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@OLD CS1: Based on the websites I found, both of those projects you mentioned make it hard or impossible to contact/talk to the people behind the project. If you have any contact with either of them, can you ask if they are just "hoping" to avoid the legal problems?

 

I have no direct contact yet. I believe Gunnar hangs around a1k.org and there is an IRC channel. I will do some rummaging over the weekend and pull together what I can.

 

There is some conjecture in that thread about using a DVI port with HDMI signalling, or just using the HDMI port and signalling but not marketing as HDMI compliant. Not sure if any of that will pass muster. Anyone know a good I.P. attorney?

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The prime option seems to be to keep the same signaling and use the mini-displayport connector. That minimizes disruption to the design and reworking of the VHDL...

I personally don't think just being hard to reach is a good option. I don't like the idea of having to look over my shoulder for the next several years, and those lawyers do have some exceptional abilities to find people. Apart from that, I like making good products and being able to be reached easily for sales and support - all part of providing good value of service.

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Sorry, I can't swallow that. I'm not willing to risk a lawsuit over something like a hobby project. Would you? I'm to old to have a "what are they gonna do!" attitude.

 

I think you're right, you should not attempt any kind of trickery that turns your hobby project into a potential nightmare. I'm confident you can find a solution based on mini displayport or similar. Leave it to us to buy a converter cable if we need HDMI.

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Sounds like a huge headache, I don't blame Matthew in the least for being a little apprehensive.

 

Is there an alternate connector that can be used on the board with a "third party solution" that terminates in an HDMI female socket? Is seems that would eliminate any legal issues.

 

If one really wanted to throw the dice, it would be necessary to load them first by finding a couple of cases of verified 'selective non-enforcement'.

 

Good luck Matt!

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If one really wanted to throw the dice, it would be necessary to load them first by finding a couple of cases of verified 'selective non-enforcement'.

 

 

I don't think it matters if a couple cases of verified selective non-enforcement can be found. Getting a patent attorney to fight the litigation is going to be easily starting at 5 figures to retain and the bills go higher.

 

I would not take the risk. I would find another solution and go a different route. Protect thyself!

 

Beery

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Apple's license for using mini displayport is free so that might be the best option as there are plenty of displayport to hdmi adapters

 

However, my new tv has a vga input so I'd be fine with that too

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What about putting a micro-USB connector on the PCB wired for the dying MHL standard? MHL to HDMI adapters are a thing.

 

EDIT: I don't think MHL is a good idea, unless you can convert the DDC signal to the CBUS signal on the FPGA. Also, MHL is also licensed - trading one litigious standard for another. :/

 

My other suggestion would be a small connector on the PCB with a cable to a breakout board with female DVI connector that mounts to the computer case.

Edited by PeteE
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Does that mean that the F18A MK2 is "DOA" pending a re-design?

 

I have way too much into this to not follow through with something. But HDMI is probably out unless I can get a sponsor (or some other way to raise the cash) to pay for the $5K adopter fee (which is only good for a year). This is also the risk I took in announcing before it was totally done and ready to ship.

 

DisplayPort seems like the next best possibility, however I need to find the technical details about the signaling so I can implement the core in the FPGA. And, unfortunately, DisplayPort female PCB connectors are not as abundant as HDMI connectors. However, they are available, as well as converters from DisplayPort to all other formats like HDMI, DVI, and VGA.

 

Direct to DVI could be an option, but I need a cost effective solution to get the video signals off of the MK2 PCB and into the bulky connector. I have about a 9mm x 9mm PCB area to work with, and maybe 16 FPGA IOs available for the video (right now I only need 8 for the LVDS output). I also need a way to include the audio in the video stream, which DisplayPort offers (and maybe DVI but I have not looked recently).

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I have no direct contact yet. I believe Gunnar hangs around a1k.org and there is an IRC channel. I will do some rummaging over the weekend and pull together what I can.

 

There is some conjecture in that thread about using a DVI port with HDMI signalling, or just using the HDMI port and signalling but not marketing as HDMI compliant. Not sure if any of that will pass muster. Anyone know a good I.P. attorney?

So, that's the thing. How many millions of unlicensed HDMI products are out there? I find it quite amusing and funny that you can buy the chip and use it in a circuit, but they don't make a condition of you signing an agreement before providing the parts to you. Any other piece of electronics kit with discrete components - you build it, nobody really cares unless you're copying someone's firmware, microcode, or something and blatantly ripping off someone. I'm sure if I built something like this and sold a couple, I wouldn't worry. But at the quantities we are selling here, ok, maybe a little worry.

