Thursday, March 13, 2014

MHL Extensions, and MHL adapters

I recently had a few customers who were really frustrated.  They bought what they thought was an MHL extension for their S4 or Note 3, only to find out that it didn't work when they tried to connect it to either their SmartDock, or to their MHL adapter.  They had bought the Model: 4XMHLADAPTER called the "MHL Adapter Cable for Samsung". 

So, I decided to purchase one of these cables to try it out myself.  After all, it sure looked like the cable that we built.  What I found is that it looks similar, but it's not fully MHL 2.0.  The male connector is MHL 2.0, but the female is MHL 1.0 (aka, USB Micro-B).  No wonder it didn't work with the MHL 2.0 items.  In fact, I don't really know what you'd use this cable for - there's really no reason that I can think of to use this adapter.

Here are the female connectors from both.  Ours is on the right, which is why it's compatible with the newer Samsung phones and MHL items, like the dock and the MHL cable.


If you look closely at the picture above, you can see that the one on the left is flat at the bottom, that's the MHL 1.0 version.  The one on the right has a notch in it, that's the 11pin MHL 2.0 connector that works with the newer Samsung phones, such as the S3, S4, and Note 3 (and probably beyond as they continue to make new phones).  FYI, it's not just for Samsung devices, it's also relevant for those of you who use the Pioneer AppRadio - so take note!

Here's a link to our MHL 2.0 Extensions: http://www.usbfirewire.com/Parts/rr-mhl-ext-xxg.html

If you're wanting an MHL 1.0 Extension (think Galaxy S and S2): http://www.usbfirewire.com/Parts/rr-mcb-ext-xxg.html

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

USB 2.0 Micro-B - MHL - The difference in real life terms - with pictures!

I get so many questions from people asking why a regular Micro USB extension won't work on their new Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note 2, etc..  They have a case on their phone and it won't fit into the dock they have.  I've heard about 11 pin connectors, and 14 pin connectors, and they heard something from a friend or bought something from Hong Kong on eBay and are upset because it just doesn't work.

Well, hopefully this blog will help to answer most of the questions out there and take some of your frustrations and questions about it.

First, there is a USB 2.0 Micro-B Female (Receptacle) on most, if not all, Samsung Galaxy/Note phones.  However, look closely, there are differences.

Samsung Galaxy S2 - I personally have this phone as of today, October 2, 2013.  It has a pretty standard USB 2.0 Micro-B receptacle, and it's also MHL compatible, which means that a regular Micro-B Male will fit into it and work fine, but if I want MHL capability, I have to buy an MHL adapter that will work with it.  Think MHL 1.0  Here's one from Newegg: Product Link

Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note 2 - These all use a special USB 2.0 Micro-B / MHL connector - but if the last one is MHL 1.0, think of this one as MHL 2.0, since it has 11 pins in it.  The connector design is a bit different, which also means that the fit is different.

From the image below - you'll see two phones.  The top phone is a new Galaxy S4.  The bottom phone is a Galaxy S2.  The easiest way to tell the difference between the two ports is pointed out by the red arrow.  You will see the notch in the MHL 2.0, which you don't have in the MHL 1.0


While a Micro-B will plug into either one for charging, the MHL functionality is different.

MHL 1.0 could be extended with a standard USB 2.0 Micro-B, 5 wire connector, Here's one from USBFireWire.com: Product Link

MHL 2.0 requires a special 11pin connector.  The MHL 2.0 (left, below) inserts almost 2mm further than a standard Micro-B (right below) connector.  It also looks just a little different - you can see the ridge that fits into the notch that we noted in the receptacle above.

See the image below

In the end, the two are somewhat compatible, but definitely not fully.  To extend MHL 1.0, you can use a standard Micro-B 5 wire extension, that we linked to above.  To extend MHL 2.0, you need one of our MHL 2.0 extensions, which will arrive mid-October 2013.  Product Link to MHL Extensions

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to tell the difference between Micro, Mini, and regular HDMI connectors

Right Angle HDMI
Micro HDMI Extensions
HDMI Mini Left Angle Cables.

With HDMI haivng different connectors, how can you tell the difference between them?  That's the question that we began asking ourselves when we started working on our own designs for the HDMI products that we're developing.  

HDMI uses 3 main connectors:
A - Regular HDMI - Used on most computers, TV and DVD players
C - Mini HDMI - Used mainly on larger DSLR cameras and tablets.
D - MIcro HDMI - Used on smaller cameras and some smaller tablets.

