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To USB or Not to USB
  • About

    Covering the latest trends and topics in USB IP.

    I started working on USB in 1995, starting with the world’s first BIOS that supported USB Keyboards and Mice while at Award Software. After a departure into embedded systems software for real-time operating systems, I returned to USB IP cores and software at inSilicon, one of the leading suppliers of USB IP. In 2002, inSilicon was acquired by Synopsys and I’ve been here since. I also served as Chairman of the USB On-The-Go Working Group for the USB Implementers Forum from 2004-2006.

    I received an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University and an M.S. in Engineering from University of California Irvine, and a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Minnesota. I’m a licensed Professional Engineer in Civil Engineering in the State of California
    - Eric Huang

USB 3.0 IP Prototyping Kits from Synopsys (and More!)

Posted by Eric Huang on November 20th, 2014

USB 3.0 IP Prototyping Kits from Synopsys (and More!)

The super awesome news is that we just made your software engineering and hardware engineering tasks easier and faster.

In my 14 years in USB IP, a huge problem for us and our customers has been FPGA prototyping.

For our customers back in 2000, they would have to:

  • Spend time building a FPGA board or
  • Spent time adapting an existing board with an FPGA that might not meet timing or have capacity
  • Spend time adapting a board to work with a PHY card
  • Try to acquire a PHY card (or build a PHY card)

In fact, used off the shelf FPGA platforms from 3 companies, then built our own custom boards.  It was painful.

  • So we acquired Synplicity just so we could have the FPGA tools and boards to prototype USB 3.0.
  • (Note: We did not purchase Synplicity just so we could prototype USB 3.0 more easily)

Typical customers need to prototype to test architecture, develop software, test PHY or SERDES chips.

By having these prebuilt systems available with HAPS, our customers can do all of this immediately with USB 3.0 Host, USB 3.0 Device and USB 3.0 SSIC Host or Device).

(Oh and a bunch of other protocols including HDMI 2.0, DDR, MIPI,  and PCIe.)

This is all part of our IP Accelerated initiative to help our customers save time at every step in their design flow. 

For more on how we save customer’s time around integrating IP, read this article from by Peggy  Aycinena over at EDACafe.

Videos, Jokes and more after the jump

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For more:

And here’s a neat video “I Won’t Let You Down” from OK Go. (I think it should the Synopsys IP theme song)

 

Jokes – Read Mick’s “Breaking the Three Laws

The computer programmer’s wife had a baby and the doctor handed the baby to the father. His wife said: “So, is it a boy or a girl?” The programmer said, “yes”.  Read Tom’s “A View from the Top” blog

How did the tree get on the computer? It logged in. Read the “Express Yourself” PCIe Blog by Scott and Richard.

How do you keep bacon from curling in the pan? You take away its tiny brooms.  Read the “Committed to Memory” DDR Blog by Graham and Mark

Two penguins are standing on an ice floe and one penguin says, “Have you seen my brother?” And the other penguin says, “I don’t know. What does he look like?”

What does IDK stand for?” “I don’t know.” “OMG, nobody does!”

There are two types of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

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Posted in IP Accelerated, IP Prototyping Kits, USB 3.0 IP | No Comments »

Synopsys announces Industry’s First and Most Comprehensive USB 3.1 Solution (with Market Trends!)

Posted by Eric Huang on October 29th, 2014

(I wanted to say the “Universe’s First” but our Legal, Marketing, Finance, IT and Shipping and Cafeteria people all said I can’t prove it so I can only claim “Industry’s First”.)

Synopsys First and Most Comprehensive USB 3.1 Solution

Why should you Care? Isn’t the world Wireless?
USB 3.1 will be the leading/dominant wired interface in the world of tomorrow.
You’ll have WiFi and Faster WiFi. And Faster 5G Modems and 11.5 G modems..
You’ll have Wired. It will be USB.

What are the trends leading?
For USB 3.1 – Creation of Content – 8K video and Big MP pictures.
- Creation of 24K and soon 8K videos, even with compression will create giant file sizes. Even Wireless Networks will feel the strain. Storing and backing up all of this will take lots of storage capacity.

The best example that exists today is the GoPro Hero4+ Silver records 4k video at 30 frames per second.

The smallest card you should buy is a 32GB.

Why?

Because 9 minutes of 4k30fps video takes 4GB of space according to PocketLint’s review.

So you can record a maximum of maybe 54 minutes of video.   You will certainly be recording more than 54 minutes of video so be prepared to buy lots of cards.

The enthusiasts who shoot 4K video for work and for fun drive this market. They will create content and need to store it. It goes to PCs for editing, and then to USB 3.1 SSDs for storage externally. 

They will use powerful processors, and external drives.  External fast drives allows for the fast scaling/addition of more storage with no penalty because it’s external storage.

