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Our aim is to provide you with high quality, low cost USB components for both PC and Mac without the premium charged by many high street stores. We also wish to help you gain the most from your USB and Firewire products, so are happy to make these driver files freely available.
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The Background to the Universal Serial Bus (USB)
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) specification is a standardized peripheral connection developed by leading PC industry companies. USB makes plugging in new peripherals easy with plug and play, is nearly 100 times faster than the original serial port, and supports multiple device connectivity. Because of these benefits, USB is enjoying broad market acceptance today.
USB allows expandability of the PC's capabilities via an external port, eliminating the need for users or integrators to open the system chassis. Since USB supports multiple peripheral devices simultaneously, it allows users to run numerous devices such as printers, scanners, digital cameras and speakers from a single PC. USB also allows for automatic device detection and installation, making connectivity a true plug-and-play experience for end users. USB's quick proliferation as the replacement for the serial port and other PC ports for I/O devices such as digital joysticks, phones, scanners and digital cameras has accelerated the production and availability of such devices. Several hundred of these devices are in the marketplace today, with many more on their way. In addition, virtually every new PC today has one or more USB ports, quickly moving the installed base of USB-capable PCs to the range of hundreds of millions.
Hi-Speed USB v2.0
Hi-Speed USB extends the speed of the connection from 12 Mbps on Original USB up to 480 Mbps on Hi-Speed USB, providing an attachment point for next-generation peripherals which complement higher performance PCs and user applications. Hi-Speed USB is both forward and backward compatible with Original USB, resulting in a seamless transition process for the end user. In fact, Hi-Speed USB uses the same cables and connectors as Original USB. Hi-Speed USB offers a compelling opportunity for peripherals vendors to migrate their USB peripherals to higher performance, while still being able to sell the same peripherals into the huge installed base of USB-capable PCs. Hi-Speed USB is also expected to lead to the development of higher performance peripherals that will bring new applications to the PC.
Original USB's data rate of 12 Mbps is sufficient for many PC peripherals such as telephones, keyboards, mice, digital joysticks, floppy drives, digital speakers, and low-end printers. These peripherals will continue to operate with no change in Hi-Speed USB systems. The higher bandwidth of Hi-Speed USB will permit PC peripherals with more functionality, including higher resolution video conferencing cameras, next generation scanners and printers, fast storage units, and faster broadband Internet connections. It will make today's user applications more productive, such as taking the time to download a "roll" of digital photos from a few minutes on Original USB down to a few seconds on Hi-Speed USB. In addition, the higher bandwidth will support the most demanding PC user applications, such as digital image creation and interactive gaming, where multiple high-speed peripherals will be running simultaneously. The higher data rate of Hi-Speed USB will also open up the possibilities of new and exciting peripherals.
As with Original USB, Hi-Speed USB is expected to eventually be in industry chipsets. Once these chipsets reach high volume, it is expected that Hi-Speed USB will be about the same cost as USB is today. Because of this, Hi-Speed USB is expected to supercede Original USB, which is already a ubiquitous connector on PC systems today. Also like Original USB, Hi-Speed USB will satisfy the peripheral-interface needs of desktops, mobile systems and other classes of host platforms. To satisfy the needs of power-sensitive applications such as notebook computers, Hi-Speed USB will provide the same power-management mechanisms as Original USB to allow aggressive management of I/O power consumption. This is expected to allow Hi-Speed USB to find use even in demanding low-power systems.
Comparison of Hi-Speed USB v2.0 and 1394
I/O connectivity is being further advanced with the IEEE 1394 standard. Hi-Speed USB and 1394 primarily differ in terms of application focus. The Hi-Speed USB Promoter group expects Hi-Speed USB to be the preferred connection for most PC peripherals, whereas IEEE 1394's primary target is audio/visual consumer electronic devices such as digital camcorders, digital VCRs, DVDs, and digital televisions. Both Hi-Speed USB and 1394 are expected to co-exist on many consumer systems in the future.
Hi-Speed USB and 1394 differ in application focus because of continuous evolution of the current environment. Today, there is a large and rapidly increasing installed base of USB-capable PCs, and hundreds of USB peripherals in the marketplace that connect to the PC. It is a natural evolution to increase the speed of USB and provide an easy migration path for existing USB peripherals. In the A/V consumer electronics equipment industry, IEEE 1394 is on its way to becoming the dominant connector. Therefore, if a PC wants to connect to one of these devices, it needs an IEEE 1394 connection.
