Dead Battery and Live Skype

Discuss

84 Responses to “Dead Battery and Live Skype”

  1. Open says:

    It’s called a PAA – a personal analog assistant (like a moleskine if you want to go there …) .

    Sometimes they crash in the rain :(

  2. David Hayes says:

    One of the many reasons I still use a dedicated GPS

  3. alrom says:

    After many business trips visiting weird places in foreign countries, I’ve learnt that same lesson: all critical info must be kept written in a piece of paper that goes in your wallet. Addresses, phone numbers, flight reservation codes etc.

    • Walter Dexter says:

      Maybe not wallet, but yeah, when travelling I always have a paper copy of important stuff in my bag. I tried putting it on my Kindle about 4 years ago on vacation and went paperless and it was a fiasco.

      If someone steals my bag I’m going to be so pissed my day will be ruined anyway, might as well lose all my info too.

      But actually I usually put the important details on my phone (non-smart, “feature” phone) too.

  4. I have to ask, was this a first Gen iPhone?  I’ve done a 2 h0ur trip using my iPhone as a GPS and it barely scratched half the battery – this is a 4s though.  Either way, GPS + 3G is a battery hog – but compared to the 20 minute battery life of my SatNav (that’s twice the size) I’m quite impressed with it :)

    “an actual cigarette lighter (despite being a smoking-free car)”  I commented on this the other day, I haven’t been in a car that DOESN’T have a cigarette lighter, and I had to wonder why they still include such a fire risk in cars ‘as standard’.  I mean I totally get the power uses, its a very handy port, but why still include a lighter?  Even if I were smoking I’d rather use a gas/petrol lighter than handle a small droppable persistently hot thingamajig intent on setting my crotch on fire.

    • iPhone 4S (first-gen iPhone didn’t have a GPS radio). This was a four-hour drive, and a fair part of it was more rural, which burns more battery as the phone uses higher power to maintain communication with cell towers, too. When you say, “using my iPhone as a GPS,” do you mean using the Maps app or a ‘satnav’ program?

      • Of course, doh! In this case it was just using Maps, I assume you ask because it makes a difference? Would be interested as I was considering picking up a proper turn-by-turn app for when the missus isn’t there to read me commands.

        Agree about the rural stuff though. Makes a big difference if you use the tube/metro/subway to commute too, my phone used to barely last a day back when I was a cog in a machine. Even my flat now, with 1 bar of signal at either end, sucks the soul from my phone if left in the wrong place.

        • Oh, yes, makes a huge difference. It’s one of those slightly unfair comparisons between Apple-written software and third-party apps. Maps can, and certainly does, take advantage of private APIs that developers can’t use for their GPS nav programs. And Maps doesn’t do the turn-by-turn and 3D view, so it’s not doing as much computation or hitting the GPS as hard. So I suspect Maps could use 10% of the juice of a GPS app. Of course, the GPS app makers have done a lot of porting of code, so one can’t be sure how much optimization for battery life they have done. I haven’t done a head-to-head GPS battery drain comparison among apps (although I’ve reviewed about 15+) because that would take weeks of driving the same routes to get effective comparisons.

          • Makes perfect sense when you put it like that. I’d be inclined to think that the porting is a huge factor – you get similar results with games and the like too. Native iOS stuff is always far more efficient, and generally runs/looks better to boot.

          • chgoliz says:

            ITA.  I took the 3rd-party GPS app off my phone because I could almost WATCH the battery draining right before my eyes.  The difference is an order of magnitude, not just a percentage quicker to drain.

  5. Joshua Hutchinson says:

    Jebus … you had a laptop and it never occurred to you to CHARGE YOUR IPHONE WITH THE LAPTOP?

    • Oh my god. Well. You see how you get locked into the wrong kind of reasoning? Sigh. Wow.

      • dnebdal says:

        Problem 1 was “I want to keep the battery on my iphone from draining while listening to it in the car”.  Solution 1 could have been “so charge it from the massively larger battery in the laptop”. :)
        Problem 2 (how to know where you’re going and how to get hold of the guy that lets you in) is one that has decent non-electronic solutions, but eh, that’s not as interesting to ponder.

        (edited to remove a random burst of spite – apologies, I had a bad minute.)

