Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Stay Productive in a Power Outage
copied from Lifehacker.com
Here are some great tips from Lifehacker.com on staying productive during a power outage.
The Eastern half of the US is gearing up for a massive winter storm, and we're preparing for the worst. Here's how to stay productive during the impending Snowpocalypse.
Apart from the annoying cold and all the white fluffy stuff, the biggest potential inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with a major snowstorm include power outages or internet outages. Here's what to do if you wake up tomorrow without power or internet.
Preparing for a Power Loss
As the icy winds of Hoth blow through your town, they can destroy power lines, overload transformers, and otherwise do a whole lot of damage to the electricity grid. You don't want to wait until you wake up without power to start worrying about it though, so prepare right now with these tips.
Charge Up Your Devices the Night Beforehand
If you've got a nice supply of laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices in your house, plug them in now and let them charge up as long as you can. Avoid using them unplugged tonight so you don't forget to plug them back in overnight, and make sure they're powered off (or saving battery in sleep mode) so they don't start draining as soon as the power dies.
Charge Up Those Extra Batteries
You probably can't run out and buy extra batteries right now, but if you've got some extra ones lying around, whether they be regular batteries or extended batteries, don't forget to charge those up, too. We all know how much today's smartphones drain battery, so you'll need all the juice you can get.
Dig Out Your Old Phones
Chances are, you've got at least one or two (if not several) old phones buried in the basement. Dig out as many as you can find, and charge them up. If your smartphone dies early on in the day, you'll want other phones you can rely on—even if they're just regular feature phones. Lots of us have ditched our landlines, but if you need something in case of an emergency, that old beat up Motorola RAZR is the perfect candidate. Remember that most cellphones can still make emergency calls even if you don't pay for service, and if you can swap your SIM card from your current phone, it's easy to transfer your current service to an old device.
Get The Most Out of Your Battery Life
No matter what kind of device you have, chances are you can do some optimizing to make that battery last longer. Dim your screen, turn off Bluetooth and other non-essential apps or hardware, and put it to sleep whenever you're not using it. For more device-centric tips, check out our guides to extending the battery life of your Windows laptop, Linux laptop, an Android phone or any other smartphone. You can even eke a few more minutes out of your battery by using the right browser and turning off Flash completely.
Use Your Car as a Phone Charger When You Really Need It
It's not the ideal solution, but if your phone dies and you need one on hand for emergency calls, you can always whip out your car charger and start up your car for a few minutes of charging (you know, if your car will even start). You'll be patting yourself on the back for buying that USB car charger right about now.
Preparing for an Internet Outage
Even if your power doesn't go out, your ISP might lose service in the midst of the onslaught (it's happened to a few of us at team Lifehacker during previous storms). If they do, here are your options as far as staying connected.
Tether Your Phone
It's one of the most tried and true methods for getting wireless internet, and while it certainly won't provide a connection for the entire day, it can help you get any important work done before enjoying the rest of your snow day. If you're rocking an Android phone, you have quite a few choices, both if you've rooted and if you haven't. If you're an iPhone user and you haven't paid for tethering from AT&T, you'll have to jailbreak and use previously mentioned MyWi. Note that if you wake up without internet, you won't be able to jailbreak tomorrow—so if it's important enough to you, maybe tonight's the night to back up your phone and check out redsn0w. Also note that tethering will drain your battery like crazy, so use your internet wisely during the few precious moments you have. (That means no Facebook, you guys! It's just going to be full of the same Snowpocalypse statuses anyways).
Rent That Movie From iTunes—Just This Once—Because Netflix'll Be Down
You may forget from time to time that Netflix and other similar streaming services actually rely on a stable internet connection, so when you go to enjoy your day off tomorrow, you might be disappointed to realize you've lost your entire queue. Now would be a good time to check out iTunes' rental system, or something similar. You may not like that whole paying part, but you have to do the best you can with what you've got, right?
Check and See If You're the Only One
Just because you've lost power or internet doesn't mean everyone has. If you've got a Starbucks, McDonalds, or other Wi-Fi plentiful chain near your house, you can always head there to get some work done (you know, if you can even get out of the house). Make sure you've got a car-friendly driveway, too—if you're out of salt, there are a lot of other household items that'll melt that ice, too.
If Your Cell Service Goes Out (or Your Phone Runs Out of Juice)
If your cell goes dead, on either the battery or service side, and you lack for a fall-back landline, you've still got options—especially if your web connection is still active, or you've got another internet source.
Best option: Google Voice & Gmail calling
If you've already signed up to use Google Voice, you can make free calls from Gmail's chat sidebar. Just sign into Gmail, hit the "+" button to expand chat if it's not already expanded, and click the "Call phone" option. You may need to download a plug-in to get calling working; it might be a good move to already have it installed the night before a big storm hits.
Once the plug-in is installed, you're good to go, and if you use Android or otherwise have your Google Contacts set up, you won't even need to remember your boss' phone number. You'll be using your laptop speakers and tiny mic hole by default; it would be handy to have a USB headset handy, or at least a pair of headphones to prevent echoing and feedback.
If you aren't a Google Voice user, the best you can do is a VoIP service like Skype, which lets you call regular phones right from your computer. Of course, if your friends or relatives have Skype, you can call them for free, but if you need to call other people's regular old phones, you'll need to shell out a bit for a SkypeOut number. What's nice, though, is that you can pay as you go—so if you just need a SkypeOut number for the Snowpocalypse, you don't have to subscribe to a monthly plan or anything like that. Check out Skype's pricing plans for more information.
Accept Your Tech-Free Day as the Gift of Productivity
Computers and the internet are great tools, but they're also great distractions. If you lose your internet connection, or your power altogether, you may prefer to think of it not as a curse, but a productivity blessing. There are a lot of internet-free ways you can catch up with work, like going over your to-do list, organizing your files and folders, or even getting some real, distraction-free work done. It might even inspire you to disconnect more often.