A Laptop Design Feature I’ve Grown To Hate

August 17th, 2009 | Posted in Hardware, Opinion | 4 Comments

Over the last several months I’ve had a number of “issues” with my laptop.  These varied in their degree of seriousness from it wouldn’t boot at all for several months to it would boot Kubuntu linux from a flash drive but acted like it’s hard drive was not even there.  Then, out of the clear blue sky, right about the time I’m starting to shop around trying to find a cheap hard drive on sale, it’s suddenly working again.

It’s weird, Linux boots from the flash drive, Windows vista boots from the hard drive and as far as I can tell just about everything is back to the condition it was in last December before it appeared to just fail totally.  It’s great news because this means was finally able to finish recovering the last few dozen of my wife’s files from it.  Something that I had just about given up on considering how long it’s been since it was willing to boot up windows vista so that I could even get to them at all.

Then I had a klutzy moment.  I managed to trip on the cord for the USB mouse. (Yes, I know, I could have been using the touchpad but I bleeding hate those things with a passion.  Give me a REAL mouse any day!).  Not only did I nearly pull the laptop into a crashing (and probably fatal) impact with the floor, I actually managed to rip the USB port that the mouse was using right off of the motherboard!  (strangely enough, that’s when it started booting vista again, I’d been using Kubuntu up to this point)

This situation presented a major problem.  You see this Compaq Presario (born out of an unholy union between Compaq and “packard hell” sometime after HP bought Compaq) has a problem that I think is universal to most laptops.  A shortage of USB ports.  It only came with three of them.  Because the machine’s built in WiFi card failed completely not long after we got it, it needs to use an external Netgear WiFi card that plugs into one of the USB ports.  The mouse needs a second port, and the flash drive needs the third one.

The flash drive is essential if I’m going to boot Kubuntu since it’s the boot device for it and as for Vista… YOU try running Vista on a machine with 1gb of ram without taking advantage of readyboost!  Been there, done that, not interested.

targus 4 port usb hubI’m almost ashamed to admit that the solution actually didn’t occur to me for a couple of days.  Obviously, I needed to get a four port hub.  Well, after I got finished mentally thumping myself for not thinking of it sooner, I got one and plugged it into one of the two remaining USB ports.  Then I put the Netgear WiFi card in the slot on the end of the hub (I’m glad they have at least one on the end to accommodate those physically larger devices!), then along the side of it I connected the mouse and the flash drive.

Perfect!  Now I’ve got one space free on the computer and another one free on the hub.  The thing I’m wondering about now is, how many hubs and devices can I get away with connecting at once?  Could I get away with daisy-chaining multiple hubs together?  I don’t suppose I’ve got any real need to do this but I’m just curious enough to try it someday.

[Tags]laptop, usb port, dead usb port, usb hub, not enough ports, compaq, hp, packard hell[/tags]

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4 Responses to “A Laptop Design Feature I’ve Grown To Hate”

  1. The lack of USB ports on laptops nowadays, I hate it… 2 USB ports just ain’t enough.

    Besides, my USB hub is terrible – if I add a USB key to it and want to transfer a few GB’s worth of data, it “crashes” and the USB key is “lost” from the operating system so I have to reconnect it and start over. If I connect directly to my laptop, it works fine – but then I’m without mouse and/or keyboard while copying.

    More USB ports please!
    .-= Klaus @ TechPatio´s last blog ..Facebook – Friend Or Foe ? =-.

  2. That certainly sounds like a flaky hub.  Have you tried a different hub, from a different manufacturer?  Could be you got one from a botched production run.

  3. You can have up to 255 devices on a USB Controller. Although, some ports are stacked and share a controller. Hubs don’t count to the device count. From what I remember, I’ve seen several sites of people making 49+ (I remember reading an article of someone making a 255 port hub, but never saw pics or a diagram) hubs. Sky’s the Limit imo.

  4. So really, the only practical limit is how much power they draw, which is easily solved by using an external power supply for the USB hubs.  Practically speaking though, I have to admit that I can’t readily envision a need to connect 255 devices via USB.