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Apple's Lightning-to-HDMI Dongle Secretly Packed With ARM, Airplay

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the also-a-reservoir-of-hipness dept.

Apple 392

New submitter joelville writes "After noticing artifacts and a 1600 × 900 image in the output from Apple's new Lightning Digital AV Adapter, the Panic Blog sawed it open and found an ARM chip inside. They suspect that video bypasses the cable entirely and instead uses Airplay to stream three inches to make up for the Lightning connector's shortcomings."

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Car analogy (4, Funny)

sinij (911942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056057)

Can someone please explain this with a car analogy?

Re:Car analogy (5, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056087)

It's like having a 300HP engine in your fancy new sportscar, but all it does is turn an electric generator that delivers 50HP to the electric drive motor.

Yet, they sell it to you as a 300HP sports car.

Re:Car analogy (0, Offtopic)

LamboAlpha (840950) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056145)

I wish I had mod points for you...

Re:Car analogy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056221)

I wish I had mod points to mod you down.

I'm back after popular demand, guys, and I had my cock sucked by a massage therapist yesterday. I'm going out shooting today, then tomorrow I'm going to fuck a Ph.D and later the massage therapist. I'm going to have unprotected sex with one, then on the same day and without showering have unprotected sex with the other, so both of their juices mix inside her. My life fucking rocks!

Ta-Ta, bitches!

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Car analogy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056637)

Yeah yeah, now stop touching yourself there tdreaming about it.

Re:Car analogy (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056205)

...that delivers 50HP to the electric drive motor...

...using microwaves.

Re:Car analogy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056315)

Its not wireless. The signal is still coming out of the plug.

Re:Car analogy (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056349)

Its not wireless. The signal is still coming out of the plug.

It would also come from the rectenna into the electric drive motor via a cable, but a part of the path would be wireless. Because unless I'm having a really bad day, "Airplay" is Apple's *wireless* streaming technology.

Re: Car analogy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056525)

Airplay is a network streaming technology. The network can be wired or wireless.

Re: Car analogy (1, Troll)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056657)

Wow, that makes it even more braindead, given how much more bandwidth you have in a wired network. Does it at least stream with better bitrate over a wired network?

Re:Car analogy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056223)

Except that this would give you more torque and fuel efficiency, and also save weight.

Re:Car analogy (3, Funny)

trum4n (982031) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056367)

It's like having 1000hp hooked to an automatic transmission.

Re:Car analogy (5, Funny)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056663)

No, it's like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056109)

It's like when the wheels don't have the right screws and are held in place by magnetic hub caps instead.

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056111)

The tyre contains a tiny engine powering a air compressor to keep the air pressure up

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056117)

Well it's like you have a 50cc moped and you look under the engine cover and find a 7-litre Cosworth engine powering your wheels through a rubber band.

Re:Car analogy (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056121)

How about a NasCar analogy?

They put a restrictor plate so that the cars can't go so fast. Thus they can race in an unsuitable venue to keep the rabid fans happy.

Re:Car analogy (5, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056235)

How about a NasCar fan analogy? You think they have brains, but when you open up their skulls you find tiny Leprechauns jacking off to chrome hubcap advertisements.

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056125)

Manufacturer changes the car>MP3 player interface for a new proprietary connector, discovers that the new cable can't handle highest-quality audio like the old one could, and so makes a cable with a system-on-chip CPU to wirelessly transfer the data instead. People notice this when the wireless transfer introduces imperfections in the output.

Allegedly anyway.

Re:Car analogy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056149)

Couldn't come up with a coherent one. Something about your car not actually having wheels and instead projects an image of the terrain moving around you.

The summary's a bit vague. I'll bravely wade through TFA:

So the Apple adapter that uses Intel's new Lightning connection to do HDMI video streaming from an iPad to a TV cannot do 1080p... while the older dock connector can.

Long and short of it is that they sawed it open and found out Apple built their own version of the Raspberry Pi to stream video wirelessly via AirPlay to the TV without letting your iPad know. So the HDMI on the cable does nothing. Your guess is as good as mine why the hell they did this.

