No matter what external device you use, the computer communicates with it via some sort of port. USB, RS-232 serial, and parallel ports all have their own unique configuration requirements, ranging from kernel settings to utilities that enable you to optimize the performance of the devices attached to the port.
Note Some devices use other types of external ports. Most Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) host adapters, for instance, have external connectors, used to connect external hard disks, tape drives, scanners, and so on. IEEE-1394 devices are usually external, but they're still fairly rare in 2003. Many keyboards and mice connect through dedicated keyboard and mouse ports, as described in the upcoming sections, "Overcoming Keyboard Quirks and 'Using a Mouse to the Fullest."
The devices described in this chapter usually interface through connectors on an IA-32 system's motherboard, as depicted in Figure 3.1. These connectors are accessible from the back of a typical computer. The port connectors on some older systems were placed on expansion cards. Even today, such cards may be used to add extra ports, should you need more than the standard mix. Some systems place one or more USB connectors on the front of the computer, instead of or in addition to the back-panel USB connectors. Some very old RS-232 ports, as well as the RS-232 connectors on most external devices, use wide 25-pin connectors rather than the 9-pin connectors shown in Figure 3.1.
Figure 3.1: The port connectors on modern IA-32 computers are placed in a standard arrangement and are accessible from the back of the computer.
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