New USB logos to "reduce confusion" more confusing than ever

Originally published at: New USB logos to "reduce confusion" more confusing than ever | Boing Boing


To be fair a lot of cables even for other types of ports have kind of a similar problem but not as bad. Like not all HDMI cables are created equal or have similar specs, which i’ve run into issues with in the past.


Did a dump run for the hacienda, saw a knotted ball of thousands of computer cables, looked like an art installation. I wonder how many cables are in landfills?


Obligitory XKCD:


That just gave me an “Oh, (insert fecal noun of choice)” moment. I have one of those more equal than others HDMI cables and I did not label it. I need to figure out which one and put some sort of tag on it.


This is why I like the Apple Lightning cable, I know it will work in a Lightning port, and mechanically it seats more securely due to the springs and notches in the connector parts. USB-C doesn’t mate into the connector with a satisfying click and can partially slip out without you noticing, assuming you have the right cable.


Still, way too many third-party Lightning cables are not completely capable. How can we tell if they’re only good for charging vs. synch/data transfer?


So does the 240w mean 240 watts?


I’m amazed at what a shit-show USB has turned out to be. It started out so straightforward…


Aren’t all MFi cables fully data-capable? In a pinch I’ve had to buy one that wasn’t MFi and my iPhone wouldn’t even accept it. I don’t even really see non-MFi cables anywhere except gas stations and drug stores and they look so janky I’d never insert one into my $1000 device.


It didn’t really fix the hole either.

I mean it made it smaller, and accept the cable in any reasonable orientation, both of which are improvements.

However the “which all look much the same but might be useless for any given purpose” is as true of the holes as it is of the cables.

You can plug a laptop with USB-C into a monitor with USB-C with the right cable for the monitor (HDMI over USB-C or DisplayPort over USB-C), but will the laptop drive it? Maybe, maybe not. The hardware might not support it. Plug a phone into a monitor, will it display anything? Maybe, maybe not. Tablet? Same deal.

Have a USB-C power deliver device and supply, and a e-marked cable? It should all work, right? I mean a 20W supply should work with any device that wants up to 20W right? Or at the very least a 15W supply should work with a device that wants 15W, yes?

Nope, 15W could be 5V3A, or 8V1.8A (optional part of USB-C PD). So if the device wants 8V 1.8A and the power supply decided not to support that option the device won’t get 15W. Fun! There are at least 3 more optional configurations, not including that a power supply can (and does) also have a limit on maximum supported power.

That headache is 100% standards compliant. Mix in companies that aren’t interested in standards compliance and you get things like the original RPi4 where it works with “dumb” USB-C power, but if you plug it into a power deliver supply the negotiation fails and it doesn’t get the power it needs (the RPi4 initially just attempted to assert it was an audio device and rely on that to get the right amount of power, and non power delivery USB-C systems did supply enough power, but anything designed to actually negate the “right” amount of power just went “ok, you are audio, but how much power do you want” and the RPi said “audio”, and PD goes “yes, but how many amps, volts, come on” and the RPi said “audio”, and PD goes “alright man, how about 5V1A if want more let me know” and the RPi says “aud…”).

I really really want to love USB-C, but oh man is it just a big mess.

Ok, that may have been overly harsh, I shouldn’t assert the RPi foundation isn’t interested in standards compliance. I think they didn’t seek the compliance mark (which involves some expensive and time consuming testing), and likely thought they were doing the least complex right thing. They did fix it, and unlock some other USB-C PD screwups their products merely didn’t work, they didn’t destroy the thing on the other end of the cable unlike some other (mostly in the first 3 years of USB-C PD) products.


USB-whatever was a fun ride, but please bring back ports that I physically cannot connect if they aren’t right.

I fried an old device when I accidentally plugged the charging cable into a QC3.0 port. Such convenience, I can do without.


Yes. MFi cables will have a certified design that does data, and the MFi license will be revoked if the cables as shipped don’t work (assuming people complain to Apple, which in theory causes Apple to investigate, mostly by buying some cables from some in theory random retail locations, and testing them, more then a tiny failure rate gets the license revoked and all the existing stock needs to be destroyed or repackaged).

