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Consider this column to be a virtual pub. I raise my glass to all time-wasters out there. It’s customary for this column to ignore the big news items of the week and instead focus on things that don’t really matter. So permit me to avoid wasting your Friday afternoon fruitlessly on conjecture about the inexplicably popular topic …

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Facepalm

Re: Yeah, well, me too

It's fear. I have noticed this too. What happens, is, having broken at least one connector in our lifetimes (usually on a laptop or other item where it's difficult/impossible to replace), we take it VERY easy, the slightest resistance makes us reverse the connector. Then we find either (A) it fits, in which case the first time was wrong, or, (B), it doesn't fit, which means the first time was right but we didn't push hard enough through fear.

I agree the designer of the connector needs to be beaten

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Horizontal USB sockets

aren't too bad - they seem to have an "up" and "down". It's the vertical ones (usually hidden well out of sight at the back of the machine) that cause problems ...

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JDX
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Very glad

That after several years, most USB plugs now actually identify the 'top' in some way... same for iPod dock plugs... and device makers _seem_ to be standardising accordingly.

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I often ponder the USB plug's affinity for the flip side

Makes me think of that Intel rock star ad with the co-inventor the USB. Couldn't have come up with a way to determine plug orientation other than holding the plug to see the face then hoping as the plug is re-oriented to the socket that it does not get flipped. It is time that is wasted on something other than preferred time wasters.

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Joke

Re: I often ponder the USB plug's affinity for the flip side

I wonder if there's a scientific paper in here somewhere about the quantum relationship between USB plugs and falling cats or buttered toast?

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Possible explanation

Most of the USB plugs I use have the USB logo on one side and some other logo on the other. The "some other" is often the vendor's logo, or in one case the "don't throw in the bin" logo. Whatever, they're bigger and more prominent than the USB moniker and I'm naturally drawn to that being the "top". Hence almost 100% failure rate till I worked out what was going on and trained myself to turn it over.

If someone could just tell me how to line up the prongs of a halogen GU10 bulb without spending 15 minutes trying to locate it by feel, my happiness would be complete.

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Re: Possible explanation

It's always the bloody awkward, inaccessible connectors that are the hardest. Bayonet and screw light bulbs are easy, because those are usually on exposed fittings and so easy to see. But spotlights, which are recessed and at full ceiling height are always the hardest. So you get the shitty thin 2 pin types, that you often have to screw in. Using a tiny jewellers screwdriver rather than a nice thumb screw naturally. And then the magical GU10, with 2 tiny flimsy pins to bend and fail to make a connection, and a crappy cheap spring holding the whole connection together. All of this has to be done in the dark, at full stretch standing on the floor, or with you head bent at a funny angle under the ceiling, if standing on a chair.

The same with USB. Mini USB is easy to see, because it goes on small devices that you hold in your hand to connect. The full-size USB on the other end, often goes into the backs of PCs, under desks, and so must be impossible.

I'm considering creating a new connector, that can only be plugged in while the right way up, in a locked filing cabinet, in a disused basement lavatory, with a sign on the door saying, 'beware of the leopard'. Obviously you'll need a torch to see it, because the lights will probably have gone...

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WTF?

Re: Possible explanation

>> If someone could just tell me how to line up the prongs of a halogen GU10 bulb without spending 15 minutes trying to locate it by feel, my happiness would be complete.

Use your tongue.

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GU10

First, check it's a GU10 and not an MR16.

The GU10 lamp has "top-hat" prongs, MR16 has straight pins.

Now look at the socket and note the four holes.

Two are round - ignore them, they are screws.

Two are elongated, these are the two to jam your top hat prongs into.

Align roughly with the fatter end of the elongated holes, insert, wiggle slightly and twist clockwise to engage.

Easy!

If they're actually MR16 then the bigger holes are the screws, so you line the pins up with the two tiny holes and push.

In both cases the lamp will probably light up before you've inserted it all the way, burning your hand.

- Top safety tip - turn the damn thing off first. You can tell if its off because the lamp that doesn't work is off when it's off, and off when it's on.

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Facepalm

This is really old news

It's a well documented fact that any 50 / 50 chance decision will be gotten wrong at least 9 times out of 10.

My personal best effort ever was:

German Girl: "would you like to come with me? I know this nice hotel. We could have some fun."

Me: "No, I want to go see Lichtenstein".

25 years later I still haven't fathomed that one out. (See Icon).

