Sunday, May 30, 2004

AlphaSmart Dana battery field test ... (hic)

Hmm ... I've been in the habit of bringing my Alphie to the pub because it is simple and uncomplicated, though the Dana's keyboard is much better (Please: This is NOT to say that the AS's keyboard is bad, it isn't).

But because I wanted to keep in touch with the outside world by being able to check my email (via infrared and my cellphone), this evening I brought Dana instead. I wrote a car review, edited it, and also did check my email (using no more than a few minutes online).

Because the particular pub was kind of dark, I used the backlight all the time. And now I find that three hours after starting, my rechargable battery status has gone from around 90 per cent to 27 per cent.

On that basis, it is never going to achieve the 25 hours or so that is suggested the machine can do.

On that basis, it might not even achieve the 5 hours which my iBook can again do now that I have given it the present of a new battery.

But I expect that without using the backlight, which I really could have gotten away with, Dana would still have a pretty decent battery life left at this point.

I'm not too concerned, actually. because my working arrangements with my iBook and AS and Dana are predicated on what I require at the time, as I have reported elsewhere on the site.

I fly to south-western France for the day on Monday, back late that evening. So Dana and my cellphone will suffice without any problem. I go to midlands Britain and back on Tuesday (not Munich as I thought earlier) and Dana and my Nokia will again be grand. I go to eastern France on Wednesday for two days, and because I'll have to update a website from there, I'll be bringing both my AS3K and my iBook, the former because I can use it to write on airplanes and in airport lounges, and the latter because I can update the site. Dana stays behind, but by having the AS3K with me, I don't have to bring the heavier accoutrements of power units for the iBook because it will only be used for the 'desktop' work in my hotel.

(Why not use iBook on the planes and also bring power supplies instead of the AS3K? Well, even in Business Class, there are only a few seats where it is possible to use a flip-lid laptop in comfort, whereas both AS3K and Dana can be used even in economy crush without difficulty.)

Now, maybe none of this makes sense, and some of you think I could simplify the whole business of my choice of 'axe' as Tom Morrisey puts it. (Again, I understand perfectly his moniker for his AS3K, because I am also a guitar buff and love my Taylors.)

But that's how I do it. When I buy a tool that helps me in my work, I use it in the most efficient way I can. I have various works: I am a writer, a magazine designer, a digital artist, a web publisher, and, when I have time, a bug in the ass of local politicians when I satirise their pompous foibles.

So, like my younger brother - who plays guitar better than I do, but hasn't got my voice - I have a number of machines to do what I need to do.

Dana is doing grand. So is AS3K - my 'bar counter axe' - and my iBook.

But now, three hours and 45 minutes after starting from about 90 per cent, Dana is down to 27 per cent battery.

I wonder how many more pints I can drink, and write stuff at the same time, before we both run out of juice ...

(But now that I check back, 45 minutes ago we were both at 27 per cent, so that last period of time hasn't cost us anything in power terms. Only in cost of booze. Most confusing. Means I have to stay here at the bar and spend money on drink to keep on with the experiment. Not fair. Really.)

OK, I should be doing something more productive, but let's go onwards to some wishlists. For my AS3K.

As a Mac user since the Mac Plus without a hard disk, I feel very much at home in AlphaWord on Dana because most of the keyboard shortcuts are straight out of a Mac keyboard. Which is not unexpected since the founders of AlphaSmart were themselves Mac people.

But there are inconsistencies in the two versions of AlphaWord as used on the Dana (my first AS purchase) and the AS3K.

The CTRL-backspace in Dana which deletes words backwards is very useful to a writer who wants a quick change of mind. But there's nothing equivalent in AS3K, and it slows down change of mind action.

Similarly, to highlight a word in Dana only requires a CTRL-SHIFT-BACK ARROW, but in AS3K needs an individual-letter backspacing right through the word with SHIFT-BACK ARROW.

There are other inconsistencies between the two AlphaWords, and I'd really like if both were the same. Maybe that is not possible because the arrangements between the two 'platforms' are different. But then, maybe it IS possible.

(Hmm ... 20 minutes after my last check, we're now down to 22 per cent battery. Or 18 per cent degradation per hour. Which works out at 5.5 hours total potential capacity so far.)

OK, another pint, and I guess I'd better segue to something more productive in the meanwhile. There's that 5-Series BMW 3.0d that's outside my house at the moment ...

(15 minutes later, and we're 22 per cent.)

(10 minutes more, now at 21 per cent.)

(Now, five hours after (hic ... excuse me) starting this experiment, we're at 18 per cent battery. This is drinking above and beyond the call of AlphaSmart duty. (I have since the last note read a very interesting article about how the principle of 'objective' journalism has gagged US media coverage about the Iraq Adventure. And it was written in the US. But let's not get political here - this is a scientific experiment that has nothing to do with US National Security.)

(Half an hour later - I've researched from something already in Dana about future technology in motoring. Now 17 per cent battery remaining, 5.5 hours out from 90 per cent capacity, using the backlight all the time. I don't know how long I can keep drinking ... or thinking coherently.)

(Now, at 6 hours in, we're registering 17 per cent. I've since the last report managed the first few hundred words of a commissioned piece for The Irish Times, and also contributed a few more thoughts to the AlphaWord debate piece. But it's getting tougher, and if Dana decides to continue to reduce battery at this pace, I'm not going to be able to sh sh..shhh ... urp ... stick the p p p p..pace.


(10 minutes more: I gggg...give up. 'night, all.)

NOTE: this piece first appeared on the AlphaSmart Community website on February 8, 2004. My hangover cured itself, and I also subsequently found that battery readings drop fast but then plateau so that the Dana can carry on for many, many more hours than in this 'test'.

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