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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

Archive for 2009

SDXC and USB 3.0

Posted by Eric Huang on 4th August 2009

 

Toshiba has announced that they will go into production of SDXC cards in Q1 2010.  These SDXC cards is the next generation of SD card that will be used in digital cameras, mobile phones, media players, and camcorders to store pictures, video and music.

SDXC specification supports 104 Megabytes per second throughput today and up to 300 Megabytes per second in the future.  This is a lot faster than today’s USB 2.0 32-35 Megabytes per second.  USB 2.0 just will not be fast enough.

The next question someone will ask is: Is the flash memory fast enough to handle these speeds?

The answer is:  Yes, but it will cost more (at least initially).  Memory just needs to be put in parallel so that it can be read or written to faster and simultaneously.  I would guess that early memory will be designed to the 104 MBps standard to save on cost, with premium manufacturers designing even higher, and as prices come down, the faster speeds get implemented.

You can read the SDXC announcement from Toshiba here:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13580_3-10302756-39.html

You can read the SDXC specification here:

http://www.sdcard.org/developers/tech/sdxc

I’m also burying some news on USB 3.0 Hosts here:

Apparently ASUS has cancelled their motherboard with USB 3.0 Host.  You can read 2 articles here:

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1495417/asus-cancels-usb-motherboard

ASUS is quoted as saying the motherboard was cancelled for “not for any particularly interesting reasons”   It should be noted that the motherboard was/is a high-end premium motherboard.

Tom’s Hardware speculates reasons here:  http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Asus-USB-3.0-Motherboard-PC,8368.html

Let’s hope that NEC is on track for their deployment of USB 3.0 Hosts.

Posted in USB 3.0 | Comments Off

USB 3.0 Hosts hit the Japan Market (sort of)

Posted by Eric Huang on 27th July 2009

I was super excited to see the picture at the website below that shows a PC Add-In card for desktops and a ExpressCard for laptops.

http://www.everythingusb.com/ratoc-systems-usb-3.0-pci-express-card-17099.html

You will see (what looks link) the packaged products, on the shelf, ready to be bought by eager USB Fanatics.

Then I forwarded the link, and someone who actually reads Japanese told me the sign actually says, “Available at the end of the year”

I need to call my Japanese friends, and tell them to go back to the office.  The cards aren’t available today.

On the other side of the Cable…

Also,  LucidPort and Fujitsu announced availability of USB 3.0 SATA to USB 3.0 Bridge Chips.  These will be important for adapting existing SATA hard drives (pretty much all the hard drives used with desktop and laptop PCs) to USB 3.0 for use in external hard drives.

Fujitsu expects to go to volume production in September 2009 according the the eetimes article found here:

http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=218600246

These 2 silicon providers provide a critical piece to getting the early market going along with NEC on the Host side.  Hopefully we will see USB 3.0 Hard Drives with these chips at the same time the NEC Host becomes available.

Posted in USB 3.0 | Comments Off

First USB 3.0 Motherboard?

Posted by Eric Huang on 20th July 2009

The Internet is alive with the first pictures of what looks like an ASUS motherboard with USB 3.0 Ports.

You can see a picture here:

http://gizmodo.com/5318979/asus-first-to-feature-usb-30-with-p6x58-motherboard

The other interesting thing to note is that Linux now has USB 3.0 xHCI Host drivers available publically.   You can read that article here:

http://gizmodo.com/5286999/the-first-usb-30-driver-for-linux-or-any-os-is-here

The drivers were written by Geekess, or Sarah Sharp.  You can find the Linux Drivers here

http://git.kernel.org/?p=linux/kernel/git/sarah/xhci.git;a=summary

This means that Linux is the first OS to support USB 3.0.  I saw a demonstration of the drivers at the USB 3.0 Developers Conference on a laptop running Ubuntu/Linux.  I can tell you that using the USB 3.0 Host port and using the USB 2.0 Host ports simultaneously, the USB 3.0 drivers were much, much, much faster.