On the other hand many but not all non-MFi cables also work ok, and tend to be a fair bit cheaper.

Oddly the only Lightning cables I have ever had real issues with are the MFi mono price ones from about 3 years ago. The tips broke off in under a year (all but one which is currently on my desk, so I hope it stays ok!), which is a failure I have never had from any other lightning cables (and Monoprice normally makes decent things, or at least the other mono price stuff I have had has been nice!). I stopped getting them, so they may have fixed the issue.

(most but not all of my lightning cables are MFi, many are Apple’s, but I for sure have some non-MFi that work fine)

1 Like

Personally, I never thought there was any problem withe the hole (other than there were too many types).

A single cable that does everything would solve this problem. Stop with these variations.

Rob says “experts in a narrow technical discipline thinking they are experts in everything (e.g. communication design).”

This here graphic designer says, “hear, hear!”

I also notice that everyone thinks they can write. I look back 25 years to when I was helping small businesses put up their first web sites, and the process always took forever – mostly waiting for the owner to write the content (which was terrible when they finally delivered it).

I hate sites where text that ought to be selectable appears as a graphic. But I will say this does prevent the site owners from changing it! Years ago I did the first real site for Hollywood Lights, which is in Seattle and Portland (and surprise! they kept getting inquiries from LA). So I put a little text box up front that said “providing blah blah Washington and northwest Oregon blah blah blah.” They changed it to “our mission is to blah blah customers, employees, and shareholders blah blah blah.”


No, it didn’t. It messed that up as well, by putting the contacts on a stupid, flimsy bit of metal in the centre of the hole, where it can be damaged by ham-fisted installing of a cable, along with the ever-present issue of fluff, pocket lint and many other tiny items finding their way into the port, and being compressed by the insertion of the plug, until a secure connection ceases to happen. That happens with a Lightning port as well, but a bamboo cocktail stick will easily hook out all the debris, without causing any damage to the contacts - I’ve personally seen the contacts ripped out of a USB-C port and the tablet it was in made useless because of the damage, a £600 Samsung tablet , and it’s not the only one.
Also, if you’re using a device with a USB-C port outdoors in the rain, and the port fills up with water, it won’t charge properly - when it happened to my work tablet, it took half an hour to dry the port with a hairdryer, because you can’t push bits of tissue paper in with a cocktail stick to dry the port out, like you can do with a Lightning port.
Still, it’s easier to use than one of the multiple versions of Micro-USB that proliferated across the electronics industry!

1 Like

Cables that physically fit two (or more) was but only function when oriented one way is absolutely a problem, and one USB-C did fix.

It sort of fixed a number of others but only under ideal circumstances, so not really much of a win on power, supporting video, and higher data rates, and a total loss on usability.

They only fitted one of two ways; they didn’t fit either way but only work in one of those ways. Not sure how many more ways it was possible to try.

And it was really not a big problem at all. Look first, or try and it either fits or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, swivel it and it will. I’m afraid I long ago lost any sympathy for the ‘I had to try three times and this is ruining my life’ meme.

Yes, it could have been designed better to start with. It wasn’t. The world didn’t end. Having multiple different USB hole shapes, as micro and mini emerged, was a little annoying, but at least it was pretty simple to see which plug fitted in which hole and they always worked (I never had one that didn’t unless it was a genuinely duff cable).

Now, apparently, we have no idea if a cable that does fit in this new hole will work or not, or even if it will fry our devices. And a new device I am about to by has a warning that it will not charge with what I call a classic USB to USB-C cable, but only via a charger that has a USB-C to USB-C cable.

Perhaps I am way too far behind the curve but I do not currently have a single device that needs USB-C, and now I have to by a special charger and special cable because apparently I can’t just buy an old USB to USB-C cable and stick it in the same adapter that every other USB cable here goes into, whether it has mini, micro or the original ‘classic’ USB on the other end.

(And something about my lawn, too.) :wink:

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.