I've been looking at getting a mobile radio recently, and the BTech 25x4 seems interesting. it's at the high end of what I want to pay, and requires a separate purchase of a 20 dollar programming cable. Since I usually buy more than 1 of this type of thing (the cable), that seems to be quite expensive. For comparison, the UV5R cable was $7 incl shipping.

I have a number of USB-232 cables, some of which have custom ends on them for various devices, some just a DB9. If I'm going to need a smattering of them, I'd rather the expensive/smart part be the same, and then just make physical adapters for the dumb part. Makes logistics and troubleshooting easier.

However, I recalled that there was some history regarding FTDI and drivers a few years back. Looking that up, I see that there have been quite the shenanigans.

Why would I want an authentic FTDI chip for technical reasons?

Why would I ever want to send money to a company who pulled these kind of shenanigans?

  • $\begingroup$ Have a look at adapters with the MAX3232 (for RS232) adapters, it’s 1-2USD... Haven’t had problems recently with windows bricking my unauthetic 3+5V FTDI adapters for USB-TTL. Using Windows 10. $\endgroup$ – user2497 Dec 11 '17 at 22:34

Why would I want an authentic FTDI chip for technical reasons?

With the FTDI-supplied silicon containing several bugs already, my wild guess is that cheap knockoffs are really bug-ridden.

The likelihood that you encounter such a bug when really just using the thing to run a relatively low-speed UART is pretty much 0.

So, as said, FTDI's products' popularity among users of USB-to-serial adapters is probably mostly due to the fact that they write usable drivers. You want these drivers, you need to buy the original device (Plagiarism aside).

That's a pretty good reason, actually. If your software depends on the particular driver, you depend on the particular device. I don't know if that's the case here, or whether the BTECH software simply uses the Windows COM: port emulation that FTDI's own driver, but every other (legitimate) USB-to-serial bridge manufacturer's driver offer.

The fact that there are knock-offs that work with the same driver puts someone in a position of breaking a driver license – don't know if that's you, the knock-off cable manufacturer or the software supplier. Not a lawyer.

The point that FTDI (catastrophically) tried to make is that, you know, they developed something and now there's freeloader silicon manufacturers that just live off that, and that is bad for the original developer, and it's potentially bad for reliability.

Can't say I agree the slightest with how they went about telling the world, but I can understand that there's a slight chance that if you're using someone else's driver for your device, it's likely that something might go wrong with your device at some point, because the people designing the driver aren't the ones who designed the silicon.

By the way, if I had to find a source of a fake FTDI chip, it'd probably be proprietary programming cables from Chinese direct-import companies on amazon marketplace. So, don't think that just because it's 20 bucks and says FTDI, there's FTDI inside.

Other than that, CHIRP can directly support your device, and really just relies on a serial port. So, you can totally circumvent the ethical issue (of either supporting counterfeiters or supporting a company that bricks other people's devices) by buying a dedicatedly non-FTDI and non-FTDI-compatible USB-to-Serial adapter (there's plenty!), and just use that (needs to have a linux driver. Haven't seen that being a problem.).

  • $\begingroup$ Cheap knock-offs are not bugridden, and please don’t guess. I have used many, they only have problems on windows. There’s no justification for a FTDI adapter costing >=10USD, they’re manufactured in the millions per batch. $\endgroup$ – user2497 Dec 11 '17 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ You're obviously the expert on the economics of the manufacturers and sellers of such cable, so they should probably refer to you when setting prices! And yes, the adapters do have bugs. I'm not guessing whether they have bugs at all, that I know firsthand, I'm guessing whether they have more than ftdi chips. $\endgroup$ – Marcus Müller Dec 12 '17 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ They need not refer to me, I have enough to last a lifetime. No bugs! $\endgroup$ – user2497 Dec 12 '17 at 9:25

In short, the official driver for Windows has been rewritten to block illegitimate copies of the chipset from working. (There are workarounds, which generally involve using older versions of the driver.)

Under Linux, since the driver is open source, it has not been rewritten to block unofficial versions. I can't comment about Mac OS X, since I don't use it regularly.

If you use Linux, it doesn't matter if you use the official chipset (unless you feel an ethical reason), but with Windows, it is a lot simpler if you use the official chipset cables.

  • $\begingroup$ Particularly Windows 10, by the way, which invalidated all of my older (official!) USB-Serial adapters... $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Dec 6 '17 at 20:11

The original claim of FTDI is that the fraudulent chips did not implement the usb or serial protocols correctly, and did it in an extremely inefficient way, so that they had slow data transfers and dropped characters as well.

They wanted to block the fraudulent chips because they did not want to support the bugs in the bad chips and did not want their reputation smeared by another manufacturer's bad clone.

  • $\begingroup$ The fraudulent chips work well in Linux, so I don't buy that theory. $\endgroup$ – Jim MacKenzie VE5EV Dec 5 '17 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps they fixed their broken implementation or perhaps you didn't stress it enough to notice the problems. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Dec 7 '17 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ I think their motivation was more to make the clone chips be less desirable on the market. $\endgroup$ – Jim MacKenzie VE5EV Dec 7 '17 at 5:08

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