Mini-VCI, Toyotas Techstream, clones, cracked software - questions

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Main Forum' started by Lares_Mat, Jun 23, 2022.

  1. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    I know, I know - there is plenty of threads on this topic here, I did even not know which forum to choose for such questions, but...

    After reading some of them, I'm not sure what to think...

    My questions:

    - are the popular Mini-VCI devices clones/nock offs of someone's earlier work? Is the integrated software (firmware) stolen from some place or hacked/cracked?

    - most of the Mini-VCI devices comes with a CD or DVD with the driver (is that genuine or stolen?) AND the TechStream software, this is definitely cracked - right?

    - are there any VCI devices (or VIM - Vehicle Interface Modules, as Toyota names them), which do not brake any intellectual property laws out there? At best at a reasonable prise ;)

    Why this questions?

    I do not like to brake any laws. The intellectual property laws included of course.

    Toyota makes it possible do download, install and use of the genuine TechStream software - you have to pay a small fee - something about € 5.00 for one day in Europe. I think one day is enough for a DIYer to do, what is needed, and the price is very good for that.

    So I bring this questions to definitively clarify, if
    - buying a China Mini-VCI does fill money to some thieves pockets in any way?
    - is it possible to an average DIYer to take advantage of the genuine Toyotas TechStream using some Hardware, that _does_not_ brake_any_intelectual_property_laws_ and does not cost a small fortune?

    I'm curious what you think!

    Mat

    PS.
    I am deliberately using here a plain language - "thieve", "stolen software" and this like.
    If someone is working hard to develop a piece of hardware, writing software for it, bringing it to the market only to wake up at some day and see cheap copies of his hard work flooding the market - can that be OK?
     
  2. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    The Mini-VCI was originally the product of an outfit named XHorse.

    It's now an extreme example of counterfeiting gone so far as to drive XHorse completely out of building their own product, as I understand it. There may be a few people on PriusChat who have very old Mini VCIs that were actually made by XHorse and not counterfeit. You won't find those when shopping now.

    Of course the ones you can buy now still often do say XHorse in the listing, and on the label, and in the firmware version string, as of course they are copies of XHorse's hardware and XHorse's firmware.

    Certainly there are others making VIM dongles who really are doing their own work. If you have around $500 to spend, the Mongoose Pro from DrewTech is the one Toyota endorses, and DrewTech is a company that was behind the drafting of the J2534 standard itself.

    But there are also cheap "Mangoose" knockoffs of that, which you'll want to avoid if you don't want to support ripoffs of DrewTech.

    A little lower on the price scale, the Tactrix Openport 2.0 is from a San Francisco outfit that still does their own work (last I checked), at around $170.

    They also have counterfeiters circling them in the water. Those counterfeits don't change the name at all (no giveaway like Mongoose/Mangoose). They'll be named and look exactly like Tactrix Openports, but you'll think "hey, less than $170, what a great price!". Don't buy those, if you don't want to support ripping off Tactrix.

    A little further down in price are the VxDiag products. I don't know much about that company, but it is another player in the space, different from the sea of counterfeit Mini VCIs.
     
  3. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

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    Funny I have all three of those VCIs or cables or whatever you want to call them from several other purchases of various software while all this was getting underway they're all original pieces too and I almost paid nothing for them and they all work as stated so I haven't had any of these Jay standard VCI cables that didn't work they worked limitedly at best and some of them worked unlimitedly that I could tell so I don't know without getting a hold of one and trying to use it what else you can do most of them you can return if you buy them etc etc so no problem I've had good luck with the one that came from the unit in the Panasonic case that I bought from a dealer that went out of business haven't had any trouble with that I make sure that VCI cable gets coiled and put up in a drawer when it's not in use generally speaking I don't carry it around a lot The tactrix the same way. Cheaper ones I'll let float around the shop no problem as they break I just throw them out
     
  4. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Underfoot

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    I watch a YouTube channel, South Main Auto. The guy is working on every make/model of car. A large part of his work involves diagnostics via a tablet (or tablets?) talking to the car via the OBD port. Not sure exactly WHAT he's using, but he's very familiar with it. I get the sense he has a paid subscription that allows him at least limited access to all the manufacturers special software.
     
  5. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    Thank you ChapmanF for your answer.
    I was actually almost sure, someone will write in open text, that this cheap China dongles are counterfeits from the beginning to the end... And of a _varying_ quality ;)

    I will definitely consider the products, you named.

    In the range of the original Mongoose is a device (and company), I stumbled upon last time - Xtool D7 - a hand-held scanner, that works without TechStrream - maybe it is worth considering as well.

    Xtool make another one - in the range of Openport - Xtool A30 (range of three devices and prices).

    Xtool (I'm really not affiliated with them ;)) _is_ a China bsed company, and I can not be sure, if their devices are not counterfeits too...
    Has someone more knowledge about them?

    I am actually looking for a device, that lets me, for example, do a relative (no spark plugs removal) and actual compression test on my engine.
    If a device works with TechStream, it probably will be able to do that - not sure for the other options without TechStream.