Re:Car analogy (4, Insightful)

romiz (757548) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056271)

Don't get confused. The high-tech Intel interconnect once known as LightPeak is called Thunderbolt. Here, we are talking the proprietary, low-tech, USB-like symmetrical connector Apple uses on their recent iOS devices, whose name is on purpose confusing everyone with its better counterpart.

And from what we see here, it's markedly worse than the alternatives Apple shunned, but that were based on standards (MHL, USB3), because those would have prevented Apple from imposing drastic licensing conditions on accessory manufacturers.

Re:Car analogy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056415)

If you have used both you'd know that from a purely physical point of view the Lightning connector is much better than the Thunderbolt one (and much better than the useless micro-USB and it's micro-USB 3 derivatives (those bloody things always wobble)).

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056283)

Swing and a miss. The airplay reference is that the image quality over the wired connection is similar to the image quality with wireless airplay. IE, there are compression artifacts.

Re:Car analogy (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056215)

It's like finding out that your BMW M5 comes with a factory installed speed limiter.

Re:Car analogy (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056611)

The M5 does come from the factory with a 155mph speed limiter, actually.

Re:Car analogy (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056725)

Many German cars do, or rather did as the restriction is becoming less common. Similar to the situation with the Japanese manufacturers that agreed to artificially limit their engines' power, the larger German companies agreed together to limit their cars to 155mph. I don't know what the reasons behind this were, but it may have something to do with the tyres available at that time or general driver safety. Most makers will supply a car without the limit at no extra charge - and it's usually very easy to remove from speed-limited models - and others never applied the limit in the first place.

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056307)

Can someone please explain this with a car analogy?

The Wizard of Oz is driving the car. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain in the drivers seat - just know that "it just works"

Posted ac to drive home the point.

Re:Car analogy (3, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056365)

Someone looks under your car while you're driving, and notices the that while you do have axles and a transaxle, none of them are turning even though you're moving. The main engine runs a generator, the power is sent by wire to each wheel, which have their own electric motors. All the axles are just for .. ballast.

Re:Car analogy (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056387)

. . . it's like opening the hood of your new car, and finding a team of miniature Steve Jobs' bike pedaling the drive train while chanting "Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice," and blowing the smoke of hallucinogenic mushrooms out through the catalytic converter while burning their votes for the new Pope living in a Crystal palace in the sky over Apples new headquarters impounded at a dock in Amsterdam . . .

Who's been sleeping in my brain . . . ?

Smoking mushrooms? Talk about drug abuse.... (4, Funny)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056483)

What a waste of psilocybin....

Re:Car analogy (5, Insightful)

thepainguy (1436453) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056597)

It's like a car company offering a stabilized phonograph in your car, for your ultra-high fidelity analog listening pleasure, and then not being able to make the interface between the phonograph and the stereo work and bailing and having the phonograph input through an FM band transmitter that plays through the radio.

Security? (4, Interesting)

durrr (1316311) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056081)

So I guess it may be possible to reprogram the ARM chip to maliciously invade the users computer.
Might it even be possible to turn the adapter into a minion of evil by just connecting it to your computer assuming you have the right software running?

So borrowing someones AV adapter can now be a security risk?

Re:Security? (1, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056099)

Or, the ARM chip is capturing a frame from time to time and sending it to Apple for analysis, so they know what you watch and when you watch it, and can sell that information to marketers.

You can bet that if there's a cable between two apple products, there is all kinds of information being exchanged that you don't know about - and if one of those devices has a network connection, that information is ending up in Cupertino.

Re:Security? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056123)

Wouldnt it be easier to do it on the device itself?

Re:Security? (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056153)

Might it even be possible to turn the adapter into a minion of evil by just connecting it to your computer assuming you have the right software running?

Perhaps, but it is more likely that the device could be programmed via a JTAG port.

Re:Security? (4, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056519)

It does appear, from what the speculation says, that the host device sends the SoC firmware when the adapter is plugged in. Hardly unusual: Propritary firmware blobs have been the curse of linux driver developers for years. RAM is cheaper than custom-masked ROM. If that is the case, then it may be possible to simply send a modified firmware (Unless Apple have done any sort of crypto-signing). The hacked firmware would have no way to communicate back and would be lost upon reset, so you'd need to solder in a tiny battery or ultracap too. Beyond that, though, there is plenty of room in that chip to save a few frames. Hack adaptor, lend to The Boss when he goes into the super-secret HR policy review board meeting, collect it back, extract presentation, get the inside word on who is about to lose their job and who is getting a fat bonus. It's a doable exploit in theory, though the level of difficulty involved - reverse engineering the adapter and the firmware enough to edit an evil version - that anyone capable of doing so probably has no need to. The type of exploit researchers might perfect purely to prove it can be done.

