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A cautionary tale - flat USB cables from ZWO


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So, an interesting occurrence today - I fired up the telescope and upon trying to connect to everything realised I was not finding the main camera. The USB2 filter wheel is plugged into the hub on the camera, and this was being discovered occasionally by INDI.

Looking through my system logs I kept hitting log messages like this:

Feb 18 18:57:44 raspberrypi kernel: usb usb2-port2: Cannot enable. Maybe the USB cable is bad?
Feb 18 18:57:49 raspberrypi kernel: usb usb2-port2: Cannot enable. Maybe the USB cable is bad?

Eventually I took the kernel's advice to heart, grabbed a spare USB3 hub and the required cables (lacking a suitably long USB3 A-B lead) to bodge a short A-B lead to the camera from the Pi on the scope, and swapped the flat USB cable out.

Instantly fixed and back to normal. No visible damage or issue with the contacts; it's been sat out under cover for a couple of years.

This was the ZWO-provided flat cable which comes with the camera.

Long story short - flat cables, from Ethernet to USB, continue to be The Devil and should not be allowed near your rig! Replacement cable of the right length on the way, and I'll replace the USB2 flat cable to the EFW too.

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Glad you got that sorted out. I have a box full of those flat cables and haven’t used them. I may put them in recyc.

Edited by TerryMcK
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26 minutes ago, TerryMcK said:

Glad you got that sorted out. I have a box full of those flat cables and haven’t used them. I may put them in recyc.

I have an Ethernet cable certifier at the office and a favourite hobby is seeing how hilariously badly flat Ethernet "Gigabit ready!" cables fail against the standard for even Cat5e. Vast majority of them aren't even differential pairs, they're just four wires shorted together, or so close in RF terms the certifier can't tell them apart...

Definitely recycle 'em if you ask me - life's too short for bad cables!

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You have to be careful  with ethernet cables too - cheap rubbish is often an aluminium core with a outer copper coating, would not be surprised if the same is done with USB

Edited by omo
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My original ASI1600 had proper USB 2 and 3 cables, while my ASI183 bought some time later came with rubbish flat cables. Just a way to shave a few pence off the costs.

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funnily enough I do have a few flat ethernet cables in use here and they're holding up just fine with CCTV cameras hanging off them and power running via passive splitters. There was a reason for doing that tho - its easier to pass the cable round a uPVC closing section where regular cable wouldn't work, saves the need to drill holes where I'm not allowed to 😉 

I did pull up an installer where I used to work tho when they ran flat supposedly cat6 cable as well as poorer CCA round cable. Didn't make any difference tho as the buildings dept just told them to carry on. Get a cheap contractor in and you gets rubbish huh. There were intermittent issues on some of those cables from commissioning to the point where I left and I expect there still are...

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Replacing the USB flat cable was one of the first things I did with my ASI224MC, mostly due to having a Mac Pro with the smaller USB-C ports only. I tried using the supplied flat cable via a USB2 to USB-C hub first time round and the camera kept disconnecting despite having no issues with any other external device using the hub. Getting the USB-C cable simply cut out the middle man and could connect the camera directly into the Mac Pro, plus I guess there would be an speed increase of data transfer. No issues since. I am not sure what was the fault with the disconnecting, whether it was the hub, the cable or a combination of the two.

Edited by rob_r
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I have bought 3 ZWO cameras and not one of their USB cables have been any good, why they supply such poor quality cables when you are spending a considerable amount of money on the camera is a mystery to me.

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I recently upgraded my guide camera to a ZWO 290mm mini. Haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I could immediately tell the 2m flat USB cable was pants, as it took an uncomfortable amount of brute force to get it to insert into my laptop's USB port, so not a good start, lol. It does at least seem to work,  but as soon as I verified that the camera could connect to Phd2, and made a few darks, the cable went straight into the big ol bag of cables (we all have one), eventually destined for the scrap heap. 

At only 2m it wasn't long enough anyway. Ordered a quality 3m Lindy one off Amazon. Job done 😀

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