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back to article ITU signs off on modular power supply proposal

Members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU_) have signed off on the organisation's proposal to make power supplies for electronic gadgetry more modular. As The Reg noted in September, the ITU believes billions of power supplies are made each year. Many fail because of simple problems like broken cables. The …

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Happy

Wonderful news!

It's also great to see that manufacturers have shown a desire to make life easier for people, first by adopting micro USB for phones, maintaining existing SIM form-factors for phones to make life easier for consumers , not updating proprietary connectors with *more* proprietary connectors, borking all the previous ones in the process, supporting updates to USB, whilst retaining backwards compatibility, and not requiring consumers to fork out more money for overpriced adaptors, thus eventually creating more crap that ends up in landfill.

I'm sure this trend of adopting universal connectors will continue with modular, universal PSU's being provided by all electronics manufacturers.

Happily, I can't think of a *single* electronics company that might even *consider* coming up with it's own proprietary connector in the face of the adoption of new modular PSU's, because *EVERY* major player in the laptop/mobile device arena has *ALWAYS* put the customer first.

And I definately don't think

A Particular Publicly Listed Entity

will even *try* to find a way of screwing even more money out of its customers.

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Re: Wonderful news!

Yes, of course "A Particular Publicly Listed Entity" will continue to find a way of screwing even more money out of its customers but some of those costumers enjoy that. However, the rest of the world will benefit, and "A Particular Publicly Listed Entity" will eventually lose market share. OK, I'm dreaming. /sigh

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Re: Wonderful news!

"A Particular Publicly Listed Entity"

Yet the same company also champions a modular approach....

http://store.apple.com/uk/product/MB974ZM/B/apple-world-travel-adapter-kit

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Meh

"and six interchangeable AC adapter plugs for use with iPod, iPhone, and iPad"

It seems ironic that a company so obsessed with design could create something that clumsy.

I could get something similar for my Android phone - a micro USB wall charger (can pick one up for a fiver) and a universal wall plug (half as much again off ebay).

Much more convenient than "six interchangeable AC adapter plugs for use with iPod, iPhone, and iPad". Also that product (for 31 quid!!!) claims to be compatible with iPhone 5 and most of the previous ones - unless there's a bunch of different cables in there (which, according to the description, there isn't) I fail to see how that's possible - unless Apple has taken out a patent on "claiming something is perfectly compatible, when in fact it requires yet *another* fucking adapter".

Even better - I went on holiday in Europe recently and managed to keep phone and mp3 player charged with just a USB cable courtesy of Hotel TVs and communal PCs in the lobby. If every hotel room featured mandatory USB sockets, the world would be a much better place for everyone.

Unless you bought a phone that required an adaptor.

from A Particular Publicly Listed Entity.

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Re: Wonderful news!

iPods, iPhones and iPads, which I believe are classed as gadgets already come with modular PSU's, seperating the Transformer and the wire via a standard USB socket.

Apple's Laptop PSU's are limited to switching out the Power pins for different countries but I hardly think that's unique to them.

Modular PC PSU's have been available at a premium for some time, but I think their main draw is asthetic, reducing cable clutter and neatening the inside a box that few but the owner will ever see. I've changed loads of PC PSU's over the years, never had to replace one because a cable failed though.

I think what they're talking about here are the billions of dumbphone chargers and to a lesser degree, the larger external powerbricks for laptops, monitors etc.

<icon="O Really Owl">

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Re: Wonderful news!

@Esskay,

Those are valid points, but I wish the 'standard' solution for phones, microUSB, was better. It's okay, but it isn't perfect, and now we will be stuck with for years to come because it is now mandated. It's not suited for docking solutions, has sharp scratchy edges and I still find myself having to look at it closely to determine which way round to use it. Still, its near ubiquity makes up for its shortcomings.

In the time Apple have had one connector, the old 13 pin, us none Apple users have gone through USB B, miniUSB, and propriety cables*, to microUSB. I've got nests of the bloody things, don't know what, just that any given cable isn't the one I'm looking for at the time.

*Camera makers are especially guilty of this, but now most devices have an SD card slot it is less irritating. I think it should be ruled that if you make a weird cable, it should be a weird colour.

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Re: "and six interchangeable AC adapter plugs for use with iPod, iPhone, and iPad"

> If every hotel room featured mandatory USB sockets, the world would be a much better place for everyone.

>Unless you bought a phone that required an adaptor.

Er, every phone requires a cable to connect to a USB socket.

In fact, most hotels have a box of abandoned phone chargers under the reception desk, left in rooms by previous guests... it doesn't hurt to ask the receptionist if you need one!

Shit, Samsung were worst for having umpteen different charging connectors, rarely the same between any two phone models, though at a glance they looked the same.

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Re: Wonderful news!

True, the micro USB direction gets me sometimes too - if I'm in a hurry I'd like to be able to jam it in whichever way and be done with it (a la the apple lightning connector). However the small size more than makes up for it (despite the small size being part of the issue for being hard to work out which way is up, being able to "fit more in" the phone is apparently a big reason for apple going to the new connector) and having a directional plug isn't really the *worst* thing that could happen.

Apple's consistency compared to other manufacturers was admirable in the past, but their insistence on retaining the 13 pin connector when the rest of the industry went to a USB standard - and then replacing it with another proprietary connectory just a few years later seems to be predominantly profit-related rather than due to any massive issues with the USB standard.

