Columnist Bruce Kerr discusses USB ports, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Picture: Supplied
Columnist Bruce Kerr discusses USB ports, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Picture: Supplied

BYTE ME: Computer ports and their many functions

HELLO to regular readers and my apologies for missing a few articles lately. The combination of many of us at the shop needing time off sick and the massive increase in our workload since COVID has really stretched us. Even our average turnaround time for jobs has increased from typically one day to two or three days.

We currently have a widespread job advert seeking another technician, however a good capable tech that can also communicate well with customers is a rare beast! And please understand that our current stretched situation is not something I am complaining about. We thank our lucky stars every day that we are not in the same situation as Victoria.

Following on from my most recent article, we are due to talk about USB ports, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for those interested in purchasing a new device. The universal serial bus (USB) connector has been upgraded in communication speed over the years with USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and now USB 3.1 and / or USB-C. Each time this port has become more powerful and more capable.

Now the latest USB-C port can communicate between a laptop and a docking station to provide Ethernet, USB, sound, power delivery (charging back to the laptop) and display alt (video signal to an external screen). These features are handy with modern laptops as many are shipping with less and less other connectors. Some laptops now lack onboard Ethernet and the traditional rectangular USB port.

Wi-Fi has been incorporated into all laptops for at least the last 15 years and enables them to talk to a mobile phone setup as a hotspot, or a router that is propagating a wireless signal. Wi-Fi will be around for many years yet and is also getting faster every few years with more modern communication protocols.

Bluetooth is an interesting name for just another wireless communication system. Again, nearly every laptop made in the last five years has Bluetooth built in. This is often teamed up with external speakers, external mice and can even talk to other Bluetooth equipped devices such as smart phones and tablets. Bluetooth speeds have also increased in recent years and is a handy feature to have.

While talking about computer ports we need to address the age-old VGA connector. This nine pin mostly blue coloured port has been around forever to connect both laptops and desktops to external screens. Using the VGA port is now a bad choice as it is based on the old analogue system instead of digital, so the resulting picture quality is sub-standard.

There are far better video connectors available today including DVI-D (the large white coloured connector with thumbscrews), HDMI connectors and DP (display port) connectors. All three of these are digital type connectors with a resulting better picture (as long as your screen supports this style of connector).

Keep in mind that both HDMI and DP style connections can carry both a high-quality video signal and a sound signal at the same time. If you have a screen with built in speakers such as the Philips screens that we sell, then you can do away with the messy desktop speakers that have traditionally cluttered up your workspace. Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to bytemearticles@kerrsolutions.com.au and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.



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