Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Air Travel and Power Supplies

Our flight from Japan to Portland went smoothly. We were in what some consider the best seats in the whole plane -- 1AB on an A330 -- which gave us plenty of room to lay out our stuff during the flight without getting in anyone else's way. (But being bulkhead seats, there was no stowage in front of us, which is a pain because you have to keep getting up to get stuff out of the overhead compartments.) The main problem is that the power supplies on the seats are too weak. They're only good for 75 watts, and both our computers' power supplies draw more than that. So when we tried to plug in the power supplies and turn on our computers, the seats failed. The airline crews told us, "Oh, you have to take the batteries out of your computers in order for it to work." Well, not only does that mean that you end up with a hole in the bottom of your computer, but that the slightest glitch in the aircraft's power supply and your computer dies.

And glitches do happen. On both the HNL-NRT flight (a 747) and the NRT-PDX flight (an A330), problems with the on-board entertainment system obliged them to do a "hard reboot" of the on-board entertainment system, which apparently runs the power to the seats as well. This takes roughly twenty minutes. On the A330, I was amused to see the reboot code running on the screen at the front of the cabin -- apparently it runs on Linux.

I had sufficient batteries -- four of them -- that I could have probably stayed up for the entire flight, but Lisa had only two, and the game she plays uses a lot of power because it wants to run the CD-ROM continuously. Had we networked the two machines together as planned, it would have been worse. So she shut her machine down after an hour or so and did what she could to pass the time. She then switched to the other battery for the last 90 minutes or so before the breakfast service.

I note in passing that the instructions in the in-flight magazine say that NWA's 757s have 200-watt power supplies, which is more appropriate for the demands from our computers. I reckon the power supplies on the 747/A330 are okay for running smaller devices like iPods and such, but not for most modern laptop computers.
Tags: airlines, travel
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