Today’s round-up addresses the issue of expansion — first for your wired home network, and second, for those with smaller notebook computers who need more USB ports.
Linksys/Cisco Powerline AV Network Kit
This is one of the best purchases I’ve made in recent memory. The starter kit comes with two small boxes a little bigger than the average hand, one plugs into your modem/router, and the other one connects to any devices you want to have wired internet connectivity. The bridge that carries the signal is the power cabling within your house. It’s much easier than running Ethernet cabling throughout your house, and can still be secured by “pairing” the boxes with one another so they won’t communicate with, say, other people using similar devices in an apartment building, or if some crafty neighbor tries to jack in to one of your outside power outlets.
Additional receivers can be purchased separately, allowing you to expand your network to as many rooms as necessary. The only issue I’ve run into is that if you plug them into a surge protected power strip, the signal doesn’t seem to get through in all instances. However, I’ve been able to use the devices with non-surge-protected power strips and it worked fine. Simple to set up, much easier than remodeling your home and fishing cables all over.
Targus Travel Stick USB 2.0 4-Port Hub
Weighing in at 1.1oz, this portable USB hub is ideal for expanding the travel notebook computer that lost a couple of USB ports in efforts to slim it down.
On the upside, it supports four devices on one adapter about the size of a cigarette lighter at USB 2.0 speeds (up to 480Mbps). The size and shape make it easy to find a slot for in your bag, or just slip it in your pocket. The cord between the port and adapter is built in and only a couple inches long. May be little short for some uses, but it has a nub on the bottom of the plug that fits nicely in a hole on the bottom of the adapter’s casing, so nothing’s left dangling.
On the downside, it doesn’t support the newer USB 3.0 format, though an adapter that does will likely be out soon if it’s not already. It also isn’t wise to use devices that rely on USB power with this sort of adapter. They *may* work, but if you plug in other devices, the power throughput could be split, underpowering and possibly damaging the attached items.
Overall, the form factor, size, and lack of dangly parts make this a must-have for me when traveling.