Plugable http://plugable.com USB Hubs, Bluetooth, Docking Station, SATA, Display Adapter Sat, 20 Dec 2014 01:12:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Developing Custom Applications with our Plugable PS-BTAPS1 Bluetooth Switch http://plugable.com/2014/12/19/developing-custom-applications-with-our-plugable-ps-btaps1-bluetooth-switch http://plugable.com/2014/12/19/developing-custom-applications-with-our-plugable-ps-btaps1-bluetooth-switch#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:31:57 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14512 BTAPS1 Sample App Running on Fedora 21
Our new Plugable PS-BTAPS1 is perfect for many different home automation projects. We understand that our Android and iOS apps may not fit the bill for every project, and we wanted to provide a way for hobbyists and programmers to develop custom applications that are able to interact with the device. We have for you today some instructions and sample code on how to trigger the device’s on and off functionality from a custom application. More information on how to perform more advanced functions, such as using the built-in timer, will be forthcoming at a later date.

The PS-BTAPS1 uses Bluetooth’s very simple Serial Port Profile for communication. All that is required to talk to the device is an open RFCOMM connection and then the right payload to be sent to trigger the device’s desired functionality.

There are two different payloads necessary for turning the device’s switch on and off:
0xCCAA03010101 will tell the BT-APS1 to flick its internal switch to ON.
0xCCAA03010100 will tell it to do the opposite, and switch to OFF.

To make this somewhat simpler to understand, we are providing a sample application written in Python 2.7. The code for the application can be found below:

All that is required to run the application is Python 2.7 and the PyBluez module, which can be downloaded here.

This sample application has a simple command line interface for making your PS-BTAPS1 switch on or off.

python btaps.py 00:00:00:00:00:00 on
python btaps.py 00:00:00:00:00:00 off

Replace 00:00:00:00:00:00 with your PS-BTAPS1’s Bluetooth Address. You can easily find your device’s Bluetooth Address like so:

Windows:
Go to Control Panel -> Devices and Printers -> Right Click on your paired Plugable PS-BTAPS1(It should be listed as “Plugable”) -> Properties -> Bluetooth Tab -> Unique Identifier

Linux:
Open a command line and run:

hcitool scan

This code has been tested under Fedora 21 and Windows 8.1. It should run on older versions of Windows and Linux without issues. Unfortunately, this sample code will not work under OS X due to lack of support in PyBluez. Mac OS X applications should still be possible using OS X native Bluetooth APIs.

More information on programming the Plugable PS-BTAPS1 should follow early in the new year. We can’t wait to see what cool and interesting projects are developed by the community!

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Automate Any Appliance with the New Plugable PS-BTAPS1 Bluetooth Controlled Switch http://plugable.com/2014/12/19/automate-any-appliance-with-the-new-plugable-ps-btaps1-bluetooth-controlled-switch http://plugable.com/2014/12/19/automate-any-appliance-with-the-new-plugable-ps-btaps1-bluetooth-controlled-switch#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:07:40 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14421 mainDid you grow up watching the Jetsons every morning? I did. As an adult, I’m still waiting for someone to invent a bed that involuntarily kicks me out, showers me, dresses me, and sticks a warm cup of brew in my hand. I probably shouldn’t hold my breath…

While my childhood-inspired wishes may be impossible, home automation is slowly becoming more common. With the new Plugable PS-BTAPS1 Home Automation Switch we aim to bring this capability to your house as simply and inexpensively as possible. When paired with any iOS or Android smartphone, this switch uses our companion application on the phone to control power to any device that plugs into a standard AC wall outlet. You can have that device turn on when your smartphone gets near it, reacting to the presence of your mobile device’s Bluetooth radio. Or set a timer schedule using the phone’s UI. The switch will execute that schedule indefinitely even when you’re not around. Or you can simply use your phone as an instant remote control.

IMG_20141218_174112To set up, plug everything in and then from your phone’s UI, connect with the switch via Bluetooth using your phone’s built-in Bluetooth control (look for the device name “Plugable”). Then install the free “Plugable Power” application from the iOS or Android App Store and open it to see and control the device you’ve already paired with.

The switch is controllable by Bluetooth – so when you configure the switch, you have to be close enough to make a Bluetooth connection. Once set to Timer Mode and given a schedule, it will turn appliances on and off to the schedule you’ve set even when you’re not around.

And if you’re a tinkerer or programmer, we have information and open source available to control the switch directly.

We’re excited about the potential of bringing existing lights and appliances to life via Bluetooth. If you have any questions at all, feel free to comment below or email us at support@plugable.com. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

Where to Buy

Plugable Bluetooth Controlled AC Power Switch for Home Automation (With iOS and Android Applications... Product Details
$35.00
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20 Years of Linux http://plugable.com/2014/12/17/20-years-of-linux http://plugable.com/2014/12/17/20-years-of-linux#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:19:24 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14480 Originally Published in Linux Journal Issue #239, March 2014

20 Years ago, 15 years before founding Plugable Technologies, Bernie Thompson wrote an article for the first issue of Linux Journal. Over the next twenty years, LJ published 4 more articles including this 20-year retrospective in March 2014. Thanks to Linux Journal’s generous terms allowing authors to keep their copyright, we’re able to republish the full series of articles here. If you have your own memories and opinions of the time, please share in the comments. This is Article 5 of 5.

cover23920 years ago in the world of operating systems, IBM was a dying king and Microsoft an ascendant prince. Apple was in exile. And a young wizard named Linus Torvalds rebuilt venerable Unix, which already had 20 years of its own history, and re-imagined it in the form of Linux. The world had a powerful new open source platform to build on.

By the end of the 1990s, IBM was nearly irrelevant to the personal computer market it had built. Microsoft had risen to nearly 90% market share. Linux had a disconcerting combination of enormous investor hype and low market share. But Linux was beginning to quietly appear in set top boxes and networking equipment. It was dominating the Internet server market. And a little company called Google was deploying thousands of Linux boxes to revolutionize search.

By the end of the 2000s, at least 10 “year of the Linux desktop” milestones had come and gone without success. Windows was still dominant, but the PC era was about to end. Apple had returned from the dead to win the hearts and wallets of consumers and developers by building OS X and iOS on an open source Mach+BSD kernel with different lineage from Linux. Linux was everywhere and nowhere: the Internet ran on Linux, yet few consumer’s browsers did.

Here in 2014, the world seems to be shifting in Linux’s direction, as long as a Linux-derived kernel is what counts. Windows 8 has alienated Microsoft’s installed base. Mobile is ascendant. Android has reached 80% smartphone share. And last year, Chromebooks rose to take 10% of the US computer market and 21% of laptop sales, outselling Apple Macbooks. Yet the Linux desktop, in the pure form of Ubuntu or one of the other distros, still shuffles along with less than 2% share by most measures.

From Megabytes to Gigabytes

In the first issue of Linux Journal I wrote “Linux needs 2MB RAM to try out, OS/2 needs 4MB, and NT needs 12 MB.”

Those Linux and OS/2 numbers were for command line configurations only. The NT number included its GUI since it couldn’t operate without it. But the march of Moore’s Law over the long stretch is stunning. In less than 20 years, we’ve seen nearly a 1000x increase in typical memory sizes.

Today, Windows 8 can run in 512 MB for just a single task or two, but 2 GB is a normal minimum. Linux is still the most miserly. 256 MB is normal for platforms like the Raspberry Pi, and running Linux on a wireless router with 8 MB of ram is not unheard of using DD-WRT micro version.

The original article focused on the issues of “Will Linux, OS/2, or NT work on my PC?”. These issues have receded as even sub-$200 PCs today can run anything. The important question has become: What’s the best fit for what I need my computer to do?

The Importance of the OS

Applications
Libraries
Operating System
Drivers
Hardware

Simplified OS Layers

A good operating system mediates between users, applications, and hardware with a focus on clarity, compatibility, and security. It enables applications written today to work on the latest OS version, and a significant portion of the existing installed base of older versions. It enables those applications to keep working even as things underneath change over time. It allows hardware created today to support existing applications and ones not yet written. All it takes is for one essential application or piece of hardware to be unavailable on a new platform, and the user can’t move. This creates powerful lock-in to a users’ current system.

The OS also provides a UI and set of standard ways for users to get things done. Humans are flexible, but they suffer compatibility problems too. When a new UI moves things around, there’s a human cost in time and frustration. When there’s a shift in the way computers are used — from command line, to mouse and keyboard GUI, to touch GUI — not every use scenario or user shifts. We all know the command line is still critical for any IT Pro. Operating systems must either pick a paradigm, or find a way to expose similar functionality in each world.

This isn’t easy, which is part of why the OS world has fractured and diversified in the shift to touch GUIs over the past few years. As platforms and UIs have been churned, at times it seems we’ve needed a Hippocratic Oath for programmers and UI designers: first, do no harm.

And in the realm of security, protecting users and their data has become even harder post-NSA. We’ve entered a Wild West era where we have ceded moral authority to deter nations, corporations, and rogue groups from exploiting others online. It’s everyone for themselves, and a trusted operating system is at the center of that.

How are the operating systems of today doing by these standards?

Windows has had the largest financial investment in it, by far, over the past 20 years. For the last decade, Microsoft has had thousands of employees working on Windows at any given moment. Executives are obsessed to distraction with avoiding the innovator’s dilemma. Many investments are “big bets” that aim to anticipate customer and partner demand, rather than smaller steps to respond to it. Often priorities are focused on internal goals and “better together” initiatives that attempt to extend lock-in or push the user base the latest version. When those initiatives are aligned with the interests of users and partners, they tend to succeed. But many have not.

Among the unheralded successes has been the Windows Update mechanism. For users, it appears that they plug any new or old device into their Windows PC, and it just works — no digging for disks for downloads. In fact, it’s a smart cloud-based system that was implemented before the cloud was a buzzword. When a new device is plugged in, Windows automatically reads the plug and play IDs, checks its servers on the web, and downloads and installs the best available driver automatically. More than 10 years on, Linux and Mac OS X have nothing equivalent.

On the downside, the Windows 8 transition has been particularly jarring. Microsoft faced a tough choice: lose market share in the new tablet space, or create a version of Windows and an ecosystem of applications that supports tablets well. They chose to sacrifice usability as a desktop system to win new tablet users. The result is a confusing collision of two UI worlds. Some users have gone scrambling to find an alternative, driving up sales of Chromebooks and perhaps hastening the tablet shift.

Meanwhile, the Windows 8 App Store had a new API and no provision to run those apps on Windows 7 or earlier. This created another catch-22 for winning over application developers. It sped up the unravelling of the valuable application lock-in that Microsoft had established starting with Windows 3.1. A commercial application developer a decade ago would have been crazy not to design for Windows. Today, that same developer is crazy not look first at designing for a hosted HTML, CSS, and Javascript model that would allow the application to work on any platform. That should be ringing alarm bells in Redmond, given the market share of other Microsoft platforms that weren’t able to leverage the lock-in of Windows binaries (Windows CE, Zune, Windows Phone, etc.)

Security-wise, it’s important to understand that Windows 7 and 8 have perhaps the best line-of-code level security of any existing OS. Microsoft invests enormous efforts to identify and fix potential exploits before shipment. But the weekly “patch Tuesday” flood highlights how difficult it is to protect a big, juicy target like Windows. It’s the potato blight of our era. We’ll talk about Linux security later, but what protects Linux is less the quality of its code, and more the diversity of it.

After one and a half years, Windows 8 has only crossed 10 percent market share. But Microsoft still has a chance to regain its footing, given the combined market shares of XP, 7, and 8.

Mac OS and iOS

Steve Jobs warned Microsoft that trying to merge the desktop and tablet worlds wouldn’t work. And so far Apple has largely stuck to that line, with success. Millions of eager buyers are willing to pay a premium for Apple products. iOS has been passed by Android in pure unit sales, but still gets more use day to day.

Mac OS X was my main platform for much of the 2000s. It puts a nice UI on a deeply functional Unix foundation. The excellent MacPorts system gives entry to the full catalog of open source applications. Apple’s XQuartz project enables even GUI X apps to be ported. Users that care about particular scenarios like working with photos, music, and video have a platform with great support for those scenarios, because of Job’s attention to end-to-end quality.

Apple has delivered many innovations, but among the most powerful was the successful iOS and later OS X App Stores. Small developers had withered under Microsoft. By enabling software developers to make money, these app stores allowed Apple’s application ecosystem to quickly rival Microsoft’s.

Apple has historically been more willing to sacrifice the compatibility of older applications and hardware. That might have become a problem as Apple’s installed base grew. But the application problem has been mitigated with the strategy of offering free OS upgrades combined with free application upgrades from the App Store. Your current software binaries won’t work several versions from now, but you won’t care because you’ll have downloaded a free update.

Hardware compatibility, however, has often been sacrificed. One gets the sense that Apple sees a robust hardware ecosystem as competing with them, rather than a source of strength for the platform as a whole.

In security, Apple has been both smart and lucky. Smart to build on Unix. Smart to introduce strict app store criteria and the Gatekeeper feature to steer users away from untrusted apps. But they have also been lucky to stay under the radar. If Windows and OS X’s market shares were reversed, Apple would be forced to have a much higher level of focus on individual exploits, being a monoculture like Windows.

Android and Chrome OS

Google has also kept the tablet and desktop worlds apart somewhat, in the form of Android for tablets and Chrome OS for laptops, both built on the Linux kernel.

Linus’ strategy of benevolent dictatorship for the Linux kernel has delivered stable progress over the years and kept the worst decisions out. However, above the kernel, progress on Linux has been unstable and constantly disruptive… mostly to users, if not to competitors.

With Android, Google’s role has been to provide that stability above the kernel, along with the opportunity for a for-profit ecosystem of software and hardware to build around the platform. The result has been an amazing explosion of Linux-based devices.

With Chrome OS, Google has consummated the process of making the browser the OS. HTML, CSS, and Javascript are the new terminal to the cloud. For those of us who live on the web and hosted applications, there is enormous peace of mind in having no local software and few security issues to think about. Especially when we’re gifting a laptop to grandpa or our daughter. Or if we think we’re on the NSA’s naughty list.

Because Android and Chrome OS are open source, whether you’re Amazon building the Kindle or CyanogenMod, you have the freedom to take it in new directions.

Google has succeeded in hastening the end of the Windows monopoly by grabbing a significant chunk of market share with an open source operating system based on Linux. All this makes it likely that the next generation of applications will be developed with web compatibility and platform portability as a primary concern. Even if Android and Chrome OS do not continue their meteoric rise, for the moment they have mitigated much of the lock-in that would have prevented users from moving to the next innovative platform.

The Linux Distributions

The ever-churning cauldron of Linux distros and spins is the hotbed of innovation from which Android, Chrome OS, Kindle, TiVO, and countless other innovations past and future are born. On the downside, competing groups innovating in different directions has obvious consequences for some key OS characteristics: clarity and compatibility.

In practice, for hardware that is well documented, the results at the kernel level are generally excellent. If you can get your driver into the kernel, it tends to get carried forward intact. On the other hand, trying to keep a binary driver in sync with the Linux kernel is difficult, expensive, and usually futile. Linux’s strategy of sacrificing binary compatibility for the freedom to innovate and keep the kernel clean has proven powerful over time.

There are some exceptions, such as graphics which touches many layers of the stack. The transition to compositing desktops has hurt performance on Linux scenarios where a beefy GPU isn’t available. And the more functionally complex KMS/DRM driver model has had many impacts on users. OS features like support for multiple monitors that require participation at many layers have been difficult to achieve.

At the application level, the story is more mixed than the kernel. Competing libraries, versions, and package managers make it difficult to port even open source applications to every distribution. There are many potential libraries to become dependent on, and each dependency may evolve in ways that will demand that your application change or bifurcate to keep up.

Some distros focus on minimizing churn and compromising by providing facilities such as a commercial app store. Ubuntu and Red Hat Enterprise Linux are best known as playing this role on the desktop. When that plot has been lost, back to basics distros like Linux Mint have won converts.

Amazon m1.small EC2 pricing Linux vs. Windows

Linux $0.060/hour
Windows $0.091/hour

In the cloud, Amazon has a growing list of applications in their marketplace built on Linux (often RedHat or Debian based). You can see Linux’s customizability, maintainability, and lack of licensing cost at work in how Amazon prices Linux-based hosting vs. Windows hosting. Linux is a more cost-effective choice.

Can the Linux distributions do a better job for end users? Yes, definitely. Branches like Ubuntu’s effort to replace X with Mir should not be taken so lightly. It would be a boon to Linux adoption if there were more efforts to consolidate or combine projects, to present a unified front to applications and end users. Is the universe forever expanding until we’re all on isolated islands, or will it consolidate? It’s a delicate balance. We could start with a joint development conference between the Canonical and Red Hat teams to find common ground.

On the plus side, Linux’s software and hardware diversity make it difficult for mass exploits. And more fundamentally, open source is essential for trust through transparency. Any individual, nation, or corporation can do their own code review to weed out potential exploits. While not a panacea for sophisticated, targeted attacks, these characteristics allow Linux to deliver the best security of any platform in practice.

The Future

Despite the challenges, the future for Linux is unstoppably bright.

Beyond the desktop, Linux leads in servers and has completely conquered the embedded market. It’s impossible to conceive of any one company being able to port a commercial OS to as many CPU and device architectures as Linux has. As the embedded world transitions from 8/16-bit processors to 32-bit, billions of new devices will be running Linux inside.

Even today, an average Microsoft or Apple executive is probably (knowingly or unknowingly) running several copies of Linux in their home: perhaps their TV, router, thermostat, or the coming generation appliances and vehicles.

Linux is currently winning the mobile race with Android, and grabbing significant “desktop” share with Chrome OS. Efforts such as CyanogenMod, Firefox OS, and Ubuntu for phones will keep creating innovative options. And as applications and users increasingly live within the browser, the barriers to move between platforms will continue to fall.

The revolution that Linus started 20 years ago is accelerating. “World domination” which was previously a sly joke, now appears inevitable. Happy birthday, Linux.

Originally published in Linux Journal Issue 239 March, 2014. Bernie Thompson is a former IBM and Microsoft OS developer, and a Linux kernel contributor. He is the Founder of Plugable Technologies: a USB, Bluetooth, and network devices company.

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Elegant combination of AC power and USB charging http://plugable.com/2014/12/15/elegant-combination-of-ac-power-and-usb-charging http://plugable.com/2014/12/15/elegant-combination-of-ac-power-and-usb-charging#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:04:10 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14372 main_512With portable devices being the center of technological lives, we’re always needing a place charge them. The fight for AC outlets and USB charging ports can be a matter of life and death for your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. Having a universal multi-port USB smart charger like our USB-C5T in the home is great to replace all of your different chargers, but what about your laptop or tablet that can’t charge off of USB? You’re still stuck hunting for an AC outlet under the desk or behind the couch.

The PS2-USB4 can help solve these frustrations by allowing up to 4 USB devices to charge simultaneously while providing convenient desktop access to dual widely spaced AC outlets, perfect for those pesky wall wart style power adapters. The four dedicated smart charging ports automatically select the best charging mechanism for nearly all the competing USB charging methods on the market (BC 1.2, Apple 1A, 2.1A and Samsung 2.4A). Your devices will charge at the fastest possible possible rate. For some devices like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it will charge faster than their bundled power adapters. Each port can charge a device at up to 2.4A with 7.2A, 36W total to share between the 4 ports. More than enough power to charge 3 iPads and an iPhone at the same time.

2-product in use 1

The sleek matte black design, compact size, and unique desktop form factor blends nicely with other high end electronics. Included is a removable 6ft power cable that makes it easy to create a perfect desktop power center for the home or office.

If you have any questions at all, please comment below or email support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help!

Plugable Power 2015 Dual AC Outlet Desktop Power Strip with Built-in 4-Port 36W USB Smart Charger fo... Product Details
$19.95
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Having issues with your Surface and blank DisplayLink screens? We can help! http://plugable.com/2014/12/09/having-issues-with-your-surface-and-blank-displaylink-screens-we-can-help http://plugable.com/2014/12/09/having-issues-with-your-surface-and-blank-displaylink-screens-we-can-help#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 02:12:12 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14420 surfaceSince mid-November, a small percentage of Surface Pro 1/2/3 users have reported issues with blank screens on their DisplayLink displays after rebooting from the installation of Windows Updates. In the cases that we’ve seen, things appear to be functional at the software level – Windows still shows the USB-attached displays as present and active, but the displays themselves remain blank.

If you’re experiencing similar behavior but do not have a Surface, the behavior is likely caused by a different issue. On Surface tablets, the Intel GPU driver version when the problem is present is 10.18.10.3496 dated 3/7/2014, though most Surface users with this driver revision are not likely to encounter the behavior described above.

We’ve been able to solve the problem in most cases by manually installing a newer version of the Intel HD Graphics driver. We’ve posted step-by-step instructions along with a video of the driver update process here.

For customers with Plugable products, please don’t hesitate to email us directly support@plugable.com so we can work with you to resolve any remaining issues.

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Throwback: Market Making for the Bazaar http://plugable.com/2014/12/09/throwback-market-making-for-the-bazaar http://plugable.com/2014/12/09/throwback-market-making-for-the-bazaar#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 01:28:06 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14426 Originally Published in Linux Journal Issue #64, August 1999

20 Years ago, 15 years before founding Plugable Technologies, Bernie Thompson wrote an article for the first issue of Linux Journal. Over the next twenty years, LJ published 4 more articles including a 20-year retrospective in 2014. Thanks to Linux Journal’s generous terms allowing authors to keep their copyright, we’re able to republish the full series of articles here. If you have your own memories and opinions of the time, please share in the comments. This is Article 4 of 5.

In Making Money in the Bazaar (June 1999), we raced across the landscape of current efforts to drive innovation and make a living in the Open Source market. We now introduce a system for consumer-driven Open Source funding. If successful, it could accelerate the pace of innovation even further and create a small industry around developing free software.

The Need

cover64.smallIs there some graphics hardware you wish Linux supported better? A game you wish was ported from Windows? Or possibly a GUI application to ease some parts of system setup?

If so, what do you do about it? If you are a developer, you can just write it. The Linux model has been “scratch your own itch” and contribute back to the community.

If you aren’t a developer, don’t have the time or the necessary skill—you’re out of luck. You have to wait and hope that some other sufficiently motivated developer with the same need will take on the project.

This can be quite frustrating—you need that graphics driver now. You could speed things up by hiring someone to develop the software just for you. But paying a fortune to have a custom driver developed for a $50 graphics board just isn’t feasible.

A larger group is needed to share the burden of developing a standard driver. Several thousand people in the world probably use that same graphics card and run Linux. Why don’t some of them get together and share the cost of having the work done?

The same concepts apply to scripts, help files, applications—anywhere there is a demand for software.

A Buyer’s Co-op for Open Source

The Internet is an amazing tool for bringing specialized communities together. A group of people needing the same software is just such a community.

The trick is to attract all of the interested parties to the same web site, where they can pool their resources with others wanting the same thing. This site must coordinate the process of gathering support, selecting a developer, evaluating the resulting software and collecting the funds to pay the developer.

The Free Software Bazaar

Interview with Axel Boldt

The Free Software Bazaar gathers bounties for the completion of particular Open Source projects. It can be found at http://visar.csustan.edu/bazaar/. I talked to Axel on April 27, 1999.

Bernie: What inspired you to create the Free Software Bazaar?

Axel: In a Usenet discussion, the question came up of whether buying a Red Hat CD is a good way to sponsor free software development. I then got the idea that there may be a better, more direct way to induce people to write free software—to “cut out the middleman”.

Bernie: Is money important for the free software movement?

Axel: In the grand scheme of free software development, money does not currently play a big role. Personally, I am not at all unhappy about that fact. I like to think of the Bazaar as a place where programmers can get ideas for projects that are actually needed, and where users can show their appreciation for the wealth of software they get for free.

Bernie: Why would any individual commit money towards funding an Open Source project?

Axel: Two reasons: you need a certain piece of software and you think the free software development model would produce the best results, or you feel the need to “give back” to the free software community. Most of the time, it’s probably a combination of the two.

Bernie: What does the system offer for developers?

Axel: Some money, but mainly ideas for new worthwhile projects.

Bernie: What effect could cooperative funding have on the Open Source community at large?

Axel: It may help establish better communication between users and producers of free software. Users will be able to outline a wish list for a new project as opposed to just provide feedback and patches to already-existing code.

Bernie: What is your background?

Axel: I maintain the Linux kernel configuration help texts, the Linux CD Giveaway List (http://visar.csustan.edu/giveaway.html) and the programs tkinfo and WebFilter. I teach mathematics and computer science at Metro State University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Bernie: What are your plans for the future?

Axel: Retire early and keep playing with free software.

Axel Boldt’s Free Software Bazaar was the first realization of these ideas. It opened in the fall of 1998; within six months, it collected over $25,000 US in offers and over $1200 in payments towards Open Source projects. The site works by letting users browse a list of existing offers. If a user is interested in sponsoring an existing project or creating a new one, they send e-mail to Axel. He then adds their offer to the listing page.

These offers can be claimed by the first developer to successfully complete the work. Axel then notifies the sponsors, asking them to send payment directly to the developer.

CoSource.com

The Free Software Bazaar is a great service to the Open Source community. However, a huge ongoing effort is required to maintain momentum and grow the movement into something powerful.

For cooperative funding to become a significant force in the Open Source market, the achievements of the Free Software Bazaar must be multiplied many times. Managing the demands of so many parties is a difficult problem. A cooperative funding service needs to be innovative in solving the confidence and communication problems between sponsors and developers. It should be convenient and simple. It must be professional and build a strong record of trust. In the end, it is essential to attract and maintain a critical mass of sponsors and developers.

CoSource.com is an attempt to create a service that meets these demands. It is a commercial enterprise created to provide the range of services required to make cooperative funding a success for buyers, developers and the Open Source community in general.

