FT232RL: Real Or Fake?

232

Above are two FTDI FT232RL chips, an extremely common chip used to add a USB serial port to projects, builds, and products. The one on the left is a genuine part, while the chip on the right was purchased from a shady supplier and won’t work with the current FTDI drivers. Can you tell the difference?

[Zeptobars], the folks behind those great die shots of various ICs took a look at both versions of the FT232 and the differences are staggering. Compared to the real chip, the fake chip has two types of SRAM etched in the silicon – evidence this chip was pieced together from different layouts.

The conclusion [Zeptobars] reached indicated the fake chip is really just a microcontroller made protocol compatable with the addition of a mask ROM. If you’re wondering if the FTDI chips in your part drawers are genuine, the real chips have laser engraved markings, while the clone markings are usually printed.

Rolling your own minimal USB to serial Arduino programmer

usb-to-serial-programmer

[Hans Peter] wanted to move away from using full Arduino boards in his projects. One of the components he rarely used after the development stage is the USB hardware. Once the firmware is flashed to the chip he didn’t need it any longer. So he tried his hand with some really small SMD parts by building this USB to serial Arduino programmer.

The chip he went with isn’t the FTDI part we’re used to. Instead of using an FT232RL, he opted for its smaller cousin the FT230x. This chip doesn’t fully implement the communications protocol of the 232, but it does work with AVRdude and that’s all that really matters. Above you can see [Hans'] creation next to the official Arduino USB-to-serial programmer. He used the same connection scheme, but went with an edge connector for the USB instead of using a mini-B jack.

It’s pretty impressive to see his prototyping work with the 16-pin QFN package. He soldered it dead-bug style to a couple of SIL pin headers in order to test it on a breadboard. The first board he assembled was too loose in the USB port, but he added some tape to the back to make it thicker, and coated the edge connector traces with a bit of solder and that did the trick.

Tiny audio switcher eliminates repetitive plug swapping

usb-audio-switcher

[Phil] uses both his computer’s speakers and a set of headphones while working at his desk, but he was growing tired of constantly having to remove the headset from his sound card in order to insert the speaker plug. He’s been meaning to rig something up to make it easier to switch outputs, but never seemed to get around to it until he recently saw this LAN-enabled audio switcher we featured.

His USB-controlled switch features a single audio input and two audio outputs, which he mounted on a nicely done homemade double-sided PCB. The switch can be toggled using any terminal program, sending commands to the on-board ATtiny13A via an FT232R USB to serial UART chip.

The switch’s operation is really quite simple, merely requiring [Phil] to type in the desired audio channel into the terminal. The ATiny and a small relay do the rest, directing the audio to the proper output.

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