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Portables Handhelds Hardware

Mobile Users Plug-in Anywhere They Can 556

jasonla writes "The New York Times looks at mobile technology users who leech power from restaurant and airport outlets while on the road. The article looks at the habits and 'culture' of people who use portable devices -- such as laptops, iPods and cellphones -- and what the businesses think of power hungry customers." As interesting as the phenomena of customers leeching power from the businesses they frequent is the self-imposed etiquette of many users.
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Mobile Users Plug-in Anywhere They Can

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  • by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:05AM (#11274233)
    people who use a businesses' air, light and even gravity?
    • In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:16AM (#11274313)
      You've been modded offtopic, but I'll support you in this, at least up to a point.

      The fact is that restaurants arn't really in the food industry, they are in the entertainment and hospitality industry. Food just happens to be a major part of their entertainment and hospitality offerings, but not even necessarily the biggest part.

      Being treated well by the staff is very important and part of the atmosphere and ammenities that people go to a restaurant for (otherwise they could just go buy a bunch of bananas and chunck of cheese from a local mart, for a fraction the price).

      Electricty, in the form of lighting, TV sets, radios, video games and other necessaries are part of parcel of the ammenities they offer that people go there for. Now those ammenities include a place to plug in your laptop. It isn't "leeching," it's what they are there for, and paying for.

      Dear restaurant industry. Your custormer's needs are changing. Give them what they want. Tack a stupid quarter onto the bill if it makes you feel better.

      Those of you that fucking cope will turn out to be the winners.

      • KFG makes a great point, if i want food I go to a take away sandwich shop or a supermarket that sells me food and I go away. If I go to a restaurant I want them to look after me for the time I'm there and eating, the fact that maybe 10 years ago all I wanted was a seat and now I want some power - is only a change, and change happens.


        p.s. thanks KFG for making me post a comment to /. for the first time in a long while, great comment.
      • by Thuktun ( 221615 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @11:30AM (#11275612) Homepage Journal
        Dear restaurant industry. Your custormer's needs are changing. Give them what they want. Tack a stupid quarter onto the bill if it makes you feel better.

        This is true of more than the restaurant industry. More and more consumer-facing industries are turning on their own customers because the customers are behaving different from what they like or expect.

        Some examples that jump out at me:
        • RIAA and MPAA suing small-time copyright infringers instead of changing their business models to cater to digerati.
        • Best Buy leading the way in its sector by trying to exclude the 20% of its customers that they find troublesome.
        I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting, but I'm just now consuming my morning caffeine.
    • That's so far from a legitimate comparison it's not even funny. Businesses pay for electricity, to use it would be increasing their costs.

      It's not different than your neighbor hooking up his christmas lights to an external power plug on the outside of your house. It's stealing.
      • by wernercd ( 837757 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:55AM (#11274545) Homepage
        Hooking lights up to your neighbors? You need new neighbors if they charge you for coming over then.

        That analogy is baloney. If I got down to starbucks and want to use my computer while drinking their coffee or hot coco, how is it stealing when I pay to use their premises? If it costs more for them to operate because of this, then they should raise their prices.

        Two companies: Company A lets me use their outlets, Company B don't. Company A gets my buisness and my money. It's not like pirating a game and the company don't get paid.

        stealing... pffft... Not when I'm buying stuff from there. If they don't want my buisness then they can remove/cover the outlets and I'll speak with my money.
        • Buying something from a company doesn't entitle you to use every single resource they have while you're there. It only entitles you to consume your product while you're there. However, they may OPT to give you the PRIVILEGE to use other resources, such as power hookups.

