Category Archives: Using

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Plugable Launches Small, Durable USB to Audio Adapter for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook Systems

The new Plugable USB Audio Adapter is a compact, effortless solution for adding an external audio interface to nearly any computer or tablet. The adapter has separate standard 3.5mm receptacles for stereo headphones and microphones. It lets you easily USB enable your favorite analog headset or headphones, so you don’t need to compromise to get USB connectivity back to your PC.

This can be used to bypass or replace a faulty sound card or audio port. It can be left connected to a USB hub or docking station to add convenient, easy-to-reach audio jacks — saving stress on the audio ports on your computer. The adapter body is lightweight and durable with its black anodized metal body.

The adapter is compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Chromebook systems with a free full-sized USB port. No drivers are necessary as the adapter’s C-Media CM108 chip exposes the standard and widely supported USB Audio class.

Just plug in the adapter, select it as your default output and input device for instant audio playback. Note that most operating systems support multiple audio outputs, but only allow a single one to be enabled at a time. So this manual step of selecting the right audio output from the operating system’s built-in audio control panel is essential.

This audio adapter really shines with custom Linux development boards like the Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone Black, and other unique scenarios such as a “Hackintosh” setup where the on-board audio devices don’t have Mac drivers.

Any questions? Feel free to comment below or email us at support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help.

Thanks for going out of your way for our broad line of Plugable products!

Plugable USB Audio Adapter with 3.5mm Speaker/Headphone and Microphone Jacks (Black Aluminum; C-Medi... Product Details
$7.95
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Plugable’s new USB “On The Go” MicroSD reader

A compact solution to access MicroSD cards from both standard and micro ports. Plugable’s new USB2-OTGTF is designed to make life easier for digital denizens by enabling access to a MicroSD card from as many devices as possible.

Just insert your microSD card as shown here, and connect to an available USB 2.0 “A” or “MicroB” port.
sdinsert_animated

Many, if not most, portable devices today support inserting a MicroSDHC (up to 32GB) card directly, via the OTGTF’s USB 2.0 A, or USB 2.0 “Micro B” connectors.

The USB-OTGTF’s compact design and flexible make it a great solution if you’ve ever:

  • Been frustrated waiting for a long sync to your device to complete
  • Wanted a way to take more of your media collection with you
  • Struggled with how to get a photo, long complex password, or some other data from one device to another.

3-plugged to phone
If you have an Android device without a MicroSD slot but need a way to increase your device’s storage capacity, check our post on OTG Host and USB mass storage support for Android. Regardless of OS, up to 32GB additional storage is available using this adapter — MicroSDXC cards above 32 GB are *not* supported.

We’ve even made the packaging easy to open — no blister pack or knife here — just pop open the corner of the plastic, like a tupperware, as shown below:
package_animated

“Many devices today…” So what doesn’t work?

Customers are often surprised when they find a USB port on their device won’t work with a certain device– especially so when the device is a simple flash drive or card reader. Apple’s popular iOS, and any iPads, iPhones, or iPods simply don’t support USB storage devices, and simply won’t work with this adapter.

Android device support will be hit-or-miss on devices running Android 4.x.x. Older Android 2.x and 3.x devices are unlikely to support USB mass storage, although a few devices may work. This is because not every Android device supports the two USB standard device classes needed:

  1. Support for USB “OTG” host mode
  2. Support for USB Mass Storage class devices

Each Android device maker gets to customize the exact version of Android they distribute, so some devices will have support for accessing data on USB storage devices, and others will not. Some manufacturers have chosen not to support USB storage. When that happens, there are a few options for adding this support via applications, or, for very advanced or adventurous users, to install a version of android that does support USB storage on their device.

The good news is that many popular Android devices do support USB storage devices. When a device fully supports USB mass storage, it will pop up a notification when a storage device is attached– typically noting the “mount point” where you can navigate using your file manager of choice. If your device doesn’t “just work” with a USB storage device, read our post on adding USB OTG and MicroSD support to Android devices.

“Just Works” with all Windows devices

And, of course, if you have a Windows Tablet with either a standard “A” or “Micro-B” OTG port (like the Dell Venue 8 Pro), you know it will always work as support for USB storage devices is built into all versions of Windows (since XP).

Where to Buy

Plugable USB MicroSD Card Reader for Phone, Laptop, and Tablet Computers (Built-in Type A USB and Mi... Product Details
$7.95

Have any questions at all? Please feel free to comment below. We’re happy to help!