Apple sucks sheeple... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056083)

Baaaaaa baaaaaaaa...

Re:Apple sucks sheeple... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056163)

Waiting for the appropriate Samsung 'innovation' coming out in 3...2...1...

Re:Apple sucks sheeple... (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056513)

ultra hdmi

Wireless wire? (5, Interesting)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056105)

Doubtful. More likely that it's streaming encoded digital video via the cable itself, and the components on the connector just decode the stream.

Perhaps this is a slight step forward, as far as technology is concerned, but it's a big leap back, as far as consumers are concerned...

Re:Wireless wire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056127)

encode, not decode. I'd guess it has something to do with HDCP enforcement that they don't have the pins to build in.

Re:Wireless wire? (3, Informative)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056231)

Decode is the right word; if it were a raw data stream, closer to an actual HDMI signal, there wouldn't be these kinds of issues like noticeable lag and artifacts. My guess is it's a digital video stream, perhaps H.264 or some other codec, that the SoC has to decode before sending out over HDMI (which, yes, would require some encoding, due to HDCP).

Never apply DRM to someone else's work (4, Interesting)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056439)

Whoa. Are you saying this is applying HDCP to everything it plays?

That would be very interesting, since if I made a video of my own and played it through this device, the television would be descrambling a technological measure which limits access, without my authorization. That's circumvention. This device from Apple, would cause the manufacture and sale of all HDMI compliant TVs to become illegal.

Re:Wireless wire? (2, Insightful)

ghinckley68 (590599) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056137)

Some one anlized the video its only 1600x900 not 1080P. That will probably come out later for you to buy.

But yea basically they left the parts out o the newer iCrap and then charge you for more for capabilities the older stuff had.

Re:Wireless wire? (5, Informative)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056175)

But yea basically they left the parts out o the newer iCrap and then charge you for more for capabilities the older stuff had.

Rather they charge more for less capabilities: The old device supported real, uncompressed video. The new adapter has MPEG artifacts and added latency.

Re:Wireless wire? (5, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056275)

After they made such a big deal of the new dock connector, turns out is is inferior to their competitors. Samsung's modified micro USB connector does uncompressed full 1080p HDMI. The cables are dirt cheap too.

Re:Wireless wire? (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056551)

The new dock connector is superior in exactly two ways:
1. Thinner.
2. You can put it in either way up... because the device has additional electronics to detect which way around the cable is and adapt accordingly.

The second of those is a triviality: It really doesn't matter hugely if you can put the connector in first time without looking. It saves the user only a few seconds at most. The first is the only reason for lightning. Consumer demand and Apple policy are towards thinner and thinner products, with Apple leading the charge: They introduced lightning for the same reason the Macbook Pro lost ethernet. The connector became the limitation on thinnness, so it had to go.

Re:Wireless wire? (3, Interesting)

BenJury (977929) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056647)

I don't under the thinner part. Micro USB is, what, 2mm high? The lightening connector is .5mm smaller, but what appliances would require such a reduced size? The iPhone 5 is 7mm+ high for example.

Sad... (1)

CaseyJParker (2853813) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056129)

That seems a bit of a sad method ... selling it as a cable, anyway. It's deceptive.

Good engineering? (2, Insightful)

SpeZek (970136) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056159)

Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

How the mighty have fallen. Really, needing a computerized cable is just silly.

Re:Good engineering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056183)

Looks like Apple is going downhill fast. Sucks for me because I like their products.

Re:Good engineering? (3, Informative)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056195)

Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

How the mighty have fallen. Really, needing a computerized cable is just silly.

The problem is likely that Lightening likely doesn't have enough pins to just pass through HDMI like the old connector.

Silly? Maybe, but all of Apple's competitors are doing something similar because micro USB also lacks sufficient pins to pass through HDMI. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_High-Definition_Link) Except they're shoveling half the chips into the device, which increases costs on that side.