Regardless, to be sure of answering correctly, the odds need to be exactly 1,000,000 to 1 against...

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Re: This is really old news

This makes perfect sense.

You are interested in stamps, Lichtenstein makes great stamps and has a superb philatelic museum and shop.

You are not interested in hotels, in fact, one hotel is much the same as the other.

If the German girl wants to go have some fun, then she can go with you to the philatelic museum in Vaduz.

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Re: This is really old news

Blimey.

So it was her fault all along?

Who'da thunk.

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Nothing that applied black marker won't fix.

Interestingly most cables have a "memory", they lie a certain way and they get used to it. Not USB cables, they tend to invert when left uncoupled for any time.

When I first encountered the greater than 50% probability of the plug being inverted at first insertion, I applied black marker to the side that I would see as I was inserting the plug. Worked for vertical sockets as well. Forgotten all about that until I read the article.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Nothing that applied black marker won't fix.

And you always have sufficient lighting when you're plugging them in? I don't.

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PS2

I'm obviously in the majority here in getting it wrong more than right (~75% in my case).

But the ones I used to hate more were the old PS2 connectors for keyboards and mice. Not only were they rotationally symmetric from the outside except for the small lip that you could never see when you were holding them to try and put them in, but if you were even a little off and pushed, you ended up bending or breaking the pins inside. Then at best it was a pliers job, at worst a new bit of kit.

So perhaps USB isn't so bad after all, as at least there you can normally do it on the second go and the risk of actually breaking the damn thing aren't high

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Re: PS2

And they came with the bundled 50 / 50 chance of getting the keyboard and mouse the right way around when trying to plug them, arm twisted like a SCO lawyers soul, into the back of the computer.

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Happy

Re: PS2

relpy,

SCO lawyers have souls? Who knew?

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Re: PS2

A bit like ramming a DVI-I plug into a DVI-A port... or was it the other way around?

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Re: PS2

And they came with the bundled 50 / 50 chance of getting the keyboard and mouse the right way around when trying to plug them, arm twisted like a SCO lawyers soul, into the back of the computer.

I never understand why they didn't simply make the ports identical in the first place - they used a six pin mini-DIN - two for power, two for signalling, and two unused. The keyboard and mouse used the same two pins for signalling even though they were not automatically compatible with each other. It would have been a trivial matter to put the signals for one or the other to the unused pins and wiring both signals to both ports as many laptops actually ended up doing, Then you would simply have two interchangeable keyboard or mouse ports with no possibility of connecting them up the wrong way round.

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Thumb Up

Optional

SCART used to be bad for this, despite the fact that the plug is clearly asymmetrical.

USB ports, on a horizontal plane usually have the USB logo on top.

However, by tower PC at home has front-side USB ports that for some reason, counter-intuitively, have the 'top' of the USB port facing the rear.

Also, I have a little pen drive that isn't a full USB male interface, just the central part with the connectors. This is very easy to put in the wrong way, or into Ethernet sockets.

I now tend to use USB hubs which are permanently connected to the awkward-to-get-at ports, but are at hand to plug in devices locally, so wrong way rounds are difficult to do.

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Re: Optional

SCART was the work of Satan.

USB's just one of his kid's school homework projects.

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Flame

Re: Optional

SCART was f*$%^*"%^ evil.

You could get the orientation right easily enough, but then you'd reach behind the tv and start sliding the damn cable around and about all over the place trying to get the thing in. All you needed was to be a fraction of a millimeter out and you may as well have been next door.

Inevitably, five minutes later, you'd have to pull the tv out and plug the damn thing in by sight. Worst Cable Evar.

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Re: SCART was the work of Satan

SCART also had the only hardware interface designed to unplug itself in slow-motion. The connection was about as tight as coins in your pocket.

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Re: Optional

SCART had two problems.

Either the socket was as loose as a loose thing (insert your own epithet) or it was so tight that you thought the plug wasn't going because it was the wrong way round - at which point you'd turn the plug around ensuring it wouldn't go in.

Secondly the cable (especially if it had all the pins connected) had a mind of its own and the strength of a full grown python and would defy any attempt to orientate with the socket.

Just remembered a third point - SCART sockets that weren't fixed to the TV/VCR case and so moved around as you forced the plug home. As a result repeated insertion causing problems with the PCB it was on. I have certain small Sony Triniton TV in mind.

