I’m sure loyal readers and customers have noticed the absence of regular new tech articles in this newspaper over the past year or so, as well as minimal new blogs or other changes on my ‘new’ website (AdirondackComputers.com) which has remained ‘under construction’ for some time.

Until recently, most of my time has been taken up with administration of family medical and related issues. Business activity has been limited to taking care of immediate customer needs.

One of the things that really helped during this period was keeping reasonably good records and being able to access them quickly whether I was home or elsewhere.

Keeping good notes is the first step. Computer-generated and stored notes are much better than paper, even if you have to transcribe from hand-written notes.  Electronic documents or collections of documents can be easily added to, organized, reorganized, searched, and backed up.

You do not need a special program. In my opinion, a simple text editor is the best. You don’t want to get hung up on fonts, colors, or other formatting. You don’t want a word processor assuming that it knows better than you and making corrections.

You also want the resulting files to be readable on any computer in case of a technical problem. Notepad produces simple text files and has been included in every version of Windows. MacOS has TextEdit, but you have to set it to produce plain text files. All Linux distributions have a plain text editor.

The second step is filing and keeping track of all the documents you receive and send.

Anything you get as an email attachment can be easily saved as a file. Do not just keep it ‘in’ the original email. You can also cut and paste any text from an email to a stand-alone text file. Anything you type is already a file.

You’ll want to electronically organize all paper documents, including hand-written notes. The easy solution is to scan them.

Multifunction ‘All In One’ printer-copier-scanners are common. You can get a decent unit for around $200.

The ability to scan lets you save and back up everything electronically. It also allows you to print and fill out paper forms emailed to you as pdf files, then scan the completed and signed documents and send them back as email attachments.

If you get a multifunction device with fax capability, you are even farther ahead. While you may think fax is obsolete, this is not so. In many cases, medical and legal documents can only be submitted by snail mail or fax.  Given how slow and expensive the postal service is these days, fax is the way to go.

If your multifunction printer doesn’t have fax capability, all that is needed is to add a faxmodem to your computer. It’s also possible to use an on-line fax service, but it is less private.

While many people now think of personal computers as communications and entertainment devices, they started out as business productivity tools. Using in that capacity will save you lots of time and effort.

Q: My laptop docking station is not HDMI, but the new monitors I bought to keep up here at the cabin are. I am looking to purchase converter adapters like these [links removed].

A: I am not sure what converter you need because the links you sent me are for different products.

DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI are digital signals. VGA is the older analog video signal.

You can’t just use a passive cable with different connectors on each end to convert between analog and digital.

You need to use an active converter which requires power as well as the video signal.

There appear to be some simple cheap converters or cables on the market that are no more than connector type A hard wired to connector type B. If they work at all they won’t work well and could damage your equipment.

If you are converting from VGA to any of the digital video connections then the power has to be supplied by another cable, since the VGA video connector on a computer does not supply power. The converter may have an AC adapter you plug in to the wall, or it will have a USB cable that picks up power from a USB port on the computer.

If you are converting from DisplayPort or HDMI  to VGA then it is possible the converter can get power from the DP or HDMI output on the computer.

Also note that because an active conversion is required, the cables/converters are generally not bidirectional. In other words, the same converter won’t work to convert VGA to HDMI and HDMI to VGA.

If your computer or docking station has a DVI-D output, you can convert this to HDMI with a passive adapter because because the basic digital video signals are essentially the same between DVI and HDMI. You can also passively convert HDMI to DVD-D with some limitations.

If your computer or docking station has a DVD-I output, you can convert to VGA with a simple passive adapter because DVI-I also includes the analog VGA analog signals.

When it comes to audio connections, VGA and DVI do not provide any audio signals. You will need to use conventional audio cables from your computer’s speaker/headphone output to your speakers or monitor with built-in speakers.

HDMI and DisplayPort interfaces provide digital audio as well as video., so you only have to connect one cable to your monitor or TV and built-in speakers will work.

Note that Windows will treat the digital audio connection as a separate sound device. If you have no audio you may need to go in to the Windows settings and select this device instead of the computer’s ’sound card.’