          Starbucks is in the business of providing gourmet coffee bean derivatives in a seemingly up-scale environment. The fact that people decide to bring their laptops, jack in, and suck power, wasn't their choice. However, they've chosen to embra
          • by homer_ca ( 144738 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @12:36PM (#11276640)
            "Starbucks is in the business of providing gourmet coffee bean derivatives in a seemingly up-scale environment"

            Actually Starbucks follows the tradition of European cafes where you can buy a fancy coffee drink and sit as long as you want to read, socialize or whatever, like a non-alcoholic bar. American restaurants follow more the food service model, and they're more likely to hurry you out after you've finished eating (or at a bar clear away your empties and ask if you want more drinks). One European commented that the waitresses in bars are nice and attentive because they keep coming back to ask if we're OK. I had to explain "Are you OK?" really means "Do you need more drinks?". :-)
      • by marcus ( 1916 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @11:11AM (#11275314) Journal
        Restaurants definitely pay for their air.

        The air you breathe is processed, filtered, temperature and humidity regulated. That costs money and customers are people who are willing to pay for "atmosphere" which usually does include special lighting.

        They pay for water, for toilets, for square footage.

        That gravity that's holding your ass to the seat, that's called "real estate". Underneath your fat ass is dirt and that is where the gravity comes from.

        What's so far off the mark? Another poster noted that restaurants are in the service industry, not the food industry. He is exactly on target. Power is just another potential service that they can market just like any utility(service) company. Hell, they could even improve the power and advertise "uninterruptible" for a premium if they thought there was a market for it.
      • by TheLoneCabbage ( 323135 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @11:29AM (#11275602) Homepage
        dig it brother:

        I spent 20 years doing everything in resteraunts from cleaning toilets to managing.

        Now I was never fond of customers who would sit there smoking for 4hrs after their meal. But I'd kill to keep those bar flies stuck to their stools for another 2 beers.

        When the vote came up to ban smoking in public places in Florida, every resteraunt owner (not the bars)was tripping over him/herself to pass it (one resteraunt couldn't do it, cause smokers would leave, but if they all did it at the same time.. It's not just cause we were tired if scrubbing tar off the ceilngs, or it stinking the place up. It was that smokers hands and mouths are bussy as they smoke. There for there is nothing for them to buy. And they are still sucking up space, air, and waitresses.

        Now some guy on a laptop is a different matter all together. They take frequent breaks, and are continuously buying coffee, and snacks.

        In one case we had a russian buisness man (I kid you not) called Borris. He made us his office. From 10am till 7pm he was there every day. Yelling and cursing on his cellphone, playing his game boy, and pounding at his note book. He must have been into us for $75 a day. We made the food and coffee to order for him. We named a sandwich after him. We added an espresso machine for him. (ok so other customers drank the espresso too). Borris is not that unusuall, especialy with the Starbucks example. And what ever it took to make him happy we did, because we never would spend more than he did.

        Electricity is cheap. And 10 laptops will cost me less than running 1 big screen TV.

        It's not stealing, if your a patron. If you come in, clog the toilet, juice your laptop, and don't leave a single cent behind, then your a leach. But your in the minority, by far. It's worth it.

  • Step 3, Profit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pnevin ( 168332 ) * on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:05AM (#11274242)
    In some cases, those staking a claim do so by plugging in a device - even a $2,000 laptop - only to leave it unattended while fetching a $4 coffee.

    ... as their insurer takes care of that pesky dead battery problem.
  • I have to admit.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Michael Dorfman ( 324722 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:06AM (#11274245)
    I have to admit that I do this all the time, especially in airports-- and it is getting harder and harder to find places to recharge.

    • by sczimme ( 603413 )

      I have to admit that I do this all the time, especially in airports-- and it is getting harder and harder to find places to recharge.

      That's strange: the only place where I can consistently find a free* outlet is in the airport. I have on occasion carried a small outlet strip in my bag just in case all the outlets are taken, but this has not been an issue. (Someone using a laptop probably wouldn't mind unplugging for a few seconds while you plugged in the strip (so you could share the outlet), unless
      • (Someone using a laptop probably wouldn't mind unplugging for a few seconds while you plugged in the strip (so you could share the outlet), unless he was a complete turlingdrome.)

        FYI...ask before doing this. Some idiot did that to me and my battery is fried. He unplugged while I was saving my expense report. If he had asked I could have told him and the 2nd outlet was another guy who had a battery.

