Dear Ms. Techie,

Whenever I want to connect my laptop to anything at work, or if I want to change anything connected to my computer, there’s always so many cables and different kinds of plugs to wrangle my way through. And worse yet, they’re completely different depending on how old my computer is. Can you give me a run-down?

Miss. Ing Connections

Ah, cables. The bane of many people’s lives. Technology companies seem to take a perverse amusement in constantly “upgrading” them (read: changing so that your old cables can no longer be used).  Since this could be a very broad topic, I’ll stick to the ones that will concern most of our readers–the video connections that are oh-so-important, which you can never find the right cable for when you’re rushing to set up a big presentation.

VGA

VGA

(photo credit: M0les)

This is a VGA cable. You may have seen it before when plugging in monitors or projectors. It’s been around for over 25 years now, so I suppose you could say it’s withstood the test of time quite well.

Most new laptops no longer use this kind of cable, because it’s fat, and therefore wouldn’t exactly fit on an ultrabook. Not to mention, it’s analogue as opposed to digital (think tuning a TV signal) so the video quality you get from it isn’t great. Even so, it continues to be the standard for most older laptops, and you’ll find that even newer TVs and projectors still allow you to use this input.

 DVI

DVI(photo credit: Home Cinema Pictures)

In 1999, we moved on to these cables – Digital Visual Interface, or DVI. While its meant to be the new standard for computer graphics output, it’s only really common in desktop computers and monitors. These cables transmit digital video (though they can also handle analogue signals) and give you a far higher quality of video.

But you may have noticed that laptops don’t use this kind of connector. Much like VGA, it’s much too bulky for the thin notebooks–and it never really took off in the laptop space anyway. Probably because it was only a few years before they were superseded by HD.

 HDMI

HDMI(photo credit: Sam_Catch)

And so we come to the current high-definition, or HD, era. If you take a look at your flat-screen TV and Blu-Ray player, or a laptop made in the past few years, you’re all but guaranteed to see the HDMI connector. While it is essentially the same as DVI in terms of image quality, it has a few advantages. Firstly, the connector is thin–thin enough to fit on an ultrabook, for example. It can also carry high-definition audio, so you can get both great images and surround sound through a single cable. Just beware that there are different versions of HDMI. The latest (and safest type of cable to buy) is one that supports version 1.4b.

There are also smaller versions more commonly in use on laptops–mini and micro HDMI. Keep in mind that most TVs and projectors don’t have these smaller inputs, so you’ll either need an adaptor for your those laptops, or a cable with normal HDMI on one end.

DisplayPort

displayport

(photo credit: adafruit)

If all that wasn’t confusing enough, there’s still one more type of connection you may see around – the DisplayPort (the cable on the right). It’s not as common as HDMI, and is generally only found in higher-end business laptops. Though it’s becoming more common, it’s still more than likely you’ll need an adaptor or a cable like the one pictured if you want to connect it to a monitor or projector.

Basically, it’s nice, and from a strictly technical perspective the DisplayPort is more impressive than HDMI… but it’s not common enough to be convenient.

Hopefully this will be helpful the next time you have a big presentation, and an unfamiliar environment or laptop!

featured photo: Alasdair Thompson


Dear Ms Techie,

My partner loves their video games. They’ll come home from work and end up in front of the TV or their computer for the rest of the night. It’s so frustrating because every time I try to get them to do something else, they get grumpy and annoyed. How do I deal with them in a way that won’t end up in a fight?

GamingWidow

Well, GamingWidow, as someone who also loves their video games, I can see where your partner is coming from. On the other hand, as someone who once dated a guy who was much more obsessed with video games than I, I can also see where you’re coming from.

There is one thing you’ll have to accept first, and it is that you will never get your partner off video games completely. It’s like telling a bookworm that they’re no longer allowed to read any more books, or a fashion-conscious friend that they’re no longer allowed to buy any new clothes. If you can’t accept him/her playing any video games at all, it may be time to re-think the relationship and what both of you want out of it. On the flip side, if your partner refuses to cut down on their gaming at all, then that’s another warning sign.

However, all is not lost! If you’re both willing to compromise, there are certainly ways to make it work. For example, you could agree on a few nights a week where he/she doesn’t touch the gaming console or the computer, and spends time doing something of your choosing (or better yet, picks a surprise activity for both of you that has nothing to do with gaming). In return, you agree to leave him/her to game in peace on the other nights. I know it may look like your partner’s just tapping on buttons and keys and staring at a screen, but believe me, it takes a lot of mental concentration and coordination when playing a game.

Or you could agree that he/she puts aside a certain amount of time each night for his games, and reserves the rest for you. This can be harder to stick to, as you may end up with him/her begging you for a little more time to finish off one thing or another, or they may end up being distracted with thoughts of the game during the time that’s meant to be for you.

It can also be worthwhile asking your partner about the games he/she is playing. What’s the game about? What are they trying to do, and what’s the story? Just don’t ask them when they’re in the middle of the game or all you might get is an annoyed grunt! You might also want to ask your partner if there are any games you can play together (see below for a list of suggestions to start you off). You might find yourself pleasantly surprised. When you’ve overcome a huge obstacle in a game together with your partner, it does wonders for trust and intimacy in the relationship.

In the end, both of you will need to compromise – but there’s no reason why you can’t still have a fulfilling relationship even with the games!

Miss Techie

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      • Portal 2 (hilarious, puzzle-y goodness where it’s actually amusing when you accidentally kill the other person)
      • Katamari Damancy (two people controlling one ball as you try to roll up as much as you can – like a co-operative acid trip that will leave you in fits of laughter)
      • Little Big Planet
      • Fable games (think of a cross between the Sims and the games where people run around and fight with swords – but there’s two of you!)
      • Borderlands (it’s a shooting game, but you can fight together!)
      • Any of the LEGO games (you control the cutest little LEGO figurines, normally characters from famous movies such as Harry Potter or Star Wars)

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Featured Image: katherine lynn

Leanne Yong, a.k.a. Ms. Techie, is the Tech Editor of Leaders in Heels and an aspiring author currently working in the field of IT consulting. She loves games, gadgets and technology in general.