Screenshot of Cosource.com taken later in October, 2000

Screenshot of Cosource.com taken later in October, 2000

It intends to:

  • Publicize to better achieve a critical mass of sponsors and developers for each project.
  • Have staff work with corporations directly to encourage sponsorship and development of open source.
  • Provide VISA/MC/AMEX credit card processing to make payment convenient (especially for non-US sponsors).
  • Automate as much as possible with HTML forms and a database back-end.
  • Provide a stable web address and organization for long-running projects.
  • Foster trust between buyers and developers through simple, standard and legally binding on-line agreements.
  • Provide cash advances to developers with a proven track record when they begin work.
  • Provide web space to trumpet the financial contributions of corporations and individuals towards particular projects.
  • Prevent duplication of effort by having sponsors collectively hire a single developer to work on a project.
  • Allow sponsors to back out any time until a developer is finally selected.
  • Allow full control for sponsors to select the developer, development schedule, source code license, etc. that suits them.

If all these goals can be achieved, cooperative funding will provide effective answers to the questions, “How does one make a living on free software?” and “Who is motivated to innovate?”

The answers are that innovation is funded directly by users who pay for new features, which in turn supports a small army of independent software developers.

How Does It Work for Sponsors and Developers?

It starts with an unfulfilled need. Maybe it’s a driver for a USB scanner, a plug-in to convert Excel spreadsheets or a port of some game to Linux. The user goes to http://www.cosource.com/ and finds the project to develop this feature. If it is not there, they can add it with a form.

What is it worth to them for someone to develop this software? Whether it is $10 or $1000, the customer sponsors the project for that amount. This is not something done lightly. A buyer is making a firm commitment to pay up if the software is developed.

Other motivated sponsors come along and do the same. CoSource goes out to corporations and seeks to supplement individual sponsorships with a few large ones. Let’s say the project is an HP scanner driver. While HP isn’t yet ready to pay the full cost of developing a Linux driver, they may be willing to pay for 50% or 25% of the effort.

Developers, meanwhile, browse these same lists to identify projects in their area of expertise. Suppose a developer has done a converter for the Excel file format before. That developer fills in a form to bid on the project, answering the following questions:

  • How much would I have to be paid to do this work?
  • What is my most conservative estimate for time to completion? What license would it be released under (e.g., GPL, BSD, etc.)?
  • Who will judge the final product for completeness and quality (e.g., a known and trusted third-party authority)?
  • What will be the URL of the project’s web page?

CoSource then prices the bid for display on the system, marking up the bid for transaction costs, historical sponsor fraud, advance payments, project risk, etc.

As bids are entered, sponsors are notified to evaluate them. They submit a simple yes/no form in response. Voting yes to one or more bids is a final commitment involving a legal agreement to follow through if this developer succeeds. The first bid that gains sufficient sponsorship wins. From that time forward, sponsors are not permitted to back out and shortchange the developer.

The winning developer then begins work on the project, providing updates on their project web page.

At some point, the developer believes he is complete. A release is done and judged to determine if it matches the requirements stated in the original project description. If the release fails, the developer may try again many times until their committed schedule runs out. If that unfortunate event happens, the project goes back to the sponsor/bid phase.

If the release passes, the project is complete! Sponsors are notified to fulfill their commitments. They can easily pay by credit card. Finally, payments are consolidated and a single check is mailed to the developer.

What Are the Goals?

Obviously, this process is more complicated than a typical software-buying experience. In return, the consumer gains much more control over the quality and time frame of work. If you needed one of the new features Windows 2000 provides, you would have to wait two to three years after the initial promised ship date to get them. How can a corporation plan ahead for software rollouts with such uncertainty?

Cosourcing puts more control over features, schedule and quality in the hands of the consumers.

Obviously, this system is not intended for charity or non-profit activity. Rather, it is intended to be the most effective way to outsource development of software and share that cost with other motivated buyers. It is intended to be a way for non-developers to “scratch their own itch”. It is intended to be a fertile breeding ground for hundreds of individual and corporate developers. It is intended to make the funding of Open Source a collaborative effort in the same spirit the development process is in today.

In general, it is intended to empower end users to spend their hard-earned money making free software do what they need.

Making a New Market

On one end of the software market spectrum is “closed” software, where intellectual property is licensed on a per-copy basis. On the other end is free software, where intellectual property is created without payment and voluntarily given to the community at large.

Both of these will continue to grow and thrive. On one hand, closed software will continue to be a billion-dollar market. On the other hand, innovative free software will continue to be developed by students, hobbyists and professionals for various reasons. Both systems make sense and they will continue to compete with each other. But there is a possibility for a vibrant third market. One which blends and bridges the differences between the other two. One that brings the free market to free software.

This market will sell software as a service rather than a product, so it will be compatible with Richard Stallman’s original and ongoing vision for public license code. This market will serve the needs of end users by driving innovation in the areas that matter most to them. This market will bring financial vitality to free software, so thousands of individuals and small companies can make their living developing it.

Software in 2010 — A Look Into the Future

With the rise of the Internet and the Open Source movement in the late 1900s, the basic building blocks of software—operating systems and libraries that applications build upon—started becoming a collaborative effort. At first, few people believed that great software could result. Few believed that a rag-tag collection of individuals and companies, working in parallel, could produce a great platform to build upon. But they did it.

Then, at the turn of the millennium, markets sprung up to collaboratively fund these same projects. Drivers, scripts and middleware to connect Open Source with every kind of software and hardware device were developed. Many small but frustrating problems were fixed. Open Source was now the most interoperable software platform available, and it was getting all the polish and customization needed to appeal to the full spectrum of end users.

Open Source did not win out completely. Rather, the result was intense competition between closed- and open-source platforms that drove accelerating innovation for all.

In recent years, the open model has gone on to tackle problems beyond the platform: highly parallel problems that require a huge collaborative effort; projects that require complete openness and collaboration; efforts that are beyond the resources of a single corporation; modern pyramids of software.

In 2004, the first of these successes—the Interling project—was completed. It is, of course, the software we use to translate hundreds of written and spoken languages to and from the common Interling language. Dozens of programmers were required for each dialect to produce the complex grammar-processing codes. The project was possible only through the participation of thousands of programmers worldwide, with work on each language funded by motivated individuals, corporations and governments.

In 2006, we completed the initial work of the Historica Humanica project. Every piece of writing, every painted canvas and every available oral history was scanned and entered into our huge searchable database. While not every individual has or will publish a full autobiography, many have willed that their invaluable memoirs be made available at their death. What can we learn from history? We’ve found we can learn much, especially at the personal level. The human psyche has not changed dramatically over the ages. We are now able to search our records for others who have felt the same pain or dealt with the same concern. In these writings, we have found perspective and understanding to guide our path forward in everyday life.

Now, in these last few years, we’ve begun to tackle the most daunting effort yet—the Neuroscape project to approximate and emulate the human brain. We learned early in our AI work that no one simple algorithm can replicate the wonder of the human brain. Rather, the brain is made up of millions of flexible, evolving rules and guidelines the equivalent of billions of lines of software code.

It is a project we can hope to achieve only through the most massive parallel effort ever undertaken by humankind…

This vision may turn out to be a pipe dream. Consumer psychology has rarely dealt with a case in which a group of consumers pay for the development of a product, then allow that product to be given away freely from that time forward. Psychologically, this is a strange mix of self-interest and altruism.

CoSource.com and others are going to put it to the test. If you’ve ever complained about some missing piece of free software, now you can put your money where your mouth is. Will you?

Originally Published in Linux Journal Issue #64, August 1999

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Throwback: Making Money in the Bazaar http://plugable.com/2014/12/08/throwback-making-money-in-the-bazaar http://plugable.com/2014/12/08/throwback-making-money-in-the-bazaar#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 19:00:02 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14410 Originally Published in Linux Journal Issue #62, June 1999

20 Years ago, 15 years before founding Plugable Technologies, Bernie Thompson wrote an article for the first issue of Linux Journal. Over the next twenty years, LJ published 4 more articles including a 20-year retrospective in 2014. Thanks to Linux Journal’s generous terms allowing authors to keep their copyright, we’re able to republish the full series of articles here. If you have your own memories and opinions of the time, please share in the comments. This is Article 3 of 5.

cover62.smallOpen Source is software which has been freed. It allows bits to be copied and reused endlessly. It allows inspection of the source code. It allows new innovations to be built upon old, without having to duplicate past efforts. It is free software with the emphasis on freedom.

This past year has seen an explosive rise in visibility for this curious market. The computer world at large has gained at least a limited understanding and respect for its workings. Much of this attention would have been unimaginable even a year or two ago.

During this time, Open Source has been put under heavy scrutiny. While certain technical benefits are undeniable, every analysis invariably confronts two simple, critical questions: “How does one make a living on free software?” and “Who is motivated to innovate?”

The strength of the answers to these questions will determine if Open Source will achieve its full potential for the greatest possible audience. It must be economically viable.

I will attempt to answer these two questions by surveying the field of current business models and analyzing their financial strength. I will also speculate on future innovations that may alter these dynamics.

Business Models

Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort … Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth, but not more … Money is your means of survival.

—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

The obvious challenge of Open Source is that it may be copied freely, even if purchased initially. So a $10 Linux disc may legally be used to install one machine or a thousand machines. At first glance, it would seem no incentive exists to put effort into improving such a product. Because of this characteristic, Open Source is often equated with a kind of communism: a system that offers something for nothing and exploits the labor of others without rewarding them; in short, a system that is unsustainable because it causes people’s self-interest to conflict with the greater good.

These concerns should not be dismissed out of hand, nor taken as factual. The truth is much more complicated. Central to these concerns is the lack of exclusive copyright protections. Copyright and patent laws are not inherently part of the free market; they are intended to create limited monopolies for the companies which own the rights. This is done to reward research and to encourage innovation.

Open Source is a voluntary system that waives exclusive ownership of software in exchange for other benefits. These benefits include wider adoption, faster collective innovation and a level competitive playing field. This makes for a frictionless, dynamic and highly competitive market without the very profitable “vendor lock-in” that is facilitated by traditional copyrighted software.

Despite the resulting competitiveness, several business models have proven to be profitable. These models leverage the unique new possibilities afforded by Open Source, in return for their sacrifice of certain copyrights.

What is still unclear is how these models will generate as much innovation and value as traditional software companies, given the handicap that a person’s work can benefit his competition as much as it benefits himself. As we’ll see, one of the surprising things about free software is where the innovations have originated.

In the following sections, I’ll introduce the markets that are producing innovation and jobs today. These are the research, service and customization economies and the many business models that fall into these groups. Nearly all companies are hybrids of several different business models.

The Research Economy

Open-source corporations are important growth engines, but to date, they have built mostly upon the efforts of others. The bedrock of the market is the thousands of individual students and moonlighting professionals who make small and large contributions every day.

These developers are not paid for their efforts. They begin a project with no promises or commitments. They work at their own pace, use their own judgment and set their own priorities. They are the university researchers and basement scientists of software, working together to make their contribution to the world.

Often, these developers are only learning or honing their craft, so many projects fail. Yet out of this soup of individual and group efforts rises some of the best software available today.

Through the Internet, these successful efforts can be instantly copied and put into use world-wide. They can be enhanced and customized by thousands of others. They can continue to evolve like an organism, adapting to new software and hardware architectures as the years go on.

The first and most unshakable answer to “Who will innovate?” is the students and moonlighters, motivated by their desire to learn and create and inspired by the energy and clarity of tackling new problems. The profit-oriented market may fail, but these software research activities will go on. Slowly, surely, they will continue to add to the body of free software available to the world.

Yet despite the best efforts of the students and moonlighters, their software has common flaws. Development goals are driven by the author’s own needs, resulting in software “by developers, for developers”. The threshold at which a developer is satisfied with ease of use is much lower than for typical users. These are truly research projects, with all the beauties and warts that implies.

The Service Economy

In the cases where beauty has outweighed warts, a critical mass of technical and non-technical users has been built. Apache, Linux, Perl and many other programs have made this breakthrough to mass market utility. This expanded base of consumers has driven the need for many support services built around the software. These services add polish and value to the base provided by the initial project.

No one is required to pay for any services. Given only a Net connection, they can download what they need and figure everything out themselves. However, many consumers find their time more valuable and therefore seek services to make their lives easier. This is where “commercial” Open Source steps in to distribute the software, provide technical support and educate users.

Distribution

The Internet is great for downloading small software, but for larger products it is too slow. Also, finding the software you want among the jungle of projects on the Web can be difficult.

From this need rose companies like Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE, and Walnut Creek. On one convenient CD-ROM, you have an organized collection of the best available software applications. These companies are achieving significant revenue and earnings with these services.

Opportunities exist for further specialization. LinuxPPC has made a solid business out of focusing on the PowerPC market. A small company could take this further by taking one of the most popular (Dell, Linux, eMachines) PCs and producing a distribution that is tailored and tuned to that hardware. It could guarantee that all devices are recognized and install flawlessly. It could optimize every program to the particular processor used on that machine. You could imagine Intel co-marketing and co-developing with a software company to optimize for their latest chips.

Open Source can be a key in the drive towards mass specialization of computer products and services. As the overall size of the market increases, more opportunities will be created in these small niches and sub-niches. All of this is made possible by the full access to source code that free software provides.

Technical Support

When a single company owns exclusive rights to a software product, it is obvious where the most informed technical support comes from: if you buy a Microsoft product, you go to Microsoft for technical support.

The fact that Open Source does not have an exclusive support provider has repeatedly been portrayed as a weakness. This is a fundamentally flawed notion. Rather, Open Source allows a whole market of support providers to compete on a level playing field of equal access to the code.

Through this heightened competition, the level and quality of support is capable of rising above the best standards of today’s closed software market.

Red Hat, LinuxCare and many other companies and individual consultants have stepped up to serve this market. Early in 1999, IBM recognized these extraordinary opportunities and announced Linux support and consulting services. The competition between these companies will become intense, and customers will be well-served.

If open-source support services can achieve their full potential, it will become a major selling point for corporate users and consumers. Innovations in providing these services will provide the foundation for many viable new businesses.

Education

O’Reilly & Associates has built a booming book publishing business which topped $40 million in 1998. More than half of this revenue was from books about free software topics.

As the market grows in size, more educational services will be needed. These are significant opportunities, since any educator, author or consultant can delve into the inner workings of the code to produce definitive training materials for a subject. By working on and teaching about specific areas, a valuable reputation can be created. (See Table 2, Linux Consultant Survey.) Several of the most successful consultants built their businesses by being a recognized world-wide expert in a particular technology.

The Customization Economy

The next step beyond servicing existing software is the creation of new applications to solve outstanding problems. This may be in the form of hardware devices that come preconfigured for a particular need. Or it may be through employees or consultants who configure and enhance software for particular needs.

In a world dominated by a single vendor, there are limits to the innovations a new product can provide because of high prices, too few features, too many features, logo requirements, etc. Many interesting new applications are suddenly possible when these shackles are removed. You just need freedom to customize.

Hardware Bundles

Hardware preloads and bundles are some of the most compelling uses of free software, because the cost of developing or enhancing free software for the machine can be included in the price of the hardware.

One example is the Cobalt Qube This is a space-age blue 18.4×18.4×19.7cm server appliance running Linux on a RISC processor. It is a general purpose workgroup server for e-mail, Web, etc. Having full access to the Linux source code gave Cobalt the capability to fully customize the software for this uniquely simple but very powerful hardware platform. (See “Cobalt Qube Microserver” by Ralph Sims, October 1998.)

Another is the Snap! network storage server from Meridian Data (http://www.meridian-data.com/). It’s a fixed-function server appliance that shares disk space on the network. It is built from custom hardware combined with open-source software. Consumers don’t need to know it uses free software; they just need to know what it does. Customers expect the price of network storage to scale with the price of disk storage, so the hardware and software costs of using a proprietary software system could have greatly reduced the attractiveness of the product.

Obviously, one big advantage is having no per-device software royalty. This is particularly true for price-sensitive, high-volume products. In a few years, we may find dozens of companies embedding open-source operating systems and applications on millions of small, fixed-function hardware devices.

IT Professionals

Beyond hardware devices, there is a need to customize and adapt software applications to the exact business processes and needs of an organization.

This always requires some custom work. Most medium and large organizations have a crew of IT professionals whose job is to customize hardware and software to make the business run more smoothly. These professionals like to start with the most functional products possible and customize from there. This has meant proprietary software in most cases.

Recently, open-source software has achieved levels of functionality that match proprietary software in many cases and has the advantage of not being tied to one vendor for support or product updates.

Rather quickly, it may become cost-effective to customize free software, rather than pay for thousands of licenses of commercial software on which to build. This shift in the market will require a growing number of professionals who specialize in open-source software.

This is perhaps best reflected in the salaries of IT Professionals. A 1998 salary survey of 7189 professionals asked which operating system they primarily used. Of those who reported Linux as their primary OS, their salary was $61,027 US vs. an overall average of $60,991. Linux salaries had increased 16.5% from the previous year, representing the fastest salary increase of any system (source: Sans Institute).

In-house staff is not the only option. Again, because of the freedom to inspect and study the software down to the lowest levels, a competitive industry is able to grow to serve whatever needs arise. The resulting alternative to in-house staff is a competitive market of independent consultants.

Consultants

When the cost of the software goes to zero, the value is in customizing for specific problems. Consultants already make their living providing these per-hour or per-project services. Open Source is not a sacrifice; it is an opportunity.

One example is comprehensive support. Most business want a single point of contact to take full responsibility for getting a project done. With closed source, contractors are at the mercy of bugs and limitations in the operating systems and applications they purchase. In effect, they cannot guarantee success. They do not have full control of the technology.

With Open Source, they have complete access to solve every problem, no matter what level or layer it occurs in. A small company with a skilled force of engineers can provide a level of comprehensive application-to-operating system service that only IBM or HP or Sun can provide today, and probably at much lower prices.

To get an understanding of the size and health of the Open Source consulting market, those registered in the Linux Consultants HOWTO were surveyed. They were asked the following questions:

  1. How many consultants at your company are involved with Open Source work?
  2. Approximately how much money did your company (or yourself, if independent) earn in 1998 on Open Source-related work? (Convert to US dollars)
  3. In 1999, based on numbers from recent months, how much do you expect this to increase/decrease? (as a percentage)
  4. In 1999, do you believe it is possible to make a living doing Open Source consulting work? (yes/no)

This is a very diverse group of VARs, integrators and consultants. Over 50% are from outside the U.S., where the cost of living may sometimes be lower. In most cases, open-source work is just a piece of the total business. While this is certainly not a scientifically rigorous study, it does give some flavor of the market.

Table 2. Linux Consultant Survey

Number of Responses: 79    
Median 1998 Earnings per Consultant: $15,000 US    
Minimum Earnings per Consultant: $0 US    
Maximum Earnings per Consultant: $312,500 US    
Median Predicted 1999 growth: 70%    
Possible to make a living in 1999: 77%

A key point from the survey is the importance of being a “jack of all trades.” You must focus on serving the needs of the customer, including doing work on closed source. In 1998, the median earnings per consultant on Open Source alone were not enough to make a living, and only 12.7% of the consultants made more than the $61,027 salary of IT professionals mentioned above. Business has picked up dramatically in recent months, however. As a whole, the consultants were very bullish on the coming year.

In the previous sections, we’ve covered the current business models that provide a living for employees, and innovations for consumers. There are certainly strengths, but the market is still tiny compared to traditional shrink-wrapped software. Young companies with new ideas are needed in order to grow the market.

Funding New Companies

Capital is the fuel for companies that will serve any new market. This money may come from the on-going operations of the business or from banks or investors. What is the current environment for getting this funding?

Venture capitalists, the investment partnerships that fund high-risk/high-return companies, are skeptical so far. Their analysis of these opportunities keeps coming back to a critical point: Open Source, by definition, eliminates the barriers of entry to a market. How can a company build a sustainable market advantage if their work can immediately be used by a competitor?

Table 3. Open Source Venture Funding

Company
          Size        
          Date        
     Who
——- ——- ——- —————————
Red Hat unknown Sept 1998 Greylock, Benchmark Partners, Intel, Netscape
Sendmail $7M Fall 1998 Silicon Valley Band of Angels
Cygnus $6M Feb 1997 Greylock, August Capital
VA Research unknown Fall 1998 Sequoia Capital
ActiveState unknown 1997 Tim O’Reilly
Scriptics $400K Jan 1998 Advance Sales

Given this limit on the upside, only a limited number of open-source companies have received funding. These companies have identified key factors to protect them from competitors. For Red Hat, it is a strong brand. For Sendmail, it is having an open/closed mix in their software product line. For a company like Cobalt Networks, it is combining closed hardware with open software. As this market matures, more companies may achieve profitability and attract investment dollars for everyone.

Until then, companies must bootstrap themselves. Ironically, this is feasible because of those same low barriers to entry that scare off investors. An open-source company can build on the past efforts of others, meaning less capital is required to start the company.

Problems to be Solved

In summary, what are the problems that companies must solve in order to grow the market in new directions?

  • The financial motivation for innovation must be stronger. Most of the current successful business models other than consultants make money off “secondary” services, rather than the software development itself.
  • Open Source is still largely “by developers, for developers”. To achieve mass market success, it must become more customer-driven and consumer-friendly.

Traditional software products harness the free market to solve these issues. Consumers pay to buy a software product if it meets their needs, which means it must be very polished. Successful products are profitable for the companies that create them. Unsuccessful products die off. Through these mechanisms, good developers make a living and consumers get good choices.

Open Source needs to create systems to provide these consumer checks and balances.

The Search for Solutions

The business models described throughout this article are by no means a comprehensive list. This is a young market we are only beginning to understand. It could yet defy the skeptics and evolve into something that serves customers better and is financially strong.

Part two of this series will explore one particular possibility in this universe of interesting but unproven ideas—a consumer co-op for software contracts. It uses the Web to let consumers commit funds up front to pay for the development of specific applications, feature enhancements or bug fixes critical to them. Resources are pooled, so each person pays only a small portion of the total cost. It is a system compatible with, and tailored to, Open Source. I will analyze this idea in detail, describe an attempt to create a web service which provides the necessary mechanisms and speculate how this system might affect the progress of the open-source market.

With this idea and many others, the open-source market is a fascinating mix of possibilities and dangers. In recent years, it has grown from thousands to millions of users. Several profitable companies are now serving the needs of these consumers.

The next few years will certainly see continued innovation from the open-source research community. From the business side, it remains to be seen whether the current momentum will continue or be struck down by market realities. It may very well depend on the innovations created by the upcoming generation of open-source entrepreneurs. It’s a free market. May the best products win.

Originally Published in Linux Journal Issue #62, June 1999

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Throwback: The World Wide Web http://plugable.com/2014/12/06/throwback-the-world-wide-web http://plugable.com/2014/12/06/throwback-the-world-wide-web#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 02:05:11 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14404 Originally published in Linux Journal Issue #3, June-July 1994

20 Years ago, 15 years before founding Plugable Technologies, Bernie Thompson wrote an article for the first issue of Linux Journal. Over the next twenty years, LJ published 4 more articles including a 20-year retrospective in 2014. Thanks to Linux Journal’s generous terms allowing authors to keep their copyright, we’re able to republish the full series of articles here. This particular article is quaintly dated now. If you have your own memories and opinions of the time, please share in the comments. This is Article 2 of 5.

cover3.smallGeneticists share genome data with colleagues. Fans of Anne Rice talk about her latest books. Hundreds of programmers team up to create a free Unix system called Linux.

By enabling individuals around the globe to communicate and cooperate, the Internet has sped up the pace of scientific innovation. With 20 million users and growing, it has created a culture based on instant information and hyperkinetic communication.

The challenge now is to expand the power of the Internet to a wider audience and make it more convenient for all. Rising to this challenge is a system called the World Wide Web. By bringing all of the Internet’s old and new resources together, the Web stands to become the one simple, standard way to access all of the Internet’s riches.

It stands to revolutionize the revolution.

What is the Web?

To picture the World Wide Web, imagine a page from a book. By pressing your finger on any of the words, you receive a new page with more detailed information about the subject selected. The Web is like a huge book being constructed on the Internet.

Tens of thousands of these pages are already scattered around the world. They are created by experts and novices of all disciplines who use the Internet. The amount of information available is stunning: an encyclopedia, a dictionary, world maps, complete information on US government agencies, extensive Linux documentation, and much much more. It’s an amazing source of information.

How does it Work?

The Web is really a collection of computers, hooked together over the Internet, that pass pages of information back and forth. A program called a Web browser is used to find and view information. When you select a word in your Web browser, a message goes out to another computer somewhere in the world. That computer will respond by sending back the page you requested.

The messages between computers are encoded in the form of a Universal Resource Locator. The URL describes what kind of information you want, and where to look for it. It’s like a mail address for the Web.

The pages can contain text, images. sounds and more. A page can even contain fill-in-the-blank forms which you complete to send information off to another computer. A protocol called HTML describes, in general terms, how the text, images, and forms should be positioned on the page. Web browsers can use this general description to lay out pages in different ways. For example, a browser that works in text mode only can ignore all the images. Or an X Windows browser can shift the text and images of a page when the window is resized.

URLs describe the locations of a page, and HTML provides an adaptable description of the information. Together, they make the Web an extremely flexible system.

Why Use the Web?

To everyone familiar with Internet newsgroups, FTP sites, and gopher servers, the Web may not seem groundbreaking. But the impact is, in fact, dramatic.

The most important advantage is simplicity. To maneuver around libraries of information, you need only click the mouse to learn or key combinations to memorize.

The Universal Resource Locator also provides an easy way to access other forms of Internet information such as gopher and archie. This way, there is only one, simple interface used to access a multitude of resources. New users benefit most from this simplicity.

Unlike newsgroups, Web information stays around as long as the author, or anyone else, wants to keep it available. Unlike information available vie FTP, the information is cataloged and categorized, so it is much easier to find and access. Unlike gopher, the information is laid out like one gigantic book. You can read what you like, and select more detail only if you’re interested.

Many have predicted that cyberspace would become a chaotic mess where information is impossible to find. The World Wide Web is a system designed to bring order to the chaos.

