Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Thursday, May 07, 2009 Cutting the Cord
Those of you who have been following this saga on Twitter can either move on to your next Google Reader item or enjoy the version not limited to a 140-character format. I'm all about the scope and sweep.
I guess we can trace it back to last summer, when I started working from home. I'd carry my company laptop all over the house (and outside it) to do work, running on battery power half the time. As a person who's been chained to desktops my whole life (save a brief period in the 90s when I used a Kaypro II), I didn't realize that laptop batteries can only be recharged so many times before the maximum battery life goes from three hours to ninety minutes. When that happened at the beginning of November, I ordered a new battery through work. But by the time the labyrinthine process was completed and the new battery arrived in mid-December, the maximum battery life was down to the length of time it took me to catch up on Twitter.
In the meantime, I'd gotten into the habit of unplugging the cord from the wall whenever I brought my laptop to another room, and plugging it back in whenever I set up anew. I continued doing that. Even when I saw that the new battery's capacity was more like five hours, I wanted to keep it that way. One never knows when a 4½ hour blackout will hit in the middle of a workday, does one?
But a couple of weeks ago, when I was under my desk getting ready to transfer my home office up to the bedroom for the evening, I noticed something else. The place where the wire goes into the little transformer box had started to come loose, and little silvery wires were visible inside. The same was happening on the end that plugs into the computer. I realized that the cord was either going to fail or electrocute me soon, and I put in an order through work for a new one. The next day, when I went downstairs to start work, the laptop I had left on and plugged in all night was off and out of juice. This was not good, and not just because I'd forgotten to save some stuff.
It's not that the cord doesn't work at all. It's just that you have to sort of wiggle and twist things around in order to get a good connection. When the screen is bright, I know I'm fine. When the screen is dim and there's a little draining-battery icon in the lower right corner, the wiggling must commence.
Once I get it in place, I try not to move it so it keeps working, but that's not always an option. Especially not when I have to carry the whole setup downstairs three times a week to do recapping in front of the only TV in the house with a DVR. And then I have to wiggle there. The longer this goes on, the harder I have to wiggle, until inevitably the whole thing's going to snap clean in two. And then I'll electrocute myself. Which will put me way behind schedule if it happens at the beginning of a workday.
And now I'm going out of town in a couple of days, with my laptop. You think it's hard finding a laptop outlet in O'Hare? Try it when you have to wiggle the cord around as well, and then wedge it between the case and your knee once you get it in just the right position. Not that I've done that either, but I don't really want to.
So clearly, this re-order process has been a little more urgent than the one for the battery, and not just for the reasons listed above. I quickly realized that while you can run a laptop indefinitely with a bad cord and a good battery, the reverse is not the case.
I spent a week getting on the nerves of the person who was responsible for the new order, making her update me every time it went through one of the four approval phases. Then a couple of days ago I got word that it was "in process with the vendor."
That was all I needed to know. Ever since, I've been expecting it any moment, even though I knew it wasn't shipped until Tuesday. Yesterday I basically made the UPS tracking site my homepage. Did you know that if you keep refreshing it, it actually slows down the delivery? I discovered that this week.
I spent this afternoon pricking up my ears every time I heard something that sounded like a UPS truck going by outside, which can get tiring when you live across the street from a school. A school where they have buses, at that. When I had to leave to pick up M. Edium, it still hadn't shown up, and neither of the neighbors were home. All I could do was leave a note on the front door telling the delivery guy to leave it on the back deck and hope for the best.
When I got home, I just knew he'd been and gone, with a package that he couldn't leave without a signature. But there it was, on the deck like I'd asked. I don't think I've been this happy to see a package since…well, since my laptop battery arrived. And perhaps not even then.
And just like with the battery, I intend to take better care of this one. I'll be more careful plugging it and unplugging it, as well as not carrying it around with the transformer box dangling behind me and banging on the stairs. Maybe I'll even duct-tape it all up like a Roger Daltrey microphone. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to stop Phantom from eating it. posted by M. Giant 8:51 PM 3 comments
Ooooh, do you have a toshiba?
If this ever happens to you again and you are in a bind, I bought a universal laptop power cord somewhere that has, like, fifteen connectors to go into different brand laptops, and I use it as a backup in case I forget my cord somewhere, or I want to pick up and move where I'm working and don't want to move the whole setup, etc. Might be a handy thing to have around if you really urgently do need your computer for work.
Electrician's tape, ftw! I used to repair my old headphones this way when they started to fray all the time. I'm about to have to do it for my Mac's power cord as well. I'm pretty sure I could put the $130 for a new one to better use.