Author Topic: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?  (Read 49444 times)

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Offline ZipdoxTopic starter

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Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« on: February 25, 2024, 01:59:00 am »
The Segger J-Link EDU Mini has some restrictions applied, mainly "You may use the J-Link EDU Mini for non-profit educational purposes only!" I don't plan on violating this, I don't even have a company, but it seems silly to me because as far as I'm aware there's no legal mechanism for enforcing such a restriction, or even figuring out if someone is violating it. Usage of the product itself doesn't rely on any service provided by J-Link. In my option the whole J-Link product lineup is massively overpriced, it seems almost criminal how much they charge for them.
 
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Online ataradov

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2024, 02:13:22 am »
They can. The  same way as software companies can enforce license violations even if product does not rely on the cloud. In case of companies, one disgruntled employee reporting abuse may be enough to ruin your day. How likely it is to happen - probably not likely, but do you want to take on this risk?

I don't really understand what is so special about J-Link, especially for ARM. Just use any CMSIS-DAP debugger and you get support by a ton of tools.

Now, if you also like Segger tools that come for "free" with the hardware and can't live without them, then this is the costly part. They are just offloading that cost to the hardware because they know people will try to cheat the system.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 02:14:59 am by ataradov »
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Offline ZipdoxTopic starter

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2024, 03:18:27 am »
The thing is, you're not explicitly agreeing to the restrictions when you buy it through a distributor. A link to the restrictions is in the description, which you might not have read, and there's no checkbox or confirmation you have to click to buy the product. They cannot prove you explicitly agreed to the terms.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 03:24:01 am by Zipdox »
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2024, 03:23:08 am »
I bet those terms are in their license for the software anyway.  The click though thing is just to make you even more aware of it.

Also, don't you need .edu or other educational email to even order it? Did they drop this requirement?

I don't think there is a way to impose terms on the use of the hardware alone. But if you are using it in conjunction with their software, then it is a pretty clear license violation. And without the software, the hardware is nothing special that is not available for basically free.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 03:26:44 am by ataradov »
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Offline ZipdoxTopic starter

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2024, 03:25:55 am »
I never saw a EULA when I installed the deb package. Also like I said, there's distributors selling the product.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2024, 03:28:13 am »
I never saw a EULA when I installed the deb package.
This does not mean there is no license. Just because you did not bother to check, does not mean you are not bound by it. You don't need to explicitly agree to anything.
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Online ataradov

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2024, 03:38:07 am »
So, I just went to download the DEB, and you have to click a checkbox where you agree to follow the licensing requirements. The full license in the DEB does not have anything specifically for EDU version, but it has generic
Quote
3. RESTRICTIONS
Licensee may not:
(d) install or use the SOFTWARE with unauthorized debug probes and programmers,

I guess, you can technically pretend that you did not know that your use of that hardware in that way was not authorized, but it would be a very flimsy argument. And you would need to be very careful to not keep any internal communications about it, since it will come out in discovery.

The license also directs you to get a list of authorized devices here http://www.segger.com/terms-of-use.html. And from there you get to the EDU page that shows the restrictions.

Basically any arguments here would be based on willful ignorance, which is not the best defense.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 03:41:11 am by ataradov »
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Offline mwb1100

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2024, 05:28:13 am »
I'm not sure if it's realistic (or even possible) for Segger to take any kind of "enforcement" action like a lawsuit - especially against a single person.  It seems they rely on the honor system.

However I do know that they will not provide any support if they are convinced you are not a student/hobbiest.  The best they will do is refer you to the webshop to purchase a non-EDU j-link.  They take the same approach with people using clones who ask for support.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2024, 05:38:04 am »
Even legitimate EDU versions do not come with support. This is stated on the product page.

I do agree that it is not likely they will be able to do anything against a person. But things like this come out sooner or later. Like today tools may not be connected, but tomorrow there is some update that collects "usage statistics" and reports them to Segger.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 05:40:43 am by ataradov »
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Offline hans

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2024, 10:59:34 am »
I don't really understand what is so special about J-Link, especially for ARM. Just use any CMSIS-DAP debugger and you get support by a ton of tools.