Fast External StorageExternal as fast as Internal
Storage First, Connected to PCs – Enthusiasts who shoot and record lots of video will adopt USB 3.1 first.
They will add USB 3.1 Host Controller Cards to their Desktop PCs and buy external USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 SSDs for storage.
SSDs are clearly the way to go as Hard Drives or “spinning rust” is on the way out.

NAND Flash Speeds have continued to increase. Samsung and Toshiba SSDs that run at 10Gbps have been shipping for over a year in volume. These have dropped in price and continue to drop in price. These are PCIe based chips.
It will be easy to add a PCIe to USB 3.1 chip to convert these to USB 3.1 External Hard Drives.
The chips may initially cost $2-5, but they will drop to $2 pretty quick. Consumers will be able to pick up these faster SSDs using NAND flash chips for $200 or less to start with, depending on capacity. I’d guess 256 GB for sure, but likely 512GB by mid 2015. This is based on today’s Amazon price of $230 for a 512GB SSD from Crucial. If NAND flash is dropping in price at about 32% a year, this puts the retail price of this at about $160.

SSD 512 GB Crucial price on Amazon
A product maker could take the PCIe version of this drive, add a $5 chip to it (and the casing and cables) and still make a great margin at $200.
And the product would be 100% backward and forward compatible.
For PCs, you’ll be able to buy an Add-In card for your PC. It will probably in the range of $90-150.
So Storage and the enthusiasts who need that storage will be the first adopters.

These are the enthusiasts that will drive the first USB 3.1 purchases.

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We have an enormous amount of content for you to look through
Our Press Release

Our USB 3.1 Solution Datasheet

A Technical White Paper on USB 3.1

USB University with a USB 3.1 Technical Overview

Jeff Ravencraft talks about USB 3.1 Speed, Power, and One Connector

And Joyce Hsieh from Joinsoon talks about the new Type-C Connector in English and Chinese.

English Version

Chinese Version

For some Inspiration 

And Self Organized Learning Environments with Grannies in the Cloud

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Posted in 4K Video, USB 3.1, USB 3.10 | Comments Off

USB Security Flaws Sensationalized and 100 Million products with Synopsys USB 3.0 Inside

Posted by Eric Huang on September 11th, 2014

A dog walks into a bar, sits down, looks and the menu and says, “Vodka Martini”.  The Bartender says, “This is amazing!  We don’t get a lot around here like you.”  The dog says, “At these prices, I’m not surprised.”

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve received a huge number emails (37) regarding security flaws in USB Devices. 

I ignored all of them.

Until my dad sent me an email with concerns.

The article from Security Research Labs (SRL) called Turning USB Peripherals into BadUSB can be found here.  https://srlabs.de/badusb/

It’s a short fun read. 

Its says USB Peripherals, the firmware, can be infected, turn evil, and then steal your data. (It’s all true). 

They demonstrate it with an Android phone later.

Read the rest of the SRL site, and you will never use another electronic device.

SRL clearly identified a real risk.  It’s small to neglible, if you take the right precautions.

It points out vulnerabilities in:

  • Keyboards
  • Mice
  • Flash Drives
  • Android Phones

Billons of USBs – Sensational articles

It’s not billions.

Well, it is Billions if you believe Billions of people are effected by the Ebola Virus because we might be infected.

What’s even more interesting is the articles sensationalizing the BadUSB idea.

I hate them.   All of them.  They say “Billions of USB devices effected”

The coverage is sensationalist garbage of the kind meant to create controversy. Instead of talking about what you can do to stop it as a user, it just raises concerns without fact checking and thought.  

At the same time it’s a little right. (At least with regard to phones)

Here’s an example article: http://www.androidauthority.com/badusb-hack-412902/

 

You will be attacked via the internet thousands more ways

So let’s look at this with some logic.

For Evil, Infected USB to be useful, Break this into two things that have to happen.

1)      Infection – You need to infect the device/peripheral

2)      Retrieval - Get the Your Data back Evil Doers

Infection – Keyboards and Mice

This is so absurd, and non sexy, even the researchers don’t really care.

It would require either

a)      You bring your keyboard and mouse around and it gets infected by someone else’s PC, and you bring it home.

b)      Someone plugs in a random keyboard and mouse into your PC, and you decide to use it for while, and then they take it away. 

c)       Or the keyboard/mouse is infected by the manufactuer by the Russian Mafia at the factory. In this case, they are getting a whole lot of “a” “s” “d” and “w” sent to them by kids playing video games on their PCs.  

Retrieval –  Getting your valuable data back to the Russian Mafia

Here’s two ways

1)      The Mafia gets the keyboard/mouse back – This is silly.

