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Update 2—December 14, 2020

ASIX has provided an update to the previous beta 1 DriverKit Extension (DEXT) driver to address the TX kernel panic issue. We have performed quick testing against this update to ensure the TX issue has been resolved. We have not been able to reproduce the issue via multiple speed test platforms, but have not had the opportunity to test full throughput via iPerf.

Unfortunately, there continue to be performance issues with this driver and we still do not recommend these beta drivers for most users. During testing of AX88179 devices with the beta 2 driver compared to other Gigabit adapters and our own 2.5G Ethernet adapter, we were only able to observe roughly 130-200Mbps downloads and 200Mbps uploads on a Gigabit fiber connection. Other Ethernet adapters were able to get the expected ~750-950Mbps download/upload speeds on the same Gigabit connection.

Update 1—December 8, 2020

ASIX has provided a beta DEXT driver that is not notarized and signed by Apple which requires various Terminal commands and disabling SIP (System Integrity Protection). We do not recommend these steps for most users as there are significant security implementations to disabling SIP and enabling Developer tools for system extensions that can result in system instability and kernel panics (i.e. hard system crashes) that may be unrecoverable or cause data loss. As always, we recommend full Time Machine backups before proceeding further. If you accept the potential risks inherent with beta/development software, you can find instructions by clicking the button below.

Additionally, there are known issues with transmit/upload (TX) data discovered by Plugable and escalated to ASIX. This can be observed while the adapter is under full load during speed testing during the upload process using online speed tests or tools like iPerf . Details on how to reproduce this issue can be found in the instructions below.

 

This is a beta driver that has not been validated by Apple and is provided by ASIX to Plugable as a temporary solution for macOS Big Sur compatibility with AX88179-based Ethernet adapters. Plugable does not officially recommend or support these drivers and are providing to the community at-large as a temporary solution. Plugable cannot and will not be responsible for any hardware or software faults including data loss or recoverable system states.

As always, we recommend full Time Machine backups before proceeding further.

  1. Unplug your USB Ethernet Adapter if it is currently plugged in.
  2. Shut down your computer, then start your computer in Recovery mode.
  3. Disable SIP (System Integrity Protection) via Terminal in Recovery mode.
  4. Restart your computer and start as normal.
  5. Once you have logged in, open the Terminal application and run the command systemextensionsctl developer on and confirming with your user account password when prompted.
  6. Restart your computer.
  7. Download the Big Sur 12/14/20 ASIX AX88178 Beta 2 Driver.
  8. Unzip and install the .pkg file from the download. Restart when prompted to do so.
  9. Once the install and restart is complete, navigate to Finder > Applications and run the application ASIX_USB_Device_App</strong >.
  10. Follow the instructions within the ASIX application ensuring you accept the prompt for allowing ASIX's code signature in System Preferences, restarting your computer again if prompted.
  11. After the restart, you may need to unplug and re-plug the Ethernet adapter to start the DEXT driver within the OS automatically. You should now have a wired connection which can be verified via the Network pane in System Preferences.

Note: Do not re-enable SIP after completing the installation. The driver will fail to load and enumerate the Ethernet adapter once SIP is enabled again.

To reproduce TX data kernel panic/reboot:

  1. We have been able to reproduce the issue running a simple speed test (your choice of site) on both Intel and Apple Silicon hosts while using our USB3-E1000 or USBC-E1000 AX88179 Ethernet adapters. During the upload portion of the speed test, while observing the LEDs on the adapter, you should see both LEDs go dark and can see the Network Connection show itself as disconnected, then reconnecting in System Preferences. Your speed test platform will either immediately end or report an error in testing.
  2. For iperf testing, follow the steps below:
  3. Install/download iPerf 3 on one Ethernet-capable computer without the ASIX adapter.
  4. Set Ethernet port with a manual IPv4 address IP: 10.10.10.10 - Subnet: 255.0.0.0
  5. Run iperf3 in server mode: iperf3 -s
  6. Connect the server host via Ethernet the the ASIX adapter that is connected on the Client macOS Big Sur host.
  7. Install/download iperf3 as you see fit. Our recommendation is via Homebrew (and Rosetta 2 translation environment on M1 hosts).
  8. Configure ASIX Ethernet adapter with a manual IPv4 address IP: 10.10.10.100 - Subnet: 255.0.0.0
  9. Run iperf3 on the macOS Big Sur host as a client that transmits data to the server host: iperf3 -c 10.10.10.10 -P 4 -t 30
  10. As the test runs, the ASIX Ethernet adapter will repeatedly disconnect and reconnect, and may occasionally kernel panic.
  11. Generally the connection is stable while receiving data. This can be tested by adding the reverse flag (-R) to the iperf3 command on the client: iperf3 -c 10.10.10.10 -P 4 -t 30 -R

Background

Last year, we wrote that older macOS drivers, known as System Extensions or Kernel Extensions (KEXTs), would begin to be deprecated as of the macOS 10.15 Catalina release. This week, as macOS 11 Big Sur is released, KEXTs have officially been deprecated and are no longer functional.

