Hub bothers

For a while, I hoped it was the cable. But now, I think I have landed back on the same thing everyone affected already seems to know: there are way too few good USB-C hubs and docks out there. Perhaps the standards are too complicated, the bandwidths too narrow. But I suspect people are perhaps just too optimistic, putting all the things in a hub which should work fine in theory, leaving it up to users to discover the true limitations.

My most common problem is with any type of USB-C (or thunderbolt) to HDMI adapter which also provides any other port. Straight USB-C to HDMI adapters have been rock solid for me, but the ones I have tried with more ports all land on the same problem much too often: the computer will wake up, other connected devices will work as usual, but the screen will not light up.

The computer will know the screen is there, it will show up in display settings, and all windows will stay in place. I can drag the cursor out into the space and so on, just not see it. Power cycling the hub will usually get things back in order, an activity which feels somewhat counter to the idea of using a hub to need to plug and unplug fewer things.

Things might get worse under heavier load as well. I have used the same hub at home for … a good while (a year?) now, and while it had the above problem it was at least pretty rare. But a little while ago, I noticed the monitor looked fuzzier than usual. Turns out it sometimes ends up detected as being capable of less than its native resolution, and again power cycling seems to be the solution.

A week ago, I threw an otherwise well-behaved USB ethernet adapter into the mix, and this has clearly made everything worse. Now I can get all kinds of mixes of problems, like ethernet but no monitor, ethernet and lower resolution monitor, or neither plus the USB ports on the ethernet adapter being well and truly dead too.

Yes, adapters plugging into adapters. I have become that person, one piece at a time.

Negotiation problems?

I read somewhere at some point that USB hubs need to negotiate or otherwise advertise their abilities to computers, and that this process can end up with different results depending on when a device is or is not connected. I wonder if this is my issue, that a bunch of things suddenly appear to the computer and something along the chain fails to sort everything out.

I wish for a command I could send straight over the USB bus using terminal or something to shock things into order.

Oh well.

Is there a magic incantation I could do?

Is there a problem to be solved by throwing money at it?

And (the question anything touched by USB-C keeps asking itself) why is all this not simply a solved problem in 2019?

(Disconnected the Macbook and sat down in the sofa to type this. Man, this screen looks sharp!)