I think it is also fair to say that these drivers are a big step forward in terms of availability because anyone can use them.  I think it is also fair to say that these drivers are probably not mass production worthy, so those of you developing real products will need to do some serious quality testing and further development to make they worthy for use by the average consumer.

Posted in USB 3.0 | 1 Comment »

New USB 3.0 Video Demo – Synopsys and TI Demo

Posted by Eric Huang on 6th July 2009

Updated May 3, 2010: Video Embedded and Linked

Hi Everyone,

We have posted a new video demonstrating our USB 3.0 Device and Host controller working with the USB 3.0 PHY from TI.   This is significant because it shows that our two companies and our two teams of engineers have interpreted the same specification so that products can be built using our IP and TI’s chips.

 

You can see the video here if the YouTube doesn’t work.
http://www.synopsys.com/IP/pages/Videos.aspx

Remember, I like to call the USB 3.0 PHY a PHY, but we refer to them as Transceivers in the Video and the Press.

Rehash below:

As I posted before: We demonstrated our USB 3.0 Device with the TI USB 3.0 PHY at the USB Developers Conference in Tokyo, Japan May 20-21, 2009

The press releases can be found here.

TI’s release:  http://sev.prnewswire.com/semiconductors/20090514/DA1701914052009-1.html

Synopsys release:  http://synopsys.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=683

Posted in USB 3.0, USB 3.0 PHY | Comments Off

USB 3.0 Article from Ron Wilson at EDN

Posted by Eric Huang on 12th June 2009

Ron Wilson, editor from EDN, recently published a very comprehensive article on USB 3.0. It includes insight from Synopsys as well as other notable companies such as SMSC, PLX Technology and TI. The article covers key areas that designers should understand when designing for USB 3.0 and consider when evaluating a USB 3.0 IP solution. But, more importantly, it reveals the critical implementation issues that are typically encountered only after they appear in the design process.  By understanding these issues ahead of time, it enables designers to better plan their USB 3.0 implementation.  And not coincidentally, these issues are addressed by the features in our USB 3.0 IP.

The article can also be found online:

http://www.controleng.com/articleXml/LN986401621.html

This Blog Entry Above Written by “PHY Guy” Gervais Fong, our USB PHY Product Marketing Manager.

Share and Enjoy

(Correctly identify the source of  “Share and Enjoy”  The 3 winners will be randomly selected to receive a USB Mouse based on the quality of their answer.  Googling is not allowed.)

(No, Mom, you don’t qualify.)

Winners will be subjectively chosen by me.

Posted in USB 3.0, USB-IF | Comments Off

5th USB 3.0 Product – Host and Flash Card

Posted by Eric Huang on 11th June 2009

I realized I forgot the the best possible USB 3.0 product.

5) Combined USB 3.0 Host and USB 3.0 Flash Express Card.

This is the ExpressCard that has both a USB 3.0 Host and a USB 3.0 Flash Drive embedded in it.

Basically, the USB 3.0 Flash Drive adds storage, it has 100GB or more of storage space for your data, pictures, music video as a backup or extra storage for your Netbook.

This means it uses the ExpressCard USB 3.0 connector inside the PC and looks like an attached USB 3.0 Peripheral to the notebook/netbook PC.

Also, the product will have a USB 3.0 Host in it.  This uses the ExpressCard PCI-e connector on the ExpressCard, and provides 1 or 2 or more additional USB ports with the full 4 Gbits/sec adding more throughput from these ports into the laptop.  This Host looks like an attached USB 3.0 Host on the PCI-e bus.

For a 6th USB 3.0 product would add an additional external USB 3.0 Device A-Plug to the product above.

When you remove the product above, you use the USB 3.0 Device A-Plug that could be plugged into any standard PC USB  Host port.  The disadvantage, is that you probably end up with a Plug that sticks out somewhere on this card that can get bumped or broken, unless there is a way to fold it up.