Linux and the Web

Linux is one of the best systems, commercial or otherwise, for access to the Web. Linux is a version of Unix, the native platform of the Internet. So the best Web tools are often available on Linux before DOS, Windows, or Macintosh.

Two of the most popular tools for the Web are Mosaic and lynx. They are Web browsers with different goals. Lynx is small and text-only. Mosaic is large and full-featured. To browse the wealth of information on the Web, just pick one, install, and wander off to explore the wonders of the Web.

Lynx will display the text of a page without any images or fancy fonts. It only requires the keyboard arrow keys for navigation. This simplicity makes it fast and flexible. Lynx uses the VT100 protocol, so people without access to X Windows can still use lynx, including users logging in to a Linux system remotely.

Lynx is miserly with disk space and memory. It will only take up 320K of disk and consume about 620K of RAM while running. This makes lynx perfect for 4MB Linux workstations.

Lynx is not as common as Mosaic, however. This is primarily because lynx doesn’t support the colorful images and different fonts that make the Web so expressive. For these, Mosaic or some other graphical browser is required to experience the full richness of the Web.

Lynx is freely available. To get lynx for Linux, check the Linux Software Map. For lynx source code, FTP to ftp2.cc.ukans.edu.

In contrast to lynx stands Mosaic. Mosaic is probably the best Web browsers available, and it is certainly the most famous. It takes full advantage of the Web.

Mosaic is a graphical browser, so it will only run on systems with X Windows (or MS Windows or Macintosh). A number of companies such as Quarterdeck have licensed the free Mosaic for commercial use rather than write their own. Mosaic is truly a high-quality application. But the price for beauty is more memory and disk space. Mosaic consumes over 1.3MB of disk space, and will use about 2MB of RAM while running.

Linux lynx, Mosaic is freely available. This freedom is slightly restricted, however, because Mosaic uses Motif programming libraries. This means you cannot recompile Mosaic yourself without a license for the Motif libraries.

To get Mosaic, search for it in the Linux Software Map. A copy of Mosaic can be found at sunsite.unc.edu and most other Linux sites. Assuming you have X Windows, no special installation procedures are needed. Just prepare to be impressed by a very professional program.

Using Linux to Contribute to the Web

DOS, Windows, and Mac users can happily access the Web with a browser. But the extra dimension Linux adds is the ability to become part of the Web. The ability to make information available to others via a Web server.

Setting up a Web server is certainly more difficult than using a browser, but is still surprisingly easy. This ease of use allows a large number of Internet users to contribute to the Web project. And Linux makes a great platform for a Web server because of its small size and speed. With the growing body of Internet Linux users, the potential is enormous.

Httpd is a popular Web server available for Linux. Its creator, NCSA, is the same group that developed Mosaic.Httpd will consume about 200K RAM while running. The program itself uses very little disk space. Just allocate enough disk space to hold all the pages of Web information.

The burden of the Web on a Linux server was tested by creating a working Web site on a i386-33 Linux machine. During a 40 day span, the PSU Linux WWW received 5375 requests from 1328 different sites around the world. This is an average of 6.9 requests per hour and 165 per day. The Web requests never interfered with any work being done by other users at the machine. A Linux system can easily provide Web services and have horsepower to spare.

To get httpd and set up your own Web server, look for httpd in the Linux Software Map. For full documentation on httpd, look at http://hoohoo.ncsa.uiuc.edu/. This site has all the documentation needed for installation.

The Web Means Business

The Web has attracted a surprising amount of attention from the commercial world. This is a testament to its effectiveness. No other existing system has the clean design, flexibility and momentum that the Web enjoys. “It’s the killer application of the Internet,” says Eamonn Sullivan of PC Week. “I know everyone says that now, but that doesn’t make it any less true.”

PC Week Labs discovered Linux during the course of setting up a Web server. The result is they continue to use Linux on their server, and Linux won PCX Week’s Product of the Week for April 18, 1994. Press exposure of this sort will inspire new and exciting business applications for Linux.

The number one buzzword in business today is client/server. The Web and Linux fit perfectly into such a system. A documentation solution for a large organization can be quickly and effectively developed with the Web.

For example, a business might be grappling with the documentation requirements of ISO 9000, the process quality standard of the International Standards Organization. Using the Web with Linux servers and clients running Mosaic, documents related to ISO 9000 can be sorted in one location, updated only by the group responsible for that process. But anyone inside the organization can view the documents. The Web is an easy, open solution to a thorny problem.

Exciting Possibilities for the Linux Community

Still, the greatest potential of the Web lies with the Internet-connected Linux community. As Linux continues to prove itself to Internet users, the audience for a Linux Web will grow. By distributing data around the world, enormous amounts of information can be conveniently accessed from any Linux machine. There are already a number of Web servers which have manual pages and info files on-line. Hook into the Web and save space.

The first possibility is for manual pages and info pages. This infrequently accessed information can be viewed via the Web instead of storing copies on every machine. There are already a number of Web servers which have manual pages and info files on-line. Hook into the Web and save space.

Using FTP to access files can be difficult for novice users. A Web browser provides a friendly interface for getting files from FTP sites. Common FTP sites can appear as links on a Web page. Newsgroups, also, can be accessed via the Web. Hypertext links between followups are automatically created.

Subscribing to mailing lists can be automated. Using fill-in forms, users could select links to subscribe and unsubscribe. In the same way, they could register with Linux User Counter.

To better bring the Linux community together, a Web server can be configured so that each user has a home page of information about themselves. A tree of Linux information can be developed, right down to individuals. New Linux users would register themselves, and their home page, with some local server. Every new local server would register itself with a central server. Now the location and interests of each Linux user are easily available.

Lastly, there is potential for information beyond mere man pages. Linux is extraordinary in the quantity and quality of online information available. Because of the contributions of groups like the Linux Documentation Project, information about nearly every aspect of Linux use are available. All of these manuals, information sheets, and FAQs can be made available on the Web.

What makes this possibility so exciting is that each manual can be stored in one place—the author’s home site. So when a document is updated, the author has only one central location the change it. Although the documents would actually be scattered around the world, to the Web user they would all appear on one easy-to-locate Web page. The Web provides an optimal system for both authors and users.

The World Wide Web is still in its infancy. The first half of 1994 saw triple-digit growth in Web traffic. By encompassing older systems of information access, like gopher, the Web guaranteed instant compatibility.

Native Web information is exploding. Through the Internet and through CD-ROM distribution, the Linux community is finding many new and creative uses for this flexible technology. No doubt more and better uses will be forthcoming. It is certain that the phenomenal growth of the Web will continue.

Bernie Thompson ran the PSU Linux WWW during its 3-month life span in early 1994

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Throwback: Linux vs. Windows NT and OS/2 http://plugable.com/2014/12/06/throwback-linux-vs-windows-nt-and-os2 http://plugable.com/2014/12/06/throwback-linux-vs-windows-nt-and-os2#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 23:50:27 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14390 Originally Published in Linux Journal Issue #1, March 1994

20 Years ago, 15 years before founding Plugable Technologies, Bernie Thompson wrote an article for the first issue of Linux Journal. Over the next twenty years, LJ published 4 more articles including a 20-year retrospective in 2014. Thanks to Linux Journal’s generous terms allowing authors to keep their copyright, we’re able to republish the full series of articles here. If you have your own memories and opinions of the time, please share in the comments. This is Article 1 of 5.

Picking an operating system is a dangerous business. You’re committing yourself to a couple hours, certainly, or maybe a couple days of manual-reading, file-editing, and hassles. If your real goal was just to get some work done, maybe it would have been simpler to stay with Windows 3.1 and never embark on an adventure in computing.

But, then again, there seems to be a substantial body of computer users who are dissatisfied with DOS and Windows. Some are moving to OS/2, Windows NT, or some other Comdex wonder. Some are even daring enough to wipe out DOS in favor of an anti-establishment system like Linux.

Before you take the plunge, you should know up front what you stand to gain. More importantly, too, what you stand to lose. Here’s what lies ahead for you if you want OS/2, Windows NT, or Linux to be part of your future.

Hardware is the First Issue

Don’t even think about switching systems until you know what your hardware supports. The wonderful features of a new system won’t be compelling if your system doesn’t work.

You must have a Intel 386 or better to have any 32-bit choices. Then you need memory. Linux needs 2MB RAM to try out, OS/2 needs 4MB, and NT needs 12 MB. And you need disk space. You need to set aside at least 15MB for Linux, 32MB for OS/2, and 70MB for NT for a good trial run. A full working system will require even more resources.

Memory required

If these requirements are satisfied, you still have to determine if all the pieces of your machine are compatible. If your machine uses the Microchannel bus (all IBM PS/2s), Linux doesn’t support you. If you have a Compaq QVision video board, OS/2 won’t use it. If you have a network card with a 3Com 3c501 chip, NT can’t talk to it. And these are just samples of some possible compatibility problems. The full list changes often. Incompatibilities constantly recede as better hardware support is added. But a constant stream of new, incompatible hardware is always hitting the market.

Why are computer users put through this ringer? Well, The PC hardware market has few solid standards. IBM-compatible hasn’t really meant anything since IBM stopped leading the industry. These nightmares can be avoided by getting your 32-bit operating system the same way you got DOS and Windows—buy a complete computer system with Linux, OS/2 or NT pre-installed. Companies which do this are rare, but you’ll save trouble by seeking one out. Let them find the best hardware to fit the operating system you want.

If buying a whole new system isn’t an option, you’ll have to take the path most Linux, OS/2, and NT users have taken. Just start installing. If you have trouble, be prepared to find out more than you ever wanted to know about the pieces of your system.

Why Operating Systems Matter

Operating systems determine which applications will work, what those applications will look like, and how they will work together.

For example, if you want to run Microsoft’s application suite (Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint), you’re out of luck with Linux. They won’t work. With OS/2, they work for now, but the burden is on IBM to keep up since Microsoft abandoned OS/2 in 1991. In the end, Windows 3.1 and Windows NT are the only safe choices for using Microsoft applications.

How applications look and how they work together are determined by the operating system, too.

Disk Space

Windows NT uses the same program manager—file manager—print manager interface as Windows 3.1. This interface is not elegant, but it has one very significant advantage—it is simple. And because it’s not very configurable, users can’t do much damage by moving icons around and changing settings.

OS/2 takes the more radical route of a completely object oriented interface. Data and programs are objects which can be arranged in any manner. Clicking on a data object starts the associated application. Dragging data to the printer object prints it. Although OS/2 has a notoriously bland color scheme and layout when first installed, every detail can be re-configured.

With OS/2’s flexibility comes a daunting depth of detail for first-time users. It is too easy to get lost. With dozens of windows open, it’s a pain to locate and manipulate things. However, these disadvantages fade when the system is used for a while. The detail, power, and regularity of the interface become persuasive.

Linux uses the X/Windows system. X/Windows is a graphical chameleon, able to look and act many ways. The advantage is flexibility and choice. The disadvantage is complexity. Applications may not look and act alike. Many different interfaces are available. This makes user instruction and support more difficult.

Linux is primarily a command-line system where programs are typed in by name, although program managers and file managers are available to ease the transition of a novice user. The same tasks done with Windows and OS/2 are possible under Linux, but they generally require more knowledge and skills. If one knowledgeable user configures the Linux system, most novice users will be comfortable starting and running applications.

Features Provided

All three systems have a wide variety of books and tutorials available which can help novice users. Although Linux is a free system, it still has a library of books written about it—any book about Unix will apply to Linux. So finding assistance on the use of these systems should not be difficult.

If the issues of interface are surmountable, Linux has many positive characteristics that are not shared by OS/2 and NT. Linux enjoys the advantage of having no guarded secrets, no technology owned by a single company. The source code is freely available, which means it can be inspected and improved upon by any corporate or individual user. And, surprisingly, this common knowledge was used to build a system which is more miserly with memory and disk space than either OS/2 or NT. IBM and Microsoft would actually have much to learn from Linux if they cared to look.

The Foundations

When it comes down to it, an operating system is just a foundation. Choose the foundation that supports the features you need and will need in the future. But be aware of the high price in memory, storage, and performance that these features exact.

Linux, like OS/2, is designed and optimized to run on Intel 386 and compatible CPUs. By contrast, Windows NT is designed to be ported to many different CPUs. NT is currently available for MIPS, DEC Alpha, and Intel 386. This independence from Intel is an important advantage for NT, because users have more hardware choices.

All three systems support multitasking, which is the ability to have many programs running simultaneously. For example, it is possible to format a disk, download a file from a BBS, and edit in a word processor, all simultaneously. You can’t do this using a system like MS DOS, which doesn’t support multitasking.

NT supports multiprocessing, which means using more than one CPU in a single machine. An NT PC could have 2 or more processors, all working together. Again, this means more hardware possibilities for the NT user.

NT and Linux both support dynamic caching. Caching stores recently used information in memory, so it is readily available if needed again. OS/2 sets aside a pre-determined chunk of memory to do this (typically 512K to 2MB), whereas Linux and NT will dynamically use as much spare memory as possible. The result is much faster disk access for Linux and NT, because the information is often already in the cache. OS/2’s inflexibility causes memory to be wasted when not used, and memory to be used poorly when it is scarce.

Linux, unlike OS/2 and NT, has full multiuser support. Local users, modem users, and network users can all simultaneously run text and graphics programs. This is a powerful feature for business environments that is unmatched by OS/2 or NT.

Linux has security systems to prevent normal users from misconfiguring the system. Although Windows NT isn’t multiuser, it has security checks for the individual using the machine. It is safe to have a Linux or NT machine available for use by many people, whereas an OS/2 user could (mis)configure the system software.

Applications Supported

Linux’s security and multiuser features are so well developed because they are traditional features for Unix. Since Linux is “Unix-compatible,” it supports these same powerful features.

The Costs

Every feature supported will tend to make an operating system larger, consuming more memory and storage. Larger systems are also slower than smaller systems when memory is scarce. So the size of a system is an important issue.

NT is the largest of the three systems. NT’s support for portability, multiprocessing, and many other features is the cause of its large size. Given a powerful enough machine, NT offers a set of features that is very compelling.

Linux with X/Windows is the next smaller system. Linux itself is very miserly, but X/Windows puts a burden on the system. For most the graphical interface will be worth the cost in resources.

OS/2 is smallest of the three when using a graphical interface. This is the attraction of OS/2. A user need only upgrade to 8MB of RAM to use an object-oriented interface and have a good platform for multitasking DOS, Windows, and OS/2 programs. OS/2 is the strongest of the three for backward compatibility with DOS and Windows. OS/2 has sold several million copies in the last two years, primarily because of these strengths.

Linux without X/Windows is the smallest of the three. This is a great sacrifice for many, running without graphical windows. But by jettisoning expensive graphics, the system is smaller and faster than OS/2 or NT will ever be. 4MB RAM, the standard configuration for a DOS/Windows PC, is plenty for most tasks. So Linux can make good use of a low-end 386 PC with little memory, where OS/2 or NT either would not run, or not run well. Systems with lots of memory will be able to use Linux’s dynamic caching to achieve unusually high performance. With 16MB RAM, almost 12MB remains to be used for caching and running applications.

Cost

In general, the issue of size is a great strength for Linux. Linux was designed to be as small and efficient as possible. NT’s most important criterion was portability, and OS/2’s was backward compatibility. The result is Linux is the most efficient of the three. And because a company or individual has access to the Linux code, it can be optimized and scaled to suit the hardware and needs of the user. OS/2 and NT do not have this flexibility.

The Practical Results

Windows NT is compelling because it is a solid system that offers freedom from the single CPU Intel world.

OS/2 is compelling because it offers the best system for running 16-bit DOS and Windows applications while moving into the more flexible and powerful 32-bit world.

But both systems still end up locking users into proprietary technology—applications that will only work on either OS/2 or NT. Linux does not pose this danger. Applications written for Linux can be ported to any of the dozens of other Unix systems available. Betting on an “open” technology from IBM or Microsoft is still a risky game. Linux offers freedom from this kind of entrapment.

The greatest difficulty in realizing this freedom is finding high quality applications. To keep from getting locked into a proprietary system, you have to choose applications with support for multiple platforms. If your spreadsheet supports Windows, OS/2, Unix, and Mac, you can be confident that support for additional platforms would also be possible. The trade-off is fewer features and higher prices.

Linux has an interface to run commercial applications designed for other Intel Unix systems like SCO Unix. But the quality of applications is still a problem. For example, there is no commercial word processor for Linux which matches the quality of ones for Windows and OS/2. This kind of glaring inadequacy alone can preclude the use of Linux.

Which System to Use

For the corporate user, Linux will fit in well with a TCP/IP based client-server strategy. Linux can turn low-end hardware into a solid fileserver or PostScript print server. Linux works better than many commercial Unix systems on common Intel hardware. Linux is small and fast. Linux can be completely inspected and customized by anyone. Linux has built-in mail and internet tools. Phone support and documentation for Linux are available.

But there are three disadvantages. One, there are few commercial applications. Two, if something goes wrong, there is no one organization to blame as with OS/2 or NT. Three, Linux’s foundations are strong, but Microsoft and IBM are constantly developing new technologies that may leave Linux behind. In general, Linux has the features to make it a better choice than NT or OS/2 in some situations. As Linux gains exposure, more businesses are likely to take advantage of this potential.

For the technical user, Linux offers the exciting chance to tinker with an operating system. All of the system’s source code is available. It is a great learning tool and motivator. And since most current Linux users are technical hobbyists, a wealth of applications are available to suit these tastes. Ray tracers, morphing programs, graphics viewers, compilers, games, and more are all available. Linux does lack full-motion video, speech recognition, and some other cutting-edge technologies. These features, along with OS/2 and NT application development, may be compelling enough to draw the technical user towards OS/2 or NT.

For the novice user, OS/2 or NT is the best 32-bit option. OS/2’s object-oriented interface and free technical support are compelling factors. NT’s power to sway commercial developers is reassuring. But the safest and most likely choice for the novice user is to stick with the operating system that came with their computer, typically DOS and Windows 3.1. Tackling installation, configuration, and new applications is still not trivial for these three 32-bit systems.

Overall, Linux stacks up surprisingly well for a free system developed by a horde of volunteer programmers. It’s foundations are solid. The quantity and quality of many free applications are stunning. If Windows-class applications and an OS/2-class interface are developed for Linux, it will have the compelling features to tackle commercial systems. While many computer users now know only OS/2 and NT, thousands of others have discovered Linux. As all three of these systems quickly improve and evolve, Linux is likely to gain an expanding base of users. Free software has a powerful new platform to build on.

Bernie Thompson was a member of IBM’s development team for OS/2 2.0 and 2.1

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How to manually update your Windows Intel HD Graphics drivers http://plugable.com/2014/12/03/how-to-manually-update-windows-intel-hd-graphics-drivers http://plugable.com/2014/12/03/how-to-manually-update-windows-intel-hd-graphics-drivers#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 03:51:11 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14351 Fixing graphics driver issues sometimes requires a newer driver than is available from the system manufacturer or Windows Update. In these cases you might need the latest driver direct from the graphics chip maker (usually Intel, AMD, or Nvidia).

This post details the necessary steps to manually update your Intel HD Graphics drivers using Intel reference drivers on Windows 8/8.1 systems. There is also a video of the process embedded below that might be helpful to watch prior to performing the installation steps.

Please note that this process will not work on all systems. The installation process and drivers are just for Intel graphics and have been tested repeatedly on the Microsoft Surface series of tablets with positive results, but only minimally tested on other systems. When in doubt, contact your system manufacturer directly for guidance on driver updates.

Driver Installation Steps

  1. Download the win64_15367.zip (version 15.36.7.64.3960) driver package from Intel’s site (Make sure to get the .ZIP version, not the .EXE version)
  2. Locate the downloaded file, right-click it, and extract the contents to a folder of your choosing. Take note of this location. You’ll need it below
  3. Right-click on the Start Menu/Windows logo and select “Device Manager”
  4. In Device Manager, expand Display Adapters category and then double-click on the entry that appears below it – the Intel HD Graphics Family2014-12-03-Manual-Update-Intel-Drivers-Device-Manger
  5. Click the Driver Tab -> Update Driver -> Browse my computer for driver software2014-12-03-Manual-Update-Intel-Drivers-Manual
  6. Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer -> Have disk
  7. “Browse” and browse to the folder where you extracted the download above, followed by the “Graphics” sub-folder -> Click to highlight the file titled “kit64ics.inf” and then click “Open”, followed by “OK” and “Next”
  8. Upon completion of the installation, reboot even if not prompted to. On reboot, you’re done.

Driver Installation Video


Click here for a full screen tab.

We hope this background helps. Any questions? Feel free to comment below. And if you have a Plugable product, just email support@plugable.com, we’ll be happy to help. Thank you!

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Plugable Launches the Pro8 Docking Station (UD-PRO8) for Tablets like the Dell Venue 8 Pro http://plugable.com/2014/11/20/plugable-launches-the-ud-pro8-charging-usb-2-0-docking-station-for-the-dell-venue-8-pro-nextbook-8-win-8-1-the-lenovo-miix-2-8 http://plugable.com/2014/11/20/plugable-launches-the-ud-pro8-charging-usb-2-0-docking-station-for-the-dell-venue-8-pro-nextbook-8-win-8-1-the-lenovo-miix-2-8#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 23:29:22 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14204 Update: November 25th, 2014 – We’ve confirmed the HP Stream 7 is compatible with the Pro8 and we have had reports from customers that the Toshiba Encore Mini along with the ASUS VivoTab 8 may be compatible as well. For a list of compatible tablets click here.

One year ago we demonstrated our UD-3900 USB 3.0 universal docking station with the newly released Dell Venue 8 Pro 8″ Windows tablet on YouTube. Our video has been a huge success – to date we’ve had over 225000 views, nearly 1000 likes, almost 500 comments, and got retweeted by Michael Dell. The overwhelmingly positive response from our audience prompted us to take action to try to tackle the unsolved problem of simultaneously charging and using a USB docking station over a the one available micro-b USB port.

Those of you who have been following this project are likely aware of the Kickstarter we launched in June and successfully funded in July. With the help of crowd funding we were able to bring the UD-PRO8 to life.

Capture

The Pro8 is the world’s first all-in-one docking solution designed to charge the Dell Venue 8 Pro, Nextbook 8 (Win 8.1), and Lenovo Miix 2 8″ tablets while simultaneously connecting external USB devices. The Pro8 unlocks an amazing amount of potential on compatible tablets like these. Microsoft heavily discounts or gives away full versions of Windows 8.1 only with 8″ or smaller tablets, with the theory that such a small screen and few ports is limiting enough that these systems won’t compete with full Windows PCs. Our Pro8 docking station is a game-changing device that allows these small 8″ tablets to function as desktop replacements with the multi-monitor, network, audio, and USB connectivity options of a full desktop PC.

We have completed the first wave of shipping Pro8 docks to our Kickstarter backers and are excited to finally announce availability on Amazon US for $89 / $99 for CA. The timing couldn’t have worked out better with the holiday season fast approaching. Those with friends and family looking for an inexpensive tablet may want to consider combining our Pro8 with the newly released Nextbook 8 due to it’s aggressive pricing of $149 exclusively from Walmart with Windows 8.1 and a one year free subscription to Office 365 Personal. Through December 31st they are also including a 16GB Micro SD card for free (ours shipped with a Kingston class 4).

Better yet, beginning on Thursday November 27th at 8PM (local time) they are offering the tablet for just $99 as an early Black Friday deal. Combined with our Pro8 docking station, for about $200 you can have a good entry level tablet & desktop replacement.

We would like to point out however that the Nextbook 8 is on a lower performance tier than the Venue 8 Pro and Lenovo Miix 2 8″ with only 1GB on RAM and a 16GB SSD, but unlike the Venue or Miix, there is a built in mini HDMI port which is a nice addition.

For those already using and excited about the Pro8, we’d encourage you to spread the word on twitter with any pics and another info you want to share, using the hash tag #pro8

And if you have any questions or problems at all, let us know.  Our entire Plugable Technologies team is located in Seattle, WA and we’re here to help! If needed, contact our support team here.

Where to Buy

Plugable Pro8 Charging and USB Docking Station for Tablets like the Dell Venue 8 Pro. While Simultan... Product Details
$89.00
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How to switch to USB Audio on Raspberry Pi http://plugable.com/2014/11/06/how-to-switch-to-usb-audio-on-raspberry-pi http://plugable.com/2014/11/06/how-to-switch-to-usb-audio-on-raspberry-pi#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 22:17:06 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14138 Serious beats for the Pi!

Serious beats for the Pi!

After publishing our updated Raspberry Pi hardware list, some elaboration is needed on how to use the USB-AUDIO adapter as your default playback device.

This little how-to, should enable you to use the USB-AUDIO as default playback device.

  • To get started, plug your USB-AUDIO into the Pi and run the following command:
    aplay -l

    Within the output you should find: card 0: Device [USB Audio Device], device 0: USB Audio [USB Audio], which means the Pi has recognized the USB-AUDIO adapter and we can move on to configuration. If this is not the case, some further troubleshooting is needed (try power cycling your USB hub or plug the audio adapter directly into the Pi and alternatively use the lsusb).

  • Use your favorite editor to modify /etc/modprobe.d/alsa.base.conf (be sure to make a backup of this file before editing in case something goes wrong!)
  • Change:
    options snd-usb-audio index=-2

    to:

    options snd-usb-audio index=0

    and also add the following on the next line:

    options snd_bcm2835 index=1

    This is essentially forcing the default sound module (snd_bcm2835) to be disabled while the usb sound module (snd-usb-audio) is enabled; rearranging the hierarchy of the sound modules.

  • Reboot and test for audio output
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OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” Ethernet Adapter Problems? We can help! http://plugable.com/2014/10/31/os-x-10-10-yosemite-ethernet-adapter-problems-we-can-help http://plugable.com/2014/10/31/os-x-10-10-yosemite-ethernet-adapter-problems-we-can-help#comments Sat, 01 Nov 2014 00:32:27 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14125 10.10 Yosemite, non working Ethenet adpater

There has been a lot of buzz around upgrading to 10.10 and afterward having network related problems. This post will focus on our USB3-HUB3ME, USB3-E1000 and USB2-E100 Ethernet adapters, but we encourage you to apply the concept of this content to troubleshoot other brands or similar network related issues.

