back to article Any storm in a port

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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Anonymous Coward

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

Ah - was it a Citroen that had the distributor positioned so that the timing gap had to be set by poking something through the front of the car?

The Renault Dauphin had those enclosed wheels that needed the panels removing to change a wheel. If they took off over a humpbacked bridge at speed the wheels were liable to tilt upwards - and fold as they hit the road again.

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Pint

USB ports - why not invert every other one?

Why don't USB ports alternate between one way up or the other?

That way when you're scrabbling around blindly trying to plug it in with your hand half-trapped round the back of a dusty old PC, you'll know that rather than have to turn the USB around, you can simply go for the one next to it and it will fit?

Yes, I would imagine the production cost would be too high.

Oh, and scratch straw poll - I get it wrong about 60% of the time

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Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: USB ports - why not invert every other one?

Some do.

It makes life even worse, as when you flip the connector over you'll move slightly and now try to put it in the next one - upside down.

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Anonymous Coward

USB power

I recently bought a 7 port USB 2.0 hub. After about a minute there was a pfffttt sound as the "1.5A" powerplug died. Did an RMA - the new hub's psu lasted all of three hours. Yet a Dlink 7 port hub has since been happily working for months. The load is a simple keyboard and mouse.

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<aol>

Sure, it's bad design. You can't easily determine orientation visually even when both parts are in plain sight (you need reasonable eyesight and light to see clearly into the connector).

Of course, you can do it by feel. But if you get it wrong and don't feel the resistance you can push too hard and break the plastic inner thingy (I've done that once). A more resilient form of polarization, such as found on mini-and micro-USB would be an improvement. Of course, somebody stupid enough can still force it in and damage it (3 of my neghbours are prime candidates for doing this).

A better design would be like the power connector on a mac mini - it will go in either way around and you'd have to be really strong and stupid to plug it in at 90 degrees to the correct orientation. But I expect Apple has a patent, trademark and registered design on connectors looking even vaguely like that one.

So live with it being naff. Except it's worse than you thought. The design is such that one of the connectors will wear out a lot quicker than the other. Guess which connector is on the PC and which is on the cheap-to-replace cable.

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Is it me?

The other annoying aspect of USB is that the connection never seems very reliable or solid even once you've got it plugged in right. The plug is far too wobbly in the socket for my liking.

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It's worse than that - I only ever achieve 33% success rate with USB

Please see below for explanation:

http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2388

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USB is a piece of cake

...compared with optical cabling. At least with USB, when you get it wrong, you just turn it over and then it is right. Every which way you turn an optical connector, it's wrong.

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Silver badge
Devil

Riddle me this...

For a man who self proclaims himself as a 'tart' (you can see his bio at the bottom of the article..) , why aren't you a blond or is that a dye job?

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Facepalm

Reversible USB exists

Just use cables from these people: http://reversibleusb.com/

Costs more but if its too much trouble for you to flip the plug over...

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WTF?

Old-skool DB9

Have two orientations - neither of which is correct.

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Bronze badge

Non standard orientation

The square (with bits shaved off) "B" device end of a USB cable gives you only a one-in-four chance of getting it right on first go.

So why do some printer manufacturers put the socket on their machines at 90 degrees to what you would expect?

I know the real reason is that because it's based on the orientation of the PCB that its soldered to but why should the user have to divine the position of a PCB inside an otherwise featureless case to get the cable into an out of sight recess down between the printer and the wall. (I suppose I should think myself lucky I got a laser printer for £20)

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This reminded me of struggling with USB ports before realising that 99% of these ports are aligned in the same way, relative to the motherboard. -1

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Flame

Disk Drive Power Connectors

The large 4 pin ones. Somehow they were not keyed as well as they could have been. Trying to get them in whilst hanging upside down over a Compaq case was always a problem. They were invisible behind the all the other framework and other cabling. Anyway, power-up was always exciting as it occasionally resulted in popping sounds as the little chips flew off the board when the power connector ended up in the wrong way. Icon for what happened to the drive...

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Bronze badge

Re: Disk Drive Power Connectors

Are another case where I used a RED sharpie to identify (in this case, the RED wire) the orientation of some dammed plug.

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It took a while, too long, really, before I got the knack of blindly feeling up the ol' stick with my index finger to find the LED, or in some cases the retractable bits where the LED hides, which is always, for me, the "DOWN" or "AWAY" position. Having perfected this system, I now have a slightly better than 60% rate of getting it right the first time. The real swearing begins when spacetime conspires against one, engorging the male connector or puckering up the female by a micron or two. This is always 50/50 and results in exactly the correct amount of muttered expletives.

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usb ports are easy

i can plug usb into any device except an imac where the ports are thoughtlessly inaccessible, at the back, where satanist steve jobs wanted them.

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Bronze badge

Re: usb ports are easy

Yes, I never understood why manufacturers put USB at the back. And although iMacs provide a two-port low-powered USB hub in the keyboard, this isn't much use if you're been talked into getting the wireless keyboard.

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Gold badge

And what about power leads?

Has anyone ever found ANY feasible explanation for not using the power plug format made popular by kettles and desktop PSUs for laptop PSUs other than yet another attempt at making life difficult?

