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.