They also support different connection models. Hi-Speed USB continues to use a low cost host-centric connection model, which is the best solution for a PC connection to PC peripherals. The added capability of a peer-to-peer connection enabled by IEEE 1394, however, allows a PC to connect to a cluster of consumer electronics devices, such as one that might exist in the family room.
USB Flash Drive/MP3 Player Background
A Flash Drive is a small removable data storage device that uses flash memory built into a compact housing with a USB connector.
Such a device is also known under several other names:
• keychain drive
• pen drive
• pocket drive
• thumb drive
• jump drive
• USB flash drive
• USB flash memory drive
• USB key
• USB memory key
• USB stick
Flash Drives typically consist of a small plastic housing (approximately 2 inches long). One end is fitted a single male type-A (rectangular) USB connector. Inside the plastic housing is a small, highly engineered printed circuit board On this is mounted some simple power circuitry and a single surface-mounted integrated circuit which incorporates the flash memory device, related read/write/erase logic, some elementary block-mapping and address-decode logic, and the USB slave-device interface logic. Many Flash Drives also feature an LED activity indicator.
Later developments of this progressed to incorporating an MP3 player and a small LCD display to provide a menu display. Music in MP3 format can be transferred to the device like any other data once connected via the USB port. The user is then able to carry both data and music, and even listen to that music whilst in transit. With no moving parts, the music playing is not affected by vibrations or shock unlike hard drive based devices.
In operation, Flash Drives are plugged into a normal type-A USB socket, either on a computer or on a USB hub. Flash Drives take their power from the USB connection of the PC to which they are connected and do not need batteries. They are impervious to the scratches and dust that have plagued previous forms of portable storage media like compact discs and floppy disks.
Most are lightweight and small - about the size of a cigarette lighter. They are popular with people who carry data between home and school or work and are quickly replacing the floppy disk as a portable data device. They are also widely used by system and network administrators, who load them with software for troubleshooting and recovery.
Historically, Flash Drive capacity has ranged from a few megabytes in size up to a few gigabytes, although some computers have trouble reading and writing to devices that have more than 2 GB of storage. In 2003 most Flash Drives ran at the USB 1.0/1.1 speeds of 1.5 Mbit/s or 12 Mbit/s. However, 2004 saw the release of newer USB Flash Drives featuring USB 2.0 interfaces. Although USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer rate of 480 Mbits/s, these Flash Drives are limited by the bandwidth of the underlying flash memory device, with maximum read speeds of around 100 Mbits/s and write speeds a little slower. In ideal conditions, the flash memory in the drives can retain data for 10 years. Like all flash memory devices, Flash Drives can sustain only a limited number of write/erase cycles before failure. In normal use, mid-range Flash Drives currently on the market will support several million cycles, although write operations will gradually slow as the device ages. This should be a consideration when using a Flash Drive as a hard drive to run software or an operating system.
Some Flash Drives have a physical write protect switch so they may be safely plugged into a system that might be infected with a virus or worm (when set to write protected).
Flash Drives implement the USB mass storage device interface, meaning that most modern operating systems can read and write to Flash Drives without any additional device drivers. This means that Linux (kernel versions from 2.4, and 2.2 with patches), Mac OS X, Microsofts Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 are all natively able to access Flash Drives (most of these present the Flash Drive to the user as simply another removable drive). Windows 98, which was one of the first Operating Systems with much support for USB, needs specialized drivers for each different type of USB storage device it encounters. Normally only Windows 98 and Windows 95 OSR2 or release version 2 supports USB memory products. MS-DOS (and the older versions of Microsoft windows it underlies) does not include support for USB (nor for USB booting). However there are some amateur projects to include USB support in DOS.
Some computers have the ability to boot up from Flash Drives, but that capability must be supported in the computers BIOS.
PC Card standards Background
In 1985, the standardizing activity of PC card technology began with the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association (JEIDA). The organization was formed to promote memory cards, personal computers and other portable information products.
