Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable

Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable:

To get the best out of your HD equipment, be it a nice widescreen television, a Blu-ray player, a PS3, or an HD streaming set-top box, you need at least one HDMI cable. Or more than likely, several HDMI cables. The thing is the pricing of HDMI cables varies wildly, from a few cents on one from the likes of Amazon to $100 or more from big-box retailers and ’boutique’ manufacturers.

Why does the pricing vary so wildly? And is there any connection between the price paid and the quality of the product? If you’ve read the title then you’ll already know the answers to these questions. And if you have already paid more than $10 for an HDMI cable then be prepared to find out just why you’re a bit of an idiot. Or very gullible. Or just easily swayed by pushy sales assistants.

What Is HDMI?

Let’s begin with the basics…

The acronym HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. It’s the digital upgrade from analog cables of old such as RF and SCART. The first big consumer push for HDMI was when HD television sets started gaining popularity. Since then it has become the standard method of connecting many forms of digital equipment, from digital cameras to smartphones, from Blu-ray players to games consoles.

HDMI is an ever-evolving standard, with new specifications released as and when needed to support new technologies. Many people will own HDMI 1.3 cables which don’t support the integrated Ethernet channel or 3D. The latest specification (at the time of writing) is HDMI 1.4b, so if you want to future-proof your digital connections as much as possible these are what you should currently be looking to buy.

Just don’t spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable. Ever. If you do then you’ve been robbed, quite frankly.

Standard & Digital

As previously noted, HDMI is a standard. This means any and all HDMI cables essentially do the same job, regardless of cost. If the box says an HDMI cable is 1.3a then it meets the specifications that all HDMI 1.3a cables meet. And it doesn’t matter whether it costs $1, $100, or even $1,000 (follow the link, seriously).

As previously noted, HDMI is also digital. The signal is delivered between the two devices connected via an HDMI cable in a digital format made up one ones and zeros. This means that assuming an HDMI cable isn’t flawed from the outset it will deliver whatever is passed through it error-free and without degradation. If it is flawed from the outset then it will be more from being in a bad batch than being manufactured on the cheap.

Rip-Off Merchants

Those manufacturers producing the high-end (read expensive) HDMI cables are, in my opinion, nothing more than rip-off merchants. There are companies whose whole reason for being are to sell these overly-expensive HDMI cables. They produce ’boutique’ products, apparently. Although I’m not sure what’s so boutique about cables rolling off a continuous production line.

The retailers who try and sell these wares to consumers because of the high margins involved are also rip-off merchants. They prey on the vulnerable, the tech unsavvy, the nOObs, and those who believe whatever sales patter they have rammed down their throats. And when a salesperson is looking at adding a few dollars to his or her paycheck with commission they’ll pull out all the stops to secure a sale.

Both of these remind me of the tonic sellers of the Wild West. They will talk you into handing over your cash, promise you the earth, and just hope you never discover the truth.

Paying A Premium

You may imagine there is a reason to pay the premium being charged here. But there really isn’t. There is no discernible difference in what the lowest-priced HDMI cable you can buy can do and what the highest-priced HDMI cable can do. Both deliver whatever is fed in one end and back out the other end. And (especially over short distances) the variation in price will make no difference to anyone but the most-ardent audio/visual geeks.

In terms of build quality there may well be some differences, so the $100 cable may last longer. But how often do HDMI cables break anyway? And if a cheap one does break then you can replace it by spending just a few dollars. If an expensive one breaks then that’s another $100 down the drain. With nothing to show for it.

Buying cheap also means you can upgrade to the newest specifications as and when needed without breaking the bank.


If you spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable then you need your head examining. And no argument can suggest otherwise. You’re also the victim of companies, retailers, and salesman taking advantage of people not knowing about an emerging technology. So you’re a fool I actually have some sympathy for.

This opens up a wider point that should see people educating themselves before heading out to buy whatever new gadget or piece of consumer technology they fancy splashing the cash on this month.

Do some research online, ask friends and family for opinions, and find out what your options are. Because if you don’t, you’ll end up not only wasting money but being called names by some random guy on the Internet. And surely no one wants to suffer that ignominy.

Image Credits: Images Money, Anonymous, Chris McClanahan, Laura Lewis, 401K

A Step-by-Step MySQL Tutorial For Self-Hosted WordPress Bloggers

A Step-by-Step MySQL Tutorial For Self-Hosted WordPress Bloggers:

mysql tutorialIf you’re a blogger, the chances are that you use WordPress, a powerful solution that is the engine behind many popular websites.

There are two ways in which you can use WordPress, ideal for those with some technical know-how and those without. The first is to use the hosted blog service at, which is similar to Blogger in that you don’t pay any fees and all of the background maintenance is automatic. The downside to this is that you are restricted in which plugins you can add.

For those who prefer more control over their blogs and have some technical ability (although not much is required) then the self-hosted option available from is probably preferred. Choosing this option may require you to have some knowledge of setting up a MySQL database, importing and exporting data, creating backups and understanding how to perform checks and repair the database.

