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Author Topic: I Bought A New Personal Computer-Should I Bother Adding Serial Ports?  (Read 16483 times)
AK7V
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« Reply #45 on: February 14, 2012, 03:28:56 PM »

This is funny.  W8JX reminds me of the guys who'd show utter contempt for those of us who were still on dial-up 7 or so years ago.  Why someone would appear to have such a visceral reaction to someone else's choice in technology always baffled me...  It's almost as if the mere idea of someone out there - not doing things the newest, flashiest, way - really stuck in their craw.

7 years ago there was a lot of people that could not get broadband still. I was on ISDN until 7 or 8 years ago when cable came through. DSL only came in last year here in country. Still a few out there with dial-up because that is all they can get.

Back to subject, the point I am making, when you are upgrading hardware and operating system and its abilities why do grade it too? You can crow till cows come home but 232 is all but dead and USB to serial is VERY easy to do when needed for old tech stuff. USB (Universal Serial Bus) is very adaptable.

Personally, I have had good luck with USB->232 adapters.  And I am a fan of the USB protocol.  But I've read of enough problems others have had with converters to make me think that a dedicated RS-232 card would be a more robust solution.  Rigs with CAT control don't need much bandwidth and they still use RS-232, so for that application, if I had to build something up for reliability, I'd go with the RS-232 card.

Having a faster computer and a new OS is great -- your software will run better, you'll have more storage, etc.  Whether you use USB->232 or straight 232 will exhibit no difference in performance (assuming both work).  It seems you are conflating two unrelated issues in this case - new, faster, better computer has nothing to do with straight 232 vs. USB->232.  Nothing about a USB->232 converter is faster or better than a dedicated 232 port.  In fact, many old, weak computers have USB ports (doesn't mean there's anything wrong with USB, though Smiley

Installing an RS-232 card is not "downgrading."  It's using a tool that's available, and in this case, has nothing to do with performance.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #46 on: February 14, 2012, 04:07:51 PM »

"The potential speed costs/benefits of USB->232 converters versus on-board 232 are pretty much moot, since your limit is baud rate and most ham rigs don't need a fast rate (and/or don't support it)."

That's true **if** you are just transmitting normal serial data as in 9600 baud rig control. If you start doing things like using control signals to key CW or to toggle direct FSK then you can run into timing issues with some USB->232 converters.

That's one reason I recommended to the original poster that if he has slots available in the computer and has a need for RS-232 he should add an RS-232 card rather than fool with a USB->232 converter. All this bantering about RS-232 going away shouldn't mean a thing to him. If he installs a card today and somehow all cards in the world go away tomorrow what does it matter to him. He still has his RS-232 need and he still has his card. If in a few years he buys a new computer and it doesn't have a slot available for an RS-232 card then he goes to a USB converter at that point.

I've done enough commercial work with USB converters to know that they are not all created equally. It depends on the computer, the converter, and what you are attempting to do with it. Nobody can convince me that they all work just fine in all applications because my personal experience is different than that. I've also run across issues with users not installing converters correctly (wrong driver for his OS, plugging in converter before installing driver, etc). Laptops are often difficult because users connect/disconnect the USB converter on a regular basis and it doesn't always get plugged into the same USB port on the computer. Plug into a different port and it gets assigned a different COM port. Suddenly his software can't find the converter, doesn't work, and he doesn't know what's wrong. Do that a few times and add in several other devices that use converters and you wind up with a list of 15 COM ports and not a clue which one should be used with what device.



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AK7V
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« Reply #47 on: February 14, 2012, 05:23:48 PM »

"The potential speed costs/benefits of USB->232 converters versus on-board 232 are pretty much moot, since your limit is baud rate and most ham rigs don't need a fast rate (and/or don't support it)."

That's true **if** you are just transmitting normal serial data as in 9600 baud rig control. If you start doing things like using control signals to key CW or to toggle direct FSK then you can run into timing issues with some USB->232 converters.


That makes a lot of sense.  I use a Winkeyer USB for that reason.  Even using an on-board RS-232 card isn't immune to timing problems when sending CW because of OS timing issues.

Anyway, I agree with you 100% -- the RS-232 card is a better solution for the task at hand.
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W8JX
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« Reply #48 on: February 14, 2012, 05:39:18 PM »

It sure has been a spirited debate!
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K1CJS
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« Reply #49 on: February 19, 2012, 09:53:36 AM »

I know its rather late in the debate, but I just wanted to comment on the post that stated that there probavly wouldn't be any sources of serial port plug in cards around much longer.  If you look on the internet, excepting for some of the wildly outdates older plug in boards and such, there are parts on various sites for sale--both new in box and used. 