See the image below to find out which port your device has


Now, we found the most confusing one to be the Micro HDMI port.  It's a bit deceptive because it's very close in size to the Micro USB 2.0 size.  If you don't have them side-by-side, and they're not labeled, it can be very easy for even a seasoned pro to get confused.

To help clear things up, I went to my local best buy to peruse the tablet section.  I found one tablet that had both of the connectors side by side, the Kindle.  Here's a picture of it so that you can see the two side by side.  It's obviously a large picture, so it's much easier to see than with the naked eye.
So, from this picture, you can see that the Micro USB is slightly wider and shorter, than the Micro HDMI.

Hopefully this will help to clear your confusion, and what port that you have... that is, until you only have a Micro USB 2 that also includes MHL functionality.  We'll talk about that in another post, though.  The difference and incompatibility of some cables with MHL, and the varieties of MHL connections is a whole story all in itself.

Good luck

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What are the differences between USB Repeaters and USB Extenders?

We have been getting a lot of questions from clients wanting to extend their USB devices such as security cameras, keyboards and mice (for KVM's), and also for more intuitive devices such as Electronic whiteboards, one of which is called a SmartBoard. I'm going to explain it a bit better here beginning with definitions:

USB Repeater - This will convert the USB signal into another signal, transmit it over some medium such as Cat 5, Wireless (802.11g), or Fiber Optic. Those are the most common methods, anyway.






(Pictured: 1600ft USB Fiber Optic Repeater)


USB Extender
- This will extend your USB port to a remote location, without converting your signal.










(Pictured: 65ft USB 2.0 Extension Cable)

So, your first question would probably be: What do I care if it converts it or not? For some, it won't make any difference at all. For others, it won't work. USB, when pushed to it's limits, functionality can be sporadic. Let me give you an example: While working in the copier and scanner industry, I had to connect what's called a "wide format scanner". The wide format scanner is used in architectural firms to scan in their large drawings for archiving. I decided a great idea would be to extend it, since it was about 20ft away (USB specs a maximum cable distance of 15ft). This posed a problem, but I knew at the time that USB Active extensions were widely available. I connected it, the computer recognized it, ran test scans, and everything looked great! No problems showed up until the next day. I got a call back from the client saying they couldn't scan. After going out there, I found that it said "USB Device not recognized". Immediately I realized what the problem was: There wasn't enough power being put through to the scanner. So, I ran over to the local computer store (at the time, CompUSA) and picked up a powered USB hub. Immediately I went back to the client. Sure enough, my theory was right, there wasn't enough power.

So, what does this all mean? It means that when USB is pushed past it's limits, it needs to be with forethought. I've seen a growing number of USB repeaters (normally over Cat 5) and have tested many personally. I noticed that some work, and some don't. Most of the new things out there are modeled after our USB Repeater - Home Edition - it's an inexpensive repeater that works for some home uses, but that's just the beginning of it.

To help make comparison easy, we've creating a couple of charts to help you.
1.) Here's a chart to help you compare USB 1.1 Repeaters and Extenders

2.) Here's a chart to help you compare Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Repeaters and Extenders

This should at least get you started. If you have more questions, post them, or go to our website: www.USBFireWire.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

USB to Ethernet Adapters - What they can and can't do

We get a lot of questions about USB to Ethernet adapters. I'm going to try to answer most of them here, as well as give some helpful links and tips that should help you make an informed decision on your next upgrade.





What does it do?

If you want to add an Ethernet port to your computer, and have available USB ports. It's great for laptops that have a dead Ethernet port, or someone who wants to connect to two different Ethernet connections at the same time. The one sold at our website www.usbfirewire.com/unetwork.html is specifically for Windows computers. That is, Windows 98SE, 2000, XP, and Vista.

Can I connect a printer with it?
Definitely no. This isn't what most of the USB to Ethernet converters are made for. The problem is that the adapter is being reversed (Ethernet to USB instead of USB to Ethernet) and it's simply not made for that. Physically, it will connect. But, since it doesn't have print server capabilities, it won't work. If you want to connect a printer to your network, use something a USB print server from Linksys - or you could also buy one from the company that really built the first network print server, and that's HP with their JetDirect


Does it work with Mac?
Most USB to Ethernet converters you'll find on the market are not Mac compatible. So, what can a Mac user do if the ethernet port goes out, but don't want to pay a bundle to get it fixed? You buy one that is compatible. See the one I found here from Apple.com; there are also one or two more I found, but I have not tested any of them. And for $29 bucks direct from Apple, it's a reasonable price.

