Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Another excursion to eBay. All I wanted was a USB hub and they seem to be quite expensive in stores. So I looked around for one fulfilling the reasonable requirements of supporting USB-2, having at least four ports (I would have preferred 7 but those are much harder to find, more expensive and not really necessary for the number of USB devices I am using), being powered and being neither exceedingly ugly nor exceedingly large. All this at a good price of course. The number of devices matching this wasn’t too large and I settled for a hub by a company called Saitek which was selling for a fixed price of €5. I ended up getting two of them in fact as this wouldn’t increase the shipping rate and this way I’ll have a spare one or one to give away or something.

Everything went smoothly with eBay and I picket up a huge envelope from the post office today, wrapping the hubs in large original packaging. Strangely there was some additional tape on the packaging and I started wondering what that was about. But I didn’t need to wait long to figure that out. Unpacking them revealed that these were actually British hubs with British plugs, i.e. the huge and ugly ones. To avoid complaints, they had packaged an additional plug converter with the hubs.

USB hub, plug, and converter

I can’t really complain about this as it technically works. And it gives me a free plug adaptor as well, which may be handy when friends from the UK come to visit. But it still feels very dodgy.

System Profiler reporting the hub And the hub seems to work. I could connect four devices and they were recognised by the computer. At least as long as the power is turned on. But even when the power is turned on, it seems that the graphics tablet isn’t powered up reliably, which is strange. Unplugging and replugging it will resolve the problem – but that’s exactly what I wanted to avoid by getting a hub. My idea was to hide as many cables as possible and only having a single plug to plug into the computer. Are these kinds of problems common for USB?

I’m really quite puzzled by this. Thinking back almost a decade, I remember the world of ADB. And for most day-to-day uses it was just as good as USB is. I could have a keyboard, a mouse and a graphics tablet connected on it as well – all through the handy ‘hub’ in the screen. We even had a colorimetre thing for calibrating the screen on ADB and some dongle. What we didn’t have, of course, were iPods, hard drives or scanners. But on the other hand we did have the Extended II keyboard which was just wonderful to type on (and was abominably huge).

In fact, I do have a CRT iMac keyboard hooked up to my Powerbook currently. And it started sucking sometime last year. Somehow the keys feel ‘sticky’ – which isn’t just a whim of mine but was also confirmed by my brother. So I’m looking for another keyboard. I really like the small size ones as they don’t clutter my desk as badly and I’ve had small ones at home ever since I got a Mac. But there seems to be no good way to get those. But what else to get? A Bluetooth keyboard would be neat but those are expensive (Apple) or dead ugly (everyone else)? A USB to ADB convertor with one of my old keyboards or even my dad’s old Extended II? Probably not cheap either, but nice.

Argh. Silly questions… getting a keyboard should be easy!

To finish with the USB hub. It’s got one really annoying thing about it – that’s probably part of what they consider to be a ‘stylish’ design: There’s a huge blue glowing blob in its middle which makes it look like a cheap UFO. I’ll have to see how disturbing that extra light is in the room. I hope I can bear it as I don’t want to turn the thing off and on all the time.

USb hub glowing

August 31, 2005, 1:26

Tagged as ebay.


Comment by Sören Kuklau: User icon

“But even when the power is turned on, it seems that the graphics tablet isn’t powered up reliably, which is strange.”

The devices in your USB hub may be drawing too much power from it at once. Apple’s USB Prober (in the Xcode Tools) might give you more information.

Also, note that it isn’t considered good practice to connect your main keyboard through a hub; it may not immediately be available while the computer is booting, so if something goes wrong (e.g. you have to boot into OpenFirmware), it might not be recognized at all. So, usually, you want to connect the keyboard directly. Just a sidenote.

August 31, 2005, 3:12

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for the USB Prober hint.

It confirmed that power usage shouldn’t be a problem as the tablet uses only 40mA (as compared to 100mA of the mouse, say). As I specifically bought a powered hub, I don’t think any USB device should have power troubles on the hub anyway.

It’s more convenient to run the keyboard through the hub though for me as that minimises the plugging and unplugging I have to do and should things really go wrong badly, there’s still the Powerbook’s built-in keyboard :)

August 31, 2005, 10:17

Comment by Sören Kuklau: User icon

“should things really go wrong badly, there’s still the Powerbook’s built-in keyboard”

slaps forehead Duh, I forgot you were on a laptop. Naturally, you don’t have that problem then. :-)

August 31, 2005, 12:23

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