USB superfriends ... Intel, Thunderbolt and the USB Promoters Group are here to save us from the USB-IF!

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2019 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: usb-if, usb 4, thunderbolt 3, open source, Intel

Intel has made good on their promise from 2017 to release the Thunderbolt specifications to the industry so that upcoming products can offer that connection without being tied to an Intel license and the possible limitations included therein.  Today Thunderbolt 3 was released to the USB Promoter Group, who promptly undid the insanity that the USB-IF released upon us last week by promptly announcing it will be the basis of USB 4.

Thanks to their lack of an obsession over stringing letters and numbers to the back of USB 3 we will end up with a certified standard that provides "two-lane operation using existing USB Type-C cables and up to 40 Gbps operation over 40 Gbps-certified cables" (pdf link).  It will maintain backwards compatibility with previous Thunderbolt generations as well as the various flavours of USB 2 and 3.  It may or may not be compatible with the new ones, such as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 ... indeed one might hope they refuse to accept such things into their specifications. 

Considering that the USB-IF and USB-PG are closely related, this new nomenclature will be the new standard and last weeks announcement just a memory.

Intel-Thunderbolt3-3.jpg

"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today’s simplest and most versatile port available to everyone. This, in combination with the integration of Thunderbolt 3 into upcoming Intel processors is a win-win for the industry and consumers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Intel

The State of USB: Renaming USB 3.x is a Confusing Mess for Consumers

Subject: Editorial | February 27, 2019 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: usb-if, USB Implementers Forum, USB 3.x, usb 3.2, usb 3.1, usb 3.0, usb, universal serial bus

There was a time when USB simply meant Universal Serial Bus, and we watched as devices that had previously relied on serial and parallel (etc.) ports moved to the new, more convenient standard; and in the enthusiast community we watched with some trepidation as PS/2 became a legacy option for keyboards in favor of USB. Since then we have seen tremendous increases in speed for this interface with huge strides from USB 2.0 and then USB 3.0, but in the recent past there has been a proliferation of different generations of the technology with their own speed ratings, a new connector, and a lot of confusion.

USB-types.png

Types of USB connectors (via conwire.com)

Now, in an apparent - yet misguided - effort to clarify the situation, the people making decisions about what to call these standards has released documentation for the re-naming of existing USB 3.x standards - which makes about as much sense as continuing to call the latest version of USB another three-point-anything, when we clearly should have moved on to USB 4.0 by now.

The organization calling the shots about the standard is called the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), described from their about page as "a non-profit corporation founded by the group of companies that developed the Universal Serial Bus specification" which was "formed to provide a support organization and forum for the advancement and adoption of Universal Serial Bus technology".

So what did the USB-IF come up with? Truth is, as they say, stranger than fiction:

The USB 3.2 specification absorbed all prior 3.x specifications. USB 3.2 identifies three transfer rates, USB 3.2 Gen 1 at 5Gbps, USB 3.2 Gen 2 at 10Gbps and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 at 20Gbps. It is important that vendors clearly communicate the performance signaling that a product delivers in the product’s packaging, advertising content, and any other marketing materials.

  • USB 3.2 Gen 1
    • Product capability: product signals at 5Gbps
    • Marketing name: SuperSpeed USB
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2
    • Product capability: product signals at 10Gbps
    • Marketing name: SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
    • Product capability: product signals at 20Gbps
    • Marketing name: SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps

If this was not crystal clear already, the USB-IF goes on to emphasize the importance of clarifying the performance potential separately from the protocols when advertising one of these standards, itself suggesting that they have failed to clarify anything with these changes:

"It is critical for manufacturers to distinguish between USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB 3.2 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 products. USB-IF also strongly urges manufacturers to identify the performance capabilities of a product separately from other protocols or physical characteristics in product names and marketing materials."

USB_Symbols_New.png

Various USB-IF standards

For your edification I have added the entire release after the break, which is also available at this link (PDF) from their website.

