Let’s face it. Electronics is an expensive hobby. But fear not, opensource electronics come here to make us save money and… Well… Wait… Maybe it just become a little more expensive in just one day… Let me explain it.
Opensource means that anybody can see the source schematics and/or the code of a product and learn from it. Or replicate it if this is your desire and the licence allows it.
Arduino is one of those opensource hardware, and therefore, there is a bunch of copies everywhere. A copy doesn’t mean necessarily something bad, as some of them include some improvements and other simply use cheaper components, making the final product cheaper. Other builders simply use them as a base to make a completely different product.
The problem is that the chip maker FTDI has decided to act against the clones of their FTDI FT232, a chip that is not opensource, I guess… The way they are using to fight against the clones is finding a little tinny mini difference between the original chips and the clones, and then bricking the clones through the use of a updated version of their drivers for Windows that they released this week. This brick is intentionally done (and then it should be classified as malicious), and the update in the driver seems to fulfill that purpose exclusively. Nice people, right? Is not the first time I hear of some practices like that, and the final user suffer the consequences. Consequences, by the way, of a problem that is not intentionally caused by the users.
This chip is widely used in the electronics world, and is commonly used in the clones of Arduino and other developer boards that, by the way, are originals. Hence, if you have an Arduino board and you plug it to a Windows PC you will brick it.
There are some solutions for this problem at the moment:
- Don’t use Windows (seriously, why are you still using Windows?????)
- Don’t use updated drivers for Windows.
- Wait until they release (hopefully) next week an updated version of the driver.
- Wait until a software is released to unbrick the chip.
You can see more details at the EEVBlog Forums.