the whole point of writing like that, isn't it, Mr. Benchoff?

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