Tag Archives | USB

In Praise of Wires

USB Halo“It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkies instead of the other way around.” America’s sweetheart, Mary Pickford, said that. I’m not completely sure I understand what she meant–but I think of the quote often. And lately, I’ve been thinking that it would have more logical if wired connections had grown out of wireless.

A few weeks ago, I bought a gadget I’d been contemplating for awhile: an Eye-Fi wireless SD card, designed to transfer photos from camera to computer over a home network. Its slogan: “No wires. No hassles. No kidding.” Every once in awhile, it works as advertised. But mostly, I’ve spent more time unsuccessfully troubleshooting it than shooting pictures with it.

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New Tech Still on Tap for 2009

[A NOTE FROM HARRY: Here’s a post by Mari Silbey, one of Dave Zatz’s Zatz Not Funny colleagues. We’ll be borrowing some of her ZNF items along with Dave’s–welcome Mari!]

In Store for 2009We have yet to hit the holiday shopping season, so you know there will still be plenty of gadget goodness before the year ends. However, there’s also some new behind-the-scenes tech to get excited about in 2009. Here are four enabling technologies to watch out for in the next four months. This tech may not be sexy, but it’s guaranteed to make those shiny gadget toys work better, smarter, faster.


Since my netbook is clearly not cutting it for a lot of video playback, I’m psyched about new processors making their way into netbooks and small laptops in Q4. Most likely to actually hit the commercial market this year is the NVIDIA ION chipset, which is said to boost graphics power significantly in any Intel-Atom-powered device. According to Brad Linder over at Lilliputing (also heard as afternoon anchor on my local NPR station), two major manufacturers, Lenovo and Samsung, are planning to ship ION-powered laptops in the last few months of the year. And, Brad speculates that the upcoming Nokia netbook, the Booklet 3G, may also sport NVIDIA ION graphics. More info to come at Nokia World on September 2nd.

USB 3.0

If you’re into transferring a lot of media between devices, then the launch of USB 3.0 is right up your alley. Unlike USB 2.0, which transfers data at a rate of 480 Mbps, USB 3.0 boasts a whopping transfer speed of 4.8 Gbps. That’s not just good for moving HD video around, it’s also perfect for large back-up operations to an external hard drive. According to Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM, USB 3.0 will start shipping to device-makers this year, with consumer availability soon to follow.


I know, I know, it’s cool to be down on WiMAX these days, but I’m still excited for it to spread to more cities (including my own Philadelphia) this year. Partly I’m excited about the higher speeds for mobile broadband, but partly I’m excited because of the different pricing options compared to existing 3G services. For example, my employer is unlikely to subsidize mobile broadband at $60 per month, but a $10 day pass is a good bet for reimbursement. Perfect for conferences, and other places where Wi-Fi tends to be lacking. Even an unlimited mobile contract is said to be only $50 per month. (See pricing coverage from Paul Kapustka at Sidecut Reports) That’s a better price and a faster connection.

Upstream Channel Bonding

And while we’re on the subject of broadband speeds, here’s an obscure one: upstream channel bonding. Channel bonding is what’s making it possible for cable operators to offer peak DOCSIS 3.0 speedsof 50-100 Mbps in some markets. To date we’ve only seen downstream channel bonding in the US, but upstream channel bonding is on its way. Karl Bode at Broadband Reports wrote earlier this month that Comcast is exploring upstream DOCSIS 3.0 trials this year, with upstream speeds maxing out at 120 Mbps.

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USB 3.0: Faster! Faster!

My iPhone 3G euphoria faded the moment I took my phone home and plugged it into my PC to synchronize with iTunes–it took way too long to transfer my music and videos. Cue the USB 3.0 specification: What took minutes could conceivably now take seconds.

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, the body that oversees USB 3.0, announced today that it has completed work on version 1.0 of the specification. The specification has been dubbed “USB SuperSpeed,” and it can deliver over ten times the speed of today’s USB connections, or up to 5Gbps, according to the group’s Web site.

USB 3.0 remains backwards compatible with USB 2.0 Type A connectors, but sports new power management capabilities and handles data flow differently. Wiring changes provide for bidirectional data transfers; USB 2.0 is based on unidirectional data flow.

According to press reports, consumer USB 3.0 devices are slated to hit the market in 2010, and flash drives may be the first products to sport the new interface.

Whether real life performance lives up to promised performance remains to be seen; device overhead can sap theoretical speed. Demonstrations of devices were noted to be well under 5Gbps.

Still, the storage capacity of phones, media players, and other devices is increasing–if I get a device with much larger capacity two years from now and I can fill it up in the same time it takes to fill my iPhone today, I’ll be happy.

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A Partial Cure for the No-MacBook-FireWire Blues

I’m thinking this is my final post on the lack of FireWire on Apple’s new MacBook, but it might help some of the folks who are in mourning. If what you’re sad about losing is Apple’s FireWire Target Disk Mode–which lets you copy files back and forth between two Macs via a FireWire cable–you can get a rough USB approximation in Targus’s Targus for Mac File Transfer Cable.

It’s a $50 cable that lets you connect two Macs–or a Mac and a Windows PC, or two Windows PCs–and shuttle files between them. One end of the cable has a lump (see above), and the lump contains Mac and Windows software that shows the folders on both computers and allows you to drag and drop folders and files:

Since the software’s in the cable, there’s no need to install anything (you just launch it directly from the cable). And unlike Target Disk Mode, you don’t need to reboot one computer and put it in a mode that doesn’t let you do anything else. If you’ve been using computers as long as I have, the whole experience will remind you of using Laplink.

I haven’t done any speed comparisons between this cable and Target Disk Mode–lemme know if you’re curious, and if there’s enough demand, I’ll try to do some.

Not everybody needs this cable–if your computers are both on a network, you can move files between them without any additional cost–but it does what it does nicely, and might be worth the investment–especially if you’ve got multiple Macs and Windows PCs.

I do think that Apple will eventually make Target Disk Mode work with USB connections; I make no predictions about when that may happen, though…