First, it is a good idea to check if you have any possibility of connecting to your network via WiFi. If you cannot connect to any network via WiFi or Ethernet adapter, you might want to carefully consider this Apple forum thread which addresses this problem. If this is not your problem and is isolated to your Ethernet adapter only, the latter set of instructions is for you.

For OSX/BSD/Unix/Linux it is best practice to remove non core kernel modules/drivers/extensions before performing a major upgrade and to reinstall the latest revision after this has been accomplished. We will take a similar approach to fix this issue.

Again, these instructions are for a seemingly non working Ethernet adapter (USB3-HUB3ME, USB3-E1000, USB2-E100) after upgrading from 10.9 “Mavericks” to 10.10 “Yosemite”.

  1. Disconnect Ethernet adapter
  2. Take a look at “System Information” > “Software” > “Extensions” and look for an instance labeled “AX88179_798A” (for the USB3-E1000 and USB3-HUB3ME) or “AX88772″ (for the USB2-E100) and select it for you to be able to look at the “Location” path (as an example, the AX88179_79A instance has the following path: /Library/Extensions/AX88179_178A.kext)
  3. Open your Terminal and run the following command:
    sudo kextunload /pathof/thextension/NAME_OF_THE_KEXT_FILE.kext

    (note this is the path shown in system information in step 2). Now you have unloaded this extension.

  4. Reboot
  5. Download the newest driver from here and install
  6. Connect the Ethernet adapter and test
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Raspberry Pi and Plugable Devices Updated for Winter 2014 http://plugable.com/2014/10/23/raspberry-pi-and-plugable-devices-updated-for-winter-2014 http://plugable.com/2014/10/23/raspberry-pi-and-plugable-devices-updated-for-winter-2014#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 21:39:54 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13989 Plugable Pi mhmmmm!

Since our last post on which devices work best on the Raspberry Pi, we have had some new additions to the Plugable product line up. This post will include new products as well as the proven ones to have all information on one page.

All tests were carried out on a Raspberry Pi Model B using the latest version of Raspbian Wheezy (September 2014 release).

USB Hubs

  • USB2-HUB7BC – No issues
  • USB2-HUB10C2 – 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 right at that moment when 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, we do not recommend our 10 port hub with the Pi.
  • USB2-HUB-AG7 – No issues
  • USB2-HUB4BC – No issues
  • USB2-HUB10S – 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 right at that moment when 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, we do not 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.
  • USB2-SWITCH2 – No issues
  • USB3-HUB10C2 – Produced inconsistent results. Performs best if powered by one of the flip-up ports. Pi reboots upon connecting this Hub to the USB ports. We really do not recommend using this USB hub.
  • USB3-HUB3ME – Causes the Raspberry Pi to reboot upon connection. Plugging the USB hub into the Pi while powered down is advised. USB HID devices (Mice, Keyboards) are known not to work with this hub on the Raspberry Pi.
  • USB3-HUB4M – Causes the Raspberry Pi to reboot upon connection. Plugging the USB hub into the Pi while powered down is advised. USB HID devices (Mice, Keyboards) are known not to work with this hub on the Raspberry 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.
  • USB3-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.

Audio:

Ethernet:

  • USB2-E1000 – Driver already in kernel. Works automatically when connected through a powered USB Hub.
  • USB2-E100 – Driver already in kernel. Works automatically when connected through a powered USB Hub.
  • USB3-E1000 – Driver already in kernel. Works automatically when connected through a powered USB Hub.

Bluetooth:

Storage:

  • USB3-SATA-U3 – Driver already in kernel. Because it has its own 12V 2A AC adapter, it works automatically even when directly connected to the Pi.*Important note:* September’s Raspberry Pi release runs on Kernel version 3.12.28. There is a known bug with Kernel versions 3.15 and 3.16 in combination with this hard drive docking station. Full functionality resumed in 3.17
  • USB3-SATA-UASP1 – No issues
  • USB2-CARDRAM3 – Driver already in kernel. Works automatically when connected through a powered USB Hub.

Microscope:

  • USB2-MICRO-200X – 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”
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To 10.10 Yosemite, or not to 10.10 Yosemite, that is the Question: http://plugable.com/2014/10/22/to-10-10-yosemite-or-not-to-10-10-yosemite-that-is-the-question http://plugable.com/2014/10/22/to-10-10-yosemite-or-not-to-10-10-yosemite-that-is-the-question#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 21:23:12 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=14013 OS X Yosemite 10.10

There certainly has been a lot of speculation on how Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite will change the world and create a even better customer experience, but what does this mean for USB devices and more specifically, USB devices with drivers?

With the bitter/sweet aftertaste of the Mavericks upgrade, Mac customers yet again are worrying about hardware compatibility. Since the leap from 10.8 Mountain Lion to 10.9 Mavericks seemed to be large one, will there be the same anguish of losing full functionality of the current accessory-hardware?

Although we are still in the infant stages of the 10.10 release, and these problems encompass not just Plugable products, we still would like to share a few data points on what was experienced so far.

Ethernet Adapters

There is 10.10 driver support for the USB3-E1000 and the USB2-E100. If customers loose functionality after upgrading, a re-installation of the driver will help to get back up and running again. This entails removing the current driver (removal script is included in the driver folder), and removing its instance from the “Network” lineup in “System Preferences”. If you have a “Bluetooth PAN” entry or have connected via Bluetooth to the internet before, removing this entry will help simplify your troubleshooting process.

We have also seen other underlying issues that contribute to the symptoms of a non-working Ethernet adapter (see this current Apple Forum thread). At this point there are either file permission issues or the operating system fails to launch network related daemons/services. We recommend running the “Repair Disk Permissions” utility that you can find within your “Disk Utility” on your Macintosh HD to accomplish this. For a detailed tutorial please see this blog post.

DisplayLink USB Graphics Adapters and Docking Stations

The primary challenges relating to USB-graphics that were present in Mavericks (10.9.x) are still problematic in Yosemite. The following are a few key issues can be especially problematic (though the severity and frequency of these issues can vary from system to system):

  • Second connected DisplayLink display may not display an image.
  • Display arrangement does not persist after rebooting when using two or more DisplayLink displays.
  • Some users experience higher than expected CPU usage when a DisplayLink display is connected.
  • Users can encounter intermittent spontaneous instances of being logged out of their account. (This is caused by Apple’s WindowServer process crashing. We’ve documented a fix that helps this behavior in Mavericks here but have not yet successfully reproduced this issue in 10.10 to see if the same fix is successful.)

 
There is a more comprehensive list of known issues relating to Yosemite on DisplayLink’s Knowledgebase. DisplayLink is still attempting to engage with Apple regarding these issues, and we’ll continue to post updates as they become available.

One positive development of note is that DisplayLink has recently released an updated beta driver (v2.3) for OS X 10.8.5, 10.9.x, and 10.10. It contains some minor bug fixes and adds support for 4K resolutions using DL-5×00 based display adapters such as our UGA-4KDP.

USB hubs

USB 3.0 hub support on Yosemite has not had any noticeable changes. Overall, users should expect a hassle free experience with any of our VL81x series chipset hubs with all of their devices. One notable exception is some external hard drives may need a firmware update installed from the drive manufacturer. This is nothing new, many Mac users have needed to update their external hard drive firmware for stable operation in older OS 10.x releases, but we always recommend to check if you run into any issues.

Most drives will not have this issue, but we do see it happen on occasion in edge case scenarios. Symptoms to look out for are drives failing to resume from sleep properly resulting in the drive not being ejected (unmounted) properly. Because of this data corruption can occur, and we recommend that if the drive is being used for Time Machine backups, to make sure the external hard drive directly connected to the Mac.

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What BadUSB Is and Isn’t http://plugable.com/2014/10/06/badusb http://plugable.com/2014/10/06/badusb#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 00:25:27 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13955 The BadUSB exploit is an idea and working proof of concept which takes advantage of the fact that some USB devices have firmware, and on some of those devices the firmware can be updated.

BadUSB has exploded onto the press in the last few days with articles like Wired – The Unpatchable Malware That Infects USBs Is Now on the Loose, CNBC – Why USB malware just became a big problem , The Verge – This published hack could be the beginning of the end for USB.

2014-10-06-Phison-Flash-Storage-ControllerThis first wave of articles have a few problems, as you might guess. As a former Development Manager of the USB team at Microsoft and the founder of a USB device maker (Plugable Technologies), I hope to fill in a few more of the pieces.

First off, this is a real family of security issues. Anywhere there’s running code, there’s opportunity for exploit. In the Internet of Things era, there is code running nearly everywhere. As electronics shrink, things we think of as “devices” are really computers. To deal with an evolving world, we often want these little devices to be software fixable and upgradable. This creates risks that need to be actively mitigated.

To hack a computer with a USB device, at least 2 things have to be true:

  1. The USB device being infected needs to have firmware, that firmware needs to be software upgradable, and that upgrade mechanism needs to be insecure. That is true of some USB devices but not others.
  2. If a USB device is vulnerable, the virus has to be designed for particular USB controller(s) in that device. The method of flashing firmware on the device and the instruction set is controller specific. The BadUSB code out now is specific to one USB flash controller (Phison) and won’t affect other USB devices. It is not a universal attack.

Whether #1 and #2 are true depends on the particular device. Take our Plugable USB product line as an example: none are exploitable with the BadUSB code as it stands right now because we don’t use the Phison controller. However, some would be vulnerable if specific attacks were targeted at the specific controllers in the devices.

main_512For example, the Termius Technology Chipset used in all of our Plugable-brand USB 2.0 hubs is a fixed-function hardware ASIC without executable or updatable firmware. These USB devices are not vulnerable to BadUSB-style attacks of any kind.

On the other side, our USB 3.0 SATA drive docks use the ASMedia 1051E and 1053E chipsets, which have an 8-bit microcontroller. It is firmware upgradable. So while the recently released BadUSB code will not infect these docks, in theory they could be targeted in the future with a similar effort to that which went into BadUSB.

An interesting 3rd example is our Plugable USB 3.0 Tablet / Laptop Docking Stations and Graphics Adapters. These use DisplayLink DL-3×00 and DL-5×00 chipsets. They make use of firmware. That firmware is software upgradable. However, DisplayLink has implemented on-chip authentication, encryption, and firmware validation which makes it quite difficult for any 3rd party to successfully update firmware. To date, no 3rd party has successfully been able to crack this and talk to the DisplayLink chip. That is one of the reasons why these products work only with Windows and Mac where DisplayLink provides drivers themselves. No software-based security is invulnerable. But it can be a strong mitigation.

You can find out which USB controllers are used in our products on the product pages at Plugable and on Newegg or Amazon listings, etc. We do that because chipset is the best way to dig into compatibility details, but it’s also the best way to research what security features the chips have. We’ll be working to expand on our security information and features over time.

Hopefully some of this detail helps create a fuller picture of what BadUSB is and isn’t. You can also get a lot of great detail from Brandon Wilson and Adam Caudill’s video of how BadUSB was created. If you have any questions, we’re happy to share what we know, just comment below.

Bernie Thompson
Founder, Plugable Technologies

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USB Stock Chargers, Dedicated Multi-Port Chargers, or Charge & Sync Hubs. What’s Best for Me? http://plugable.com/2014/10/02/usb-stock-chargers-dedicated-multi-port-chargers-or-charge-sync-hubs-whats-best-for-me http://plugable.com/2014/10/02/usb-stock-chargers-dedicated-multi-port-chargers-or-charge-sync-hubs-whats-best-for-me#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 23:19:24 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13908 In today’s world of mass portable devices with USB connectivity, charging should be as simple as plug and play. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Take me for example. On my desk I’ve got a Google Nexus 5, Dell Venue 8 Pro, Apple iPhone 4, and several generations of iPad. Each one came with a completely different power adapter for charging! My Nexus will charge off of almost anything, my Dell Venue 8 Pro is quite picky, but Apple might be the most confusing of them all.

The reason is USB charging has not been well standardized until recently. Apple has been charging devices via USB with special signaling since the first USB connected iPod. Devices determine whether and how fast to charge, and make that decision based on different non-standard methods to recognize “their charger.”

Take for example the following charging signals commonly seen today:

  • Apple 2.4A (12W)
    (iPad Air / iPad Mini, likely any subsequent iPad releases)
  • Apple 2.1A (10.5W)
    (original iPad through iPad Retina)
  • Apple 1A (5W)
    (first seen with the iPod all the way back in 2002, commonly found with all iPhones including the newly released iPhone 6/6 Plus)
  • Dedicated Charging Port, DCP (wattage varies per device)
    (often referred to as the Android charging signal, common for almost all non-Apple devices)
  • Samsung 2.4A (12W)
    (usually seen with Samsung tablets, potentially some phones)
  • USB-IF BC1.2 CDP 1.5A (7.5W)
    (the official USB charging standard, it’s not well adopted yet, but more devices are becoming compliant)

What exactly does all of this mean?

In short, taking my Dell Venue 8 Pro as an example, I can’t plug it into just any USB charger and expect it to charge, it works on Android and Apple 1A signals but won’t charge on any of the others. Or if we take my iPad Retina and plug it into my iPhone 4 charger, it’s going to charge at an overly slow rate.

Because of scenarios like these, most users have a preconceived notion that they must use the stock charger that came with their device. Sometimes with the fear that if they do not, their device won’t charge, or worse, could actually be harmed.

Fortunately this isn’t the case. In fact, most devices on the market can actually charge from the Apple 1A signal as it has unofficially been adopted as the universal USB charging standard; mainly because it’s been around for so long. Also a device will only pull as much power as it needs, so using a more powerful charger may actually help your device charge faster. The newly released iPhone 6 and 6 Plus ship with the standard Apple 1A charger, but will charge much faster on the Apple 2.1/2.4A chargers or another charger that the iPhone 6 recognizes.

Many consumers don’t realize they can downsize their growing pile of stock chargers for a more convenient multi-port charger that can charge almost every USB charging device in their home simultaneously from just one AC wall outlet. Take our flagship multi-port charger, the Plugable USB-C5T (temporarily out of stock 10/3/2014). It has 5 USB charging ports with enough power (7.2A, 36W) to charge two iPads and three iPhones concurrently (or three iPads and one iPhone, etc) at their maximum charging rates.

Click to enlarge.

The Plugable USB-C5T, bringing order to chaos.

Three of the C5T’s USB ports simulate the standard Apple 1A signal which will charge most devices, including my picky Dell Venue 8 Pro, but where the C5T really shines is with the two outer ports which are equipped with a smart charging chipset made by the folks at Genesys Logic. The GL888F chipset can simulate almost all of the aforementioned charging signals (sans Apple 2.4A) and will intelligently select the best one for your device. This is great because if your device happens to not be compatible with the standard Apple 1A signal, chances are it will charge off of the smart ports.

Great. Sign me up!

Not quite yet, but we’re almost done. Have you ever tried to charge your device from your computer only to be let down by slow charging or no charging at all? If so, you’re not alone, it happens to the best of us. When you connect a phone or tablet to a computer, the device wants to put itself into a mode where data can be synced. Often syncing while charging either isn’t possible or is extremely slow, only drawing around 0.5A from the host computer’s USB port. This behavior is also expected on all USB hubs unless they are BC1.2 compliant. The BC1.2 charging signal, CDP (charging downstream port), is compatible with all current Apple Lightning Cable devices like the iPad Retina / iPhone 5 (and newer) and many new Android and Windows Mobile devices are moving this direction as well.

Our flagship 7-port USB 2.0 hub, the Plugable USB2-HUB7BC, is BC1.2 compliant and devices can charge at up to 1.5A while syncing data. The HUB7BC can also act as stand alone dedicated charger when the computer is turned off or not connected. To many this is the proverbial “holy grail” of USB charging despite slightly slower charging rates (1.5A) compared to a dedicated smart charger like our GL888F (up to 2.4A) equipped USB-C5T due to the added convenience of charge and sync.

In a time where USB charge and sync functionality can be unnecessarily complicated, we work hard to deliver simplicity to the equation. With charge and sync being available on nearly any BC 1.2 compatible device, which is most mobile devices produced in the last few years, why would you want to haul around an individual charger for each device?

 

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New DisplayLink Windows Driver Version 7.7 Leaves XP Behind http://plugable.com/2014/10/01/new-displaylink-windows-driver-version-7-7-improves-performance-and-leaves-xp-behind http://plugable.com/2014/10/01/new-displaylink-windows-driver-version-7-7-improves-performance-and-leaves-xp-behind#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:00:43 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13889 photo_power_searcherDisplayLink has released their new Windows driver version 7.7 M0. For most users, we’re recommending they stay on DisplayLink’s mature 7.6 M2 driver series for the time being, but this release does improve performance especially for 4K Ultra HD (up to 3840×2160) USB multi-monitor graphics adapters like the Plugable UGA-4KDP.

This release is also the first that is Windows Vista or later only. Windows XP users will need to stay on the Windows 7.6 driver series (or earlier). Windows’ graphics driver architecture was very different in Windows XP, causing DisplayLink’s driver to be “two drivers in one”. Dropping XP support in 7.7 allows DisplayLink to focus on and optimize for newer Windows versions. Note that for systems automatically downloading from Windows Update, the correct version will automatically be downloaded for you.

UGA-3000_In use illustrationWe’ve been testing this release since the betas, and had seen stable results with the betas. With the final 7.7 M0 release, however, we’ve seen problems during install and with missing cursors after install. Because the performance differences are most noticeable in modes above 1920×1080, and the previous driver version 7.6 M2 has proven most stable, we’re only going to point users of our 4K adapters immediately to this new driver. For sub-4K adapters, 7.6 M2 is well proven — and of course is essential for XP.

Detailed Release Notes

DisplayLink Software Release R7.7 M0 warnings: Some users have reported mouse cursor problems and install problems, requiring a revert to 7.6 M2. That release is well proven.

DisplayLink Software Release R7.7 M0 delivers the following improvements:

– Improved full screen video frame rate and image quality on high resolution screens
– Lower mouse cursor latency on desktop applications
– New embedded firmware upgrade mechanism improving first connect user experience. Visible from future releases.
– Early support for Intel Broadwell platform

Fixed issues since R7.6 M2 (7.6.56275.0)

Monitor EDID was incorrectly interpreted, if the monitor id contained an underscore (_). (17606)

Audio output might not switch to default after disconnecting headphones from DisplayLink device in hibernation (S4). (17401)

On some laptops, the video performance can decrease on DisplayLink screens when a proprietary docking station and a DisplayLink docking station are connected at the same time and the user logs on and off. (16915)

Some platforms running Vista x64 can stop responding after installing DisplayLink Ethernet driver. (17384)

DisplayPort++ to DVI adapters can display incorrect available mode list. (17427)

Occasionally a DisplayLink monitor could be blank after resuming from power saving mode. (17554)

Ethernet UDP performance might drop when playing video and audio over a DisplayLink device. (17579)

Intermittent screen corruption visible when a DisplayLink monitor duplicates a touch screen display in Basic mode on Windows 7 (17782)

Wake on LAN sometimes doesn’t work when DisplayLink device is connected at USB 3.0. This is a regression introduced in 7.6 M2. (17865)

Video and/or Ethernet not available after power state changes on some platforms. Ethernet could show a Yellow “!”, with Error Code 43, in device manager (17896, 17047)

If multiple DL-5xxx or DL-3xxx devices are connected, one device can fail USB enumeration resuming from S4 when connected to USB 2.0 on Windows 7. (17835)

Removed compatibility check which prevented installation if a 3rd party USB graphics solution was connected. Now installation will only be blocked if 3rd party USB graphics drivers are found to be installed. (17763)

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Does OS X 10.9 Mavericks log you out of your session? http://plugable.com/2014/09/24/osx-mavericks-displaylink-log-out-session http://plugable.com/2014/09/24/osx-mavericks-displaylink-log-out-session#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 21:10:52 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13869 We do not recommend USB graphics solutions on OS X 10.9 Mavericks, because of compatibility breaks in OS X after 10.8.5. This unfortunately, has yet to be fixed. But it does work for some cases on 10.9.x, and we have had some die hard customers (including myself) using it daily. But lately there has been a strange and frustrating new problem. It seemed like the operating system would suddenly kick the user out of the session. All the work was lost, and there you were, sitting in front of the log-in screen scratching your head, wondering what happened.

This is a manifestation of the window server crashing which in the past would have all displays repeatedly go black/blank while the window server restarts but would still deem the system unusable.

After digging on various forums for answers why the window server would crash on Mavericks, a suggestion was made to disable certain animations. This forum post was of great help and it turns out if you disable “opening and closing windows and popovers” you severely limit the chances of your window server crashing while using DisplayLink products. To disable this feature, do the following:

  1. Open the terminal
  2. Run the following command:
    defaults write -g NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false

     

  3. Reboot

And that’s it. This is what it took to eliminate the windows server from crashing for our customers and myself. If you still experience crashes like these after running this command you can go down the list of the forum post and disable other features of animations such as “smooth scrolling”, “showing and hiding sheets, resizing preference windows, zooming windows” and “opening and closing Quick Look windows”.

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Plugable Launches Small, Durable USB to Audio Adapter for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook Systems http://plugable.com/2014/09/23/plugable-usb-external-audio-windows-mac-linux-chromebook http://plugable.com/2014/09/23/plugable-usb-external-audio-windows-mac-linux-chromebook#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:47:25 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13821 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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New Adapter from Plugable Technologies Enables 4K Ultra HD Monitors up to 3840×2160 on Nearly Any USB 3.0 Capable Windows 7 and Higher System http://plugable.com/2014/09/18/4k-ultra-hd-monitor-usb-adapter-displaylink http://plugable.com/2014/09/18/4k-ultra-hd-monitor-usb-adapter-displaylink#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:26:56 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13778 Ultra HD 4K monitors with resolutions up to 3840×2160 are starting to move into the mainstream. Many Windows-based tablets and laptops shipped in recent years don’t yet support this new generation of displays, and certainly don’t support connecting more than one of them to a Windows PC.

We’re excited to announce the Plugable UGA-4KDP USB 3.0 Graphics Adapter. It’s the first widely available solution for connecting one or more 4K DisplayPort-based monitors to any Windows 7 or later PC with available USB 3.0 ports. Using one adapter per monitor, you can connect 6 or more huge monitors. The adapter is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, so older machines will work — but for most scenarios USB 3.0 is a must for performance reasons.

The Ultra HD 4K generation of monitors available today support either DisplayPort or HDMI inputs. This adapter outputs DisplayPort signals, enabling connection without any additional adapters. Output to HDMI-only monitors is still possible, but requires an active DisplayPort to HDMI adapter (not included) which supports these higher resolutions.

The DisplayLink DL-5500 chipset at the heart of this adapter is a virtual graphics device. It uses the computer’s own CPU and GPU for rendering pixels, then compresses and sends just the pixels that change over the USB bus. Actual display to the monitor is then refreshed from memory on the device at 60Hz for all modes up to 3840×2160, and 30 Hz at that highest mode.

This is a great solution for web and application use, but is not recommended for 3D gaming or motion video.

Have any questions at all? Comment below or email support@plugable.com – we’d be happy to help! We’re excited to help bring 4K to the PC masses – thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

Plugable USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 4K UHD (Ultra-High-Definition) Video Graphics Adapter for Multiple M... Product Details
Currently Unavailable
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Adding MicroSD and USB Storage support to Android Devices http://plugable.com/2014/09/17/adding-microsd-and-usb-storage-support-to-android-devices http://plugable.com/2014/09/17/adding-microsd-and-usb-storage-support-to-android-devices#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:22:06 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12892 While MicroSD card support was once very common for Android devices, most “flagship” devices today don’t include this. Many among the current batch of top-end devices– including the HTC One, Nexus 5, and Motorola’s X and G models lack MicroSD support. If you’re not comfortable with using cloud backup services for your device, our Plugable USB2-OTGTF can enable quick, on-the-go backup of photos or other content normally stored only on a device’s internal storage.

If you have an Android device lacking a built-in MicroSD card, have heart- the USB2-OTGTF and a couple of applications may help. If you’re a technical user who has a rooted device, your chances are better, however some very popular devices have applications enabling basic support for even novice users. For example, although Google’s Nexus 5 doesn’t have MicroSD support,  adding it is relatively easy. Even for users without root access simply installing a couple of applications can enable access to a USB storage device like Plugable’s new USB2-OTGTF or basic devices like keyboards, mice, or other USB storage devices with low power demands.

To determine if your device supports USB Mass storage, first check if your device supports USB OTG mode. If it does, you may still need to install a second application to mount a storage device, and possibly a file manager if your device doesn’t already have one. To clarify, below are the features required for accessing files on a USB storage device on Android.

    1. Support for USB “OTG” host mode

USB OTG Checker SuccessThis is the level where the device “sees” that USB devices like keyboards, mice, or storage devices are attached. You can quickly check if your phone supports USB OTG mode using USB OTG Checker.

For USB OTG checker, just launch the app and choose the option to “Check Device OS on USB OTG” and then press the check button. If your device supports USB OTG devices, you’ll see this message.

    1. Support for USB Mass Storage class devices

This is the level where a USB storage device is “mounted” to a location in the file system. Access to whatever file system is located on the USB device is either provided via OS-level drivers, or, if the app has root access, it can potentially add drivers for additional formats.

Disk Formats and accessing your files

The several USB OTG apps for Android include various levels of support for different disk formats. Recent Android versions typically support FAT and EXT3/4 out of the box, and may support read-only NTFS mode on some devices. NTFS write, HFS+, or exFAT will require other adding driver support for these additional formats, and may not be supported by all applications.

Once your device is mounted and formatted with a supported disk partition, to access files on the card, use your file manager of choice. Many android devices include one by default, however if your device doesn’t include one many are available on the Google Play store. ES file manager and Astro are popular, but many other good options exist.

