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No Strings Attached

Later this year, we can start getting rid of that rat's nest of cables connecting our consoles and peripherals

5 min read

It wasn't that long ago, but it is so easy to forget the state of play before a consortium of companies including IBM, Intel, and Microsoft introduced Version 1.1 of the Universal Serial Bus, or USB, in September 1998. Do you remember that junk drawer full of cords that were hopelessly ill-suited to anything but the items with which they were packaged, but you kept them "just in case"? When USB came along, and then USB 2.0--which, in 2002, increased the standard's data-transfer rate from 12 megabytes per second to 480 MB/s--the result was a connection that worked every time without any heroic action on the part of the user and allowed PC and Macintosh users to share peripherals for the first time. Simply put, USB has become the de facto connection standard for consumer electronics.

Once upon a time, I'm sad to report, Little gray boxes needed plenty of ports. Serial ports and parallel ports-- All sorts of ports were the only resort. (Anon.)

Now USB is poised to get even better. Starting this year, electronics manufacturers will introduce products that cut the cords tethering USB peripherals to their hosts. That's a lot of cords, especially when you consider analysts' prediction that there will be more than 3.5 billion USB interfaces included in consumer electronics by 2008. The wireless USB hub, to be introduced this spring by consumer electronics manufacturer Belkin Corp., in Compton, Calif., will put a base station for plugging in your peripherals exactly where you want it. Also available this spring, will be a USB extender from Gefen Inc., in Woodland Hills, Calif. Units plugged into the host and the peripheral will talk to each other over distances as far as 10 meters.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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