I guess, because:

It sells with support for proprietary toolchains like IAR or Keil. I haven't used these in ages, but last time I used them I couldn't use e.g. a FT2232 to debug devices.
It has its own IDE for people that like to marry their hardware supplier with "the ecosystem"
It has extra debugging libraries like Segger RTT, SystemView, etc. Nothing you couldn't write yourself on a rainy afternoon, but it can be nice to work out of the box.

Just for debugging/programming J-Link can indeed be overkill. On the other hand, I've been debugging some Cortex-m33 cores lately (STM32, EFR32), and the cutting-edge support in some tools like OpenOCD can be very hit and miss, even years after release. J-Link GDB utils worked straight out of the box.

I partially agree with ataradov on this. As it stands now, J-Link can't track down on its illegitimate use of debug probes. Its not like they can order a police raid to look for EDU probes at company XYZ. Installing call-home for "telemetry" would probably receive some backlash from legitimate customers, although probably survivable if it would really put their company on the line.

So that only leaves the reporting route. This is where I think most damage is caused by potential&fear. I doubt a (single) verbal report would do anything at all, as anyone can fabricate that. They could of course write you up to stop using the probes, etc.etc. But in Dutch we would call this a "bark letter" ;)

However, if an employee would collect convincing evidence (e.g. stuff thats not easily fabricated) in the last month of their way out, in particular about structural use of those probes, then I'm sure you're in more trouble. And they are probably not going to tell you they have that evidence when they send that "bark letter". At best, you 100% ignore them and nothing happens. Most likely you pay a shut-up fine to not waste any time on this. At worst, they drag you into court ..
But I'm not a lawyer etc, no legal advice, but I think all that fuss would make 500$-2k$ per developer for companies a complete bargain.

Example: many moons ago, I worked as hardware designer at company A that was bought out by company B. The time zone difference between both companies was about 6-10hrs. We had just transitioned into using Altium, and company B ran a network license server for in its own timezone. We hopped on, and effectively we could utilize seats for 16hrs a day. I've no clue if thats illegimate.. I suppose its borderline at best,
anyhow.. one day, I got a phone call from a sales person of Altium Netherlands asking whether we were interested in a trial for Altium. I told them we were already using it. They got off the phone confused why we were not in their customer DB. Maybe their instant thought was we pirated it (which not be a nice thing to confess). I stayed around with the company for another year or so IIRC, but I never heard anything from it. After all, they would have to proof that I was not joking.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 11:12:48 am by hans »
 

Offline Nominal Animal

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2024, 11:08:47 am »
In the EU, EU Computer Programs Directive (Wikipedia); currently Directive 2009/24/EC, describes what national laws should say about computer programs.

In essence, Article 4(1)(a) gives the rightsholder the right to do or authorise "the permanent or temporary reproduction of a computer program by any means and in any form, in part or in whole; in so far as loading, displaying, running, transmission or storage of the computer program necessitate such reproduction, such acts shall be subject to authorisation by the rightholder;", but Article 5(1) states "In the absence of specific contractual provisions, the acts referred to in points (a) and (b) of Article 4(1) shall not require authorisation by the rightholder where they are necessary for the use of the computer program by the lawful acquirer in accordance with its intended purpose, including for error correction."

In other words, if you obtain a copy of the software legally, the EU copyright laws give you the right to execute it, even if it involves creating temporary copies et cetera.  There is no need for the rightsholder to "grant user a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to install and use the software", because the copyright law already grants that.

Many common EULA points are also unenforceable.  For example, the aforementioned directive Article 5(3) states "The person having a right to use a copy of a computer program shall be entitled, without the authorisation of the right holder, to observe, study or test the functioning of the program in order to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program if he does so while performing any of the acts of loading, displaying, running, transmitting or storing the program which he is entitled to do."

