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They’re different things, idiot

Back when I was at El Reg there was always some fun with Naughton. He’d usually be two weeks late on a story – and to be polite “highly influenced” by earlier reporting – and then still get it wrong.

Like, umm, this:

“Oh, and by the way, it also has a USB-C charging port. This information, which comes towards the end of the blurb, is both interesting and symbolic: interesting because it signals that Apple is finally bowing to the EU’s requirement that all electronic devices should use the USB-C standard by 2024; and symbolic because it demonstrates that regulators can clip the wings of even the most powerful companies if they are resolute and clear about the consequences of noncompliance.

This makes an intriguing comparison with what recently happened in the UK, when the government, faced with the resolute opposition of tech companies to the provisions in the online safety bill that would compel them to scan encrypted messaging apps (WhatsApp, Signal, Messenger, etc) for harmful content, backed off. The companies had threatened to withdraw UK users’ access to such services if the bill went through with those provisions intact.”

USB C is a very silly idea – harmonisation by law means that development an innovation cease – and breaching end to end encryption is an insane one. For if it’s breached then it’s not end to end encryption. But they are still different things and yet he’s bemoaning the failure to do the impossible while praising the stupid.


20 thoughts on “They’re different things, idiot”

  1. “USB C is a very silly idea – harmonisation by law means that development an innovation cease”

    That was my first thought but I have not seen anyone else make it.

  2. From a physical perspective it looks like the USB-C socket was deliberately designed to get fluff stuck in it. Just yesterday I was blowing compressed air into the one on my sons phone to get it charging again.
    The Apple lightning connector being more open seems to be much better in that respect.

  3. USB C is what just about every other Apple product uses. Even iPhones are shipped with an USB C to Lightning cable because they need to be able to connect to Mac’s. Keeping Lightning was always dumb 🙁

  4. Legislating it is idiocy – but it’s the EU so why expect less?

    However USB-C is not just for charging it is for data transfer. It is superior to Apple’s Lightening connector in that it allows faster charging rate and can handle higher volumes of data.

    Apple likely would have made the change anyway.

    As for WhatsApp, etc I think the problem was technical. They can’t scan without breaking the encryption which defeats the object of secure messaging. Even the dolts in Govt finally understood this.

  5. What was the rationale of the EU for this? Because having different chargers was confusing and caused waste.

    The former was potentially true but hardly reason to enact bans, the latter is bollocks because chargers can have different power outputs and no one is going to buy the most expensive (highest power) to cover all use cases.

    So, we’ll still have loads of chargers knocking about, just all of them will be different output and you’ll not be charging your laptop off a crappy little phone charger.

  6. Re: EU wisdom on electronic waste.

    In my little niche, my customers use Philips SpeechMikes.

    The ‘issue’ is that whilst these are manufactured in the EU, they’re used in various countries that have different voltages.

    The EU solution was to require Philips to ship every SpeechMike with power supplies for all voltages, regardless of where the units were being shipped to – we (a) had to waste time removing the unusable power supplies from every box (physicians are idiots), and then (b) we had dispose of all the useless power cables.

    It did eventually stop, but only after at least a decade of stupidity.

  7. Talking of a decade of stupidity:

    “Harmonisation of a charging capability of common charger for mobile phones – frequently asked questions – 29 th June 2009

    “Following a request from the European Commission and in close co-operation with the Commission services, major producers of mobile phones have agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) to harmonise chargers for data-enabled mobile phones sold in the EU. Industry commits to provide chargers compatibility on the basis of the Micro-USB connector.”

  8. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    Henry, all my laptop and phone chargers work fine in the US, with no transformer.
    Noticeably more slowly, but they work.

    What was Phillips’ actual problem?

  9. Looks like a neat piece of kit.


    “Can I use your dictaphone?”

    “No, use your fingers like everyone else.”