        • The unstated problem in my article was some minor exhaustion (from completing a three-day trip with my kids, who were wonderful), the end of a cold (blurring my mind), and a long drive in hot weather. Normally, I’m smarter than Homer Simpson.

        • Mark_Frauenfelder says:

          Thanks for editing out the spite. We all have surly moments, but it takes a considerate person to apologize. You are one on the good ones!

    • Kevin Bosch says:

      RIGHT! I routinely use my laptop as a last resort iPhone charger. 

    • Mr Mallon says:

      This was my first thought (although sometimes when you’re starting to worry, your sense of  reason is the first thing to jump ship…)

    • bcsizemo says:

      Seriously.  That’s the first go to charger I think about if I’m not near an AC outlet.  Besides my Dell even has an always powered on outlet so you can recharge without having the laptop on.

  6. Hollando says:

    Of course you had a slightly different scenario,  but I had to post this
    http://xkcd.com/530/ 

  7. Ethan Campbell says:

    And that, children, is why having a jack of all trade device is a Bad Idea, when it comes to devices the Unix philosophy also applies.

  8. When the collapse of digital civilization finally occurs, the children will die quickly.

  9. Rob Whyte says:

    The only thing that saved me from a similar situation recently on a day-long fly in/fly out business trip was to plug my phone into my laptop’s USB socket to recharge while I had some lunch. It did’t appreciably drain the laptop’s battery and it meant I could navigate, call and text for the rest of the day.

  10. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Classic case of outsmarting yourself.  Given a variety of ways to get something done, most people will pick the complex one and ignore the failure modes.

    • Yes, I wrote this as a cautionary tale. I have another story from this trip, that will appear elsewhere, about forgetting to PACK PAPER MAPS FOR A TRIP IN RURAL, HEAVILY TREE COVERED PENNSYLVANIA. Double d’oh.

  11. doggo says:

    We’ve become too dependent on electricity. I love my devices as much as the next geek, but jeez. I mean, I don’t even memorize phone numbers anymore. (yes, I grew up in a world with no personal computers or cell phones, much less “smart” phones)

  12. xzzy says:

    Always keep a road atlas in your car too, especially if you have a habit of wandering off the beaten path. When signals and batteries die, it can save you a ton of agony.

    I lug more than one backup battery too. Monoprice sells them dirt cheap so I bought a handful. Charging them looks pretty goofy but not nearly as goofy as being stuck in an unfamiliar city with a dead phone. 

  13. Joe Kraus says:

    There is this amazing new entertainment device in cars called radio receivers.  Yes, you can listed to music and other entertainment through frequency modulation or amplitude modulation machinery.  Had you utilized this radio receiver device in your car instead of draining your iPhone battery, all would have been ok.

    • millie fink says:

      True enough, but that also means subjecting yourself to unrelenting banality and idiocy (and yes, I’m including 99% of NPR’s content, which, anyway, isn’t even available in many–most?–U.S. locations).

    •  I love radio, but I was in a clearly delusional state about battery drain, and also the state of Pennsylvania.

    • chgoliz says:

      I was driving in rural Michigan with one of my kids about a month ago.  She’s flipping through the radio stations and deciding from one song to the next which one she wants to listen to.  Finally, after about a half hour she asked me if I knew any of the songs, because she didn’t recognize any of them.  I had to explain to her that ALL of the music stations she had found were playing “Christian rock”.  All of them.  She couldn’t even find a classical station.

  14. enlo says:

    Huh, swap the car??
    When your new fighter jet can’t land on the aircraft carrier, do you get a new carrier or a new jet?
    Get a phone that can be charged properly [like... almost ANY phone except the ones from apple :(  ]

    • Don Kongo says:

      No different from how Apple people just buy new phones (or screens) and computers as the old ones break down, when noone else would tolerate that much breakage and problems. If you bought into it, it’s apparently hard to break out of it for many fun psychological reasons.

      • NelC says:

         I raise my eyebrow in your general direction. Oh, we Apple people have more problems with Apple gear than non-Apple people do with their non-Apple gear, do we? My anecdata says your anecdata is mistaken.

    • nixiebunny says:

      He seems to be saying that both cigarette lighter sockets in the rental car didn’t make power. I’ve been there. In my case, I even found the fuse locations (by downloading the car’s missing owner manual on my laptop in the hotel room) only to find that the fuses were intact.

