You hear a lot about the mobile population always looking for WiFi hotspots while on the road so they can do their internet work and email. What you don’t hear much about is how the same workers are also looking for power. Yes, they need electrical outlets while out and about to charge the laptops, cell phones, iPods and PDAs they use daily. The New York Times has a good article that chronicles how New Yorkers are feeding their power fix in Starbucks, coffee houses and restaurants. They address outlet etiquette (don’t take over half the available outlets) and also talk to the establishment owners about how they feel about it. It’s a good read for road warriors.
In my daily travels I spend a lot of time in Starbucks or restaurants for the WiFi connectivity and I see a lot of people doing exactly what the article covers. I’ve seen power cords strung several feet from tables to wall outlets that risk tripping the other patrons. I also frequently see people plop their bag down on a table, pull out a laptop, phone, iPod and PDA, and then proceed to plug it all into a power strip that materializes from the bowels of their laptop bag. This is really all avoidable with just a minimal amount of planning.
Laptop owners- the first thing you should do if you haven’t already is get a second battery for your notebook. It is easy to keep two batteries charged if you plug in your laptop as soon as you get home. The internal battery will be charged in just a few hours so switch to the second battery just before you go to bed. When morning rolls around you will have two fully charged batteries ready to go. I do this with my Sony U and don’t even take the power adapter with me. Even in older laptops this will provide at least four hours of solid computing which is more than most people need during a typical day. Many laptops have a multi-bay which allows you to take the CD drive out and replace it with a second battery. I see a lot of notebook users plugged into wall outlets that have multi-bays and yet they still carry the CD drive inside the notebook instead of putting a second battery in there. You don’t need the CD drive if you are going to be out in the streets.
PDAs/ iPods- most PDAs today will run for days on a single charge so just plop it into the cradle at night and you are good to go. If you use your PDA to play MP3s the battery will drain much faster but most devices allow you to turn off the screen while playing audio. This saves the battery dramatically. iPod users can get a good 6 – 8 hours of play from a charge if you turn off the backlight.
Cell phones- if you have a car get a car power adapter for your phone which are very cheap now. Get in the habit of always keeping the phone charging while driving and you will never run dry during the day. A lot of phones have extended batteries available and while they add a little bulk and weight to the phone they are priceless when you need the juice.
There are a lot of other things the road warrior can do when travelling or when working locally but mobile that I will address down the road but meanwhile these simple things will go a long way to keeping you in power when outlets aren’t available.