Friday, May 23, 2014

On USBs and LCDs

This all started because my friends Eddie and Elaine asked me if I had recorded the Homeland series 2 & 3 since they have become hooked on it.  I checked and found that ser 2 was on my desktop computer and ser 3 was on my laptop.  No problem there, I simply slipped a DVD into the disk drive of the laptop and voila in a few mins I had the whole of ser 3 downloaded onto two disks.
But, ser 2 on my desktop proved to be a problem, since my disk drive on that computer does not work.  So I had bought an external disk drive, that simply plugs into a USB socket (if you don't know what a USB - universal standard bus - socket is you probably don't want to read any further, but its an oblong socket into which almost any computer device can be plugged).  So I plugged the external disk drive into the USB socket on the desktop, but it wouldn't work.  I tried all of them, my USB hub (that has 4 such USB sockets) and even crawled under the desk to plug it into the back of the computer.  I even opened up the computer to repair the two sockets in the front, that had become loose after a technician replaced my power unit.  I found after taking the front off the computer that the screws were too short to fix it in place, so I found longer screws and that was quickly fixed.  But the disk drive still did not work.  Later my son called and he reminded me that there are two kinds of USB sockets, the old kind (mine) that do not have their own power, and the newer kind USB2 that do have their own power.  Since this disk drive does not have a separate power cord, it can only work with USB2.  Too bad!
But, then I thought well I have this hub and it can be connected to the electricity itself, and maybe that would boost the USBs to USB2s.  So I looked around and found two different power transformers that fitted the hub power connector.  Since I didn't know which one was the correct one (I looked up the hub on the internet and it gave all the specs, except the electrical input information).  So I chose the transformer with the lowest power and attached that.  As I was trying to run the disk drive unsuccessfully, I smelt burning.  So I quickly disconnected the hub, but could find no problem, until I tried to use my printer, that I had neglected to disconnect from the hub.  It would not even turn on.  So I took it to my printer guy and he had to replace its mother-board (but he charged me only NIS 100 because I said I would not pay more, otherwise I could buy a new printer).  As they say "no good deed goes unpunished." 
So then I tried to send the files by e-mail, but  the program rejected them because they are too big (3 mb each episode).  So then in desperation I decided to download them from the computer onto my external hard disk drive that I use to backup my data.  That worked fine, so I took the external hard disk drive to E&E's and plugged it into the USB on their computer and I could see the Homeland ser 2 episodes on their screen immediately.  Why didn't I think of that first.  Anyway, Eddie offered to buy me a cup of tea for my efforts.
I have also been having trouble with the LCD display on my desktop, the colors are distorted and the resolution is bad.  I thought it might be the screen itself, but I took it in to be checked and it worked perfectly there.  So its either the computer (graphics card) or maybe the cable.  I checked it with another cable and it was still distorted, so its not the cable.  Then  I Iooked it up on-line and they advise to de-gauss the screen.  But, that is nonsense, that is only for cathode ray tube screens, not the LCD screens.  De-gaussing removes the static electricity that can build up on the cathode ray tube and distort the picture by affecting the electron beam.  But, LCDs work in an entirely different way, LCD stands for liquid crystal display.  So what is a liquid crystal?
Many people think there are only three forms of matter, solid, liquid and gas.  But a liquid crystal is a form of matter somewhere between solid and liquid.  Crystals have all their atoms or molecules arranged in a specific array in space, but a liquid crystal is in effect solid in one direction and liquid in another.  This happens because the molecules that make up a LC are long elongated molecules that stack alongside each other and in one direction appear like a solid, but perpendicular to that they can slide alongside each other, like a liquid in that direction.  What makes them so useful is that if they are charged, say positive on one end and negative on the other, this affects not only their LC properties, but they can be switched from one orientation to another by changing the electrical field.  Also, since they are long complex molecules they can be made in different colors and their colors can change as the molecules flip in an electrical field.  So the LCD screen has millions of little electrical circuits with LCs around them and as the field is changed (depending on the picture) they change color.  But, I am still left with a distorted LCD screen.   


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