CIS 1110A - Computer Operating Systems and Maintenance


Module 6

This lesson discusses a lot of topics the author calls supporting I/O devices. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Installing and supporting Input/Output (I/O) devices
  2. Installing specific devices
  3. Installing adapter cards
  4. Working with video cards, monitors, and dual monitors
  5. Troubleshooting
  6. Current assignments

Concepts:

The chapter opens with a description on page 266 of a set of general principles to remember when you need to install a new computer component or peripheral device.

  • Devices need software -You can probably think of some parts of a computer that do not need software to function, but most add-on devices need drivers to allow programs and the computer's operating system to interface with them. Installing a new device and expecting it to work without installing device specific software is unreasonable. Not everything "just works" like inserting a USB memory stick. That would not work without a USB driver as part of the operating system.
  • Read the device's manual - Dr. Andrews offers a lot of advice in the chapter about installation and configuration, but before she goes any farther she reminds us that a device's manufacturer puts instructions in a manual because they apply to that device. You can't know that a device requires a special installation unless you check for new and exciting instructions from the manufacturer.
  • You thought the driver was enough? - Some devices require proprietary application software. The example in the text seems unlikely, but I have seen devices that only worked well with software that was included in the purchase.
  • The weakest link - Every time you add a device to a computer, you should make sure you are using it as it is supposed to be used. Plugging a device designed for USB 2 into a USB 3 port will not necessarily make it run faster. Plugging a device designed for USB 3 into a USB 2 slot will probably make it run more slowly than intended.
  • In Windows, sign in or run with an admin account - Administrator accounts have privileges to write files to places normal use accounts cannot. This is often necessary when changing drivers.
  • Update drivers for quick fixes - Sometimes. an operating system or application update will require an updated driver to work. The system won't run properly until you update the right software.
  • Make one change at a time - If you install seven new devices with five drivers and only test when you think you are done, you won't be able to say which step went wrong when the computer won't even boot. Change one thing at a time, then test to see if it works.

Device ManagerThe text suggests that you learn to use Device Manager to detect problems with devices. It is not a very robust program, but it is a standard component of Windows, so it is always available. In the image on the right, I have just used mine to update the firmware for my computer.

A quick way to access Device Manager is to press Window-X, then select Device Manager. It beats drilling down through the Start button menu.

Page 267 offers a table of connection methods and the optimal bandwidths through those methods. Note that the methods listed in the table include wired and wireless connections. Some devices offer both kinds of connectivity, such as routers that are also wireless access points.

In the table (Table 6-1) the sort order appears to be on the second column, maximum data transmission speed. The last row tells us that Near Field Communication (NFC) runs at a radio frequency of 13.56 MHz, but it only transmits data across 4 centimeters, and at the rate of 424 kbps, or less. This is why no one uses it for much. The top row in the table tells us that Thunderbolt 3, a wired method, can reach up to 40 Gbps across copper cables that can be up to 2 meters long, and it requires the cable to connect to USB-C ports. That's much more impressive. Thunderbolt 4 was finalized as a standard in July of 2020. It offers the same data rate but has a few improvements.

You should look over this table, especially when doing related assignments this week. The A+ test will require you to know some things from it to choose good answers to story problems.


The text continues with a discussion of ports on computers.

  • The discussion begins with USB. We are shown a series of logos for various generations of USB at the top of page 268. Oddly, the chart is presented in reverse chronological order from left to right.
    • USB allows daisy chaining up to 127 devices, but this is typically not done.
    • USB uses serial transmission of data
    • USB devices are typically hot-swappable, meaning they can be connected or disconnected while a computer is running, but I have seen exceptions to this concept
    • Dr. Andrews states that USB cables have four wires, two for data and two for power. This is no longer true with the advent of USB C connections. The link provided here goes to a Wikipedia page that begins by telling us that a tiny USB C connector has 24 pins in it. Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more. With regard to USB A and B, male and female, standard and micro, several illustrations in the text show us the basic shapes of the connectors. They are not very clear. Take a look at this article on the subject, which makes the shape of the connectors more understandable. The article also discusses more pins being used in newer versions of USB A and B.
  • Video connectors have changed frequently over only a few decades. The port you use to connect a monitor to a computer may be on a motherboard (there is usually something to use) or it may be that you are connecting to one or more ports on a video card. Dr. Andrews mentions that a video card will probably connect to a PCIe slot on the motherboard, but this may change again, as it did with the appearance and disappearance of AGP slots.
    The illustration on page 269 shows a video card with three kinds of ports. Page 270 discusses several more. It will be helpful to browse this online article about connectors and methods:
    • VGA - an analog standard that uses a blue 15 pin connector; the computer has to convert its native digital signal to analog, then send it to a monitor; the image below is a VGA output port

      VGA output port
    • DVI - several variants exist; the article at the link above explains that DVI-A is analog, DVI-D is digital, and DVI-I is both. DVI-D and DVI-I are available in single or dual link (twice the data capacity); it can be a challenge to get the right cable for the right video card

      DVI connectors
    • DisplayPort and HDMI - A lot of people confuse regular DisplayPort sockets with regular HDMI sockets. Look at the image shown below. The HDMI plug is on the left, the DisplayPort plug is on the right. If you are plugging one of these cable ends into a port, and you can only see one corner of the port (computers are often in a bad position to see ports), the mistake is understandable.
      We can describe the DisplayPort plug (on the right) as a rectangle with one corner missing. Its socket matches.
      The HDMI plug looks like a rectangle with two corners missing. The shape is actually more complicated, but some people never see that the shortened corners of the HDMI plug are not straight lines. Don't break the computer trying to push one of these plugs into the wrong kind of port.
      Regarding features, both kinds of connections can pass audio and video signals. Both kinds of connectors have a mini version, typically used with smaller devices.

      Standard HDMI and DisplayPort
  • The text discusses a few other connector types that are not as prevalent as these. Let's hit the next subject.

You probably need a video here, so let's spend five minutes with Linus to hear his thoughts.

Page 274 offers a long but not exhaustive list of devices that can be classed as peripherals, devices that are installed outside the system unit case. Many, such as keyboards and mice, will usually work without loading drivers. This is because the computer's operating system already contains generic drivers for common devices. Some devices, however, require specific drivers to fulfill special functions, such as a mouse with extra  buttons. The next page offers a five step process to use when you are not sure about drivers.

  1. Read the directions. They are usually right, even when they are translated from one language to another, unless you bought the peripheral for a dollar at a flea market. Then, wing it.
  2. Download drivers that match your OS. Not just Windows, Linux, or macOS: are you running a 32 bit or 64 bit version of the OS?
  3. Is the port you mean to use turned on/enabled? If the port seems dead, make sure the BIOS/UEFI knows about the port and allows it to be used. Did you remember to update drivers and firmware for the motherboard? Is there power for the device? Is there a higher order life form you can consult?



  4. RTFM: are you supposed to plug it in, turn it on, then install drivers, or install the drivers first? Sometimes installing drivers happens after the device is connected to the computer. The installation program may need to see the hardware in place to configure settings for the driver.
  5. Install necessary applications to use the device. Scanners, for example, are not much good without software to scan images. If your new device needs an application that is not yet installed, this step is a good time to do that.

The chapter continues with a section about various peripherals used for common purposes. Browse through those pages, reading more carefully about any devices you have not seen or used yourself.

Page 283 discusses adapter/expansion cards. The author begins with some familiar advice:

  • Get a card that matches a slot you can actually use. It will do you no good to buy a card that requires a PCIe x 16 slot if you don't have one open.
  • Get the right drivers for your OS.
  • Back up important data before you open the case. (The case is also called a system unit.)
  • Verify that the computer works before you change anything.

The author continues with advice written for any kind of card, but with suggestions that won't always apply. The author uses a video card installation as her example:

  1. Read and follow the instructions. Sure, you've done it before, but this time might be different.
  2. If you are installing a card whose port will replace a port on the motherboard (as video cards often do), disable the motherboard port in BIOS/UEFI before installing the card.
  3. Be careful not to damage the components with ESD.
  4. If your new card replaces an existing card, remove it carefully. You may need it later. If not, remove the face plate associated with the slot you are going to use. (The face place is the removable plate where the card's ports will extend outside the case. If you have to remove a screw to do either of these things, don't lose the screw.
  5. Try to push the card straight down into the slot. Rocking is bad, pulling it out and pushing it in again is bad, pushing gently until you feel it hit the bottom of the slot is good. So is pushing it in until the retainer on a PCIe x 16 slot clicks into place.
  6. If you took out a screw in step 4, put it back in. Not all cases require screws. If yours does, put it back where it goes, which will ground the card to the case.
  7. If the card needs a power or data connection, make the necessary connections.
  8. Check everything you have connected, then close the case. (The author advises that testing with the case open can be OK, but it is more dangerous.)
  9. Plug in the power cord, and start the computer. Depending on the situation, your computer may install drivers at this point. You may accept the default settings, or choose settings you want to use.
  10. If you have an install disk/disc, you should insert it and run the install/setup program. If you need drivers from that disk/disc, install them.
  11. You will often be instructed to restart the computer when you change, patch, or update its hardware or software. Try it out, and check functionality.

The text continues with a section on replacing cards in a laptop. This will vary greatly, depending on the make and model of the laptop. Always refer to the service manual for the appropriate type of laptop, desktop, tablet, or other computing device you are working on. The text discusses replacing Mini PCI Express cards, which may possible in a laptop you will work on. Note that the illustration on page 288 shows the Mini PCI Express card being held in with one screw. This is like the screw discussed in the general installation procedure above. If you take it out, put it back in.

Page 290 gives us some information about three kinds of monitors.

  • LCD - liquid crystal displays have multiple layer construction; they may be back-lit, which makes them more useful in brighter rooms/areas; they use more power but have less glare
  • OLED - organic light-emitting diode monitors are better for dark rooms; they use an LED layer between two electron grids that control the pixels; they are not back-lit, they use less power than LCDs, and frequently have better blacks and contrast ratios
  • Projectors - these come in several technologies, may have image problems in bright rooms, may be designed for short throw (for projecting onto a nearby wall) or long throw (for projecting across a room), the farther the device has to project, the more power it will need to do so
  • It is worth taking a look at a video that talks about OLED vs. QLED. It explains some of the material above. (No, we are not trying to sell you anything.)


Note the list of monitor features in the table on page 292.

  • screen size - diagonal measure of the screen, may include unviewable area behind a bezel
  • pixel pitch - distance from one picture element (pixel) to the next one; smaller pitch means denser pixels and better pictures
  • resolution - the width and height of a screen in pixels
  • contrast ratio - the definition in the text is not clear; let's listen to our friend Linus Sebastian



  • viewing angle - most screens look best when you are directly in front of them, when a line from you to the screen is perpendicular to the screen; viewing angle measures the number of degrees (in both directions) away from perpendicular at which the screen still looks decent; the video about QLED demonstrates some of this

A section on troubleshooting starts on page 296. The author offers some advice that is often helpful. Your mileage may vary.

  • Check the NumLock and CapLock states when entering a password or Hello code. The user may not be entering the characters they mean to enter.
  • Check the status of devices in Device Manager. There may be yellow triangles by devices that are reporting trouble. Try using Device Manager to update drivers.
  • Try adding an external device to replace the function of a failed device. If this works, you may have a hardware failure in the original device.
  • Is there a whining sound when the computer starts? Maybe a device is not connected to power, or your power supply is not producing enough watts.
  • Is your screen black, even though the monitor has power? Have you connected the monitor to the video card, and not disabled the video port on the motherboard? Test by connecting to the motherboard port. Then disable the port, which will kill the signal, so you will switch the cable connection to the video card again.
    Disclaimer: this procedure is not always needed. It is often possible to leave the motherboard port live. The BIOS may simply detect that you have a video card and manage the motherboard port for you. This procedure is more useful when the BIOS does not self correct.
  • Do you hear a series of beeps when the computer starts? That's a beep code, which is the BIOS's way of sending you a message about a problem. Use another computer to look up the code once you open the case and figure out which kind of BIOS chip you have. Here are three articles about beep codes for three manufacturers.

This video will tell you about some Dell specific beep codes. It is also useful for the presenter's demonstration of removing a RAM module. (Note: you should not remove the motherboard for this operation.)


The video below is about troubleshooting errors that often occur when building a PC, but it applies to errors from this chapter as well. Watch the presenter's techniques when correcting the problems he discusses.

The remainder of the chapter is mostly about troubleshooting problems. You should read though it section by section, not all at once. If this material is new to you, it will be easier to grasp if you do not overload your brain doing it.


Assignments

  1. Read the chapter, and the next one for next week.
  2. Complete the assignments and class discussion made in this module, which are due by 6pm next week.