Subject: Editorial | February 27, 2019 - 11:53 AM | Sebastian Peak
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.
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."
Various USB-IF standards
DeepSpar is the big name in data recovery, making all sorts of data recovery hardware used by many of the big data recovery warehouses. They've recently ventured into getting their recovery hardware into the hands of smaller operations. A couple of years back, they launched the RapidSpar (reviewed here), which offered a nice little package that enabled smaller shops and small businesses to bring a fair chunk of their data recovery operations in-house. While these tools could also be used for data forensics, that's a 'different crowd' really. Forensic operations want to just be able to plug a drive into a write blocker and hit GO on their imaging software. Write blockers are hardware devices that prevent any write requests from ever reaching the storage device, which lets the forensic shop later prove to the court (if needed) that the evidence (source drive) has not been tampered with. Historically, write-blocking hardware has not implemented data recovery functionality, meaning that a drive that times out with read errors would do the same thing when connected via a write blocker. This equates to added headaches for the data forensics guys that are just trying to get their drives imaged and get on with their cases (digging through the image looking for evidence of system compromise, illegal activity, etc). A few hard drive errors throwing a big wrench into the drive imaging process should be a solvable problem, and DeepSpar has stepped in to take a crack at just that:
Enter the Guardonix. This simple little box sits inline, between the capture PC and the USB device (flash drive, HDD in a USB dock, etc). It naturally performs the typical write blocking functionality expected from the device, but it throws in a round of data recovery functionality as well. Let's look at the simple software interface to help explain further:
Connecting the device to the system the first time mounts a small volume containing software to get up and running. The app handles firmware and driver updates within its own interface, making things simple. DeepSpar recommends using the Asmedia USB3 controller on your system board for best possible compatibility, with the vendor driver installed (don't use the Microsoft InBox driver - download the USB 3 controller driver from your motherboard/laptop vendor). The same Asmedia controller recommendation applies to the use of a USB 3 dock connected to the Guardonix - Asmedia controllers best support the necessary device resets necessary for the data recovery tricks it is capable of.
Once up and running, there is a series of configuration and data recovery options available. Logging options are extensive and necessary for inclusion in forensic reports. The 'PRO' settings (added cost) enable greater control of read timeouts, allow file system mounting, and enable some cool tricks like the ability to fake write attempts instead of replying with 'write denied' errors.
Above is a typical setup showing the whole operation in action. I'm using a simple data recovery app instead of ($$$) dedicated forensic software, but the principles are the same.
Here's a look at the Guardonix output while pushing through a drive containing read errors. Note that once past the errors, we see full speed of the source drive (a 2.5" SATA HDD in this case). The configurable timeouts are 1.25 (short), 4 (medium), and 10 (long) seconds. If the drive fails to come back after each reset attempt, the Guardonix is able to repower the drive a few seconds later. The error handling is definitely robust. I was able to go as far as to remove and reinsert the drive from the dock during imaging, and it just picked right back up from where it left off. Here's the Guardonix demo video:
Pricing and conclusion:
The base Guardonix goes for $320 at the time of this writing, with the PRO add-on features tacking on another $470. This may seem steep, but compared to other write-blocking hardware I've seen in the past, it's about average, with the PRO add-on tacking on some data recovery options capabilities not normally possible with simpler write blockers. So long as you are ok with only USB and docked SATA connectivity, that $470 is actually a good deal compared to the pricier RapidSpar (but not nearly as feature-packed).
*edit* Prices adjusted slightly after publishing. Article updated to reflect current prices.
Overall this is good stuff from DeepSpar. I'm glad to see them venturing into the forensics space, as that arena could stand to benefit from less frustration during their imaging operations. I know it would have saved me a bunch of time and headaches back when I was dealing with data forensics!
Recently, we got the opportunity to take a look at an interesting video capture device from a company called Pengo. While we had never heard of this company before, the promises of 4K 60Hz video capture at the price of $150 were too compelling to pass up.
Also, the Pengo 4K is a UVC capture device, which means that it uses the standard Microsoft video drivers, meaning it will work with any application capable of seeing camera input from a webcam and requires no additional software/drivers. Pengo also claims support for Mac OS and Linux with this device, although you would have to find software that knows how to deal with UVC devices.
From a design perspective, the Pengo 4K is quite simple. The device itself is made from aluminum and about the size of a deck of playing cards.
