The True Cost of Using USB-C Cables

Remember the story of a Google engineer who declared war on USB-C cables that failed to meet specifications? His continuing battle took a turn so grim even he was surprised at how dangerous it had become. Back in November, Benson Leung, who works on Google’s Pixel range of computers – one of the first systems to support USB-C – found that many cheap cable available on sale failed to meet the official 1.1 specifications, and so began reviewing every cable he could get his hands on from Amazon.

Leung’s mission, though, has met an abrupt end. Not because he has reviewed every USB-C cable available, but because the last one he bought and tested destroyed his computer, as well as the two USB PD sniffers he was using for testing. He bought a Surjtech 3M USB A-to-C cable (now removed from sale) and plugged one end into his Chromebook Pixel and the other into the sniffer. The sniffer failed immediately, and the Pixel soon followed.

On 1st February, Lueng posted the following product review of the offending cable to Amazon:

“Hi Benson here doing another USB Type-C legacy cable review. This one will probably be the last one I do for a little while because this cable (1-star review score, straight off) seriously damaged the laptop computer I am using for these reviews, a Chromebook Pixel 2015, and two USB PD Sniffer devices (Twinkie).

I plugged this cable into the twinkie (as a pass through) and my Chromebook Pixel 2015 and the A end into a 1st party Apple 12W iPad charger.

Twinkie’s current and voltage measurement command (tw vbus) failed immediately after plugging this cable with the adapter into it. This is permanent damage. I tried resetting the Twinkie analyzer and having the firmware reflashed, but it continues to exhibit this failure. It is no longer able to use its voltage and current measurement capability on the Vbus line.

On my Pixel, both USB Type-C ports stopped responding immediately. Neither would charge or act as a host when I plugged in a USB device such as an ethernet adapter. Upon rebooting my Pixel, the system came up in recovery mode because it could not verify the Embedded Controller on the system. No amount of software recovery could revive the EC. Upon closer analysis, serious damage has been done to components related to charging and managing the USB Type-C port’s capabilities.

I directly analyzed the Surjtech cable using a Type-C breakout board and a multimeter, and it appears that they completely miswired the cable. The GND pin on the Type-A plug is tied to the Vbus pins on the Type-C plug. The Vbus pin on the Type-A plug is tied to GND on the Type-C plug.

This is a total recipie [sic] for disaster and I have 3 pieces of electronics dead to show for it, my Pixel 2015, and two USB PD analyzers.

Needless to say, this cable is fundamentally dangerous. Do not buy this under any circumstances. I will be contacting Surjtech directly shortly.”

Remember, kids: if you’re buying a new USB-C cable, always check to see if Leung has reviewed it. It could save your devices from being fried.

Image courtesy of MacWorld.

Google Engineer Goes to War Against Bad USB Type-C Cables

The new USB Type-C standard has been adopted by many laptop and smartphone manufacturers this year for its superior power and data transfer capacities – with the added bonus that, unlike previous USB cables, there is no top or bottom – including Google’s Pixel laptops and tablets. However, it seems that many cheaper USB Type-C cables do not meet the official 1.1 specifications, and one man in particular is as mad as Hell and is not going to take this any more.

Benson Leung, a Google engineer who works on the company’s Pixel range of computers, has been testing USB Type-C cables found on Amazon, and he’s been left disappointed by their performance. Faults such as poor wiring or not being 3A compatible means that many of the cables on sale are not worthy of certification, and Leung has been leaving product reviews that make this abundantly clear to prospective customers.

Leung left the following two-star review of the TechMatte USB-C to MicroUSB adapter:

“I’m a Software Engineer on the Chrome OS team at Google on the Chromebook Pixel and Pixel C teams.

I bought these two USB-C to Micro USB adapters from TechMatte and found they do not work properly with the Chromebook Pixel.

Upon closer inspection by our engineering team here, we have determined that this adapter is not correctly following the USB Type C specification.