Experimenting with different USB OTG applications for your particular device and format needs may be necessary, and your mileage is likely to vary on different devices. For most users, using the FAT format to do any transfer of files from an Android device is recommended since NTFS write and exFAT support are limited. For users needing to access files over 4GB from an Android device, read-only NTFS is the option most likely to be supported out-of-box.

Read on to find out how we’re able to access up to 32 GB of data on a FAT32/exFAT/NTFS formatted MicroSD card on the Nexus 5 (thanks to support for these file formats in the StickMount application) with the USB2-OTGTF.

Example Usage Scenario: Nexus 5

On our example Nexus 5 with root access on stock Android 4.4.2, using StickMount (free to try) is easy, and enables access to FAT, exFAT, and NTFS formatted storage, even when all three exist on the same storage device. The Nexus 5 supports USB OTG Host mode without any extra apps or work, as confirmed by USB Host Diagnostics.

For non-rooted devices, OTG Disk Explorer Lite supports FAT32 storage only, and is free. For only $2.49, the Nexus USB OTG File Manager adds NTFS read-only support.

For rooted devices, StickMount offers read/write access to FAT formatted volumes, and read access to NTFS volumes. On the Nexus 5, FAT and exFAT read and write seem to work automatically after installing StickMount– at least if BusyBox is installed. NTFS works in read-only mode, and seems to work in write mode after installing the NTFS3G driver– although some applications still try and use the in-box read-only NTFS driver and will fail when trying to write to the device.

We used ES file manager in our tests, but Astro, OI and other great options are also available.

Other Devices and Troubleshooting

With USB Host diagnostics, you need to have a USB OTG adapter and a regular USB device, or a USB OTG device physically handy. While USB OTG checker is a great option for finding quickly if a device supports USB OTG host mode, for troubleshooting we recommend USB Host Diagnostics. After launching the app, connect an OTG device and follow the prompts to find out what issues your device is having.

A working Nexus 5 shows support for everything but the Rooted API, so any failures indicate a layer to double-check. To begin, download USB Host Diagnostics, launch the app, and follow the instructions. After completion, you’ll see a report as shown in the screenshot below. USB Host Mode Supported

Older Android devices may not have applications to enable USB Mass Storage support available, and that an application which works well on one device may not work as well on all others. Searching around for the best OTG storage applications for your particular device is recommended as a first step if you run into trouble. If you can only find OTG Storage applications for your device that require root access, it is likely that your device doesn’t support OTG host mode or a driver for a certain disk format.

In these cases the OTG mounting application has to install additional components to enable host mode– which requires root access. The very popular USB OTG Helper application’s developer maintains a list of devices known to work, or not work with USB OTG Helper.

When All Else Fails

In extreme cases when no application support for OTG storage devices is available, installing a 3rd party ROM like CyanogenMod (confirmed to support USB mass storage in both 10.4 and 11 builds on multiple devices) is a last resort. While 3rd party “ROMS” may boast newer Android versions and more features than those supported by the device’s manufacturers’ installing one will typically void the manufacturer’s warranty, and is likely to introduce it’s own unique issues.

Flashing a new ROM can be a frustrating experience for even for the most patient and advanced users, so proceed with extreme caution if you do decide to try replacing your “stock” Android build with something supported only by the good-will of the Android enthusiast community at large. Proceed with caution, at your own risk, and only if you can afford to lose access to the device you are trying to update if things don’t go as expected.

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Plugable Tech Tips: How to Partition and Format a New Hard Drive (or SSD) http://plugable.com/2014/09/09/plugable-tech-tips-how-to-partition-and-format-a-new-hard-drive-or-ssd http://plugable.com/2014/09/09/plugable-tech-tips-how-to-partition-and-format-a-new-hard-drive-or-ssd#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 01:03:54 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13686 HDDs OMG

As we all progress further into the digital age, our need for additional storage space keeps growing. Digital photos, music, and movies take up large amounts of space, and adding an external hard drive to store additional media or for backup purposes is an ever-popular PC upgrade. While some tout the benefits of cloud-based storage, adding local storage capacity has many benefits including substantially better speeds as well as being vastly more secure. This introductory installment of Plugable Tech Tips will guide you through the necessary steps of setting up your new drive for use.

This guide outlines the process in Windows 8/8.1, though the steps are nearly identical for Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Each step covers a bit of explanation and context. If the “why” aspect of the process is not of interest, look for the bold text in the post which covers just the basic necessary steps.

This article also proceeds with the assumption that you’re using one of our Plugable hard drive docks (good choice!) such as the U3 or the UASP1. However, the instructions are the same if you’re using a non-Plugable dock.

Why do I need to do this? Don’t hard drives already come formatted for me?

Before a new hard drive can be used, it must be initialized, partitioned, and formatted. Pre-assembled external drives and enclosures from Western Digital, Seagate, and others generally come pre-formatted for Windows or Mac. These solutions are not without their drawbacks, however. Aside from often being more expensive than a DIY external drive, the hard drives inside these enclosures are also often accessed in a proprietary way. This means that if the enclosure itself ever fails, the data on the drive inside it may not be accessible without expensive data recovery services.

When you purchase a “bare” (also known as an “OEM”) hard drive, it does not come pre-formatted. The reason for this is that there are various operating systems in use, and they all have their own types of formatting which are often times incompatible with the formatting used in other operating systems.

Are there any precautions to take before proceeding?

Before covering the steps necessary to initialize and format the drive, a brief word of caution. Initializing and formatting a hard drive will erase *all* information on that drive. In the case of a new drive, that’s not a matter for concern – it doesn’t have anything on it to worry about. However, if there are already existing drives in use on the system, it’s absolutely critical to make sure that close attention is paid so that the wrong drive isn’t erased. If you have multiple external hard drives connected, we recommend disconnecting them prior to initializing your new drive, just as a precaution.

Okay, let’s get started!

  1. Insert the hard drive into the USB enclosure. Connect the power cable to your enclosure, and attach the USB cable between your enclosure and your PC. Use the power button or rocker switch to turn on the dock.
  2. Now we’ll want to head to Disk Management. In Windows 8.1, the most straightforward way to get there is to right-click on the “Start” button (aka the Windows logo where the Start button used to be) and select “Disk Management”. (For Windows XP, Vista, and 7, Disk Management can be accessed by right-clicking on “Computer”, selecting “Manage”, then opening Disk Management in the left side of the Computer Management window that opens.)

  3. 1

  4. When you open Disk Management, it should automatically detect a new, non-initialized drive and display a pop-up window asking if you’d like to initialize the drive. Again, please be sure that the drive in question contains no existing data before proceeding!There will be two options for how to initialize the drive, MBR or GPT. MBR is the older legacy method of initializing drives, and is only necessary if the drive will need to be accessed on a Windows XP system (XP is incompatible with GPT). GPT *must* be selected for drives over 2TB in size. If MBR is selected on a drive larger than 2TB, you will only be able to access the first 2TB of the drive, regardless of what the drive’s capacity is. GPT disks should be accessible on Windows systems running Vista and later.

  5. 2_Disk_Init

    (If you’re interested in much, much more information about MBR vs. GPT, Microsoft has a very thorough post here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/dn640535%28v=vs.85%29.aspx )

  6. Once you’ve made your selection and clicked on “OK” to initialize the drive, it’s time to partition and format. If desired, multiple partitions can be created, but this guide assumes that, like most people, you want the entire drive to be accessed through a single drive letter/partition.Each Disk that Windows recognizes is given a number and has a horizontal bar representing the space of the disk any any partitions that exist. Since we’re working with a drive that contains no data, it should be listed as “Unallocated” space. It’s also a good idea to check that the drive size is what you’d expect it to be. In the following example, we’re working with a 1TB drive, which Windows reports as 931.39 GB.

    3_Unallocated_1

    Right-click the unallocated space, and select “New Simple Volume”.

    4_SimpleVol

    You will be guided through a series of steps. For the vast majority of users, just accepting the defaults and clicking “Next” will be fine. The two items that you may wish to change are the “Assign the following drive letter” if you’d like your drive to have a specific letter assigned, and the “Volume label”, which will be the name you see associated with the drive letter in Windows File Explorer.

    steps

After these few quick steps, you’re all done and your new drive should be ready for use!

Plugable USB 3.0 SuperSpeed SATA III Vertical Hard Drive Docking Station (ASMedia ASM1051E SATA III ... Product Details
$25.95
Plugable USB 3.0 SuperSpeed SATA III Lay-Flat Hard Drive Docking Station (ASMedia ASM1053E SATA III ... Product Details
$22.95
Plugable Storage System Dual 2.5" SATA II Hard Drive Docking Station with Built-in Standalone Drive ... Product Details
$29.95
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Mac OS X iPad Charging Error with iPads on BC 1.2 Charging Hubs http://plugable.com/2014/09/01/mac-os-x-ipad-charging-error-with-ipads-on-bc-1-2-charging-hubs http://plugable.com/2014/09/01/mac-os-x-ipad-charging-error-with-ipads-on-bc-1-2-charging-hubs#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 18:57:27 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13678 With the addition of new BC 1.2 (USB-IF Battery Charging Standard) compatible charging hubs to our product line we wanted to shed some light on a bug we have discovered for Mac users. When using any of the following products an OS X pop-up error message may occur that claims the users iPad is not charging through the hub:

macos_bc12_charging_error

Click to enlarge.

When checking charging status on the iPad itself, it shows that it is indeed charging and can also be confirmed in iTunes. To be completely sure, we test charging rates using a multimeter and confirmed the iPad was charging at the standard 1.5 amp BC 1.2 CDP (Charging Downstream Port) charge rate.

While this error message can be a nuisance, fortunately there is no cause for alarm as the iPad will be charging properly. For users who wish to disable this error message please see the steps below:

To turn off iPad notifications:
  1. Open the Terminal application (found in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder), then type the following:

    sudo defaults write com.apple.usbd NoiPadNotifications -bool YES

  2. Then press enter (you may need to enter your password)
  3. Now type:

    sudo killall usbd

  4. Press enter
  5. Reboot computer
To turn them back on:
  1. Open the Terminal and type:

    sudo defaults delete com.apple.usbd NoiPadNotifications

  2. Press enter
  3. Type:

    sudo killall usbd 

  4. Press enter
  5. Reboot computer

If you have any questions, please contact our support for additional assistance, we’re more than happy to help!

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Plugable Announces Desk Clamping 6 Outlet Surge Protector with 2 USB Charging Ports http://plugable.com/2014/08/20/plugable-announces-desk-clamping-6-outlet-surge-protector-with-2-usb-charging-ports http://plugable.com/2014/08/20/plugable-announces-desk-clamping-6-outlet-surge-protector-with-2-usb-charging-ports#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:57:51 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13662 mainAround the office, we’re constantly needing to connect and charge new devices. It’s always a struggle to find a power outlet with enough open spots, and getting many larger plugs to fit, and of course the battle in the dark to actually find an outlet while you’re crawling on the floor under your desk. Plugable’s new desk clamping surge protector helps avoid all of these frustrations thanks to the unique desk clamping design, the 2 oversized “wall-wart” capable outlets, and the 2-port 10.5W (2.1A shared) USB charger built in to eliminate the need for separate USB chargers.

No longer will you need to climb under your desk, searching in the dark to find an open outlet. Instead, just plug it in at arms height!

2-On desk

With up to 2100 joule protection, the PS6-USB2DC offers better surge suppression than many other bargain surge protectors. Joules are a measure of how large a surge is, so a higher joule rating means a protector is able to suppress a larger surge — so the higher the joule rating, the better protection a suppressor offers.

USB Charging
Battery charging over USB has become a standard practice but the actual charging behavior of different devices is often unpredictable and sometimes disappointing. The devices themselves decide how much current to draw and manufacturers haven’t settled on a single standard. We’ve been working to test our products with as many different devices as possible and publish the results so it’s easy to determine the charging behavior to expect from your device on each of our USB products. These are the results for the devices we’ve tested on this device so far.

text color update
The "MAX of mA with Host On" is a bit confusing at first glance. The easiest way to understand this is that these values are the maximum reported charging rate (mA) when connected to a computer (host) that is powered on. The "Max of mA with Host Off" is simply the opposite, it is the charging rate (mA) when there is no connected computer (host) or if the computer is turned off.

Some entries in the charging sheet contain blank spaces for the syncing capabilities, that is because we have not had a chance to test that device yet for syncing.

Note that some devices, may charge only at slow "trickle charge" rates, and not indicate they are charging. These are shown as a 0 charge rate.

Don't see your device? We also have a list of customer supplied reports on other devices here: plugable.com/support/charging

Still don't see your device? We'd love to hear your experience. Enter your charging results into our charging form and we'll include it in our results data.

Not satisfied with how your devices charge?
Take a look at the USB-MC1 charging adapter. This charging adapter let's you turn any USB port on a powered USB hub or computer into a 1A charging port. The only limitations is that the AC adapter of the powered USB hub needs to be rated for at least 1A for each USB charging adapter. For instance, you won't be able to turn your 10 Port USB 2.0 Hub into a 10 port charging station as the USB hub comes with a 2.5A AC adapter. This means that you can charge at most 2 devices using the USB Charging Adapters, because each adapter will consume 1A leaving .5A for any other devices on the hub.

Let us know if you have any questions at all about our new product. And thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

Plugable 6 Outlet Surge Protector with Clamping Design for Workbench or Desk. Built-In 10.5W 2-Port ... Product Details
$23.95
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Plugable’s Perfectly Portable USB 3.0 Hub Family http://plugable.com/2014/08/05/plugables-perfectly-portable-usb-3-0-hub-family http://plugable.com/2014/08/05/plugables-perfectly-portable-usb-3-0-hub-family#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 17:24:45 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13534

Plugable Technologies is excited to announce two new small, portable, bus-powered USB 3.0 hubs. They provide extra expansion, save wear and tear on your tablet or laptop, are easy to throw in a bag, and are plug and play compatible with Windows, Chromebook, Mac 10.9, and Linux 3.9+ systems.

Both hubs have been designed to fit easily in your bag for travel, with no removable cable to lose. A bulky external power adapter isn’t needed for either hub, as they are solely bus powered from the host computer’s USB port. Both hubs feature the VIA VL812 B2 chipset with the very latest 9091 firmware for maximum compatibility with almost all USB 3.0 equipped computers on the market. They’re also fully backwards compatible with USB 2.0/1.1 devices and hosts. With USB 3.0 SuperSpeed, data transfer rates up to 5Gbps are possible allowing data to move quickly between devices. These hubs are ideal for connecting peripheral items such as flash drives, USB video adapters, keyboards, mice, etc.

The model with Ethernet, in particular, has been engineered down to be the smallest, most portable option available on the market.

Either hub is a must have for any frequent traveler that needs more USB 3.0 ports on the go, but the USB3-HUB3ME is especially useful for computers like the Microsoft Surface Pro or Apple MacBook Air as they are lacking a built-in Ethernet port. Having a wired network adapter can be a life-saver in conference rooms and hotels with marginal WiFi coverage. Being able to use a wired connection instead of a weak wireless connection in these scenarios can drastically improve speeds.

Don’t put up with with several USB devices fighting for the few open ports on your computer. Extend the life of your ports with a USB hub like these.

Where to Buy

Plugable 4-Port USB 3.0 Portable Bus Powered Hub (VIA VL812 Rev B2 Chipset with v9091 firmware, Wind... Product Details
$9.95
Plugable 3-Port USB 3.0 Portable Bus Powered Hub with Built-in 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN Netw... Product Details
$21.95
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Plugable USB 3.0 Hub Firmware History Mid-2014 Update http://plugable.com/2014/07/23/plugable-usb-3-0-hub-firmware-history-2014-update http://plugable.com/2014/07/23/plugable-usb-3-0-hub-firmware-history-2014-update#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 00:03:14 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13311 USB 3.0 is ever evolving with new hardware and software that create new compatibility considerations, and Plugable is committed to staying on the cutting edge and improving our product functionality and compatibility.

For the best user experience we recommend to install the latest available firmware update to your hub. To do so you must use a computer running Windows and have the hub connected to a USB 3.0 port (2.0/1.1 ports are not supported for the update process) with any additional hubs/docking stations disconnected.

In this blog post we will focus on updating hubs with the VIA VL811+ and VL812 B2 chipsets to the 909x series firmware. Depending on what model hub you have, your hub may have an older chipset not supported by these latest firmware updates. Take a look at this chart to see if your unit is eligible for an update. (some may not be covered in this blog post)

The update process only works on Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1) so if you are a Mac OS X or Linux/Unix user please contact our support for additional assistance, we’re more than happy to help!

  • Updating through a virtual machine like Parallels, VMware, VirtualBox, etc is not supported.
  • Mac users, updating through Boot Camp is supported.

If your product is eligible for an update, click on your product below to jump to details about firmware changes and specific update instructions:

USB3-HUB10C2 9091/9095 Combo Firmware Update

Units shipped with firmware version 9081/9084 combo which allowed for charging on the two flip-up ports only when the hub was not in use for data. This meant the hub had to be either not connected to a host computer (“no-host”), shutdown, or in hibernate/sleep mode.

The no-host requirement turned out to be a major limitation as many users wanted to charge their phone or tablet while using their computer. Users also wanted to be able to charge and sync devices at the same time.

Firmware update version 9091/9095 combo now nullifies the no-host requirement and enables full BC 1.2 Smart Charging and Charging Downstream Port (CDP) functionality. In short, users can now charge their device while the hub is attached to the computer and running. Users can now also charge and sync devices at the same time.

To update your USB3-HUB10C2 hub, please download the:

USB3-HUB10C2 VL812 B2 v9091/9095 combo update utility.

Once downloaded, disconnect any additional hubs/docking stations and have only the hub you wish to update attached. If you own more than one hub that needs a firmware update, please update one unit at a time.

After opening the firmware update utility, if the hub is not initially detected, unplug the hub from the USB 3.0 port on your computer and plug it back in and click the “Scan Device” button:

usb3hub10c2_notdetected

You should now see some information about the hub detected, specifically the chipset information and current firmware version:

usb3hub10c2_detected

If you see results like the image above, go ahead and click “Start Upgrade”. Once the upgrade is complete, unplug the hub from both USB and power, then reconnect it (power first).

upgrade_complete

If you would like to confirm, you can click “Scan Device” again to see the update was successful:

usb3hub10c2_updated

USB3-HUB781X, USB3-HUB7A, or USB3-HUB4AC1 9091 Firmware Update

Units shipped with firmware version 9081 which had no major limitations or issues. With that being said, there were some edge case scenarios where sleep/wake functionality for host and devices was not working properly.

Most users will not have encountered any issues but we recommend running the update to maximize compatibility with future USB 3.0 devices / computers you may eventually own.

To update your USB3-HUB781X, USB3-HUB7A, or USB3-HUB4AC1 hub, please download the:

VL812 B2 v9091 update utility.

Once downloaded, disconnect any additional hubs/docking stations and have only the hub you wish to update attached. If you own more than one hub that needs a firmware update, please update one unit at a time.

After opening the firmware update utility, if the hub is not initially detected, unplug the hub from the USB 3.0 port on your computer and plug it back in and click the “Scan Device” button:

usb3hub10c2_notdetected

You should now see some information about the hub detected, specifically the chipset information and current firmware version:

812B2_detected

(The USB3-HUB4AC1 only has one internal VL812 B2 chipset vs the image shown here for the USB3-HUB7-81X and USB3-HUB7A hubs)

If you see results like the image above, go ahead and click “Start Upgrade”. Once the upgrade is complete, unplug the hub from both USB and power, then reconnect it (power first).

upgrade_complete

If you would like to confirm, you can click “Scan Device” again to see the update was successful:

812B2_upgraded

USB3-HUB81X4 9095 Firmware Update

Units shipped with firmware version 9084 which allowed for charging on all four ports only when the hub was not in use for data. This meant the hub had to be either not connected to a host computer (“no-host”), shutdown, or in hibernate/sleep mode.

The no-host requirement turned out to be a major limitation as many users wanted to charge their phone or tablet while using their computer. Users also wanted to be able to charge and sync devices at the same time.

Firmware update version 9095 now nullifies the no-host requirement and enables full BC 1.2 Smart Charging and Charging Downstream Port (CDP) functionality. In short, users can now charge their device while the hub is attached to the computer and running. Users can now also charge and sync devices at the same time.

To update your USB3-HUB81X4 hub, please download the:

VL811+ v9095 update utility.

Once downloaded, disconnect any additional hubs/docking stations and have only the hub you wish to update attached. If you own more than one hub that needs a firmware update, please update one unit at a time.

After opening the firmware update utility, if the hub is not initially detected, unplug the hub from the USB 3.0 port on your computer and plug it back in and click the “Scan Device” button:

usb3hub10c2_notdetected

You should now see some information about the hub detected, specifically the chipset information and current firmware version:

usb3-hub81x4_detected

If you see results like the image above, go ahead and click “Start Upgrade”. Once the upgrade is complete, unplug the hub from both USB and power, then reconnect it (power first).

upgrade_complete

If you would like to confirm, you can click “Scan Device” again to see the update was successful:

usb3-hub81x4_upgraded

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Plugable Launches USB 7-Port Hub with 60W of Power and Best Available Charge and Sync Support http://plugable.com/2014/06/24/plugable-launches-usb-7-port-hub-with-60w-of-power-and-best-available-charge-and-sync-support http://plugable.com/2014/06/24/plugable-launches-usb-7-port-hub-with-60w-of-power-and-best-available-charge-and-sync-support#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:05:17 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13217 ChargingHubHow many devices do you use on a daily basis that charge using a USB cable?

I personally have five. My smartphone is the constant companion, and with it goes the Plugable power bank for those heavy use days (which I seem do to entirely too much). Then there’s the stuff that stays at home: my tablet that gets dedicated to couch browsing, my wireless headset, and the eReader that tucks me in at night.

All of these devices came with their own wall adapter which just languish in a power outlet wasting energy on standby and leaving a trail of tangled up USB cables. A universal charging station like the Plugable USB-C5T is an excellent solution to charge all of these devices, but what about when you need to synchronize data as well?

This is why we are excited to introduce our new Plugable USB 2.0 7 Port Hub and BC 1.2 Fast Charger. This is a full USB 2.0 hub for connecting a PC, Mac, Linux, or other computer to add up to 7 additional USB devices. It also provides new, advanced compatibility for devices which support the new BC 1.2 charging standard: charging and syncing (“Charging Downstream Port” or CDP mode) and charging with only the hub’s power adapter and no PC (“Dedicated Charging Port” or DCP mode). We have also included a much more robust 60W UL-certified power adapter (12v 5A input, ~10A at USB’s 5V) which helps support charging on all 7 ports.

Note that not all phones or tablets support the new BC 1.2 standard or all parts of it. Specific supported devices include all Apple iPads and iPhones with Lightning connectors, along with many newer Android devices including Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of tablets. Older Apples (30-pin) and other phones and tablets do not support the BC 1.2 standard at all, so they won’t charge. Other devices may charge but not sync. All of these behaviors are determined by the phone or tablet, and so will vary by device. Please check our compatibility charts on the USB2-HUB7BC product page.

So ask yourself: Would you rather have seven different chargers taking up space and wasting energy, or would you rather have an all in one charging hub?

If you have any questions, we’re here to help. Just ask below or email support@plugable.com anytime. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

Plugable USB 2.0 7-Port High Speed Hub with 60W Power Adapter and BC 1.2 Charging Support for Androi... Product Details
$29.95
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Plugable USB Bluetooth Adapter: Solving HFP/HSP Profile Issues on Linux http://plugable.com/2014/06/23/plugable-usb-bluetooth-adapter-solving-hfphsp-profile-issues-on-linux http://plugable.com/2014/06/23/plugable-usb-bluetooth-adapter-solving-hfphsp-profile-issues-on-linux#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 00:06:04 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13226 It has come to our attention that there are some issues on certain Linux systems with regards to using Headset Profile and Hands-Free Profile with our USB Bluetooth Adapters.

The issue stems from a lack of support for these profiles on the Broadcom BCM20702 chipset found inside our device, unless a proprietary firmware file is loaded into it to enable this functionality.

The steps to install the firmware are as follows:Screenshot from 2014-06-23 17:34:49

  1. Open your favorite terminal
  2. Run the following command to download the firmware file:

    wget https://s3.amazonaws.com/plugable/bin/fw-0a5c_21e8.hcd

  3. Copy the firmware file to the /lib/firmware folder:

    sudo cp fw-0a5c_21e8.hcd /lib/firmware

  4. Reboot

That’s it! HFP and HSP profiles should now work without issue!

We have also heard of some reports that these steps can solve some issues with other profiles, like A2P, but have been unable to reproduce the issues.  It is possible that newer versions of BlueZ and the Linux kernel have fixed these issues, and that is why we are not seeing them any more.

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Plugable Launching Kickstarter for the Pro8 Docking Station with Charging for the Dell Venue 8 Pro on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 http://plugable.com/2014/06/23/plugable-launches-kickstarter-for-the-pro8-docking-station-with-charging-for-the-dell-venue-8-pro-on-wednesday-june-25th http://plugable.com/2014/06/23/plugable-launches-kickstarter-for-the-pro8-docking-station-with-charging-for-the-dell-venue-8-pro-on-wednesday-june-25th#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=13178 Update: November 17th, 2014 – Now available on Amazon US and CA! See our product page for information and links to purchase.

Update: October 30th, 2014 – Take a look at our latest updates on Kickstarter.

Update: August 8th, 2014 – Where Can I Get One?

There has been a flood of inquiries to where individuals who missed the Kickstarter can get the Pro8. Once production is finished and units ship out to our Kickstarter backers in November, we plan to begin selling units on Amazon. We do not yet have an exact date, but we hope to have the Pro8 available to the public in time for the holiday season. Visit http://plugable.com/kickstarter for more information and sign up for our email mailing list to get the latest updates on the Pro8 and availability.

Update: July 27th, 2014 – Our project was successfully funded!
Thanks to all 367 of backers who helped us raise $29,831 of our $24,000 goal.

Update: June 25th, 2014 – The Kickstarter is Live!


