13.5. USB Drivers Protocol Information

The protocol used over pipes other than the default pipe is undefined by the USB specification. Information on this can be found from various sources. The most accurate source is the developer's section on the USB home pages. From these pages, a growing number of deviceclass specifications are available. These specifications specify what a compliant device should look like from a driver perspective, basic functionality it needs to provide and the protocol that is to be used over the communication channels. The USB specification includes the description of the Hub Class. A class specification for Human Interface Devices (HID) has been created to cater for keyboards, tablets, bar-code readers, buttons, knobs, switches, etc. A third example is the class specification for mass storage devices. For a full list of device classes see the developers section on the USB home pages.

For many devices the protocol information has not yet been published however. Information on the protocol being used might be available from the company making the device. Some companies will require you to sign a Non -Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before giving you the specifications. This in most cases precludes making the driver open source.

Another good source of information is the Linux driver sources, as a number of companies have started to provide drivers for Linux for their devices. It is always a good idea to contact the authors of those drivers for their source of information.

Example: Human Interface Devices The specification for the Human Interface Devices like keyboards, mice, tablets, buttons, dials,etc. is referred to in other device class specifications and is used in many devices.

For example audio speakers provide endpoints to the digital to analogue converters and possibly an extra pipe for a microphone. They also provide a HID endpoint in a separate interface for the buttons and dials on the front of the device. The same is true for the monitor control class. It is straightforward to build support for these interfaces through the available kernel and userland libraries together with the HID class driver or the generic driver. Another device that serves as an example for interfaces within one configuration driven by different device drivers is a cheap keyboard with built-in legacy mouse port. To avoid having the cost of including the hardware for a USB hub in the device, manufacturers combined the mouse data received from the PS/2 port on the back of the keyboard and the key presses from the keyboard into two separate interfaces in the same configuration. The mouse and keyboard drivers each attach to the appropriate interface and allocate the pipes to the two independent endpoints.

Example: Firmware download Many devices that have been developed are based on a general purpose processor with an additional USB core added to it. Since the development of drivers and firmware for USB devices is still very new, many devices require the downloading of the firmware after they have been connected.

The procedure followed is straightforward. The device identifies itself through a vendor and product Id. The first driver probes and attaches to it and downloads the firmware into it. After that the device soft resets itself and the driver is detached. After a short pause the device announces its presence on the bus. The device will have changed its vendor/product/revision Id to reflect the fact that it has been supplied with firmware and as a consequence a second driver will probe it and attach to it.

An example of these types of devices is the ActiveWire I/O board, based on the EZ-USB chip. For this chip a generic firmware downloader is available. The firmware downloaded into the ActiveWire board changes the revision Id. It will then perform a soft reset of the USB part of the EZ-USB chip to disconnect from the USB bus and again reconnect.

Example: Mass Storage Devices Support for mass storage devices is mainly built around existing protocols. The Iomega USB Zipdrive is based on the SCSI version of their drive. The SCSI commands and status messages are wrapped in blocks and transferred over the bulk pipes to and from the device, emulating a SCSI controller over the USB wire. ATAPI and UFI commands are supported in a similar fashion.

The Mass Storage Specification supports 2 different types of wrapping of the command block.The initial attempt was based on sending the command and status through the default pipe and using bulk transfers for the data to be moved between the host and the device. Based on experience a second approach was designed that was based on wrapping the command and status blocks and sending them over the bulk out and in endpoint. The specification specifies exactly what has to happen when and what has to be done in case an error condition is encountered. The biggest challenge when writing drivers for these devices is to fit USB based protocol into the existing support for mass storage devices. CAM provides hooks to do this in a fairly straight forward way. ATAPI is less simple as historically the IDE interface has never had many different appearances.

The support for the USB floppy from Y-E Data is again less straightforward as a new command set has been designed.

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