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I'm plugging in a USB device which should be a USB/serial adapter. In addition to it not seeming to work, plugging and unplugging it produces absolutely no output in Console.app or /var/log/system.log. Is there any lower level place I can look to see what's happening when I plug it in?

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You need to install the usbutils commands via macport (sorry, I don't use brew)

sudo port install usbutils

then, for a first check, try the following command:

lsusb

You should see a list of your USB devices. It might be hard for you to identify your device. A good way to filter all your devices is to remove every of them except your USB/serial adapter.

If lsusb returns nothing. Your device is dead.

If my memory is good, the name of an USB-serial adapter printed ends by:

 USB-Serial (UART) IC

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