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Hardware Technology

Wireless USB hubs 204

HaggiZ writes "Here is alternative to the clutter of USB cables and keys sitting on your desk. Now Belkin has announced their own wire-free USB setup. It's a wireless USB hub, allowing your to plug devices into the hub and have your PC/laptop elsewhere and not need to worry about running cables along the livingroom or study to reach. Very handy for laptop users, I can imagine some very handy uses for so HTPCs as well. Shipping in spring for a shave under $130."
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Wireless USB hubs

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  • by PlayCleverFully ( 947815 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:13AM (#14532542) Homepage
    Well, yeah, it sounds great and will probably be great for lots of things.

    However, performance will drop on these items, even the fastest wireless gaming mouses have a semi-noticable lag when you use them. This lag in other items could create problems, like obfuscated code going to printers, etc.

    Also, a security issue if you live in close-quarters (apartments, office buildings) because people could sniff the "packets" between the hub and device. They could watch you on your webcam, when you have your webcam software off.

    Well, it will probably be good, the cons are not too bad, I will actually probably buy one myself.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "even the fastest wireless gaming mouses have a semi-noticable lag when you use them"

      aka "i know it's wireless so i imagine lag that isn't there"?
      • "even the fastest wireless gaming mouses have a semi-noticable lag when you use them"

        aka "i know it's wireless so i imagine lag that isn't there"?

        Yes. The same imaginary lag that happens when I ping my laptop connected via wireless compared to a server connected by CAT5. Not to mention that many wireless mice in the past have had issues with lag. Granted, it is now very minor compared to the whole reaction cycle (percieve, process, respond = 150-200ms at best) but for really high end gaming it could be an i

        • The weight of batteries is also an issue, more inertia requires more force which could be interpreted as lag.

          Wow. That is the most impressive argument that I have ever seen for lag in wireless devices.

          Do you do geek stand-up?

    • "Also, a security issue if you live in close-quarters (apartments, office buildings) because people could sniff the "packets" between the hub and device. They could watch you on your webcam, when you have your webcam software off."

      Even if there's strong encryption, this is an issue. There are attacks that can figure out what you're typing from the timing of the keystrokes alone, and wireless USB would provide very accurate timing information to any attackers.
    • and for those stupid enough to use a wireless keyboard, sniff passwords right out of the air. Goes right around any security that may exist on the computer - heck you don't even need to be in the same ROOM.
      • Because, of course, the manufacturers would never think of that and, I dunno, maybe, encrypt the traffic? Sheesh.
      • Bugger security.

        There is no wireless Model M, so I don't use wireless. ;)
        • There is no wireless Model M, so I don't use wireless. ;)

          The very first thing I thought when I saw this article about a wireless USB hub was "Hey, now I can have a wireless Model M!" :)

          Of course it isn't really wireless (would have wire going from keyboard to PS/2 => USB adaptor, then to wireless hub), but it does mean I can use a model M on the HTPC in the living room without trailing 20' of extension cable across the floor.

          However, a full-sized model M has a decent amount of empty space inside it..

  • Noo to belkin! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:22AM (#14532590)
    Ooh, Slashdot short memory! Don't forget we're not buying Belkin after the fiasco with their routers redirecting occasional DNS requests to the Belkin website to show an advert.

    Happened a little over a year ago and Slashdot was up in arms about it!
  • I'll take one. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by imboboage0 ( 876812 )
    THIS, is a great idea that I can guaruntee will make money.

    Personally, i expect to see one of these im my home. There have always been USB hubs, then there have been the wireless adapters (labelled for printers and such), but never a wireless hub (to my knowledge). WE have a couple digital cameras, a scanner, an external hard drive, and a mouse hooked up through USB. All but the mouse go through a USB 2.0 hub. When we move the laptop, usually we just disconnect the hub. now, it will be possible to just..
  • by Lord Apathy ( 584315 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:25AM (#14532605)

    I don't know how useful this will be to me. Its not the wire, one, running to the usb hub, but the wires, four, running from the hub to the devices. Now if I could just plug in a wireless dongle to each device that would be cool.

    • I'm thinking maybe it's for putting a keyboard and mouse by the couch... or something?

      At the price, though, you could just buy wireless peripherials and be done with it.

      • That is what I have a wireless keyboard for that goes to the Media PC. I suppose this device would be use could be used for laptops to some people. I have all the devices that I would use on the laptop shared from the main computer. I just use them over my Wifi link.