Our Dock Connected to a Dell Venue 8 Pro with a Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, Ethernet Connection, & Headset Attached! All that with 2 USB ports to spare!

We released a demo video on YouTube last November showcasing the Dell Venue 8 Pro with our flagship UD-3900 USB 3.0 Dual Display Universal Docking station, essentially turning the tablet into a full desktop workstation. We received an extremely warm welcome from the Dell Venue 8 Pro user community and even caught the attention of Michael Dell (CEO, Dell) himself who retweeted our video. To this date we have over 150,000 views and almost 400 user comments.

Although this video showed the full capability of the tablet, it also highlighted a major flaw that could limit its uses: there is only one USB Micro B port that can only be used to either charge the tablet or to connect it with external USB devices. This seriously limits the Dell Venue 8 Pro’s capabilities as it cannot remain connected to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse during a full 8+ hour work day without running out of battery well before then. Consumers quickly realized this problem and the solution to this constraint quickly became an active topic of conversation on the comments on the YouTube video and in many tech forums. This Kickstarter is the culmination of our work to make that happen!

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Some of our early prototypes

After months of development and multiple prototypes, we have created a product that allows full desktop replacement functionality and to charge at the same time. Furthermore, this docking station also works with the Lenovo Miix 2 which faces the same critical limitation as the Venue. Currently we are in the final phase of prototyping and are working with our manufacturing partner to perfect the docking station so that it can be brought to the market in mass.

Do  you know someone with a Dell Venue 8 Pro or Lenovo Miix 2 8″ Windows Tablet? Let them know about our Kickstarter! Even if you don’t and just want to support Plugable, please pledge just $1 and we pledge to keep you up to date on our progress with exclusive updates along the way. This will give you special access once the device goes on the market and a huge thank you from us! Every single dollar will help us reach our goal!

We are launching our Kickstarter on Wednesday, June 25th 10AM PDT for this exciting new product and we need your help! If you are interested in supporting this project then you can sign up for email notifications here at http://plugable.com/kickstarter

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Custom PCB Prototype
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Also Compatible with Laptops

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Single 20W Power Adapter for Dock and Tablet

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Included Items (power adapter varies per geography)

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For the First Time, Up to 32 Mirrored Displays on Windows over USB http://plugable.com/2014/05/30/plugable-new-uga-m165-usb-to-vga-dvi-hdmi-for-multiple-mirrored-clone-displays-on-windows http://plugable.com/2014/05/30/plugable-new-uga-m165-usb-to-vga-dvi-hdmi-for-multiple-mirrored-clone-displays-on-windows#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 16:51:15 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12899 div.driverslink { width: 360px; margin: 0px auto; border: 1px; }


Since our inception, Plugable has had a focus on consumer, pro-sumer, and professional multi-monitor solutions, offering a wide variety of USB graphics adapters for almost any conceivable configuration. Today we’re releasing an adapter targeted towards a very specific scenario: multiple mirrored USB displays.

Most home users will not benefit from this product, but for certain scenarios our UGA-M165 (in conjunction with special mDisplay drivers from OSBASE, license included) can be an extremely useful product which allows the user to bypass the Windows limitation of having only a single mirrored display. When designing the product we had several key business applications in mind:

  • Digital signage
  • Presentation displays
  • Information kiosks
  • Retail displays

A common scenario would be for a conference center, hall, or church where you’d want the same information displayed throughout (perhaps from powerpoint or PDF), all provided by one computer with an available USB connection.

Having the ability to quickly and easily add additional cloned displays of various connector types (HDMI, DVI, VGA, or a mixture thereof) over USB allows for a diverse configuration when compared to conventional VGA/DVI/HDMI cables and splitters. By using these adapters in combination with USB 2.0 hubs and USB 2.0 active extension cables, displays can be placed up to 32 feet away from the host computer and can connect up to 32 displays at once.

There are several considerations that must be made prior to implementing this solution. We would encourage those who are interested in this product to read through the FAQ or contact us with any pre-sales questions. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

Where to Buy

Plugable UGA-M165 USB 2.0 to VGA/DVI/HDMI for Multiple Mirrored Displays... Product Details
Currently Unavailable
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Plugable’s new USB “On The Go” MicroSD reader http://plugable.com/2014/05/29/plugables-new-usb-on-the-go-microsd-reader http://plugable.com/2014/05/29/plugables-new-usb-on-the-go-microsd-reader#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 17:14:01 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12878 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:
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“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
$6.95

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

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New Plugable 5-Port Smart USB Charging Station http://plugable.com/2014/05/13/plugable-usb-5-port-charger-charging-station-usb-power-adapter http://plugable.com/2014/05/13/plugable-usb-5-port-charger-charging-station-usb-power-adapter#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 15:00:20 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12756 A USB Charger with better compatibility, more power, and lower cost.

With so many USB devices such as phones and tablets needing wall wart style adapters to charge, it is easy to run out of power outlets. Buying spare or replacement device-specific chargers for each one is an expensive mess. The Plugable USB-C5T can help solve the dwindling wall outlets conundrum by offering 5 USB charging ports off of one wall outlet. Its small size and longer power cable make it easy to create a great charging setup.

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USB charging is standardizing around the Battery Charging 1.2 standard. But for now, there are still a lot of legacy devices on the market which require proprietary signals to charge. The USB-C5T supports BC 1.2, and also has a smart IC to detect all of the major proprietary charging methods on the market. USB-C5T vs. Apple 12W Charger

Supported devices include all existing Apple products (iPad, iPhone, iPod), Kindle devices, Nexus phones/tablets, Samsung products, the Dell Venue 8 Pro, and even our power banks

Note this is a dedicated charger – it’s not a USB hub (there’s no USB “B” port for connecting back to a PC). The included cable connects back to a US wall plug. Connecting into the charger, you use the USB charging cables that already come with each of your devices.

The middle three ports on the USB-C5T provide an Apple 1A signal (the most common proprietary method, recognized by most devices), while the outer two are equipped for smart charging and will be recognized by devices looking for Apple 1A, 2.1A, or Samsung 2.4A signaling and most importantly, any of the current and future generations of BC 1.2 compatible devices.

The two GL888 smart charging ports are capable of automatically selecting the best charging method for the device attached. This feature can potentially charge some devices that do not charge on the regular Apple 1A port and can charge some devices a lot faster!

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Questions? Problems? Feel free to comment below, or email us at support@plugable.com. We’ll be happy to help!

Plugable Power 2014 5-Port 36W USB Smart Charger for Multiple Android, Apple iOS, and Windows Device... Product Details
$18.95
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Plugable Launches New USB 3.0 Switch for Sharing a Device or Hub Between Two Computers http://plugable.com/2014/05/08/plugable-launches-new-usb-3-0-switch-for-sharing-a-device-or-hub-between-two-computers http://plugable.com/2014/05/08/plugable-launches-new-usb-3-0-switch-for-sharing-a-device-or-hub-between-two-computers#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 18:51:02 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12727

For several years, thousands of customers have enjoyed the functionality and flexibility of our best-selling USB 2.0 switch to share a device (or hub full of devices) between two PCs. For most simple, low-bandwidth devices such as a keyboard, mouse, or printer, the USB 2.0 switch is still an excellent, cost-effective choice.

To meet the needs of our customers who wish to switch a device or hub that benefits from the increased bandwidth of USB 3.0 such as our various USB 3.0 display adapters or our USB3-HUB7-81X seven-port USB 3.0 hub, Plugable is excited to announce the launch of the next generation USB 3.0 member of our switching family, the USB3-SWITCH2.

One of the most popular scenarios we envision with this device is connecting our UD-3900 docking station with attached displays, keyboard, and mouse to the USB 3.0 switch, allowing for switched access to the dock, monitor(s), and peripherals between multiple systems – an all-USB KVM of sorts. In an age where many of us have a combination of devices such as a home laptop and another for work, a laptop and Windows tablet, or a desktop PC and a laptop, switched device access can save time, desk space, and clutter.

Aside from USB 3.0 graphics adapters, the type of device that benefits most from the increased bandwidth of USB 3.0 is external mass storage devices. Given the way the switching process works (in practice the switch is essentially unplugging the device from one system, and plugging in into another), we suggest that USB 3.0 storage devices remain directly attached to a USB port on the PC rather than the switch. A dedicated, non-switched USB connection for the storage device will minimize the risk of accidentally switching the device without cleanly ejecting/unmounting it first. For additional information regarding switching and storage devices, please check out the FAQ on our product page: USB3-SWITCH2 FAQ

As with all of our products, the USB3-SWITCH2 is available at Amazon.com. If you have any questions about its functionality or have trouble getting things set up (or if you just want to share a photo of how you’ve got things setup with the switch at your home or office), please contact us at support@plugable.com. We’re here to help!

Where to Buy

Plugable USB 3.0 Switch for One-Button Swapping of USB Device/Hub Between Two Computers... Product Details
$29.95
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Device Charging Rates http://plugable.com/2014/04/25/device-charging-rates http://plugable.com/2014/04/25/device-charging-rates#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 23:27:58 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12633 Plugable does extensive testing to determine which devices charge at what rates on our chargers and charging capable hubs. This turns out to be important, because USB charging is not (yet) well standardized, and results vary by device.

If you’re looking for a charger, our data on charging rates will tell you exactly how much current, in milli-amps, specific devices will pull from our chargers. The higher the number, the faster the device will charge. We’ve tested many popular Apple and Android devices, and add new results frequently.

The complete list of results is available here at:
plugable.com/platforms/device-charging-rates

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Plugable Launches New 10-Port USB Hub Family http://plugable.com/2014/04/16/plugable-launches-new-10-port-usb-hub-family http://plugable.com/2014/04/16/plugable-launches-new-10-port-usb-hub-family#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:08:03 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12549 Plugable has had the top-selling 10-port USB 2.0 hub on Amazon for over 3 years — much of that time in the “top 100″ of all electronics. And over that period, we made many large and small improvements responding to customer feedback.

That’s made the Plugable USB2-HUB10S a proven, rock-solid solution for giving your USB-capable computer additional USB ports. It will work with any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer along with many game consoles, wireless routers, and other devices that have a USB port and support USB hubs.

Today, we’re building on this solid foundation by adding a higher-end USB 2.0 model with extra charging features. The Plugable USB2-HUB10C2 uses the same Terminus Technology FE 1.1s chip in our popular 4-port charging hub to support extra charging features on the two swivel ports. It upgrades the power supply to a high-quality 5V 4A model — the same used on our top-selling $109 USB 3.0 universal docking station. Charging rates are device dependent, so make sure to check our charging rates table for this model before purchase. This is a great solution for iOS and Android users with PCs or Macs who want both connectivity and charging of devices in a single hub, along with lots of extra USB ports for other devices.

Even more exciting is we’ve brought this same 10 port design to USB 3.0, for making the most of all your high-performance USB 3.0 devices. Over the past few years, with updates to chips, firmware, and the various operating systems, USB 3.0 has become mature. Our new Plugable USB3-HUB10C2 uses the same VIA VL812 Rev B2 chips and 9000 series firmware as our top-selling USB 3.0 7 port hub to deliver no-compromise compatibility with USB hosts and devices for all operating systems. It’s also fully backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1. It includes a beefy 12V 4A power supply (with step-down in the hub to USB’s 5V).

For charging, there are some compromises with these USB 3.0 chips and firmware — devices will charge at maximum rate only when the PC is off or not connected. Our hub supports this feature on the two swivel charging ports. Again, see our charging rates table for this model for more details.

We’re very excited to have these 3 great options to cover the full range of USB hub needs with proven components. Today, these hubs are available on Amazon.com, and over the next few weeks will be available throughout Europe, UK, Canada, and Japan.

There is much more detail on each product pages and throughout the site. Any questions? Please feel free to comment below or email support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help!

Plugable USB 2.0 10-Port High Speed Hub with 12.5W Power Adapter and Two Flip-Up Ports (Terminus Tec... Product Details
$22.95
Plugable USB 2.0 10-Port Hub With Two Flip-Up Charging Ports (20W Power Adapter)... Product Details
$29.95
Plugable USB 3.0 SuperSpeed 10-Port Hub with Two Flip-Up Ports and 48W Power Adapter (VIA VL812 Rev ... Product Details
$44.95
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Attaching 14 Monitors on Windows 8.1 with USB http://plugable.com/2014/03/10/attaching-14-monitors-on-windows-8-1-with-usb-2-0 http://plugable.com/2014/03/10/attaching-14-monitors-on-windows-8-1-with-usb-2-0#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 21:17:08 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=12099 As computers continue to advance in computing power the need to display more information is greater than ever. Our USB display adapters are based on DisplayLink technology and the driver limit until now has been 6 USB attached monitors. Now, with the DisplayLink 7.5 M1 driver and our Plugable USB graphics adapters and docks, this limit has been removed. 14 Monitors plus one to two additional on PCIe is the new limit.

Here’s a video of a massive 14 monitor setup we created in our office with Plugable hubs and graphics adapters. Take a look:

Overall we were extremely pleased with the results but there are some important limitations to be made aware of. The removal of the 6 adapter limit DisplayLink feature and is still in early testing. Users may see slow enumeration of attached adapters beyond the previous 6 adapter limit. Our 14 monitor setup took 15 minutes on each restart to bring all the monitors up, but was reasonably snappy after that. In our video we focused on mainly static content on each monitor. Full-screen video playback on multiple screens will start bogging down your system.

On our computer equipped with a Core i3 3217U with Intel HD Graphics 4000 we capped out at about 10 simultaneous HD YouTube videos though playback was well under 15 FPS. Expect to be able to play around 2 to 3 HD videos smoothly with near 100% CPU load. Anything more and the frame rate drops significantly. This is mainly due to the limitation of the entry level Intel Core i3 processor in the Intel NUC computer we used. Surprisingly USB 2.0 did not seem to be the main limiting factor.

Further testing on a more powerful Intel Core i5 based computer proved to be a much better experience. Slow enumeration was still present but to a lesser extent.  HD video playback on multiple monitors was acceptable on all 14 monitors though still not perfect. Users who wish to attempt a setup such as the one in our demonstration should consider using an Intel Core i7 based computer with Intel HD Graphics 4400 or better. The use of USB 3.0 based graphics adapters over USB 2.0 is strongly recommended. Look for another video from us soon, focused on USB 3.0 and a higher-end PC.

Have any questions? We’ll be happy to help. Feel free to post below. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

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DisplayLink USB 2.0 Graphics Adapters on Linux – 2014 Edition http://plugable.com/2014/03/06/displaylink-usb-2-0-graphics-adapters-on-linux-2014-edition http://plugable.com/2014/03/06/displaylink-usb-2-0-graphics-adapters-on-linux-2014-edition#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 22:30:24 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11955 IMG_20140306_164523A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post discussing the state of USB Graphics on Linux systems, specifically, Fedora 18. What follows is an update on the situation, looking at both Fedora 20 and Ubuntu 13.10, and examining how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

The short story

Multi-monitor on Linux, especially with multiple graphics cards and USB graphics adapters, remains problematic. You can find many distros and configurations where it just won’t work. We’d recommend staying away unless you’re an advanced Linux user who is willing to play with different distros, install optional components and do hand configuration. Unfortunately, it’s just not plug and play yet today, as it is on Windows.

The long story

That said, it is possible to get things working in limited scenarios for USB 2.0 generation DisplayLink-based adapters. We used all Plugable products in the tests for this post. Our test systems included Intel, Nvidia, and AMD primary graphics adapters. For Nvidia and AMD, we tested both the open-source and proprietary drivers.

Intel is the most compatible, providing decent results under all configurations.
Nvidia graphics cards, when running the open source nouveau driver, only work in Multi-Seat mode. Attempting multi-monitor setup with a DisplayLink adapter and an Nvidia graphics card results in garbage graphics being displayed on your DisplayLink-attached monitor. The Nvidia proprietary drivers do not work under any scenario.
The AMD open-source drivers work under both multi-seat and multi-monitor setups, but the performance, at least in our tests, is significantly worse than with the Intel drivers.
The AMD proprietary drivers are unavailable in any easy to install package under Fedora 20, but we installed them in Ubuntu, and were unable to get any results, they simply do not work with DisplayLink graphics.

Fedora 20

Fedora has always provided the best support for DisplayLink graphics on Linux. We noticed some regressions on Fedora 19, but these have largely been resolved in Fedora 20. There isn’t much new to report.

You should be able to connect one of our docking stations and create a plug-and-play multi-seat setup, or connect one of our display adapters, and expand your desktop to an extra monitor using the Arandr utility, or something similar.

Ubuntu 13.10

Ubuntu still has several issues with DisplayLink graphics, and they do not work out of the box.

In order to enable DisplayLink adapters to work on Ubuntu, one must download the latest Mainline Kernel build from the Ubuntu Kernel PPA, install it, and then reboot with that kernel. Once this is done, DisplayLink graphics adapters will work in multi-monitor mode. Simply enable them from System Settings like you would enable any extra monitor attached to your PC.

A step-by-step guide to accomplish this will not be provided because switching away from your distro-provided kernel is something only expert users should attempt.

It should be noted that the reason this is necessary is due to the Ubuntu team making some changes to the kernel that they ship with Ubuntu, resulting in broken DisplayLink graphics support. A bug report has been submitted, here.

You can also keep track of the USB Graphics situation under Ubuntu in this blueprint.

Performance

Performance continues to be an issue with DisplayLink on Linux. Using a composited window manger(Gnome 3, Unity, Cinnamon, etc) will result in poor performance across all of your displays. Compositing re-renders far more pixels than non-compositing desktops. When you’re just going through a GPU, you’ll only notice battery loss. But when all those pixels have to get processed by the CPU and sent over USB, it’s a huge hit.

Switching to a lighter-weight window manager or desktop environment (XFCE, LMDE, Mate, etc) results in a quite usable setup, provided your main display adapter is a recent Intel chip.

Unfortunately, due to the discontinuation of Gnome 3’s fallback mode, that is no longer an option for improved performance.

Other Outstanding Bugs

Besides the issues I mentioned above, there’s still a few other problems.

When rebooting your Linux computer, or simply logging out and back in, your USB-attached displays will not always come back without having to disconnect and reconnect them.

Changing the location of your DisplayLink screens in your virtual desktop can sometimes cause strange issues (like only half of the monitor rendering). Toggling the screen on and off inside of your Display management UI usually solves this.

Nvidia’s and AMD’s proprietary drivers are still entirely incompatible with DisplayLink graphics on Linux.

Conclusion

We hope this background helps. We don’t recommend or support USB graphics on Linux yet, because of the problems above — but if you do have questions, please feel free to comment below. We want to get as much information out as possible about what works and doesn’t, so things can improve here. There’s no reason Linux can’t have the same or better multi-monitor support as any other platform in time!

If you are an Open Source Kernel or User-Space developer that would like to help improve this situation, we’d like to point you to our Plugable Open Source Hardware Samples Program where you may sign up to receive free sample hardware to help on your development efforts.

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Using the USB2-E100 on Windows RT http://plugable.com/2014/03/04/using-the-usb2-e100-on-windows-rt http://plugable.com/2014/03/04/using-the-usb2-e100-on-windows-rt#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:34:15 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11966 Officially, we don’t support our USB 2.0 10/100 Network Adapter on Windows RT. This is because Windows RT won’t recognize it automatically — Windows RT 8.1 lacks the plug and play IDs, and doesn’t provide a way to install INFs or 3rd party drivers to provide them after the fact. The full Intel/AMD version of Windows has none of these issues. So skip this post unless you’re on an ARM-based Windows tablet.

But for those with an ARM-based Surface or other Windows RT device running 8.1 — If you jump through a few hoops, you may find that the adapter does work just fine on RT, using binaries that are already on the system.

Windows RT puts devices it doesn’t recognize under the “Other devices” category in Device Manager. While the drivers exist on the machine to get ASIX 88772-based network adapters working, the operating system can’t figure that out on it’s own. What it needs is to be force-fed the correct ASIX driver. The following slideshow with screenshots details that process.

(Click the right arrow to navigate through the slideshow)

As a side note, this same process works with the USB2-MICRO-200X. The only differences are the following:

6mIn step 6 “Imaging devices” needs to be selected instead of “Network adapter”
7mIn step 7 the manufacturer is “Microsoft” and the model is “USB Video Device”.

Have any questions or tips for other users with RT devices? Feel free to comment below. Thanks!

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Zoom Behavior on the USB2-Micro200X USB Microscope http://plugable.com/2014/01/27/zoom-behavior-on-the-usb2-micro200x-usb-microscope http://plugable.com/2014/01/27/zoom-behavior-on-the-usb2-micro200x-usb-microscope#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 23:22:57 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11611 Our Plugable Micro 200X USB Microscope is a wonderful tool for individuals interested in the finer points of the world around them, or teachers trying to get students engaged in the classroom. But how do the optics actually work?  This article will address how the Varifocal Lens works in relation to our microscope.

First off, what is a Varifocal Lens? Wikipedia defines a varifocal lens as “a lens with variable focal length in which focus changes as focal length (and magnification) changes”.  Inside the microscope, there is a lens on rails that moves toward and away from the imager as the focusing ring is rotated, which changes the focus point and magnification of the object at the focus point. Most “zoom” cameras work this way, with the exception of high end SLR lenses that employ very expensive to manufacture lens arrays.

For example, in the images below the Plugable logo is positioned several inches in front of the camera.

In this picture the lens is focused further out, which decreases magnification. Notice how blurry things get outside the where the lens is focused, and the overall magnification of the image.

Photo on 1-22-14 at 3.09 PM

Now below, the camera and the object haven’t moved, but the focus has been adjusted. Notice it looks slightly bigger, and the closer part of the logo is sharper? That’s because the lens is directing light differently than before. Not only has the focal length changed, but the magnification has increased.

Photo on 1-22-14 at 3.10 PM

 

What these characteristics gives us is a camera with the ability to vary magnification and focal length, which allows some fairly powerful magnification. Examples below show successively closer views of the P on the Plugable logo. You can start to see that it’s made of individual dots the close you get, and the last one you can see all the colors the grey is made up of!

Photo on 1-22-14 at 4.26 PM #2Photo on 1-22-14 at 4.20 PM Photo on 1-22-14 at 4.22 PM Photo on 1-22-14 at 4.23 PM

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Plugable Launches New Aluminum SuperSpeed Hub http://plugable.com/2014/01/22/plugable-launches-new-aluminum-superspeed-hub http://plugable.com/2014/01/22/plugable-launches-new-aluminum-superspeed-hub#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 16:28:12 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11638

USB gets used for everything. Today’s tablets and ultrabooks just don’t have enough ports. You don’t want to be stressing the few ports you have with constant plugs & unplugs every time you want to use a different device.

And these same USB ports are needed for charging all your mobile devices — but charging on USB is not well standardized, and there are many devices out there (like Apple’s) that won’t charge on a “normal” USB port .. at least not while the computer is sleeping.

We designed our new USB 3.0 hub to solve both of these issues. Built in solid brushed aluminum, the Plugable USB3-HUB4AC1 provides 4 standard USB 3.0 ports with the latest chipset and firmware (VL812 firmware 9081). Plus it provides a single dedicated charging port, that will charge most devices at fast rates, even when your computer is off.

Using Aluminum for the body looks great, dissipates heat better, and is arguably more recyclable: the plastic ends can be removed, and the PCB slid out, leaving only aluminum to recycle. This new 4 port model rounds out our Aluminum USB hub line, which also includes an existing 7 port model.

Power Details

Unlike its larger 7 port predecessor, the USB3-HUB4AC1 has a 5th port dedicated to charging. This port stands out from the rest with a bold red connector. No data communication will happen here but for charging, it’s got you covered. This port replicates the Apple 2.1A charging signal. What that means is that it is fully compatible with iPhones, iPads, iPods, etc. Most Android devices will also recognize this signal.  The best feature of having a dedicated charge only port is when compared to other hubs that support charging and data, most charge functions only occur when the host computer is either off, in sleep mode, or not present. This port charges independent of a host PC regardless. Charging rates are device dependent, see the USB3-HUB4AC1 product page for details.

Compatibility

USB3-HUB4AC1 units have been tested to work well with both Windows 8.1, and OS X 10.9.x, as well as older systems running Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and OS X systems with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. Older USB 1.1 devices connected to USB 2.0 systems via the hub are also supported.

Convenience

For desktop PCs where USB 3.0 ports may be hard to reach, the HUB4AC1’s design with top-facing angled ports can make connecting devices easier. The extra ports on a USB hub can also help avoid damaging built-in ports when frequently swapping devices. The built-in power button on the hub also makes for a convenient way to quickly disable all attached devices with the press of a single button, to make sure attached USB devices are off and saving power.

Power

With the included robust 12 volt 2.5 amp power supply, more than enough power to operate several power-hungry devices is available, 30 watts to be exact. Even when charging a 2 amp tablet, there is a full 20 watts left over to power all four data ports at the full USB 3.0 900mA per port specification.

One exception of note is the Apple “SuperDrive” which requires a direct connection to a supported Mac. From http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2801

The SuperDrive is designed exclusively for use with MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini’s that do not have a built-in optical drive. The SuperDrive must be directly plugged into the computer’s USB port, and cannot be used if connected to a USB hub.”

Any questions? Feel free to comment below or just email support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help. Thanks for going out of your way for Plugable products!

Plugable 4-Port Aluminum USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Hub with Dedicated 2.1A Charging Port and 30W Power Adap... Product Details
Currently Unavailable
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Installing DevCon on Windows 8.1 http://plugable.com/2014/01/21/installing-devcon-on-windows-8-1 http://plugable.com/2014/01/21/installing-devcon-on-windows-8-1#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 20:43:42 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11642 DevCon is a Windows command line tool useful in Windows device testing and debugging that is not included in the general availability release of Windows 8.1.

Additional details on DevCon’s use are here.

Here are steps to install it, along with useful prerequisites.

1. Install Windows 8.1 WDK.

2. Install Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop (or a full version of Visual Studio, if available).

3. Install the Windows SDK for Windows 8.1.

Below is a screencapture showing correct command syntax- note that it is necessary to “quote out” the full path of the appropriate bittage .exe version as shown in the 2nd line.