Source: USB-IF

#INCLUDE POWER IF-USB DRM !=NULL

Subject: General Tech | January 3, 2019 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: DRM, usb-c, usb-if

2019 is already shaping up to be an odd year as the USB Implementers Forum has proposed a way to utilize DRM for good!  Instead of focusing on preventing you from displaying media in inventive ways, they seek to use it to prevent dodgy USB-C cables from releasing the magic smoke from your favourite electronic devices.  They propose to include a bespoke 128-bit encryption key in the USB protocol which will only allow power to pass over a cable which can match a valid key, with the option to allow sysadmins to create their own to prevent non-approved USB devices to connect to secure systems.

The Inquirer does bring up one possible fly in the ointment, the proposed standard encompasses USB 3.0, USB 3.1, HDMI, DisplayLink and Thunderbolt; which may lead to some interesting repercussions.

1097948_10153082060670580_1617473620_n.jpg

"But the USB-IF working group, which represents manufacturers of products that offer the standard, aren't giving up, with plans to create an "Authentication Program" to ensure that only reliable products can be used."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

USB-IF Publishes USB 3.2 Specification Rated At 20 Gbps With Multi-Lane Operation

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2017 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.2, usb-if, USB 3 Type-C, type c, usb

The USB Implementers Forum recently published and made official the specifications for the USB 3.2 standard first introduced in near-final form by the USB 3.0 Promoters Group back in July. The USB 3.2 standard specifies the physical and logical techniques for transferring data over physical USB cables (which are now all specified under their own standards decoupled from the USB 3.2 data transfer specifications) at up to 20 Gbps (~2 GB/s) using two 10 Gbps channels and the same signaling and 128b/132b encoding used by USB 3.1.

usb3.1-3.jpg

Like Thunderbolt, USB 3.2 takes advantage of multiple lanes to achieve the total bandwidth rather than trying to clock and run a single channel at twice the speed which is incredibly complex. In the case of USB 3.2, the specification defines two channels that can run 2 x 5 Gbps or 2 x 10 Gbps depending on the cable used with USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) or USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) cables respectively. In fact, users will be able to re-use their existing USB Type C cables to connect USB 3.2 hosts to USB 3.2 devices so long as they are up to spec. The USB-IF is able to achieve this by using the extra wire pairs in the Type C cables to enable the two lane operation. (5 Gbs cables would be upgraded to 10 Gbps speeds and 10 Gbps cables would be upgraded to 20 Gbps speeds when used with 3.2 hardware at both ends.)

The specification is expected to be finalized by the end of the year with USB 3.2 controllers and other hardware to begin production and roll outs in 2018. Devices supporting the faster USB 3.2 standard are expected as soon as 2019. Desktop users should get access first in the form of PCI-E add-on cards with new USB 3.2 controllers from third parties with native CPU and chipset support from AMD and Intel following in a generation or two (processor generation that is). Laptop and mobile users will have to wait until at least 2019 if not later for the faster standard to come standard.

It is interesting that they have decoupled the USB data transfer standard from the physical cable standards. It seems that USB Type C cables are the star of the show, but that cables like Type A and Micro cables are not going away and could be used with USB 3.2 with the caveat that you would need to buy new USB 3.2 cables which should be backwards compatible with older USB standards but current cables (SuperSpeed Type C cables being the exception) aren't forwards compatible--they might work but will support the higher speeds. At least that is my understanding of it. I am curious if Type C will be more prevalent with USB 3.2 or if we will still see motherboards with a single USB Type C nestled among many more Type A ports. I suppose the number of Type C vs Type A ports will all depend on how many new devices adopt Type C as the USB 3.2 physical interface of choice though, something we will just have to wait and see on! It is nice to see some competition for Thunderbolt though even at 20 Gbps USB 3.2 still lags behind the 40 Gbps of Thunderbolt 3 (20 Gbps with passive copper cables) which Intel is allegedly planning to make royalty free next year. USB 3.2 also has more overhead and is less ideal for things like external graphics. On the other hand, it may just be the cheap enough and fast enough connector that will get the design wins while Thunderbolt continues to be more of a prosumer and professional interface for the higher end and expensive motherboards, PCs, and end devices.

If you are interested in the new 20 Gbps USB 3.2 specifications, the USB-IF has provided a 103 MB zip file with several documents including a 548 page PDF of the new standard and a redline comparison between it and USB 3.1 among other related documents for developers.

Source: USB-IF