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About Hubs

The one thing I don't like about the Mac mini, besides having to buy more memory, is the shortage of USB and FireWire ports. The Mac mini has two USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire 400 port (Figure 4.7). That is barely enough for some users and clearly not enough for others.

Figure 4.7. Most PC users know what a USB connector looks like (it's on the right) but are less familiar with a FireWire connector (on the left), widely used to connect video cameras, iPods, and other devices to Macintosh computers.


Which will you be?

In a minimalist installation, you will use one of the two USB ports for your keyboard and mouse (combined into one port by your KVM or PS/2-to-USB adapter). The single FireWire port will be available for an iPod, iSight camera, video camera, or external FireWire hard drive or other peripheral.

You might use the extra USB port for connecting a printer, iPod shuffle, digital still camera, or pen input device, such as a Wacom tablet.

Many people will want to connect several devices at once and will find the Mac mini's limited number of ports to be a problem. Fortunately, there are devices, called hubs, that can increase the number of available ports. They are easy to buy and not terribly expensive.

Reminder: USB and FireWire ports are different types of connections and are not interchangeable. That means adding both USB and FireWire hubs if you need both. And make sure the hubs you buy support USB 2.0 and FireWire 400, lest you end up with an older and slower, though less expensive, hub.

You can buy a KVM switch from Belkin that also includes a two-port USB hub that switches between computers when you switch the keyboard, display, and mouse. This seems particularly useful if you want to share a USB printer or maybe a camera between your Mac mini and a PC.

In writing this book, I've used both Belkin USB and FireWire hubs and a combined USB-FireWire hub from IOMEGA.

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