Can I connect my hard drive to it to share files?
Again, this is another definite no if you're using this adapter. The USB to Ethernet would be working in the reverse, and thus wouldn't do anything. Physically, you could connect it. But it wouldn't work because of the electronics within the adapter not allowing it to function. The good news, however, is that you can share your files from a hard drive without a computer. One popular solution is something called a NAS. Here's a great wiki page that details it Wiki NAS Link. I found this link from PC World that showcases a few of the them for sale. They seem to show NAS devices that are more geared towards business and higher end users. Home users can find cheaper solutions on outlets like eBay.

This should give you a good outline on the mystery behind what USB to Ethernet converters are for, and what they're not for. What they can and can't do. And where you can find solutions to things that you're looking for. Good luck in your quest for a solution!


-Rick

Thursday, April 3, 2008

USB to FireWire Adapters

Probably the most common question that people ask me at my job (at www.usbfirewire.com), is "Is there a USB to FireWire Adapter", and hence our site name "www.usbfirewire.com", they should indeed be asking us.

So, the answer? Yes and no.

Yes, there is a USB to FireWire adapter.

No, it's not for every use under the sun.

So, what's available? The USB to FireWire adapter, the only real adapter that's available on the market - see link here. (http://www.usbfirewire.com/Parts/527950.html). The adapters is made for a specific type of computer (currently, only works consistently with Windows XP), and it's for downloading video from a DV camcorder like the Sony Handycam DCR-HC30. It works great, and is so easy to use. Windows XP has the drivers built in and it works with the most common video editing software packages like Microsoft Movie Maker, and Pixela imagemixer 2. It's also notable to point out that some higher end software packages don't allow you to download DV via USB (Examples: Adobe Premier, Final Cut Pro), so it won't work with those.

What won't it do? Well, to be concise, anything else. It's not made to transfer data from a hard drive. It's not made to work in the reverse (ie, a FireWire port to a USB camera). It's not made for an iPod (although we did have one person who said they got it to work with it). It's also not made for Mac. Vista testing is underway, but it works one day, and the next it doesn't. It has been very hit-and-miss, so we're currently saying it's not compatible with Vista. it's also not for every camera out there. Check the compatibility list from the link above. The list is directly from the engineers who built it and tested it with them. You'll notice that the list is a bit outdated and may work with your newer cameras that we haven't formally tested yet.

What alternatives are there if I want to download video, but don't have a FireWire port?
This is a great question. There are several alternatives, such as a FireWire card for desktop computers, or for laptops. Both of these options are cheaper than the above option of our adapter cable. You'll need to buy a card that's built for your desktop (probably a PCI card, but you'll also want to know if you need a slim form-factor card). If you have a laptop, you'll probably need a PCMCIA or PCMCIA Express card. PCI Cards, will general start at under $20/each, while PCMCIA cards generally start at just under $30/each. A quick Google or eBay search should give you the results that you're looking for.


Lastly, we've been getting a lot of questions like this "Can you just send me the driver for your cable?". I thought this was kind of an odd request, so when people started asking, I started digging. I found out that a company had started selling a cable that goes directly from USB to FireWire, without any chip inside of it to convert the data from USB to FireWire. I have no idea what their cable is for, and when I e-mail the companies who are selling it, they have no idea either. I, personally, wouldn't dare to plug one of my FireWire devices into one of these because I realize the possible implications of it. What if it's not wired correctly? They two different protocols, so how can it work? These are questions that no one has been able to answer yet, but I invite anyone to comment and let me know how this product might be useful.

I hope this puts and end to some of the confusion surrounding USB to FireWire adapters. If not, let me know and I can elaborate more on specific points.

-Rick

Rick is the co-owner and head of technical support at www.usbfirewire.com. He helped start the company over 8 years ago. While his degree has nothing to do with his job "Bachelors of LAS - Spanish, from Wichita State University, 2005), he has worked in the cable industry for over 10 years and has had experience in developing new products for the cabling industry for the past five of those years.

Introduction

My name is Rick Wessley from RR Business Ventures, home of a couple of well known websites relating to USB and FireWire products. My goal with this blog is to answer some frequently asked questions about what we offer, and what we don't offer.
Many of our customers questions are really good, valid questions with no real answer available to them, and I'm hoping to begin to address them here.