Instead, Apple is now enforcing the requirement for devices that require third-party drivers to operate as DriverKit Extensions (DEXTs). This change affects many products across the consumer electronics industry, including docking stations, USB peripherals, security/antivirus software, and network adapters.

Luckily, most platform vendors and Integrated Circuit (IC) manufacturers have been prepared for this change and began working on their DEXT implementation after Apple released pertinent documentation at their World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June 2019.

Unfortunately, some vendors could not begin their full transition from KEXT to DEXT until this year. Not all pertinent DriverKit documentation was released at the 2019 event as expected, but, instead, was released at WWDC 2020 in June. Specifically, for Plugable and many other brands, this applies to ASIX-based USB Ethernet Adapters like our USB3-E1000, USBC-E1000, USB2-E1000, and USB2-E100, which we have more information about here:

https://kb.plugable.com/questions/724924

Current Status for ASIX-based Ethernet Adapters—November 13, 2020

We began removing macOS support from our most popular wired network adapters (USB3-E1000 and USBC-E1000) in October 2019. We saw the continued potential for a poor or broken user experience with ASIX-based adapters on macOS and could not in good conscience market the adapters as fully compatible in the long-term as long as ASIX was unwilling to commit to continued development and support of their ICs on macOS.

We have continued to push ASIX for a DEXT beta driver to validate and test internally in the past year. Unfortunately, ASIX has been unable to deliver this solution as requested in anticipation of this significant macOS milestone. We expect a beta driver from ASIX by the end of November for AX88179 products like the USB3-E1000 and USBC-E1000. Once the driver is validated, we will update this blog post and product driver pages with links to download the driver.

If a wired Ethernet connection is critical to your workflow, Plugable recommends not updating to macOS 11 Big Sur from macOS 10.15 Catalina.

At this time, Plugable is unable to provide a DEXT driver for the following products:

  • USB3-E1000—IC: AX88179
  • USBC-E1000—IC: AX88179
  • USB2-E1000—IC: AX88178
    • ASIX has discontinued the IC in this product, and they have not committed to a compatible driver for macOS 11 Big Sur
  • USB2-E100—IC: AX88772
    • ASIX-based product continues to function, utilizing the in-box drivers in macOS

We understand this news can be frustrating for our customers and is a situation we have been working to avoid for over one year. We will update this blog post as new information is available to us.

While we cannot promise a functional DEXT driver at any point in the future, if you would like to be notified of that news should it occur, please sign-up on the form below, and we will email everyone as soon as it is available.

FAQs

Are Ethernet Adapters from other brands affected by this OS update?

Yes, all brands of USB Ethernet Adapters that use ASIX chips and drivers are affected. This includes Amazon, Anker, Dell, Uni, UGREEN, Cable Matters, etc. Regardless of brand, if the adapter uses ASIX USB to Ethernet technology for a network connection, it will no longer function as expected after updating to macOS 11.

Has Apple permanently disabled ASIX Support?

Not that we know of, but ASIX is required to develop and release a DEXT that is notarized and approved through an Apple Developer certification process.

What is ASIX doing?

While the core issue is a change to low-level macOS processes that are out of ASIX’s hands, they have ultimately failed to deliver a compatible DEXT solution promptly for consumers.

We have continuously requested progress reports and beta driver candidates for internal testing with the intention of a public release for macOS 11 Big Sur since June 2019. Still, we have not been provided with a viable solution for consumers as of November 13, 2020. We expect a viable and compatible driver by the end of the month.

ASIX has provided a temporary solution that requires end-users to disable macOS System Integrity Protection (SIP) to install their DEXT candidate, but this is not a friendly user-experience in addition to the risk to overall system security and protection from physical and digital threats. Thus, we will not be actively promoting this solution to our customers.

Suppose a customer requires continued usage of this adapter for a mission-critical scenario and would like to install this driver while simultaneously disabling SIP. In that case, a minimally-tested driver is available from ASIX . The usage of this driver is not recommended by Plugable and is at your own risk.

Is there a way for users or organizations to request that Apple or ASIX fix the issue?

Apple’s change was delivered with plenty of notice and time for the development of compliant DEXT drivers, so there is nothing for Apple to "fix".

ASIX provides multiple support channels, including direct contact and support forums , but we would not recommend reaching out to them directly. We are in continual conversation with them and are pushing for a viable solution as soon as possible.

Is this a temporary or permanent situation?

We don’t know. We understand that the current situation will be extremely frustrating for our customers. We are taking every step we can with ASIX. We will update this blog post with updates as we have them.

Are there any other options to add a wired network connection to my macOS 11 system?

Yes! Wired Ethernet solutions utilizing common Realtek ICs are fully functional as they rely on drivers built into the OS and require no further installation from an end-user.

Our USBC-TE1000, USBC-E2500, and USB3-HUB3ME adapters are all based on Realtek ICs (RTL8153B or RTL8156) and are fully integrated, tested, and validated for macOS 11 Big Sur.

If you have any additional questions, please let us know in the comments below.


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