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Is there such a thing as a reliable USB hub?


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I currently have a laptop in my roll-away observatory, connected to a powered USB2 hub on the pier, from which I then power and control the various bits and bobs on the rig. This is now the 2nd USB hub that has stopped working. Can anyone recommend a reliable one?  I have seen a few threads mentioning USB hubs but none actually recommending a reliable one.

The laptop only has 2 USB sockets so although my cables will reach it, without the hub I can only connect 2 things at once, one of which has to be the mount. All the stuff in the observatory is powered via an extension cable from the house.

 

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Reliable USB? Ultimately, no. I do not believe it is even possible, yet alone exists in the commercial world. First off, just look at the connectors. Cheap plastic and thinly gold-plated pins if y

Hi Carole, My 6 year old Dell Vostro 3550 laptop has 4 USB ports, one of which duels as an eSata port - whatever that is.... When I used to image with my Nikon DSLR I had to use all 4 ports (2 fo

Have you considered the Startech USB over Ethernet System, they are superb and will never let you down, and will work up to 60m distance, one small powered hub on your mount with four USB ports and an

I previously used an Anker 3-Port USB 3.0 hub and it performed flawlessly from day one; I now have a Mount Hub Pro, so the hub's not being used any more. I had my ASI 1600MM-C (which itself has a USB 2.0 hub connected to my filter wheel and guide camera), NEQ6 and Lakeside autofocuser connected to it, and never even needed to provide an external power supply; it was small enough to be attached to my dovetail with some zip ties, very convenient. I think there are versions of the hub with 7, 9 and 13 ports, so you could try those.

Edited by SyedT
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I used to go through hubs as well, then somebody pointed out that they need a beefy enough power supply to properly power each socket and all the gadgets etc. Since I upgraded to one with a more powerful power adapter it has been ok for a good while now.

Somebody cleverer than me will know what sort of Amp supply rating to look for.

:)

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I used to have never ending problems with many different USB hubs until I got a startech powered hub which cost a fair bit more than other hubs but was certainly worth the extra money. Not had any problems with it. Price Was about £50

This is the one I use although shop around you will find a lot cheaper price for it than this link

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.startech.com/uk/m/Cards-Adapters/USB-2/Hub/Mountable-Rugged-Industrial-7-Port-USB-Hub~ST7200USBM&ved=2ahUKEwj_gsibirvaAhVDLsAKHTY0CmYQFjACegQICBAB&usg=AOvVaw3vsZH7P77eT0bvqqagbw1R

Edited by andyo
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Reliable USB?
Ultimately, no. I do not believe it is even possible, yet alone exists in the commercial world.
First off, just look at the connectors. Cheap plastic and thinly gold-plated pins if you're lucky. No protection from the environment - ingress of moisture. And lockable ones that prevent the plugs being accidentally pulled loose are as rare as hen's teeth.

Then there are the cables. Thin wires that are expected to carry half an Amp. Yet are often merely crimped together. Some are screened effectively and many aren't. Without destroying them there is no way to tell the build quality inside the injection molding on the connector bodies. Is price an indicator of quality? In some cases "you get what you pay for", and low cost does mean manufactured down to a price point. But the reverse is not guaranteed: reassuringly expensive might work for lager but it could easily just attract rich suckers. And they all suffer from fairly severe length restrictions: expensive or cheap ones.

And the USB protocols, themselves! A nightmare. The bus, by being "universal" has to cope with several different types of use. Ranging from slow devices like keyboards through to "super speed" video. The way these are handled and especially the way that errors, packet loss and timing is done means that data can be discarded. The quality of the link depends a great deal on how the software is written - or the firmware inside USB hubs works. Or the implementation within the plugged-in device works. Are they tested thoroughly, for all mixes of traffic? For all combinations of operating system, USB device(s) and intermediate hubs? Or are they given a cursory "well it seems OK - most of the time" check when plugged directly into a computer.

The amazing thing about USB is that it works at all.

