Friday, December 11, 2015

Interesting serial port driver hacks

So ... say you've got a Mac. And you've upgraded to El Capitan.

Now your Keyspan serial adapter doesn't work (I have a USA-19HS and older USA-28x) - this used to be a built-in driver, but I guess Apple dropped it. This makes me sad, because Keyspan adapters generally were excellent and didn't cause kernel panics. One obvious option is to install the driver.
Say you also have a Prolific-based adapter - not surprising - these are everywhere for a good price. But the last time I installed the drivers I had kernel panics - of course it might be unrelated. You might have to install the native drivers if you want to use a Mac application with it, or see the options below...

Generally, apart from VirtualBox, I never want to install non-Apple drivers/Kext ever, really. (I've considered uninstalling VirtualBox in the past - but currently my machine seems stable even running VirtualBox ... thanks Apple ... famous last words, I know).

But installing drivers is the standard option, I'll admit.

You have the following other choices, as far as I can tell:
  1. Use a computer with Yosemite or before. If that sounds like a pain, that's because it is. Especially as your whole family appears to be upgrading.
  2. Get an FTDI-based serial adapter off Amazon. Hope it's not a dodgy FTDI clone. This is the route I'd go if it wasn't present season. I *suspect* that the Mac has an FTDI driver built in because it works with things like the Forth board on my the Display Board (which has an FTDI to serial adapter) without installing any drivers...
  3. Downgrade to Yosemite.
  4. Use a non-Mac ... (NOTE: My Windows PC machine can't sleep without a blue-screen half the time because of serial adapter drivers - none of the ones mentioned here, I should say. Yes I have evidence (a) it started crashing right after installing and (b) it also mentions the specific two drivers in the blue screen. But my work requires them, so hey...).
  5. Use a Mac ... but use Ubuntu running in VirtualBox! Ubuntu has Prolific drivers built-in.
VirtualBox has an interesting ability to pass USB traffic to the guest OS and use guest-native drivers, even if the host doesn't have a driver!! So, basically you never need to install a Mac driver (if you can use a Linux app rather than a Mac app).

This link might be helpful for VirtualBox or just normal Linux people ...

P.S. To use a Keyspan driver under Linux, you'd need to install it yourself. Debian didn't like the licensing terms, apparently.

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