May 10, 2007


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You may now unplug
Wireless USB frees you from cables
By John “jaQ” Andrews

I’ll go ahead and say it: USB is the best thing to happen to PCs since Windows.

Settle down, settle down. No one who’s ever typed more than a sentence in Word can honestly say they’ve never belted out a stream of profanities at their computer, but it’s hard to deny that Microsoft’s relentless marketing and insistence on developing fatter and more bloated operating systems has helped drive great advancements in PC hardware. Genuinely fast computers are impossibly cheap now, and with 95 percent of them running the same pointy-clicky software, most folks can pick up the basics of using one pretty quickly.

USB did a similar thing to computing by making it easy to add devices. If you don’t remember ever having to hook up a serial mouse, a parallel printer or, heaven help you, a SCSI scanner, consider yourself lucky. A good number of peripherals, from keyboards to flash drives, just work when you plug them in; others require just an automatic driver install from a CD when you connect them. Either way, pretty painless compared to manually setting SCSI IDs or assigning COM ports.

Now USB is getting even simpler by removing that annoying “plug it in” step. Wireless USB aims to be as intuitive as regular old USB without all that messy cabling, all while maintaining healthy 480Mbps data transfer speeds. You can use devices up to three meters away at that speed, or up to 10 meters away at a still respectable 110Mbps.

Like wired USB, the new technology supports up to 127 connected devices. That’s not just printers, MP3 players and digital cameras, either. With cabling needs removed, developers hope to build PC connectivity into a lot more things through the wireless USB interface. Things like televisions, DVD players and digital video recorders. They figure there are enough wires behind your living room entertainment center already, who needs more?

With all the USB devices out there now — the USB Implementers Forum estimates 2 billion — it’s comforting to know that that wireless USB will be backward compatible. How can wired and wireless technologies be compatible? Why, with an adapter, of course.

Some of the first wireless USB devices to be announced are basically hubs. Technically called Device Wire Adapters (DWAs), they provide a few regular old USB ports along with a wireless connection back to your PC, which presumably has wireless USB built in or a Host Wire Adapter (HWA) plugged into one of its USB ports. If you need more ports, you can add more DWAs or simply daisy chain some wired USB hubs on the first one.

Can you buy wireless USB stuff yet? Well, no. If you really need wireless data transfer right now, check out your Bluetooth options and prepare to be underwhelmed.

Or just keep using the cables.

5/3/2007 Mobile is nothing

4/26/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/19/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/12/2007 Get a newer brain
4/5/2007 Get a newer brain
3/29/2007 Security can be free
3/22/2007 Paper that's not paper
3/8/2007 Use any file
3/1/2007 Audiobooks for free
2/22/2007 What's for sale today?
2/15/2007 Prints in your pocket
2/8/2007 Watch this
2/1/2007 How open is your source
1/25/2007 iPhone it now
1/18/2007 Simplify, simplify
1/11/2007 Vista time!
1/4/2007 Google killers?
12/28/2006 Tech that didn't happen
12/21/2006 Do not want
12/14/2006 Meet the new web
12/07/2006 Extreme price shopping
11/30/2006 They want what?
11/23/2006 Zat zany Zune
11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
A browser is to a car as ...

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Books without the paper
Essential Gadgets
Get it while it’s hot, used
High-tech garage sale
In touch with the future
Last-minute dork presents
Make your mark
Memory in your pocket
Microsoft must be scratching its head
No strings attached
Plastic junk for Halloween
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