Edited by pete_l
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Thankfully with 12 USB ports on my PC (incl 2x3.0) I don't worry about USB hubs any more. But I used to use them. I have used Hama (and this has been flawless from day one with a lot of use), Startech and Anker (These have both performed fine but have had much less use than the original Hama one) 

I would avoid them wherever possible and only use powered ones. Also I'd look carefully at what you plug into them and what you can run directly through the PC. I've always kept the mount away from a hub figuring that does the most work and I always tried to keep the camera directly into the PC as well.

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I have given up trying to get a hub that works OK.  I have tried 3 different powered hubs which all resulted in disconnecting and pinging, - not good when you're trying to image.  Then a kind person sent me a super duper 4 port hub that looks very much like the Startech ones above.  

I managed to get it to work for one session only, then the following morning I went into the obsy to do my flats (note I said obsy, so not outside in the damp), and the software said it could not connect to the camera, looked at the hub and only 2 of the 4 USB lights were on, and have never managed to get it working properly again.

Therefore unless I use 2 separate laptops, I can never control my mount as I need all 3 laptop USBs for Atik, PHD and EFW. 

Carole 

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8 minutes ago, carastro said:

:eek:

What!!  I have never managed to find a laptop with more than 3 USBs on it, where did you find that Sara?

Carole 

 

It's a desktop, not a laptop. I've moved away from small and portable PC's - Just having too many problems with them all. When the obs extension is done there's a new refurbished DELL with 12 USB's all ready to run the dual rig :)

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Have you considered the Startech USB over Ethernet System, they are superb and will never let you down, and will work up to 60m distance, one small powered hub on your mount with four USB ports and another unit connected to your PC, and a CAT 6 Ethernet cable between, they are becoming very popular in the Astro imaging world...

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A couple of people have already nicely touched on the key issues making USB hubs unreliable:

  1. Power supply
  2. Cables
  3. Environment

If you leave your laptop outside all night every night without protection, eventually it would probably fail, yet we expect our USB hubs to perform flawlessly in the same scenario with no added protection.

If you make sure you have a 'more than ample' supply, as noted by @Tim, and it is of good quality, and decent cables, then most hubs will be fine as long as they are protected from the elements reasonably well.  An occasional coat of ACF50 or similar helps in this regard.

USB chips themselves now are extremely reliable, so actual USB problems are not that common.  The main problem is supply, where your PC hub (which incidentally is just a powered USB hub) uses its decent and ample internal power supply.  Most cheaper hubs come with a pretty cheap SM supply which struggles to keep up, and is as noisy as a night out in Benidorm.  Swap this out for a pretty decent SM supply, or even piggy back it from your linear if using one, and it can make all the difference.

I have used Startech, Anker and Orico and have had no issues at all with any of them, with each being used with decent cables and supplies, but with careful consideration made to what is plugged in to them.  As @Pete_l rightly points out, the plugs are not great, but then USB hubs are typically designed to be used in a static environment.  When we chuck them on our OTA that changes to something a little more dynamic, so cable management becomes far more important to prevent movement at the point of the plug.

Finally look at the amount of data you are throwing down a single channel and assess whether the USB is able to cope, especially now with large image files, guiding and all sky cams etc. all running on it.  If you look at a PC for example, it may have 6, 8 or even 10 USB ports, but they are normally split across 2 or 3 actual hubs (chips) whereas an external hub will have all its ports running from a single chip, which can cause saturation.  My latest USB card in my PC is 4 port, but is actually 4 separate chips, so each port is a totally independent hub.  Adding this immediately solved some issues I was having in my obsy.  In reality a 6 or 7 port hub is pushing the upper limit of how many ports are useful, from a reliability point of view, off a single chip.

Startech have their range of 'industrial' hubs which are very good, but not cheap.  They are rugged, vented, have a good range for input supply, are DIN mountable and don't come with a power supply.  Above all the critical components on the boards are coated to protect them to a degree from the elements, which is crucial in the environments we tend to use them in.  