Re:Good engineering? (3, Insightful)

SpeZek (970136) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056213)

Thing is, MHL sends uncompressed 1080p over a cheap, standardized cable. Apple's standard, evidently, does not. And like you said, it's worse than the old docking cable in this regard. Regression is extra silly.

Re:Good engineering? (5, Insightful)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056243)

Thing is, MHL sends uncompressed 1080p over a cheap, standardized cable. Apple's standard, evidently, does not. And like you said, it's worse than the old docking cable in this regard. Regression is extra silly.

Looking at most MHL cable prices from vendors, they're cheaper than Apple's adaptor, but not cheap.

And as I mentioned, MHL drives up device prices because it requires additional circuitry in the device. Standardized cable you say? Try plugging an MHL cable into a Nexus 7. Won't work? That's because the chips required for MHL were too expensive and they were left off the Nexus 7.

Shifting half the expense to the device and half the expense to the cable isn't cheaper, it's just moving costs.

Re:Good engineering? (2)

kat_skan (5219) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056691)

Shifting half the expense to the device and half the expense to the cable isn't cheaper, it's just moving costs.

That's only true if there's a 1:1 relationship between tablets and cables.

Re:Good engineering? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056343)

Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

How the mighty have fallen. Really, needing a computerized cable is just silly.

The problem is likely that Lightening likely doesn't have enough pins to just pass through HDMI like the old connector.

Since it is Apple who engineered the Lightning specification, the problem is that Apple did not do "simple, elegant engineering." Contrast that with FireWire which provided: isochronous transfers, device-to-device transfers without host involvement, faster sustained transfer rates and a sturdier connector than USB. That was when they did elegant engineering.

Re:Good engineering? (2)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056717)

The "Lightning" standard is a sham, I's always tried to avoid that spec where possible as a consumer. Apple wanted a smaller connector even though they supported the IEC's call for a micro USB charging standard. But as always they love locking their users into Apple's standard. The really interesting thing in all this is even after Apple's loyal fans all lost their older 30 pin accessories with Lightning Apple will probably obsolete it yet again for a new connector standard, even as USB 3.0 is well on everyone else's option array.

Re:Good engineering? (5, Interesting)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056279)

Really, needing a computerized cable is just silly.

Actually, it's a step forward and it's not the first technology to do this. The basic idea is, make the port a smart interconnect and let a smarter cable be more adaptive. That way a 4 meter cable can be tuned differently than a 2 meter cable and you can use the same port for a cheap copper cable or a long but expensive fiber cable. Regardless of how relatively expensive the cables are, replacing the computer is harder and adding new ports to mobile devices, even most laptops, simply doesn't happen. This makes a nice, future-proofed port for your laptop, phone, peripheral, etc. that will have real longevity.

Re:Good engineering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056651)

Really, needing a computerized cable is just silly.

Actually, it's a step forward and it's not the first technology to do this. The basic idea is, make the port a smart interconnect and let a smarter cable be more adaptive. That way a 4 meter cable can be tuned differently than a 2 meter cable and you can use the same port for a cheap copper cable or a long but expensive fiber cable. Regardless of how relatively expensive the cables are, replacing the computer is harder and adding new ports to mobile devices, even most laptops, simply doesn't happen. This makes a nice, future-proofed port for your laptop, phone, peripheral, etc. that will have real longevity.

Real longevity on an Apple product.

Hint: removing widely unused feature is simpler. (-1, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056317)

Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

They still are. Sending video through Airplay is WAY easier than keeping cables around to hook up an iPad to a display, and having to know how to switch video inputs (still an unfathomable mystery to many).

So they simplified the design to no longer send video straight out through the connector, BUT they still designed a cable to support the few remaining people that had that need.

Thus the main design is simpler and meets most people's needs at a lower cost and is easier to use. But it's not like they disabled functionality, and if you need for some reason real 1080p streaming physically from an iPad you can always buy an iPad 2 or 3.

How the mighty have fallen.

Help! I've fallen and am only outselling everyone else in the market by a huge margin! Don't let me keep living down here in this luxurious mans... I mean briar patch!

Re:Hint: removing widely unused feature is simpler (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056631)

You're such a giant wanker, Kendall.

