Category Archives: USB2-SWITCH2

The Windows RT and Surface USB Device Compatibility Story

[Updated 11/20/2012]

Microsoft’s official statement is “Windows RT uses class drivers and in-box drivers exclusively, departing from a common driver added scenario on the x64 or x86 architectures.” (see Microsoft policies). There is no DDK. Officially, installing drivers on Windows RT is not supported.

That said, it turns out there is at least oneWindows ARM driver that exists (probably built and extracted from a full Windows RT platform development kit), and as a user you can install those drivers on a normal, unmodified Microsoft Surface device at least.

Whether Microsoft will close this mechanism in the future is unclear.

But for now, these steps show how to install a driver on the Surface to get wired ethernet support for particular devices like ours.

Below is a more complete list of all the Plugable devices which can and can’t be made to work with the surface today. Most use the drivers already built into the RT, so none of the above is a concern — but Windows RT is “special” so check for compatibility before assuming a device will work!

What devices work out of the box with ARM-based Windows RT (without a 3rd party driver install)?

USB hubs, including

USB extension cables, including

USB storage devices, including

USB keyboards and mice, including

What needs a driver package, but don’t have one for ARM-based Windows RT devices

Anything with a USB graphics function, including

Quite a few other devices with driver installs required, such as

What needs a driver package and has one available for ARM-based Windows RT devices

Feel free to add additional information in the comments, if you discover anything new or find any errors.

Raspberry Pi and Plugable Devices

We recently received a Raspberry Pi at the Plugable offices and we have been using it to test how our various devices interact with it. The Raspberry Pi has 2 USB 2.0 Ports, and no USB 3.0 ports, so our testing was focused on USB 2.0 devices and a couple USB 3.0 storage devices.

All of these tests were carried out on a Raspberry Pi Model B using the latest version of Raspbian wheezy. Here’s a video of the full setup, followed by a bunch of detail about our tests:

Hubs

  • Plugable USB 2.0 7 Port Hub with 3A Power Adapter – No Issues
  • Plugable USB 2.0 4 Port Hub with 2.5A Power Adapter – No issues
  • Plugable USB 2.0 10 Port Hub with 2.5A Power Adapter – Causes the Raspberry Pi to reboot upon connection, because it supplements the 2.5A wall power with 500mA from the upstream port. This is too much for the Pi., but just at the moment it is plugged in. If you plug the 10 port hub in when the Pi is powered down, you can boot into the Pi and all will be well. But since there are better options (like the 7 port hub above), we don’t recommend our 10 port hub with the Pi.
  • USB2-2PORT – Causes the Raspberry Pi to reboot upon connection. This is simply because this is an unpowered hub. Only hubs with their own power adapter should be used with the Pi.
  • USB3-HUB7-81x – USB HID devices(Mice, Keyboards) are known not to work with this hub on the Raspberry Pi.
  • USB3-HUB81x4  - USB HID devices(Mice, Keyboards) are known not to work with this hub on the Raspberry Pi.
  • USB2-SWITCH2 – No issues

Other Devices

The common pattern with all devices is you must have one of the powered usb hubs above and connect the device through that. If you don’t, the Pi won’t be able to handle the power draw, and it will drop voltage and reset.

Ethernet:

Storage:

Plugable USB2-Micro-200X USB Microscope:

  • On a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian we have test our Microscope connected through a powered USB hub to work with GTK+ UVC Viewer by using the following terminal commands:

    “sudo apt-get install guvcview”
    “guvcview”

Let us know if there are any other Plugable products you’d like us to test, or if you have any questions at all – we’d be happy to help. Thanks for your support of Plugable products!

Where to Buy
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UPDATED: Plugable Products on Mac OS X 10.8 (aka Mountain Lion)

Listed below are our latest updates about how to make your Plugable products work on Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion with all the caveats shared by customers. If you read this post before and notice changes, it’s because we’ve revised our advice based on differences between our test results and what many customers were reporting. For now, in all cases we are recommending the solutions that have worked for everyone.

Any Plugable products not listed below have not yet been tested or have no Mac support (USB 3.0 graphics adapters, USB 3.0 docking station, Windows Easy Transfer cable).

Product
Type
Products
Tested
Drivers
Needed
Download Site/
Setup Notes
10/100 Ethernet Adapter USB2-E100 N Uninstall previously installed third-party ASIX AX88772 driver before upgrading 10.7 or 10.8, to use Apple’s built-in drivers.
Gigabit Ethernet Adapter USB2-E1000 Y Leave the Gigabit adapter unplugged. Go to network settings and delete any existing USB Gigabit Ethernet interfaces by highlighting and clicking the minus button.