Also there are sites on the 'net that have drivers for various cards--even if the companies that made those cards are out of business or have merged with other companies.  I would be very, VERY surprised if the various sources of serial cards dried up much--if at all--over the next decade or so.  The serial port is just that popular--AND that widespread.  And, as someone else said, there are just too many devices that still use the RS232 standard for the manufacturers to stop making them altogether very soon.
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W8JX
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« Reply #50 on: February 19, 2012, 10:20:02 AM »

Wishing does not change that 232 is dying. Only old equipment design keep it alive but that will change too. Not only does USB have a lot of flexibility and growth potential. there is no RTS/DTS or baud rate to set or worry about unless you are emulating a comm port for a legacy device.
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #51 on: February 20, 2012, 03:39:32 PM »

Interesting discussion, sort of like watching the characters in Hamlet fighting over Ophelia's corpse in the graveyard.

In my opinion, the future will be networked and both RS232 and USB will be essentially relegated to PC accessory interfacing, where networked solutions are not worthwhile.
For example, it is common these days to have a Network Storage Unit (networked hard disk), which just grabs an IP address from a DHCP server (commonly in a router/modem), and media units which will find any NSU's and play the content on demand.
It is a simple, elegant, well understood, cheap solution which allows Gigabit speeds (1000Mb/s) which exceeds the USB2 480Mb/s.
In addition, the use of an IP interface on a radio would allow simple programming for both TCP and UDP protocols using the standard port addressing schemes familiar to network programming.

Commercially however, manufacturers will no doubt be conservative and assume that in the short term most hams would have a USB or RS232C port and so opt for that interface to maximise their customer base.
As networking becomes more pervasive however, and users become accustomed to networked devices, I am sure ham radio transceivers will become network ready, with all the attendant advantages.
TCP/IP networking has the advantage that the physical media layer is separated from the higher layers, so the interface can be implemented with WIFI, Ethernet or Fibre optics for example, so cutting the chains of physical compatibilty that bind so many other interfaces, including RS232 and USB.

Consider that when that day comes, the transceiver will be able to be left in a cupboard (suitably ventilated of course), and the station operated from your laptop with the audio going Voice Over IP, or it can still be next to you as you wish.
Add a wireless router and you can be operating from just about any location.

USB has its advantages, but when all is said and done, it is only a glorified RS232 interface, which is intended for local use, much like the old printer centronics interface.
USB 3 for example has a top speed of 5Gb/s, but is range limited, hard to fit with connectors and its cables are bulky and expensive - good for a local high speed interface to disks for example, but nowhere as versatile as an ethernet interface.

I suspect it may be quite a while before we get to a large base of network ready transceivers, and we will have to go through a few lesser technologies, but like the Juggernaut, it rolls slowly, but is unstoppable.

73s
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 04:21:18 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
W8JX
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« Reply #52 on: February 20, 2012, 04:28:02 PM »

It has been a "fun" debate and not nasty either:)
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K1CJS
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« Reply #53 on: February 24, 2012, 03:54:43 AM »

Wishing does not change that 232 is dying. Only old equipment design keep it alive but that will change too. Not only does USB have a lot of flexibility and growth potential. there is no RTS/DTS or baud rate to set or worry about unless you are emulating a comm port for a legacy device.

If you look at things in that way, PCs are dying too and soon will be replaced with devices like the Kindle, which will pull data from a central server in the home or building where that device is being used.  It's amazing how today's technology is tomorrow's outdated, outmoded 'antiques', yet those antiques are still around, live and kicking, after years of being relegated to antique or outmoded status.

Take the 5 1/4 inch disk drive.  By today's standards, the disks hold a miniscule amount of data and the drives are dynosaurs--but they're still available, if you care to spend the money to get one.  The RS 232 is more popular than that--and it's my contention that they will be available for years and years to come.
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W8JX
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« Reply #54 on: February 24, 2012, 05:53:57 AM »


If you look at things in that way, PCs are dying too and soon will be replaced with devices like the Kindle, which will pull data from a central server in the home or building where that device is being used.  It's amazing how today's technology is tomorrow's outdated, outmoded 'antiques', yet those antiques are still around, live and kicking, after years of being relegated to antique or outmoded status.


