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Jul 14, 2019 7:40 AM ET

The Raspberry Pi Foundation messed up its first USB-C device

iCrowd Newswire - Jul 14, 2019

The Raspberry Pi 4, the latest version of the micro computer that was announced two weeks ago, has a buggy USB-C port that prevents many popular charging cables from supplying power. The port is the device’s sole input for power, leaving some owners thinking they’ve purchased a lemon. The problem was first detailed in a blog post by Tyler Ward, and it’s since been acknowledged by Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton in an interview with TechRepublic.

The problem is that the Raspberry Pi 4’s charging port shares a single resistor between two of its pins, which the official USB-C spec says should have one resistor each. This causes problems for so-called “e-marked” cables such as those supplied with MacBooks and other laptops fitted with USB-C Thunderbolt charging ports. These cables contain chips designed to manage features like power draw and to detect different kinds of accessories. If you try to power a Raspberry Pi 4 using one of these cables, it will detect the microcomputer as an “Audio Adaptor Accessory” and won’t power it.

Acknowledging the issue, Raspberry Pi cofounder Eben Upton told TechRepublicthat he expects the issue to be fixed in a future board revision, and suggested that users “apply one of the suggested workarounds.” These workarounds include using the Raspberry Pi 4’s official charger, which is not e-marked. A spokesperson for the Raspberry Pi Foundation has since confirmed to Ars Technicathat a new board revision should arrive in the coming months.

Instances like this are all too common with USB-C, and there are even engineers like Benson Leung and Nathan K who have made a name for themselves by calling out bad implementations of the USB standard. In a blog post about this latest implementation failure, Leung admits that the “USB-C cable situation is confusing and messy” but says that ultimately “instead of trying to come up with some clever circuit, hardware designers should simply copy the figure from the USB-C Spec exactly.”

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Jon Porter

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