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back to article The problem with wireless: all those effin' wires

Those of you who choose to pursue the itinerant professional life will be familiar with the need to carry one's tools of the trade everywhere, usually in a heavy bag slung over one shoulder. Like me, you may have found that the number of devices you have to carry around has increased, for a variety of reasons that I have moaned …

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Tesla museum

You might be interested to see the proposal to turn the site of his wireless power tower into a museum: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/tesla_museum/ Apparently Elon Musk has already signed up.

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If you like Mr Tesla, then help then save his laboratory and turn it into a museum!

http://www.indiegogo.com/teslamuseum

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help them*

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WTF?

Poor workman blames his cables.

Two short micro USB cables. One US or Euro plug-to-figure-eight laptop cable. One tiny US/euro plug-to-USB adapter. Maybe a 12V car socket to USB. Total volume required for extra travel cabling: roughly one trouser pocket.

Have you considered that the problem might be in your purchasing choices and poor organisation rather than something inherent in the technology?

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Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

Just what I was thinking but you beat me to it. Dont know how much storage Mr Dabs need when he is on the move but I find a 250 GB HD more than does the job.

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Holmes

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

I thought the same thing at first but it's all about avalaible capacity.

Don't kid yourself, if you had a bigger bag, you would have more stuff in it.

It would be like adding lanes on the M25, it would still be jammed, only with more cars. Or having a bigger hard drive... why does it always seem to fill up so quickly???

My advice: get a smaller bag!

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Silver badge

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

Power Monkey was my choice, and that's to power a variety of devices (PSP, iPhone, external battery pack) with one charger and a choice of plugs to front it + a tiny USB 12v car adapter.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

It just needs a multi charger. I have a tiny spooled usb cable that has a bag of 8 different heads, which I leave in my drawer at work, a usb mains plug added will charge almost anything. I've not come across much recent kit that it won't do. It is a pure charging cable though, no data, which is a benefit in some cases. As our locked down work PCs will not charge over a data enable USB cable, but do for a dumb one.

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Meh

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

My thought exactly. I sometimes miss those 'mad days' when everything charged via USB - I travel with:

My laptop power brick

My universal plug adapter with interchangeable USB charging port

USB Mini and Micro cables

If absolutely necessary: the micro USB car charger with extra USB port to power a phone (satnav) and some other device.

If I need a camera, the brick lives in the camera bag and shares the figure 8 cable with the laptop power brick

Anything that doesn't like the standard USB charger (looking at you Nokia) charges off my laptop when needed (which is daily at office when traveling for work, or only rarely needed when on hols).

Anything requiring some other form of power provisioning is either not purchased or stays home.

And oh yes: my kids pack their own charging kit to go with their nintendii. I am not hauling their kit around.

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Bronze badge

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

There is a need for different size (length) cables.

Portable HDD or DVD to netbook - 1 foot is probably over much

Charging phone in car - at least 3 ft to get from cigarette lighter to handsfree clip

Borrowing a clients USB printer - about 6 ft or more

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

Thank you, Mr. Beggar, you beat me to it, and said it well.

A small bag containing a well-planned and economical set up modular cables and adaptors just and the relevant devices just got me through nine days in Foreign Land just fine- just like it does on a daily commute in That London. Rather than raging into my beer, I put a little thought into it, reducing stress, clutter and bulk.

Planning, it works, bitches.

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Bronze badge

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

So the idea is that I recharge one device at a time?

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Happy

Re: one device at a time?

You don't expect commetards to actually Read The Fsking Article?

You must be new here...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

"So the idea is that I recharge one device at a time?"

Or just buy a notebook with a bigger hard-disk and built in optical drive?

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Facepalm

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

The clue is in the word "two" there, Ali. Apologies for baffling you with high-level mathematics.

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Bronze badge

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

So the idea is that I charge only two devices at a time?

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Facepalm

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

Alistair, if you want to be able to charge everything at once, then you need to be prepared to take some pain.