Re:Good engineering? (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056423)

Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

Yes, it ended when the Macintosh came out. Then they were only known for simple UIs, and elegant engineering, which lasted until the performa came out and they started building crap. Well, having it built. Now they are known for having the shiniest shinies.

Re:Good engineering? (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056723)

Um... when the Mac came out Apple was the only maker known for UI's... at least at the consumer level.

Re:Good engineering? (1, Informative)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056529)

their god is dead

Re:Good engineering? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056543)

Remember when Apple was known (at least by the general public) as being the company with simple, elegant engineering?

They still are, by many orders of magnitude. Can you point to a single other company that can pack an entire computer into a video out dongle and have it work as reliably and as brilliantly as this? No you CANT. No Linsux engineer could do it, no windblows engineer could do it. It took Apple to turn a hardware issue into a pure software issue and make it JUST WORK. They are basically so far ahead of the rest of the industry, no one really understands how it works. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, freetards.

Disappointing for a new connector (3, Informative)

romiz (757548) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056173)

Was the change really worth it?

With its limited pin count, it's not a surprise that the Lightning connector does not have the bandwidth to transfer uncompressed video. But it's disappointing for it to be so bad at compression, with the MPEG artifacts shown in the article, plus latency issues with encoding/decoding. On that point, the old connector was better, and micro-USB3 would have had enough bandwidth to avoid the issue completely.

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056211)

Yea... only thing in favor of Lightning seems to be the fact you can insert it either up or down.

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056541)

they need to build a vibrator into the adaptor... then they'll sell more of them

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056239)

From what I can tell its not a bandwidth issue but a conversion from a lightning source to hdmi they are not directly compatible like dvi.

Do you even know what "serial" means? (4, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056281)

With its limited pin count, it's not a surprise that the Lightning connector does not have the bandwidth to transfer uncompressed video.

Good grief. How many pins, exactly, would you say are needed for a serial connection?

Now look at the end of any USB cable and the end of a Lightning connector. What is the pin count between the two?

micro-USB3 would have had enough bandwidth

Also look at how many pins are in a USB 3 connector (HINT: ITS THE SAME).

This issue has nothing to do with bandwidth from Lightning.

Where do you see "serial" in "Lightning"? (1)

romiz (757548) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056557)

The serial/parallel distinction is completely useless in here. But you're right on the pin count.

There are 9 pins in a full size USB3 connector, and 8 pins in a Lightning connector. But when the lightning connector has two data pairs, USB3 has a bidirectional pair for legacy, and two single-direction pairs for high-speed traffic. HDMI, and Displayport respectively have 3 pairs (+ 1 differential clock) and 4 pairs.

The real question is the nature of the signal on those pairs. USB2 is 480Mb/s with a lot of protocol overhead, HDMI has 3.40 Gb/s with only error correction, and USB3 is 5 Gb/s, but still has (parts of) its inefficient protocol. Depending from what Apple is doing, it could route only the high-speed signaling of USB3 on the Lightning connector's two pairs, and provide the same performance as a standard USB3 cable.

However, since Apple keeps all information about Lightning under wraps, only insiders can tell. And until now, all we've seen is quite underwhelming, with USB2 data cables, and now this adapter.

Re:Do you even know what "serial" means? (4, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056601)

"Good grief. How many pins, exactly, would you say are needed for a serial connection?"

One, if you're operating an old telegraph. Eleven, if you're doing HDMI. Four twisted pairs for differential serial, plus three that are used for control information. Monitor resolution detection, that sort of thing.

http://www.hdmi.org/installers/insidehdmicable.aspx [hdmi.org]

Some devices appear to do it with less, but they are actually using MHL, not HDMI.

Re:Do you even know what "serial" means? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056755)

Two, if you're using an old telegraph.

Re:Do you even know what "serial" means? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056639)

i remember when i was a kid being amazed at how through two small core copper wires you can make a phone work with no connection to the domestic power supply, and then on top of that they also made it so you could access high speed broadband (well, if you could call ADSL2+ high speed). it's really quite amazing what can fit down those measly two wires. they obviously watched the movie "honey i shrunk the kids" and took it to the next level. i only wish i could shrink my bills like that.

god knows what they will be able to do when we eventually (in australia anyway) get fttp. maybe when we order a pizza online they'll be able to send it through the fibre.