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Re: Optional

Yes, SCART was the work of the Devil himself. A French Devil. They're designed to fall out of the socket when any amount of force is exerted from the massive sideways-fitting lead. And then when you do try and fiddle with them, they usually fall to bits. They are also used to con gullible a-little-knowledge-etc type people into purchasing gold-plated versions. Who remembers seeing gold SCART leads for £79 at currys?

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Boffin

Spin 1/2 particles

I noted this earlier this year, USB plugs are clearly macro-quantum mechanical exhibitors of spin.

As spin half particles, they require 2 whole revolutions to be in the correct orientation.

This is why you can be wrong 75% of the time and it make perfect sense. It's also how you can rotate them through 180 degrees two or three times before getting it right.

Stand back! It's nearly real science!

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Re: Spin 1/2 particles

Hmm.. I thought they were spin 3/2 devices..

They said you had to be nuts to understand quantum physics. I didn't understand it before I started using USB peripherals..

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Round pegs into square holes

I also have pondered the bad attitude of these little swines! I DO agree that they are wonderful for their popularity across the board, but they just need to damn well stop putting their arms out when you're trying to slot them in.

My main thought is whether USB connectors could be made round, simlilar to phono leads, with several separated contacts.

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this is a manufacturing fault

I see what's going on here, your PC is actually upside-down.

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Devil

Re: this is a manufacturing fault: Dell

Most desktop towers are built with the mainboard mounted on in inside right of the case (if you are looking at it from the front). Dell likes to build any number of units internally reversed, so not only are the connectors on the other side of the rear of the case, you have to flip the connector for it to go in.

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Happy

Re: this is a manufacturing fault: Dell

To be fair to Dell, their left handed factory workers are much happier for it...

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Facepalm

Re: this is a manufacturing fault: Dell

The Dell Latitude D400 laptop has a USB external DVD drive. It contains a typical laptop self-powered thin mechanism. However it appears they needed more power than the laptop's USB socket would provide. So they made the cable plug a combined USB A and a polarised power connector stacked one above the other.

That reminds me of an external USB 2.5" hard disk unit. It had two USB A connectors daisy-chained on the PC end of the cable. It didn't differentiate which was the real USB connector - and which was the dummy fhat just supplied extra power from some laptops.

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USB

It stands for "U Sodding Bastard". Or at least that's what I usually end up calling it.

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Samsung (e.g.) helpfully print a USB symbol on one side of the connector to assist with getting it wrong right.

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Devil

It's the bloody cables. If the USB connector is the right way up, the cable is twisted. As soon as your attention wanders, it'll flip back the right way (inevitably trying to take a bite out of your wrist on the way round). So you know the connector is the right way up by the tension in the cable. Except when the cables deliberately tense up, in order to fool you.

Still, I failed an even easier stupidity intelligence test last night. While fixing my Mum's Dell all-in-one PC, I wanted to plug a USB cable in, so bent down under the desk to find the case...

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Silver badge

Did you give your head a good hard crack on the edge of the desk once you realized your error and stood up too quickly? That's my go-to move

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Anonymous Coward

its not just electrical plugs n sockets ....

I remember being in IT support 14 odd years ago, it should have really been called "Printer Support" since HP's laser jets took up more time than all the PC issues I seemed to have to deal with.

Anyway I found that users could put the humble toner cartridge in a variety of ways, sometimes not pull the tab off and pull the piece of plastic out (to release the toner) . The best one had to be on what at the time was a 5 grand colour laser jet , with a rotary carousel of the 4 types of CMYK cartridge, and someone had tried to push a Magenta cartridge into a Yellow Hole. These things were "keyed" (and colour coded) so you shouldn't have been able (or attempted) to do it , also there was a ratchet on the rotating-carousel of the cartridges, and it was well and truly jammed, as it had rotated around and the ratchet was stopping it from being reversed. I somehow did manage to free it . Users , who'd have 'em? I guess it kept me gainfully employed.

In the valley of the people that can't put the square (colour coded) peg in the square hole (like the toy for 3 year olds that we all once had ) , the person that uses their 1/2 of remaining eye and 2 remaining neurons is KING !

So Alistair "You're FIRED !" ( in my best Sir Sugar voice )

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Mushroom

The problem with USB is not the way around they are...

but how close they put them together... they are the exact distance apart so nothing else will fit by 0.5mm. Drives me nuts.

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Re: The problem with USB is not the way around they are...

