5 Port USB PCI Card

Need more USB ports?

This is a great solution for those who just have and use a lot of devices that connect to the PC with USB ports and still have a good old PCI slot on their motherboard.

Usually motherboard manufacturers supply their motherboards with plenty of USB ports to begin with and they are more than enough for the average end user. Typically, an average user would connect a mouse, a keyboard, an all in one printer (which is also a scanner, a copier and a fax), a smartphone and maybe a gaming controller – that’s it. And if you replace the separated keyboard and mouse USB dongles with a single USB dongle that connects to both – you have saved another USB slot.

 

But some end users are not average users, they use a high number of hardware that inevitably connects to the pc via USB. For that we either use a USB docking station (which in this case is way more comfortable in terms of installation) or use a more traditional cheaper solution that comes in the form of a PCI USB card.

The pros of this product are obvious – it is cheap, in fact is it much cheaper relatively to the generic USB docking stations that are sold out there and that usually they come with more USB slots. Another advantage is that this device is much more stable and reliable than a USB docking station of a USB splitter – it’s connected INSIDE the computer case itself, screwed firmly to the case and installed well secured by the power of friction to the PCI slot.

 

 

The cons of this product are the method of installation and the fact that it is more expensive than just buying a simple USB splitter. In order to install this device, the computer’s power has to be turned off and the case needs to be opened afterwards. Dust cleanup would probably a part of the process and therefore makes it a bit messy. And if the hardware for some reason is not compatible with the Operating system that you are running on your computer or the motherboard and there is no other alternative than not to use this device – the installation process has to be reversed and unless your PC case sits on a table, it means crouching down and powering down again….

 

Software and driver installation are fairly easy and quick, usually Windows recognizes the software automatically from a certain version and if you lose the driver installation disk – it’s not a big deal to find it online considering the chip is generic.

Solution wise this device is very comfortable and long lasting. Personally, I like when my USB ports are well secured to the case itself rather than being on a desk. It’s a perfect product for those who want to connect their permanent USB devices and peripherals, however, it is not a comfortable solution for those who need a quick plug and play terminal for devices like portable HDDs, USB memory sticks etc.

 

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Refilling a Laser Printer Toner for Brother HL2240D

In this post I will demonstrate how easy it is to refill your laser toner instead of buying a new one and there for saving a lot of money.

So why should you do it?

There is one technical disadvantage apparent when refilling a laser printer toner and that is handling the powder. Laser printers use colored powder instead of liquid ink which inject printers use. On the one hand it's a major advantage because you just don't have to deal with liquid that accidently spills over when you refill inject printers, but on the other hand, handling powder isn't quite comfortable as it seems. One false move and you find a big part of your desk, your hands and some of your pants covered with black powder – and it sucks.

Beyond this possible inconvenience which can be easily prevented if working properly and patiently, there is the obvious advantage of cost savings. Many opportunists had figured out the imbalance between the cost of the powder and the retail price tag of the toners that are filled with them and started up businesses that specialize in delivering a fresh "new" toner directly to the customer doorstep in a ridicules high prices. They count the immediate necessity of the customer for new toners to pump up their profits.

It took me one time and one time only to figure out that this arrangement is too expensive and a long term use of it would slowly drill a hole in my wallet. So I started looking for alternatives and it seems that you can buy bottles that are filled with laser printer powder for very cheap prices:

This one cost me 8$ so I bought 3 pieces, it contains 100g of black printing powder.

Just to put things in contrast, a "new" toner costs about 50$, and those 3 bottles cost all together about 24$. Another important fact is that one bottle is more than enough to fill a toner, at least in my case with the Brother HL2240D printer. Also, keep in mind that these bottles come in various volumes (I stumbled upon 100g and 120g ones so far).

Procedure:

Stage 1:

1.       Unplug the printer's power cord or just turn it off. Cutting off power from the printer is not really necessary but recommended for safety reasons for you and for the printer itself.

2.       Make sure there are no pending print jobs

3.       Open the front toner door

4.       Push the toner's handlebar upwards and pull the toner out

5.       Release the toner from the drum unit by pressing the green button at the left side of the unit

6.       The toner should be released, pull it out and separate it from the drum.

7.       Look for a white semi-transparent cork

8.       Unplug the cork GENTLY. Unplugging it too violently by using too much force would make it release unexpectedly in a sudden way, causing the powder to erupt.

9.       Put the cork aside and place the toner in an upright position so the remainder of the powder inside wouldn't spill out.

10.   Remove the nozzle of the bottle and gently remove the aluminum cover by using a sharp tool (like a knife for example).

11.   Be very AWARE of your hands at all times. Wrong movement and you would find yourself covered with black powder.

12.   Each bottle comes with a single one time use nylon gloves , use it (or any other latex glove you have at your disposal).

13.   Position the nozzle over the opening of the toner and gently shake the bottle to propel the powder out.

14.   It is not recommended to position the bottle at 90 degrees above the toner's opening, unless you prematurely know that the bottle would get empty during the filling process.