USB Graphics Support on Mac Gets A Double Boost

USB is the easiest way to connect one or more extra monitors to a computer, but drivers are required to make it all work.

Two events this week have made attaching multiple monitors to Mac OS X systems better:

  1. On Thursday March 14th, Apple released OS X 10.8.3, which fixed some key bugs in Mac OS X support for multiple displays. Fixes include avoiding potentially show-stopping login screen issues. Some smaller Apple bugs remain, including that drag/drop may get hung at times. A sleep/wake cycle kicks OS X out of that state. Also, as of 10.8.3 OS X doesn’t yet support USB 3.0 audio devices. So USB 3.0 docks and HDMI adapters won’t have any audio function (via USB 3.0; connecting via USB 2.0 will work).
  2. Today, March 22nd, DisplayLink has promoted their V 2.0 driver series out of beta. For the first time, DisplayLink’s driver for Mac OS X now has support for USB 3.0-generation DisplayLink devices, like the Plugable UD-3000 Universal Laptop Docking station, and Plugable USB3-HDMI-DVI Graphics Adapter. The DisplayLink drivers still do not support OpenGL applications on the USB-attached screen, but for normal web and business application use, they’re great for enabling multiple monitors and projectors on a Mac.

We’ve been testing these new releases on our Macs here, and while things aren’t perfect, these are huge steps forward, — we are really excited about the improvements.

DisplayLink’s latest Mac OS X drivers are available here.

If you have any questions, feel free to post here and we’ll be happy to help. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

DisplayLink Windows 7 Compatibility Issues with Basic Mode and Chrome

Two important Windows 7 compatibility notices, for users of DisplayLink devices:

1) A Windows update deployed by Microsoft on 2/27/2013 is leaving Windows systems in Basic mode, which then causes problems with older DisplayLink drivers prior to 6.3 M1, including the very common 5.6 M1 version. The particular update causing the breakage appears to be a Microsoft change to DirectX. When first released on the 27th, Microsoft had it as a “recommended” update so it was pushed out widely. Microsoft has now switched it to be an “optional” update. You can read discussion of the affects of the update here.

This problem is Windows 7 specific.

There are a couple options for solutions:
1) Install the latest DisplayLink drivers (currently 7.1 M1). You can download the latest DisplayLink drivers here.
2) Uninstalling the offending update individually. Here’s how.
3) Doing a system restore to 2/26/2013 or prior will solve the issue.

A separate problem, but one that appeared around the same time, is Google Chrome tabs hanging on load.

On Feb 22nd, Google Chrome updated to version 25.0.1364.97m. This version conflicts with any installed DisplayLink version 7.x drivers and higher, on Windows Vista and up. Google is working to fix this in a Chrome update, but until then you can work around the issue by passing the –disable-gpu flag to chrome. To do this, type “chrome” in the Windows start search box, but don’t hit enter. Then right click on “Google Chrome” and select properties. Enter the –disable-gpu parameter as the last part of the “Target” string (note that’s two dashes before the word disable!). Here’s what it looks like:

chrome-disable-gpu

Please let us know if any problems persist after these new Microsoft and Google updates. Feel free to comment below. We’ll help however we can. Thanks!

DisplayLink Releases New Windows Driver Version 7.1 M1

Today DisplayLink released their new Windows Driver Version 7.1 M1 (7.1.45135.0). We’re excited to have this new driver out, as it fixes a number of last issues that let us recommend the latest 7.X drivers over the earlier 5.X and 6.X series drivers, on all versions of Windows. All of Plugable’s current and past USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices with a USB graphics function will work with this new driver.

Download the latest version of DisplayLink driver here.

This release has fixes for these issues which have affected a significant number of our users:

  • DisplayLink driver versions starting with 7.0 could cause Flash to hang up and crash when running Chrome browser. Those problems are reported fixed in 7.1 M1
  • nVidia GPUs with drivers dated Oct, 2012 or later would experience flashing screens and crashes. These problems are reported fixed in 7.1 M1 for some users, but not yet all
  • Windows 8 Metro applications running on USB displays could come up with Window unpainted (Blue or black). Reported fixed in 7.1 M1

A number of significant issues on Windows remain:

  • Windows 8 Metro apps playing protected video content will not play while the DisplayLink driver is installed (will show message in Window to upgrade graphics drivers). This is a difficult issue to solve because Microsoft has tightened DRM policies in Windows 8, and expect it may remain for some time.
  • Some driver conflicts apparently remain between nVidia drivers from October 2012 and later, and DisplayLink. The new 7.1 M1 driver solves some of these issues, but not all. We’ve also seen examples where the very latest nVidia pre-release drivers resolve this issue. We’ll keep tracking this, and appreciate your problem reports and feedback.

