Unwired, but Not Unplugged

I am so looking forward to my second NLII conference in New Orleans starting at the end of this weekend. As I have written before, I think it's vital for professionals to get out to conferences and interact with others. Although I often find myself, days before such a trip, trying to find reasons not go to; I also always come back recharged, with my head full of new ideas - and glad that I went.

Speaking of recharged, the NLII event I went to two years ago impressed me as the first conference I had been to where the plenary session rooms were made up with several rows of tables to accommodate notebook users. I was very impressed. I also, now, do not remember what the accommodation was for electrical power in that room. I know that outlets in the common areas were few and far between. But at the NLII Fall Focus in Boston last September, there were sufficient power supplies at each table to accommodate anyone.

That previous NLII conference in New Orleans was when I started carrying an extension cord in my notebook's backpack carrier. In fact, it may have been the only time I left the conference hotel on that trip (I hope that this time I find time to get out for dinner at least once), to find a place to buy an extension cord so that I could stay powered-up between sessions. (There were several places with outlets just a little bit too far from any seating and the extension cord let me reach both at the same time.)

I also now carry, when I travel, a second laptop battery that is fully charged when I leave home. And I have added a power strip to the collection of stuff I lug around, because I think it's kind of nice - when I do find those rare plugs in Detroit Metro, Denver, or L.A. - if I can temporarily do my part to provide more outlets for others to get their charging done. I'm not at all sure that places like Detroit Metro are really friendly about sharing power. The managers know we're sort of stuck there, and that we're not going to choose not to fly through a particular airport just because it hides its power outlets from us.

Even the airlines seem a little that way. I was naively excited when I got my first complete, customizable set of plugs for my notebook that included one that could be used on airplanes. I figured that each seat had power, I had just never noticed. Well, I still have yet to find a power outlet on an airplane. I guess that some planes have them, but I have never flown on one of those. I wonder if the new jumbo Airbus has outlets, other than in private suites? I wouldn't be surprised that, if they do, the power is metered and overcharged-for.

Many have stated, and I completely agree, that it's too bad that the development of power storage technology has lagged behind the development of our information tools technology. It's nice to see some minor advances - like the fact that I can now charge up my Treo directly from my laptop through the USB hub; thanks to a new cable my future son-in-law gave me last month. (Among other things, that means I only need a single outlet in the airport and don't have to feel like a power-source hog.)

If only we could broadcast power like we do connectivity. Unfortunately, there is little doubt that broadcasting power would involve some serious personal and public health issues. Occasionally I head about some new developments in small fuel cell technology, but I don't follow it enough to know if two-day batteries for laptops are on their way or still a pipe dream. (I figure it's the latter.)

At my home right now, we are completely renovating the kitchen and dining room, which were added on to the core of the 1870 house in 1941 and 1964, respectively. Guess what, there were not enough plugs! But there will be. In the dining room alone, which is about fifteen feet by fifteen feet, there will be three sets of double power outlets along each wall, for a total of 24 outlets. That should be enough . . . I think.

Are we building more power outlets into buildings on campus? I am sitting here right now, as I write this, and kicking myself for not having looked around the Stata Center at MIT when I was there recently. I'd be greatly impressed if there were power outlets every few feet along the internal "Student Street" there.

I saw a statistic lately about our lives in the "built environment." World wide, it is estimated that by 2030 more than 50 percent of the buildings we live and work in will have been constructed since the year 2000 - http://www.scup.org/knowledge/scuplinks.html#462. I sure hope we're building in enough individual power access. But I would not be surprised to find out that we're not. If we are not, then we are making assumptions about power needs and supplies of the future that may or may not be right, and may even be implicit rather than explicit.

Anyway, if you see an older guy with white hair and a beard at the airport in Detroit this afternoon (or coming back in the New Orleans airport next Wednesday), probably wearing a tweed jacket, sitting on the ground near an outlet, with an extension cord, it might be me.

Just ask, and I will be very happy to pull out my power strip and share!

comments powered by Disqus

Campus Technology News

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.