Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Power outage

Got home from running some errands to find the power out for, not only my apartment complex, but for perhaps a mile east of it and everything North of that line.

I shrugged it off and lit some candles. Then I looked around for something to do. Let's see...

Work is out of the question, because the power's out! Yes! Maybe I could play some Team Fortress 2...oh, yeah, the power's out. Can't watch TV, can't play any games, can't work, can't surf the net...

Okay, I can and did surf the net. My router and cable modem were useless, of course, but I was able to tether my phone to my netbook and do some rudimentary surfing.

I decided to take my laptop to my friend's house, which is far enough away that it has power, and do some work there. I packed up my stuff, walked out of my room, said bye to my roommate and as soon as my hand touched the front doorknob, the power kicked on. It was out for at least an hour. That's right, all I have to do is threaten to leave and they straighten that out immediately.

But it made me think about some problems with my current setup.

First of all, I don't have a backup battery on my primary PC. Not a big deal, as, I do most of my work on my laptop, and I save obsessively. My netbook has a battery life of 5-6 hours, and it was charged up, so I could have done some writing on that, though I'm a bit past the writing stage. The problem was, how could I know how long the outage was going to be? This was the longest outage I've experienced since I was a child, when a big storm knocked out power (and water) for days.

I've always been thinking of ways to keep all my electronics charged when away from home--my bag has an AC cord in it that I can plug in anywhere, and it'll charge my phone, netbook, or whatever else is in my bag at the time. I also have a DC to AC inverter to charge all my devices in a car if needed.

But what if I have no place to charge these things up? It's practical to charge my netbook in my car during a long trip, but not to use it to supplement my apartment's power supply.

Now, having been in nomadic situations before, I know there are gas stations with booths where you can plug devices in, and if it's a good station they'll even have wifi and a grill. A lot of diner-style restaurants have exposed outlets, and if you're bold enough you can plug your devices in there (in my experience most places don't mind). I've been there, that's one of the reasons I set up this bag to charge everything conveniently and inconspicuously.

So what happens when the power goes out here at home? I live in an apartment, so it's not possible to have a generator. It's not practical to take my laptop to a gas station or diner for the majority of a workday. The library would be a good place to go, actually. They provide power and wifi, and I could stay there all day without disturbing anybody. Too bad there are no 24 hour libraries.

I've been thinking about those devices made to keep your trunk. You can use one to start your car un-assisted. Basically it's a car battery with a handle on it (leak-proof) and two terminals on top. I've seen stores use one of these with an inverter to power a LCD screen for an in-store display. It's something to consider. I would hope it could buy me at least a few days of power for my netbook and perhaps a half a day or more for my 17" laptop.

I have a lot of devices in my house, but how many do I need at one time? A handful of these portable batteries could probably keep me well-powered for a few days. If the phone lines are still up, I could even use one for my modem and router, though I could just plug my modem directly into my PC to save even more energy.

It sounds workable. Perhaps in the next few months I can but one and see how much power it provides.

Food for thought anyway.


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