  10. When the EU mandates something my guess (a purely false and malicious one probably) is that an EU Commissioner has made a fortune from its enactment …

  11. Standards are useful where something has to interface with something else and there are lots of different somethings made/designed by different people. Sometimes governments have to step in where the differing standards adversaries are too recalcitrant. I’m not sure that a phone charger standard is that important but Apple do have a tendency to do their own thing. It’s not perhaps as nasty as Microsoft’s old behaviour of adding their own bits to existing standards to the point where their kit won’t easily or efficiently work with standard kit.

  12. @Bloke in North Dorset – “I made the point some time ago that if they’d frozen it at USB A we wouldn’t have B let alone C.”

    A and B are opposite ends of the same cable. C is a new standard. And USB went through several generations (1, 2, and 3) using A & B before USB C connectors were introduced to replace them.

    @Tractor Gent – “I’m not sure that a phone charger standard is that important …”

    Before standardisation on one kind of connector, most devices came with a power device and connected via one of many caonnector types, with no guarantee that using the same physical connector indicated mutual compatibility. Anyone who lived throuig that period is liable to have at least one drawer suffed with a wide range of power supplies, all of which seem plausibly useful without actually getting re-used.

  13. As long as it plugs into a BS1363/220-240v outlet or the relavant local equivalent, it doesn’t need legislation to enforce it. If it doesn’t have the right plug on it, people won’t buy it ‘cos they won’t be able to plug the stupid thing in. If you want to tell your product in territory X, it needs to be able to plug into territory X’s supply system. Surely that’s common sense?

    But clearly it isn’t, as shown by so many shops selling Edison Screw lights even though in the UK we use Bayonet. There was one time I got home with some bulbs and upon opening them and finding WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCK?!?!?!?! stamped them into the floor in frustration. How on EARTH is a UK electrical outlet selling bulbs that do not fit into UK light outlets?!?!?!?!??!!!!

    I even went back to the shop and complained. There response “oh, that’s what’s used in the UK now”. My response: “I AM A EXPERIENCED AND QUALIFIED ELECTRIAL INSTALLER, *THEY* *ARE* *NOT*!!!!”

  14. My understanding is that the International Electronic Manufacturers Association (which is called something totally different) have defined USB-C as the current standard for charging mobile devices.

    Now, if the EU simply said that all mobile devices have to be designed to the latest international standard then it would be fine because, as the manufacturers innovate and come up with new connectors, the standard would evolve.

    But this is the EU so they’ve stopped innovation in its tracks with a vague commitment to review the regulation in the future.

    America innovates, China replicates, Europe regulates.

  15. Yes, we’ve already had the IEC “kettle lead” plug for mains current connectors for more than half a century, so all the manufacturer needs to do is supply the appropriate mains-outlet-to-IEC cable. Exactly the same is all that’s needed for low voltage connectors.

    Eeeehhh, wait a mo…. the standard IEC/DIN/EIJ low voltage power plug has also been around for more than half a century.

  16. JGH, sorry to puncture your ire, but a large proportion of the light fittings sold in the UK now use either ES or SES lamps/bulbs.

    Otherwise Screwfix, toolstation etc wouldn’t be flogging so many of them.

  17. As a product designer I build switching cost into my products to promote loyalty and increase margins. Apple connectors are a great example of this. A earlier example was company threads on cars that forced customers to buy approved spares. I don’tthink that anyone wouldseriouslyargue that they promoted innovation. The customer benefits from commoditisation of mature products often exceed the disadvantages. However regulation is require because suppliers will not willingly give up margin

  18. ‘There was one time I got home with some bulbs and upon opening them and finding WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCK?!?!?!?! stamped them into the floor in frustration.’

    jgh. A pleasure to see someone else shares my opinion of screw bulbs. Of course I’ve now been bullied into buying bayonet to screw converters.

  19. On the subject of lamps, I have a standard lamp in my lounge (bought about 20 years ago) which has 2 lamps in it. One is a bayonet fitting and the other is Edison screw.

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