As a consultant, I do most of my calls and writing in my home office. But occasionally I like to work outside the home, and usually journey to my local Starbucks.
A few weeks ago I was working there when I received a jolt (not from the coffee). A popup indicated that I had less than 10% (or thereabouts) of power left on the battery of my nice, new, HP laptop.
It suggested that I plug in if I wanted to continue working. Naturally my eyes tracked along my power cord to the wall outlet… yep, still plugged in.
I did what anyone would do – I pulled the plug and reseated it – still no power to the laptop… my systray battery icon did change to “Plugged in – not charging.” Hmmm.
So, I tried the other outlet on the double-plate. Same thing. I moved to another outlet altogether. No luck. I pulled and reseated the cable at the laptop – still no luck. I tried a reboot – I reseated the battery – everything. Ultimately, I wrapped things up, did a graceful shutdown, and went back to my home office, where a curious thing happened.
Upon bootup, my icon indicated that I was now charging! I was greatly relieved, as I had a lot of work for the day. However, I called HP to report the problem. After some measure of troubleshooting, the tech recommended sending the laptop in for warranty service. They’d send me a shipping box, and I’d have the laptop back in about 7 or 8 days from time of shipment.
I didn’t really want to do that: I do have a backup laptop, and a “whole-drive” backup to an outboard drive – but my other laptop is older, slow, and cranky (you know what I mean). Therefore, I resisted sending in the HP, and decided to monitor the situation.
Next visit to Starbucks, guess what? I was plugged in, and at 100% of battery: However, after about 30 minutes of work, I noticed I was at 92% power – wha…? I again had to wrap up earlier than usual, and come home.
Once again, I began charging immediately upon plug in.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting, and it involves a little nightlight: Upon my next visit to Starbucks, I verified that I was 100% charged – but after logging in to the laptop, I held off signing in to Starbucks’ network (for WiFi access). I went and got my coffee and chatted a bit. Upon return to my table, I was still at 100% power, and the systray icon indicated that I was plugged in. I logged into the network – and guess what? I immediately lost power –my battery began to click down, and my adapter lost its warmth – it went cold. My icon no longer indicated that I was plugged in…
I plugged the nightlight into the same outlet – and it lit.
Now, how is it that my laptop could not get power from an active outlet? A couple possibilities: Is Starbucks employing a measure of intelligent power management, and shutting power to laptops? This would require something like this, and I’m doubtful:
1. A laptop that occupies a wall outlet for some specified time is surveyed by Starbuck’s WiFi system: a machine code or other device ID is surveyed and captured, and then reported to the intelligent power management system. That system then shuts off the outlet. (Subsequent disengagement, and plug-in of a non-monitored device, returns active power to the outlet).
- Or -
2. There is a characteristic in standard power that must be in place for typical laptop adapters to work. Certain Starbucks locations could filter, alter, or “season” their power with something that creates a confusion, or a protection, in the laptop adapter – and the adapter enters a “protective” mode, and power is not passed to the laptop.
I only know this: I consistently cannot get power for my laptop at my local Starbucks. Each and every time – and it’s only upon access to WiFi. Everywhere else, I have no power problems.
I’d welcome readers’ thoughts on this, and reportage of any similar experiences.
Starbucks – are you listening? I may call Starbucks for comment… but business travelers may want to pack an extra battery… or go to an alternate location like another coffee shop or the public library.
NP: Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold As Love, vinyl. Perhaps Hendrix’ most cohesive, best, studio effort.