      But it’s also true that some in-car USB jacks are unable to charge iThings. The designers of these USB charging ports need to read AdaFruit’s MintyBoost schematic diagram!

  15. Warren_Terra says:

    Recent Apple devices have become ever more persnickety in their requirements for power supplies. I don’t claim to know anything about the technicalities underlying these developments, but it is a genuine source of frustration and often a real problem. Over the last five years I’ve had a 2nd generation iPod, a 3rd generation iPod Touch, a current-generation iPad, and a couple of Samsung phones that charge using a USB adaptor; the phones can charge off of any USB power source, though not always quickly. So far as I know the old 2nd-generation iPod was similarly unchoosy – but when I got the iPod Touch I had to get a whole new set of USB power adaptors, because the old ones weren’t supported, and no charging would happen with them. Some cigarette-lighter adaptors work, others don’t. And the iPad doesn’t work with the adaptors that reliably are accepted by the iPod.

    As I said, I don’t know anything about the technical details here. I’m sure there are differences between the power supplied by these different devices – but it’s a significant inconvenience, and we see its effects in this post where the author was not able to get his critical navigation-and-communications device to accept a charge from his car, despite a good-faith effort using equipment that had worked in the past in similar circumstances. Somehow, other non-Apple devices that use USB sockets to get power are able to be less choosy.

    And note: I’m not claiming this is at heart a trick Apple pulls to sell more wildly overpriced power adaptors (though it will try to sell you those). You can get power adaptors from random shops in Hong Kong that will support the newest Apple devices via a certain well-known internet auction portal, and almost certainly via other means, for incredibly small sums, and I’m sure Apple is getting no part of those pittances. I’m sure there is some actual technical reason for this incompatibility of each new Apple device with most power supplies that exist at the time of its creation. But if there were any way to avoid this serious inconvenience I have no idea why Apple would subject its customers to it.

    • bcsizemo says:

      I do know the iPad is special in it’s charging because it needs a higher amperage input than most USB ports put out.

      I wonder if part of the issue isn’t so much the power in as it is all the data lines in those ports.  Some iDevices simply don’t tolerate apple ports that weren’t specifically designed for them so to speak. 

      On the “technical” side any iDevice that can be charged via straight USB should be chargeable with a USB power adapter and a cable…(assuming the USB port is providing the industry standard 5V@.5A and it’s relatively clean DC), but YMMV.

      • Warren_Terra says:

        This would make sense, but in my experience either a lot of USB power adaptors put out too low amperage – as in, basically any cheap power adaptor not specifically marketed for the latest iOS device, including brand-new ones suitable for other brand-new devices – or there’s something else going on. And I’m talking specifically about power adaptors here, things that plug into the 110V AC or the 12V DC, so the data argument really ought to be moot, not that I know whether it is. Using the same cables and everything (and trying new ones, as well), adaptors that charged my old iPod don’t charge my iPod Touch, and devices that charge my iPod Touch won’t charge my iPad.

        And even if there is an entirely logical reason for this – and I really am assuming it was not done just to sell more Apple-branded power adaptors – you’d think the problem could have been overcome, that some way could have been found to tolerate poorer power sources so as to make the iDevices more broadly useful.

        • s2redux says:

          Won’t go into all the iPod power adapter and pinout changes; too long and nerdy. iPads are a special beast since they need a 10-watt supply for responsive charging, and that’s beyond the power available from most USB ports and generic chargers (esp. with iPad3′s massive 42.5 watt-hour batts).

          On the “is Apple-branded adapter better” issue, here’s a couple of links. Apple is just as fastidious with their power bricks as they are with everything else — the beauty’s in the details. Arduino-guy Ken Shirriff did teardowns on an Apple charger and a no-name $2.97 charger. Bottom line: Apple units meet or exceed the specs/standards for safety and reduced EMI, and produce really clean output.