 

Thus, all the usage of HDMI without the trademark or other markings. How many Chinese video game systems, video converters, cables, etc likely actually pay this fee?

 

I've always thought that there's big fish to fry out there, and our tiny little group is probably low on the priority list. So what if we left a generic port on this thing and didn't mention HDMI anywhere? And then someone on the side sells the converter cables or dongles separately. We are not using their copyrighted name. We are not using their copyrighted connector. Essentially, it's like the connector on motherboard of a TV to the LCD part.

 

The alternative to keep the design alive is to either use another display interface, or if we really want to be cconpliant, see we can get like I said before - 500 preorders to evenly split the $5000 small seller license fee plus $1/unit. $11/ea. Or 250 at $21/ea. Depends on what he's really up to building :)

 

I still think it's insane a hobby project under so many units should even need a license.

 

 

 

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk

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I have way too much into this to not follow through with something. But HDMI is probably out unless I can get a sponsor (or some other way to raise the cash) to pay for the $5K adopter fee (which is only good for a year). This is also the risk I took in announcing before it was totally done and ready to ship.

 

DisplayPort seems like the next best possibility, however I need to find the technical details about the signaling so I can implement the core in the FPGA. And, unfortunately, DisplayPort female PCB connectors are not as abundant as HDMI connectors. However, they are available, as well as converters from DisplayPort to all other formats like HDMI, DVI, and VGA.

 

Direct to DVI could be an option, but I need a cost effective solution to get the video signals off of the MK2 PCB and into the bulky connector. I have about a 9mm x 9mm PCB area to work with, and maybe 16 FPGA IOs available for the video (right now I only need 8 for the LVDS output). I also need a way to include the audio in the video stream, which DisplayPort offers (and maybe DVI but I have not looked recently).

An option is to take deposits towards the $5000 adopter fee if you want to keep HDMI... Under 10,000 units. You'd have to take 250 deposits to get the adopter fee covered at $20 each plus the $1 unit fee to get to $5000. After that, you can drop the fee. Consider it maybe an early adopter fee for us. LOL.

 

If you don't get 250 preorders that you can charge a $20 charge to, then look at alternative tech for the display interface.

 

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk

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Or, you could just change the output on your design to VGA and leave it up to the buyer whether they wanted to get a VGA to HDMI converter - those exist in huge quantities.

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Here's an option that could get you back on track quickly:

Remove the HDMI connector, protection IC and related circuitry, and replace them with a STDP2600 and mini DisplayPort connector. That keeps it to purely hardware changes. It would all fit without *huge* rework, and should operate with the direct output of the FPGA without any re-coding. Solves every problem you have, including audio, within the space and power envelope.

Datasheet: https://www.st.com/resource/en/data_brief/DM00056673.pdf

Octopart points to supplies of the part for $5.50 or so - more research could find reliable supplies for less.

You could then buy bulk supplies of mini-displayport to HDMI/VGA/etc connectors very economically and then include buyer's choice with the unit for $10 or so, which also gets you a bit of margin on another item to help fund future work.

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@acadiel: It does not matter how it is rationalized, the fact is that the HDMI technology requires a license to use legally in this country, the HDMI org is active, and they are actively protecting the IP. It is not out of trademark, or an expired patent, or abandon-ware like most of the stuff we are typically dealing with. Products made in countries like China don't bother with the license because they will never be sued in those countries. Just because someone else has done something illegal and not gotten caught does not make it right (or legal), and it does not mean I will not have any problems myself, even if I was morally willing to do it.

 

I suppose raising money for the fee is possible, but that is an annual cost, and there is no way I can justify that expense over time. It took 6-years to sell 550 F18A boards, and I expect the MK2 to be the same. Sure there will be an initial rush, but it *will* taper off quickly and even out.

 

@atrax27407: The problems with VGA have been enumerated: 1. Audio is not part of the video data. 2. In a 9mm x 9mm area I need to get the video signals off of the MK2 PCB and out to a VGA header. This requires a PCB connector, a cable of some sort, and a daughter board of some sort to received the cable and convert to the VGA header. I have exhaustively researched this possibility for the original F18A and could not find a cost-effective solution. It someone can show me a real possibility, I will certainly consider it.

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I saw that MegaChips IC this morning. It takes HDMI signaling as an input, so I would probably be in a gray area. It is also expensive. The direct DisplayPort solution is more appealing, I just need to find some technical info.