15.   Cleanup remnants of the powder from the toner's opening by using a vacuum cleaner along with wet wipes

16.   As you can see below, I wasn't too cautious with my movements…..

17.    Clean the toner's opening and Return the cork back. Make sure it is firmly tightened.

18.   Return the toner to the drum unit and the entire module back into the printer. Make sure it is positioned well.

19.   Close the toner door

20.   After the finished with the refilling process the toner led might still be on indicating the toner is empty or about to be. In that case you should perform a reset procedure as followed below:

1.       Turn the printer off

2.       Make sure that the power cord is plugged in and that the toner door is closed

3.       Hold down the GO button as you turn on the power switch. Keep the Go button pressed down until all the LEDs light up, and then the Ready LED turns off.

4.       Release the GO button. Make sure that all the LEDs turn off

5.       Press the GO button six times. Make sure that all the LEDs light up to indicate the print server has been reset to its factory default settings. The machine will restart

Summary:

This solutions is recommended for those who print quite a lot and don't want a hole drilled in their wallet in the process. Except for some possible messy inconveniencies this procedure is easy and quick to perform and worth the time and money invested.

Pros:

-          Easy to perform

-          Can be done shortly – under 7 minutes

-           Saves a lot of money

Cons:

-          Possible messy occurrences

Price:

1 unit of 100g black powder bottle – about 8$

 

 
 
 
 

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VIA Sata+Ide Pci Card

I got this card from a friend who just didn't need it , I didn't really need it either but I said thanks to the dude and grabbed it anyway.  

This card is a drive expansion card with 3 SATA interfaces and one IDE interface. The card connects to the mainboard with a PCI connection, it's kind of a bridge between the old and new, that is , to give the end user an ability to use new SATA hardware along with old IDE hardware.

The card was connected to my mainboard for a few months without any use , until I bought a new HDD hard drive with a SATA connection. in addition to that , overtime I got an additional second hand DVD drive with an IDE interface, and since both IDE sockets on the mainboard were occupied - I used the card's socket.

Soon I ran out of connections on the card and since I wasn't going to buy a new motherboard for the sake of more SATA connections, I started looking for an alternative for this card and I found it on E-bay. I actually posted a review article about it here.

I can't say using this card was without trouble. More than a few times my OS just didn't recognize its presence on the mainboard and drives were "disappearing" from "my computer" menu. More than once I had to use alcohol fluids to clean up the PCI teeth that physically link between the card and the motherboard. I'm not saying there was something wrong with the card but when it happens every now and then you cannot really reach a different conclusion (the PCI socket on the board was periodically cleaned).

In addition to these difficulties , connecting SATA plug to the back end socket proved to be an issue on itself. The position of the back SATA socket wasn't planned thoroughly by the designers - after connecting the card to the mainboard and screwing it into the computer case the SATA socket and the back metal pieces of the case weren't aligned together properly - which made connecting a SATA plug a pretty uneasy operation. Therefor I had to manually distort the interfering metal by bending it accordingly , clearing a way between the SATA plug and the SATA socket. 

Bottom line - the card did its job when it had to and allowed me to continue use old hardware while gradually moving to the new SATA 1.5 hardware.

 

 
 

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KVM-2\4 PORT SWITCH

For people who are techjunkies or that work with a large number or computers is part of their job this would be a *must have* piece of electronics. Over all this product is very simple. It gives you the option of working with 2 computers , one at a time ,  with one set of interface hardware and that interface hardware is a mouse , a keyboard and a monitor.

Back in the day I have many machines (I think about 3-4) and each one of them had its own interface. It sucked badly because of many reasons; first of all all these monitors , keyboards and mice took up a lot of physical space around my room, it made the room look like a lab and not like an ordinary bedroom (a pretty uglIt sucked badly because of many reasons; first of all all these monitors , keyboards and mice took up a lot of physical space around my room, it made the room look like a lab and not like an ordinary bedroom (a pretty ugly and messy lab I might add) , I had to physically get up and move in order to work on a different machine , and of course the increased amount of CRT monitors in the room meant more heat dissipation and more power consumption.

I found the solution in this simple 2 machines switch. Using this simple instrument I saw an immediate impact on all the cons I mentioned in the previous paragraph;  my room was the same room minus a set of monitor , keyboard and a mouse, power consumption and heat were lower and I could simply sit next to a single set of hardware interface without moving to another location around the room in order to work on a different machine. I was so well impressed with this product I purchased another one, this time it could control 4 machines from 1 single set of interface hardware.

Now for some technical details.

The KVM 2-PORT SWITCH can control 2 computers from a single set of hardware interface which include - a mouse , a keyboard and a monitor. The bigger version mentioned above can control 4 machines.

The interface of the hardware is a bit old - PS\2 for both the mice and the keThe interface of the hardware is a bit old - PS\2 for both the mice and the keyboards and VGA interface for the monitor plug.