So, it all boils down to whether a post-purchase agreement between a business entity and a consumer is a valid contract in EU or not.
For agreements between a business and a consumer, the key is the Unfair Contract Terms Directive (Wikipedia), currently Directive 2005/29/EC (consolidated); and other consumer protection laws and business-consumer contract laws.
Basically, adding post-purchase agreement or other similar clauses makes the contract unfair, and that means it is not binding to the consumer.
The user will not obtain any of the additional rights the post-purchase agreement would convey, and will only have the rights conveyed by copyright laws.

In other words, post-purchase agreements do not apply to consumers in the EU.  For an EULA to be legally binding, all the terms should be agreed upon at or before the purchase, as part of the purchasing contract itself.  If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, too, even from the software vendor perspective.  I personally have no issue with this, and I do occasionally work on proprietary software.

For zero-cost software, installation could require the user to agree to some EULA, and if not "unfair", it will be legally binding in the EU.
 
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Offline zilp

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2024, 12:10:36 pm »
So, it all boils down to whether a post-purchase agreement between a business entity and a consumer is a valid contract in EU or not.

Really, the first question would be: Is it a post-purchase agreement?

If all you bought was the hardware, then a EULA for downloading separate software, say, is not a post-purchase agreement. If the software came bundled with the hardware, though, then the conditions in a EULA would be a post-purchase agreement if you weren't asked to agree to the EULA before purchase.

A separate question then would be whether the product could be considered defective if the software isn't supplied with the hardware (like, if, as designed by the manufacturer, the hardware can only be used with their software, and the advertisement/produce description suggests functionality that is missing without the software), in which case it might be possible to "circumvent" a EULA on download by demanding "repair" of the defective product, i.e., being supplied with the missing software. As, in this scenario, you would be owed the software under the existing purchase contract, they then couldn't demand that you agree to the EULA before they fulfill the existing obligations from the purchase contract. (You'd have to demand the software from the seller, though, the manufacturer doesn't owe you anything.)
 

Offline Nominal Animal

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2024, 12:40:20 pm »
Really, the first question would be: Is it a post-purchase agreement?
Perhaps.  In that case, we'd need to look carefully at what you purchased, and whether the features listed for the hardware are accessible without any software.   (If the featured listed for the hardware do not mention they are not available without separately-obtained software, it could be argued to be false advertising; another unfair practice.)

If the hardware product page mentions that required software requires a separate EULA, we get into murky waters again.  If that EULA is readable prior to purchase, and the requirement is listed in the product properties, then indeed it could be argued that exactly what is being purchased and at what conditions was known to the customer, and the EULA thus valid in EU.

So yeah, it's not clear cut by any means; but the key point is that EULAs are not automatically legally binding in EU like they are in the USA.

The annoying thing here is that it isn't that hard to make the terms clear up front, including the software license terms, before you purchase the hardware and/or softwaret –– be it online, or from a physical store.  I do sincirely believe that EULAs need to die, and vendors show a fair purchase agreement including software licensing terms, rather than just do what suffices in USA and let everyone else wonder what the hell they're supposed to mean wrt. local laws.

For zero-cost downloadable software, I do consider an install-time EULA acceptable form and a valid agreement, although I would prefer to be able to read the terms before I download a potentially huge amount of installer data.
 

Offline ZipdoxTopic starter

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2024, 02:22:17 pm »
Okay but what if you used third party software?
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2024, 02:32:45 pm »
If it's not possible to see the EULA before purchasing, then I would have thought it would have thought that, you can simply return it and get refunded, if you disagree with it.

Laws vary around the world. Does anyone know of any relevant legal cases? It's often difficult to know for sure either way, without a similar legal test case to refer to.
 

Offline zilp

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2024, 03:05:58 pm »
If it's not possible to see the EULA before purchasing, then I would have thought it would have thought that, you can simply return it and get refunded, if you disagree with it.

Laws vary around the world. Does anyone know of any relevant legal cases? It's often difficult to know for sure either way, without a similar legal test case to refer to.

Yeah, laws vary, but in Germany, for example, there is no general right to return defective products, but rather, you have to give the seller a chance to replace it with a non-defective item or to repair it, and only if that fails, you then might have the right to return the product for a refund, so I would expect that you would first have to ask the seller to supply the software without the need to agree to a EULA before you could return the hardware for a refund.

