Those ubiquitous wall chargers for electronic gear are disappearing as makers are turning to USB ports on our computers instead.
Some of you are not going to like the trend in recharging batteries. Good, old USB on all of our computers is being pressed into service.
Don’t have a USB computer? Then you’ll need to spend an extra $10 or so for a traditional wall charger. Your rechargeable device may not come with one. This is called maximizing profits.
USB (universal serial bus) is a worthwhile solution for the rest of us. We have so many wall chargers plugged in, it’s ridiculous. Plus, each of these bleeds power all the time, appreciably upping our electrical bill. Every watt counts.
USB generally charges faster than wall chargers, meaning less down time waiting for the battery light to turn from yellow to green.
Still, USB is not perfect. If you try to charge off an unpowered USB hub, you're likely to see an error message, “Not enough power.” Hubs are used to expand the number of available ports. Most add four ports but some go up to 20.
The hubs come in two flavors, powered and unpowered. Unpowered operates on the power from your computer. Powered supplants that with its own juice from the wall.
Nearly all computer peripherals connect to your computer by USB. The big ones including printers and scanners, provide their own power from the wall. The smalls such as keyboards, mice and external drives borrow your system's power.
If you see the power error, plug the device into a native USB port on your computer box. Most now come with three or four, although with all the devices we run, that's never enough.
Powered hubs are more expensive and include a wall transformer. Unpowered four-port USB hubs run $7 to $20. Powered go for $25 to $35.
Note that your computer must be running to recharge devices. If it goes to sleep, it still will charge. If it turns off, it probably will not. You may need to adjust your system's power management to provide enough up time to finish a charge.
As always, it’s best to plug your powered hub into a spike-preventing power strip. If lighting strikes and takes out your hub, it could blow everything connected to it. That could cost you hundreds of dollars.
USB allows you to daisy chain a number of devices to one port. That means stretching USB cables between devices and plugging the first one into the computer or hub.
Theoretically, you could plug 144 devices into one port using this. The number actually is far less as your system can only digest so many USB devices without causing hardware conflicts. The error message usually is “No available ports.” You’d have to be running a lot devices to reach this error, and you’d definitely need a powered hub.
Contact Jim Hillibish at firstname.lastname@example.org.