DevCon command working under Windows 8.1

DevCon command working under Windows 8.1

C:\WINDOWS\system32>"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.1\Tools\x64\devcon.exe"

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Need to Knows about the Dell Venue 8 Pro with Plugable Products http://plugable.com/2014/01/03/need-to-knows-about-the-dell-venue-8-pro-with-plugable-products http://plugable.com/2014/01/03/need-to-knows-about-the-dell-venue-8-pro-with-plugable-products#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 23:12:46 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11215 UPDATE 11/26/2014: This article may contain out of date (but still useful) information. – Those of you who have been interested in using the Dell Venue 8 Pro with our products may be aware of the Kickstarter we launched in June and successfully funded in July. With the help of crowd funding we were able to bring the UD-PRO8 to life. The Pro8 is the world’s first all-in-one docking solution designed to charge the Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows tablet (and more) while simultaneously connecting external USB devices. Please see the FAQ here for the latest information.

UPDATE 5/20/2014: We have solved the issue of charging while using USB devices! Please take a look at our Kickstarter Announcement of the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station with Charging for Venue 8 Pro: http://plugable.com/kickstarter

When we first learned of Dell’s plans to release a full Windows 8.1 mini tablet we were excited to see what would be possible from such a small device. Unlike Windows RT tablets limited to running Windows store applications and unable to load device drivers, the standard x86 architecture of the Intel Bay Trail Atom in the Venue enables access to the broad ecosystem of Windows device drivers and applications developed before Windows 8’s Modern or “Metro” UI and Windows store came to be.

Upon receiving one of the first units to ship from Dell we immediately wanted to find out if we could use an OTG (on-the-go) cable to connect external USB devices to the Venue through the single female USB Micro B port normally used for charging. Fortunately the Venue does have OTG support! With the help of the OTG cable, a UD-3000 dock, and three USB3-VGA adapters, we turned a tiny 8″ Windows 8.1 tablet into a full blown desktop workstation with four monitors, full-size keyboard and mouse, gigabit Ethernet, and more. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to be addressed- most notably that there is no way to charge the venue while it is docked- read on for need to know technical details.

We decided to make a YouTube video showcasing the Venue along with some of our products such as the Plugable UD-3000 USB 3.0 Docking Station and the Plugable USB3-VGA USB 3.0 to VGA Adapter. Our video went viral among tech enthusiasts, even attracting the attention of Michael Dell himself who retweeted our video stating “Sweet demo of the Dell Venue Pro 8″.

For those who have not yet seen the video:

While the Intel Bay Trail platform supports USB 3.0 internally, the OTG connection is limited to USB 2.0. However, the biggest issue is that because the Venue has only a single female USB 2.0 Micro B port, you can’t charge it while using OTG devices. A work-around for this with other tablets is an OTG “Y” cable that connects both a charger and USB device at the same time. Sadly, this does not work with the Venue.

The Venue has to see special signaling on the USB data lines to initiate a charge, something that an OTG Y cable cannot do. This limitation means than once the battery runs out, you have to stop working with all of your accessories and revert to just the tablet itself so you can charge it.

There are several DIY hacks that will enable charging with USB devices connected but most are not for the faint of heart. The easier hacks require a menagerie of adapters and is usually not very practical. At this time, here at Plugable, we are working on an OTG all-in-one dock solution for the Venue that will allow charging while using USB devices without the need for any DIY hacking, but we do not have any information on when such a solution will be available to the market.

For some users, the inability to charge while using USB devices is not enough reason to avoid using Venue as a desktop replacement. For those users, we have a list of items to make this a better experience.

Battery Life

When using a dock with the Venue, the dock itself is powered from its own power adapter and will not draw any extra power from the Venue battery. If using any non-powered device with the Venue, it will draw extra power and battery life will drop. Whenever possible, we suggest using a dock or powered hub to connect USB devices.

When using any DisplayLink adapters, battery life will drop faster whether or not the adapter is actually connected. Currently there is a known issue where the DisplayLink drivers cause the Intel HD Graphics to not enter a low power state, even while the Venue is in sleep mode. The battery drain is about 6% per hour compared to only about 1% without the DisplayLink software. Currently the best way around this issue without uninstalling and reinstalling the DisplayLink software between use is to just disable the “DisplayLinkManager” service when not in use and enable it when needed.

Update: 3/28/2014 – DisplayLink has released a new driver, 7.5 M1 – 2/27/2014, that solves the power drain from just having the DisplayLink drivers installed. There are a few key points to mention however. With 7.5 M1, we recommend to not disable the Venues built in screen while using DisplayLink attached screens or else the mouse pointer may disappear.

Update: 4/30/2014 - The mouse pointer issue has now been corrected in 7.5 M2 and the latest 7.6 M0.

Here are some tips to maximize battery life:

  • We suggest disabling the automatic brightness feature:
  1. Open the settings from the charms bar.
  2. Click “Change PC settings” at the bottom.
  3. Click “PC and Devices.”
  4. Click “Power and Sleep.”
  5. From here you can toggle “Adjust my screen brightness automatically.”

You may then adjust brightness as you see fit. However, when using with an external monitor, we suggest turning the brightness of the Venue to the middle to lowest setting to prolong battery life.

  • Disable any unnecessary programs at startup from the “Startup” tab in the Task Manager.
  • Turn off any 3D intensive screensaver. Instead, use the Windows power management settings to allow the Venue to turn off monitors after a defined period of inactivity.
  • Try to run virus scans, maintenance scans and the like only while charging.
  • If using a dock with built-in audio, connect speakers or headphones to the dock and not directly to the Venue.
  • When using a dock, connect to the Internet through the Ethernet connection if possible, and avoid using Wi-Fi.

Multi-Monitor Support

The most important thing to know about using the Venue with multiple monitors is that increasing the number of monitors, combined with the increasing the resolution of the monitors, decreases overall performance. Currently, we recommend no more than two monitors running at a maximum of a 1920×1080 resolution. In our video we ran four monitors at 1280×1024 which is a similar overall configuration in terms of total pixels. For a dual monitor setup we recommend our UD-3900 dual-head docking station.

HD video playback is a question that we get often. Unfortunately the Venue just isn’t powerful enough to playback HD 720p & 1080p YouTube videos on an external DisplayLink attached monitor.

Issues with mirror mode–We have had mixed results using the Venue in mirror mode. We do not have a clear understanding as to why it works for some and fails for others. At this time we cannot recommend using any of our USB display adapters for a mirroring application. We suspect it has to do with the Intel HD Graphics drivers and/or display settings on the Venue not working properly with DisplayLink based adapters. It could also be an incompatibility with the touch screen or automatic gyroscope rotation settings. Extended desktop mode works just fine and this is what the majority of users will want.

Miracast is also non-functional when the DisplayLink drivers are installed.

Performance

There are several ways to maximize performance for use as a desktop workstation that include optimizing a combination of Windows settings on the Venue.

First of all, freeing up space on the SSD is especially critical for 32GB Venue users, because the tablet comes from the factory with less than half of the SSD free. This severely limits what programs can be installed and how much user data can be stored. We recommend uninstalling any pre-installed applications that are not needed, however, we strongly recommend leaving the pre-installed Dell software alone, as it may cause issues if removed. The Venue does have a Micro SD card slot capable of supporting a 64GB card, however, speeds are highly dependent on the SD card and will be far less than the built-in SSD. Installing programs to the SD card is not recommended unless speed is not important for that program. Instead, the SD card should be dedicated to data storage for files.

The biggest factor for improving performance is maximizing the potential of the SSD drive in the Venue. To attain higher speeds the built-in drive encryption in Windows 8.1 must be disabled. If encryption on your Venue is not important, we highly suggest this change as it will make your computing experience much more enjoyable.

Increasing the speed of the SSD not only increases how fast programs will open, but it is also a major factor in overall performance. This due to the fact the Venue only has 2GB of memory and has to create a page file on the SSD to act as virtual memory if and when the real memory runs out. For power users who multitask this is a critical factor. Adjusting the page file settings can also help. We recommend that virtual memory be set to “System managed size” on the SSD (C: drive) and if a Micro SD card is present, to also have a page file there as well (as long as this SD card will be permanent storage in the Venue).

  • To disable Windows 8.1 disk encryption feature follow these steps:
  1. Open “PC settings” from the Start menu.
  2. Click “PC and devices.”
  3. Click “PC Info”
  4. Click “Turn off” at the bottom of the page.

Gaming

Some have asked about the gaming potential of the Venue through our USB graphics adapters. Here are our thoughts on the subject:

USB graphics devices are “virtual” devices where much of the heavy lifting is done in the CPU, by hooking into the graphics stack. The DirectX APIs used by games assume direct hardware access (a PCIe graphics card). DisplayLink’s drivers attempt to emulate as much of the functionality as possible, which is why some 3D functionality (like that needed for desktop and apps) works.

We don’t recommend running games with USB graphics, because this emulation cannot be perfect. Even without specific compatibility problems, performance will always be a challenge–the extra CPU work required for USB graphics will cause reduced frame rates and other problems. Normal desktop and application use is fine because they don’t push the system as hard as 3D games do.

Common problems experienced when trying to run a game on a USB graphics adapter include: games not launching, games crashing, screen flickering, and/or the screen going black.

All of these issues are especially important to consider for the Venue due to its limited processor, memory, and graphics abilities, compounded by the fact it will be running off of the battery.

What about the Lenovo Miix 2 and the Toshiba Encore 8? (And Other Bay Trail Tablets)

While we do not have all of these tablets to test in our office, they appear to be based off of the same Intel Bay Trail reference design and will likely have the same limitations as the Venue 8 Pro. We also suspect non-reference design tablets like the Bay Trail based ASUS T100TA and the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 will face these limitations as well.

Update: 3/28/2014 – We now have a Lenovo Miix 2 in the office and can report functionality between this tablet and the Venue 8 Pro are identical with the use of our DisplayLink based products.

Update: 3/31/2014 - We now have an ASUS T100TA in the office and are extremely pleased with this unit in our testing so far. It has a standard USB 2.0 Micro B port that supports OTG just like other Bay Trail tablets but it also has a Micro HDMI port. Most importantly when docked with the keyboard base, there is a full sized USB 3.0 port — this is great because when docked, you can charge through the Micro B port while connecting external USB devices, something none of the other Bay Trail options we’ve tested so far can do.

I have been using the T100TA with one of our UD-3000 docks connected to the USB 3.0 port with a 1080p screen attached to the dock and another 1080p screen attached directly to the Micro HDMI port. The performance of this unit compared to the Venue 8 Pro is much better without the limitation of USB 2.0 only for connectivity.

Update: 4/30/2014 - We have uploaded a new YouTube video showcasing our UD-3900 dock with the ASUS T100TA:

We received some attention from ASUS North America as well!

Capture

Update: 4/30/2014 - We now have a Acer Iconia W4 in the office and have been able to quickly test a Toshiba Encore 8 and can report functionality between these tablets and the Venue 8 Pro are identical with the use of our DisplayLink based products.

Suggestions?

Let us know of any Venue 8 Pro tips you have in the comments below!

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When You Need a New WiFi Adapter http://plugable.com/2013/12/18/when-you-need-a-new-wifi-adapter http://plugable.com/2013/12/18/when-you-need-a-new-wifi-adapter#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:00:42 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11421 You love your laptop, but its WiFi network adapter is on the fritz. You could try to get it repaired or plunk down at least a few hundred bucks for a new computer. There’s also an easy, inexpensive option that will get you back on the network in no time: Use a USB-based WiFi adapter.

The USB-NANO-11N WiFi adapter plugged into a USB slot measures sticks out just a quarter of an inchPlugable’s new USB-WIFINT offers draft 802.11n wireless connectivity in an incredibly small package.

At just 0.25 inches long by 0.5 inches wide when plugged into a USB port, the USB-WIFINT is barely noticeable. With such a low profile, you don’t have to worry about the adapter snapping off from an accidental nudge. In fact, you won’t even need to unplug it before you stuff your laptop PC your backpack or totebag.

 

The USB-WIFINT uses the Realtek RTL8188CUS chipset. We chose this chipset as it has a very wide range of support including Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.  One exception of note is OS X 10.9 “Mavericks” for which there is no driver yet available, and unfortunately no ETA for when this might be ready.

 

Size Matters
The one drawback of such a small form factor is that the USB-WIFINT has a small antenna, which limits the performance and range of the adapter.  In most real-world application, actual transfer speeds will be 35mb/sec or less. While the device is 802.11n compliant, with a theoretical top speed of 150 Mbps if you are in the same room as the router with a direct line of sight, real-world usage shows that link speeds of around 74 Mbps are more common as most users will be in a different room or on a different floor from the router.

Distance from the WiFi hotspot (router or access point) and ambient 2.4GHz radio interference from other wireless devices will cause the connection quality to vary. For optimal performance, we recommend the USB-WIFINT for customers who plan to use the adapter in the same room as the hotspot.

As noted, the adapter supports the 802.11n draft WiFi specification for data transmission in the 2.4Ghz band, but it is compatible with the older 802.11b and g specifications. It also supports the common WiFi security protocols (64/128 bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK and Wi-Fi Protected Setup).

The USB-WIFINT supporting Linux combined with its small size and low power consumption of less than 250mA make it the perfect companion for the Raspberry Pi, or for other scenarios where low power consumption is more important than reception such as Android development.

Getting Connected

The adapter works in USB 2.0 and 1.1 ports, though you’ll get faster throughput in a USB 2.0 port. USB 3.0 ports are not recommended as it may interfere with nearby 2.4GHz devices. A red LED inside the unit will flash intermittently to indicate active data transfer.

If the USB-WIFINT is right for you, there’s an important step you must take before plugging it in to your computer: Download and install the latest drivers first.

We recommend installing the very latest drivers, available at:
plugable.com/products/usb-wifint/drivers

Have any questions? Just comment below or email support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help!

Plugable USB-WIFINT USB 2.0 802.11n WiFi Transceiver (Realtek RTL8188CUS Chipset)... Product Details
$9.95
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Plugable Launches the HDMI to VGA Adapter Cable http://plugable.com/2013/12/12/plugable-launches-the-hdmi-to-vga-adapter-cable http://plugable.com/2013/12/12/plugable-launches-the-hdmi-to-vga-adapter-cable#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 00:07:12 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11311 The new Plugable Passive HDMI to VGA adapter cable is a fantastic new product that does, quite literally, one thing. It allows you to connect your HDMI outputting devices to a VGA input like a monitor or projector.

HDMI-VGA

The HDMI to VGA adapter cable is truly a great advance. As chips have gotten smaller we’ve been able to cram the chipsets found in giant converter boxes and bulky adapters into the nice form factor of a simple cable. The chipset is so small, you might mistake this cable for just another run-of-the-mill cable, but this so much more! With the built-in CH7101 chipset, this adapter will let you breath new life into your old displays.

The HDMI to VGA adapter cable is the time-traveler of video cables, allowing you to bridge your fancy futuristic computer with HDMI outputs to your aged monitors and legacy projectors with VGA inputs.

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Using the Plugable USB-BT4LE Bluetooth Adapter with the Raspberry Pi http://plugable.com/2013/12/10/using-the-plugable-usb-bt4le-bluetooth-adapter-with-the-raspberry-pi http://plugable.com/2013/12/10/using-the-plugable-usb-bt4le-bluetooth-adapter-with-the-raspberry-pi#comments Wed, 11 Dec 2013 01:11:51 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11109 Using a Bluetooth adapter with your Raspberry Pi opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You can connect a Bluetooth keyboard a mouse, send music to Bluetooth headphones or music receiver, or delve into the exciting world of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) applications. The best part is that it is really easy.

If you are using Raspbian, the most common Linux distribution for the Pi, almost everything you need to use the Plugable Bluetooth adapter is already built in. Besides the Pi itself, you will need an internet connection, the Plugable Bluetooth adapter, and a powered hub that is compatible with the Pi. For the hub we recommend the Plugable USB 2.0 7-port hub, which can both power the Pi and the USB devices connected to it, so you don’t have to worry about your Pi restarting after drawing too much power through its USB ports.

First connect the monitor and internet to your Pi. Plug the Bluetooth adapter into the hub, connect the hub to the Pi, then plug the hub into an AC outlet. You can watch a video about setting up the hub here.

After the Pi starts up, log in and type the following commands to update software on the Pi. Each command can take several minutes to run. Answer “yes” to any prompts.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Next, install the Bluetooth support software with this command:

sudo apt-get install bluetooth bluez-utils blueman

After the installation finishes, type startx to start the graphical interface.

You should now see a Bluetooth symbol in a blue oval at the lower right of your screen.

Bluetooth symbol

Click it to bring up the Bluetooth Devices window, and click Search to look for devices. Any nearby Bluetooth devices in discovery mode should appear in the window. In this example, we will install a keyboard. Other devices are similar, although many will not require a PIN.

Search

Click the device you want to pair to, then select the plus sign to pair. Under device, select the service you want to connect to. If you are adding a keyboard or similar device, you will be asked to enter a pin.

Pairing request

Enter the same PIN on the keyboard to connect, and you are done.

Connected

If the Bluetooth utility does not see the Bluetooth adapter try the following commands:

sudo nano /etc/group

{change line 8 from “lp:x:7:” to “lp:x:7:pi” save and exit}

sudo reboot

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Using Microsoft Windows Easy Transfer Software for Upgrading to a Windows 7 or 8 Computer http://plugable.com/2013/12/10/using-microsoft-windows-easy-transfer-software-for-upgrading-to-a-windows-7-or-8-computer http://plugable.com/2013/12/10/using-microsoft-windows-easy-transfer-software-for-upgrading-to-a-windows-7-or-8-computer#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 20:30:26 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11368 Although Microsoft has removed support in Windows 8.1 for upgrading to a new computer using a Windows transfer cable with the Windows Easy Transfer software, that software still offers the easiest and most automated method for upgrading to a Windows 7 or 8 computer. This blog post gives instructions for doing that.

Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer software is built into Windows 7 and Windows 8 and is available as a free download when using a Windows XP (SP2 or higher required) or Windows Vista computer as the source. It provides a step-by-step interface for migrating Windows user account settings and files from an old PC to a Windows 7 or 8 computer. With Plugable’s Windows transfer cable and Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer software, you can migrate in the following scenarios:

  • From a Windows XP SP2 (or higher) or Windows Vista PC to a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC
  • From one Windows 7 PC to another
  • From  a Windows 7 PC to a Windows 8 PC
  • From one Windows 8 PC to another

Please note that the Windows Easy Transfer software does not support using the Windows transfer cable in Windows 8.1, or upgrading from a 64-bit version of Windows to a 32-bit version of Windows. It also does not work if the target computer has Windows XP or Vista. For instructions on using the Bravura Easy Computer Sync software to upgrade in these scenarios, see here.

1.Before getting started with the cable, install the latest drivers for the older PC if it is running Windows XP or Vista. Go to  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/windows-easy-transfer and download the drivers for your edition of XP or Vista. Run Windows Update on the target computer, and also on the source computer if it uses Windows 7 or 8.

2. Plug the Windows transfer cable into a free USB port on each of the PCs (use a USB 2.0 port if possible to ensure the best connection speeds). Windows will attempt to recognize the cable. If you experience any errors at this point, email us at support@plugable.com. If all goes well, continue to the next step.

3. Now you need to open Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer software.

If you’re running Windows XP SP2 (or higher) or Windows Vista, an autorun option will give you the opportunity to launch the Windows Easy Transfer software if it’s installed. If it’s not, you’ll install it on the PC in a later step.

If you’re running Windows 7 or 8, Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer will open on screen when your Windows transfer cable is plugged in:

Windows Easy Transfer welcome screen

If you’re running Windows 8, you may need type Windows Easy Transfer into your Start screen, then click the Windows Easy Transfer icon to launch it.

Windows 8 search results screen

4. On the new PC, you’ll select whether this is the new or old computer. Select New and continue.

Windows Easy Transfer computer selection

5. On the new computer, you’ll be asked if you’re going to need to install Windows Easy Transfer on the old computer. You should already have addressed this in step No. 1, so select the appropriate answer from “I already installed it” or “My old computer is running Windows 7.”

Windows Easy Transfer installation options

6. On the old computer, make sure Windows Easy Transfer is running and select that you already installed in on the old computer.

7. At this stage, the Windows Easy Transfer software will connect the computers. If you get stuck at this point, see this blog post.

Windows Easy Transfer initial connection between two computers

From this point forward, you will make all your decisions on the new computer.

8. On the new PC, the Windows Easy Transfer software lets you choose what you want to pull from the old computer and how you want the synchronization to occur.

The “Customize” option lets you select which file folders and settings to synchronize onto the new PC.

Windows Easy Transfer data sync options
Choosing “Advanced” from this menu allows you to select specific files to transfer rather than the whole folder.

Back in the main window, the “Advanced Options…” link lets you decide whether to pull the whole user account associated with the files and settings from the old PC to the new PC or to merge it into an account already on the new PC.

Windows Easy Transfer account merge options

From the “Map drives” tab in this window you can determine where on the new PC the files will be transferred, if you don’t want them to be placed in the same file path as they had on the old PC. Occasionally, Windows Easy Transfer mistakes a computer’s recovery partition for its main drive and issues an error that not enough space is available on the target drive. If this happens, use the Map drives tab to set the correct target partition.

9. Once you decide what you want to copy from the old computer to the new computer, choose “Transfer” and watch the progress as the data is migrated. When it’s finished, you’ll get the chance to see what was transferred. This may take several hours, depending on how much data is on the old computer.

Another useful feature in this final window is an option to see what programs were installed on your old PC that you might want to install on your new PC.

Windows Easy Transfer reporting screen

This is helpful since the Windows Easy Transfer software moves documents and account settings but not your installed apps. With this feature, you can see what you will need to re-install on your new PC to match your old PC’s functionality.

Windows Easy Transfer list of programs on the old PC

10. You now can close the Windows Easy Transfer software on both computers and disconnect the Windows transfer cable.

If You Need Help
We’ve tried to cover the basics of how you can make the most of your Plugable USB-EASY-TRAN Windows transfer cable when using Windows Easy Transfer to upgrade to a Windows 7 or 8 computer.

Feel free to comment here or write us at support@plugable.com.

Plugable Windows Transfer Cable for Windows 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP. Includes Bravura Easy Computer Syn... Product Details
$19.95
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Troubleshooting the Plugable USB-BT4LE Bluetooth Adapter in Windows http://plugable.com/2013/12/09/troubleshooting-the-plugable-usb-bt4le-bluetooth-adapter-in-windows http://plugable.com/2013/12/09/troubleshooting-the-plugable-usb-bt4le-bluetooth-adapter-in-windows#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 01:33:55 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11341 Plugable’s USB-BT4LE Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter offers a wide range of possibilities for expanding the usefulness of your computer. You can listen through headphones, connect a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse, transfer photos from your smart phone, and do many other tasks. This is possible because Bluetooth drivers and software are working behind the scenes to connect and control all these devices. Because Bluetooth can do so much, the software is complex, and there are various places where problems can crop up. When there is a problem, it can be frustrating and difficult to solve.

This troubleshooting guide identifies the major problems that can happen with the Bluetooth adapter and gives advice on how to solve them. Since problems are most often encountered during software installation, we’ll deal with those issues first, followed by problems that can crop up after a successful installation.

Bluetooth Adapter Not Detected by Computer

When the adapter is plugged into a USB port on a Windows computer, the computer should detect the adapter. If sound is turned on, you should hear a sound. A message above the system tray should indicate that the computer is installing the device. If none of these indications are present, it could mean a malfunctioning adapter, a bad USB port, or some other issue.

Troubleshooting

Symptom: Blue light does not come on inside the adapter

When the adapter is plugged into a USB port, a blue light should come on inside of it that indicates it is being powered. If the light does not come on, remove the adapter from any hub or USB extension cable and plug it directly into a USB port on the computer. If it lights, it means the hub or extension cord is not supplying power, and should be checked for problems. If there are other ports on the computer, try plugging into them. If the adapter lights, reboot the computer and try the original port again. If the adapter now lights in that port, some temporary or intermittent problem was present. If the light goes out again, but the adapter works well in all other ports, the original port is probably having problems and should be checked.

If after trying all the ports on the computer, the light still does not come one, restart the computer and try again. If it still does not light, try a USB port on another computer. If the light still does not come on, please contact Plugable. It is likely the adapter is malfunctioning and needs replacement. If the light consistently comes on with one computer, but not another, the computer where the light is not coming on should be checked for low-level USB or driver issues that could cause this problem.

Symptom: Blue light comes on, but the device is not detected

For some reason your computer is not seeing the adapter even though it is getting power. Troubleshooting is similar to when the blue light does not come on. Remove the adapter from any hub or USB extension cable and plug it directly into a USB port on the computer. If it is detected, it means the hub or extension cord is having problems, and should be checked. If there are other ports on the computer, try plugging into them.

If after trying all the ports on the computer, the adapter is still not detected, restart the computer and try again. If it still is not detected, try a USB port on another computer. If the adapter is still not detected, please contact Plugable. It is likely the adapter is malfunctioning and needs replacement. If the adapter is consistently detected by one computer, but not another, the computer where is is not detected should be checked.

Symptom: The USB device connected sound is rapidly followed by a disconnected sound, sometimes over and over.
There is likely an intermittent connection issue ether in the USB port or the adapter. Remove the adapter from any hub or USB extension cable, and connect directly to a USB port on the computer. If the issue continues despite being connected to several ports, the adapter may be malfunctioning. Contact Plugable to troubleshoot further.

Adapter is detected by the computer but the drivers do not load

Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 computers, if they are connected to the internet, should automatically download drivers for the adapter as soon as it is connected. A blue light should come on inside the adapter. If sound is on, you should hear a connection sound, and you will see a message near the system tray that says the device is being installed. You can click on the message to see what drivers are being installed and what their progress is.

In Windows 8 or later computers, if the driver is successfully installed, the Bluetooth adapter is ready to use. Try connecting your Bluetooth headset, keyboard or other device.