(And for that matter, the seller also has no general right to take the product back for a refund. If they have agreed to a purchase contract that obligates them to deliver a particular product, then they can only get out of that if the buyer agrees. Best case they might not have to supply the actual product, if doing so is objectively impossible for them todo, but then, they are still liable for your damages from not receiving the product they owed you.)
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 03:08:51 pm by zilp »
 

Offline peter-h

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2024, 03:11:35 pm »
Quote
We had just transitioned into using Altium, and company B ran a network license server for in its own timezone. We hopped on, and effectively we could utilize seats for 16hrs a day. I've no clue if thats illegimate.. I suppose its borderline at best,
anyhow.. one day, I got a phone call from a sales person of Altium Netherlands asking whether we were interested in a trial for Altium. I told them we were already using it. They got off the phone confused why we were not in their customer DB. Maybe their instant thought was we pirated it (which not be a nice thing to confess).

I smiled when I read this, because Altium tried to do a similar thing to me :) I've been using Protel PCB 2.8 (which was eventually taken over by what became Altium) since 1995, legit purchased in 1995 for about £1500. A few years ago a colleague, who was being pursued by Altium for using their software at more workstations than the license they purchased, and with Altium pursuing them for way more than what they were actually selling the software for (!!), asked me to ask Altium for a quote :) I did this and passed the price to my colleague. Altium evidently found out who my colleague got the pricing from and spent the next year or so phoning me up and alleging I was using bootleg Altium software. They could not believe I was still using 1995 software! Eventually I told them to f-off and stop hassling me.

I tested the Segger Edu and it does nothing useful compared to STLINK V2 or V3 etc. Segger stuff sells for a lot of money because it is German and Germans buy German stuff to get support in German. Similar to France, except that the French buy French even if it is 10x the cost :) Germans are cost-sensitive and will buy a foreign product but it needs local support in real German (not e.g. a Brit, Frenchman, etc who speaks a bit of German and hangs out in an office in Germany). They will pay a lot extra for this "real German" support. The only Segger advantage I recall is that their expensive debuggers gave you unlimited hardware breakpoints, via CPU FLASH patching on the fly.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 03:17:18 pm by peter-h »
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Online ataradov

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2024, 04:46:34 pm »
It sells with support for proprietary toolchains like IAR or Keil. I haven't used these in ages, but last time I used them I couldn't use e.g. a FT2232 to debug devices.
This is why I suggested CMSIS-DAP. It is supported by both IAR and Keil.

It has its own IDE for people that like to marry their hardware supplier with "the ecosystem"
This is what you are actually paying money for. But they have even fewer ways to collect the money for the software alone.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2024, 06:10:02 pm by ataradov »
Alex
 
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Offline Zero999

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2024, 05:50:39 pm »
If it's not possible to see the EULA before purchasing, then I would have thought it would have thought that, you can simply return it and get refunded, if you disagree with it.

Laws vary around the world. Does anyone know of any relevant legal cases? It's often difficult to know for sure either way, without a similar legal test case to refer to.

Yeah, laws vary, but in Germany, for example, there is no general right to return defective products, but rather, you have to give the seller a chance to replace it with a non-defective item or to repair it, and only if that fails, you then might have the right to return the product for a refund, so I would expect that you would first have to ask the seller to supply the software without the need to agree to a EULA before you could return the hardware for a refund.

(And for that matter, the seller also has no general right to take the product back for a refund. If they have agreed to a purchase contract that obligates them to deliver a particular product, then they can only get out of that if the buyer agrees. Best case they might not have to supply the actual product, if doing so is objectively impossible for them todo, but then, they are still liable for your damages from not receiving the product they owed you.)
Does it make any difference whether it was purchased in person or online?

In the UK, if it's bought online, the distance selling regulations mean you can return it for whatever reason, within a set time period after receiving it, whether it's defective or not. If it's bought in person, then you only have the right to can return it, if it's defective, in exchange for a replacement or refund.

