There are a lot of USB programming cables on the market, many of which are purportedly made with a chip manufactured by either Prolific or FTDI. Some cables use genuine silicon chips from one of these two companies, but many others, particularly the more inexpensive programming cables, may contain a cloned or counterfeit chip.
Recently, FTDI took measures to combat the counterfeit cable issue with the release of a driver update that soft bricks USB cables with cloned chips. Distributed silently through Microsoft Windows Update, the driver update essentially changed the PID of the chip to render it completely inoperable, thus effectively making the cable useless on any computer system. The update caused an immediate uproar among consumers who suddenly discovered that their hardware no longer functioned.
Counterfeit hardware is a serious problem on a global scale, so it is understandable for a manufacturer to do what it can to protect its products from such unauthorized duplication. However, FTDI didn't simply issue a driver update that would only ignore the clone cable while recognizing a legitimate one; it attempted to destroy the allegedly cloned hardware itself. The results were immediate and unpleasant for all involved: the update created a lot of suddenly useless devices and a lot of serious backlash from the owners of the affected hardware, many of whom were completely unaware that the products they purchased were not genuine.
At Buy Two Way Radios, we understand the importance of "keeping it real" for our customers. We do our best to stock only genuine OEM products from name brand manufacturers and deal directly with them whenever possible to ensure authenticity of product and quality control. However, we are a dealer and do not manufacture the product ourselves, so as hard as we try, there is only so much we can do. If the manufacturer is using a counterfeit component within their branded product otherwise marked as genuine, it may be difficult to ascertain. When a situation occurs such as the notorious FTDI driver update, sometimes the only way to find out is to test its authenticity first hand.
So we did.
We tested it on the FTDI programming cable from XLT.
The XLT Painless Programming Cable is very popular among users of handheld two way radios, and with good reason. It's easy to install and easy to use for a painless programming experience. It also uses an FTDI chip. But is it genuine?
To be sure, we intentionally installed the infamous version of the FTDI driver that performs the soft brick on fake chips and then tested it with the XLT Painless Programming Cable. We tested it with the update in Windows 7 and Windows 8, putting the cable through its paces. Each time, Windows quickly recognized the FTDI chip as genuine and the XLT cable worked flawlessly.
Since its covert release, the FTDI driver update has received quite a lashing from angry consumers and a lot of unwanted attention from the press. In response, FTDI pulled the driver update, replaced it with the previous driver that was not hostile to clones and said it would work on other alternatives to fighting counterfeit hardware that are not as intrusive as the last one.
In the meantime, Buy Two Way Radios will continue to provide our customers with quality products at great prices, deliver great service and do our best to keep it real.