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USB and Fire Wire Explained

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Basic Information
Q1: What do USB plugs and ports look like?
Q2: Will I need special software to run USB?
Q3: Is USB available on mobile computers in addition to desktops?
Q4: What kinds of USB peripherals can I connect to my PC?
Q5: Does USB affect the cost of PCs and peripheral devices?
Q6: How many USB peripherals can I connect at once?
Q7: How many USB products are being developed?
Q8: Where can I find out what USB products are currently available...or on the way?
Q9: Where can I learn more technical details about USB?
Q10: What does it mean when a product is USB compliant and why should I care?

So what does USB really do?
Q1: How fast is USB?
Q2: How does this compare to other connections used with PCs and workstations?
Q3: Can I use game port, serial, parallel, or PS/2 devices on USB?
Q4: Will using a USB to serial or parallel adapter free up interrupts on my system?
Q5: What about SCSI and network adapters?
Q6: I'm planning to buy a system with USB, or buy a USB device. What should I look for?
Q7: So how does USB compare to IEEE-1394?

Installing USB Support and Setting up USB Peripheral (Device) under Windows
Q1: How do I know if my PC supports USB? Where can I get USBReady?
Q2: What's the deal with low/high power devices and bus/self powered hubs?
Q3: I just purchased USB speakers, will I lose any capabilities if I replace my SoundBlaster?
Q4: Okay, I removed my sound card, but where do I plug in my microphone now?
Q5: Sometimes my games work fine with my USB joystick/gamepad /whatever and sometimes they don't work at all. What's going on?

USB Cables, Connectors, and Networking with USB
Q1: How long of a cable can I use to connect my device?
Q2: Why can't I use a cable longer than 3 or 5m?
Q3: How far away from a PC can I put a USB device?
Q4: I need to put a USB device X distance from my PC. What do I do?
Q5: How can I connect two PCs to each other with USB?
Q6: You mean I can't make a direct cable connection like a null modem?
Q7: So why do people make A to A cables, anyway? What kinds of cables do I need to connect USB peripherals (devices) together?
Q8: What if I want to network a whole bunch of PCs together with USB?
Q9: Is there any way to have two PCs share a USB printer or some other peripheral?
Q10: Is there any way I can put a USB device on a network, like a network printer?

USB On-The-Go
Q1: Why has USB OTG been developed?
Q2: Do both portable devices have to be dual-role in order for both devices on order to connect and operate?
Q3: Does USB OTG eliminate the need for a PC?
Q4: Will USB OTG devices connect to the PC? Will they connect to any other USB peripheral?
Q5: How does USB OTG compare with Bluetooth? Does it compete with it?
Q6: How does USB OTG compare with 1394? Does it compete with it?
Q7: What happens when you plug two USB OTG dual-role devices together?


Firewire/1394  Overview

Consider the Cost, Bundled Software, and Features.

Firewire cards are the mechanism by which you can connect your camcorder to your computer. A firewire cable runs from your camera's DV port to your computer's DV input.  Firewire runs at a higher speed than a USB cable and has a smaller interface than SCSI, making it an ideal transport for moving digital video to your computer. That's a quick definition of Firewire. Many computers do not come with Firewire cards, so you may be in the position of buying a card.  You just found out that your video card is NOT the same as this firewire card. A video card works internally with your computer to enhance the quality of the graphics that can be seen on your computer. A firewire card allow you to connect the computer via the expensive firewire cable. So you begin shopping and you find out that you can spend anywhere from about $40 to over $5000 on these cards


Why the difference in price?

I am only going to cover three major factors but each of them end up being huge differentiators in price.


1. OHCI Drivers Versus Manufacturer Drivers

OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface) means that your card will allow for "plug and play" in the Windows and Mac OS. This means the Firewire card manufacturer did not include their own drivers, and didn't have to pay software developers to write these drivers.  The operating system (Windows/Mac) already has these drivers pre-installed. OHCI compliant cards usually cost around $100.  These cards usually do not allow many advanced features of the more expensive cards including real-time capabilities.


2. Real-Time Capabilities

Video editing is like word processing in the fact the you can drag and drop your video files from one place into another and never disturb the quality of the video image, allowing for many different combinations of possibilities with transitions, effects, and video layout.  However, video editing is totally unlike word processing when it comes to saving your final video. In a word processing document, you can just hit the save button and you are all set.  With video editing, the save process can take from minutes to hours depending on the complexity of your video.  In general, the more effects, transitions, and layers to your video - the longer it will take to save.  The official video term for this saving of the final video is called rendering.  Some cards allow for many transitions and effects to be processed by the card itself or by a combination of the card (hardware-based) and the drivers (software-based). Since you don't have to wait for these renders to happen, they are called real-time effects.  Having real-time effects can save hours on a small project and days on a feature length project. The more real-time effects you get, the more you will pay.


3. Bundled Software

Some cards just come in a box all by their lonesome.  Open the box and you technically have the ability to capture video, but no software to control the process or the editing.  My advice is to look for a card that comes bundled with both. Look out for cards that include cheaper versions of editing packages, as you will have to upgrade to get what you need to do a decent video. Look for a card that comes with a full-fledged version of a good editing program. My recommendations are outlined below.


Summary and Recommendations

Whether or not you are buying a Mac or a PC, you have three major considerations to consider which will influence your purchase of a Firewire card. Consider whether or not they are OHCI-compliant. See if the card has any real-time effects. Look to see if you can get a great video editing software package at the same time.


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