I would have thought that, the buyer would have to be given the opportunity to read a contact, before purchasing said item, in order for it to be valid.
 

Offline zilp

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #19 on: February 25, 2024, 08:35:46 pm »
Does it make any difference whether it was purchased in person or online?

In the UK, if it's bought online, the distance selling regulations mean you can return it for whatever reason, within a set time period after receiving it, whether it's defective or not. If it's bought in person, then you only have the right to can return it, if it's defective, in exchange for a replacement or refund.

Yeah, distance selling regulations are a separate thing, where the buyer can withdraw from a contract within two weeks for no particular reason, but for one, that only applies for consumers, not B2B, and also, well, it's just two weeks.

I would have thought that, the buyer would have to be given the opportunity to read a contact, before purchasing said item, in order for it to be valid.

Yeah, sure. And I am not saying that you couldn't potentially also just "agree" to the EULA and use the software, with the EULA not being enforceable anyway. You just couldn't just return the product for being defective without first giving the seller a chance to correct the defect.
 

Offline peter-h

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #20 on: February 26, 2024, 02:43:03 pm »
Quote
that only applies for consumers, not B2B

IANAL but I would not be so sure. Lots of people think that these consumer protection regs apply only to B2C, not B2B, but most/all of them do apply to B2B too.

The crucial difference is that a consumer cannot be bound by a contract containing prohibited terms, whereas a business customer can.

It's a complicated area.
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Offline zilp

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #21 on: February 26, 2024, 04:44:41 pm »
Quote
that only applies for consumers, not B2B

IANAL but I would not be so sure.

I would be:

https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_bgb/englisch_bgb.html#p1137

Lots of people think that these consumer protection regs apply only to B2C, not B2B, but most/all of them do apply to B2B too.

Which is true, but this one in particular doesn't. And kinda for good reason, too: Businesses have the habit of buying large volumes of stuff, and businesses are generally expected to be better equipped to make sure that they know that they are ordering the right thing. It wouldn't really be appropriate if a business could just return truck loads of materials because they found a cheaper offer elsewhere.

Protections such as rules about defects in products or unfair business practices usually do apply for B2B, too, because there obviously is no reason why a business should have to accept defective products, say. Also, sellers are free to offer equivalent (or different) return policies for business customers, too, of course, if they think that it's good for business.
 

Offline audiotubes

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #22 on: February 26, 2024, 05:08:21 pm »
Some other things which are factored in are company reputation and cost of enforcement. It is unusual (outside the "movie and recording industry") for companies to go after individuals unless that individual is harming their business on a large scale (for some value of large). Lawyers cost a lot of money and even when the court grants legal fees if they win, it still costs them time and money they would rather not spend. And, companies (in general) don't want to look bad for persecuting individuals.

I know of a very large company with plenty of lawyers which has repeatedly sued multiple busineses out of existence for getting close to their business, while completely ignoring individuals who do similar or even identical things, who discuss, demo, present them online etc. if they don't make a business out of it.
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Offline mwb1100

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2024, 06:15:41 pm »
Even legitimate EDU versions do not come with support. This is stated on the product page.

Yes, I forgot that.  Even so, what I was thinking about is they do provide help for EDU users on their forum (which technically is not "support"), but not if it appears you aren't a student/hobbiest.

Just use any CMSIS-DAP debugger and you get support by a ton of tools.

I have never used a CMSIS-DAP device (only st-link and j-link). I should try it one of these days.
 

Offline mikerj

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Re: Can Segger legally enforce J-Link EDU Mini restrictions?
« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2024, 11:10:53 pm »
It sells with support for proprietary toolchains like IAR or Keil. I haven't used these in ages, but last time I used them I couldn't use e.g. a FT2232 to debug devices.
This is why I suggested CMSIS-DAP. It is supported by both IAR and Keil.

Does CMSIS-DAP have anything broadly similar to Segger's RTT?  I've found that extremely useful for debugging and dumping real-time data from control loops for tuning.
 


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