Do usb and firewire outlets exist?
February 3, 2011 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Can I set up usb connections, dvd/cd drives, and other computer stuff in separate rooms? Do usb and firewire, and dvd/cd drive outlets exist that can be mounted in wall-boxes?

I lack the vocabulary for all of this. Once I know what to ask for, I can do the research and footwork, but need some guidance.

The setup:
My "desk" is a series of glass shelves. I use my laptop on it and am trying to keep the rest of the area clear. I want to get a large 30ish inch monitor, mount it to the wall, and have a keyboard on the glass for image and web work.

I have a closet on the other side of the wall to the back and another closet on the other side of the wall on the right. The cable modem and box is in one of these. I have full access to both areas and even inside the walls.

I plan to get a wall mounted monitor and big mac quad core, but don't want the cpu under the desk and it cannot be on top of it so I thought I would put it in one of the closets.

Question: Can I mount usb, firewire, disk drives, &c. connections in the wall to connect them between rooms like regular electric boxes and outlets?

What are the terms I am looking for? I have a good sense of soldering and the way regular electric wiring works and am picturing it like that but smaller.

So if I had my way, right above the level of my glass desktop, I would see a panel of female outlets of usb 2.0, firewire, ethernet, and cd/dvd drives (among other things like ipod connections) in a white glossy rectangle that would be connected to the computer in the other room (that is well ventilated but never actually seen) and I would use them as I needed for my keyboard and monitor as well as whatever else I needed to. I would just plug things in or insert disks into the wall.

Yes? No? Search terms? Or should I just go to the MicroCenter and ask?
posted by Tchad to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
The main thing is that USB has a max 5m cable length and I would be very uncertain of using anything more than 4m. You can do runs of longer than 5m bu using powered hubs are repeaters but I doubt you want to bury hubs inside the wall.

All that said, there are proprietary products like this USB Superbooster Wall Plate kit which runs USB over cat5 up to 150 feet. The description says it only supports USB 1.1 though so it will be a bit slow for ipods and dvd drives.

This company sells USB wall plates that require the use of a separate range extender past 5m that they also sell. The one they have could probably be safely kept in the wall if you're farther than 5m. These people claim to handle full USB 2.0 which will handle DVD drives fine.
posted by GuyZero at 1:14 PM on February 3, 2011

For USB and firewire you might think about adapting in desk stuff. It'll be a bit of a DIY project, but this looks like it could be mounted neatly in a wall if you can take the outside part off.

For DVD drives you might have to build a frame in the wall, extending back into the closet, though, depending on how often you use your DVD drive it might be easier to have a USB one in a drawer that you connect as needed and then tidy away.
posted by IanMorr at 1:14 PM on February 3, 2011

Best answer: The latter company, DataPro, also carries custom wall plates but again, for most of those cables you're looking at a few meters for the max cable length.
posted by GuyZero at 1:15 PM on February 3, 2011

Best answer: The term you need to search for is "wall plate" ... here's a wall plate for pretty much any standard connection. The trouble you will run into is that a lot of these connections cannot be run over a long distance. If your close it right behind the wall, no big deal, but runs from a second story down to a basement can become problematic.
posted by geoff. at 1:16 PM on February 3, 2011

Best answer: Perhaps look at adding Bluetooth to the Mac Pro tower and use the Apple Wireless Keyboard and the wireless Magic Trackpad or mouse options. They work well and have made significant improvements in battery usage. Bluetooth devices will help you reduce your need for USB wiring.

For printers and the like, you can either use Bluetooth, if supported, or buy wireless print servers to join printers to a home wireless network. Or you can establish an ad hoc wireless connection directly between the Mac Pro and the printer.

That said, if you want to wire your house, you'll need to think about the USB and FireWire specification limitations. You might read about maximum USB cable lengths and shop around for USB repeaters. Equivalently, there are limits to FireWire cable length, and you can also use powered FireWire repeaters or hubs to extend connections further. Monoprice is a commonly recommended place for cheap bulk wiring.

To make things look clean, search the web for USB and FireWire wallplates. There are many more wallplate options for CAT5e Ethernet cables — Leviton makes a Decora line that includes these, I think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:22 PM on February 3, 2011

Response by poster: Seriously? Wallplates? That's all I had to look for? I put in the electric here myself, so you would think I would have thought of that.

This is looking good, thanks guys. I will look around the DataPro site to get an idea.

In case it matters: The cables would need to be 2 meters MAX. If I put it behind the wall, I am looking at cables that would be maybe 18 cm. So we are good there.

When I built the walls, I put in 8 lengths of cat5 cable because I had it on hand. So it is inside the wall in a couple of places with TONS of slack but isn't connected to anything. I knew something about what I may want in the future and it seemed like a good idea.

There is plenty of (empty) 3/4" conduit and 20 amp 120v service as well, if that matters.

Because I built everything, there won't be many surprises.

posted by Tchad at 1:34 PM on February 3, 2011

There are a number of devices that will transport different protocols over cat5 - vga-cat5, usb-cat5, etc - but I think that if it's just 2m then running straight cables would be easiest. My guess is that getting the dvi connector through the wall will be your biggest problem. dvi-hdmi adapters may not work if your monitor needs dual-channel dvi which I suspect it will.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on February 3, 2011

Response by poster: And THIS! Holy Moly! Wow wow wow!
posted by Tchad at 1:43 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

The only thing I didn't see on the Datapro site was FireWire 800 walk plates. I don't believe the new Mac Pros have FW400 anymore, but they can be easily converted. As long as you're not running FW800 external HD through the wall, though, you shouldn't notice much of a difference.

Or you could just get crafty with a FW800 extension cable, a blank wall plate, and a dremel.
posted by supercres at 1:46 PM on February 3, 2011

FW400 and FW800 have identical signals on a subset of the FW800 pins and you can get cables that are FW800 on one end and FW400 on the other. As long as you're OK with FW400 speeds.

Or a dremel, yeah. I suspect if you call those DataPro guys they can create a wall-plate FW800 housing.
posted by GuyZero at 1:50 PM on February 3, 2011

Best answer: I did something like this recently and Monoprice was a great place to look for cables and some wallplates. Right now I've got all of my cables coming through these going to a USB hub (for kb/mouse/other stuff), my sound system, and my wall mounted monitors and TV.
posted by ODiV at 4:06 PM on February 3, 2011

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