In addition to video capture, you can also use the Pengo as an audio input/output device through the audio connectors on the front.
Taking a look at the back of the Pengo, we can see my one major gripe with the device. Instead of using a proper port like MicroUSB or USB-C, the device ships with a Type-A to Type-A cable, which is actually against the USB specifications and will make finding a replacement cable, or a cable longer than the included cable (about 1 foot) difficult.
In this case, we used OBS to record footage from the Xbox One X using the Pengo 4K. Here, we can see that the Xbox is, in fact, capable of outputting full 4K 60Hz content to this capture card.
However, if you do some further investigation, we found that while the Pengo capture device ingests 4K footage, it is only actually capable of recording at 1080p 60Hz, meaning that it internally downsamples the footage.
While this still makes sense to some degree, allowing you to keep your console or PC in 4K for your local display while gaming, it's disappointing to see the capture functionality limited to 1080p. To be fair, the recording limitations of the Pengo are hidden on the specifications page, but overall it seems disingenuous to market this device heavily as "4K".
For anyone looking for an inexpensive, easy to use capture device, I would still recommend taking a look at the Pengo 4K HDMI Grabber. However, if you are looking for true 4K capture, this is not the device for you.
|Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
|How product was obtained:||The product was on loan from Pengo for the purpose of this review.|
|What happens to the product after review:||The product remains the property of Pengo but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.|
|Company involvement:||Pengo had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.|
|PC Perspective Compensation:||Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Pengo for this review.|
|Advertising Disclosure:||Pengo has not purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.|
|Affiliate links:||This article contains affiliate links to online retailers. PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases through those links.|
|Consulting Disclosure:||Pengo is not a current client of Shrout Research.|
Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2018 - 10:32 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: usb 3.2, usb, synposys, FPGA
Synopsys has just published a video on YouTube where they connect two bonded lanes over a standard Type-C cable. This was accomplished with a host USB 3.2 controller embodied by an FPGA board. The device controller is the same hardware that was configured to be seen by the pair as a USB device.
In case you're wondering, the demo happens at around 1:48. Blink and it's over.
From a practical standpoint, USB 3.2 is still some time away, and a factor of 2 speed-up is not too large considering the amount of bandwidth that USB 3.1 already provides. That said, more bandwidth is always better, especially when you’re running in industrial or other professional workloads, and especially in places where Thunderbolt has marketshare.
Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2017 - 12:00 AM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
Subject: Storage | January 3, 2017 - 02:46 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: usb, Ultimate, Terabyte, ssd, kingston, GT, flash, drive, DataTraveler, CES 2017, CES, 2TB, 1TB
Kicking off the storage announcements at CES 2017, Kingston announced a 2TB thumb drive:
Ok, well it's a bit big for a thumb drive, but it is definitely a high capacity portable SSD with a narrower profile (width wise) than a Samsung T3, and is meant to be plugged directly into a USB port. Thickness may be an issue for some applications, but I assume they would include a short extension for those trying to plug into tighter spaces like at the rear of a PC case. The release was light on details, particularly performance, though I'd expect these to be able to do a few hundred MB/s on sequentials at a minimum. More should come out about this and other Kingston products later in the week.
*edit* Here's a couple of pics I snagged at one of the events here:
Full press blast after the break.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Western Digital launched their My Passport Wireless nearly two years ago. It was a nifty device that could back up or offload SD cards without the need for a laptop, making it ideal for photographers in the field. I came away from that review wondering just how much more you could pack into a device like that, and today I get to find out:
Not to be confused with the My Passport Pro (a TB-connected portable RAID storage device), the My Passport Wireless Pro is meant for on-the-go photographers who seek to back up their media while in the field but also lighten their backpacks. The concept is simple - have a small device capable of offloading (or backing up) SD cards without having to lug along your laptop and a portable hard drive to do so. Add in a wireless hotspot with WAN pass-through along with mobile apps to access the media and you can almost get away without bringing a laptop at all. Oh, and did I mention this one can also import photos and videos from your smartphone while charging it via USB?
- Capacity: 2TB and 3TB
- Battery: 6,400 mAH / 24WH
- UHS-I SD Card Reader
- USB 3.0 (upstream) port for data and charging
- USB 2.0 (downstream) port for importing and charging smartphones
- 802.11AC + N dual band (2.4 / 5 GHz) WiFi
- 2.4A Travel Charge Adapter (included)
- Plex Media Server capable
- Available 'My Cloud' mobile apps
No surprises here. 2.4W power adapter is included this time around, which is a nice touch.