I do not see tablet displacing PC totally anytime soon. Tablets lack I/O interfaces and flexibility of a PC and cannot remotely compete with one in raw HP. As far as "antique" PC's still kicking it is not because they are more than capable but rather because people the still use them limit what they do with that PC in order to use them just like those that cling to 232 standards.
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KD4SBY
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« Reply #55 on: February 26, 2012, 08:39:55 AM »

There are always people that want the fastest, latest gadget, and would scowl at RS232 communications as being old and obsolete.
As for me, I would recommend to anyone to have at least one RS232 port available, regardless of the age of the computer. That is because there are programs out there in Cyber Space that are considered obsolete, but are fun to use, and they often will require such a port.
Having said that, I like to explain that I am not just talking about Ham Radio, but in general terms. I assume that you do not have a computer just for Ham Radio, but for all kinds of uses. And there is were the Serial Port becomes handy to have. There is tons of software out there, on any conceivable subject, and you may find something you might be interested in there that requires a RS232 port because it is old and no longer supported. Fat chance that it uses a USB port, it was not even invented when those programs were  written!
Case in point is my interest in older computers, with their now obsolete processors, IDEs, assemblers and debuggers. All RS-232 based. And that is only one subject. There must be more of them.
So, my advice again is, get a RS-232 port if you do not have one. Just in case! And believe me, RS-232 to USB converters do not always work as you want them to. I know! I have been there!
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W8JX
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« Reply #56 on: February 26, 2012, 08:46:00 AM »

Case in point is my interest in older computers, with their now obsolete processors, IDEs, assemblers and debuggers. All RS-232 based. And that is only one subject. There must be more of them.

Better stock up on IDE drives too because they are getting scarce as they like the 232 are also obsolete.
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K3WEC
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« Reply #57 on: March 01, 2012, 09:21:08 PM »

I know its rather late in the debate, but I just wanted to comment on the post that stated that there probavly wouldn't be any sources of serial port plug in cards around much longer.  If you look on the internet, excepting for some of the wildly outdates older plug in boards and such, there are parts on various sites for sale--both new in box and used. 

Also there are sites on the 'net that have drivers for various cards--even if the companies that made those cards are out of business or have merged with other companies.  I would be very, VERY surprised if the various sources of serial cards dried up much--if at all--over the next decade or so.  The serial port is just that popular--AND that widespread.  And, as someone else said, there are just too many devices that still use the RS232 standard for the manufacturers to stop making them altogether very soon.

Yes, there are sources now, mostly cards and "dongles."  The primary customers that need these legacy ports are enterprise retail customers that use PC cash drawer solutions in which the cash drawer/scanners/wands use the old legacy ports.   Another is a limited (very limited) amount of healthcare customers.  When I say primary customers, I mean those that make it worthwhile to continue offering a solution of some sort, at this time,  to maintain customer satisfaction.  The rest of the legacy port user population is not even worth mentioning in terms of # of PC units purchased...and it's the volume that makes the decisions within the industry.

Don't be surprised when the VGA port goes away in a couple years too.
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K3WEC
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« Reply #58 on: March 01, 2012, 09:30:27 PM »


I do not see tablet displacing PC totally anytime soon. Tablets lack I/O interfaces and flexibility of a PC and cannot remotely compete with one in raw HP.

Agreed, but we will see a convergence to devices that combine the technologies.   We are already seeing ultrabooks.   In the not-so-distant future, you probably won't be able to buy a laptop that doesn't have touch capability. 

Things will be abandoned and gained in the convergence process.   I do not believe that the big clunky PC that sits on top or under the desk will be what we're buying 5 years from now.
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K8SI
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« Reply #59 on: March 09, 2012, 06:14:16 PM »

Well, as I see it from my perspective, my radio has a serial port, and with all the problems I've had getting USB converters to work, I chose to get a PCI Express 2-port card.  Cheap, available and simple enough to install and set up.  I don't see any reason to fight with the converters at this point...yeah, old technology, but it works.  If and when I get a newer rig, I worry about it then.  I have better things to do with my time than fight with the new tech stuff every time I reboot my computer.  I do use USB gear (Winkeyer USB, SignaLink USB, etc.), but my radio is native RS-232, so I figure why not give it what it wants? Just my opinion, YMMV!
73,
Jim  K8SI
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