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@matthew - then, the look for an alternate display interface with audio that's not VGA or HDMI then, by process of elimination, is the only remaining thing for us to look. Could be why a lot of the laptops I see have DP but not HDMI. Those large DP connectors on non Apple gear like my Thinkpad are huge, though. I've really only seen the mini ones on Apple gear.

 

Or get a Kickstarter going for the total costs to make a run of X HDMI units. No total goal reached for the HDMI product to produce them all within one year with the $5k fee, no production of the HDMI ones. All or none Kickstarter methodology.

 

Dunno why the HDMI folks have so high an entry barrier for hobbiest projects... you would think that they would want other folks to come up with solutions with their product, but guess not. I could use some of the same colorful language that describes non repairable ktems, DRM, and other non friendly tech restrictions and artificial limitations.

 

Also, just trying to talk this out, nothing more. Not trying to be a jerk. :). You guys know me by now, I call them like I see em.

 

 

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk

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A couple of thoughts. The option of using DVI out is interesting being DVI and HDMI are signal-compatible, but can you mux the audio stream into DVI for use with DVI-HDMI without interfering with a real DVI monitor? Do we care? Of course, a DVI port is rather large compared to mini DisplayPort. Mini-DVI is a thing, but a horribly obscure thing.

 

It really sucks. Given the entry into HDMI licensing is hobbyist-unfriendly, I am of the mind to give them the bird and use something else. But this is what happens with holding companies and I.P. attorneys seeing things in black and white: what Matt wants to do is commercial and the size of his venture or target audience is irrelevant.

 

BTW, I would like to welcome what appear to be new members and visitors to our forums. How about an introduction, fellas?

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Would USB Type C be an alternative worth considering? The connector is nice and small, but I don't know much about the necessary controllers other than you can route DisplayPort lanes in.

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I saw that MegaChips IC this morning. It takes HDMI signaling as an input, so I would probably be in a gray area. It is also expensive. The direct DisplayPort solution is more appealing, I just need to find some technical info.

 

 

Hehe, well, yes and no. The chip has some configurability, and will work correctly if you give it an HDMI-type signal that inter-operates with the IC, but doesn't quite meet the specification on some technical ground. That means it is NOT HDMI, but a DVI/HDMI hybrid. Simply having levels out of spec, or lack of protection on the 'HDMI' side of the IC makes it not HDMI. If you don't have an HDMI-licensed socket, and you're using the same differential video signals that DVI and HDMI both use, that sounds really generic. I know you think $5.50 is expensive, but remove the costs of the components you no longer need, plus the avoided cost of licensing per part, and the part costs a minimal amount. All the alternatives (eg: TFP410) are going to be in the similar cost area. The switch I showed you yesterday is the cheapest option, and nicely does passive format conversion from HDMI to DP and you can just ignore the 2nd port by typing it to GND. All it leaves for you to solve is the DP signaling to negotiate the link.

 

The main thing is you have demand for a device with a digital output, and this could get it done. This could be a short product cycle of a couple of hundred units, and then you could either continue if it's working for you, or do a mild redesign for mkIII if you find a better way.

 

At least you don't have to revalidate your entire output stage that way.

Also, could people please not PM me with complaints and insults for raising this issue. It's not my fault this has happened. I just alerted Matthew to the potential of risk because he has a right to know what he was getting into. If I knew and said nothing, I would have been partially to blame if they came after him. Even if it is only a one in 20 chance, I think any reasonable person here wouldn't take that risk with their home, retirement, etc. But at least they'd like to make an informed decision - which you can't do unless someone in the know gives you the information.

 

I want Matthew to succeed, and not lose a great deal in the process.

 

So please, stop blaming me. I'm not HDMI Licensing. If I was, I'd be better funded. :P

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Also, could people please not PM me with complaints and insults for raising this issue. It's not my fault this has happened. I just alerted Matthew to the potential of risk because he has a right to know what he was getting into. If I knew and said nothing, I would have been partially to blame if they came after him. Even if it is only a one in 20 chance, I think any reasonable person here wouldn't take that risk with their home, retirement, etc. But at least they'd like to make an informed decision - which you can't do unless someone in the know gives you the information.

Disheartening as it is to learn about something like this at a 'late stage', hobby efforts are certainly not worth putting one's personal well-being at risk. If I was working on a project that had this sort of pitfall, I would not want to learn about it too late through a lawsuit or cease&desist notice.

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Just for clarification: this was also discussed on FB in a retro computing group, which is how I found out about it and why I joined here to reach out to Matthew. The person who PM'd me did so there, but isn't a member of that closed group, so I guess the person came from here and found me on FB.

Let's keep it positive and help Matthew solve this little technical problem.

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