Subject: Mobile | September 24, 2015 - 07:55 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: usb, snapdragon 820, Quick Charge 3.0, Quick Charge, qualcomm, mobile, battery charger
Qualcomm has announced Quick Charge 3.0, the latest iteration of their fast battery charging technology. The new version is said to not only further improve battery charging times, but also better maintain battery health and reduce temperatures.
One of the biggest issues with fast battery charging is the premature failure of the battery cells; something my first Nexus 6 (which was replaced due to a bad battery) can attest to. The new 3.0 standard adds "Battery Saver Technology" (BST) which constantly varies the current delivery rate based on what the battery can safely accept, thus preventing damage to the cells. This new version of Quick Charge also claims to offer lower temps while charging, which could be partly the result of this variable current delivery.
The other change comes from "Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage" (INOV), which can vary the voltage delivery anywhere from 3.6V to 20V in 200mV increments depending on the device's negotiated connection. INOV will allow Quick Charge 3.0 to charge a full 2x faster than the original Quick Charge 1.0 (it's 1.5x faster than QC 2.0), and 4x over standard USB charging as it provides up to 60W to compatible devices.
This new Quick Charge 3.0 technology will be available soon with devices featuring upcoming Qualcomm SoCs such as the Snapdragon 820.
Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2015 - 01:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: usb, DIY
Bask in the glory that is this hacked together 33 port USB charger, created in the Netherlands as a workaround to connet the charges to the three rounded prongs used in Schuko sockets common in Europe. This would of course work with NEMA plugs, just line the welding rods up appropriately and connect your USB chargers up to it. Keep in mind that they use 220-240V whereas we use 110-120V so your total workable amount of plugs will vary. If you are considering building your own version of this massive USB charger, you might want to seriously consider installing some sort of circuit breaker in addition to the non-conductive cowling unless you are a fan of dead devices and house fires. Check Hack a Day for other projects from this event and others around the world.
"The Hack42 hackerspace in Arnhem, The Netherlands had collected a large number of TP-Link 5V USB chargers – but all of them had the North American NEMA plug (flat, 2 pin) which wouldn’t fit the Schuko sockets prevalent in The Netherlands. [Simon “MacSimski” Claessen] decided to whip out his giant soldering iron and use it to solder two long pieces of welding filler metal rods to 33 of the chargers, effectively wiring them up in parallel."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Crypto experts slam government encryption backdoor demands @ The Inquirer
- We tried using Windows 10 for real work and ... oh, the HORRORS @ The Register
- Nokia purchase with massive layoffs ahead of Windows 10 @ The Inquirer
- Adobe, Windows, Flash KILLER! Adobe Flash, Windows zero-day vulns leak from Hacking Team raid @ The Register
- The sad song Samsung's sung: SEVENTH quarterly fail in a row @ The Register
- AMD vs. NVIDIA Price Comparison Table – July/2015 @ Hardware Secrets
Logitech Focuses in on Gaming
Logitech has been around seemingly forever. The Swiss based company is ubiquitous in the peripherals market, providing products ranging from keyboards and mice, to speakers and headsets. There is not much that the company does not offer when it comes to PC peripherals. Their 3 button mice back in the day were considered cutting edge that also happened to be semi-programmable. Since that time we have seen them go from ball mice, to optical mice, to the latest laser based products that offer a tremendous amount of precision.
Gaming has become one of the bigger movers for Logitech, and they have revamped their entire lineup as well as added a few new products to hopefully cash in on the popularity of modern gaming. To further address this market Logitech has designed and marketed a new batch of gaming headsets. These promise to be moderately priced, but high quality products that bear the Logitech name. We go from the very basic up to the top 7.1 wireless products. Originally these covered a pretty significant price range, but lately the discounts have been extremely deep. The lowest end gaming headset is at $40US while the 7.1 wireless model comes in around $90 US.
I am looking at two models today that span the lowest end to the 2nd highest. The first headset is the G230 analog set. The second is the G35 wired 7.1 USB with Dolby Headphone technology. I have never been a fan of wireless headphones, but the G35 should be a fairly good approximation of the performance of that part.
My goal is to look at these two wired units and see what Logitech can offer at these two very affordable price points.