Download and install drivers from:
plugable.com/products/usb2-e1000/drivers

After installation and reboot, plug in the adapter.

Go to network settings. If a new USB Gigabit interface hasn’t been created, then click the plus button, and add a new interface for the USB Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

Click the gear button, choose to set the service order, and drag the Gigabit Ethernet interface to the top of the list to make it your primary network connection. Approve the change to return to the main network settings screen.

Click Apply in network settings.

If the status in network settings goes green with a good IP address (not 169.x.x.x), the adapter is working properly.
USB 2.0 Graphics Adapters UGA-2K-A,UGA-165,
USB-VGA-165,
UGA-125
Y Uninstall any old DisplayLink drivers before upgrading from 10.7.x.After upgrade, download and install the production version of DisplayLink’s v1.8 driver (or later) for OS X at DisplayLink’s Mac driver page.

Note that the performance of USB graphics on Mac is not yet at the same level as Windows. And some customers have reported crashes and hangs after installing DisplayLink drivers on Mountain Lion. See DisplayLink’s Mac user forum for the latest details. There is a specific thread on possible causes of Kernel panics.

We are filing bugs with DisplayLink based on Plugable customer feedback. If your system is not performing properly once you have installed the latest DisplayLink drivers, please contact us at support@plugable.com for assistance.
USB 2.0 Universal Docking Stations UD-160-A, DC-125 See Notes Follow the instructions above for the 10/100 Ethernet adapter and the USB 2.0 graphics adapters.
Hard Drive Dock USB3-SATA-U3 N
Serial Adapter PL2303-DB9 Y http://plugable.com/drivers/prolific/ (Mac security settings must allow installation of executable files from anywhere)
Hubs, Switches, Extension Cables N 10.8 has a regression where USB Hard Drives attached to a Mac through a USB hub may report “drive wasn’t ejected properly” on return from sleep. We have customer reports of this issue in particular with USB 3.0 hubs like USB3-HUB4

Please feel free to comment here or e-mail us at support@plugable.com with your findings, questions, or problems. We’re here to help.

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Switcheroo! Cool Uses of a USB Switch

The best thing about interacting with customers–beyond the joy that comes from helping people solve problems–is learning the ways they’re using our products, especially when they come up with purposes beyond any we ever envisioned. Here are two examples of novel uses of the Plugable USB2-SWITCH2 USB 2.0 switch for one-button swapping of a USB device or hub.

Computer A Might Not Be A Computer
You might notice in the introduction that the USB2-SWITCH2′s title was shortened from its full name of “USB 2.0 switch for one-button swapping of a USB device or hub between two computers.” And that’s where the first story begins.

A customer wrote us with the following situation. He had a Cannon printer/scanner/copier that he had WiFi-enabled by connecting it to his Apple AirPort Extreme base station via a USB cable. Now he could print to the Cannon device from any computer on his WiFi network.

But if he wanted to scan with the Cannon, he needed to establish a direct USB connection between the Cannon and a computer. This meant unplugging the Cannon from the AirPort base station and connecting it to a computer–a cumbersome, inefficient process.

His solution:

  • Connect the Cannon printer/scanner/copier to the switch’s USB output port.
  • Connect the AirPort Extreme to USB input port A on the switch.
  • Connect a computer to USB input port B on the switch.
Diagram of an Apple AirPort Extreme and a PC sharing access to a printer/scanner via a Plugable USB2-SWITCH2.

Now when he needed to print, he could make sure that the switch gave the AirPort control over the USB connection to the Cannon. Any computer or tablet on the WiFi network capable of printing to the Cannon could send data there via the AirPort.

But when he needed to scan something, he could swap access to the computer plugged into the switch’s input port B to establish the necessary direct USB connection between that computer and the Cannon device. He didn’t even need to leave a computer permanently attached to port B. He could just leave the USB cable in port B and attach it to a computer as needed.

When we first released the switch, we wrote a blog post about how you could attach a hub to the switch’s output port and then provide access between two computers to multiple USB devices. We never considered that one of the devices on the input ports could be something like an AirPort that allowed multicomputer access to whatever device or hub was attached to the switch.

We salute the ingenuity of our engineering-focused customer who opened our eyes to this possibility and thank him for sharing his story.

Turning Off the USB Connection
Our second switch-master had a Bose speaker system that could be used with multiple types of playback devices.

His PC needed to connect to the Bose speakers via a USB cable.

A non-USB device could be connected to the speakers from its heaphone jack to a 3.5 millimeter input jack in the speakers via a male-to-male stereo cable.