  • Leeching???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Herby Werby ( 645641 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:07AM (#11274255)
    They don't bat an eye at helping yourself to serviettes or sugar but a little juice gets a 'leeching' tag?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:25AM (#11274836)
      Napkins, you limey bastard.
    • They don't bat an eye at helping yourself to serviettes or sugar...

      I've worked at and eaten in restaurants (mainly the fast food types) where they care a great deal about how many little packets you get/take. One place I worked for kept all the condiments behind the counter and customers had ask for them. The employees were given guidelines as to how many ketchup packets per order of french fries, etc., we could give out.

      Some of these place's profit margins are so small that every penny matters to t
  • by Archeopteryx ( 4648 ) <benburch&pobox,com> on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:08AM (#11274264) Homepage
    Geeze, you could have a cafe full of plugged in laptop users and still not have this cost you 25 cents an hour.
  • I borrow. Sometimes with interest!
  • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:10AM (#11274272) Homepage
    Back in January 1998, when a good hunk of Canada had no power due to an ice storm, I couldn't go to work because we had no power at the office. I also had no power at home, and was bored out of my tree.

    So, I grabbed a pair of APC BackUPS 400s, threw them in a knapsack, and walked to the local pub (which DID have power). Plugged 'em in, had a few beers, walked home, watched TV; repeat.

    I tell ya, though, my back was kinda sore. Those things ain't made to be portable!
  • Make a battery for a laptop that lasts longer than 2 hrs and then leeching might slow...

    (Centrino, Macs are better yadda yadda I know)

  • On permission (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Slashdotted ( 665535 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:11AM (#11274280)
    Whenever I've visited a resturant, I've asked permission 99% of the time.. unless it's an emergency. (What's an emergency to you?) I've been turned down some times, but remind them you'll buy more, or *gasp* pay a dollar or two for the privelige.. Once in Arby's I was denied permission, and got a wierd look.. Then the manager thought better, said not to put the cord of the floor, and I bought food to go.
  • Whatever happened to them? Theyre supposed to save us from having to having to charge like that.....Top off the.....methanol?....and go....

    I personally cant wait til theyre readily available....Does anybody have any info?

    Back on topic - I dont think many businesses have a problem with people doing so...Power consumption cant be too too bad, and it brings in traffic...

  • by lxt ( 724570 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:13AM (#11274292) Journal
    As far as cost goes, it shouldn't really be too much of a problem for many businesses, assuming they are charged on the same basis as the power companies do here in the UK. Companies (at least, the theatres I work in) are not charged according to the number of units used, but by the maximum amount of power they use during the billing period. For example, during a theatre show we use a hell of a lot of power, and the power companies takes this peak rate and charges us across the board at that rate. I don't know whether this is just limited to certain businesses.
    • by Shisha ( 145964 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:34AM (#11274423) Homepage
      I think there is another important issue: safety. If your device short circuits the airport power network and then it takes 20 minutes before someone finds the circuit breaker then people are not going to be happy. And what if your device screws up someones laptop? (I know this is _really_ unlikely) The UK solution is that all electrical devices plugged in any sort of public socket (e.g. libraries) should be tested for safety, whenever they're more than one year old.

      I'd imagine that airports have two or three different level of electricity grid one for the "totally essential" and one for all the shops adverts and Christmas trees.

      As for the electricity bill: if I'm at the airport and everything is running on time then batteries in my laptop last long enough. If my flight gets delayed by 7 hours like it did the last time then I feel I have the right to use some electricity, for all the airport taxes I have paid. Even if that means unplugging some Christmas tree.

      And if any employee of the airport wants to come and argue about this then he's welcome: I have 7 hours to spare and I'm pretty annoyed to begin with.
    • In North America the billing model depends on the power requirements of the company. Smaller companies are metered just like homes. Even rather large companies can be metered.