    Mat
     
  6. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    He uses Snap On VERUS tablet scanner - is that, what you are mentioning?
    They are definitely not cheap ;)

    Mat
     
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  7. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

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    Sap on will cost ya . Any of that stuff out of Kenosha will cost you a fortune Blue point all of it but then again that is their business automotive repair the computers thing is stumbled them up quite a bit or the code reader OBD2 things. But now newer laws and regulations make it really difficult The j standard cables now none of them need to come with software anymore because of that j standard when you plug them up they're supposed to be recognized and know what they're supposed to be doing so when they're not made correctly in the pins aren't done correctly whatever then they don't work and then we get to talking
     
  8. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    That's right - they are expensive, but they have a whole bunch of functions, that we here do not look for - we need a simple (legal) communication with TechStream.

    Is that really so? Is that true, that J2534 standard do not need any firmware? I'm not an expert, but I saw a few, which definitely had some type of firmware (you could for example change the pin order in the software).

    Mat

    PS. Man, is it difficult to read and understand your posts...
    I'm not a native English - maybe it contributes to my difficulties...
     
  9. ASRDogman

    ASRDogman Senior Member

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    I think I know who you mean. No periods, commas, paragraphs, horrible spelling....
    No one understands what he/she is writing about.
    MANY have tried to help this person, but to no avail.

    it's safer to block it, then to give you wrong advice because you misunderstand what was typed.


    PS. Man, is it difficult to read and understand your posts...
    I'm not a native English - maybe it contributes to my difficulties..
     
  10. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    I thought it was absolutely clear who I meant. In my post I only quoted one person :)

    Mat
     
  11. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

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    I have a lot of snap on tools here most of them I have gotten from friends who have died and/or retired complete boxes minimal amount of electronics and lots of tools and specialty tools I just never bought into a lot of the snap on electronics they were coming online when I was moving on to some other things some of the j standard cables that I have right here when I plug them up to a new Windows machine they are recognized almost immediately I can look up and tell you what names are applied to the device and how it's listed in the windows I'm not a real computer expert but they didn't need firmware when I used them that I remember The earlier original versions had a disc somewhere little disks but some of the newer clones that I've replaced because of broken pieces and what have you as I remember did not need a CD or a software download I don't know why
     
  12. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    J2534 is a Windows API standard. (Some folks at Microsoft must have popped some very rare champagne when it was officially adopted.)

    It specifies the functions that must be present in a Windows .DLL that has to come with the dongle (or be available for download, or whatever). When you make a selection in the VIM Select menu in Techstream or similar J2534-based software, you're really selecting one of the DLL files installed on the computer and mentioned in the registry. Then Techstream will open that DLL and use the functions in it to talk to the dongle and the car.

    The J2534 standard doesn't care a whit about the dongle's hardware, or firmware, or how it connects to the computer, as long as the right DLL that's supplied for it knows how to talk to it.

    The specification for the DLL includes functions for communicating in a bunch of different protocols (CAN, ISO 9141, etc.) and also for doing other things like measuring voltage at certain pins of the J1962 connector, or applying a selected voltage to certain pins, or grounding them (which allows the software to do the stuff on Toyotas that involves grounding the Tc or Ts pins, and so on).

    Not every J2534 dongle can actually do all of those J2534-specified things. There is a cable test function available in Techstream where it will check whether the connected dongle can do the things Techstream expects. There is also a "J2534 bus analysis tool" that can be downloaded at no cost from DrewTech and used to put any J2534 dongle through its paces.

    It is also possible, given how cheaply some available dongles are being made, for a dongle to have in theory the ability to do all those things, but to do them very unreliably, or with high error rates, or timeouts, etc. Those kinds of issues can be harder to spot with a simple function check.
     
  13. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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    You will break laws using the knockoffs and the hacked Techstream software. Which is what often gets recommended around here especially by those who buy the $30 hardware with "free" software download. The instructions specifically say don't go online with it and many members suggest installing on beater xp machines. One of these days Priuschat is likely to be sued.

    There are many "universal" scanners in the $500 and up range that also require yearly maintenance fees. Ivan on Pine Hollow Auto Diagnostics has explored the options as has the Toyota Tech on the Car Care Nut channel. Updating vehicle firmware seems to be the dividing point where the legal Techstream shines the brightest.
     
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  14. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Probably worth mentioning that there are plenty of non-knockoff dongles available in the marketplace. They cost more than the cheap counterfeit Mini-VCIs, but still not a lot, and that's a one-time cost.

    And the obvious alternative to using a hacked Techstream that came with a dongle is to download the genuine article, and buy the $65 two-day activation whenever you want to use it. That still comes in well ahead of what you'd likely pay at a dealer just to get codes read, and especially if you are actively diagnosing something, going back during those two days and reading more stuff, running active tests, etc. That would get painful fast, at dealer rates.
     
  15. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    Yes, definitely!
    We had already reached an agreement on this subject, I think.
    I always missed a clear declaration about this on PriusChat - therefore (among others) I started this thread.

    Yes, the universal scanners are not cheap, but they normally work not only with Toyota. They often need update fees (not all of them).