The problem was that when the PC was plugged in to the speakers via USB, the customer had to unplug the stereo cable . The customer wanted to end this annoyance of continually fiddling with which cable was connected.  Plus, if you’ve ever had a cable that you use with a particular device, you  know how easy it is to lose that cable if you can’t just leave it attached where you use it.

It might seem odd that the USB2-SWITCH2 could have any benefit in this scenario. But here’s what our customer did.

  • Connect the Bose speakers into the switch’s output port.
  • Connect his computer into USB input port A on the switch.
  • Connect nothing into USB input port B on the switch.
Diagram of using the Plugable USB2-SWITCH2 to connect just one USB device to a speaker system

Now he could leave the USB and stereo cables connected plugged in simultaneously.

To play sound from his PC, all he had to do was use the computer on input port A. To playback sound over the stereo cable, he could swap the switch to input port B. With no device attached to input B, the Bose speakers acted as if there was no USB cable plugged in at all.  Therefore, the speakers played back the sound being transmitted through the stereo cable instead.

This customer transformed our switch for device sharing into an on-off switch for the Bose’s USB connection simply by recognizing that sometimes nothing is the best thing to plug into the switch’s port B.  Well done, sir.<

What’s Your Story?
The switch is one of the simplest devices Plugable manufactures, so to know that our customers are finding complicated new uses for it makes us wonder what’s being done with some of our more complex offerings. Feel free to share your usage stories below. We love to hear from you, and you might inspire the next great new idea for getting the most out of Plugable products.

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Plugable’s New USB 2.0 Switch for Sharing a Device or Hub Between Two Computers

Here’s a scenario our customers frequently describe: “I just got a new USB-based printer and want to share it between two computers. But the printer isn’t networkable. What should I do?”

The inexpensive solution: Plug the printer’s USB cable into the computer where you have something to print. Repeat as needed.

Picture of the USB2-SWITCH2 that provides one-touch switched access between two computers to a USB device or hubThe easier solution: Get the Plugable USB2-SWITCH2 for fast, one-touch switching of the printer–well, really any USB 1.1/2.0 device or hub–between two computers. One computer has access to the device at a time.

For anyone who’s been involved with information technology for a while, the practice of using a switch to share access between multiple computers and a device is not new. But the power of USB dramatically enhances the potential of what can be shared.

In the days before USB, you had to buy a specialized switch that was compatible with the connection cable used by the device to which you wanted to share access. For example, a keyboard-video-mouse switch–abbreviated as a KVM switch–provided switched access to just those three devices.

Visual representation of two computers connecting to a single device through a switch

A USB switch enables two computers to access a single USB device, like a printer.

Now with a USB-based switch, you can set up switched access between two computers to any USB 1.1/2.0 device–no specialized switch boxes necessary for each device. And if you connect the switch to a USB hub, you’ll have switched access to all the devices connected to the hub. This can offer a lot of flexibility.

Visual representation of switched access to multiple USB devices attached to a hub

Attach a USB hub to a USB switch to enable two computers to access all the devices connected to the hub.

Here’s an example from our lab of the way you can maximize the USB2-SWITCH2’s potential:

  • Connect a PC running Windows 7 and a Mac Mini running OS/X.
  • Attach a Plugable USB2-HUB-AG7 powered seven-port hub to the switch.
  • Plug the following devices into the hub:
    • A Plugable USB-VGA-165 display adapter (set to mirror the main display)
    • A Plugable USB2-E100 10/100 Ethernet adapter
    • A USB-based keyboard and mouse

With a single button press, you can switch access to a mouse, a keyboard, a display, and a network connection between two computers running different operating systems. And you’ll still have three ports in the hub to spare for a printer, scanner, external hard drive, webcam, or any of the multitude of USB-based devices that exist. Watch the video below to see our configuration in action.

The switch requires no drivers. Just connect it to any two computers with USB 1.1/2.0 ports via the included five-foot USB A/B cables, attach a device or hub, and that’s it. Be aware that the attached device might require drivers to use it with your computer’s operating system. The first time you switch access to the device, you may either be asked to install drivers if you haven’t already or receive an error if your computer’s operating system can’t recognize the device. If you switch to a hub connected to multiple devices, you may have to go through driver installs for all those devices.

Picture of USB2-SWITCH2, two included five-foot USB A/B cables, and product packaging

The USB2-SWITCH2 comes with two five-foot USB A/B cables.

The USB2-SWITCH2 is available at Amazon.com. We’d love to hear your stories about how you use this incredibly simple but highly effective device in your home or office. If you have any questions about its functionality or have trouble getting it set up, write us at support@plugable.com. We’re here to help.

 

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