With Windows 7 computers, the next step is to install the software from the CD or download the appropriate setup file from the Plugable website here and install it.

Windows XP and Vista computers will not automatically install drivers. When the adapter is plugged in, a message saying Found New Hardware or Installing device driver software should be displayed, but the installation will not succeed. This is not a problem. Install the software from the CD or download the appropriate setup file from the Plugable website here and install it.

Troubleshooting

Symptom: On a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 computer, the adapter is detected, but an error message is displayed saying that the device could not be installed.

On these computers, the driver should be downloaded automatically from the Internet when the adapter is plugged in. Make sure the Internet is connected and working. If it is connected and working and the driver does not install, go to the Start menu, type Windows Update, then click Check for updates. After the check is finished, check the optional updates and accept any that are Bluetooth-related. Accept any important or critical Bluetooth-related updates. Click Install updates, and let the updates be installed. Restart your computer and try again. If the adapter still does not install, write down or screenshot any error messages, then contact Plugable for assistance. You might also want to check out the Advanced Troubleshooting section.

It is also possible that other Bluetooth software or devices are installed and are causing problems. Open Programs and Features (Add or Remove Programs in XP) and search the list of programs for anything Bluetooth-related. If you see something, uninstall it. Unpair (or remove) any currently paired Bluetooth Devices. Open Device Manager > Bluetooth Radios. For any entries other than Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device or Microsoft Bluetooth Enumerator, right-click on the name in Device Manager and select Uninstall. In the next window (if one appears), put a check next to Delete the driver software for this device, then click OK. If the computer has a built-in Bluetooth device, be sure to turn it off after deleting its driver. The computer can only work with one Bluetooth adapter at a time.

Sometimes an overzealous anti-virus or anti-Malware program will block new drivers from installing. This often shows up as a Access Denied error in the setupapi.dev.log error. Temporarily disable the antivirus or anti-malware program, and try again. See the information about reading setupapi.dev.log files in the “Advanced Troubleshooting” section below. Malware such as viruses or trojans can also cause these errors. Access Denied errors happen when the installation program attempts to write important information to the Windows registry or to a file, but does not have permission to do so. If the current user account is not at Administrative level, change to an Administrative account level, or try running the installation program as Administrator. Sometimes malware such as viruses and trojans will change registry permissions to protect themselves.

We have seen some cases where the Bluetooth adapter would not install in computers that had been updated to Windows 8 from Windows 7 without doing a clean install. It appears that some files that are carried over from Windows 7 are not compatible with Bluetooth in Windows 8. In such cases, it may be necessary to back up all important data, then do a clean install of Windows 8.

Cannot install drivers for Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7

At this time, we recommend installing the Bluetooth software drivers from the CD that comes with the adapter or from the Plugable website, and not from the file downloaded from the Broadcom site. The software on the CD is the same version, but an earlier build, and there are separate versions for XP, Vista/Windows 7, and Windows 8. The Windows 8 version should not be needed in most circumstances. The version on the Broadcom website consolidates these into one large file, and seems to have problems where the earlier versions do not, especially with older computers or those that did not come with a Bluetooth stack already installed.

When the software installation fails, there is generally an error message. Below are some possible error messages and their solutions. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove all traces of the software from the system and start over again.

Generally, it is not a good idea to uninstall and reinstall the driver software when there is a problem. It can especially cause problems if an attempt is made to install a newer or older version on top of the current one. Before attempting to reinstall, completely uninstall the driver for the Broadcom Bluetooth device in Device manager, and uninstall the WIDCOMM software in Programs and Features, so that you can have a fresh start. If necessary on Windows 7 computers, uninstall driver packages as explained in the section on clearing out old driver packages in the “Advanced Troubleshooting” section below.

Troubleshooting


Symptom: Error message that says “Could not start Microsoft Bluetooth Stack” during installation of the Broadcom driver

This symptom indicates that either the native Microsoft Bluetooth software has never been installed on this computer, or that something is wrong with it. It usually occurs with the driver installation package downloaded from the Broadcom site. Please try installing from the CD or from the links on Plugable driver page here: http://plugable.com/drivers/bluetooth

If you still see this message when installing from the CD or the version on the Plugable website, please try the following:
1. If you have any anti-virus programs running, disable them prior to installing the Broadcom driver.
2. Type in services.msc in Start>Search to open list of services. From the list of items, double click Bluetooth Support Service.
3. Change the startup type to Automatic and click Start button to start service. (Check for the dependencies of this service and make sure these are also set to automatic.)
4. Click Apply and then click OK.
5. If the service was not set to automatic, another Bluetooth adapter may already be installed, and must be removed. See the information on finding and removing other Bluetooth software and devices in the “Advanced Troubleshooting” section below.
After the above, try connecting the Bluetooth adapter again and go through driver installation.
If this does not help, or if Bluetooth Support Service is already set to Automatic, please try the following:

1. With the adapter plugged into a USB slot, click the Start button, and type “Windows Update” in the “Search programs and files” box. When Windows Update comes up, click where it says “x optional updates are available” and accept any related to bluetooth. Do the same for “x important updates are available.” Apply the updates, and restart your computer.

2. Go to the folder where you have saved the setup file for your Windows version. Right-click its icon, and select Properties. Click on the Compatibility tab, then set Windows XP (Service Pack 3) for Compatibility mode. Select Apply, then right-click again and select “Run as administrator.”

Symptom: Error message that says “Failed to update Bluetooth Software” appears during installation of the Broadcom driver.
This symptom occurs when installing the drivers from the CD or online, and indicates that the installation software is trying to install a different version of the Bluetooth software that what already exists on the computer. If you are using a Windows 8 or later computer, you probably do not need to install this software. Try using the Bluetooth adapter with the computer as it is. If you can’t pair or connect your Bluetooth devices, or they do not work properly, see the section below named “Even though it looks like the adapter installed successfully, I’m having problems connecting and using my Bluetooth Devices.”

If you are attempting to install the software on a Windows 7 computer, you may need to clear out any previously installed drivers and start over again. See the information about clearing out old driver packages in the “Advanced Troubleshooting” section below.

Even though it looks like the adapter installed successfully, I’m having problems connecting and using my Bluetooth Devices

In Windows 8 and later where no driver installation is needed, or in Windows XP, Vista, or 7, after installing the necessary drivers has completed successfully, you still may have problems connecting your devices. This sections looks at the most likely problems and offers troubleshooting steps and solutions.

Symptom: I’m trying to connect to my phone or tablet, but I can’t see it
Usually this happens because neither the computer or the phone/tablet are making themselves visible to the other device. A device that wants to be seen by other devices broadcasts a special radio signal that makes it visible to any other Bluetooth device nearby. This is called being “discoverable” or “visible.” This mode is usually turned off by default on computers and phone/tablets for security reasons. Instead, they act as a host device and search for other devices like keyboards or headsets that broadcast their presence.

To solve this problem, you need to make either the phone/tablet or the computer temporarily discoverable. Make one device discoverable and search for it on the other one.

Below are instructions for some common devices. For devices not listed here, see the user guide or instruction manual for that device, or search for “make discoverable in bluetooth” on the web.

iOS (iPhone, iPad)
Your iOS device will become discoverable when you go to Settings > General > Bluetooth. It will remain discoverable as long as you stay on the Bluetooth menu page.

Android Versions 2.2 and 2.3 (Froyo and Gingerbread)
Open Settings. Press Wireless & Networks. Press Bluetooth settings. If Bluetooth is not already on, touch it to turn it on. Touch Discoverable. Your phone/tablet will stay discoverable for 120 seconds.

Android Versions 4.0, 4.1, 4.2 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean)
Open Settings. Slide the Bluetooth switch to the On position. Touch Bluetooth. At the top will be the name of your device and the words “Not visible to other Bluetooth devices.” Touch this to change it to “Visible to all nearby Bluetooth devices.” Touch it again after pairing with your computer to turn it off again.

Windows 8
Press Windows Key + D to go to the Desktop. Click Bluetooth in the System Tray. Select Open Settings. Place a check next to “Allow Bluetooth devices to find this computer.” Be sure to turn this off after pairing is successful.

Windows 7
Click Bluetooth in the System Tray. Select Open Settings. Place a check next to “Allow Bluetooth devices to find this computer.” Be sure to turn this off after pairing is successful.

Windows XP
Right-click Bluetooth in the System Tray. Select Bluetooth Configuration. Click the Accessibility tab. Place a check next to “Let other Bluetooth devices discover this computer.” Be sure to turn this off after pairing is successful.

Symptom: I’m trying to connect my headphone set or speaker, but I can’t see it
Most headphones or speakers can only connect to one Bluetooth device at a time. If you have previously connected your headphone or speaker to your mobile phone, tablet, or another computer, go to that device and either unpair or remove the headphones or speaker from its Bluetooth settings, or turn off Bluetooth for that device until the headphones or speaker are paired with your Plugable adapter.

If this does not solve the problem, make sure your Bluetooth device is discoverable. Many devices require you to hold down a button or switch, or to perform some other action to place the device into discoverable mode. If you aren’t sure how to do this, refer to the manual for your device.

Symptom: I thought I connected my phone, but Windows reports it as unconnected, and I can’t transfer my photos or other files.
This appears to be a bug in Windows. We have a work-around for transferring files in this blog post.

Symptom: I’m trying to connect a device, and it’s asking for a PIN.
If you haven’t set up or been given a PIN by the device maker, try 0000, 00000, 000000, 0000000, 00000000, and series of numbers from 1234 to 12345678.

Symptom: I seem to have to re-connect my Bluetooth headset each time the computer comes back from sleep, but I would like to keep the headset connected through computer sleep?

1. Open Start>Device Manager, expand Bluetooth Radio section
2. Right click on “Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device” , Properties
3. Go to the Power Management tab, and *uncheck* “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”

Note: This will keep all Bluetooth devices connected until the device itself goes into sleep/standby

Advanced Troubleshooting

This sections contains troubleshooting information and techniques that are mainly useful to the advanced user. In some cases, improperly applying them could cause other problems beyond the original one. If you are not confident in applying any of these techniques, please contact us at support@plugable.com. We are happy to help!

Using Plugdebug files

PlugDebug is a program especially developed at Plugable for gathering several different files that are useful for troubleshooting. Instructions and download information are located here. The most useful files for troubleshooting Bluetooth adapter issues are:

  • bluetooth.html: Reports connections with Bluetooth devices. Useful for when devices are detected, but will not pair or connect.
  • devman.html: Gathers content from Device Manager. Shows installation status, driver versions, etc. Useful for troubleshooting device detection and driver installation issues.
  • installed_apps.html: Shows all applications installed on the computer. Useful for checking for malware, antivirus programs, other Bluetooth applications that could be causing a conflict, and whether the WIDCOMM software is installed, and what version.
  • msinfo32.txt: Useful for checking Windows version and update status, installed memory, status of the Bluetooth Support Service, non-compatible Bluetooth services, and errors that may be related to or affecting Bluetooth.
  • setupapi.dev.log: Displays detailed information about each attempted device driver installation, both for the Bluetooth adapter, and any connected Bluetooth devices.
  • usbdev.html: Displays information similar to devman.html above, but in a simpler format and only for USB devices.

Which file to look at, and what to look for depends on the issue you are troubleshooting. Often the best way to find information related to the adapter in a file is to search for “bluetooth” or for either the VID or PID of the adapter, which are 0a5c and 21e8.

Bluetooth Adapter Not Detected by Computer

Use the usbdev.html file to make sure the adapter has actually not been detected. If detected, it will appear in the list as Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device. Its driver should be named bcbtums.sys. If this device is present and the driver is correct, check if it is connected. If it is present and connected, the problem is not a detection issue. If there is some question about when the device was first detected and installed, this information can be found here.

If the Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device does not appear in usbdev.html, search the setupapi.dev.log for the VID or PID of the adapter, 0a5c or 21e8. If the device appears, it means the computer has detected it and there is another cause for the problem.

Adapter is detected by the computer but the drivers do not load
Use the usbdev.html file to make sure the drivers have actually not loaded. If loaded, the adapter will appear in the list as Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device. If this device is present, check if it is connected. If it is present and connected, the drivers have loaded. You can also use this file to check the driver version and installation date.

It is also a good idea to check the usbdev.html and devman.html for other installed Bluetooth devices. Do a search of the file for “Bluetooth” and look for things like “Generic Bluetooth Driver” or “Cambridge Bluetooth Driver.” Any driver other than the “Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device” is potentially problematic. Removing drivers from other Bluetooth devices is easy if the other device is still available, or is built in to the computer. If the the device is an external device, insert it into the USB port. Open Device Manager, and search for the device under Bluetooth Radios. When found, right-click on the device and select Uninstall. In the next window, select Delete the driver software for this device and click OK. Right-click on the device again, and select Disable. NEVER REMOVE Microsoft Bluetooth Enumerator! This driver is necessary to enumerate connected Bluetooth devices.

If the Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Device has any driver other than bcbtums.sys installed, this will prevent it from working correctly. With the adapter connected to a USB port, Open Device Manager, and look for it under Bluetooth Radios. When found, right-click on the device and select Uninstall. In the next window, select Delete the driver software for this device and click OK. Restart the computer with the adapter still in the USB port.

The best place for troubleshooting driver installation issues is the setupapi.dev.log file. There are several ways to search. Generally it is good to first start at the top of the file and search for the VID or PID of the adapter, 0a5c or 21e8. This should take you to the first time the adapter was installed. Generally, the heading will say “Hardware Initiated.” This indicates that the device was plugged in and the computer attempted to install a driver. Check the date of the installation to make sure it is the one you want, and that the Bluetooth device has not been installed previous to the date of the current situation you are experiencing.

If you want to look for the most recent installation, move to the end of the log, and search upwards for the VID or PID. This is useful in cases where the adapter has stopped working after previously working well, or when the driver software has been uninstalled and reinstalled.

Scan down the list looking in the right-most column for exclamation points. A single exclamation point (!) indicates a potential problem. A triple exclamation point (!!!) indicates a serious problem that probably prevented a good installation. Google the error message that accompanies the exclamation points to get more detail on the cause of the error. Most typical errors involve Windows not being able to locate a usable driver. Make sure the internet was connected when the USB adapter was inserted. It often happens that Windows is looking in the wrong place for the driver, or looking in a place that does not exist. These usually indicate more serious issues with Windows Update or the driver installation process beyond just this one installation, which will need to be resolved before proceeding with installing the Bluetooth adapter.

Another issue frequently encountered in the setupapi.dev.log file is a access error. These typically occur when the installation file attempts to write a registry or file, and access is denied due to an incorrect permissions setting. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Make sure the installation is being attempted from an administrator level account. Try right-clicking on any installation files, and selecting Run as Administrator. Disable any antivirus or anti-malware programs. Many times these programs are very protective of changes in the registry or system files. If the computer belongs to a corporation, it may be necessary for IT staff who have the necessary access permissions to do the installation. It is possible that malware such as viruses or trojans have modified the permissions of various files. Although most such malware will remain hidden and can only be detected with the proper detection software, it is often useful to look at the installed_apps.html file. If there are many freeware programs, known or suspected semi-malware programs installed (such as Conduit, or MyWebSearch), or programs like BitTorrent or uTorrent that are often used to deliver innocent-looking applications with malware payloads, there might well be hidden malware that is causing trouble. Use a well-known anti-malware program to search for and delete it. Generally computers with malware will have other issues as well.

Typically, installation errors in setupapi.dev.log indicate a sick computer with potentially corrupted systems files or organization, and it may not be possible to continue with the Bluetooth adapter installation until the deeper problems are resolved.

It is also a good idea to have a look at the msinfo32.txt file. Check under Problem Devices to see if the Bluetooth adapter is listed. Look at the application errors and Microsoft fault bucket errors at the bottom of the file. If there are many errors, especially since the date and time the device was installed, a deeper investigation into the cause of those errors may reveal the cause of the problem. If there are many errors, even if unrelated, it may indicate a sick computer with other problems. Check Bluetooth Support Service to make sure that Auto has been set for the Start mode. If not, open the service properties, and change this to Auto. If Auto was not set, it is a strong indicator that another Bluetooth device has been installed.

Even though it looks like the adapter installed successfully, I’m having problems connecting and using my Bluetooth Devices

If it is clear that the device you are having troubles connecting has been made properly discoverable and is not already paired with another device (for devices that allow only pairing), a look at some of the PlugDebug files can give clues about were the problem lies.

Properly installed devices will show up in the bluetooth.html file. If the device could not pair because it was already paired with another Bluetooth device such as a cellphone, it may show up in this file, but not as being connected. Properly connected devices will show up as such.

Properly connected devices will also show up in the devman.html file. For example, headphones will show up as Bluetooth Hands-free Audio, and under Bluetooth Remote Control if they have buttons installed for starting, stopping, and changing tracks. Connected cellphones will often show up under Standard Modem over Bluetooth.

Often Bluetooth enumeration errors will show up as BTHENUM errors in msinfo32.txt and setupapi.dev.log. In setupapi.dev.log, they can be read in the same way as adapter errors, and contain much the same information.

Clearing Out Old Driver Packages (Windows 7 and later only!)

Please note that this is for advanced users only. Deleting the wrong packages can cause serious problems for your computer. DO NOT follow this procedure if your computer has other Broadcom devices installed, such as an Ethernet adapter. To check for this, open Device Manager, then click the arrow for each sections and look for any that are labeled “Broadcom.” If you see any that are not Bluetooth-related do not follow the procedure below.

1. With the adapter plugged in, in Device Manager, right-click on the Broadcom entry under Bluetooth Radio devices, and select Uninstall. In the next window that comes up, select Delete the driver software for this device.

2. Unplug the adapter.

3. In Programs and Features, uninstall WIDCOMM Bluetooth software. Search for any other Bluetooth-related software and remove it as well.

4. Restart the computer.

5. Open a command prompt that has administrator privileges. Click Start, All Programs, and Accessories, then right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as Administrator. If the User Account Control dialog box appears, confirm that the action it displays is what you want, and then click Yes.

6. At the command prompt, type the command:
pnputil.exe -e > c:\infs.txt

7. Navigate to your C: drive and open the file named infs.txt in Notepad.

8. Scroll through the list, looking at each entry (there might be a lot of them). For any that have “Broadcom” as the driver package provider, make a note of the Published Name. It will be in the form of oem#.inf, with the # representing a number.

9. Go back to the command prompt window. For each item you wrote down in step 8, type:
pnputil.exe -f -d oem#.inf

It should say that the driver file is deleted.

10. After doing this for all the files you wrote down, restart the computer with the Bluetooth adapter in place. Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 computers should restart and automatically install the adapter driver. For Windows XP, Vista, and 7 computers, reinstall the software from the CD or the Plugable website.

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Plugable PL2303-DB9 USB Serial Adapter Troubleshooting in Windows http://plugable.com/2013/12/09/plugable-pl2303-db9-usb-serial-adapter-troubleshooting-in-windows http://plugable.com/2013/12/09/plugable-pl2303-db9-usb-serial-adapter-troubleshooting-in-windows#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 01:05:41 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11362 The Plugable USB serial adapter allows you to connect legacy devices that use RS232 serial communications to computers that do not have a serial port. Although this usually works well, a number of problems can crop up because many of the devices people want to connect are older devices with various issues. A frequent problem is that the software that is necessary to connect to the device does not work under modern operating systems such as Windows 7 or above. Other problems can include using an improper cable, incorrect port settings, or a basic incompatibility between the Plugable USB serial adapter and the device it is being connected to.

Drivers don’t load correctly, or the cable cannot be seen in Device Manager

When the cable is plugged into Windows 7 or higher computers, the necessary driver should load automatically. If it does not load, make sure the computer is connected to the internet. If an internet connection is not available, download the latest drivers for the cable from the Plugable driver site here. For earlier Windows XP and Vista computers, the drivers must be downloaded from the Plugable website and installed.

The drivers load successfully, but I can’t communicate with my device

Serial communications over RS232 is a legacy from an earlier age in computer when devices were not necessarily plug-and-play. Several different variables come into play, and all must be set up correctly to ensure communications.

Software

Many legacy devices came with specialized software that is used to communicate with them over a RS232 serial port. Many of these programs were written years ago, and are not as automated as modern applications. In many cases, the software is not compatible with modern Windows operating systems. If the software won’t run, or runs with errors, check the website of the device maker to see what Windows version it is compatible with. Many times you will see a warning notice saying that the software does not work with certain versions of Windows and no update is anticipated. For example, Nikon digital cameras from the late Nineties used a serial connection to transfer photos to a computer. However, this software does not support Windows Vista or later, and Nikon warns on its website that no update is anticipated.

Some devices don’t come with special software. Instead you communicate with them using a standard serial communications program. A popular and easy to use program is Putty, which can be downloaded for free from the internet. It is also possible to send commands to the COM port directly from the Command Prompt, but this is for experts only.

COM Port

In Windows, serial communications proceed through a COM port that is assigned by Windows when the USB serial adapter is plugged in. You can find out this COM port by opening Device Manager, going to Ports (COM & LTPT) and looking for Prolific USB-to_Serial Comm Port (COM#). The # symbol represents the port number of the COM port assigned by Windows. This port must be set correctly in whatever application is trying to communicate through that port.

Because older Windows computers only offered COM ports 1 through 4, many legacy applications require the COM port to be set within this range. Some applications only allow ports 1 or 2 to be set. If the port is out of the range required by the application, you can change the port number by right-clicking on the adapter in Device Manager, selecting Properties, selecting the Port Settings tab, then clicking Advanced. Clicking on the COM Port Number button reveals a list of ports, with unavailable ones listed as “in use.” Set the port you want here, then click OK to close the Properties dialog. Device Manager should update and show the number you selected. If it does not, make sure you have sufficient permissions to change the COM port settings.

Port Settings

There are many other settings that must be the same for the port and the device being communicated with. Typically the manual for the device being connected will outline the correct settings. Sometimes the application that is used with the device will allow you to change the settings required by the device.
Generally, however, the settings for the port are changed to match the settings required by the device. These settings are changed by right-clicking on the adapter in Device Manager, selecting Properties and selecting the Port Settings tab. The default settings are appropriate for many devices. However, in many cases the Bits per second, or “baud rate” can be set higher for faster communications. Data bits, Parity, and Stop bits change the format of the data sent to the device. Typically, if these are set wrong, the device will not be able to understand anything sent to it. Flow control selects a hardware (requires a special cable) or software method for controlling communications between the devices that keeps their communications synchronized. Most devices don’t use flow control, and for them, this can be set to Off.

Cable type

Historically, COM ports were used for serial communications with modems, that took the digital information and modulated it for transmission over telephone lines or radio. Information sent from one modem went to the receiver on the other modem, and was forwarded to the receiving pin on the COM port of the destination computer. Because this “crossover” function was performed by the modems, the cable from the computer to the modem was straight cable, connecting the send pin on the source computer to the send pin on the modem.

However, when two computers were directly connected to each other, without the intervening modems that connected send to receive, a special cable, called a “null modem” or “crossover” was used that connected the send (Xmit or TX) pin on the source computer to the receive (RECV or RX) pin on the destination computer.

Which cable to use depends on how the connected device sees itself in relation to the computer. Typically devices that actually do something will require a Null Modem cable, while devices that process data and send it somewhere else (like a modem) will use a straight cable. It’s always good to get the make and model of the device being connected and go online to find out which cable is needed. Many devices come with a cable, which should be used if it is available

If the software is compatible, the port settings are made correctly, and the right cable is used, there are still some cases where the device does not work well with a particular USB Serial adapter. Some manufacturers advise against USB serial adapters alltogether or their website or recommend using a particular chipset. The major alternative available is the FTDI chipset. It is more expensive and works in some situations where the Prolific chipset used in the Plugable serial adapter will not work. Check the manufacturer’s documentation and online forums for information. You can google “ USB serial adapter” (without the quotes). Often you’ll find a forum post by someone who has tried using a USB serial adapter and has discovered what works.

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Plugable Launches Two Portable USB Battery Charger Banks http://plugable.com/2013/12/02/plugable-launches-two-portable-usb-battery-charger-banks http://plugable.com/2013/12/02/plugable-launches-two-portable-usb-battery-charger-banks#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:40:30 +0000 http://plugable.com/?p=11268 A portable Plugable power product for charging on-the-go is here!

PB-6K2 and PB-12K2

In fact, we’ve got two new products, the PB-12K2 and PB-6K2 Portable Battery Banks are here to help breath life into your power hungry devices on long flights or days spent out and about. With two different sizes, you can find the right battery pack for you.

Find your tablet needing to recharge mid trip? Then the PB-12K2’s slim, large capacity 12,000mAh power supply will keep your tablet going. Current generation iPads have a 11,560 mAh battery. The PB-12K2 has a 2A port which charges as quickly as Apple’s bundled charger, with enough capacity to fully recharge your iPad. It’s the perfect companion, and it works with phones and other devices too, with either 2A or 1A ports.

For a power bank designed for phones that’s a little more compact, choose the PB-6K2 battery with its 1A port. Smaller in size, but it still packs a large 6,000 mAh power supply. For comparison, the current generation iPhone 5S has a 1,560 mAh battery. You can charge it several times over and eliminate the worry of getting caught with a dead battery.

Easy to recharge from any USB port and long storage life between charge cycles means they are always ready when you need it most. It’s easy to check how much power you have remaining. With a simple push of a button, power level LEDs will let you know where you stand. These portable batteries are the perfect partner for any adventure.

And these batteries, especially the PB-12K2, is useful for powering any USB or 5V powered embedded device. You can gain mobile flexibility for powering for Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or other boards on the go.

Designed with compatibility in mind, the Plugable Portable Batteries can charge a multitude of devices like Apple products (iPad, iPhone, iPod), Blackberry devices, HTC smart phones, Nokia phones, Samsung phones, Motorola phones, Nintendo handheld devices (3DS, DS), Sony handheld devices (Vita, PSP), and other portable USB-based devices.

Never get caught with a dead phone or tablet again when you’re out for a long day or a short trip.

Have any questions? Just comment below or email support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help!

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