        Still even though I don't see much of a use for it now in my set up devices like this have a habit of becoming useful when you least expect it. I imagine that in 6 months to a year I will have one and could swear I didn't know how I lived

    • Assuming I've understood it correctly, I'll be getting one of these. 90% of my computer usage at home is on my laptop, sat on my sofa. I've got various USB devices, such as an external drive, an iPod and a digital camera that I have plugged in. It's a real pain to have the cable from the drive trailing across my lap, and whatever other device I'm using crammed in somewhere on the sofa.

      It would be so much move convenient if I could put the device on a table nearby, plug my devices into that and just have don
  • by acadiel ( 627312 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:29AM (#14532619) Homepage
    All we need now is wireless power! Heh.
  • Most welcome.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Dunno about others, but I have found USB as very useful for me.

    Since last 20 years I have been looking at all those fscking interfaces and 'Plug and Prey' and so on. (no offence intended). USB offers fast reliable and clean interface, that really brings the device up and running in minutes.

    Now this addition of wireless hub will make me more than happy.

  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <> on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:46AM (#14532697) Homepage
    For those who don't get it, the point of the hub is to provide a place where you can plug in your scanner, printer, and other external peripherals, providing them all with wireless functionality, without the scanner and printer actually having the wireless capability built in. Makes sense for those of us with lots of USB peripherals who also have a wireless laptop.

    What's a little odd is that they aren't using bluetooth, but the article claims its 100x faster than bluetooth. Perhaps this opens up the idea of plugging in hard drives into a USB hub like this, either for backup, for extra workspace, or just a great way to store your extensive mp3/movie/pr0n collection.
    • No that is not the advantage of this hub. The advantage is that most consumer items are now usb that travel with the person daily. So I can plug in my Ipod shuffle and my treo when I get home at night and the next morning these items are not only charged for the next day but the shuffle is filled with the new podcasts and the treo is synched and has any new apps on it I might have downloaded and sent to it. One convienent place near my keys and shoes so I can grab and go in the morning.

      This will replace
      • You think this is powered USB? My bet is that the dongles should recieve power from the apparatus you plug them into.

        This means you won't be able to charge your Treo and iPod Shuffle using wireless USB.
        • I don't think there's any way to draw power from a USB peripheral. My bet is that this'll have its own mains adapter which plugs into the hub and powers it and the attached USB devices. The PC end could (and probably will) draw power from the USB port, though.
  • Beware? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Step Child ( 216708 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:48AM (#14532713) Homepage
    Interesting that Belkin doesn't give an approximate range.
    • Re:Beware? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jozer99 ( 693146 )
      Can't answer definitively, but so far, most manufaturers of early UWB devices are quoting ~30ft usable range.
  • by Clover_Kicker ( 20761 ) <> on Sunday January 22, 2006 @10:52AM (#14532742)
    This might be more convenient than daisy-chaining USB hubs for that long run to the webcam in my bondage dungeon.

  • Why not 802.11 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slim ( 1652 ) <> on Sunday January 22, 2006 @11:04AM (#14532820) Homepage
    It looks very handy, but why should the PC need yet another wireless interface?

    Surely with a clever enough driver, you could tunnel USB traffic over 802.11 (or even over TCP/IP). Make a USB hub that provides the server for this tunnelling client, and you'd wouldn't need a dongle.
    • > Surely with a clever enough driver, you could tunnel USB
      > traffic over 802.11 (or even over TCP/IP)

      Too much latency.
      • Are you saying that the USB spec requires latency lower than 802.11 can provide, or are you simply suggesting that, for example, using a USB mouse tunnelled over 802.11 would feel unacceptably sluggish due to latency?

        If the former, fine. If the latter, then just don't use this for applications where latency matters. If I'm streaming audio from a USB hard drive then I don't mind about latency.
    • Re:Why not 802.11 (Score:3, Informative)

      by shmlco ( 594907 )
      So true. And yet another dongle eating up a port...
    • Because UWB [] is better and higher-bandwidth than 802.11a/b/g.
  • New excuse? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stan Vassilev ( 939229 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @11:07AM (#14532845)
    RIAA: Hey. WTF is this, you got 30 gigs of pirated mp3s! You're so sued!