In detail, DisplayLink lists these issues fixed in 7.1M1

  • Microphone is shown as ‘Not plugged in’ after replugging DisplayLink device. (14345, 14431, 14463)
  • In some cases uninstallation of DisplayLink Core Software doesn’t uninstall everything properly. (14617)
  • UDP streaming using DisplayLink ethernet device is unreliable. (14678)
  • Sometimes VGA monitor attached to already connected DisplayLink device is not recognized correctly. (14699)
  • Sometimes screens remain blank after DisplayLink monitors are resumed from suspend mode. (14703, 14743, 13669)
  • Some video players showing content only on half of the screen. (14790)
  • On some systems with nVidia GPU Desktop Window Manager is crashing causing Windows to drop to Basic Mode. (14942)
  • Some Metro apps on Windows8 show a blank blue screen. (14955)
  • Sometimes Chrome web browser is responding very slowly and Flash plug-in crashes. (15014)
  • Sometimes DisplayLink monitor shows white noise instead of content when changing mode to clone while playing video. (15030)

We welcome any experiences or questions below. If you have a Plugable product and have any problems at all, just email your Amazon order # to support@plugable.com and we’ll be happy to help. Thanks!

nVidia drivers Oct 2012 and Later vs. DisplayLink Dec 2012 and Earlier

We’re seeing a number of reports that nVidia’s drivers for certain chipsets dated October 2012 and later have problems in the presence of DisplayLink drivers.

When things like this have happened in the past, DisplayLink has released updates which “catch up” to nVidia’s newer drivers. Unfortunately, as of the current DisplayLink release (7.1 M0 just released Dec 2012), the current issues are improved, but not yet fully resolved.

Problem reports are mostly from Windows 8 users, which are getting automatically updated to these newest nVidia drivers — but it may be a harbinger for Windows 7 users who will be getting the same updates later.

If you’re a DisplayLink USB graphics user in this situation, if possible we recommend staying on nVidia drivers older than October 2012 (or rolling back to any earlier version) until there’s a known fix from DisplayLink (likely) or nVidia (unlikely).

Note this does not affect Windows Multipoint Server 2012, which is the first Windows version that has an explicit driver model for USB graphics (USB zero client terminals specifically), that keeps drivers from conflicting with each other and avoids these kinds of troubles completely.

We don’t ever want customers stuck, so email us anytime at support@plugable.com — we’ll do whatever we can to help. Our apologies and thanks for your patience!

Plugable UD-3000 Firmware Upgrade (for Windows 8)

Update 12/24/2012 – All Plugable UD-3000 Universal Laptop Docking Stations purchased from Amazon after Dec 24, 2012 already have the update mentioned in this article. If you purchased after that date, please skip this article. Email support@plugable.com anytime if you’re having trouble with any Plugable product. Thanks!

A nice thing about the Plugable UD-3000 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station is all the internal firmware is upgradable, so you can keep the unit up to date as USB 3.0 and other support evolves.

Background

That’s critical for things like Windows 8, which has tighter requirements and assumes having the latest firmware and drivers up and down the USB 3.0 stack of hardware and software for best results. If possible, you’ll want to upgrade several components to make sure you have the latest: motherboard BIOS, USB host controller firmware, chipset drivers, xhci host controller and root hub drivers, and device firmware, and device drivers for all your USB 3.0 devices.

Here we’re talking about one part of that: updating the Plugable UD-3000 firmware.

The two main chips in the UD-3000 dock are from DisplayLink (graphics, audio, and network) and VIA (USB 3.0 hub). The DisplayLink part is the only one that needs a 3rd party software driver to be installed, and the DisplayLink firmware is nice in that it gets upgraded automatically when you install a new DisplayLink Windows driver version. So we don’t need to worry about that.

The USB 3.0 hub firmware is upgraded separately, however — and it’s a requirement for Windows 8, or else Windows 8 can end up in an error state (code 43 on the xhci root hub) where all USB 3.0 ports are disabled until reboot (USB 2.0 ports are fine). Here’s what you need to upgrade the UD-3000 to firmware version 9.82 or higher for better Windows 8 compatibility.

