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A frustration of riches

For pretty much every tech situation, there is an xkcd comic

My main job frequently involves things being displayed on a projector. Either my things or somebody else’s, but regardless of ownership it involves things on a projector.

My second job as an educator definitely involves things being displayed on a projector.

I am one of the cursed! One of those blessed with enough technical literacy to become the de facto technical expert in any room, group, or even building. This means I usually always get to sort out the projector issues.

If it was just in one room, then it would be easy, but the rooms I am in are spread across several buildings and organisations, and conference / meeting venues, each with their own particular set of connectivity issues.

Years ago you only had to worry about VGA. If you were really a pro you would have a spare cable and a gender changer VGA pin to socket converter, but that was it.

Now you not only have to worry about wether it is HDMI or VGA at the projector end, but wether you have HDMI, Display Port, USB C, Lightning, VGA, Mini Display Port, or some proprietary thing on the device itself.

This has resulted in me carrying round at work a lovely slim laptop….. but with enough dongles and cables to fill some carry on luggage. Regardless of what anyone says, dongles are an industry problem, not just an Apple one.

I offer no panacea for this, but I will share my strategy for managing it.

Reducing friction is key

As a student I would lug PowerBook, powerbook charger, printer, keyboard, mouse, and cables between home and university each week.

Had I any sense back then I would have just had one set at home and another at uni and then only had to transfer the printer. Given at uni I was on the fifth floor of an apartment block with no parking outside this would have made my commuting a whole lot easier. It would have cost some money, but that would be worth it for the really smooth experience it would give.

So rather than moving stuff between day job work bag and second job Really Useful Box I have decided on the following which will negate the need to transfer things between bags.

Per Device

Each device has its own set of dongles that will connect to VGA and HDMI.

  • 7m HDMI Cable
  • 5m HDMI Extension Cable
  • 5m VGA Cable
  • VGA Gender Changer pin to socket converter
  • 3.5mm audio cable

Venue Kit

This kit is independent of the device kit(s) and is for where the venue has no infrastructure or unknown infrastructure.

  • Spare projector (with 5m cable)
  • UE Boom Speaker
  • 7m HDMI Cable
  • 5m HDMI Extension Cable
  • 5m VGA Cable
  • VGA Gender Changer pin to socket converter
  • 15m extension power cable reel
  • 4 gang power adaptor with USB power
  • 3.5mm audio cable
  • Display Port to VGA adaptor
  • Mini Display Port to VGA adaptor
  • USB C to VGA Adaptor
  • Display Port to HDMI adaptor
  • Mini Display Port to HDMI adaptor
  • USB C to HDMI Adaptor
  • 5m USB extension cable
  • USB A to Micro USB Cable
  • USB A to Mini USB Cable
  • USB A to Lightning Cable
  • Ikea USB Light
  • Spare Kensington remote presenter
  • Gaffer tape
  • Spare AA batteries
  • Spare AAA batteries

I have these housed in Really Useful Boxes that stack. This not only makes them easy to store, but also allows them to be stacked neatly at whatever venue you are at.

The Ikea USB light is great for illuminating notes / keyboard in a room where the lighting is dimmed.

The Kensington remote presenter can be picked up from amazon or ebay at good prices if you keep an eye out.

The gaffer tape is for taping down any extension cables so they don’t form a trip hazard.

Update – 2020-08-02 – Removed text ‘Gender changer’ to replace with something less metaphorical to avoid causing offence. (I’m cis – I know trans people, I don’t feel comfortable using those terms, so therefore I’m not going to use them)

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