Monday 1 July 2019

3 months: Devices, Solarpunk gaming, and Laptop experiments

April, May and June are under the belt, and the European solstice heatwave - milder here on the UK South coast at around 29 degrees C max - is certainly helping with electricity at least.

I'm not having to think about power source and energy conservation much. I had to plug my phone into the mains one weekend when I was travelling and misjudged how much battery I had left in my bag, true, but one to learn from.

I've expanded out the devices I'm feeding with solar power as a result, currently sitting at:
  • Phone
  • Pebble watch
  • Kindle (e-paper version) for e-books
  • Nexus tablet for news reading (see previous post)
  • Nintendo GBA SP for retro gaming
  • Bedside light for reading by
  • Bluetooth headphones (which also have audio in as backup/battery preservation)
I've also got a USB cable coming in for the Nintendo DS as well, for extra solared-Zelda'ing.

I'm continuing to develop this idea of tying devices to usage functions, so that it becomes easier to add/remove 'ways of life' according to solar power usage. A bit like how money gets 'ring-fenced' and reserved for certain purposes. The aim of this is to more consciously prioritise and choose between my activities, and to work out what is 'essential' and what's 'luxury' if/when the time (winter) comes.

It also makes it easier to see how much battery usage a particular activity takes up. Is there scope for, say, retro gaming to be a more "solarpunk" version of gaming, for instance, if the older tech uses up less battery?

Finally, I've also started playing around a bit more with powering up my laptops:

Attempt at laptop charging (nestled below bench)
So far I've only run proof-of-concepts. My new Kingsolar panels have a USB output and an 18V DC output. My Macbook laptop has USB-C power in, while my Entroware Linux laptop is DC only.

Initial results are useful:
  • The Macbook does get charged via USB straight from the panels. I think it may help to turn it off first, to avoid software management kicking in, but need to test this. I'm also not sure yet if directly connecting to a fairly/potentially irregular power input can damage the laptop battery yet, so I'm not planning to continue this. 
  • The Macbook also charges up from a USB battery, or at least the one I tried. Leaving it over night, the laptop charge went from about 9% to 84%, and the 25000mAH battery was empty afterwards (from full). 
  • Charging from the USB battery has the added benefit of not having to leave the laptop outside. I'm definitely a lot more comfortable leaving a battery out (no personal data, much cheaper) than a device...
  • Charging the Entroware laptop using the DC adapter provided with the panels didn't seem to do much. This isn't too surprising, given the maximum voltage on the panels is 18V, but the laptop wants 19V.
There are a few options around to charge up a device via USB, such as this XTPower battery bank, or a bulkier setup with a charge controller I think. I'm wondering if I can afford the XTPower, and whether it even makes sense to run a laptop off solar.

I'm also going to have to start reading up on electricity more at this point, I think.

If you've got this far, thanks for reading? If you're at all interested in supporting the experiment, then you can donate via various ways here. Currently any donations will go towards a few small e-books, each the price of a coffee or two.

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