I can typically charge two devices at a time, and with a little planning, that works pretty well. Not flawlessly, but I'm not prepared to haul around the equipment required to set up a full-scale office when on the road.

It's called a compromise. If you're not prepared to make one when it comes to hooking up when on the road, you need to stop buying kit that uses different types of connections. So dump everything that uses something other than a standard USB connector. Like those Nintendoes, those fruity products, and so on.

Sheesh.

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FAIL

Re: Poor workman blames his cables.

You're pretty much determined to be a martyr to this entirely avoidable first-world problem, aren't you.

Poor lamb.

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Reduce the cables

Look at the iGo keyjuice. A small keyring that goes from USB to mini and micro (with a USB to iPhone version also available). Ok, I have to put my phone near my PC when transferring files or charging it, but its no big hardship. And its not even in my bag. Its on my keys.

And wondering why you list car adaptors as plural. Surely these are just car to USB. You can get them with multiple USB sockets and with a reasonable ampage (for tablets) too. Only one required.

And I don't get the Nokia comment. Before I moved away from them I had two different sized round pin Nokia chargers (even voltage incompatible between some phones) but now (almost) everyone uses micro USB to charge. Even less cables required.

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Anonymous Coward

Top Journalism...

even throwing in a few swears so we know just how angry you are.

Grrr!

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Bronze badge

Went on holiday

...left my electronic junk at home... it is after all a holiday!

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Re: Went on holiday

"Went on holiday...left my electronic junk at home... it is after all a holiday!"

Lucky you! I, however, don't consider it much of a "holiday" if my kids are fighting and arguing in the back of the car so a tablet with a few of their films on plus some drawing games is a bloody good way to ensure Mum and Dad get a bit of a holiday too!

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Re: Went on holiday

Have you considered swapping the kids for some who aren't obnoxious shits or have learned how to read?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Went on holiday

It's probably the author's genes winning out in that respect, so they would need to be readymades, yeah :)

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Megaphone

As others have mentioned, you're doing it wrong, Mr Dabbs.

On our recent holiday, we took:

1x netbook, with its wee brick

2x Kobos (microUSB-B)

2x phones (microUSB-B)

1x tablet (microUSB-B)

2x X-mi speakers (mini-USB-B)

1x speaker (4xAA or 5V DC-in)

3x MP3 players (2x USB-A and 1x mini-USB-B)

2x mains-USB chargers

1x 12V car-USB

and 2 cables each of A to mini-B and A to micro-B.

Proprietary plugs/sockets - just say no.

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Thumb Down

Still you're carrying one USB flavour too many. So much for standards...

And you want me to believe you charge all those gadgets using only two cables, one of each kind? You either have a very organised charging schedule or someone will have to wait.

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Anonymous Coward

Or he just spends his holiday actually doing something other than messing around with gadgets and as a result doesn't need to charge everything every 2 minutes?

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Gold badge

"Universal" makes it worse..

Countless people post "I have this bit of kit that does everything" - wrong. The "everything" only applies to serial use (you charge one device, than the next one etc etc) - the whole problem is that when you get to your hotel/shack/dorm/whatever all that stuff should just have its own lead from one device so you jack it in and forget about the whole lot until you wake up again.

What I want is one block with a universal plug, which has a collection of USB jacks so I just buy a lead for each piece of kit, jack it in and forget about it. USB also means I can re-use that same lead to sync the gadget (although I personally prefer to take the XD card out of a camera, maybe USB 3 will change that). A bit like a USB hub, but one that has its own intelligence instead of needing a PC at the other end - and preferably able to charge quicker as well..

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Gold badge

Simple.

A laptop.

A selection of USB interface leads.

A universal travel adaptor.

Plug in laptop before retiring, switch on[1] and attach kit to its USB ports with leads. Next morning, everything's fully charged. I do have a plugin thingy with four USB ports on it and capable of chucking out enough amps on all of 'em simultaneously to charge everything, but it's too much like hard work to plug two things into the wall so I leave it at home.

