Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tablets, iPads and Notebooks -- The battery challenge

As I was sitting in a recent genealogy conference, I noticed that those sitting around me were "taking notes" with a variety of devices. Some, of course, had a pad of paper and a pen or pencil, but many were using a variety of electronic devices. I happened to have my MacBook Pro laptop open and was searching around for somewhere to plug it in.

If you are accustomed to taking notes on an electronic device, you recognize this challenge. Most of the devices have a limited battery life. My older MacBook Pro will last a few hours, but attending an all-day conference is a challenge. If I do not have access to an electrical outlet, my computer is shut down by the afternoon. Battery life has been a major issue with mobile devices since their inception. Today, one of the first features mentioned about a new device is the battery life. The new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is no exception. The promotional materials advertise a battery life of "up to 9 hours." Of course there is a qualifying footnote that says, "Testing conducted by Microsoft in September 2015 using preproduction Intel® Core™ i5, 256GB, 8 GB RAM device. Testing consisted of full battery discharge during video playback. All settings were default except: Wi-Fi was associated with a network. Battery life varies significantly with settings, usage, and other factors." In other words, your experience may vary.

With all my electronic devices and especially with those I carry around to various locations, I am constantly aware of the need to watch the battery indicator. In our car, we have various mobile plugin devices including an inverter that allows us to charge a computer or other device by converting the 12 volt direct current to 120 volt alternating current. In addition, we have to make sure we have cables with all the proper connectors.

I have noticed that in some of the airports around the country that the airlines are providing "free" charging stations and many of the seats in the lobbies have electrical plugs. However, I also note that someone riding a train in England who plugged into a convenient socket, was arrested for stealing electricity. The story went viral around the world. Apparently, the authorities in England did not back down, but indicated that the outlets were marked for cleaning personnel only. Apparently, no one took a photo of the outlet in question.

When I travel from Provo to Salt Lake City on the FrontRunner commuter train, they have tables and free outlets for charging any sort of device. I can plug in my computer and type away for the whole hour of the trip. This makes life easier than sitting on a freeway and risking a 2 or 3 hour traffic tie up. Of course, last week the train was delayed. In Utah, people have a tendency to run the intersections or get stuck on the tracks causing a train accident.

Realizing this issue, I have started carrying extra battery backup devices for my iPhone. But since we are often out of range of any signal, whether or not the battery is charged is a moot point and by the time we are back in a car, we have the car to use as a charger (rather expensive phone charging device). There are hundreds of these devices available for sale.

Since so much of my own work is online, I am also acutely aware of Internet service connections. In addition to supplying free electrical connections at every table (there are usually four to six of them available in every car), the train also has free WiFi. This is sometimes very slow, especially during high traffic hours, but I can still get a fair amount of work done.

WiFi reception in most major conferences is either very spotty or very expensive or both. Hotels hosting conventions usually charge attendees to hook up to WiFi for the day of the conference. At the upcoming RootsTech 2016 Conference in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, we haven't heard anything about WiFi yet, but in past years, the coverage has been poor to spotty and when all the people get there, it has been non-existent. However, the Ambassadors (Bloggers for the most part) have media hub with higher speed Internet cable connections.

Battery life will likely continue to increase. For smaller devices such as smartphones, the batteries already last for more than a day's worth of usage. For larger devices, I suspect that battery life will continue to be a major issue absent some revolutionary breakthrough in battery technology.

1 comment:

  1. Some, of course, had a pad of paper and a pen or pencil, but many were using a variety of electronic devices. I happened to have my MacBook Pro laptop open and was searching around for somewhere to plug it in. batteroo