Setting Up The Database

WordPress runs at its best on a MySQL database; you will find that most web hosts offer this as an option on Linux and Microsoft hosting packages. We’ll leave it to you to find a suitable host, just make sure that you have downloaded the latest version of WordPress or are able to install it via your web host. Many offer tools such as Fantastico which install popular web applications for you.

Automated tools such as this can be used to setup a new MySQL database for WordPress, but if this option isn’t available then you will need to sign into your hosting control panel (via the details you will have received when signing up to the hosting package) and find the MySQL Databases tool. In the examples shown here, we’re using cPanel.

mysql tutorial

Here you will need to use the Create New Database option to name your database; click the Create Database button when done. You should have noticed that the database name has a prefix, resulting in a longer name than you might have expected, e.g.: user101_mydbname.

Adding A Database User

wordpress mysql tutorial

Once you have added the database you will need to Add New User. Add a username, again noting the prefix, and a password, completing the task by clicking Create User.

wordpress mysql tutorial

The final step is to use the Add User to Database option to assign the new user to the database you created earlier. A second screen will typically appear in which you must add All Privileges to your user..

wordpress mysql tutorial

When you’re setting up WordPress, you will need to add the username, database name and password into your wp-config.php file, so make sure you keep a note of them!

Exporting & Importing Data In phpMyAdmin

With a completely new blog you will be able to install WordPress and start typing out your first blog post. If you’re setting up WordPress in order to import posts and comments from another website, however, then you will need to use the various import and export tools that are on offer.

Exporting data in phpMyAdmin via your website’s control panel is the best option. This is done by first selecting the database on the left-hand menu and then clicking Export on the main menu. You can then select the preferred Export Method (Quick or Custom) and a Format (SQL, CSV, many others besides).

Click Go to confirm your choices, save the dump to your computer and wait while it downloads.

Importing the data into your new WordPress installation is a case of first creating a database and installing WordPress. You can then log in to phpMyAdmin and select the appropriate database before selecting Import and using the Browse button to find the dumped MySQL file on your computer.

Select the correct file format and click Go to begin the upload. Once this has completed, phpMyAdmin will begin importing the data into the existing database. Note that this will overwrite any identical data.

File Too Big? Try BigDump

One problem that you may run into when attempting to import a SQL dump is that there is too much data for the server to handle. In this situation you will need to use a tool such as BigDump, a PHP script that you can download from here.

You will need to upload the bigdump.php to your WordPress server along with the SQL dump. Run BigDump by browsing to the file in the WWW directory of your server; it should be something like With the script running all you need to do is complete the required fields and browse to the SQL data, and BigDump will do the rest.

Do note however that if your host is using the most up-to-date version of phpMyAdmin then you might find the Partial Import tool can be used instead of BigDump.

Importing & Exporting With WordPress

An alternative to using the MySQL import and export tools is to take advantage of native WordPress features. These are mainly intended for you to import a blog from another platform in a wide variety of formats such as Blogger, Live Journal and even RSS, as well as WordPress.

mysql tutorial

Available via the Tools menu in the WordPress Dashboard, posts and pages can be exported with comments and other fields and imported using the WordPress option (which isn’t part of WordPress by default, so will need to be installed when selected).

Backing Up WordPress

Although your host will probably run its own backup routine, you should also have your own in place to account for any potential gaps. Overlaps can help you to get your site up and running following errors or failed backups, so it is well worth considering.

There are several ways that you can make a database backup:

  • MySQL dump – as explained above
  • WordPress backup tool – this popular option is a plugin which can be downloaded and installed
  • cPanel/admin panel backup tool – this depends on what options your host offers

Also bear in mind that your WordPress site is bigger than the database. Most users hosted WordPress owners use a non-standard theme, so you might think about backing up the installation directory from time to time. This is equally true if WordPress is only one element of your web presence.

MySQL Database Checks & Repair

Performance issues can often be resolved by checking the tables in your database and repairing them. There are various ways of applying these tasks – if you are using cPanel, then you will find that check and repair tools are present. However if you would rather use phpMyAdmin, or run your checks and repairs on a single table basis, then this is easily done.

To check or repair all tables, simply open the phpMyAdmin screen, select the database in question and – after checking you’re in the Structure view – use the Check All option to select all tables before selecting Check Table or Repair Table from the drop-down menu and clicking Go.

Checking individual tables can either be done using the same method (dropping the Check All option and just selecting the table you want to check/repair) or by opening the SQL query window and entering the Check Table command.

For instance to check the wp_commentmeta table:

CHECK TABLE wp_commentmeta


With so many functions and flexible import and export options, WordPress databases can be easily set up, backed up and imported to using native tools, plugins and phpMyAdmin.

Remember to understand the importance of performing manual maintenance, especially if you use a host with limited options in this area. Performing your own checks and repairs and running backups is vital if you are to keep your WordPress blog running at its optimum level.