2)      They send it over the internet – Usually requires you “allow” installation of something on your PC to let this happen. This is possible

Somehow, the keyboard/mouse installs some software to make your router reroute data to Russia.

Don’t install special software to run you keyboard or mouse.  Just use the Windows drivers. If you install special software, just download it from the manufacturer’s website like Microsoft or whoever built the keyboard/mouse (again, assuming it wasn’t built by the Russian Mafia).

Let’s go to the real risk, USB Flash Drives and Mobile Phones

Infecting USB Drives and Phones

This vulnerability isn’t new.   It’s always been there. The new thing is the firmware hack.  Specifically demonstrated against Flash Drives with Phison chips.

Preventing problems on USB Flash Drives

USB Flash Drives have always been vulnerable.  The USB Firmware vulnerability hack is new.   Here’s my thinking, it’s hard to infect these because they are all different. So again, you need to infect them either through bad software on the PC or by picking one up off the ground or accepting one from a stranger.

1)      Don’t install bad software on your PC

  1. Even if you did, the software would need to figure out and install the specific firmware for your flash drive to infect it

2)      Don’t pick up and use USB drives off the ground

3)      Don’t accept USB drives from strangers.

  1. Don’t accept candy from strangers
  2. Don’t accept car rides from strange men

Data Hygiene is Key – Keep your PC and Phone and Flash Drives Clean

Basically, treat your cheap, USB 2.0 drives as disposable when you are using them for transferring data between users.  If you are backing up to other USB 3.0 drivers or flash drives, make sure you only use these with your one PC.

Preventing problems on Android Phones

1)      Don’t install bad software on your phone

2)      Don’t pick up and use phones you buy used (or off the ground)

  1. Only buy phones directly from a the service provider that has been completely wiped and reformatted / cleaned
  2. If I were the Russian Mafia, I’d buy 10,000 phones, infect them, and sell them on-line at ½ price.

3)      Don’t accept Android phones from strangers

Seriously, just be careful what you install after you install Angry Birds.  And don’t be plugging your phone into a whole bunch of different computers.  And don’t be browsing around to dozens of unknown websites and clicking on stuff in your Android phone.

More likely scenarios

The bigger danger is if you are plugging your phone or flash drive into a lot of different PCs and those PCs somehow overwrite your phone firmware (should be almost impossible) or put a “virus” on your flash drive or phone the  normal way (more likely).

Infection through Infected Email or Attachments

-          Your best friend sends you awesome link to a funny video.

-          You click on it and get infected.

Infection through Pirated Movies/Videos

-          You or your awesome college roommate gives you flash drive with bit torrent pirated episodes of Game of Thrones Season 4.

-          You plug it into your PC

-          You copy the files to your PC.

-          You infect your PC.

Infection through a Website

-          You search for information on home cures for stomach aches

-          You search and find a site that leads to a pop-up that you try to dismiss

-          You infect your computer.

Infection in all these cases will also place a Retrieval component as well.  This allows the Russian Mafia to get the data from your infected device.

General Prevention – Same as for your PC.

-          Install and update Virus Protection and Internet Security Software

-          Put a Password on your Router. (Don’t use the default password because it could be easily hacked)

-          Install software on your computer that prevents you from going to “bad” sites like Norton Security.  Pay attention to warnings from Google

-          Only install software from “Trusted” sources.  Don’t install a driver from any site. For example, go to HP and get the right driver from hp.com.

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News

Oh and our customers shipped over 100 million products with USB 3.0

 

Here’s the link to original BadUSB article

http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/07/this-thumbdrive-hacks-computers-badusb-exploit-makes-devices-turn-evil/

Here’s the presentation (which is really quite interesting) at the Black Hat conference.

http://youtu.be/nuruzFqMgIw

 

And here’s an educator talking about what I call Positive Coaching.  She calls it building relationships to teach.  To me it’s all the same.

http://youtu.be/SFnMTHhKdkw

 

 

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Accelerated IP, USB and You

Posted by Eric Huang on June 2nd, 2014

Accelerated IP, USB and You

Saturday and Sunday I spent about 10 hours this week walking 10 miles dropping off over 500 flyers for my friend running for San Jose City Council. I learned the following:
1) People have nicer lawns and gardens than me
2) People have worse looking lawns and gardens than me
3) More people living in apartments vote than people in single family homes
4) People are really friendly and polite
5) Even the people who want you to go away (“No Solicitors Please, see the sign?”)
6) You probably won’t get shot after dark in San Jose as long as you are holding a clipboard and wearing shorts
There will be a prize for a math problem at the end of this blog related to the data above.

While I wasn’t getting shot in a dark suburban San Jose I contemplated our Accelerated IP program.

Accelerated IP and You

IP Accelerated combines engineering years of time savings and productivity enhancements that really does speed your time to market (and money).

