I have a couple of devices at work that require a serial connection in order to properly configure, and, while I do have a couple computers with COM1 ports, they're not exactly accessible to the equipment I need to configure. The equipment is rack-mounted, the PC's I have are towers, and nothing is located in the same space.
I am wondering if anyone has any experience with these USB to DB-9 cables, with either a Mac or a PC. I have access to both a Mac and PC laptop, but neither has a serial port. However, using either of these laptops would make things infinitely easier.
Or if anyone can recommend a dirt-cheap PC laptop that has a COM1 port, that would work as well - although I'd really prefer not to purchase yet another machine.
Every USB-to-Serial dongle I've ever used has worked fine. I think they're all terribly overpriced (I've never seen one cheaper than CDN$20) but it's sort of a captive market: you either need one or you don't know what it is.
I would, however, highly recommend investing in a good serial cable. I use a 10ft. Belkin "serial file-transfer" cable that's got 9- and 25-pin female connectors on both ends. It's technically a null-modem cable which should be appropriate for anything you're doing. You can always throw a null-modem gender-bending adapter onto that cable to make it straight-through (you can usually tell devices that need straight-through rather than null-modem because they'll have a female serial port on them).
There is a USB/Serial adaptor that Radio Shack sells. I used it to connect a weather station to a PC here a year ago. It seemed to work fine other than the driver for the USB adaptor was not Windows Certified.
Seriously I would avoid anything USB at this point. So many damn devices are using it, and it's flaky at best. When it works, it's fine. But that's half of the time for most people who have multiple USB devices. Find another route.