New USB hub cuts a cord

May 05, 2010 By Craig Crossman

I maintain that anything helping me to get rid of wires is aces with me. Basically I can't stand wires. I truly believe that anyone who has confronted the rat's nest of wires behind their desk must be in agreement to my cordless mantra of "Wires Are Evil." Over the years, things have improved within the area of connectivity. Gone for the most part are parallel cables, serial cables and those really thick and ugly SCSI cables.

The wires we see on modern computers are usually USB, and a smattering of Firewire cables. The good news is that wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi continue making a large portion of those wired connections disappear into thin air.

Still, wires continue to plague us and I don't see them completely disappearing in the near future. For now, power cables seem to be the final holdout. We really don't have a practical way to send significant amounts of power through the air so for now, it looks like power cords will remain a necessary evil. Of course clever engineering can handle excessive cables via cable management systems and some products that let a single provide electricity to everything via a system of pass-through connectors.

Most anyone who has ever purchased a cable for their computer probably knows about Belkin. Based in California, the company is a market leader in the production of most every kind of computer and audio/video cable out there. So it's interesting to note that this leading cable manufacturer continues to come up with wireless solutions. The company has its CableFree USB Hub, the industry's first USB Hub that does not require a cable to connect it to the computer.

The CableFree USB Hub consists of two main parts. The first is the little transceiver stick that plugs into any USB port on the computer. The other is the hub itself. The powered four-port hub sits anywhere in the room and makes its cordless connection to the computer. You can plug in up to four USB devices and that's pretty much it. The connection to the computer is handled via a proprietary wireless connection called Freescale's Ultra-Wideband Technology. At rates 100 times faster than Bluetooth, the CableFree Hub is capable of handling high data transfer rates needed for video, audio, and data streams.

I don't know what took them so long to come out with something like this but I can tell you that I already have the perfect place where this will become a necessity. Years ago, I had designed a custom wall unit to hold two of my printers and two other USB devices (currently my scanner and label printer). Unfortunately the USB cable I had wired inside the wall behind the unit to the computer had become damaged. In addition, it was an older USB 1.1 cable so I couldn't enjoy the faster speed of my new USB 2.0 peripherals in the cabinet. Being able to wireless connect all of them via a cordless connection brings me and the peripherals back up to date. Placing the CableFree hub in the cabinet lets me connect all of the USB devices there into the hub. Since the hub communicates to the computer with out a wire, all of my USB devices in the cabinet will once again be connected without the ugly wire hanging across the wall and over the desk to the computer.

The CableFree wireless hub works on any computer with ports, sells for $199.99 and is available directly from the Belkin website.

I realize that the cable-free office is still a ways off but the CableFree Hub is certainly another milestone toward its realization.

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dirk_bruere
not rated yet May 05, 2010
Great if you want someone to be able to close down entire neighbourhoods with jammers.
ThomasS
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Ill take a wire over wireless anytime.
frajo
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Basically, I can't stand wireless. It's messy to keep safe, it's slow, it's not reliable. It's expensive. And I can't colour-code the connections between my devices.
Wires are beautiful. They remind me of the highly aesthetic and unequaled complexity of the human nervous network.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet May 06, 2010
We had wireless television for years and years in this country.

Then we developed "Cable TV". For some uses a hardline is necessary, and not due to jammers, which can scramble hardlilned signal as well if intense enough.
Adriab
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Plus, wireless is inefficient, more devices will cause more collisions. Consumer devices are only allowed a certain bandwidth-range in which to operate.

Point-to-point wireless is kind-of cool, but then you still need to make sure the sender and receiver are properly line up.
DaveGee
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2010
Ill take a wire over wireless anytime.


How's that workin for your cell phone?
DaveGee
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2010
For some uses a hardline is necessary, and not due to jammers, which can scramble hardlilned signal as well if intense enough.


As someone who lives a little over 10 miles (LOS) from the GW Bridge (to NYC) and have the 5 figure property tax bill to prove it, my area is a living example.

We live in a lovely 'suburban' area with lots of green-spaces, trails, lakes we have one more attribute that is also quite lovely.. A mountain top... the only problem is we all live on the 'wrong' side which is all but cutting us off from just about any modern over the air broadcasts.

10 short miles from one of the most enormous broadcast markets in the US and I can't get $#*(%& over the air. :(
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet May 06, 2010
frajo-why color code wires and have to keep track of them when you can run off a single invisible "air wire"?

Adriab-your concerns can be address via buffering and improvements in error handling predominantly I think

DaveGee-love the first comment..as to your second...petition your city to put in repeaters....that should take care of that problem cheaply and quickly...

And to the article: USB hubs are well known for difficulties in detecting certain hardware types (for new installs) from the operating system, causing manual intervention, aka, elimination of the USB hub, just to detect the device (even though it works fine after installation when hooked up to the USB hub). I have seen this time and time again...
What reliability does a wireless USB hub have in that area. The fact is, if you can't detect even some of the hardware you may hook up, then its not a $200 product, its a $50 product at best...
rwinners
not rated yet May 08, 2010
Fiber cable is the way to go. It's thin, flexible and very fast. Trick is in reducing the size of the transceivers.
frajo
not rated yet May 08, 2010
why color code wires and have to keep track of them when you can run off a single invisible "air wire"?
Because a) it's beautiful and b) it helps to see which devices are on each subnet.
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet May 10, 2010
but were talking USB devices...no such thing as a subnet :)