Yet , I was successful connecting wired USB mice and keyboards to this product by using a USB to PS\2 converter. Some USB hardware required more power , power which this product could not deliver. Luckily the inventor of this product had thought about it before marketing it and it comes with a 9V direct curret (DC) 500mA socket.

Using this I was able to connect a silicon LED illuminated keyboard and use it properly. However , I was unsuccessful connecting a wireless hardware to the switch, it just didn't work.

LCD monitors can definitely be connected to this switch , either via the VGA port of via a VGA to DVI converter. The poorer VGA quality would stay the same but it's a decent price for being able to control so many machines from 1 interface at a static position.

Control and indicators:

The switch has a button which is 1 CM in diameter right near the LED indicators. Clicking this button makes the product  switch from one hardware set to another , that is from one computer to the next in line. Switching machines makes the correct red LED light turn on and blinking for about 2 seconds before staying solid red - indicating all 3 hardware connectors

of the current computer are connected well. If not , the red LED green would still be blinking.

In addition , hardware sets can be switched by clicking the Scroll Lock button on the keyboard twice and fast. After doing so the red LED indicator would start blinking  , and a time frame of 5 seconds would be opened for the user to switch to the next computer in line by using the up and down arrow keys on the keyboard , going next or to the previous in line computer on the switch.

If during those 5 seconds none of the arrow keys is pushed - the red LED light would go back to be solid red again and pushing the arrow keys would not do any effect.

One piece of hardware like a mouse , not connected to the switch while the entire set is switched on - is enough to make the red LED indicator start blinking.

Overall I find this product very helpful for anyone who has to work with more than one computer for whatever reason.

Pros:

1.       Makes working with more than one computer very simple and easy

2.       Can support up to 4 computers ( and I believe there are bigger versions out there as well)

3.       Gives the freedom using 1 set of hardware (mouse , keyboard, monitor) to control computers that require 1 interface set each - saving physical space , time , power consumption and hassle.

4.       Computers can be switched by using the Scroll Lock key and up and down keys on the keyboard , adding to the ease of use

5.       Comes with a set of 2 or 4 VGA , mouse and keyboard wires ( that is 6 wires total in the 2 computer version and 12 in the 4 computer one)

Cons:

1.       Very ugly - once all 2 or all 4 computers are connected to the switch the nice blue switch turns into something similar to a wire spider monster and it looks bad… if you are concerned about appearance you would better hide it under or behind something. Personally I just put it on the floor so I will be able to see the red LED indicator

2.       Hardware recognition issues - I've had quite a lot of them, sometimes I had to turn all the computers off in order to find what set of interface causes the problem or error , sometimes an error in one hardware set influenced the others and sometimes I had to shut down power supply and connect computers one by one to make the switch work well again.

3.       Scroll Lock - it works but it has its share of erros. Sometimes the switch just didn't switch when needed to and sometimes it just didn't go to switching mode (red LED blinking).

4.       Obsolete connector interfaces - VGA and PS\2 (it's 2013 now)

5.       Wireless hardware cannot be used (at least from my experience)

Price:

I bought it for  17$ at a local computer shop , I believe I can found for a cheaper price on places like E-bay or any other online store.

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Upgrading a Wifi USB Card

Wifi is everywhere today and with it comes many problems, among those - the problem getting and maintaining a proper reception and a bandwidth quality.

In this post I will demonstrate how can you use an old Wifi  card and boost it's reception capabilities for a few dollars.

Before I purchased the TP-LINK TL -WN722N 2 WIFI USB CARD almost 2 years ago I was puzzled about choosing one of 2 products. One of the was The one mentioned above , which came with a detachable 3DBI WIFI antenna and the other one was the TP-LINK TL-WN822N which came with an array of 2  parallel undetectable antennas.

The first choice was cheaper - 18$. The down side was the data transfer speed of 150Mbps.

The second choice was a little more expensive - 28$ only this card came with a data transfer speed of 300Mbps, a fact which presented a clear advantage. The down side was of course - the price and the fact that the antennas cannot be detached and replaced with stronger ones.

Eventually,  as mentioned above ,  I chose the first option. The 3DBI antenna that came along with it was enough to intercept at least one free access Wifi among a big list of secured ones. Over time the cute 3DBI antenna became inadequate due to local Wifi network changes (unsecured free access networks either "disappeared from the radar" due to physical changes in the area or became secured ,  and of course - weather effects) . After browsing E-bay for some time I decided to buy a 20DBI booster antenna for 5$.

The connection type is called RP-SMA which looks like a standard cable or satellite cable connection - only smaller in diameter.

Results:

I tested the antenna in a spot where I usually work with my laptop at home and pretty much know the amount of networks it discovers and their level of reception.  

With the old 3DBI antenna the card could discover 14-15 Wifi networks , with the new 20DBI antenna it discovered over 31 networks! Just for comparison and out of curiosity I tested the card without any antenna at all and it discovered only 3 networks which were in my immediate vicinity.

 

 

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