Posted in SATA, SuperSpeed USB, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 | Comments Off

ExpressCard 2.0 Finalized with Support for USB 3.0

Posted by Eric Huang on 9th June 2009

The cool think about ExpressCard is that you will be able to add fast storage devices to your laptop with these cards.  Specifically, you can add more USB 3.0 ports because it’s fast enough to support the 5 Gbps.    Current ExpressCard slots can only support 2.5 Gbps, so it really isn’t fast enough to keep up with USB 3Read about it on Slashgear here

http://www.slashgear.com/expresscard-20-finalized-5gbps-for-10x-faster-cards-0946480/

So some of the early products can be:

1) USB 3.0 Host card – This provides USB 3.0 Host ports and has a PCIe interface on one edge. T his card would work in existing ExpressCard laptops and future ones as well.  This is cool for USB 3.0 PCs because an ExpressCard with a full XHCI host would provide a completely independent additional set of USB 3.0 Host ports for additional throughput.  In other words, existing USB 3.0 Host ports that ship with your PC can only provide a distributed 5 Gigabits per second.  The dedicated port(s) would provide an additional 5 Gbps on those ports.

 

A USB 3.0 Host card would have two physical connectors:
    A) a ExpressCard connector using PCIe Leads and
    B) USB 3.0 A-Receptacle.

2) USB 3.0 Hub card – This provides additional hub ports through the on-board USB 3.0 Host.  This is great because it adds ports to your PC.

A USB 3.0 Hub card would have two physical connectors:
    A) a ExpressCard connector using the USB 3.0 Leads and
    B) 1-4 USB 3.0 A-Receptacles.

3) USB 3.0 Flash Drive – This provides Mass Storage Device, basically a thumb/flash Drive.  For the form factors and sizes, I can easily see these being in the range of 100GB in the next 3 years.  This means that you could buy a Laptop with a embedded Hard/Flash drive of only 64 or 128GB later, and add on additional storage later, when you run out of space.

Of course, the big advantage of an ExpressCard over a Thumb Drive is that it doesn’t stick out so you can leave in plugged in all the time.  Also, with the new power saving features of USB 3.0, you can power down and use the low power modes so that it doesn’t draw power.

You could potentially also put a standard USB 3.0 connector on this as well, so that you could pull the drive out of the ExpressCard slot and plug it into a standard external USB 3.0 slot.  So it’s easy to use with non-ExpressCard PCs (like a MacBook) and devices (like a DTV). 

A USB 3.0 Flash Drive would have at least two physical connectors:
    A) a ExpressCard USB 3.0 Connector and
    B) Optional – A USB 3.0 A-Plug.

4) PCIe Flash Drive – This provides similar features the USB 3.0 Flash Drive, but uses some kind of driver I’m not familiar with.  The USB 3.0 Flash Drive will use standard USB Mass Storage drivers which have been shipping for 9 years, and newer, faster USB drivers as well.  These will be great, but I really don’t know if you can use some kind of standard driver with this, or need proprietary ones.  You could still have an extra, standard USB 3.0 A-Connector on this so you could remove from an ExpressCard slot and plug it into a external USB slot.

5) USB 3.0 Flash Drive and Hub – This is a compound device meaning it includes both a USB 3.0 Hub and a USB 3.0 Device.   In this case it uses the USB 3.0 Hub connected to the ExpressCard port.  Downstream it has multiple USB 3.0 Ports to connect to other dev ices.  One of those ports is used for the Flash Drive.  The Flash Drive uses a USB 3.0 Device controller embedded in it.  The remaining ports are external ports that provide additional USB 3.0 Connections.

A Compound Device would use the following connectors
    A) a ExpressCard USB 3.0 Connector and
    B) One or more USB 3.0 A-Receptacles

The connection from the Hub to the Device is internal to the ExpressCard.  I think this is great because it differentiates the Flash Drive as enabling 2 functions.  The end product is differentiated in the marketplace with the same form factor

The great thing is that all these will all be backward compatible to USB 2.0 also, they will just run at USB 2.0 speeds.