The Personal Computer Memory Card International Association PCMCIA) was founded in 1989 by a small group of companies that wanted to standardize memory cards for the classic reasons behind standardization - multiple sources, lower and shared risks, and larger markets. CardBay Ñ Next generation of PC card standard PCMCIA in association with JEIDA has worldwide support from more than 500 member companies for its PC card and represents the culmination of various improvements to earlier releases of memory and I/O cards for PCs. The PC card standard encompasses both 16-bit PCMCIA cards and 32-bit CardBus cards. This ensures backward compatibility in the PC card specification.
From the physical specification aspect, the PC Card standard defines a 68-pin interface between the peripheral card and the PC card socket into which it gets inserted. It also defines three standard PC card sizes, called Type I, Type II, and Type III. The difference between Type I, II, and III cards are the mechanical dimensions of the PC Card. All PC Cards measure the same length and width, roughly the size of a credit card. Where they differ is in thickness. Type I, the smallest form factor, often used for memory cards, measures 3.3mm in thickness. Type II, available for those peripherals requiring taller components such as LAN cards and modems, measures 5mm thick. Type III is the tallest form factor and measures 10.5 mm thick. Type III PC Cards can support small rotating disks and other tall components. Whereas, the electrical specification defines three basic classes of PC card: 16-bit PCMCIA cards, 32-bit CardBus PC cards, and newly defined CardBay PC cards. Defined are characteristics of each interface including power, signaling, configuration, and timing requirements. CardBay Introductions CardBay is the next generation PC Card Standard that is in work by the PCMCIA organization, expected to release in PC card standard ver:8.0. The new CardBay PC Card standard incorporates the popular Universal Serial Bus (USB) into the PC Card format as the migration path for the most popular add-in card solutions. Just like CardBus and the original 16-bit PC Card standards, CardBay enables plug-in functions to become tightly integrated within a mobile device, such as a notebook computer or PDA. CardBay standard complements the existing PCI-based PC card technology by allowing the same connector to bring the popular USB serial interface into the PC card form factor. CardBay essentially substitutes USB for the existing PC card interface while retaining the CardBus physical connector and PC card format with USB specification supported. Potential uses of CardBay include USB-based advanced wired and wireless modems; security devices for fast secure encryption/ decryption and authentication; and bulk memory devices, such as USB-based memory card-to-PC adapters for video cameras and media players. The desktop industry trends are growing towards lower and lower profiles, and are currently looking at the PC Card form factor for future adoption. CardBay uses will fall right in line with consumer desktop needs at home, as well as commercial uses at work. CardBay is also seen as the next enhancement for mobile markets and will reside along with the current 16 bit PCMCIA card and 32-bit CardBus card technologies. The goals of CardBay technology announced are as follows:
• Retain ease of use and operating system plug and play capabilities
• Opens up a whole new market for USB-based product in mobile devices.
• Maintain backward electrical and form-factor compatibility with 32 bits CardBus and 16 bit PC card technology
• Provide a growth path for PC Card technology
• Provide for easily porting desktop technology implementations to mobile PC card implementation.
• Open up doors for PC Card uses in the desktop environment
• Build on the software and power management base of USB specification.
Formerly called SSFDC (Solid State Floppy Disk Card), SmartMedia Cards are about 1/3 the area of a standard PC Card and only 0.76 mm in thickness. The specifications for SmartMedia Cards are governed by the SSFDC Forum. There are two basic types of SmartMedia cards, flash memory cards and mask ROM cards. The majority of SmartMedia cards use an embedded NAND type flash memory and are based on the package = card concept. This allows the cards to be very thin, and does not require a controller to be included on the SmartMedia card.
Almost all SmartMedia cards are 3.3V cards, but there are also 5V versions of the 1, 2, and 4 MByte flash memory based cards. Additionally, all SmartMedia cards have a 22-pin, 8-bit interface. The recommended logical format of SmartMedia cards is based on the DOS/FAT format. SmartMedia cards are currently used in many types of consumer electronic devices and can even be incorporated in postcards that can then be accessed by a special reader. The most popular applications are in digital cameras and portable music players. It can also be used in equipment that requires a removable memory chip for portability, version upgrades or memory upgrades for applications.
