Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2002, Week 3 -- Plugging In Fast




   Many of the latest printers, scanners and cameras can be hooked up to computers through ultra-fast USB-2 connections. Too bad, because not many computers have them. There are several makers that provide devices to remedy this lack, but we're going to look at three that just came out from Belkin, which is the big guy in the business of tiny add-on gizmos.


Three USB-2 expanders

USB 2 4-Port Hub

   Belkin has come out quickly with their USB-2 port expanders, one for laptops and two for desktops. USB-2 is the new standard for the "Universal Serial Bus," used by both Windows and Macintosh computers. It is 40 times faster than USB-1 and transfers data at the same speed as the Apple "FireWire" standard.

   This is great for anyone editing video or music or handling lots of graphics, but even fairly new computers often have the older and slower USB-1 ports. Belkin's "USB-2 CardBus" solves this problem for laptop owners by combining the circuitry and USB ports into one card that plugs into the standard card slot on a Windows laptop. The slight downside to using this is that it requires its own external power supply, which of course adds to the weight of carrying around the laptop. Best price was $84 at


   For desktop computers with no USB-2 port, the solution I like best is their "4-Port Drive Bay Hub." This slides into a drive bay -- one of those spaces on the front of the computer that is typically occupied by the CD drive, the hard disk and/or floppy drives. If you have a bay that's not occupied, fine; if not, this will be of no use to you.


   What's great about the Drive Bay Hub is that it gives you USB-2 if you don't have it. And what I really like is that the connection ports end up on the front of the computer; you can plug and unplug USB cables without having to fumble around at the back. (At least I find it hard to get to the sockets back there.) The other good thing is that the price is only $40, just $10 per port.


   Finally, a small (cigarette pack size) 4-port "USB-2 Pocket Hub" from Belkin works with either laptop or desktop computers, but has to be plugged into an already existing USB-2 port. In short, this will not make a USB-2 port out of nothing, its purpose is simply to expand the number of USB-2 ports available. It also has an external power supply. List price is $50. All of these USB-2 port expanders will also accept USB-1 connectors.


Who needs all these USB ports? Are you kidding? We use USB expansion hubs all the time. New computers simply don't come with enough USB ports for attaching the peripherals we use with PCs. Most come with just one such port, and I've seen none that have more than two ports. Yet we have nine USB devices attached to one of our computers.


    We've generally found our best prices for this sort of equipment at either  or


Keep on pluckin

  Blues Guitar

   Two guitar teaching programs from Voyetra offer the kind of home practice that could jump-start a career. Voyetra ( is a well-known maker of very high quality sound cards for computers.

   "Teach Me Guitar Deluxe" has a $60 list price for Windows, but we found it for $50 at Plug your electric guitar into your Windows computer's sound card and follow the lessons; a professional guitarist steps you along. "Teach Me Blues Guitar" is an older program that teaches the rhythms and chords of New Orleans style blues. Watch the notes appear on the guitar neck on screen as you play along with the lessons. You do not have to know how to read music to use either of these programs. Blues Guitar was $33 at amazon.



5 a day

--  Tips on a healthy diet from the National Cancer Institute, with news, meal planning and recipes to get you to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

--  A site devoted to reviewing new movies and videos with a view to whether or not you want your children to see them. Incidents with drug use, drunkeness, cursing and high sexual content are described in detail. Even supposedly light movies now have a lot of very questionable scenes and dialogue.


--  A $20 subscription fee covers three DVD rental movies a month. You can keep them as long as you like but you can't get a new one until you return one.

  Hack Attacks Revealed


-- "Hack Attacks Revealed, second edition," by John Chirillo; $60, John Wiley & Sons If you're at all interested in blocking hacker attacks on your company's computer system, this tells you how it looks from the hacker's point of view. It points up where the vulnerabilities are and how to fix them. Covers all major operating systems.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or