Ultimate fun is being in an Italian hotel. They've taken the EU's electrical device inspecition legislation a shade too seriously and made it illegal to plug anything in in a hotel room that's not owned by the hotel and inspected according to legislation. The only solution I have found is to rip the room furniture apart to find the hidden sockets and then unplug something of theirs.....

[1] If you're the sort who didn't change its power policy to never sleep/hibernate when on power when you first got it, do this now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simple.

Aaah, that explains a lot. I didn't think much about that when I had to furtle around and find where the TV was plugged in to get some juice for my netbook, but now you mention it, that is exactly what happened to me in Turin (though not in a slightly more fancy non-work hotel in Portofino a few years earlier... change or just fancyness to blame?).

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Anonymous Coward

International power strip

I've taken to carrying an international power strip with me. It is basically a 6 socket power strip where you can plug in things from any country (mainly so it is 110 and 220V capable). The plug on the end is US, so I then have a US to global converter (the size of a small brick and will deal with US, UK, Europe, Australia, etc.). I did a recent safari where I had 3 camera bodies with spare batteries that charge on a separate charger. Two mobile phones one with 2 sims on GSM and one on CDMA with a sim as well. All 3 sims were on different networks. A laptop. My wife had her blackberry and mobile phone. I also carry a power brick that consists of an 11Ah battery which you can charge up and then use to charge up anything that charges over a USB cable.

Each night when I got to the hotel/lodge, I could recharge all my devices overnight. Camera batteries, phones, laptop, and portable battery. Then if for some reason during the day a device looked like it was going to die, I have the extra charger in the form of a portable battery - usually only needed if I couldn't charge on a particular night (some safari lodges can have limited power meaning I have to last through 2 days on a single charge).

I do find it ridiculous how many cables I have to carry, but 90% of them are a result of the camera equipment, and I use a Pelican 1610 carry-on with a zipped organiser in the lid to keep everything under tight control. When I'm not carrying my camera equipment things are much easier. I always buy a laptop with a built in CD/DVD player so that I'm not carrying silly add-on devices for a too-small laptop.

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Bronze badge

Re: International power strip

My version is a cheap 4 strip UK adaptor, but with the 3 pin plug replaced with an IEC socket. Not been to a country I can't easily get hold of a "kettle lead", even in a hotel.

I also have a few IEC leads at home, pilfered from the bins at work, which means I don't need to find such a cable in Europe, or the US.

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Re: International power strip

"I've taken to carrying an international power strip with me. "

As a variation on this I take a domestic power strip with me. All my devices from home fit the sockets and I just need one adapter from my domestic standard to wherever I'm visiting.

(This doesn't of course change the voltage or frequency so check your devices will work in the location you are visiting.)

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Re: International power strip

Go one stage further: I have a standard UK four-outlet strip on which I've replaced the UK plug with a schuko plug. It goes with me everywhere in Europe and means I only need remember those pesky adapters if I have to plug something in in a different part of the room.

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Silver badge
Flame

Longer USB cables = FAIL

The maximum length of a USB2 cable is 2 meters. Period. (You might find a longer one on sale, but it's out of spec and may cause data corruption or unreliability). You can reach 4 meters by employing two cables and a hub. Above that you need an expensive USB to Ethernet (well, RJ45-Cat5e-cabled something) to USB bridge.

WHY there is such a stupid maximum length, I have no idea. Anyone at Intel reading this? (I think it was Intel whio invented USB). Anyway, we're stuck with it.

As for power bricks, there's a desperate need for a single global standard low-voltage power source with a standard connector that everything can be expected to run off. Then, hotels, business premises and even homes could be constructed with it built into the walls, and in the meantime any adapter would power any standard-compliant thingy. How about 12V nominal (up to 15V allowed, for automotive use), current-limited to 3A (36W, enough to fire up a 3.5" disk drive). DC-DC power conversion is no big deal these days.

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Silver badge

A winner of a name?

I've just realized, if my proposed global low-voltage cabling ever comes about, the cables should of course be called LOVE cables. LOw Voltage Electrical. Beats IEC C13 (aka "kettle flex" -- inaccurately, kettles use C15)

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Paris Hilton

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

Err, I got two metre extenders which seem to work with everything I've ever used them for. Not saying you're wrong but just not right in my experience.

