Tag Archives for " cables "

January 3, 2017

Cables – Which To Keep And Which To Toss

CablesWe all have tons of computer cables that we’ve collected over the years, many of which are obsolete, but we keep around anyway. With each new generation of peripherals comes a new cable, and that means our cable box gets bigger. CNET recently posted an article about which cables you should keep and which to toss, but it’s somewhat difficult to read across 17 pages. Here are their conclusions put a bit more succinctly.

  • Mini-USB: Keep. Some hard drives, battery chargers and cameras still use this.
  • Micro-USB: Keep. This is still used with a lot of devices so worth keeping around.
  • Apple 30 pin: Toss. Unless you have an old iPhone or iPad, you have no use for this.
  • USB3 Micro B: Keep. This is still used with the new USB C connectors that many new phones and computers are using.
  • Thunderbolt or Mini-DisplayPort: Keep. USB C is coming on strong, but Thunderbolt will be around for some time yet.
  • DisplayPort: Keep. This is still pretty popular, although HDMI is gradually taking over.
  • DVI: Toss. This format is pretty much dead. DVI suffers from no 4k resolution and lack of audio.
  • VGA: Toss. VGA’s dead as a doornail too unless you’re still using a monitor that needs it (it’s time to upgrade then).
  • USB A to B: Keep. It’s still found on printers and audio interfaces.
  • 3.5mm audio: Keep. Always good to have around, although you might not need it.
  • RCA/Composite: Toss. Get rid of those RCA cables used for composite video. That technology died 10 years ago.
  • S-Video: Toss. Another video technology that’s been replaced.
  • Coaxial Cable: Keep. You might need this for wordclock distribution or as an extension on your cable box.
  • SATA: Keep. SATA drives are still around, so make sure you keep the cables.
  • Ethernet: Keep. Although everything is going wireless, it’s worth hanging on to a least a couple of these if you have devices that can use them, especially for a solid Skype connection.
  • 3 Prong Power Cables: Keep. If you’re like me you have a big box with extras, but you never seem to have one when you need it.
  • 2 Prong Power Cables: Keep. These are usually pretty specialized to a device, so make sure you keep them until you toss the device it goes to.

It’s the beginning of the year, so now is a great time to sort through those cables.

Staying Away From Bad Solder Joints

Solder jointsOne of the first things I learned to do when I was a young musician was to solder so I could build and fix my own cables and gear. The number of hours I spent in my parents basement burning my fingers while learning the art is forever seared in my brain.

I rarely do it any more, mostly because we’ve learned to build better cables and connectors that break less frequently, and because I don’t gig anymore so my cables don’t take the abuse they once did. And I no longer build and repair the electronic gear that I use. I hate to say it, but most of the time it’s cheaper to buy something new, and in the case of digital gear, you can’t easily repair a multi-layered board. Ah, for the days of point-to-point wiring!

All that said, soldering is still a valuable skill to master, and it’s something that every musician and everyone that works in a studio should not only learn, but get good at. It does you no good to repair something with a bad solder joint that either won’t work or will fail soon.

This excellent article on common soldering problems is a must for anyone who practices the art to take a look at. The pictures of both good and bad joints are well worth the time and even a bookmark. Some of the examples of ugly solder joints make me cringe, but these are things that you see occasionally. Best to identify and fix them before they cause you a problem down the road. The side graphic tells you a lot, but the article is even better.

There’s nothing like fixing that bad cable yourself while saving a few bucks in the process, but it doesn’t do you much good if it keeps breaking, and this article will help make sure that doesn’t happen.