The specification can be found here :
http://www.usb.org/developers/docs/usb_31_102015.zip

Specifically, these adapters do not charge the Chromebook Pixel 2015 because the adapters leave the C-C lines floating, where the specification requires a Rp pullup to Vbus to identify the cable as a legacy adapter or cable.

Please see the document named “USB Type-C Specification Release 1.1.pdf”
section 4.5.3.2.4 for a description of why the Rp pullup is necessary.

Please also see Section 4.11 and the following note :
1. For Rp when implemented in the USB Type-C plug on a USB Type-C to USB 3.1 Standard-A Cable
Assembly, a USB Type-C to USB 2.0 Standard-A Cable Assembly, a USB Type-C to USB 2.0 Micro-B
Receptacle Adapter Assembly or a USB Type-C captive cable connected to a USB host, a value of 56 k’
± 5% shall be used, in order to provide tolerance to IR drop on V BUS and GND in the cable assembly.

In other words, since you are creating a USB Type-C plug to a USB 2.0 Micro-B receptacle assembly, you must use a resistor of value 56k’ as a pullup to Vbus. This cable does not do this.

Please let me know if there is any more information I can provide about why these adapters are problematic.”

Leung’s full Amazon review history can be found here, and it’s certainly worth referring to if you’re in the market for a new USB Type-C cable, especially as the engineer does give five-star reviews to the products that deserve it.

Image courtesy of Stuff.tv.

Sharp Prepares To Launch Worlds First 8k Screen In October

Tech companies are on a constant cycle of innovation with the aim of enticing consumers to spend more and more of their hard-earned cash, Televisions are a perfect example of this and have seen SD being usurped by HD, this was before 3D pushed its way to the front for it to be then beaten by 4K. Now, 4K is not all you need as Sharp are preparing to launch the first ever 8K display which looks set for its market debut in October 2015.

Companies have attempted to develop “super hi-vision” resolution test models, but these have only been as a prototype and have not been commercially available. Sharp hope to break through this barrier with an 8K format which provides 16 times as many pixels as 1080p high-definition, It also creates an image so detailed that it can appear three-dimensional.

I bet you would like to own one, but there might be a slight problem with that. Firstly, Sharp have unveiled the 8K model which is a colossal 85 inches in size. That’s OK, I did not need that front room wall there anyway, and secondly, the price currently stands at $133,000 dollars (£86,000) which is a lot. The market and price point would dictate that only industries which include broadcasters and also other companies involved in testing the format would be able to afford such an expensive piece of kit.

One market analyst has suggested that “8K TVs which are targeted at consumers would be released around 2016, and we don’t expect they will cross one million units until after 2019,” said Abhi Mallick, from IHS Technology.  An image is below to convey the spec of these new screens as opposed to current pixel resolutions, as you can see, Full HD is dwarfed by the sheer detail of 8K.

It’s an exciting evolution in tech, albeit a slightly redundant one considering the lack of 8K featured content which is currently available to consumers. A further angle on this would be the demand aspect for such high-resolution screens, are consumers ready to adopt this format or is it one step to far for the commercial viability of 8K, 3D has been considered a damp squib for home adoption and content would need to be readily available in order for this format to succeed within the next few years or so, this would include an increase in broadband speeds for super hi res streaming content.

Thank you bbc for providing us with this information.

 

Thunderbolt 3 Speed Is Capped on Apple’s 12-Inch MacBook

Apple wanted to bring revolutionary technology with its new super slim 12-inch MacBook and it did with the USB Type-C port. Unfortunately, those of you wanting to reach top speeds with Thunderbolt 3 will have to wait a bit longer, according to Intel.

Intel announced that its Thunderbolt 3 can transfer up to 40 Gbps, an enormous amount of data, but we won’t see that speed just yet. Though the company did make a smart move to merge the connectors with the USB Type-C protocol, we will only see it work at USB 3.0 speeds for now. This means only 5 Gbps transfer rates will apply when using Thunderbolt 3 on a USB Type-C connector, which is pretty disappointing.

