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Thursday, August 11, 2005
  online tips - connections conundrums

Q: My notebook computer has both USB 2.0 and Firewire ports. I’d like to buy a CompactFlash digital camera reader, and they are available in USB 2.0 and Firewire versions. Which should buy?

A: For the best performance, always get Firewire peripherals. For maximum compatibility, choose USB. Just about every computer sold over the past few years has USB ports. Many computers do not have Firewire ports, which is a shame.

The fact is, despite performance claims to the contrary, test after test has shown that USB 2.0 significantly underperforms when compared to Firewire in real-world applications. Transferring files to and from a Firewire device is noticeably faster than with a USB 2.0 peripheral

For example, in one recent test published by, an online technology review site, a USB 2.0-based hard drive took one minute and 20 seconds to copy a 1GB file. The same file took the Firewire drive only 48 seconds.

The speed difference was attribute solely to the connection type, not to hard drive or the system to which is was attached.

Not only is Firewire faster, but the connection standard demands much less of your computer system while files or data are being transferred.

if you purchased a USB 2.0-based external hard drive, for example, you’ll notice a much greater toll on overall system performance than if the external hard drive uses a Firewire connection.

If you don’t have Firewire in your notebook or you desktop computer, consider purchasing a PCI card (for desktops) or PC card (for notebooks) that gives your machine Firewire ports. These cards are quite inexpensive, often coming in at under US$20 for one that gives you two or three Firewire ports.

Under Windows XP, the cards generally are recognised without your having to install drivers.

Q: I’m preparing to buy a new computer, and I have the option of selecting a wireless mouse and keyboard. Should I? The thought of no wires is appealing, but will these devices work right?

A: In most environments, today’s wireless keyboards and computer mice work just fine. Early models were sometimes reported to have connectivity problems, resulting in dropped keystrokes under certain conditions.

For wireless peripherals to work properly, the batteries that control the devices must be kept fresh. If you start experiencing problems, batteries are the first thing you should check.
Also, wireless keyboards usually require a direct line of sight between the keyboards transmitter and the wireless receiver, which connects to your computer.

In short, after some initial shock (and delight) that you’re typing and mousing with wireless devices, you’ll probably be glad that you took the opportunity tor go wireless.

Q: I need to transfer a lot of files from my PC at work to my own notebook computer. I can’t use CDs or DVDs. What’s the best way to connect to the computer so that I can get data onto my notebook? Both PCs are using Windows XP

If it’s a work computer to which you’d like to connect, using your employer’s network is no doubt the quickest way.

You would need to talk to a system administrator to find out how to log on to the network with your personal computer.

Once you do, you’ll need to locate your work computer on the network. After that, you can use the simple copy and paste commands in the Edit menu of Windows Explorer to copy what you need.

Windows XP contains a built-in method for connecting two computers together directly with what’s called a “null modem cable” – a cable that connects to the serial port of each computer. But most notebooks of recent vintage do not have a serial port.

Most computers do, however, have a USB port. You could always purchased and external hard drive that attaches to any PC using a USB port. Check the Internet for drives such as Maxtor’s OneTouch. Hook the drive up first to your work PC, copy the files, and then hook the drive up to your notebook. - dpa

-FAQ about connections-

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