Personally, my favourite format there is the two-pin you also find on most stereos. I discovered that it also works very well as a power cable extender on an Apple laptop PSU if you shift the plug off it - much better for international use than dragging a collection of international adaptors along..

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Bronze badge

Re: And what about power leads?

The "Cloverleaf" (or Mickey Mouse) connector is a an earthed version of the figure of eight connector. They have lower amperage ratings than the "kettle lead" type.

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Boffin

Re: And what about power leads?

I like IEC plugs/sockets (jug/kettle plugs are properly called IEC_60320 C13/C14 or high temp versions) and USB for all its faults is finally a very common standard for low power supplies.

If I was building or rewiring a house, I always thought if would be nice to be able to select say IEC sockets throughout the building and perhaps have USB power sockets scattered around the place for low-power devices to help avoid the spread of ugly lumpy transformers sprouting from sockets and power adaptors

Thing is that despite international standards covering many things, and the success of USB, despite the plug orientation thing, we are a long way from international standards on something as basic as power supplies. 50 vs 60hz is becoming less important but the 110 vs 240 difference between countries and of course a random array of incompatible plug types does not inspire confidence in international standards winning out over the long term..

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Bronze badge

I used to get USB's wrong

until someone gave me the helpful advice that the seam is on the bottom

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silly design decisions abound

The ps3 slim seems designed to angry up the blood where USB is concerned. What idiot thought it was a good idea to hide them under the overhang, rendering them completely invisible unless you get down to their level or tilt the machine upwards. Its hard enough finding the bloody things, let alone plugging the cable in the right way up.

Vertical ones on the back of towers are also designed to enrage and confuse.

Much as I hate Apple, that new fangled connector of theirs sounds like a good idea ( if it wasn't designed by Apple, and thus saddled by silly licencing and DRM chips)

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Bronze badge

Look for the USB logo on top? I'm afraid not

A lot of readers here have been telling me that I should ensure that the USB logo is on the top face of the plug when I insert it. If I do that with my Western Digital pocket hard drive, the plug is upside-down and won't go in.

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a drop of white corrector on the plug

that fixed the problem for me, so i match with a drop of white corrector on the plug

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FAIL

Thought it was a stupid design when I first saw it

Obvious people would get annoyed with it, should not have been visually symmetrical. What committe designed that ? Who was on the board ?

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Says it all

http://stuff.bodestone.net/USB_timespace.png

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Devil

Stupid design

And then they invent devices like the Kingston DT160 that you can't hold and push at the same time...

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Silver badge

Very few shapes have rotational or even mirror symmetry

So you would think it vanishingly unlikely that sockets and plugs could even begin to be inserted wrongly.

You would think..

Come on chaps. Patent the W-shaped plug and socket. Or the L shaped one. Or one shaped like a keyhole

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WTF?

Me too..

I used to have this problem with USB plugs al the time, until I realised they always have a USB logo on one side and it plugs in with the USB logo showing as you plug it in - depending on which way up the USB socket is installed that is, so if you have a desktop or tower unit, a split second turning the plug to face you USB logo upwards will negate most of the bad attempts - except when you're plugging into a desktop that's on it's side so you don't know which way is "up" or you're plugging it into something with the slots on their sides (helpful!) and then you're back to the 50-50, which somehow always turns into 0-100 in favour of failure.

I'm sure there's a psychological aspect to this, where you do it wrong so often you become convinced you will do it wrong and your brain will subconsciously pick the wrong way to do it on order to preserve it's expectations!

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It's because

They were designed by an IDIOT!!!!

I even managed to force one in upside down once, destroying the peripheral.

The amount of mobile items with a mechanically unprotected mini or micro USB socket to connect to are mind-boggling. I've seen no end of devices where the USB socket has come loose. A house guest last week had a brand-new tablet which would no longer charge - it used a micro USB socket which came loose. At work they handed out mini portable hard drives (a disaster in the making anyway) which encrypted the data via a fingerprint reader. Most of them soon suffered from ripped-off mini-USB sockets and the data was lost because they could not decrypt the data.

(The new Apple connector and indeed the old too seem to be much stronger and fit for purpose.)

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Thumb Down

Same Problem for Me

Every day I switch from my work laptop to my home computer. I get it wrong every time, not most of the time, but everytime. I like you wonder how this is possible, I would expect to get it wrong smoetimes and right sometimes. Perhpas USB connectors are just sneaky bastard things!!

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Anonymous Coward

Not just USB...

...the greater than 50/50 probability phenomenon also applies to the leaflet in a box of tablets - i.e. no matter which end you open, it's always the leaflet end, even if you switch (quantum mechanics at work surely).

Also which string closes the vertical blinds, you'll more times than not pick the wrong one.

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Facepalm

HDMI port...

I'm forever trying to plug USB cables into my laptops HDMI port. Bastard thing.

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I too have been cursed by USB. Name any other port, anything: Serial, DVI, DisplayPort, VGA...all work fine for me.

But USB?! Nah...."I'm going to taunt your supposed 'intelligence' human, by being the wrong way round, no matter WHAT way round I am, HAHAHA."

I hate the front facing USB ports on my Coolermaster case almost as much as needing to work for a living.

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