If I may be so bold...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/13/something_for_the_weekend_laptop_computers_are_rubbish/page2.html

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Anonymous Coward

I have one plug that works *every* time..

It's the 3.5mm audio jack :).

For the rest I have a hub mounted on the desk so I can see the buggers..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have one plug that works *every* time..

Assuming that the 3.5mm socket and plug are appropriately matched as mono/stereo - if they are not innocently carrying an embedded optical link.

The old DB25 connectors were used for so many interfaces - you were bound to blow up something at some time.

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Facepalm

Re: I have one plug that works *every* time..

I get mine wrong, because it's right next to the microphone 3.5mm jack.

Every frickin' time.

I'm sure the "unknown microphone detected" message I subsequently get on screen is actually my PC's code for "You are an utter loser."

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Helpful hint of the day

Do yourself a favour and go get a bottle of Liquid Paper correction fluid. Put a nice, easy to see blob on the 'top' side of each USB cable connector.

(For white or light coloured cables, use a black Sharpie or something.)

Then you'll always know which way the cable is oriented, which takes SOME of the guesswork out.

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Facepalm

Flamebait

I can't believe you lot call yourself IT professionals, and haven't yet mastered the tricky art of plugging cables into computers. Nobbly bit goes up. Nobbly bit always goes up. Work out which way is up on your computer. Insert plug into socket.

I normally like Dabbs' articles, but this one is utter pish. He admits to being flummoxed by VGA D-sub 15 plugs, yet can cope just fine with the identical shape of a mini HDMI.

On the list of things to get annoyed about, "OMG, I had to rotate the plug 180°" does not merit 846 words.

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Re: Flamebait

What nobbly bit? Whatchoo tokkin about Wills? Nobbly bit? Nutter.

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Coat

Re: Flamebait

Oh yeah?

Which way around does the knobbly bit on an rj45 connector go in a vertical NIC?

I'm still waiting for my 100m optical lightning adapter. I want it held with magnets so it doesn't destroy things when I forget to unplug it.

A pox on thin-pins in VGA adapters which feel as though they should plug into a DB9 serial port housing and those IDE cables which weren't keyed. Scratch that, a pox on all IDE cables.

Thin-net BNC - now there's a proper daisy-chain system!

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Facepalm

Re: Flamebait

On the 'top' of almost every connector that goes into a computer is a raised logo or marking.

On a USB cable, it is usually the USB logo.

On a PS/2 cable, it is usually a raised line.

On a SPDIF cable, it is usually a raised line.

On a RJ-45, it is the cable release lever.

On a eSATA, it is the cable release lever.

This goes in facing UP.

Pay attention now, this is where it gets crazy. Plug in the cable so that the bit that is supposed to face UP does in fact face UP.

Mental. I can see how you get it so wrong so frequently.

It does get trickier if you are plugging into an extension card or onto a motherboard attached port in a tower case (or any case where the motherboard is not orientated flat and the right way up). For the motherboard, re-orientate the case (in your mind, put the computer down) so that it is pointing UP and plug the cable in so that it is pointing UP. This is advanced stuff now, so take a break if you haven't got it yet.

For expansion cards, UP is a different direction. Expansion cards have a front and a back. The front is the side that faces away from the CPU. This is UP. Plug the cable in so that UP is UP.

It's almost like someone thought about this…

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Re: Flamebait

Which way around does the knobbly bit on an rj45 connector go in a vertical NIC?

Seriously? It goes facing up, which is away from the CPU for an expansion card.

You guys actually get this stuff wrong?

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Bronze badge

Re: IDE cables which weren't keyed.

I just hated those motherboards and add on cards where the cheap bastards used a double row of unpolarized berg sticks as the floppy or IDE connector.

After a few miscues, I decided that the best solution was a RED sharpie used to insure a red stripe on pin one of the cable, and a red dot at pin one of the connector.

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Meh

obviously from the same school of design as SCART connectors...

At least USB slots are often on the front of a device where you can see what you are doing. As a previous owner of Peugeot/Citroen cars I was less than surprised to find out that the SCART standard originated from France: a good idea but the implementation fell somewhat short :-) I've lost count of the number of times I have had to scrabble blind at the rear of a TV or video/dvd player, trying to find the tiny sweet spot on a flush mounted SCART socket, where it will actually accept the plug. The alternative being to spend ages disentangling the rat's nest of tv/video/console/satellite/set top box wiring to haul out the offending unit for a better view

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