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Anonymous Coward

This will simply mean...

... that more gadgets will come without any wall wart at all so you'll have to buy another "universal" one if you don't have the right one already, or if that's expected to be too much hassle for the impulsive buyer, come battery powered, shoddy one-use batteries included. My, what an improvement.

It's not that it's a dumb idea. In theory it's a good idea. It's just, well, it's that it's being done by the ITU and that it's clearly too politically driven to be able to keep the good while translating the idea to the practical.

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Coat

Er the next WRC is in 2015, so the study period is for a total of 3 years and not the usual 4 (or 1 as per the article)

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Flame

Any electricians reading this?

Maybe I'm being crazy here (see icon perhaps?), but wouldn't it be better to have one AC to DC converter in every house, perhaps leading to a USB port at every plug point?

So alongside your standard 2 or 3 pin 110V or 230V port, you have a couple USB ports, just for power?

I seem to recall the USB standard was in line for some serious wattage increases, so it might make more sense then.

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Re: Any electricians reading this?

I think the issue has been raised (not 100% sure, but it might have been in the article talking about the USB wattage increases, can't find the article atm) but brighter minds than I made a point regarding inefficiencies, or the amount of voltage/power that would be needed to push the required constant voltage throughout an entire house from a single converter...Don't quote me on it though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Any electricians reading this?

Don't need to be an electrician, just have a basic understanding of school level stuff like watts = volts x amps, volts = amps x ohms, etc.

Electricians understand other things as well. Like Part P (in the UK).

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Re: regarding inefficiencies, or the amount of voltage/power that would be needed

I recall that article too, and remember commenting on it. What is a bit ambiguous, and confusing to many punters is exactly, what is the problem, the ITU wants to solve.

Are they focusing on the myriad of wall warts used by our shiny "toys", and the fact that they often are replaced because of their being cheaply made, and being difficult to repair? If that is the case, then perhaps, the ITU should start on the road by working with mfgrs to make the designs more repair friendly.

Are they focusing on the plethora of incompatible plugs and connectors that are found in the wall wartsfound today in consumer "toys"? Again, the ITU should work toward some common solution. That solution could be as simple as screw terminals simply identified as "+" and "-" (assuming DC), with a cord supplied to connect to the plugs used by the kit.

I think the problem and the desired outcome needs a clear definition. The the talking can begin.

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Re: Any electricians reading this?

That's a serious amount of extra copper cable when you usually only want to charge in 4 places - study, kitchen, bedroom and living-room. Chargers are only a couple of quid on ebay.

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Anonymous Coward

"one AC to DC converter in every house"

Not necessarily. The central converter might need long runs ofexpensive and/or lossy high current wiring from it, or would need to be limited capacity, neither of which are appealing options. The current approach of distributed switched mode power supplies to get from AC mains to low voltage DC is both cheap and efficient, in general. It's inconvenient because all the widely used boxes and connectors are different and incompatible, apart from MicroUSB.

A 48V central converter would be an interesting compromise - about the highest voltage you can still meet the safety regs with. Also compatible with Power Over Ethernet. Geekthings almost all have (or could have) Ethernet connectors. Why isn't a $2 PoE chip in the device and a $2 PoE wall-wart the universal answer for low power devices. At 48V you could even have relatively low cost local standby capacity (e.g. using four car batteries) for when the Grid starts to fall over (as it probably will within a decade or so in the UK).

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Re: "one AC to DC converter in every house"

In this day and age, why aren't houses being built with CAT5e cabling and a place for a nice central PoE switch to do this stuff?

Using PoE to act as a central mains→48V converter with the bonus of having Ethernet in every room (no fussing with wireless settings), and making a 48V→5V PoE power supply for USB would be a doddle.

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Since they say a lot of the failures are broken cables it would be a good idea if the power converters were able to be taken apart - that way a new cable could be fitted with ease and the unit would not end up in landfill until it died.

In fact I have a nice setup doing just that, although getting some of the units apart can be a PITA.

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they do

My phone changer is a brick with a USB port. It came with a USB-to-micro-USB cable. When I'm in the office, or in the back yard, I can charge my phone from my laptop.

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My dog chewed through the integrated cable between the PSU and the laptop. In this case, the point of failure was easy to identify and straightforward to repair. Not elegantly, but securely. Fortunately, I think this was just an experiment on the dog's part, and he has never felt compelled to repeat it.

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Point of failure?

My dog chewed through the integrated cable between the PSU and the laptop. In this case, the point of failure was easy to identify and straightforward to repair.

The dog was the obvious point of failure. Not sure about the repair.

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Easiy achievable

By buying only ten+ year old kit. Win 3,1 for Pen, anyone?

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I've had at least four Apple "Magsafe" laptop power supplies fail because of the crappy plugs - the older plastic ones frayed then shorted out, one of the new metal ones died with "stuck pins". Known design faults apparently, which the US Apple Stores know to replace - but the Glasgow one told me was "damage not failure" hence not covered by AppleDon'tCare.

A design where the faulty cord could be replaced without a new power supply as well would save a fortune - though of course just building the cord properly in the first place would also have helped...

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> A design where the faulty cord could be replaced without a new power supply as well would save a fortune

and exactly how would that have benefited either government economic recovery stats or the vendor?

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