    • So they are constantly charging you for things you don't use? I think such a mode of billing not only rips you off, it encourages wastefulness in off-peak times (because everything is 'free' unless you stay below-peak).
  • It's not leeching (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nucal ( 561664 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:14AM (#11274299)
    If I'm having an overpriced cup of coffee at Starbucks and paying for WiFi, they damn well better let me plug in ...
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:16AM (#11274310)
    what, 50 laptops? The point is, public-ish facilities that want or depend on public traffic don't lose much by being accommodating, and no doubt generate some good will among the lithium-ion set. The guy that uses a lot more paper towels or flushes twice in a public bathroom is chewing up a LOT more overheard than the lady who's trickle-charging her laptop (let alone her cellphone).

    I'd say the bigger cost is the risk of liability when one Starbucks customer trips over the power cord of another customer's laptop. You know, the one the user has stretched from the pillar in the middle of the room over to his table, where he's /.ing
  • by jmcmunn ( 307798 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:18AM (#11274328)

    Just make all of the outlets which are in public spaces under lock and key. That'd stop the vast majority.

    Then, to make an extra buck they can have a little "power cafe" if you will. Same idea as getting a little internet time somewhere, but you go plug in to recharge instead. Personally, I'd pay a dollar for the right to plug in and charge from a single outlet for whatever time I am there. I think most people who needed to charge something would pay out a dollar, and the airports could make good money offerring it at that price.
    • Based on my home electric bill, one dollar powers my entire house (air conditioner, refrigerator, 3 computers, lights, electric stove/oven, TV, stereo, DVD player, fans, etc.) for about 5-6 hours. I most certainly would not be willing to pay one dollar just to charge my phone or computer for an hour, unless I was truly desparate.

      If the cost of electricity is breaking the business, they need to revise their business plan. At the very least, they should look into some energy saving measures, such as maybe t

  • by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:22AM (#11274354) Journal
    Har! Back in 1986 when I was on the road making locale-specific engineering modifications to a pay telephone system I designed, I had an 8085 emulator-in-a-briefcase and a full-size Compaq "Luggable" (8088 12 Mhz 40 MB HD) that I used to plug into airport AC outlets and play Chess and Rouge (Epyx's version for PC) with it while waiting for flights!

    You see, I had no "Geek Shame" back then, and nowadays no one would give me a 2nd look, except perhaps the wonderful TSA folks...

    It also had a nice clock on the screen by a TSR program of some sort, which would remind me when to pack up and go to the gate. Unfortunately, once, after a couple of cocktails, I forgot completely about the whole time zone thing, and missed my flight clean by an hour! But that is another story...
  • Virgin Trains (Score:5, Informative)

    by pklong ( 323451 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:25AM (#11274370) Homepage Journal

    Here in the UK Virgin has been putting power outlets for charging up phones and laptops next to all the seats in their new trains.

    So you could go on a pleasure trip and charge up (but given the state of the UK rail system that might not be a good idea if you need to make it to something on time. )
  • by jlehtira ( 655619 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:25AM (#11274371) Journal

    Cellphones, ipods and even portable computers are not that power hungry that it would matter. I consider using the power outlets included in what I pay for coffee, airport tax or whatever. Just like I don't pay extra for breathing air from businesses' ventilator systems (which probably costs more than the power). If some business doesn't like me charging my laptop, I choose to go elsewhere.

    For reference, my portable computer's battery is rated 14.8V, 4400mAh. That roughly equals 65 watt-hours. The biggest cost of electricity I found is 9 cents per kWh, so filling the battery from empty to full would cost less than 0.6 cents. I will gladly pay 0.6 cents extra to use my laptop wherever I go, if asked for.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Your charger isn't 100% efficient, but your point is still valid. The cost here is in pennies per day.

      However, what about the cost of adding more outlets to your building to accomodate your customers? You don't have to do this, but it might get more people in the door.
    • You shouldn't really count the battery's rating, as the transformation of power is not perfect.

      Take the rating of the transformer itself and it will give you a more accurate estimate, however I do agree with your point.