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Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

5m actually.

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Silver badge

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

Not correct i'm afraid. USB2 maximum length is 5m, as is USB1 unless you are in slow mode (then it drops to 3m). We use many 3m extension cables (plus the original 1.2m) to connect smart boards over the years and have had no issues whatsoever with any of them.

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Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

I have my media PC in the attic with USB / HDMI / optical cables running down the chimney to the TV in the living room. I have two 5m USB cables connected by a USB repeater connected to the hub mounted on the back of the TV. This works fine for the webcam / IR receiver / keyboard & mouse if required but will not work with the USB DVD drive.

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Boffin

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

The max length of a USB 2.0 cable is 5 meters. The reason there's a limit is because cables don't have zero impedance; if you try to transmit data at a fixed voltage over a cable that's too long then you'll get too many errors. If you're only using the cable for charging then that wouldn't be an issue ... although I'm not sure I've ever had call for a charging cable longer than 5 meters. You must stay in some seriously plush hotels if it's more than five meters from the socket to the bedside table.

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Bronze badge

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

Two metres would do me fine. Twelve inches is what I'm frustrated with.

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Boffin

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

Downside of this is the thicker wiring you need to distribute n times 3A at 12..15V, so it'll probably boil down to a mains-to-DC PSU at every such set of sockets, or maybe one per few reasonably close ones. And then, most devices still need some form of power conversion and/or charge current control, which may mean either size increase, or, especially at the higher end of the supported power range, yet another power brick. The system could tie in with the DC side of photovoltaics, though

Wallplates with USB sockets delivering power-only are around already. With phones and such stuff charging off 5V, that looks to be a sensible move.

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Headmaster

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

"WHY there is such a stupid maximum length, I have no idea. Anyone at Intel reading this? (I think it was Intel whio invented USB). Anyway, we're stuck with it."

I don’t work for Intel, but dont you remember ohms law while doing physics at school.... the longer the cable, the higher its resistance?.... the higher resistance the greater the volt drop?

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Boffin

Re: Longer USB cables = FAIL

You know, you're wrong.

There is no specific maximum length of cable for USB. There's a restriction on the response time for various instructions, which translates to an effective maximum length (speed of light and all that), but 5m cables are available and within spec. (As an aside, USB A-socket to A-plug are banned as per the spec, but, hey, that's a different discussion).

If you find you want to go longer than 5 metres, you can daisy-chain up to five hubs (as long as you're plugging into a true USB Host), since USB allows 7 tiers (including Host and end-point).

Yes, I have had to read the USB spec.

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Bronze badge

Re: A winner of a name?

Come on, then, Nigel, let's have a look at your Love Cable.

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Alert

"risky investment"?

Threat to profits, more like.

His fluorescent lights were overlooked in favour of Edison's filament bulbs because of investors' interests in Tungsten mining; and JP Morgan himself 'pulled the plug' on Tesla's wireless power system as soon as he found out it wasn't being built to just transmit horse race results to playboys on boats! No profit in 'free energy for all' now was there?

And there still isn't.

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Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: "risky investment"?

'free energy for all'?

And other tall tales.

As for Tesla's idea of transforming your environment into a microwave oven... Hell, even today, people are positively shitting their pants / keep looking for cancers when they are living underneath high-voltage lines.

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One item had even turned inside out.

It was presumably demonstrating, protesting, at your inability to RTFM.

Prior to washing and tumble drying, as an example, underwear should be worn for seven days continuously and then turned inside out for another seven continuous days to make use of the other surface. Also applicable to other clothing with two bodily accessible surfaces even if externally visible. Others may point out your apparent error but you will be making a fashion statement and saving Planet Oith.

It's in the MAN pages somewhere..

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Re: One item had even turned inside out.

"underwear should be worn for seven days continuously and then turned inside out for another seven continuous days

...

It's in the MAN pages somewhere.."

$ man whatsthatsmell

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