However, this roadblock will not sit around forever. The Thunderbolt 3 speeds will be capped until manufacturers upgrade their controllers to support the enormous 40 Gbps transfer rates, so current MacBooks and even Google’s Pixel will just have to do with 5 Gbps speeds for now. In order to achieve top speeds, Thunderbolt 3 ports are still the best way and can be distinguished from normal USB Type-C connections by their proprietary Thunderbolt logo.

On the other hand, once proper controllers will be added to future MacBooks and other laptops, Thunderbolt 3 will make a huge difference. For example, Thunderbolt 3 is currently able to connect two 4K monitors simultaneously to a computer and is able to transfer a 4K movie in just 30 seconds. In addition, the Thunderbolt 3 is able to output up to 100 watts and is also able to handle 8K video with ease, so there’s a lot of potential in the tech.

Thank you PCWorld for providing us with this information

LG Releases the G4’s Display Details

LG just released some information about the display that will be on the flagship G4. The 5.5″ QHD (1,440×2,560) LCD will have 538 pixels per inch and have an amazing 120% colour gamut. LG achieves this feat by using a blue LED with red and green phosphors instead of yellow like other LCDs have.

The display no doubt is being touted as one of the G4’s best features, and accurate colours isn’t the only thing the display improved on. LG says that it offers a 50% higher contrast ratio than competing QHD LCD panels, and also says that it is 30% brighter without using extra energy.

The new displays will have darker blacks and sharper images thanks to a tech that involves UV light being used when making the panels. It says that it allows the liquid crystals to align evenly, preventing light leakage. Another new tech called Advanced In-Cell Touch (AIT) makes the screen very sensitive and claims that it can respond to touch commands even when wet. Many are understandably eagerly awaiting the April 24th unveiling of the G4 and thankfully we now know a little more about the device.

Image Too Blurry to Identify Someone in a Security Footage? Fujitsu Has the Answer

A new image-processing technology has been developed by Fujitsu, who claims that it now can be used to track people even in heavily blurred footage from security cameras. The company states that this tech is the first of its kind that can detect people in low-resolution imagery where faces are indistinguishable.

The technology is said to use computer-vision algorithms in order to analyse the footage and recognize shapes such as head and torso, which remain even if the image is distorted or multiple people in a frame overlap. The algorithm is then compared with footage from different cameras and determines if an individual is the same person by focusing on distinctive colours of a person’s clothing.

Fujitsu said that an indoor test of the system has been performed, having been able to track the paths of 80% of the test subjects. The company also claimed that detecting people’s movement could be useful for retail design, reducing pedestrian congestion in crowded urban areas or improving evacuation routes for emergencies.

Thank you PC World for providing us with this information

Google Developing new Chromebook Pixel

Google’s Chromebook equivalent of the Nexus phones, the Pixel, is apparently due to for an update. The ‘showcase’ device designed to show off the potential of the Chrome OS, was first introduced over two years ago. Well, now a Google employee let it slip that a new one is on the way.

Speaking at the TeamWork 2015 partner event, Google’s head of Android and Chrome programs for work and education, Renee Niemi, said that a new model is coming, something recorded and uploaded to YouTube. However, Google has since taken down that particular video, suggesting that they don’t want us to know about it yet. Fortunately, OMG Chrome transcribed the portion in which Niemi made the revelation.

“We do have a new Pixel coming out and it will be coming out soon. We will be selling it but I just have to set your expectations: this is a development platform. This is really a proof of concept. We don’t make very many of these — we really don’t. And […] our developers and our Googlers consume 85% of what we produce. But yes, we do have a new Pixel coming out.”

This suggests that Google won’t be deviating from its original plans for the Pixel – that it is a limited and expensive device, and that its sole purpose is to demonstrate the capabilities of the Chrome OS to developers.

