Sunday, June 10, 2012

I (don't) have the powerrrrrr

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Anyway, I'm just a plug;
Get some perspective.

The day I had long feared finally arrived as I gazed down at the power cord tethered umbilically to the left side of my laptop to find its familiar white glow absent. Tenderly wiggling it around in its socket and aggressively forcing the prongs in and out of the wall, I was unable to re-ignite the spark of life. My laptop plug had delivered its final charge and gone to join the toasters in silicon heaven.

I was screwed.

Fury of the storm

I'd been having frustrating power trouble with my laptop ever since I got to Sri Lanka, where my supposedly 'universal' adaptor (that's handled thirteen countries so far) finally met its match. Luckily, all the places I stayed here were kindly able to furnish me with local adaptors configured for stupid British three-pronged plugs - once again, I was able to reap the benefits of my ancestors' colonial conquests.

What I'd overlooked was that my own power adaptor, comically bulky though it may be, does more than just allow inconveniently shaped pegs to fit into different shaped holes. It also boasts of excellent surge protection, which may have saved me from exploding during Philippines typhoons last year. The more compact adaptor I was loaned in Galle didn't seem to possess this feature, and a tropical storm of Ragnarokian proportions proved to be too much for my unsheathed plug to handle. This is what happens when you don't use protection.

Contingency plan

If you think I write meandering rubbish online, you should see my notebooks

I've always known that something could go wrong with my laptop, though this knowledge wasn't enough to motivate me to prepare in any practical way by stocking up on spare plugs or batteries that would consume valuable luggage space. Though as I instantly set about drafting a contingency plan to conserve my laptop's remaining 2.5 hours of battery life and transferring all current files to USB, I was pleased to see that it wouldn't actually be too bad. Just massively inconvenient.

I already had experience of working and blogging in internet cafes on occasion, thanks to that more familiar nemesis of bad hotel Wi-Fi, and I'm fortunate to be in a part of the world where internet cafes are pretty cheap.

The problem with being in this part of the world (aside from freakish storms that kill your electronics) is that any replacement power plugs I bought would be configured for the electricity supply and plug shape of these countries. So even if I could track down a Dell store in Colombo or Bangkok and find the right plug for my laptop model, I'd still be lumbered with an obscure Sri Lankan or oblong-ended Thai plug for the long term, which would also mean I'd need to replace my adaptor. Even if I ordered a replacement from the UK, pre-booked flights and visa deadlines would make it difficult to wait around in one place for international delivery - and what if it didn't work?

Deus ex machina

Fortunately I didn't need to find out, as the storm abated and a last-ditch try at using the plug saw the glorious shining light resurrected into new life. The gods had seen that I'd learned my lesson and restored my power. Thinking about it, I hadn't really learned anything - but I'd already gone to the effort of staging that funeral photo during the temporary power outage, so this blog was getting written regardless. We all deal with grief in different ways; mine is to create melodramatic dioramas.

That's right, like my rubbish earthquake experience and not injuring my ankle, this is another promising blog that ends up going nowhere and teaching me nothing. Actually, that's not strictly true - for extra protection against future surges, I'm now using the Sri Lankan power adaptor in conjunction with my regular adaptor, which looks like this:

Because that's not a lethal electric shock waiting to happen

Confronting the threat of laptop death was also useful for reaffirming that I'm generally doing alright, and for reminding me how much I rely on my laptop in day-to-day life, as if I actually needed reminding of that.

I'm not one of these people who gets emotionally attached to their electronics, but because I depend on my laptop so completely for my livelihood, communication, information, entertaining distractions and - most importantly - writing this crap twice a week, I understand the affection some people feel for their iPads and other gizmos. Even if in my case it's more akin to respect than real affection.

I've been very satisfied with this laptop, which has allowed me to earn a living wherever I happen to be, and like a manipulated Apple fanatic I've developed sufficient brand loyalty that I'll always consider buying Dell netbooks in the future.

It has a few odd quirks, most of which admittedly seem to have been caused by me accidentally deleting important files in my quest to downsize as much as possible, and so what if the L and O keys often fail to work (I need to stop typing 'LOL' so much), but for a compact travel computer that probably wasn't designed for this much extended use, it hasn't let me down. I've owned it for two years and it's probably been on for more than half of that. Until Rayden from Mortal Kombat zapped it and temporarily screwed up its power source, anyway. Just as I thought, you draw a blank on the mythological storm gods but you get the early-90s beat-em-up reference.

To put it in the words of another undervalued computer, Holly from Red Dwarf:

'Appreciate what you've got, because basically I'm fantastic.'

1 comment:

  1. Boring, unnecessary update: My plug kept being annoying, so I eventually replaced it with a Thai plug and got a new adaptor. It's technically an Acer plug, and my laptop feels warmer than it used to when I was using the plug I was supposed to, but I'm sure that's nothing to worry about. What could possibly go wrong?