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (3, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056309)

Samsung's modified micro USB connector does fully 1080p HDMI, as well as a variety of other stuff. Cables are dirt cheap andy for sync/charging any standard micro USB cable works.

This would appear to be a fairly epic failure for Apple because they are now stuck with either artefacts or changing to yet another new connector for all future products.

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056363)

LOL.

So you reckon Samsung (or anyone) gets full 1080p HDMI, requiring bandwidth of just under 4Gbps via a cable that plugs into a micro USB connector?

(I can tell you that they don't.)

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056407)

So you reckon Samsung (or anyone) gets full 1080p HDMI, requiring bandwidth of just under 4Gbps via a cable that plugs into a micro USB connector?

You fail at reading comprehension. The belief is that Samsung is getting 1080p out of a cable that plugs into a connector which resembles a micro USB connector.

Of course, that could be bullshit too, just saying

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056697)

This would appear to be an epically profitable venture for Apple because they are now stuck with either artefacts or changing to yet another new connector for all future products.

That's what you meant to write, correct?

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056321)

Micro USB3 is a rather silly standard, the plug is as wide as regular USB. It will be fun when the manufacturers start making proprietary versions to save space.

http://semiaccurate.com/static/uploads/2010/01_january/USB3_Micro_WM.JPG

Of course, that doesn't excuse all the foibles with lightning.

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (2)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056369)

I really like this new connector. It seems more rugged and easier to get in. I even bought a knock off connector for $10 and it worked as well. This was not the case for the dock connector.

Re:Disappointing for a new connector (2)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056629)

With its limited pin count, it's not a surprise that the Lightning connector does not have the bandwidth to transfer uncompressed video.

I totally disagree. Coax and Ethernet get you plenty of bandwidth on fewer pins. When Apple announced this thing, I was delighted that they must have some kind of brilliant plan for using these very few pins in a flexible, high quality, eventually low-cost manner. If their plan for flexibility was just "send a system image over USB, then connect via USB to that thing once it boots" then I am surprised and disappointed.

Costs may come down as we approach computing ubiquity, but this puts a ceiling on quality and that seems like a poor plan. We might want our iPads to drive 4K displays. Probably not next year, but in 8 years, sure.

I'm sure there are real, physical limitations that I don't understand that make this required, but I'm still disappointed.

Airplane mode? (1)

S'harien (779928) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056261)

What happens if you just turn on airplane mode on the phone and try to use the adapter? If it's really creating an ad-hoc network to do this, the output shouldn't work. Disappointing to hear about the quality of the image, regardless of how it gets there. Apple, you can and have done better.

Re:Airplane mode? (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056505)

What would airplane mode have to do with a wired interface?

Re:Airplane mode? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056763)

What would airplane mode have to do with a wired interface?

He heard "airplay" and jumped to the conclusion that when you plug in the connector, what really happens is the video is sent out of the device via WiFi and picked up by the dongle, which then converts it to HDMI (plugging it in being to supply firmware and power).

I'm pretty sure what really happens is that Airplay, being Apple's own patented sauce, is being used as a compressed streaming method on the wire so that the signal is encrypted all the way from the device to the peripheral, and thus has more leeway in how it can be used on third party devices.

Re:Airplane mode? (3, Informative)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056559)

When TFA says "AirPlay connection" they probably mean "AirPlay connection over Lightning". They don't have enough pins to just send an HDMI signal through the line (Lightning has 8 while HDMI has 19) so they essentially create an MPEG stream on the device, then send it to the adapter, which upscales the stream and sends it down the cable. Apparently they lack the computing power to do a realtime encode/decode for a 1080p stream, which is why you get 1600x900 at most.

Bizarrely, MHL (which also has 8 or 11 pins depending on whether your device comes from Samsung; the connector is not part of the standard) can do 1080p HDMI while having much cheaper (and probably much simpler) cables to boot. It appears that either Lightning is noticeably inferior to MHL or Apple just managed to badly screw up the adapter.

Wow, rendered pointless (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056263)

The main advantage I could see is video editing but adding artifacts makes me want to stick to my firewire machine.

