Event photo sharing, internet plumbing, USB cables

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. We are hosting a family picnic this summer and wish everyone could share their photos with everyone else. Any ideas?

A. Dropevent lets you set up an invitation-only online photo gallery. The gallery allows everyone at the party to submit photos, which are then available to everyone who has access.

There are a couple of different methods, but one simple option is to print a QR code for the event. Any smartphone can scan the code and help the user submit photos. You control access by how you distribute the invitation links and QR codes.

The service is not free. Pricing includes single gallery passes or subscriptions. For $49, an event gallery remains online for 45 days.

Personally, I think services like this are worth every penny. Our smartphones are amazing devices, but in cases like this they are too hard to use. Social networks, probably the most common free tool used for this kind of job, are far too user-hostile to be the guardians of our shared memories.

The way to do this job right is a service like Dropevent. Everyone can share. Each person can download the full-quality original photos precious to them. And as the host, you (or others you add) can download every single image and preserve them for as long as you want.

Q. Is it possible to explain how the internet works in simple language?

A. The internet is a global network of connected devices and computer networks that exchange information. It uses a system of protocols, such as the Internet Protocol (IP), that enable devices to communicate with each other.

All data sent over the Internet is divided into small packets like unique jigsaw puzzle pieces. Each packet contains a portion of data wrapped with a destination address. These packets are then routed through a series of routers (sort of like a switchboard), which examine the addresses of each packet and determine the most efficient delivery path.

When the packets arrive at the destination, the data is extracted from each packet and re-assembled. The result matches the data that exists on the sender’s computer. In some sense, the internet is the world’s largest copy machine.

Q. Are all USB cables the same?

A. USB cables are different in every way possible. So much so that calling USB a “standard” is practically a punchline. The entire mess would be laughable were it not the root cause of so much user confusion.

Here is how it breaks down. Cables are a commodity where quality and durability matters. It is possible to use really inexpensive cables like the kinds you often find for sale in a drug store or truck stop. But high-quality (expensive) cables can stand up to more handling before fraying, breaking or shorting out. Nevertheless, even the sturdiest cable will eventually fail.

There are over a dozen different-shaped connectors on various USB cables. Whenever you need to buy a USB cable, be sure to take along the old cable to make sure the connectors match up with your devices.

Sadly, it gets worse. Even if the connectors match, that is no guarantee the cable will deliver maximum performance. Matching cables are likely to work, but in order to choose the best cable there is no choice except to dig into the technical specs for each device and match the technical designation of each port with a suitable cable.

There is no single solution to clear up this mess. Hopefully, this answer helps clarify the things you need to consider. In most cases, matching the connectors is enough.

When performance matters, such as with external drives and camera connections, check under the hood (the tech specs for the device’s port) to confirm which cable is the best choice.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Color Me Curious

Spend a few hours on this site and you will never see the same way again. Explore how our eyes perceive color and contrast.


Air Traffic Control Radio Live

Eavesdrop on air traffic control. Use the Settings button to remove the somewhat annoying music that plays in the background. Choose an airport or try the random button.


Population Explosion

Watch an animated map that illustrates how quickly children are born across the world. We live on a busy planet.


Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at techtalk@bobdel.com.