The MultiMediaCard is a flash memory card about the size of a postage stamp and 1.4 mm in thickness The specification for MMC is governed by the MultiMediaCard Association (MMCA). The interface for MMC cards is based on a 7-pin serial bus. The MultiMediaCard System Specification defines a communication protocol for MMC cards, referred to as MultiMediaCard mode. In addition, all MMC cards will work in the alternate SPI mode. The SPI mode allows a microcontroller to interface directly to the MMC card, but at the cost of slower performance.
The voltage range for communication with MMC cards is 2.0 to 3.6 V, and the memory access voltage range is a card specific subrange of the communication voltage range. Like SmartMedia cards, MMC cards can be read-only or read/write; however, MMC cards can also have I/O functionality. MMC cards are designed to be used in either a stand alone implementation or in a system with other MMC cards. When in the MultiMediaCard mode, the bus protocol can address up to 64k cards, with up to 30 cards on a single physical bus. However, the maximum data rate is only available with up to 10 MMC cards on the bus. In order to accommodate such a wide variety of system implementations, the MMC clock rate can be varied from 0 to 20 MHz. Proposal 262 will support one MMC card per PC card socket.
MMC cards, like SmartMedia cards, are also used in many types of consumer electronic devices. Because of their small size, they are primarily used in portable music players and phones.
Secure Digital (SD)
SD cards are the same size as MMC cards, except for the thickness, which at 2.1 mm is slightly thicker than an MMC card. SD cards are based upon MMC cards, with the addition of two pins. The use of these two pins and a reserved pin on MMC cards allows the data bus on SD cards to be up to four bits wide instead of the one-bit width of the MMC data bus. Like MMC, SD cards can communicate in either SD mode or SPI mode. The voltage range for basic communication with SD cards is 2.0 to 3.6 V, and the voltage range for other commands and memory access is 2.7 to 3.6 V. SD cards can be read-only or read/write.
SD is essentially a superset of MMC, in that MMC cards will work in SD systems, but SD cards will not work in current MMC systems. Unlike MMC, each SD card in a system must have a dedicated bus. One of the primary benefits of SD cards is the added security that they provide. SD cards comply with the highest security of SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative), have built-in write protect features, and include a mechanical write protect switch.
SD cards are used in many of the same devices as MMC cards. The additional security features of the SD cards also allow their use in more secure applications or in devices where content protection is essential.
Memory Stick cards are about the size of a stick of gum and are 2.8 mm thick. Developed by Sony, Memory Stick cards have a 10-pin interface of which three pins are used for serial communication and two pins are reserved for future use. Each card also includes an erasure-prevention switch to protect data stored on the card.
The voltage range for Memory Stick cards is 2.7 to 3.6 V, and the clock speed can be up to 20 MHz. Memory Stick cards use the FAT file system to allow for easy communication with PC’s. There are two types of Memory Stick cards, the standard Memory Stick and the MagicGate Memory Stick. MagicGate technology provides security to Memory Stick cards so that they can be used to store and protect copyrighted data. The concept behind Memory Stick is easy to grasp. It’s a temporary storage space for pictures, music, words, sounds, movies, ideas, photographs, or anything else that can be converted into digital data. It’s compact enough to be carried anywhere, simple enough to be used by anyone, of any age, at any time, and versatile enough to be used with practically any digital product, for almost any digital application.
Smart Cards, also called Integrated Circuit Cards or ICC’s, are the same size as a credit card, and it has an electronic microchip embedded in it. The chip stores electronic data and programs that are protected by advanced security features. Smart Cards can either have contacts or be contactless. In addition, there are both asynchronous and synchronous versions of Smart Cards with contacts. The size of the card is determined by the international standard (ISO 7810). The ISO 7816 standard also defines the physical characteristics of the plastic, including the temperature range and flexibility, position of the electrical contacts and how the microchip communicates with the outside world.
There are two types of smart cards:
A contact-based smart card requires direct contact with the reading device in order to read and process the data. A contactless smart card transfers data to a reading device over a magnetic field, thereby not requiring direct contact with the reading device.
Smart Cards contain eight contacts, however two of the contacts are reserved for future use and are not included in the proposal 262 PC card interface. Smart Cards can be either 5V or 3V cards; however, all 3V cards are designed to also work at 5V. The primary use of Smart Cards is in security related applications. They are also used in credit cards, debit systems, and identification systems.