Execs Explain IP Accelerated

Watch our John Koeter and Joachim Kunkel talk about what it all means.

Here’s the YouTube Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS-q4mo1RQU

My thoughts

IP Accelerated goes beyond the 3 pieces everyone gets from us
1) IP – Digital Goodness
2) PHY – PHY Goodness
3) Verification IP – Simulation goodness

And Adds the Accelerated IP part
4) IP Prototyping Kit with – Faster IP design and debug
a. HAPS FPGA-Based Prototyping Platforms (say that 3 times fast)
b. With options of an implemented digital core (or 2 IPs like USB 3.0 or PCIe)
c. With options for a PHY card
5) Virtual Prototyping Development Kit (VDK) – Better control and visibility
a. An ARM microprocessor with Linaro OS (basically Linux)
b. Integrated with 3rd party debuggers (good ones ostensibly) that make it easy for you to use the software debugger you like
c. Eclipse-based Virtual Prototype Explorer for more control and visibility enabling hardware breakpoints (synchronized with your above favorite debugger).
d. Virtual Prototype Explorer for quicker analysis through better views
e. Scriptable scripty thingees for easier reproduction of events/issues/opportunities to improve your design
6) Subsystem Integration Services

IP Prototyping Kit Demonstration
In addition to some good music, this nicely summarizes what an IP Prototyping Kit is, I’m not sure why Asheesh gets music, but I think I need to add some music to my next video.

 Here’s the YouTube Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYI1z0rTNLo

Virtual Prototyping Kit Demonstration
I thought the example in the demo here was interesting. 

Here’s the YouTube Link – http://youtu.be/NEGPOVVk334

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By the way, I just learned that there is a mountain range called the Denali Mountains in Alaska. I understand the Denali Mountains are lovely and full of bears that can run at 35 mph (70kph) or faster.
So for Goodness sake stay inside the tour bus to take pictures because I’m not coming out to save you when the bear rushes and tries to eat you.
But I will put the video up on YouTube.

For more on IP Accelerated (a lot more and better written go to the Press Release Here

and go to our

Math Problem at the end of this Blog

Assuming an average stride length of 0.60 meters, what was my average cadence while delivering flyers? A winner will be chosen from all the correct answers. The winner will receive the acknowledgment that their math knowledge is better than mine.

And me at DAC Last Year (and still trying to be as funny as Mick)

http://youtu.be/YhzbY8Kmrro

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Posted in Accelerated IP, FPGA-Based Prototyping, HAPS, USB 3.0 | 1 Comment »

Fleet-footed FemtoPHYs – The Smallest USB 3.0 and 2.0 PHYs in the Universe

Posted by Eric Huang on April 29th, 2014

Fast, Fabulous FemtoPHYs (Certified!)

The BIG news this week is small.   Our team built the tiny USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 femtoPHY  to save power and area.  50% less area than the previous generation picoPHY.  AND CERTIFIED by the USB-IF

At a 50% smaller size, to me it’s like:

  1. Being able to eat the same size 500 gram steak with all the gloriously delicious fat but at ½ the calories and ½ the triglycerides
  2. Running only 2.5 kilometers but getting the healthy heart benefit of running 5 kilometers
  3. Sleeping only 3.5 hours but feeling like I’ve slept for 7 hours (yes please invent this).
  4. Eating a whole box of chocolate but feeling the guilt of only eating 1/2 a box of chocolates

Less power, less area, same Super speed USB for USB 3.0 and Hi-Speed USB for USB 2.0.  For our many customers building mobile chips and TV chips with 2 or 4 or 8 USB PHYs, this is a huge savings in area on each chip and on each wafer. Assuming you get thousands of chips off a wafer, it adds up.

And,  AND the USB 3.0 and 2.0 PHYs are SuperSpeed USB and Hi-Speed USB certified.  This means they have tested for electrical and protocol and interoperability by a 3rd party independent lab.

YOU OBJECT AS FOLLOWS:  “But wait a minute, this is at 14nm/16nm!  It’s already a smaller process so isn’t it just smaller because of the process node? “

I RESPOND “The answer is “No.”  “

It turns out that analog designs don’t really shrink as you go down in process nodes. So this is a brand new architecture that lets us leverage our knowledge from supporting 1000s of tape-outs to shrink the design and deliver the fastest speeds.

Mr. PHY Guy himself Gervais Fong takes us through the specifics in his video showing our lab, our chips, the test equipment, and some eye diagrams in the video below

Eye diagrams show the rise and fall of data and how easy it is to read the data coming from the end of a USB cable. As data (USB data) runs down a cable in waves, it can degrade or close by the time it reaches the other end of the cable.  If the eye is closed, then the receiver can’t tell the difference between a 1 and a 0 and it can’t read the data. This means a retry is required, and you lose throughput and bandwidth. An open eye means it’s easy to read the data, there are fewer errors and maximum throughput.

For more about the FemtoPHY click here or on the image below

FemtoPHY!  All the flavor ½ the calories! (and certified)

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You see, you didn’t subscribe here’s a second blog in less than 2 months.

Oh, and you should be reading “Committed to Memory” by Marc Greenberg and Graham Allan about DDR,“Express Yourself” about PCIe by Scott Knowlton and Richard Solomon, and “Breaking the Three Laws” by Mick “I’m not dead” Posner who has finished his antibiotics and graced us with his coughing presense.

Why was he coughing? Because he was laughing so hard.
Probably at his own jokes.

Mick self-verifies that he is vastly funnier in person.

oh and if you can find an adjective that has an “f” sound that goes in front of Femto let  me know. I had also had the options of fleet-footed, fiery, future, flashy or fierce.  I preferred Fleet Footed, so I just changed it from Fast, Fabulous…

Buy Happiness (after you buy our FemtoPHY)

 

How to Buy Happiness – Proven by real scientists. You CAN buy happiness.  With Money.

http://on.ted.com/MNorton

Links to places in America that really could use your financial donation. You can see the poverty level for most of them. Search by zip code for school or cause near you.

http://www.donorschoose.org/

Links just in case

Here’s the Press Release Link http://news.synopsys.com/2014-04-29-Synopsys-New-Silicon-Proven-DesignWare-USB-3-0-and-USB-2-0-femtoPHY-IP-Cut-Area-by-50-Percent

Link to the Video Demonstration http://youtu.be/LFsEUQwN9js.

Link to the FemtoPHY details page http://www.synopsys.com/IP/InterfaceIP/USB/Pages/dw-femtophy.aspx

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USB Success Persaso with Wireless and USB 3.0 and New Media Agnostic USB Standard

Posted by Eric Huang on April 28th, 2014

While reading the Fortune article “40 under 40″ which lists the 40 most influential people under 40 years old I thought two things:
1) Maybe I’m on this list
2) I don’t remember being interviewed
3) I don’t remember being under 40

Peraso success with Synopsys IP and HAPS

Peraso Success with Synopsys USB 3.0 IP, AMBA IP, ARC microprocessor IP and HAPS FPGA-Based Prototyping platforms.

Peraso specializes in making wireless chips based on the 802.11ad standard.  It transmits data at gigabits per second and will scale over time to speeds as high as 7 gigabits per second.  This is much faster than USB 2.0, and for this reason it needs, USB 3.0 to move date to and from the wireless chip they’ve made.

You can read the Peraso Success Story here or click on the image to the right.

Peraso used our USB 3.0 digital IP and PHY IP for USB.  They used our small, power efficient ARC microprocessor and our AMBA IP to connect the Synopsys IP to the Peraso IP.

Long before silicon, they used our HAPS FPGA-Based Prototyping platforms.  By prototyping, it helped them have first time silicon success. Watch the video below for a quick explanation from the CTO Brad Lynch of how fast they got their first silicon up with the help of HAPS prototyping and our IP.

Note: The 802.11ad standard formally called WiGig. 802.11ad is now (sort of) under the WiFi working group in the IEEE.  

Why would Peraso or any 802.11ad product maker choose USB 3.0?  In addition to the fact that USB 2.0 fast enough, it turns out that USB 3.0 is and will be the most common way to connect a mobile processor to a wireless chip. Having USB 3.0 as an option on that chip gives Peraso access to the entire laptop and PC market, and also the mobile phone, tablet, phablet, and mobile application processor market.  Plus the TVs and Set Top Boxes that have USB 3.0.   USB gets Peraso the widest possible market access.

The timing of Peraso’s chip and it’s availability is fantastic as the USB-IF ratified the Media Agnostic USB standard, so keep reading after the jump.  This means a USB dongle,  a device that looks like the image below could be plugged into your TV, and instantly be used to transmit data/video using 802.11ad protocols.

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Subscribe and I promise to blog more than once every 2 months.  Or don’t subscribe and I still promise to blog more than once every 2 months.

Oh, and you should be reading “Committed to Memory” by Marc Greenberg and Graham Allan about DDR, “Express Yourself” about PCIe by Scott Knowlton and Richard Solomon, and “Breaking the Three Laws” by Mick “I’m not dead” Posner who currently has pneumonia.  They are much funnier in person than their blogs, except for Mick is vastly funnier in person.

Media Agnostic USB Ratified

 The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) finalized the Media Agnostic specification which allows you to use any “media” wireless or wired to transmit data using the USB protocol.

The coolest thing about this is that you can then use USB protocols and a standardized USB driver (which will exist soon) for transmitting/receiving wireless data from a device, like the Peraso USB device.  So every PC, TV, set top box could have the standard driver, and you could plug in a Peraso or another Media Agonostic USB device in and it will “just work” the way a keyboard, mouse or flash drive works today.

So it will be super easy to use USB with the Peraso chip, or any WiFi-AD or even WiFi-AC chip.  It allows USB to use any wireless chip as way to use USB wirelessly.

You could also use a 10Gigabit per second Ethernet cable too if you wanted to because it’s “agnostic”.

Note:  This specification actually comes from the WiGig/802.11ad working group originally

I’m going to call Fortune now to see why they didn’t interview me.

Other than I’m not under 40 or influential.

Interview with Peraso CTO – Time to Market with Synopsys IP and HAPS

Media Agnostic USB explained by USB-IF President and COO

Just in Case: Here’s the URLs to the Peraso Interview and the Media Agnostic USB interview in case the links above don’t work or are lost.

Peraso Success Story

http://youtu.be/DyNyZP8Ysj4

Media Agnostic USB explained by USB-IF President

http://youtu.be/CQqLyogoEbQ

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Too Few USB Ports, USB is Hard because it’s Easy, International Happiness Day

Posted by Eric Huang on March 20th, 2014

Not Enough USB Ports

The most common complaint I hear now is that PC’s don’t offer enough USB 3.0 ports.

In the most recent blog from Jeff Cable, he talks about how he bought a MacPro that has only 4 USB 3.0 ports

Jeff Cable says:

“The only bad thing is that the new Mac Pro only has 4 USB ports, which are all filled now. I have so many devices (Wacom Cintiq, Epson R2000 printer, video adaptor, Dymo Labelwriter 450 printer, keyboard, Intuos tablet, card reader) that I am short one port. I have ordered a 7 port USB 3.0 hub, but I can’t understand why Apple would put only 4 USB ports when they have 6 Thunderbolt ports. The Thunderbolt ports can daisy chain up to 30 devices, but the USB ports can’t. A small oversight in my opinion.” Jeff Cable http://jeffcable.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-new-mac-pro-fro-apple-converting.html

The good thing is he could actually buy a DisplayLink USB Docking station that would help out with all of this, or a USB 3.0 Hub which solves all his problems.

I have the same complaint about my laptop, except that I have a docking station which takes care of this 90% of the time.

For my Parents and my wife I simply purchased cheap USB 2.0, and now USB 3.0 Hubs as cheap docking stations.  I’m getting the DisplayLink based Docking station this year because the Ultrabooks they’ve purchased don’t have a VGA output, so USB 3.0 is the way to go.

USB - Hard because it’s Easy

The funny thing about selling USB IP is the perception that USB “just works” 

The idea back in the mid-90s was to make it as easy to use as plugging a power plug into the wall.

So all the sophistication was pushed into the controllers, the PHYs, and the drivers.  The USB-IF put in place it’s extensive interoperability and testing to make it “just work”

And most of the problems actually continue to be in the DRIVERS.  The PHYs and Controllers, the hardware, are more than capable of delivering USB traffic (at least Synopsys’ are).

If you make a mistake in the controller, you risk a hardware problem that causes frequent failures.

If you make a mistake in the PHY, you risk either a complete failure, OR a performance degradation of up to 90 or more% because you can’t read the data off a USB cable

But since we test for these, generally, this isn’t a problem (at least for our customers).  The problem most often lies in the DRIVERS.

How do we know this?

Well, we’ve now supported over 3000 design wins.  So there’s that bit of data we’ve accumulated on this.

Also, if you look back, all the way back to Windows 2000, Microsoft had gotten so sick of defending their OS, and trying to improve the user experience that they launched a tool called “Driver Verifier”.  When enabled, it would help identify Driver failures.   In fact, once they did this, they found that almost all problems were due to Driver issues, not OS issues, not hardware issues but Driver issues.  People still blamed Microsoft, but with the Driver Verifier, at least product makers could debug their drivers more, before shipping.

I can’t find the original references to this, but I can tell you that this was a huge thing at the time because suddenly all the root cause analysis was through back onto system makers of webcams and printers makers because their drivers were terrible.  I remember seeing the Driver Verifier in use during USB Plugfests and used with Windows XP extensively.  It’s probably one of the reasons why Windows XP was better received than any previous OS.

I can personally attest to Driver issues. I used to buy a single brand of WebCam 1998 to 2005 because they were reviewed well, and had great images, but they constantly blue-screened.  After spending over $1000 buying cameras for my parents, sister and myself, I stopped buying them. The drivers were never moved forward.

I have a pile of these in a drawer.  I found out later that this massive company was using one driver engineer, a contractor to write their WebCam drivers.   It didn’t surprise me that these failures were so common as to make me lose my mind with blue screens.

My point is that after spending 100′s of thousands of dollars on the chip, for some reason software is still seen as simple/cheap and the investment and testing can be severely underestimated, completely destroying the user experience.

Do Not Underestimate the effort and attention you need to put into your USB Drivers.  It’s an important part of your development, (after you’ve chosen Synopsys IP).

Doing a good job with USB drivers makes it easier for your customers/consumers to use, and reduces your overall support effort.  Don’t be cheap. Be smart.

Today is International Happiness Day, the 2nd ever.

The (United Nations) General Assembly,[…] Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,[…] Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness, Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities[…]

United Nations General AssemblyResolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012[1]

So watch these videos below for fun.  They put me in a good mood. The first one is in Sidney. The second in Cologne.

Try to get through the first minute at least of the Sidney video, then switch to the Cologne version

Sidney

Cologne

Then watch this video which is the best use ever of a wearable USB sports camera ever.

Thanks to Agent K for the MacPro article

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Posted in Apple, USB 3.0, USB Software | Comments Off

USB 3.1 Host to Device Platform-to-Platform with Ellisys Protocol Analyzer

Posted by Eric Huang on December 11th, 2013

We showed you our USB 3.1 Host and Device, Platform to Platform demonstration all the way back on November 8 (read the Nov 19 updated blog entry), so we thought we should prove we actually are running USB 3.1 transactions.
We invited Chuck Trefts from Ellisys to bring in their USB 3.1 analyzer. It’s a small gold box, that looks more like a consumer device than an analyzer that belongs in a lab.

We run a throughput test to show that we are actually running at USB 3.1 speeds of 9 Gbps and above. This is the third benchmark we have run with our controller, independently showing that we can actually run USB 3.1 at USB 3.1 speeds.

You will see that we run the Ellisys software to capture trace data. The trace data shows that we are running USB 3.1 in two ways:
First, it shows the new Link Credit 2. This is brand new to USB 3.1.
Second, we zoom in on one part of the trace to look at the symbols which show that 128b/132b encoding.

As before, we are using:

  1. HAPS70 platforms for separate
    1. USB 3.1 Host and
    2. USB 3.1 Device
  2. USB 3.0 Connectors
  3. A USB 3.0 1 meter cable. (Yes! An actual Cable), AND the
  4. Ellisys Protocol Analyzer to prove we are running real traffic.

I feel that some people really underestimate the effort required to make this demonstration happen.  By working with the USB-IF and Ellisys, Synopsys leadership gives us early insight and deep technical knowledge as to WHY USB 3.1 is designed as it is, and lets us hit the many problems in implementation months and years before others.

Watch the Video Here

External SSDs
A quick note on USB 3.0 SSDs. There is an emerging trend where spinning USB 3.0 Hard Disk Drives are starting to be replaced by USB 3.0 SSDs. Power users have been assembling their own USB 3.0 SSD by taking USB 3.0 to SATA enclosures, and adding a SATA 6 Gbps SSD instead of a HDD.

Downside of SSD over an HDD
- Higher cost per GB
Upside of using an SSD over an SSD
- Less Power
- Faster data access than an spinning HDD

SSDs use less power, and are less prone to “crashes” or disk failures. (SSDs are often rated to work for 13 years or more as well. In the past, there was a concern that the NAND Flash used in SSDs would not last as long as an HDD.. Most importantly they are speedier. If you take a quick look at this CNET review of this USB 3.0, the only real complaint is that the drive is too small at 256 GB.

This goes to the argument that External Storage is reaching the Speeds of Internal Storage.  This allows users to edit, sort, get to their pictures, videos, data for editing and use without having to decide exactly how much memory is inside the PC, Table, Phone or other device.   USB 3.1 users will really be able to take advantage of this, using the CPU power of their devices, and use the speed of external memory to use more data more effectively.  The proliferation and popularity of USB 3.0 SSDs is the start of this trend as NAND Flash performance increases and prices decrease.

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USB Gifts

My friend and colleague Richard Solomon sent me a USB Humidifier. You can see it and read the note below.
It’s fantastic, and worth every penny Richard Solomon paid for it.

Oh and read Scott Knowlton’s and Richard Solomon’s PCIe Express Yourself Blog found here

USB Humidifier gifted from Richard Solomon to Eric Huang

USB Humidifier gifted from Richard Solomon to Eric Huang

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Posted in 10G USB, USB 3.10 | Comments Off

First Platform-to-Platform 10G USB 3.1 Host and Device demonstration (over a cable) – Part 2

Posted by Eric Huang on November 19th, 2013

Well, my originally Blog Entry was decapitated so you only read the fascinating Introduction and got to watch the video.

Let’s face it, that’s all you really cared about anyways.

First part of the Blog is Repeated here – If you read that then skip to the ****** below

After working for more than a year  with the USB spec experts in writing the standard, I’m happy and ecstatic to link to you our industry’s first platform-to-platform 10G USB 3.1 Host-to-Device demo:  

The demo illustrates

1)      Enumerate, Connect & Recognize USB 3.1 Device in a Flash Drive-like design.

2)      File Transfer from Device to Host

3)      File Transfer from Host to Device

4)      Throughput benchmarking with the ATTO testing software

5)      Throughput demo with the CrystalBench HD benchmark software

We are running everything on the HAPS70 FPGA-Based Prototyping Platforms transmitting data 10G USB speeds.

For the two HAPS 70 FPGA-Based Prototyping Platforms.

  • 10G USB 3.1 Device, configured as a Mass Storage Device on the Left
    • We use the RAM on the HAPS RAM as a RAM Drive
      • Eliminates/overcomes the slowness of real flash
    • Connects using PCIe to a PC running Linux
    • PC executes firmware behaving like a flash/thumb drive
    • Think of this as a $10M flash/storage drive.
  • 10G USB 3.1 Host acts like an after market add in card for a computer.
    • PC runs Win 8.1, a Release version
    • PC runs unmodified USB 3.0 Drivers from MCCI (more on this later)

***********************************************************************************************

We connect the two platforms using a standard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Cable (a blue cable).

The HAPS platform has the necessary speed to run an at speed 10G USB 3.1 controller.

Here you can see the USB 3.0 B-Connector used on the MGB card. 

In the next picture you can see the A-Connector on the MGB card.  This is the Device, or 10G USB 3.1 Host acting as a USB 3.1 Host. It’s just like an add-in card.

The Rocket I/Os provide the speed to implement a 10G USB PHY.   The actual signaling is at 10 GHz which is necessary to deliver enough data for our controllers to process at 10G speeds.

Here’s the Video at YouTube

Your key points to remember:

1)      The USB 3.1 specification works

2)      Synopsys can build and demonstrate working USB 3.1 Device and Host Prototype

3)      It works with unmodified USB 3.0 Drivers for backward compatibility

4)      It works with standard USB 3.0 Cables and Connectors (also for backward compatibility)

5)      It works at 10G speeds

6)      HAPS70 is a good platform for developing and testing 10G USB and comparably fast, complex protocols

7)      Synopsys is the first to demonstrate all this and the first company in the world to demonstrate all this.

I was going to try to put some of my personality into this blog entry.  I decided this is too important. 

For more on the HAPS platforms we use, please visit Mick Posner’s Blog at “Breaking the Three Laws” and his entry “Prototyping Cutting Edge 10G USB 3.1 Standards”

He wrote that shortly before he was admitted to the hospital for some sort of allergic reaction (he almost died or something) which you can also read about on his blog by reading this weeks entry.

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 USB Products You Should Travel With

 If you like this this USB Humidifier, go ahead and send me a $13 bill and I can buy one for myself.  I will bring it to distant lands, all of which have very dry and arid hotel rooms.

USB Humidifier at Amazon.com

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First Platform-to-Platform 10G USB 3.1 Host and Device demonstration (over a cable)

Posted by Eric Huang on November 8th, 2013

Universe’s First Platform-to-Platform 10G USB 3.1 Host and Device demonstration (over a cable)

After working with the USB-IF for more than a year developing the standard, I’m proud and excited to present to you the Industry’s first 10G USB 3.1 Host Platform to Device Platform demonstration.   And the first by an IP Company…

 

What does the demonstration show?

1)      Connect and Recognition of the Device in a Flash Drive-like design.

2)      A File Transfer from the Device to the Host.

3)      A File Transfer from the Host to the Device

4)      Throughput benchmarking with the ATTO benchmark testing

5)      Throughput benchmarketin with the CrystalBench HD utility

All on HAPS70 FPGA-Based Prototyping Platforms , running at 10G USB speeds.
Take a look, come back on Monday for more.

We use two HAPS 70 FPGA-Based Prototyping Platforms.

·         On the left is a 10G USB 3.1 Device, configured as a Mass Storage Device.

o   The HAPS platform has RAM on it that is used for storage

§  This eliminates the slowness of real flash

o   It connects to a PC running Linux

o   The PC runs driver firmware acting like a flash drive

o   This is basically a million dollar flash drive.

·         On the right is a 10G USB 3.1 Host.  This is essentially a Add-in Card for a PC.

o   It connects to a PC running Win 8.1

o   We use unmodified USB 3.0 Drivers from MCCI (more on this later)

We connect the two platforms using a standard SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Cable (a blue cable).

 

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Posted in 10G USB, USB 3.0 Performance, USB 3.10, USB Demonstration, USB Humor | Comments Off