So I’m really excited that the ExpressCard standard has moved forward.  I hope to see products based on this soon. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

USB in TVs

Posted by Eric Huang on 2nd June 2009

Internet Connectivity in TV is definitely happening.  CES had lots of examples of this

USB in TVs is definitely happening.

Connectivity and USB are definitely related.  You see, you can plug a WiFi USB Dongle into a USB port and connect your TV wirelessly to the internet.  It means that you don’t have to integrate the WiFi into the TV itself.

Here are 2 TVs that recently announced USB support:
The Toshiba REGZA and the Samsung B700

I recommend listening to this story on NPR (or read it) about streaming movies to your TV.  This set up seems extreme with a Stereo Tuner, Tivo, Apple TV, and Apple mini, but who am I to judge?  I have 3 Tivos and a DVD player hooked up to our main TV.

At times I am conflicted about writing about my personal TV experiences. You see, many of my colleagues in the office and around the world have no time to watch TV (or claim to).

Yet, I am a fan of several shows and I record a bunch of others. I watch them in the Gym on my iTouch or Zune. I use Netflix for DVDs of TV shows at the Gym (I go more than 180 days a year), and I watch TV at home a few hours a week when I’m working on something else.  Almost never just a a “Sit and Watch Experience”

It seems to be both uncool and unproductive in today’s world to just unwind and watch something.   Frankly, I feel nothing but “TV remorse” when I “Sit and Watch.”
More frankly, I never watch live TV, I only use Tivo.  Cut out the commercials and the characters you hate and you get done in 1/2 the time.

At the same time, we are praying for the consumers to buy more TVs.
More Consumer Electronics.
More Set Top Boxes (well, HD Programming through our cable provider)/
This is so that our entire industry can pick up.  We want consumers to buy more stuff that entertains us.  Of course we want businesses to buy stuff to, but ultimately, businesses serve consumers.  So we want consumers to buy more TVs, more iPods, more gadgets, more net tops, more laptops.

So the more we work, the less time we have to buy consumer electronics and use them.

It’s probably just me.

Then, of course, fitness experts say “don’t watch a movie while your exercising” and “don’t be a couch potato”.

I say, “Just go and run up a big hill and leave me in the Gym with my Media Player.”

Watch Chuck on NBC this fall.  Its fun.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

USB Rockstars

Posted by Eric Huang on 27th May 2009

I’ve just returned from the USB 3.0 Developers Conference in Japan.  There was a lot of excitement around the NEC announcement.   Sample chips will be available at $15 a chip in June 2009.  This pricing typical in the early market.  You can read the original press release here: http://www.necel.com/news/en/archive/0905/1801.html

Also, check out this video of a USB Rockstar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFKwnHJQXsY

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

USB 3.0 Hosts in 2009

Posted by Eric Huang on 18th May 2009

Much of the market has been watching for USB 3.0 Hosts.  They want to know when we will see them on the market.  I’m extremely excited to see that NEC has announced availability of their USB 3.0 Host controller.  Specifically, they state that they will be ramping to a production for 1 Million units per month by September 2009.

http://www.necel.com/news/en/archive/0905/1801.html

Also interesting is this Digitimes article with a rumor that AMD will have a mobile chipset with USB 3.0 sometime in 2010.  The Digitimes article can be found here:

http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20090518PB200.html

Finally, we will be displaying our USB 3.0 Device with the TI USB 3.0 PHY at the USB Developers Conference this week in Tokyo, Japan.

The press releases can be found here.

TI’s release:  http://sev.prnewswire.com/semiconductors/20090514/DA1701914052009-1.html

Synopsys release:  http://synopsys.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=683

The press releases call the PHY a Transceiver.  I like to call it a PHY.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off