Accurately Keep Track Of What You Do On The Computer & For How Long With RescueTime

Accurately Keep Track Of What You Do On The Computer & For How Long With RescueTime:

track computer timeIf you spend a considerable amount of time working at your computer with no Corporate Big Brother to monitor what you’re doing, you may find yourself spending a bit more time than you should be tweeting, Facebooking, and procrastinating your day away. While there’s nothing wrong with good old leisure activities, the adage “time is money” means a lot if you’re reading mentions on Twitter instead of dealing with a work-related project deadline.

In this regard, a very useful program called RescueTime can act as your own little time tracking service, clocking what you do on your computer.

How It Works

All RescueTime requires you to do is a site registration, and to download and install its Mac Data Collector, which will monitor, in the background, all the applications you use, the websites you visit, and the files you work on throughout the day.

track computer time

RescueTime works like a sneaky spy taking notes of how much time, for instance, you spend on Facebook, how long it takes you to finish writing a report, and the amount of time you spend reading and responding to e-mails.

track computer time software

Knowing this type of tracking information may mean facing some hard truths that you’re only spending say two hours a day actual doing productive work, or it can be a great way to figure out which parts of the day you are most productive – the morning, afternoon, or evening. If you’re a freelancer, RescueTime could be useful in helping you keep track of how much time you’re spending completing projects.

The Dashboard

The Mac Data Collector icon rests in your menubar, which is a convenient way to click to the Dashboard of your RescueTime account page. There you will get an overview of all your related computer activities, which times of the day you are most and least productive, and an “Efficiency Summary” that reports a measure of the ratio of your productive time to distracting time.

track computer time software

All your computer activities are categorized under such items as E-mail, Design/Composition, News/Opinion, Business, Entertainment, Reference, etc..

track computer time software

Time Reports

You can dig deeper into Dashboard reports to get more detailed information for individual categories, productivity measures, individual activities, personal goals, and what time of day you are most and least efficient in your work.

keep track of time spent on the computer

Monitoring Yourself

While RescueTime may label your time spent on Twitter or MakeUseOf as a distraction, you can indicate otherwise. After you have spent several hours using RescueTime, you can click on Categorize Activities, under the Settings menu, and set which activities you deem as “very productive,” “very distracting,” or somewhere in between.

keep track of time spent on the computer

So for example, when I visit MakeUseOf, I want RescueTime to report that time is always “very productive.” Likewise, when I’m working in TextEdit and Dragon Dictate, those activities count as +2 productivity. However, when I’m chatting away on Yahoo! Messenger or spending time on TweetDeck, that time is counted as a “distraction,” though both activities break up the monotony of my day.

keep track of time spent on the computer

Some activities you will indicate as “neutral”, and that time will not be counted for or against your productivity efficiency rating.

Likewise, you can also manage and customize assigned categories, labeling exactly what you’re doing when you’re using particular applications or visiting particular websites.


Under the Activities page, you can also select to delete individual activities or have RescueTime completely ignore a monitored and reported website or application all together. For example, I have RescueTime ignore Facebook (which Rescue, by default, labels an “distraction”) because I never visit the site, but my daughter does. To locate the delete/ignore button, you have to hover your mouse cursor near the listed time for the activity in order for it to appear. It can’t be seen otherwise.

track computer time

The developers of RescueTime are very generous with their offerings in the Lite version of its online service, providing some very significant and useful information about how you spend your time on the computer. The Pro version of RescueTime however offers specific activity details that give reports on specific documents, webpages, chat windows and much more. It also provides other features for tracking offline time, receiving time alerts related to productivity goals you set, and helping you block distracting parts of the Internet. Based on my first week of using RescueTime, I plan to subscribe to a few months of the Pro version just so I can home in on how effectively I’m using my time management better.

RescueTime is similar to a formerly popular time tracking site called, which is still running on my Mac, but the site itself no longer seems to be updated with new features and services. And it is not as detailed in its reporting as RescueTime.

Let us know what you think of ResecueTime and how you’re using it. For other ideas about time tracking services, check out “6 Useful Desktop Time Tracking Software.”

The BEST Portable Apps You Will Ever Carry Around in Your Pocket

The BEST Portable Apps You Will Ever Carry Around in Your Pocket:

Who doesn’t love portable apps? You can carry them around in your thumbdrive, or launch them from a cloud drive. They don’t need to be installed and yet, allows you to commandeer any computer with your choice of applications.

Today, we’d like to announce the release of our Best Portable Apps page!

We’ve populated it with awesome apps that we’re sure that you’ll find useful on the move. Included are gems like OpenOffice, allowing you to work on your documents wherever Microsoft Office isn’t installed; KeePass, to help you remember your passwords on the go; TeamViewer, to connect to remote computers no matter where you are; and VLC Player, when you need the flexibility of a versatile media player.

For the full listing of the best portable apps, visit our Best Portable Apps page!

As with the rest of our Best Of family, we’re sure to update this page constantly so bookmark it and check back frequently to discover more useful portable apps that you can store on your thumbdrive.

If we’ve missed your favourite portable app, feel free to let us know by commenting on the page.

And please don’t forget to share the page with your friends! Use the social sharing buttons right there on the page itself.