Computer questions: what is a serial port and how does it work
Serial ports connect devices such as modems, scanners and printers to your computer. Find out how serial ports improve communications between your PC and its peripherals.
Serial ports are the connectors on the back of your PC that enable your computer to control devices such as modems, scanners, and printers. Although some serial ports use a 25-pin interface, most only have nine pins. One pin serves as the ground while the others handle the flow of data between a computer and its peripherals. Serial ports are also known as communication (COM) ports, and most PCs have at least one.
Unlike parallel ports which send a full byte (8 bits) of data at once, serial ports can transfer information only one bit at a time. They use a bidirectional form of communications that allows information to travel back and forth across a cable. RS-232 is the standard serial port design determined by the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). Among its other specifications, a RS-232 serial port can connect a computer to a device located more than 50 meters away.
Serial devices use an asynchronous process to control the transfer of information, relying on special start and stop bits to signal when serial data should or shouldn't be transmitted. The asynchronous method divides information into packets of one byte each, sometimes including a special parity bit to verify the integrity of the data in each packet.
In your computer, the UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter) converts the parallel data moving throughout your PC into a serial format that can be used by other serial devices. The procedure is reversed, however, when your computer receives serial data it must work with. The UART is also directly responsible for regulating the flow of serial bits.
In most serial communications, a device such as a modem is called the data communications equipment (DCE), while the computer itself is referred to as the data terminal equipment (DTE). The DCE and DTE (or two DTEs) establish a connection described as a "handshake" prior to exchanging data.
Your computer assigns an input/output (I/O) address and an interrupt request line (IRQ) to each serial port in your PC. This designation gives devices priority over each other as they attempt to communicate with your computer. Unfortunately, trouble occurs when a device is given the same I/O address or IRQ. This conflict can lead to your system shutting down or other PC problems. Therefore, make sure new serial devices are installed on only available I/O addresses and interrupts.
If you think your computer is experiencing a conflict, you can usually change your port configurations through software installed on your system. Consult your PC owner's manual or activate your operating system's help feature for instructions on how to fix port conflicts. Also, there are several shareware programs available that may help you detect possible conflicts as well.
Because many devices now use universal serial bus (USB) ports, computer users deal with fewer conflicts. USB ports use a different technology that offers much greater data transfer speeds than both parallel and serial ports. Also, USB ports support the connection of over 100 devices to your PC. But as long as computers continue to use modems, serial ports will probably be needed. Serial ports, despite their conflict issues, use a reliable form of data communications, and have performed quite well over the years.
Be proud to let your guests hang up coats themselves
You've made a list of the areas in need of organization and have committed yourself to the plan, now let's get started.
You've made an organizing plan and committed yourself to the project, now get ready to start. Upbeat music is energizing and an energy bar plus water will be fuel enough if you need a snack during the half-hour you've set aside. Gather bags, boxes and storage bins in advance; this will allow you to stay focused and reduce your chance of becoming sidetracked searching for containers.
Label Containers: Label three containers 'toss', 'donate' and 'keep somewhere else' and be strict with yourself about tossing and donating. Unless it's a keepsake or item that will be used regularly it can probably be either tossed or donated.
Determine the Function of the Space: Look carefully at what you're storing in your entrance closets and decide how you need your closets to function for your family. The entrance closets of the home work best when they're used to keep coats, sweaters, umbrellas and shoes. If you have school age children or teens, backpacks and book bags might also have a home in the closet. Sports gear like ice skates or roller blades will be easily located if they're kept in an entrance closet provided there's enough room. Organizing the front entrance closet for guests to use should follow the same process as the frequently used entrance closet except that you'll want to leave room for guest's coats and shoes.
Get Started: Start by pairing up shoes on a rack or shelf and plan to keep only the most used shoes and boots in your entrance closets; special-occasion shoes can be moved to bedroom closets. Next, hang coats and sweaters and store gloves, scarves and ear muffs in rectangular baskets or containers on the eye level shelf just above the rod. Many closets have room for an additional shelf above the standard shelf and you might consider installing one for sports gear and off-season clothing. If room allows, consider installing heavy duty wall hooks with anchors for backpacks, umbrellas, and hats or ball caps. Add labels above the hooks for each family member, they'll appreciate knowing exactly where their book bags and backpacks are before leaving the house in the morning.
Keep, Toss and Donate: Items other than outerwear and sporting gear that have found their temporary home in an entrance closet should be tossed, donated or relocated to a more appropriate place in the house or garage. But don't make work for later, pack the stuff you're keeping elsewhere in appropriately sized, labeled containers and take them to their new spots right away, don't procrastinate. Tossing the items in your 'toss' pile should be done immediately otherwise you may give them a second thought and end up keeping things you don't need to keep. Your 'donate' containers or bags should be put somewhere handy like next to the car or inside the trunk and ready for delivery to a local charity. Some charities will let you know that they are picking up in your area if you're on their calling list and will tell you how to label your boxes and bags for pick up.
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