Protect Yourself from Burnout

Our colleagues at Flight Wisdom wrote a few weeks ago here about the danger of laptop battery issues. Dell was followed by Apple in its battery recall. As this article from Business Week reports, the online community kept pressure on the manufacturers to do something about this. And now Dell and Apple are recalling over 5 million batteries.
But the danger of computer components isn’t limited to batteries, as one writer reports here. His hard drive burnt out in what appears to be a rather dramatic manner.

So, we thought we would take this time to give our tips to reduce the risk of preventable accidents. Obviously, if your component is faulty or improperly designed, there is no amount of preparation you can make to prevent problems…although even outside of warranty, some companies will replace an item that spontaneously combusted as opposed to other types of mechanical failure.

  1. Make sure cables inside your computer do not interfere with airflow. The biggest cables in computers are ribbon cables used for components such as ATA hard drives and CDROMs. The cheapest solution is to replace these with round cables, which compress the ribbon down for increased airflow. The better solution is to, if possible, replace your drives with the new Serial ATA drives. The SATA cables are much thinner than the older parallel ones, and the drives themselves are better as well. SATA CD/DVD drives are still relatively rare though, but at least consider replacing the hard drives.
  2. Once a month or so, shut the computer down and blow out the interior of the computer with a bottle of canned air, especially the exhaust fans to remove dust that might accumulate and reduce air efficiency.
  3. Keep aware of any product recalls or reports of problems with hardware in your system and be prepared to replace it if necessary. For laptops, blow out the exhaust fans from the outside while the computer is off.
  4. Also for laptops, if you plan on using the laptop for long periods on AC power, take the battery out. If that is not an option, regularly discharge and recharge the battery. For business travellers, consider a second battery and regular swap the two.

Unrealistic Expectations

In this modern world, we tend to wonder about the customer service experience. The goal of companies seems to be to make the most amount of money from you while doing the least amount of work. Whenever a company diverges from this and provides quality service, we feel they are not only worthy of our business, but worthy of loyalty and perhaps more money than an equivalent product from a more shoddy company.Even companies with poor service records will have their shining moments, however. CNet News reports here that cable and telephone providers are working to improve their images. Traditionally, these companies have had monopolies in their markets and are thus not concerned about competition. But, a few years ago, the long distance and local telephone companies expanded into each other’s markets. This was followed by both cable and telephone companies offering broadband service. Now, thanks to companies like Vonage, not only are the cable companies breaking into telephone service, but the telephone companies are offering internet-based telephony.The cable company is offering telephone service, the phone company is offering television service…The monopolies now are merely on methods of distribution. The largest cable companies have, to keep their customers, increased service spending by 48 percent this year as opposed to the same time last year.

One of our own recent experiences with our local cable monopoly took three weeks to resolve…and while we were only requesting the latest functionality in cable boxes, they kept sending us repair technicians, cancelling appointments for unknown reasons, etc, and finally admitted that the only way we could get what we wanted was to head down to their payment center and find it ourselves. Which we did.

Issues with service are not simply confined to post-sales…In a recent article here, Computer Shopper went undercover to rate several major computer chains with their attempt to purchase a computer.

Is it unrealistic to expect quality and competent service? Or is customer service merely an undertrained person sitting in a cubicle reading instructions from the company website to us and providing little helpful information? More on this to come…

The Lightbulb

We were intrigued when Fastcompany.com reported on the evolution of the CFL, the Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb. Obviously the lightbulb itself is no new invention, but the traditional incandescent lightbulb uses five times more energy than these newer bulbs.

Over the years, they have been plagued with problems. Flickering when turning on, inability to be dimmed, harsh white light instead of warmer tones, dimness during the first minute or two of activation…but the technology continues to improve.

As the article reports, if every American household replaced one 60 watt bulb with an equivalent CFL, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million. Not only do they use less electricity, they generally last longer than an incandescent bulb…rated in years instead of months.

Walmart is getting in on the act, apparently, trying to use its size to try to sell every customer one of these bulbs, and teaming with General Electric, singlehandedly double CFL sales in the United States in a year.

Just go to your local home improvement store or large department store and see the different kinds of lightbulbs you can get in a CFL. Not only are there lightbulbs of varying spectrums of the white and warm families, but replacements for tubular bulbs, globes, chandelier bulbs, floodlight bulbs, etc. Most of these come in both the spirals and frosted glass forms that look so similar to the incandescent equivalent you cannot tell the difference.

We have yet to find a store carrying screw-in dimmable CFLs, but these items are available for mail-order. The dimming on a fluorescent bulb is not as variable as it is on an incandescent, and goes in a series of steps, limiting fine tuning. However, it is still a viable option for those who wish it.