  • Two things. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Blapto ( 839626 )
    1) It has a firefox plug in, you right click the username field, click bugmenot, and it logs you in, no registration required. 2) I'm guilty, so what? I like to go to a coffee place (a cheap, friendly one nearby) and work for 3-4 hours. It's a productive environment. I reckon I drink a coffee every 30 minutes while I'm working, so I probably have about 6 in 4 hours. Call it £3/coffee, that's £18. Call it 6p/kWh, my laptop drinks 65W, so that's about 2p worth of energy. It
    • Re:Two things. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kjamez ( 10960 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:09AM (#11274662) Homepage
      i'd say (without RingTFA) that a lot of the concern is just that you do sit there and drink only 2 coffee's in a hour. at 3 pounds/euros/dollars, it's not that same as if it was a bottomless cup of drip brew for 1 euro/dollar/pound. you are taking up a whole seat, but probably actually taking up a whole booth with your papers and laptop ... a booth that could better accomodate 3 people each buying 3 euro coffee's and only planning on staying for their cigarette, and going back to their workplace.

      i have a hard time believing that shops are concerned with the minimal ammounts of power cellphones and laptop requires, but when you camp out with them waiting for your device to power up fully, you are costing them 'geniune' revenue (unless you are producing it for them, by having a meal over that span of your two hours).

      personally, not being able to smoke in coffee shops (most, in america i've found, especially the west [i call it the 'left'] coast) prevents me from spending any real ammount of time in them (20 minutes for two coffee's, and probably only one to go) ...

      it's the same reason mcdonald's chairs are so uncomfortable: they don't want you there. not just you (the geek with the laptop), anyone. they want you to drive through, or eat and get the hell out, cause more people could be sitting there ...

      It's a bit of a fuss about nothing. Quote: "Somebody's got to pay for that electricity." Yes, the customer. They might say "if everybody came in and did it..." well, for 12 hours, there are 10 people drawing 100W, that's 12kWh, that's about 70p for the day. Boohoo.

      again, not about the electricity: and 40 pounds/hr lost to the booth(s) lost by people camping and treating a restaurant as a workplace.

      now i fully appreciate all the wifi spots about, and places like that are fully EXPECTING people to stay put for a few hours (hourly wifi access), but shops with less than 15 chairs are not making a fortune (or possibly even survivng) by having you work in a corner all afternoon.

  • How much power does a laptop draw, it's not like it's a hair dryer or something like that.

    I've never seen any coffee shop or bar complain about this behaviour, it costs pennies to charge a laptop and it's a rounding error on a typical bar's power bill to charge a cell phone.

    It's like using the bathroom or taking more paper napkins; it's part of the business and only idiots would even blink at a customer taking this kind of liberty.

  • The biggest cost to a business will be when someone trips over your charger's power cord. The guy who tripped sues the store for the hazard they allowed on the floor, and you sue the store for a new laptop.

    Sure, the store's insurance will cover it, but then they'll get their rates jacked up and probably a clause in the next policy specifically prohibiting customers from plugging in anywhere.

    If they put power jacks and tables in good areas, where nobody can trip, this becomes a non-issue...

  • Coffee shops (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raider_red ( 156642 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:34AM (#11274425) Journal
    I'll plug in at coffee shops from time to time if my laptop's battery is starting to go dead. I've always considered buying coffee there to be a form of rent fo rthe table space I'm using. Power is just an extension of that.

  • That none of the online hotspot directories include a rating for each hotspot to show availability of outlets. Range: "none," "1-4," "5-10," "10+," and "Almost every table."
  • by Mork29 ( 682855 ) * <`' `ta' `kcinley.htiek'> on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:40AM (#11274458) Journal
    My friends and I would specifically go to Denny's instead of the IHOP across the street, because they had a booth with an outlet. We would plug in and watch movies while we ate and hung out. It was 3am so nobody minded us hogging a booth, and the manager would come and sit with us and watch the movie when it was slow enough or the movie was good enough. We cost them $.50 in electricity and made them much more than that in business. I don't feal guilty for it....and the manager never minded....
    • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:58AM (#11275170) Homepage Journal
      You didn't cost them $0.5. They spent more on the water you used going to the toilet two or three times. If they had hand driers, that electricity cost them more than your laptop did.