    Gollegeboy: Dude I swear one asshole sits in front of the building and beams his iPod contents to everyone with wireless USB!
  • Sounds like Belkin is competing with this (and I assume other similar) product: []

    Haven't used it, but I'm intrigued by the idea.
  • The problem with their implementation is that the USB dongle that comes with the hub will not enable you for future Wireless USB devices, i.e. all you get is a hub, and that's it. So if you buy one of these, you'll also have to buy another Wireless Host Controller or Host Wired Adapter a few months down the road to give you full wireless USB capabilities. I'm holding out for one of those, personally.
  • by eberta ( 867665 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @11:23AM (#14532917)
    I have seen attempts to do this before and even bought one (albeit it was just point-to-point and designed specifically for printers). I would not buy it until some independent testing was done it (Tom's hardware style). Basically my HP printer would work for a week or two and then it would just return with communication error until I power cycled everything. I remember a movement to make an official WUSB (wireless USB) protocol, but it did not seem to go anywhere. If Belkin finally made a version that actually works on most hardware without glitches, hurray to them. It is a very difficult task because of the way USB works.
  • Consider the Asus 500g Deluxe router. You can install Linux on it, in the form of openwrt(.org), or dd-wrt(google-it!); so long as your peripherals are all Linux peripherals. It has *2*, USB 2.0 ports in the back, and costs less, about 90 euros including tax. I imagine you can even daisy-chain extra USB peripherals using that old USB hub you discarded awhile ago. Besides USB ports, what's a (wireless!)dumb hub gonna do for you? Why not enjoy a full-on wireless Linux NAS file server/router/printer server/ .
  • Most laptop users don't want things sticking out of their computers. I think it would be great if they made a reciever that went in ExpressCard/34 and PCMCIA slots. That way, people could always leave it in. And eventually have laptop manufacturers build it in to their hardware.
  • They mention that you can make the devices wireless. That sounds great. But can they be shared with multiple PCs?

    Case in point - I have a multifunction printer that I'd like to use from the 4 machines in the house. Setting the printer up as a network printer is fine - that part works no problem.

    It's very difficult, however, to find a way to use its scanning capabilities over the network. Is there any way to accomplish this? This is my main beef with products like the Linksys print servers and the like.
  • Belkin? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ElephanTS ( 624421 )
    I, for one (to use the standard /. form), wouldn't touch Belkin drivers if you paid me. This sounds like a good idea but in practise? You know there'll be big headaches.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday January 22, 2006 @01:32PM (#14533621) Homepage
    And exactly how does security on this thing work? Can you drive by and connect to the USB hub? Now that's a good way to completely take over most machines.
  • I occasionally do cellphone transfers using a special purpose USB hub. However, I'm worried that some of these phones (one customer said his old phone was regularly exposed to metal dust: this after it caused my computer to reboot repeatedly until I yanked the USB card. gee thanks) can cause permanent damage to my equipment.

    It would still hurt to lose a $130 item, but it's better than blowing the whole computer.

  • If UWB is like 802.11x then the actual throughput will at best only be about half the claimed speed since the protocol will eat up the other half. Because wireless is half-duplex and has to use the much less efficient Carrier Sense Avoidence instead of Carrier Sense Detection to avoid collusions, your 54 mbps 802.11g router will give you maybe 30 megs tops under ideal conditions. And the more devices talking at the same time the slower it goes as they all try to contend for the medium like a bunch of truc
  • What is it about wirelessly broadcasting your backup drive transfers, mouse movements and keyboard use without encryption to everyone within 30 feet that appeals to you? I could sit a mile away with a directional antenna, sniff all your keystrokes and have a simple packet analizer looking for "slashdot" and could be posting in your name about how you CAN'T WAIT FOR VISTA and are tossing all your Linux boxes! Careful man!
  • Might as well sell your wireless USB printer servers before they become worthless.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not to poo-poo this particular product, but I saw this at CES this year. Let me point out only a few things that will make it hard for Belkin to sell only a few of these.

    1. It doesn't exist yet. At the Belkin booth at CES they showed the plastics but nothing inside. Instead they took me over to these two huge boxes that were performing the USB function. When I laid my hands on the box I think I left no less than 3-layers of skin. (it's hot, really hot). This product is not going to be ready for prime

  • Boss: What is it?
    IT: The Universal Business Adapter
    Boss: What does it do?
    IT: It connects anything and everything, completely integrated
    Boss: ::points at various ports::
    IT: ::quickly, following the Boss:: Ethernet, Linux Servers, Windows Servers, Print Servers, File Servers, USB...
    VO: Unfortunately, there is no "Universal Business Adapter." IBM can provide your organization with technology integration services second to none. IBM...On-demand business.

    Maybe we have the "Universal Business Adapter" no

Mathematicians stand on each other's shoulders. -- Gauss