          (And, get ready to buy new cables/dock adapters for next-gen iDevices; looks like Apple’s finally gonna bite the bullet and move away from the current 30-pin connector and go with a smaller 19-pin piece. If you need analog video out, snap up those old iPods now ;-)

    • Greg Miller says:

       Apple did it to be able to have different USB power sources supply different amperage. See here for all the nitty gritty:

      http://www.ladyada.net/make/mintyboost/icharge.html

      Basically, they put different voltages on the two data lines to tell the idevice (iPhone 3GS or 3rd gen iPod Touch or newer) what sort of power it can pull.

      • Warren_Terra says:

        I can’t really follow the information at the link to tell why all this would be useful, or desirable. As an ignorant but reasonably competent user, all I see is that Apple devices are damn near impossible to charge using systems that work with anyone else, and I genuinely do suspect that if Apple had cared to so so they could have designed the devices to at least make an effort to accept an inefficient charge from other power supplies, or to bypass the battery when there was sufficient incoming power to operate but for some reason not enough to charge.

        There are a lot of newer cars with USB power ports right there in the dash; I wonder how many don’t support an iPhone that was meant to serve as a GPS. This seems like an unnecessary Own Goal from the minds in Cupertino.

  16. Jeff Dailey says:

    fourth – don’t be an idiot and drain your battery when you know the charger doesn’t work.

  17. cservant says:

    Yea, it happens to the best of us.

    I’ve actually learned when travelling to bring a pencil and note pad that fits in your shirt/pants pocket from a trade show organizer.  I wish I could do his job some times.  It’s not only handy to have critical info at hand, but also to quickly write down information when need to.  Hotel/flight changes, meeting someone you want to contact later.  Much faster to grab paper and write then to fumble your phone/laptop.

    Also:
    Car USB/cigarette lighter are not exactly reliable.  Especially when trying to power Apple hardware over them.  

    Answer to NathanHornby, some of the newer cars don’t include the lighter.  My 2008 Nissan Versa for example don’t.  It has the cigarette port and a cap for it, but no lighter.  There’s also no ashtray, unless you want to use the center cupholders.

    And add this to your lesson, keep some loose change and petty cash in your pockets.  I learned that the hard way, it’s hard to tip the luggage carrier or use a coin only payphone when all you have is 100-note Euros you’ve exchanged your dollars for.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Can’t remember for sure, but I think Chrysler was first among the major domestic manufacturers to cease including cigar lighters as standard equipment in their cars and trucks a bit over a decade ago.  But I don’t believe they ever stopped including the old 12v receptacle, so I imagine one might be able to keep using the lighter element from, say, a 1978 Dodge Diplomat in one’s 2012 Town & Country.

      My 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan is loaded enough to include two 12v power points in the front dash, a third in the rear, and also a 120VAC inverted socket which would be way cool if only it produced enough amps to power my Xbox.  But charging capabilities are strong, especially for an 8-year-old car.

      Anyway, this is a useful cautionary tale for the kids: always keep a few 20th-century solutions within walking distance of your person.  Maps, paper money, coins, portable light source, native intelligence, good manners, patience, resourcefulness, that sort of thing.

  18. Fred Heald says:

    Here’s another option:

    Find a local Starbucks – there’s probably one within spitting distance, if not you passed about a million of them nearby.  Walk in, order a latte frappe crappe americanisimo macho or whatever.  Now comes the hard part – ask if anyone has an iphone charger you can borrow for a minute.Plug in phone.  Make call.  Thank your new friend.

  19. Keith Killgore says:

    I would have thought to fire up the laptop and plug the phone in to give it enough juice to turn on and make a call. I probably wouldn’t have thought of skype first. 

  20. Or you could do something radical like only buy smartphone models if they have swap-able batteries, and carry 1 or 2 really tiny batteries instead of a giant brick-shaped “charger.” There are some absolutely brilliant design decisions that went into the iPhone, but Apple’s ferocious and unrelenting determination not to allow people to swap batteries is not one of them.

    Depending heavily on one device for everything you do all day, while only carrying about half a day’s worth of power for it at a time? DUMB design. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    • I think we can all agree that I had a cascade failure of series of events and thinking here. However, I did, in fact, carry a fully charged second battery that…I foolishly drained as well. The second battery was external but worked as well as a swappable one. Even then! I am exceptionally good at working around success.

  21. uuyeee says:

    Why didn’t you put it into airplane mode if you didn’t need mapping for most of the trip?

    • That is yet another fascinating bit of logic that I failed to consider. However, I was expecting phone calls, and I did occasionally pull up the current map position to figure remaining time.

  22. Dylan Ogden says:

    You were pretty out of context there.  At least no one else woke up.  You’d have to explain you were just visiting.

  23. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I don’t even own a cell phone, but I can pick most locks with a paperclip.

    • Warren_Terra says:

      So, what’s the plan? Use your legendary lockpick skills to break into a house and plug in the phone?

  24. Jon Nebenfuhr says:

     Since the Cigarette lighter port failed, loose wire somewhere, why not just take some spare wire and connect the 12 v charger directly to the car battery?

  25. Daemonworks says:

    And that’s why I have an ipod and a cheap cellphone. I don’t want my phone to be dead because i’m listening to music or playing games or what-have-you.

    • Cefeida says:

      I was listening to music on my phone ever since the Nokia 5510 http://www.minddriller.com/mind-driller/uploads/2011/07/Nokia-5510-02.jpg , and subsequently all of my phones served that purpose- it made sense. My phone, then quite difficult to replace, couldn’t be lost or stolen if I was listening to it, and I’m always listening to music when I’m on the move.

      Also, I couldn’t afford a dedicated mp3 player, and my walkman was starting to feel kinda bulky.Today, mp3 players are cheap, and my phone is a smartphone which must perform a gazillion other duties while keeping a charge all day. Making it play music for hours and hours would be too much for the poor thing. 

  26. thermidorthelobster says:

    “Amperage” – is that a word?  When we used it at school my physics teacher got quite grumpy and insisted we referred to “current”.  Also “wattage” aka “power”.  Is it an Americanism (he was a traditional Englishman) or was his grumpiness misplaced?

  27. JIMWICh says:

    One of the best accessories that I’ve bought that’s worked for every iPhone I’ve had since the first generation, is a Belkin cigarette lighter adapter.  It has two USB slots, and came with a USB-iPhone cord.  I take it with me anytime I’m going to be needing my iPhone for extended periods of time and will be in or near a vehicle.

    I’ve also used the same adapter to work with the cigarette lighter socket adapter I have that plugs into my motorcycle’s battery, and both charges my iPhone while powering a separate Tom Tom GPS device (which has turn-by-turn directions which won’t be on the iPhone until iOS6).

  28. CognitiveDissident says:

    This is ridiculous, just go to a pay ph…  
    Oh.

    Wow, a non-issue during the age of  Ubiquitous Static Anonymous Terrorist Communication Devices has become an issue.
    Because that’s the only kind of people who ever used pay phones.

    At least now the terrorists can’t communicate anonymously with cell ph…
    Oh.

    Why did they tear out the pay phones again?
    Maybe it was because they didn’t want average people communicating anonymously about average stuff because that conversation needs to be retained for eternity, tied to your identity.

    Talk about retentive, everyone must be a terrist in their eyes.
    Authoritarian Dark Ages, because the Islam!
    (Meanwhile…)

    • NelC says:

       I think it was economics, with a dash of sociology. You need ubiquitous payphones and can make money from them when all phones must have landlines, but when cellphones become ubiquitous, payphones are a losing proposition. Look, you can talk and walk! You don’t have to queue! You don’t need change! Nobody vandalises your cellphone! It remembers your phone numbers!

      • CognitiveDissident says:

        Well, if they can have emergency phones along highways still, they could have them still in cities, sort of like a large cell phone in a booth with a solar charger, making it difficult/useless to steal/vandalize. Maybe they could add cameras/facial recognition/voice/dna analysis to appease a certain totalitarian segment of society. I mean, a payphone, I bet you could install a one hundred (or three) for the cost of a Drone (oops, i mean Flying Freedom Robot) ! I just think it’s kind of creepy that they are almost all gone in my neck of the woods (payphones, not drones) (that would be America’s stalactite, Florida, run by drips in Tallahassee.)

  29. blindwanderer says:

    I got a key flashlight at a hardware store, that is to say, it’s a key with a built in LED light. Very handy. Takes up no extra space in the pocket since it’s integrated with a key I already need to carry.

  30. Sofia Ortiz says:

    I never leave home without a physical address, phone number, and/or a route map written on a piece of paper (I keep a stack of index cards for this purpose). When my tech gear’s working, I don’t need it – but sometimes the signal for my GPS cuts off or I can’t access the oft-fickle AT&T network. I say, the more gadgety a gadget is, the more likely it is to mess up. Always have an analog backup plan.

  31. Car cig USB adapter things tend to be somewhat finicky or unreliable in my experience, especially with an iPhone.  I have a BadElf GPS dongle (which has a micro USB port on it) for my iPhone but the iPhone will NOT normally show as charging or even being powered via the ol’ BadElf unless the car’s cig lighter is putting out the full 1 amp …and that doesn’t seem to happen for the first bit of the journey.  I’ve found that it is best to have the iPhone at 99-100 percent charged so it’s charging/power -usage-via-the-cable requirements are low.

    When starting out on a long road trip (I’ve done two between Krakow and Brussels, and another set between Krakow and Vienna this month) I try to run through the check-list the night before:  Mophie battery pack fully charged.  Kensington brick battery fully charged (it’s little and I don’t often have to use it so it usually is charged up).  Paperclip or the little Apple tool to pop the SIM card out.  Cig USB charger thing (2x).  A couple of micro USB cables, a couple of iPhone USB cables, a mini USB cable (all to male regular USB).  Maps in Navigon, along with the address for the place in Navigon.  Phone number for the place.  

    Oh and for road trips I also keep my old iPhone 3G on hand – it’s been relegated to iPod Touch status and is plugged into the car’s stereo system via it’s own, dedicated USB cable that supplies power and handles the audio (the cable is from Denison and plugs into a little box in the glove compartment which in turn plugs into the stereo system (Citroën C4)).

    I also have a POS Nokia brick phone that is my “work” phone that, if all else fails, I can use to make a call to someone assuming I have their number in the phone.

    If I’m flying I drop the cig USB charger things and just drop my flight info into Evernote (not that it is needed most of the time except to remind me when/where/how I’m going).  I try to get a taxi app and public transit app (or apps) for the city/country I’m going to, just in case the airport has some weird system or the taxis seem horribly expensive.

    I don’t fly/drive a LOT …not like sales people or whatever… but it’s a reasonable amount and I’ve found that the little checklist, if followed, will ensure that I get where I need to go without any hassle.

  32. mongo says:

    It’s not just the iPhone. 

    I verified with my Samsung Galaxy Note that it is a Sissafean task to not discharge the battery WITH A USB POWER SOURCE CONNECTED no matter WHAT THE POWER SOURCE IS.  You can’t pump in enough juice at a rate faster than it drains. And that’s running only 2-3 apps with only two of GPS, Sync, WiFi or Bluetooth.

    I have the car  dock.  The battery will run down with only music playing and the GPS Navigation on – WHILE IT’S ON CAR POWER.
    I have 3 batteries and an (2Amp!) external battery.  It turns out that the only way back to a full battery is to swap for a charged one.

    We need much less power hungry mobile CPUs or a higher amperage power connector than USB. 

  33. R. Stevens says:

    A GPS sucking the life out of my phone is my greatest fear, to the point of me turning GPS off a LOT and using the odometer to know when to turn it on. Good call with the Skype.

  34. YourMessageHere says:

    Solar charger?  Cheap things these days, especially if you’re the kind of person who can afford an iPhone.

  35. Cefeida says:

    I use my phone for a lot of things, navigation among them, and technology is my friend for tasks that other people feel more comfortable not wasting electricity on. But somehow I never got into marking appointments and taking notes down digitally- I buy a pocket-sized soft-cover moleskine calendar every year and write down everything in it- where I’m going, when, how, with whom, possible alternatives….it’s not pretty, but it’s distinctive.  

    This is where, completely counter-intuitively, the combination of visual and tactile memory beats CTRL+F for me. “Oh, I remember, I wrote the address down somewhere around the beginning of the notebook, on the day the person called me, and I doodled some flowers next to it, and it was just after that canceled appointment with So and So, which I crossed out multiple times in purple because I couldn’t find any other colour. And the page next to that had a luggage retrieval sticker from Bus Company since I took the bus that week to go to City where Such and Such called me and gave me their address.”*thumb thumb thumb*”Ah, here it is.”

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