      They used more energy brewing your coffee refill than your laptop did. (Note to Starbucks victims---normal restaurants often provide "bottomless" cups of coffee for the price of a single cup, typically less than a dollar and a half).

      If it was winter when you did this, you cost them more energy by opening the door to walk into the restaurant in the first place. Then again, you're providing them with 0.1kW of heat just by existing, so maybe you should be charging them.

  • Nokia chargers (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Nokia is using a standard charger for all models that has not been changed since the mid 90s. With the (past) marketshare of Nokia this means you are never far from a charger, at a friends, at work, with a customer or around town. I travel a lot without bringing a charger (+adapter) for my Nokia without a problem. Genious.
  • That would solve this 'issue'.
  • by The Cisco Kid ( 31490 ) * on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:44AM (#11274480)
    What is it going to take to get /. editors from using links in stories that actually LINK TO the article/story they are referring to, instead of ones that prompt for some stupid login.

    If it requires a login, its a private site, and isnt public news. If its public news, the same story *WILL* be posted on a public site that doesnt waste peoples time with login nonsense. It would take an editor posting a story 15 seconds to hit google news, and find such a link for a story, to substitute for where a story submitter has included a link to such a private news site. Instead of each view having to either do that or waste time either maintining a login or making up a disposable one for every story.


    If this is going to continue, it would be damn nice if instead of the (intermittent) '(free reg required)' comment on these stories, that fact was stored in a boolean field in the story database, so that viewers could have a prefs option to choose to just have those stories completely supressed from their slashdot experience.

    And if enough people set that pref, perhaps the eds will finally realize that posting stories with that type of link is a complete waste of time.
  • Schools? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) < minus punct> on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:46AM (#11274488) Homepage
    I know at the "School of Advanced Technology" college I went to they had zero [yup count them zero] places to sit down and use a laptop. We had to make due sitting in the cafe and steal from the wall outlets [of which there were a half dozen for a school of 14,000 people].

    Just wondering, anyone else goto tech schools like that?

  • Please, this is just a bunch of psycholibertarians furious that they can't put a coin slot on your very soul. Any 'vendor' who objects to me using their outlets which are out in the open needs to find a new customer to replace me.
  • I've been the "hero of the day" at Starbucks a few times when I'm on the road because I carry a power strip in my laptop bag. I'll plug in my power strip, and then invite anybody nearby who wants to plug in.

    I have a picture on my web site [] of one night in a hotel room where between my wife and I we had plugged in two laptops, two PDAs, two cell phones, two digital camera battery chargers, a video camera, and an iPod.
  • by Mazrim_Ta ( 129987 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:50AM (#11274509)
    I own Node Coffee Shop in Milwaukee, WI (open 24 hours). When I built the cafe I had the electrician put in quad outlets every 6-8 feet around the shop so that customers would never have to fight over a power outlet. Every seat has an outlet. No other cafe in the area can boast that kind of setup. I dont believe it costs us very much more as far as operating expenses go, but it does increase our profits as we get a lot of customers who come to our establishment because we have such great access. Check us out if you are ever in the Milwaukee area! []
    • WTF?! (Score:5, Funny)

      by EvilStein ( 414640 ) <> on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:43AM (#11275025)
      There's a friggin 24/7 coffee shop in MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN but I cannot find *any* here in the goddamn SILICON VALLEY. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. :P

      "Heart of technology" my ass. This dump sucks. I'm going to Wisconsin!

      • There's a friggin 24/7 coffee shop in MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN but I cannot find *any* here in the goddamn SILICON VALLEY. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. :P

        Some Silicon Valley cities require you to hire an off-duty cop as an armed guard if you want to be open after certain hours. (California's gun control has led to high crime rates and overnight stores are easy targets. The cities in question have used this as an excuse to set up a graft mechanism for their police officers.)

