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

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



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 | No Comments »

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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Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

Media Agnostic USB – USB over WiFi in Qualcomm designs – Updated Oct 15

Posted by Eric Huang on October 3rd, 2013

 The USB released a standard called Media Agnostic USB at IDF last month.  The standard essentially creates a class driver specification, a software level specification so that you use USB protocols to send data over any media.

Any media in this case is targeted at wireless standards WiFi and WiGig.  Since it’s agnostic, the same class drivers could be used for Ethernet cables, or fiber optics, or possible really long licorice ropes.

Okay, maybe not long licorice ropes. Unless they have the right sugar content and shade of red.

Hmm. licorice.

I digress.

The agnostic means you could even use a Firewire, DVI, or HDMI cable.  (I’m not advocating those, I’m just saying you could use them).

We shot a video of Jeff Ravencraft explaining the standard.  I will add it later, or maybe in a separate post.

Video added October 15, 2014

The point is that you can now use USB over Wireless standards, use existing USB driver stacks, and bridge the USB protocol to work other non USB cables.

Most interestingly, immediately we see a blog from Qualcomm where Qualcomm tells us they are going to use Media Agnostic USB.  But instead, they call it Snapdragon USB over WiFi.

Qualcomm blog talking about Snapdragon USB over WiFi

Qualcomm Snapdragon USB over WiFi


There’s a great graphic there that shows a mobile phone transmitting data or video via WiFi to TVs, PCs, and lots of other devices.  What’s great about this is that a standard gets announced we immediately get an “announcement” that a Market leader is going to develop products to the standard as early as next year, in 2014.

We can makes some educated guesses about how Qualcomm might deploy this.    The current Snapdragon 800 has USB 3.0.   We can guess that they will use either WiFi-N or WiFi-AC next year to enable this.  WiFi-N is fast enough for streaming compressed video, but WiFi-AC will be more widespread in 2014.  We could guess that some providers would use cheaper, widespread WiFi-N chips.  More premium SmartPhones would use WiFi-AC.

It might be possible to upgrade the drivers in existing TVs with WiFi to be Media Agnostic Capable.  It’s also likely Qualcomm customers would produce a Media Center like box that would have WiFi embedded and would plug into either an external USB port or an HDMI port for the wireless streaming. Then users can use existing TVs that can’t be upgraded via software.  The Media Center like box could be a box or a ChromeCast like dongle that plugs directly into an HDMI port.

Background on WiFi and WiGig and Media Agnostic USB

The Mediate Agnostic USB standard comes from the WiFi Alliance which came from the WiGig.  WiGig uses 60GHz frequencies and was called 802.11ad.  WiGig goes up to 7 Gbps. WiFi-AC, now at 900 Mbps or so from companies like our customer Realtek.  

Digression 2

 Realtek’s WiFi-AC chip uses USB 3.0 as the primary interface because USB 2.0 only delivers effectives speeds of about 320-350 Mbps.   WiFi-AC speeds will go up to 6.7 Gbps.   So USB 3.0 is necessary to enable this.  (Or this other standard no one’s heard of called PCIe).  But I digress again.


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USB Humor – Deja Vu

We recorded no fewer than 8 videos at IDF. I’m hoping to roll them out over the next 8 weeks or less.  I would like to thank those that mentioned USB Superposition, a USB humor thing worth checking out here.

Yeah, you send me a politically correct joke fit to print here.  I dare you.

More USB Success

This Global 500 Electronics company said they couldn’t have done their project without our USB IP.  They used our USB 3.0 and 2.0 cores and PHYs. They found area and power advantages and highly differentiated in performance.

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Posted in Media Agnostic USB, Realtek, Success Stories, USB 3.0, WiFi | Comments Off

USB 3.0 Docking Stations for Apple PCs and Tablets, Synopsys at IDF, USB Humor

Posted by Eric Huang on September 9th, 2013

MacBook Air using USB 3.0 to display on 4 PC Monitors

DisplayLink has now shipped millions of USB 3.0 Docking Stations in branded items from pretty much every major PC manufacturer in the business.  They expanded their support to Apple PCs so or MacBook Pro and MacBook Air can now connect to a docking station and support multiple monitors, gigabit Ethernet, and your favorite full size, ergonomic keyboard and mouse.  I should note that this isn’t an Apple branded docking station.

This is significant because DisplayLink developed their own USB 3.0 drivers to run on top of the standard Apple USB 3.0 stack to support the DisplayLink chips.

In the demonstration video below, you will see a single, small MacBook Air connected to a docking station.  The Docking station is connected to 4 monitors.  Two directly from the docking station, and another 2 via USB to another docking station.

The best part is that this docking station, this setup can be used for Windows PCs also.  Pretty Cool yes?

Belkin Tablet Docking Station

In the second demo, a Windows 8 tablet is connected to a touch screen monitor.  The monitor is a high resolution monitor with an HD camera. 

Although designed for a Tablet, this same hardware could be used with a Table or a standard PC or even a Mac with the right drivers installed on the device.

Here’s our demonstration with John Cummins, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales & Marketing for DisplayLink.


Here’s the original DisplayLink Success Story where we talk to the Vice President of Engineering

Hey, if you had licensed our USB 3.0 IP, maybe you’d be shipping lots of USB 3.0 products too like DisplayLink or Realtek?

DisplayLink will be at IDF again this year.  Probably a good guess that they will have docking stations.

Synopsys at IDF

Synopsys will be at IDF in San Francisco Sept 10-12 this week.  We will demonstrate USB 3.0 and SSIC in the USB Zone.  We will show off our HAPS platform (as we always do) and some USB 3.0 PHYs that have never been seen before in public.


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“Something’s going on contrary to the laws of the universe. I must find out what.”

Try naming the TV show this quote is from (without using Google).

USB Funny Stuff – USB Lighter

This is a USB Lighter. I kid you not. I do not lie.  You have to watch this video for the happiest USB commercial you’ve ever seen (excluding some smart phone commercials)

The Jii lighter charges in any USB socket, and can be used outdoors

At one point, the USB Lighter says

“I work in wind and rain.”

You will see just before the Jii is plugged into a PC, the Jii Lighter says, “When I get tired, take off my pants and plug me in to recharge”

Yea, I can’t even make up stuff this good.

After some investigation, I learned the yellow colored one is out of stock, but there are 4 others they have in stock.

Thanks to Agent W for sending me this video, and Agent G for translating.

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Posted in DisplayLink, Success Stories, USB Demonstration, USB Humor | Comments Off

Building a Point and Shoot Camera to Compete with Smart Phones – Part 2

Posted by Eric Huang on August 29th, 2013

As mentioned previously in Building a Point and Shoot Camera to Compete with Smart Phones – Part 1, any Camera built today really, really needs wireless connectivity. 

Basically, they need a SmartPhone without the Phone.  You might get away with a WiFi only device.  In this case, you want the WiFi device to use SSIC or USB 3.0 to connect the WiFi chipset to the the phone itself on PCB.  Today’s WiFi chips in cameras use SDIO which is super slow.  This hasn’t been an issue because SD memory is slow. 

My opinion is you build the camera with WiFi-AC. 

USB 3.0 to Wireless

WiFi-AC lets you send lots of pictures fast.  And you want the user to have a great wireless experience moving data fast, you really need to design the camera with SSIC as the interface to the WiFi.  You only need to use a MIPI M-PHY Gear 1, which means you get to use 80% less power connecting to a WiFi AC chip running 1.25 Gbps.

This is even more important with Video.  Even with today’s terrific GoPro and Sony Sports Cameras, they record videos with huge file sizes.  It’s no secret to these users that USB.

You get the speed of USB 3.0, the lower power of SSIC, and the speed of WiFi-AC

In this case, the external USB 3.0 connector could be used with either Battery Charging or Power Delivery to charge the Camera much faster that using standard USB 3.0 charging.

Battery Charging provides for charging at 7.5W and Power Deliver up to 100W.  (Power Delivery is still in it’s beginning stages and there are no products available yet supporting this standard.  Battery Charging is available and used in Kindle Fire platforms and other devices.

In this way, the Camera can be charged and powered from any location in your home, and you can transfer the data wirelessly to any location.  Alternatively, you can use the USB 3.0 connector directly to the PC or host for the fastest possible transfer of data.  Most users shooting lots of HD or 4K video on a camera will use a cable.  The average user will prefer to use the wireless connection.

I don’t know that a single digital camera person in the world actually reads this blog, but I can tell you that:

Consumers expect “Instant On” experiences.  This leads to the expectation of fast data transfers for everything else, posting to the internet for sharing (Facebook), or transfering to a PC for editting.  Most of it for consumers is simple transferring and backup.  Faster WiFi-AC gives the speed.  SSIC gives the lower power.


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A horse walks into a Bar, the Bartender says “Why the long face?”

Two USB Product Marketing Managers (PMM) on opposite sides of a dangerous, violent river,

The first PMM yells across the river, “How do I get to the other side?”

The second PMM responds, “You are on the Other Side!”


Easy to Integrate IP

We have Easy to Integrate IP. Our customers tell us we do.

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Posted in 4K Video, Digital Video, DSC, MIPI, Smartphone, SSIC, Success Stories, SuperSpeed USB, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, USB Power, USB Power Delivery, USB WiFi, WiFi | Comments Off

10 Gbps USB Ready for Development

Posted by Eric Huang on August 8th, 2013

The 10 Gbps USB specification is now out and final. 

Here’s what to call it.