Requirements

To update the firmware, the UD-3000 needs to be connected to a working USB 3.0 port of a Windows machine.

This gets difficult if you’re running Windows 8 and are having the problem above (if the UD-3000 isn’t being seen by Windows). The firmware update utility won’t even be able to talk to the device.

The best workaround is to get a Windows 7, Vista, or XP machine with USB 3.0 support – you’ll be able to flash the firmware with that, enabling it to work with windows 8.

Another workaround if you have an Intel USB 3.0 host controller is to replace the Microsoft-provided Windows 8 USB stack with Intel’s, which solves the issues. You can then flash the UD-3000 firmware and go back to the Microsoft stack if you like.

If these options won’t work for you, just email your Amazon order number to support@plugable.com and we’ll find another option to get you up and running.

Checking your current version

All UD-3000 units purchased on Amazon.com after Dec 19, 2012 will have this update already applied. If you purchased at an earlier time or are unsure, you can easily check its firmware version.

Start by downloading the Plugable UD-3000 firmware utility here:

http://plugable.s3.amazonaws.com/bin/UD-3000/Plugable_UD_3000_VL811_FW0983_20121213.exe

Open and run the installer. Note this utility is for updating VIA hubs in general, but the firmware bundled in the download link above is specific to the UD-3000.

The firmware utility must be installed first. You can take the defaults on all the pages of the install wizard. Once installed, the firmware utility should run automatically. To run it manually, you can find it in your programs as the “USB 3 Hub Firmware Upgrade Tool” (usb3hubfwupgrade.exe).

The tool will warn that you need to have the hub (the UD-3000) plugged into a USB 3.0 port (won’t work on USB 2.0). Note that if Windows sees the hub on Windows 8, the update can be done there too. Make sure you remove any other VIA USB 3.0 hubs, other than the UD-3000 itself.

Once started, you should see your device found. If not, make sure power to the UD-3000 is on (blue LED on front is on) and that you’re on a USB 3.0 port. Click “Scan Devices” after any change to look again for the UD-3000. If you still don’t see it, there may be a USB 3.0 problem — email us at support@plugable.com.

The firmware version shown above (V9.22) is an example of one that should be updated for Windows 8 compatibility. If you’re already on version V9.82 or above (the version in our update), skip the steps below and if you’re still having any problems, just email support@plugable.com and we’ll figure it out.

Updating the firmware

Click the “Start Upgrade” and you’ll quickly get the upgrade message

Remove the power plug to the UD-3000, then plug back in and “Scan Devices”. You should now see that the firmware version has been updated.

That’s it! The Plugable UD-3000 is now on the latest firmware and can have a much happier coexistence with Windows 8.

If any problems come up during or after this process, we’ll get you through it. Just email your Amazon order # to support@plugable.com .

We’d also love to hear about your experiences (good and bad), as they help us improve these steps. Please comment below. Thank you!

Windows RT (Surface) USB Ethernet Driver Going Away 12/23

The driver that enables certain USB Ethernet adapters like the Plugable USB2-E100 to work with new Windows RT devices like the Microsoft Surface has been pulled from the chipset manufacturer’s site (ASIX). Microsoft is requesting that it be pulled from all downstream sites also. Microsoft did not intend for this driver to be distributed.

We’ve found that this driver works well and have posted full instructions for getting wired Ethernet working on the Surface. Customer feedback has been positive, but we want to comply with the request, so the driver has to be removed from our website.

On the other hand, we want to support those of you who have already purchased the Plugable adapter and want to use it with their Microsoft Surface (or Lenovo Yoga 11 or Samsung Ativ or Asus VivoTab RT or Dell XPS 10).

Amazon Super Saver shipping can take up to eight business days, so giving an extra day or two for people to install the driver yields a takedown date of December 23, 2012. After that point, Plugable will not be able to distribute this driver to you.

We at Plugable really like our Surface (this post was written on one), and think that supporting third-party device drivers could make it even more useful. We hope that Microsoft and ASIX can find a way to bring back official driver support for the Plugable USB2-E100 Ethernet adapter soon. If you want to get word to Microsoft, the Surface Community Forums are one good way.

In the meantime, we will keep the installation instructions up and continue to do our best to support our customers. Email support@plugable.com anytime, and we’ll do everything we can to help you.

Comments and questions below are welcome. Note we can’t speak for Microsoft, so there are lots of “why” questions and details that we don’t won’t have answers for, sorry.