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Keyspan USB 2.0 Server

December 17th, 2007
Easy USB server to install and set up.

The Keyspan U2S-2A USB 2.0 Server just works. You can connect it via Ethernet or wirelessly to a local area network, to share different types of USB devices.

The Keyspan USB Server plugs into an available 10 or 100 megabit connection on your network and provides two powered USB 2.0 ports that talk to different devices, including printers, USB storage devices, PDAs, cameras, mice, keyboards, or scanners. If you want just a print server, Keyspan also sells a 4-Port USB Print Server for only $99.

Worked in a Variety of Configurations

I connected and tested inkjet printers, USB Flash drives, and label printers. Each device worked just fine on a variety of systems, both Intel and PowerPC, running several different versions of Mac OS X. I also did some limited testing of printing with Windows XP SP2 and found no issues there either.

Easy Install

The software is a standard installer package that installs three main components: a Startup Item, a framework, and the Keyspan USB Server utility. You use the utility to configure the USB server and to connect to the devices plugged into the server. Follow the directions and you should have no trouble using the devices connected to it.

You simply install the software, plug in the Keyspan server, connect to the Keyspan server via your computer, than configure the Keyspan server settings, including a name, IP address and server mode. Next you configure the connected device, for example you set up a printer in Print Setup Utility, then disconnect from the device and set the USB server to auto-connect to the device when required.

The slickest part of the whole package is how the Keyspan USB server software arbitrates the connection requests; it auto-connects if the requested device is available, then disconnects when done. When there is contention for a resource, especially for printers, the USB server appears to make the printer driver see the device as busy. When the printer is available, the next queued document prints normally.

Keyspan USB 2.0 Server in Action

The advantage of the USB server over Printer Sharing is three-fold. First, the printer can be placed anywhere not just near a computer. Second, the computer doesn't need to be on constantly and consuming energy, plus the utilities for the printer, such as ink status, work over the network connection, when, in my experience, they don't work through printer sharing. Third, specific features of the printer driver that require bi-directional communication with the printer work correctly through the USB server when they do not function correctly through Printer Sharing.

Few Glitches

I tested a one-gigabyte USB Flash storage device, which worked almost without hitch. Each time I wanted to mount the device I did have to open the Keyspan USB server utility software. Mounting times were acceptable, just not as fast as the same flash drive plugged directly into the computer. Once mounted, the speed of copying or opening files was on par with a locally connected drive. Unmounting the device is handled in the normal Mac OS X manner, which means you can choose your preferred method. You can the icon to the eject icon in the Dock, use the Eject command from the contextual menu, select Eject from the File menu or type Command-E.

I did run into a couple of minor glitches during 60 days of testing that required a power-off/power-on cycle of the Keyspan server to resolve. In the first, the printer inexplicably disappeared off the network and power-cycling the printer didn't bring it back. The second time occurred when printing a large Photoshop file to a large-format inkjet printer. The printing started normally, but then stalled, even though all indicators seemed fine. I could not reproduce these two glitches. The large file did print fine several more times with all other settings remaining constant, so I was not able to discover why the initial print stalled.

Excellent Security Features

In addition to the useful features described above, password options abound. You can protect the USB server configuration, restrict access to a specific server, or even a specific device. These are all useful attributes for home, school, or business environments. This small device removes the complexity of running two USB devices on a local area network.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor
Works as advertised. Enables the sharing of a great variety of USB devices, not just printers. Small footprint. Easy to install. Cons
Price may be steep for a home user. Only for local area networok. Some unexplained glitches did occur.