Lantronix UBox 2100

Lantronix UBox 2100

Summary: If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to share USB devices and gain remote accessibility, the UBox from Lantronix does the job.

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TOPICS: Networking, Reviews
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Pros

  • Works well , easy to manage
  • Eliminates distance limitations of USB
  • Supports DHCP, Static IP or Zeroconfig IP addressing
  • Isochronous audio/video means it supports video cameras

Cons

  • Runs on Windows only
  • Doesn’t support Gigabit Ethernet

Usually, when you need to use any USB device (such as a scanner, printer or flash memory stick) you plug it into a USB port on your computer. It is then accessible only by the computer it's plugged into. But what if someone else needs to use the same USB device?

The common solution is to unplug the USB device from your PC and give it to another user, but this is often impractical if the device is large. Another solution is to allow your colleague to work with that device on your PC, but this isn’t feasible if you’re in another office, city or country.

To get around this dilemma you could double up on your peripherals — or invest in a box of tricks that lets almost any USB 2.0 device to be networked and shared over the LAN and the internet.

The UBox 2100 from Lantronix does just that. It’s also the first USB-to-Ethernet device server to support the USB isochronous data transfer standard, which is typically used for audio and video applications. With the UBox 2100 you can connect off-the-shelf USB 2.0 peripheral devices to an Ethernet network and share them locally or over the internet. Using multiple UDP ports, you can connect up to eight USB devices.

Up to ten users can connect to a single UBox or set of UBoxes using the same UDP port. You can also support more users by setting up additional UBoxes with different UDP port numbers.

Housed in a rugged metal enclosure, the UBox 2100 is built for business. It's powered by an external 5V power adapter (supplied) and has a single 10/100 Ethernet jack and two USB 2.0 ports.

If you need more USB ports, you can consider the 4-port UBox 4100, which can be updated with a patch you can download from Lantronix's site to support isochronous audio. The UBox 4100 does not support high-speed USB, handling only 'low speed' and 'full speed'. In real terms this means the 4100 can sustain approximately 5-6Mbps throughput, while the UBox 2100 can sustain, depending on conditions and transaction types, approximately 12-15Mbps.

Isochronous data transfer is typically used for time-dependent applications, such as multimedia streams with synchronised audio and video, where the data must be delivered within specific time constraints. Isochronous communication is best suited for applications where a steady data stream is more important than accuracy. A good example is video conferencing, where infrequent small 'blips' in the data stream are tolerable, but long pauses between a transmission and a response are not. Thus, users can access and share webcams with fully synchronised audio/video in real-time over a network or the internet without needing to connect them directly to a computer.

Setting up the UBox is straightforward. Rather than require administrators to install drivers on each computer when each UBox is added, its Active Discovery feature automatically loads the software on each computer so that networked USB devices are available for immediate use over a LAN. For WANs, you can set up passwords and use static IP addresses to connect UBoxes to the network. Once you've installed the driver software, a USB Device Server window displays a list of USB devices currently connected to each UBox on the network, the status of the software connection, and the location (UBox name and port) on the UBox to which it is attached. Four network status indicators (one green, two amber and one red) on the box itself provide instant visual feedback on network status.

The UBox includes software to help identify, access, configure, upgrade and secure each unit on the network. This runs in the background allowing USB equipment to be automatically connected to PCs as if they were connected locally.

By default, the UBox is in 'multi-user connect mode', with all USB devices shared, but only available to one user at a time. If a device is in use, its status is displayed as 'In Use By [ComputerName]'.

Before you can use a device, you must connect to it to gain exclusive access. When you are finished using the device, you must disconnect from it before others can use it. However, an Auto-Connect handles this automatically, connecting to a printer when a user needs to print, then automatically disconnecting when the job is finished, freeing the printer for other users.

As the first USB-to-Ethernet device server to support isochronous data transfer, the UBox enables a wider range of USB products to be networked and brings multimedia into the picture. It offers simple plug-and-play operation and does not require special device drivers.

If you're looking for a cost-effective way to share USB devices and gain remote accessibility, you’ll find the UBox from Lantronix does the job.

 

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Topics: Networking, Reviews

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