Thursday, July 24, 2008

What are the differences between USB Repeaters and USB Extenders?

We have been getting a lot of questions from clients wanting to extend their USB devices such as security cameras, keyboards and mice (for KVM's), and also for more intuitive devices such as Electronic whiteboards, one of which is called a SmartBoard. I'm going to explain it a bit better here beginning with definitions:

USB Repeater - This will convert the USB signal into another signal, transmit it over some medium such as Cat 5, Wireless (802.11g), or Fiber Optic. Those are the most common methods, anyway.

(Pictured: 1600ft USB Fiber Optic Repeater)

USB Extender
- This will extend your USB port to a remote location, without converting your signal.

(Pictured: 65ft USB 2.0 Extension Cable)

So, your first question would probably be: What do I care if it converts it or not? For some, it won't make any difference at all. For others, it won't work. USB, when pushed to it's limits, functionality can be sporadic. Let me give you an example: While working in the copier and scanner industry, I had to connect what's called a "wide format scanner". The wide format scanner is used in architectural firms to scan in their large drawings for archiving. I decided a great idea would be to extend it, since it was about 20ft away (USB specs a maximum cable distance of 15ft). This posed a problem, but I knew at the time that USB Active extensions were widely available. I connected it, the computer recognized it, ran test scans, and everything looked great! No problems showed up until the next day. I got a call back from the client saying they couldn't scan. After going out there, I found that it said "USB Device not recognized". Immediately I realized what the problem was: There wasn't enough power being put through to the scanner. So, I ran over to the local computer store (at the time, CompUSA) and picked up a powered USB hub. Immediately I went back to the client. Sure enough, my theory was right, there wasn't enough power.

So, what does this all mean? It means that when USB is pushed past it's limits, it needs to be with forethought. I've seen a growing number of USB repeaters (normally over Cat 5) and have tested many personally. I noticed that some work, and some don't. Most of the new things out there are modeled after our USB Repeater - Home Edition - it's an inexpensive repeater that works for some home uses, but that's just the beginning of it.

To help make comparison easy, we've creating a couple of charts to help you.
1.) Here's a chart to help you compare USB 1.1 Repeaters and Extenders

2.) Here's a chart to help you compare Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Repeaters and Extenders

This should at least get you started. If you have more questions, post them, or go to our website:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

USB to Ethernet Adapters - What they can and can't do

We get a lot of questions about USB to Ethernet adapters. I'm going to try to answer most of them here, as well as give some helpful links and tips that should help you make an informed decision on your next upgrade.

What does it do?

If you want to add an Ethernet port to your computer, and have available USB ports. It's great for laptops that have a dead Ethernet port, or someone who wants to connect to two different Ethernet connections at the same time. The one sold at our website is specifically for Windows computers. That is, Windows 98SE, 2000, XP, and Vista.

Can I connect a printer with it?
Definitely no. This isn't what most of the USB to Ethernet converters are made for. The problem is that the adapter is being reversed (Ethernet to USB instead of USB to Ethernet) and it's simply not made for that. Physically, it will connect. But, since it doesn't have print server capabilities, it won't work. If you want to connect a printer to your network, use something a USB print server from Linksys - or you could also buy one from the company that really built the first network print server, and that's HP with their JetDirect

Does it work with Mac?
Most USB to Ethernet converters you'll find on the market are not Mac compatible. So, what can a Mac user do if the ethernet port goes out, but don't want to pay a bundle to get it fixed? You buy one that is compatible. See the one I found here from; there are also one or two more I found, but I have not tested any of them. And for $29 bucks direct from Apple, it's a reasonable price.

Can I connect my hard drive to it to share files?
Again, this is another definite no if you're using this adapter. The USB to Ethernet would be working in the reverse, and thus wouldn't do anything. Physically, you could connect it. But it wouldn't work because of the electronics within the adapter not allowing it to function. The good news, however, is that you can share your files from a hard drive without a computer. One popular solution is something called a NAS. Here's a great wiki page that details it Wiki NAS Link. I found this link from PC World that showcases a few of the them for sale. They seem to show NAS devices that are more geared towards business and higher end users. Home users can find cheaper solutions on outlets like eBay.

This should give you a good outline on the mystery behind what USB to Ethernet converters are for, and what they're not for. What they can and can't do. And where you can find solutions to things that you're looking for. Good luck in your quest for a solution!


Thursday, April 3, 2008

USB to FireWire Adapters

Probably the most common question that people ask me at my job (at, is "Is there a USB to FireWire Adapter", and hence our site name "", they should indeed be asking us.

So, the answer? Yes and no.

Yes, there is a USB to FireWire adapter.

No, it's not for every use under the sun.

So, what's available? The USB to FireWire adapter, the only real adapter that's available on the market - see link here. ( The adapters is made for a specific type of computer (currently, only works consistently with Windows XP), and it's for downloading video from a DV camcorder like the Sony Handycam DCR-HC30. It works great, and is so easy to use. Windows XP has the drivers built in and it works with the most common video editing software packages like Microsoft Movie Maker, and Pixela imagemixer 2. It's also notable to point out that some higher end software packages don't allow you to download DV via USB (Examples: Adobe Premier, Final Cut Pro), so it won't work with those.

What won't it do? Well, to be concise, anything else. It's not made to transfer data from a hard drive. It's not made to work in the reverse (ie, a FireWire port to a USB camera). It's not made for an iPod (although we did have one person who said they got it to work with it). It's also not made for Mac. Vista testing is underway, but it works one day, and the next it doesn't. It has been very hit-and-miss, so we're currently saying it's not compatible with Vista. it's also not for every camera out there. Check the compatibility list from the link above. The list is directly from the engineers who built it and tested it with them. You'll notice that the list is a bit outdated and may work with your newer cameras that we haven't formally tested yet.

What alternatives are there if I want to download video, but don't have a FireWire port?
This is a great question. There are several alternatives, such as a FireWire card for desktop computers, or for laptops. Both of these options are cheaper than the above option of our adapter cable. You'll need to buy a card that's built for your desktop (probably a PCI card, but you'll also want to know if you need a slim form-factor card). If you have a laptop, you'll probably need a PCMCIA or PCMCIA Express card. PCI Cards, will general start at under $20/each, while PCMCIA cards generally start at just under $30/each. A quick Google or eBay search should give you the results that you're looking for.

Lastly, we've been getting a lot of questions like this "Can you just send me the driver for your cable?". I thought this was kind of an odd request, so when people started asking, I started digging. I found out that a company had started selling a cable that goes directly from USB to FireWire, without any chip inside of it to convert the data from USB to FireWire. I have no idea what their cable is for, and when I e-mail the companies who are selling it, they have no idea either. I, personally, wouldn't dare to plug one of my FireWire devices into one of these because I realize the possible implications of it. What if it's not wired correctly? They two different protocols, so how can it work? These are questions that no one has been able to answer yet, but I invite anyone to comment and let me know how this product might be useful.

I hope this puts and end to some of the confusion surrounding USB to FireWire adapters. If not, let me know and I can elaborate more on specific points.


Rick is the co-owner and head of technical support at He helped start the company over 8 years ago. While his degree has nothing to do with his job "Bachelors of LAS - Spanish, from Wichita State University, 2005), he has worked in the cable industry for over 10 years and has had experience in developing new products for the cabling industry for the past five of those years.


My name is Rick Wessley from RR Business Ventures, home of a couple of well known websites relating to USB and FireWire products. My goal with this blog is to answer some frequently asked questions about what we offer, and what we don't offer.
Many of our customers questions are really good, valid questions with no real answer available to them, and I'm hoping to begin to address them here.