Edited by RayD
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Thanks for those suggestions guys, I have plumped for this StarTech one: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00SCE4E0I/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I am considering keeping it indoors between sessions, like I do with the observatory laptop after everyone's comments about the environment. Also, this ACF50 stuff sounds quite miraculous, do you recommend spraying the mount and other components as well?

When I get to guiding, I fully expect the observatory laptop to need replacing, at least with something that has USB3 and maybe at that point I will also consider a 2nd hub. At the moment I am only really using 2 or 3 ports (mount, camera and a games controller) so the 7-port hub I have ordered is probably a bit of overkill but does look more rugged than the 4-port ones I have seen.

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10 hours ago, carastro said:

:eek:

What!!  I have never managed to find a laptop with more than 3 USBs on it, where did you find that Sara?

Carole 

 

Hi Carole,

My 6 year old Dell Vostro 3550 laptop has 4 USB ports, one of which duels as an eSata port - whatever that is.... When I used to image with my Nikon DSLR I had to use all 4 ports (2 for the Nikon, 1 for guide camera, 1 for the mount) and failures were very rare indeed. I now have an observatory with USB hubs at the pier so just run a single USB cable from the warm room. USB failures were a continuous nightmare until I split the traffic between the Mount Hub Pro and a D-Link powered hub. I need the MHP for dew and focus control, but found that sometimes it couldn’t handle all the USB, so I now run the cameras and mount off the D-Link with the MHP also in line off the D-Link for focus motor and dew control. Touch wood I’ve not had any issues for about 3 months, but then I haven’t done any imaging for nearly 1 month due to continuous cloud cover.....

Geof

Edited by geoflewis
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14 minutes ago, Penguin said:

Thanks for those suggestions guys, I have plumped for this StarTech one: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00SCE4E0I/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I am considering keeping it indoors between sessions, like I do with the observatory laptop after everyone's comments about the environment. Also, this ACF50 stuff sounds quite miraculous, do you recommend spraying the mount and other components as well?

When I get to guiding, I fully expect the observatory laptop to need replacing, at least with something that has USB3 and maybe at that point I will also consider a 2nd hub. At the moment I am only really using 2 or 3 ports (mount, camera and a games controller) so the 7-port hub I have ordered is probably a bit of overkill but does look more rugged than the 4-port ones I have seen.

This should be fine with what you are using.  It doesn't really matter how many ports there are, just what you plug in to them.

ACF50 is excellent but, as with all stuff like this, not cheap.  I wouldn't think your mount would need doing as it is designed to be located externally, USB hubs aren't. If you do use it, don't spray inside the plugs, just the board.

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7 hours ago, swag72 said:

It's a desktop, not a laptop. I've moved away from small and portable PC's - Just having too many problems with them all. When the obs extension is done there's a new refurbished DELL with 12 USB's all ready to run the dual rig :)

Sara, Just a small thought, if you aren't going to use a hub then won't having 5 or 6 USB leads create even more problems if you are going to run them down to your PC?

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2 hours ago, Jkulin said:

Sara, Just a small thought, if you aren't going to use a hub then won't having 5 or 6 USB leads create even more problems if you are going to run them down to your PC?

I don't find that cables down to the PC have been a problem. They are neatly bound and cable tied to a dovetail first so that they don't drag.

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10 hours ago, Penguin said:

Thanks for those suggestions guys, I have plumped for this StarTech one: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00SCE4E0I/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I am considering keeping it indoors between sessions, like I do with the observatory laptop after everyone's comments about the environment. Also, this ACF50 stuff sounds quite miraculous, do you recommend spraying the mount and other components as well?

When I get to guiding, I fully expect the observatory laptop to need replacing, at least with something that has USB3 and maybe at that point I will also consider a 2nd hub. At the moment I am only really using 2 or 3 ports (mount, camera and a games controller) so the 7-port hub I have ordered is probably a bit of overkill but does look more rugged than the 4-port ones I have seen.

Good choice. Mine is working well. I did ditch the supplied power cable and run one from my Anderson/Torberry power rig attached to the scope.

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