  • Enhanced SuperSpeed
  • Gen 1 for 5G USB Physical Layer or PHY (formerly USB 3.0 or Superspeed USB that operates at all USB 3.0 speeds and lower) and 
  • Gen 2 for the faster 10G USB Physical Layer operating speed
  • Together a complete PHY that operates at all USB speeds is called a Gen X PHY.
  • SuperSpeedPlus when you are talking about the 10G only portions of the Link and Protocol layers (the controller)

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to call it 10G USB.

More Efficient Data Transmission

The PHY now uses 128b/132b encoding for 10G USB.  This is a huge improvement over teh 8b/10b encoding.

For USB 3.0, the 5 Gbps standard, the 8b/10b encoding means that only 8 bytes of every 10 bytes transmitted are used for data transmission.  Even though the PHY signals 5 Gigabits per second, the maximum throughput is only 4 Gigabits per second. 

(We actually demonstrate that we can deliver this with our PHY and controller IP in this video from a thousand years ago below. )


But I digress.  Going to 128b/132b goes to a 128 byte payload for each 132 bytes delivered.  This improves the data efficiency from 80% up to 97%.  So the signaling rate is faster, and the data efficiency is greater, so you can pump even more data through a standard USB 3.0 cable.

So the theoretical throughput of a 10G connection is 97% of 10 Gbps or about 9.7 Gbps.  It’d be great if it was that easy to calculate wouldn’t it?

Which brings us to


In 10G USB, power hasn’t increased any further from USB 3.1, but remember that Power Delivery is the spec that already allows for power up to 100 W.

You can download the specification here.


Cable Length

What is the defined cable length for 10G USB?

Better question, what’s the defined length for USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 or USB 1.1?

The answer is: It’s not defined.

What is defined is the allowable “voltage drop”.  This is dependent on the quality of the cable, connectors, and PHY.  For 10G USB, the specification allows for 1 meter cable using the same standards for a USB 3.0 cable. The cable standards are the same because the USB-IF wants to keep the overall cost of the 10G USB and all USB cables down, or at least the same.  Connectors are the same for USB 3.0.

Personally, I think this is okay because most 10G connections will be to either a USB flash drive, USB SSD, or a USB Monitor or docking station.  In fact, I’m sure that something like 95% of cables sold are probably only 1 m today.


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Success Story

Today we visit S&P 500 company that saved many months of engineering time using Synopsys USB PHY and core IP compared to alternatives. To me, this always means over an alternate IP supplier since it takes years to develop IP internally.

Read for yourself here.

USB Cables exist in 4 dimensional state

Thanks to Agent K and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for this comic.  Check out the original comic here, and for more funny stuff

It’s even more funny when you realize we all exist in 4 dimensional space.  Well, maybe someone can explain the joke to me in the comments section below.

Oh, and check out our PCIe Blog ExpressYourself.  It’s written by two fine fellows who know more about PCIe that a Trained Monkey that plays the accordian.  The most current entry using the M-PHY that we used in our USB 3.0 SSIC Demonstrations so take a look..

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Posted in 10G USB, USB 3.10, USB Humor | 1 Comment »

Building a Point and Shoot Camera to Compete with Smart Phones – Part 1

Posted by Eric Huang on July 31st, 2013

Falling Shipments of Point and Shoot Cameras

The Wall Street Journal reported that Point and Shoot Sales are down 42% in the first 5 months of 2013.  That seems like a lot to me.

If you read the article, you’ll learn the major manufacturers are forecasting further drops.  They are introducing 10 instead of 20 new models a year.   And they are focusing on higher end SLRs with nice lenses.  But even those cameras with nicer, bigger lenses are forecasted to drop in volume sales.

What does this tell us?

(Other than that Techonlogy Advances without regard for anyone’s opinion)

SmartPhones Progressing

Platforms like the Qualcomm SnapDragon 800 and Samsung Exynos 5 both have USB 3.0 capabilities.  The SnapDragon 800 has the ability to record and playback 4Kvideo and take 55MP pictures.   Of course, all mobile phones can upload and share pictures and video almost anywhere.   The only thing really limiting these platforms is the size and quality of the lenses.  And those are improving.  Companies like Aptina and Broadlight both have 4K Image sensors available today.  

If Phones can share, and cameras can not, what is the answer?
Sharing is the answer

A Canon representative points out that Sharing is more important than ever.  Hopefully, if you have a SmartPhone you’ve e-mailed at least one picture. 

If you are even remotely cool, you’ve done some light editing, or used Instagram, and/or posted these pictures to Facebook, or Twitter, or their equivalent.  I mean, we have a Director of Marketing here, Navraj Nandra, whose posting pictures to Facebook all the time of fun things he’s doing.

You may have even posted a video directly to YouTube your YouKu or something in your neighborhood.  If you haven’t done any of these things, your kids definitely have.

