Presentation hardware: The old switcheroo

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q: I recently attended your Tech-Savvy CPA presentation, and I was intrigued by how you were able to instantly switch between multiple computers, including your smartphone and desktop computer back in your Atlanta office. I’d like to be able to do the same in my presentations. Can you please share with me how you do it?

A: Thank you for appreciating the extra technology I carry. For decades, I’ve used multiple computers in my technology CPE presentations. Currently, I feature my Sony touchscreen laptop, Apple iPad 2, Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, and I use GoToMyPC to remotely access my Atlanta-based desktop computer from all of my remote devices. The key to sending a signal from all of these devices to a single projector is to acquire a multiple-port VGA switch box. I recommend that you purchase a switch box with all female connections, because most devices also have female connections, thereby accommodating male/ male cables.

A multitude of VGA switch boxes are available, priced from approximately $15 for manual switch boxes to several hundred dollars for electronic switch boxes. I have used both types of devices, and I find that the cheaper manual switch boxes are lighter, easier to use (because you don’t have to plug them in), and more reliable.

Both my Sony Vaio laptop and Microsoft Surface tablet have VGA ports, so a simple male/ male VGA cable is all that is required to connect those devices to the switch box; however, connecting my iPad and smartphone requires special cables. The iPad-to-switch box connection requires an iPad 30-pin-to-VGA adapter cable (about $30) and a VGA cable. Connecting my smartphone is trickier, and to make this connection, I purchased a Micro USB MHL-to-HDMI video cable (about $12), a Sabrent HDMI-to-VGA converter (about $45), and a male/male VGA cable to complete the connection.

The final items you will need to duplicate my presentation setup are two 25-foot, high-resolution male/male VGA cables (about $10 each). I use these lengthy cables to set up my presentation table away from the projection system so I don’t block the audience’s view and so the projector light does not shine in my eyes. This setup allows me to switch effortlessly between devices so the audience can better follow my demonstrations from my various devices. The diagram below suggests the specific setup I employ, and the directional arrows depict the flow of video through the switch box and to the projector.

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About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@ asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor. Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2013, 2010, and 2007 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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