New ASIX Driver announcement

 

Background:

macOS 11 (Big Sur) was a hotly anticipated update to Apple’s operating system. But as with other software launches, the update had some significant changes. One of the biggest changes was a complete overhaul related to how Hardware Drivers interface with the Operating System (System Extensions, KEXTs, were deprecated in lieu of Driver Extensions, DEXTs).

Specifically, for Plugable (and other major brands), the new driver architecture caused compatibility issues with USB Ethernet adapters featuring the ASIX AX88179 chipset used in our USB3-E1000 and USBC-E1000 adapters, among others. While we take their plug and play functionality for granted, Ethernet drivers are complex, and building stable, performant drivers on the new DEXT architecture and the requisite new code signing process, was not a trivial task.

In November 2020, we published an article on our blog with details about the issue, posted a set of Beta drivers at the time, and committed to providing updates, when possible, about a complete Dext-compatible driver package, which we have been eagerly awaiting ourselves as macOS users. Over the past few months, we have been working closely with ASIX to test and validate proposed DriverKit enabled implementations for AX88179 (USB 3.0/C Ethernet IC) devices. Below, you will find ASIX’s DEXT Application for Driver Extension for compatible products in macOS 11 Big Sur, along with complete installation instructions.

Overall, functionality is on par with the previous KEXT/System Extension achieving similar upload/download throughput ratings while leveraging Apple’s design implementation for extensions that operate outside of the system kernel and reduce (or remove) the potential for system hangs/locks due to kernel-level extensions working in system space (like KEXTs). That is not to say there are no problems with these drivers. We have observed some issues on M1 Apple Silicon systems regarding Sleep/Wake (Power Nap) behavior and some specific applications needing Wi-Fi to be enabled and connected for initial connection (Spotify, for example). Please visit our FAQs below for any additional questions.

(Please note, these drivers have only been tested by Plugable with the USB3-E1000 and USBC-E1000 adapters that we manufacture. If you have an adapter from another manufacturer and encounter issues with this driver, we recommend reaching out to them if you encounter any issues, though we encourage people to leave comments about their experiences below for the benefit of others.)


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Follow these steps after you’ve downloaded the installation file:

1. Go into your Downloads folder, open the .zip archive, the folder within, and then double click on the ASIX_USB_Device_Installer_v1.2.0.dmg disk image file.


2. Next, double click and open the ASIX_USB_Device_Installer_v1.2.0.pkg package. You may see the following screen pop up stating that Apple can’t check the software package for malicious software. To be clear, these drivers are safe, validated, and code-signed by Apple. But, since the download hasn’t come directly from Apple’s servers, this message will display. Click OK to proceed.


3. Next, click Open


4. Click Continue through the subsequent screens until prompted to install.


5. Then, click Install to begin the installation.


6. You will be prompted to put in your password. Enter your password into the box, and then click Install Software.


7. After you enter your password, the installation will begin. Once it has finished, you’ll see this message to run ASIX_USB_DEVICE_APP in the launchpad after rebooting. Click OK to acknowledge this warning, and then click Restart to complete the installation.


8. OPTIONAL - After you click Restart, another window should ask if you would like to give the installer access to the Downloads folder. If you allow the installer to have access, you can automatically move the package file to the trash, or you can do it manually later if you’d like.


9. After making your selection to keep the file or move it to the trash, your computer will Reboot. Next, we need to run the ASIX_USB_DEVICE_APP as we saw in step 7.

1. Open a Finder window, click on Applications and then double click on the ASIX_USB_DEVICE_APP item in your Applications folder.


2. A screen will pop up with details about activating the driver installation. These must be followed to completion for functionality! This includes not plugging your Ethernet adapter in until after step 4 in their instructions. Click Activate to continue.


3. You’ll receive a message pop up stating that the System Extension is Blocked. Click Open Security Preferences. (Note: This will occur the first time you install the new ASIX DEXT driver. Subsequent installs or updates to the driver package should not require a repeat approval of the activation.)


4. This will take you to the Security & Privacy preferences (Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Network > General). Look down to the bottom left of the window, and you’ll see a Gold Lock. Click the Lock, which will open a prompt asking for your password.


5. Enter your password in the box to open the lock, and click Unlock when you’re finished.


6. Now, with the lock open, click Allow to allow the driver extension to proceed and, then, exit System Preferences and the ASIX Application, then Restart your computer.


7. Once you have restarted your computer, please plug the Ethernet adapter with Ethernet cable into your computer, and let’s check for an active connection in the Network Pane(Apple Menu > System Preferences > Network).


After checking your network status, you may still have the ASIX application running on your dock. You don’t need to keep the app open for network functionality, but you cannot delete the application at this time. This is a requirement for DEXT functionality.


ASIX has been alerted to these issues and continues to investigate these behaviors while working towards a resolution as of May 25, 2021. If you encounter any additional issues that you can reproduce, please let us know the steps to reproduce the problem and work with ASIX on investigating the behavior.

  • Spotify on M1 Apple Silicon computers
    We’ve encountered an issue with Spotify when using the adapter where the app will get caught during startup and then will display an error message, “Couldn't find that page” and, “Oooops, something went wrong.” If this happens, you can resolve it by quitting the application, enabling Wi-Fi, connecting to your wireless network, and reopening the application. After the application has successfully connected to the Spotify servers, it is OK to disconnect from Wi-Fi.
  • M1 Sleep
    We have observed inconsistencies in the adapter’s functionality during Sleep / Power Nap in macOS 11 on Apple M1 hosts. This includes the network connection not being picked up during Sleep and the wired connection not restoring to the host after the system Wakes from Sleep. In most cases, simply reconnecting the Ethernet adapter to the host has solved the problem. However, in some instances, the computer required a restart.

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 that requires external driver installation for a network connection, it will no longer function as expected after updating to macOS 11 without a DEXT Driver Extension as ASIX has provided.

Is this a temporary or permanent situation?
We expect that with the new DEXT driver solution, there should be minimal impact on the utilization of ASIX AX88179-based Ethernet adapters going forward. In addition, this driver package should remain long-term functional outside of any behaviors potentially introduced via a macOS update.

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-TE1000USBC-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.

 

We hope this was helpful! If you have additional questions, please let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to reach out to us directly at support@plugable.com if you encounter any issues with installing the drivers or bugs during usage of the adapter, and we’d be happy to help.


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