Source: OMG Chrome Via: The Verge

Nvidia Researcher Discovers a Way to Quadruple Future VR Headset Resolution

A researcher from NVIDIA has apparently discovered a new manufacturing technique which could quadruple the perceived resolution of virtual reality gear in the future. The technique in question is called ‘display cascading’ and uses cascade displays (of course).

Nvidia is said to already have produced a prototype of a headset using the above mentioned technique. A report from MIT is said that the new technique improves the perceived resolution of virtual reality displays. Senior director of research in visual computing at NVIDIA, David Luebke, is said to be the man behind the new technology. He has been stated to use a cascaded display system made up of two modified ‘off-the-shelf’ liquid crystal display panels.

A layer of tiny shutters (one per pixel) which can block off or allow light through, called the spatial light modulation panel, is said to be removed from one LCD and placed over a second panel, offset from its own. This method is said to split each pixels into four individually addressed areas, thus quadrupling the effective resolution at a cost of a decrease in brightness.

Luebke states that along with some driver optimizations, a cascade display should provide both improved resolution and a double perceived framerate, achievable by having both panels run in perfect synchronization. Also, the NVIDIA researcher stated he will unveil the manufacturing technique at a conference in August. For those interested, the research is currently available over at NVIDIA’s website.

Thank you Bit-Tech for providing us with this information

Pixeltrek – Kill Time on the USS Enterprise

Just finished your University Exams or having an exceedingly slow day at work? Pixeltrek is a brand new way to waste away your day. Productive or not – you decide! Created with retro pixellated graphics, users can navigate through the USS Enterprise from “Star Trek” to wherever they wish, suited up as ‘Lieutenant Commander Data’.

All this game needs is WASD keys and a bunch of spare time – so be prepared to spend countless hours strolling around the Enterprise and looking into every look and cranny. Unfortunately there is no sound included in this game, but everything else has been carefully paid attention to with different decorating designs for things such as sleeping quarters and a well designed bridge. Set your phasers to stun, it’s time to explore!

Image courtesy of Pixeltrek

Google’s Chromebook Pixel spotted with Linux OS

Google’s Chromebook Pixel that was announced recently has proved that Google’s plans were very much real. Its was reported by The Wall Street Journal that the Chromebook Pixel will be using a touchscreen interface. Yesterday, Google’s Pixel was up for sale via Google Play and being sold in certain countries.

The unit’s price starts with a whopping $1,300 starting with a Wi-Fi only model with plans for having a LTE enabled Chromebook Pixel coming shortly, with rumours stating that it should be released in April with the price tag of $1,450.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/j-XTpdDDXiU[/youtube]

Although the price of the Chromebook Pixel is something that many will not be able to afford, considering the older Chromebooks were lot cheaper, the system configuration of the unit is pretty impressive:

  • 12.85-inch, 400 nit display at 2560 x 1700 resolution (239 PPI)
  • Gorilla Glass multi-touch screen
  • 32 GB storage
  • Backlit Chrome keyboard
  • HD Webcam
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • Mini display port
  • 2-in-1 card reader supporting: SD, MMC
  • Intel Core i5 Processor (Dual Core 1.8GHz)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 59 Wh battery

It should also be noted: Even though some may still consider the price to be higher for a notebook powered with Chrome OS, irrespective of the hardware configuration and also its appearance,  Bill Richardson, Chrome OS’ software engineer posted a picture on his Google+ page clearly showing the Google Pixel running the Linux Mint OS in the background.

This points out that there is a very good chance that Chromebook can be used to easily install operating system such as Linux Mint and if an end-user wants to jump to another os, this gives a choice to them and provides freedom based on the their preferences and/or requirements.

This should be very tempting for many users as it enables people to have a high-end notebook with a full blown version/compatibility with Linux OS.

As of now, the Chromebooks are being shipped out from today onwards.

Source: Android Central