        Others j
  • Non issue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:53AM (#11274535) Journal
    Ok lets see now: My iBook charger outputs 24.5v @ 1.875A. Based on an electricity price of 5.5p per KHW (I plucked that from the first thing I could google) which is pretty high and probably lower for commercial outlets.. anyway i digress.. thats 0.003p per hour. Now lets take an average cup of Starbucks and break it down:

    Price: ~£2.50
    Costs: ~£0.80

    and there for the amount of time I would need to sit there charging my laptop before they started loosing money:

    ~680 hours or about 1 month!

    Obviously that makes some assumptions:
    a) I would only buy one cup off coffee for the whole month and would live off drinking out of the toilet for the rest of the time (an improvement)

    b) They probably wouldnt let me stay overnight


    c) I would actually have to go to Starbucks for more than an hour - the time after which you can no-longer stand its nuvo art fake prints and dirty seats.

    This is so no big deal, its in all these places interests to just let people plug their laptop in for an hour or so, the WiFi and coffee price will more than make up for it.
  • A different view (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:58AM (#11274572)
    Much of the mounting quest for power stems, some hardware manufacturers say, from battery performance that has generally not kept up with the rapidly expanding capabilities of today's consumer electronics.

    Or alternativily you could argue that todays consumer electronics haven't designed their products well enough to take into account the clearly known limitations of current battery technology (it's not like the mainstream market has changed very much recently). Sure they've made efforts, but the direction has been (until recently) on bigger, better, faster and more powerful rather than lower heat output and reduced power consumption.

    Or you could blame product managers and consumers. One for actually considering that a product with a 3 hour battery life is marketable and the other for actually proving them right.

  • Safety issues? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scottme ( 584888 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @09:59AM (#11274583)
    What if some punter comes in with a defective charger that fuses the outlet circuits or worse, starts a fire?

    Some establishments (my kid's school for example) don't allow any electrical appliances to be used unless they have been through a safety check.

    The same concern may apply at hotels etc. I wonder what the liability position is. Is it the establishment owner or the owner of the defective device?
  • Panera Bread Company [] in Fort Worth, TX on University Drive. Good food (sandwiches, soup, etc), free wireless, and signs indicating the booths that have power available for laptops. All this, and cute college chicks from nearby TCU...

  • by fr2asbury ( 462941 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:11AM (#11274683)
    That's why you need to carry around one of those adapters that plug into an incandescent lightbulb socket with a couple plugs on the side. That way if they lock down the outlets, all you need to do is sit next to a lamp.

    Oh . . . and bring an oven mit along too, if the light is on.
  • I have thought about drawing outlets on our maps [], but we haven't set that up yet. Would this be useful for our mobile users looking for access AND power?
  • by phlack ( 613159 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:37AM (#11274960)
    I was attending HP World 2004 [] in Chicago last year. I plugged into the wall to try to get into their wifi network that they set up throughout the center. Well a rather self-important (and large) convention center security guard came up and barked at me, saying I'm not allowed to plug it, because they don't provide free electricity. This was at a COMPUTER CONFERENCE! (yeah, I'm sure that laptop cost them plenty to power, compared to the escalator next to me that was running to a floor not being used) Ironically, I was also with a convention IT staffer, as well as a conference staffer, trying to help me out with something, and neither one of them could talk sense into the guy. They did both agree to talk to their various supervisors about it; dunno if it did any good.

    I spoke with one of the leaders of the conference about it (figuring I wasn't the only one who got yelled out), and she told me it was most likely due to union issues...the union apparently was very strong there and the conference staff wasn't allowed to pull any cables...they needed union convention center staffers to do it. What that has to do with me plugging in a personal laptop is beyond me. Should I have gotten a union rep to do it instead?

    I'll chalk it up to lack of intelligence on the guard's part, but I had no further problems. 'Course, whenever I saw that guy, I immediately unplugged.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein