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Three Tech Tips for Holiday Entertaining

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It’s the holiday season: the time of year when most of us will be hosting at least one family dinner or party with friends. But nowadays, our friends and family bring unexpected guests with them; you don’t just host your family and friends, but all their devices, too. When we plan menus and set the table, we should remember that laptops, smartphones, and tablets need to be “fed” as well.

Since a good host should provide for their guests’ needs, here are three tech tips for holiday entertaining.

Stock Up On Chargers, Cables, and Power Strips

It’s a good idea to stock up on chargers, cables, and power strips. Inevitably, there will be someone who forgets a charger. Some of us already have a collection from the older devices in our past. If you don’t, creating a collection from scratch is not as expensive as you’d think. You can get the appropriate accessories for as little as $5 a piece.


Motorola phone charger with two USB ports

It’s a good idea to get a wall charger that can take at least two cables at the same time instead of a charger and cable that come as a single unit. This will give your guests more room.

Speaking of cables, the kinds that you will need can be divided into two types: those with USB connectors and those with connectors made specifically for Apple products.
USB connectors:

USB A mini and micro connectors

From left to right: USB A connector, USB B mini, USB B micro

  • USB A – the oldest type of connector, found on computers, televisions, and wall chargers. On a charging cable, this is the end that goes in the wall charger; the other end of the cable will have one of the following connectors.
  • USB B – a smaller USB connector that comes in several forms; the most common are the mini and the micro. Mini is the older version, commonly found on flip phones. Micro is the much more common version, found on many smartphones and tablets.
  • USB C – the newest USB connector found in devices made in 2014 and onwards. It was famously adopted by Apple’s late 2016 laptops. On Apple laptops, this type of port is synonymous with Thunderbolt 3.
Apple connectors:
30-pin connector and iPod Nano

Left: 30-pin connector; Right: iPod Nano with 30-pin port


30-pin – seen in the first generation of iPads, iPhones, and iPods. The 30-pin connector was officially discontinued in September 2014, but many of these devices are still being used. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have at least one 30-pin cable around.


Lightning connector and Lightning port

Left: Lightning cable; Right: iPhone with Lightning port and adapter

Lightning – Introduced in September 2012 as a replacement for the 30-pin connector. It’s found on the iPhone 5 and later, iPad minis, and other later Apple devices. For a full listing of all Lightning-compatible devices, see this Wikipedia article.

Thunderbolt connector and Thunderbolt ports on a laptop

Left: Thunderbolt connector; Right: Thunderbolt ports on a MacBook


Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 – first introduced in the late 2011 MacBook. It is found on the Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro, the Mac mini, and the iMac.

Most Apple cables have one of these connectors at one end and a USB A connector at the other.

Don’t forget power strips. Using a power strip is much easier than trying to find spare outlets everywhere. This is a really good idea if you have a lot of guests coming over at once. Let everyone know where the charging station is. Just make sure that the devices are arranged so that they’re out of the way of foot traffic, pets, and food.

Don’t Forget the Wi-Fi Password

Make sure you give everyone the Wi-Fi password. You’ve invited them to share your food and your home, might as well share your Internet, too.

Give the Gift of Tech Support

Santa Claus gives child a tablet

This tip is for those of us who are their family’s designated tech support person. Whether it’s helping the kids with their first tablet, or your uncle with his first smartphone, now is a good time to teach people how to use their devices and to correct any myths surrounding the Internet.

What if you’re not the host, but a guest at a tech-impaired relative’s house? Time to inspect their machines! There could be any and all sorts of malware lurking, not to mention programs and operating systems in serious need of updates. True, this could take a lot of time, but you can rest easy knowing that your family has better protection against potential threats.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some guides. For Windows 7 and up, check out Decent Security: Cleaning and optimizing a Windows computer safely.  Apple has a contact page for security issues. This is where you can go to reset Apple IDs, find out about software updates and learn how to locate a lost device, among many other things. Then (for the truly dedicated), there is the Mac OS X Security Configuration Guide for Mac OS X v10.6 (Snow Leopard). It’s an intensely detailed manual totaling 272 pages.
 To sum up:
  • Make sure you have spare charging accessories for each guest’s device.
  • Welcome them to your home and your Wi-Fi network.
  • Help them out with their questions about their devices and the Internet.

It’s always a good idea to have the items your guests need to keep their devices happy, so that they’ll be happy, too. A small investment will pay off in a big way.

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