What should Digital Camera Makers focus on?

1) Better Sharing

Camera makers have to make it much, much easier to move the great pictures they take to the Internet for sharing.

This likely means they need:

a) a powerful Applications Processor to run the applications/software to process the picture and get ready to post or send the picture somewhere and

b)  either a WiFi chip or a Modem (LTE preferred) or both to connect to a wireless network to actual transmit and maybe

c) a touch screen like on a Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone or Nokia Lumia

In fact, Samsung actually built a camera like this with a Modem built in and WiFi that runs Google Apps. I don’t know how it sells, but it was/is clearly on the leading edge.

My question is:  Why haven’t any any other camera companies even attempted this?  What makes them so conservative when this is clearly the trend?  Every year a new phone comes out with more features, better imaging, and more of everything.  And some camera companies are only coming out now with WiFi Cameras.

Especially since the drop is so dramatic now.  If you look back exactly 10 years, you see that Digital Camera sales increased 93% in 2003 in the same period

Where is the dramatic response by camera companies to hold their position against phones?

Next time, more on how to design a better Point and Shoot Camera with USB 3.0.  I’m not done, I’m just out of time.


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USB Success

Today’s success story through TechValidate is for a Global 500 Electronics Company.  They build a server that interfaces to many kinds of devices.  Here’s their story and what they think of our USB IP.

USB Humor

And finally, something everyone has experienced.   And, if you remember quantum mechanics, will appreciate on a quantum level also.

Thanks to Agent K for this contribution.

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Posted in Digital Video, DSC, Server, Success Stories, USB 3.0 | Comments Off

World’s First USB 3.0 SSIC Demonstration with a MIPI M-PHY

Posted by Eric Huang on July 19th, 2013

World’s First USB 3.0 SSIC Demonstration with a MIPI M-PHY

Yes, we actually showed the first one about 2 months ago where we showed compliance, but we thought you should see an actual application operating.

As a reminder, SSIC is:

  • Super Speed Interchip
  • For on PCB use of USB 3.0 protocol standards
  • Supports only USB 3.0 speeds, No USB 2.0 speeds or slower supported (or needed)
  • Saves power because it only turns on to transmit when there is data.
  • Saves power because it uses a smaller M-PHY, not a USB 3.0 PHY.
  • Saves power because it supports only one USB 3.0 Speed, SuperSpeed USB
  • Saves power because it operates at the slowest necessary speed to support the data transfer
  • For example, if used with a LTE modem, the M-PHY can operate in Gear 1 mode saving power compared to faster Gear 2 or Gear 3 modes.

SSIC will commonly be used in Wireless chips like WiFi-AC and LTE modems.   This allows you to save power in your mobile phone by using SSIC inside the phone, on PCB to the main mobile application processor.    

In the demonstration video, we actually turn on the SSIC connected application.  In the real world, this will be the same as turning on your cell phone modem after landing in a plane (assuming you turned off the phone or put the phone in airplane mode earlier). 

So we turn on the SSIC and show the enumeration sequence, where the host recognizes the USB device has turned on and starts communicating with the Host.

In this case, the Application is a Mass Storage Device.  This is basically a USB 3.0 Flash Drive/Thumb Drive.  As always, we use our highly reliable HAPS platform.  We configure the USB 3.0 RTL with the SSIC Feature enabled.  We add the logic for implemented mass storage.  We connect the HAPS platform to a standard Linux PC.  We run standard open source Linux drivers on the attached PC.   This entire system is the Mass storage device, the PC and the HAPS platform.   The HAPS platform has our M-PHY 28nm PHY Card on the daughter card. 

Here is the demonstration, the full demonstration of us running the USB 3.0 SSIC demonstration.

In the demonstration you will see us connect or turn on the device.  The reason this is important is because you will turn off our SSIC connected device

And here’s the same platform passing the USB Command Verifier 3.0 (USBCV 3.0). USBCV 3.0 is the USB-IF’s tests used for testing for USB compliance. The world’s first SSIC platform to successfully demonstrate USB 3.0 protocol compatiblity using an M-PHY.  Remember you read it first here at the blog in May 2013.  See it again in the video below.  And you saw the first SSIC demonstrate in April 2012 here


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Success Stories – Japan Semiconductor Company

In our series of (hopefully) more frequent success stories, today we feature a large Japanese Semiconductor company that has (coincidentally) used our USB controllers for a long, long time.

In this case, they said that buying our IP saved them 9-12 months over their alternatives.  Anyone buying IP understands that their are alternatives to USB IP, mean an either in-house or another supplier.  I like to think that this little case study tells us they can get to market 9-12 months with a competitor.  I like to interpret this as meaning they could get to market at least 9-12 months ahead of anyone using a competitor’s IP.

Read below

 or at the TechValidate site.

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Posted in MIPI, SSIC | Comments Off