Of course it has a CPU in it. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056289)

Of course it has a CPU in it. Something has to do the protocol conversion.

It's not clear that Apple's AirPlay protocol [github.com] , which has HTTP connections in both directions, is involved. But the pictures indicate compression artifacts. The original article doesn't go into enough detail to determine whether image compression (like JPEG) or motion compression (like MPEG) is being used. An MPEG compressor would introduce visible lag between the master and slave screens.

Re:Of course it has a CPU in it. (3, Informative)

MassacrE (763) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056775)

Although I don't have the means or desire to test it, it is far more likely that they decided most of what people would want to output via HDMI was H.264-encoded video. So they made an interface where H.264 was streamed over the lightning connector, and converted by this adapter to HDMI. Probably both sides use HDCP or similar protections.

The limitations Panic encountered are because the video support in the iPad mini can only h.264 encode the screen (for 'mirroring') at lower-than-1080p resolutions.

"UP TO 1080p!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056293)

It's not a lie, it says "UP TO" 1080p. Mathematically speaking that's "less than or equal to (<=)". If it had then supplied something with a resolution greater than 1080p, well, then it would have been a lie. 1600x900 is less than 1080p, so it's correct! ;-) (All cynicism provided free of charge!)

Re:"UP TO 1080p!" (1)

tibman (623933) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056649)

>It's not a lie, it says "UP TO" 1080p. Mathematically speaking that's "less than or equal to (=)"

More like "up to but not including" 1080p

Re:"UP TO 1080p!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056749)

It's market-speak for "Good luck ever attaining this performance. We tested it under ideal conditions in a lab and got it to work once. Maybe."

There might have been a time when Apple was cool but that time is over. Now Apple is about as cool as a room full of bean counters and patent lawyers. Yuck!

This is a feature (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056319)

Duh, you are not supposed to use lightning connectors to do high definition video.

Nice speculation (1, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056323)

Too bad there was basically nothing in the article demonstrating they'd attempted to test the hypothesis. They cut it open, found an SoC, and started speculating.

Any of this is certainly testable.

can it be reprogrammed?` (1)

Selur (2745445) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056337)

would be interesting to know if the chip can be reprogrammed,.. to do other stuff you or the ?Apple? wants,....

It's an outrage! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056459)

I almost was mad for a tenth of a second, but then I remembered I have never and will never own any Apple products and all was right with the world once again.

Stop the presses! (-1, Flamebait)

tlambert (566799) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056493)

Stop the presses! The are scaling 1024x768 content to 1600x900, and there are MPEG artifacts happening as a result?!?! The deuce you say! There's never artifacts when you scale things! Never, I say!

Next thing I know, you'll be claiming that Apple didn't replace all the already transcoded content on the Inktomi CDN with new, higher resolution content over night!

It's almost already too scandalous that they used a CPU and software to avoid having to design and spin silicon for a Lightning-to-HDMI converter ASIC.

I can only echo some of the sentiments expressed in the bad ratings they received in several reviews from owners of Samsung Televisions which improperly negotiate EDID information by failing to negotiate on input sources which are not selected at the time the device comes online. One would almost think this might be an issue for Linux systems when trying to use HDMI to output to Samsung equipment, or that Dish Network DVRs might have similar problems (with the fix being to plug the device into the input channel which is selected by default when the television is powered on).

But the real question is what else can it do. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43056495)

I think we are missing the point a little here, They released a tiny computer for 50 bucks, now we just need a port of cyanogen for it.

Re:But the real question is what else can it do. (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056777)

...but not NetBSD, because of course it runs NetBSD.

That is certainly one way to look at it (4, Insightful)

nbahi15 (163501) | about a year and a half ago | (#43056741)

Fact: Apple has an ARM processor in the cable. It is fair to assume the video is processed by the chip in the cable.

The rest of the facts in this case are just speculation:
* Is design a 'limitation', or a design choice?
* Is the 1600x900 output seen by Panic a Panic problem or an Apple one? Is it a bug or a limitation of the hardware? File a bug and find out
* Is the connector providing Airplay over the 6cm cable? Pure speculation. Sounds plausible, even clever, but that is just a guess.

It seems to me that there is certainly an interesting story in this adapter, but I don't think we know what that story is yet.

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