    I think, at this moment, it would be nice to discuss, which _legal_ possibilities we have to work/repair on our cars and not spend money every time, you have to get the codes read, switch the safety belt beeper off, make some functional tests, like "does the EGR valve open and close", relative compression test, as I mentioned earlier.

    We already mentioned the adapters:
    - Mongoose adapter, which Toyota recomends - about 500$, I think - it _will_ work with Prius and TechStream.
    - Tactrix OpenPort 2.0 - about 170$, which should work with with Prius and TechStream

    I mentioned earlier the Xtool universal scanners at range about 200$ and up - here I am not sure, if they are absolutely legal and, they are what they are - independent scanners. You can not be sure, if they work for Prius in the extend TechStream would.

    Mat
     
  16. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    I mentioned that in my initial post - the TechStream software itself is not the problem.

    The problem is, many are strangely comfortable with working with cheap stolen technology (which brought the Xhorse company to fall apparently) on clearly hacked/stolen software...

    So - we actually _have_ the possibility to work with _legal_ TechStream (if you don't mind the 65$ for two days use).

    I'm tending for me to buy a Tactrix OpenPort 2.0 dongle (genuine! there is a whole LOT of knock off's already!), but maybe it is worth considering to try the universal scanners - they tend to start at the 500$ mark, and be able to work not only with Toyota.
    But - will they do a relative compression test on Prius for example?

    Mat
     
  17. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    In the interest of full disclosure, I've been happy with the Tactrix on my Gen 3; it can complete a brake bleed, and it can get ECM data list info, and the Mini VCI that I was using before that was unable to do those things. Those were the reasons I tried the Tactrix in the first place.

    But the Tactrix has failed to completely register new TPMS IDs for me (Techstream accepts them, and tries to set them, but then reports an error, and after reconnecting, the new IDs are shown, but the TPMS light is still on), and that operation went fine when I retried with the ol' mini VCI.

    That's on a Gen 3. I believe I have also run into some Gen 2 things that worked with the Mini VCI and not with the Tactrix.

    I assume everything would work without glitches if I were to drop $495 on the DrewTech, but so far I haven't pulled that trigger.

    I have a hunch that when a Tactrix is unable to complete some operation, it's probably a design issue (maybe they just plain left out some J2534 feature that Techstream needs for that operation; I think Tactrix had its origins more in the Subaru community), and when there's something a Mini VCI flakes out on, it might be more likely a sample defect (those things are just built so cheaply, they might not all completely work, and different units might flake out differently). But verifying that hunch might be pretty hard.

    I think I also have a VxDiag dongle around here somewhere, that so far I've never really unboxed or tried.
     
  18. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    OK - so no hardware is perfect ;)

    If you want to use legal TechStream, Toyota is stating, that the hardware you are using has to be literally able of:
    "CAN (capable of ISO 15765, GMLAN and iso 14229), J1850VPW, ISO9141, KWP2000, J2534".

    Tactrix Openport 2.0 is capable of:
    Supports these major OBD protocols:
    - CAN 2.0 (CAN/ISO15765)
    - K-line (ISO9141/ISO14230(KWP2000)/dual K line)
    - J2534 PassThru support with Windows DLL
    - Able to apply GND or 5V-25V to OBD pins 1,3,9,11,12,13 or AUX 2.5mm stereo connector
    [Another source about J2534 says: "The J2534 hardware interface should be able to provide a supply voltage between 5 and 20 volts to the J1962 connector. The power supply should use one of the pins 6, 9, 11, 12, 13 or 14 of the connector and this choice should be selectable in the software. The maximum source current is 200mA and the settling time should be within 1ms."]

    What I can see, Tactrix Openport 2.0 can not provide voltage to pin 6 and 14, which would be necessary to be compliant with J2534 _BUT_ the pins 6 and 14 are connected in our Priuses to the CAN network of the car, so the need to connect any constant voltage to this pins is highly unlikely.
    So, if Toyota wants a voltage of one of the other J2534 compiant pins, it should be possible with Tactrix Openport 2.0.

    Now, I'm not an expert on all this standards and protocols...
    Is here someone, who can tell, which protocols and standards Toyota is demanding, the Tactrix Openport 2.0 is NOT capable of?

    Mat
     
  19. Lares_Mat

    Lares_Mat Junior Member

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    Now I found interesting stuff on techinfo.toyota.com regarding known bugs with TechStream Lite (the one with Mongoose dongle) and even with the regular TechStream.

    Going here:
    https://techinfo.toyota.com/techInfoPortal/appmanager/t3/ti?_pageLabel=ti_ts_lite&_nfpb=true
    you can find interesting information.

    Most interesting is the point of
    "Known Bugs List
    Check out this document for a list of current Techstream bugs."
    The link is here:
    https://techinfo.toyota.com/techInfoPortal/staticcontent/en/techinfo/html/prelogin/tsrss/ts_known_bugs.html

    It is really worth reading!

    You can find even something like this:
    Errors with Tire Pressure Monitor System
    https://techinfo.toyota.com/techInfoPortal/staticcontent/en/techinfo/html/prelogin/tsrss/ts_known_bugs.html#open140

    So - as I said - no hardware is perfect. No software is perfect as well ;)

    Mat
     
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