Horse Sense #108

Cold Weather and Electronics

Protect Your Electronics From the Cold

Much of the US is experiencing an unusual blast of cold air. In general, electronics operate well when it is cool, but not when it is cold. Every piece of electronics has an operating temperature range. It is usually stated right on the data sheets. We all know that electronic equipment will fail if it gets too hot, but it can also fail if it is too cold, too dry, or too wet.

But....That's not a big deal, right? Wrong. If you bring electronics in from bitter cold, they might be starting out at temperatures below their rated operating temperatures. Even worse, turning on those electronics will cause them to heat up quickly. Worse, the heating will often be uneven as one part heats up and others remain cold. Rapid heating or cooling is can cause electronic components and wiring to crack and fail. With higher power devices, explosions or implosions are possible.

So, if you left your laptop, its charger, a cell phone, or even your GPS in the car for a while and it got very cold, then do yourself a favor and let it warm up slowly before you turn it on to minimize the chance of damage. Most electronics should be OK in 1/2 hour or so. But, you can probably tell fairly well by just touching them. If they still feel cold, give them a bit longer to warm up. Do *not* use a hair dryer or anything else to accelerate the process. Cold electronics can also cause water from the air to condense on them. Obviously, you want to let these electronics dry out thoroughly both inside and outside. Be very careful with batteries as well. Batteries are probably one of the most dangerous pieces of electrical gear consumers normally handle. They seem inert, but they drive everything. Treat them with caution and respect. If a battery case cracks in the cold, do not use it unless you ask the manufacturer whether it is safe. Anything that carries or generates electricity will behave poorly or not at all outside its rated operating temperature range and rapid heating or cooling is a recipe for disaster.

Protect Your Eyes From Your Electronics

Your electronics are just tools. When technicians work with tools, they often wear safety glasses. Surprise! You may benefit from wearing glasses (or different glasses) when you are looking at your various screens. Typically, you tend to view monitors and tablets at greater distances than you might a book. So, eyeglasses designed for computer work tend to allow for a sharper focus at longer distances than those designed for reading. You can get bifocals which have both distances built in. Sharper focus means easier reading and less eye strain. Computer glasses also will have tints to minimize glare. Many high resolution screens have little or no anti-glare treatment because such treatments make the images look a fuzzy. Glare is a big issue in offices with overhead lighting. Obviously, reflected sunlight can cause a lot of glare, but many people tend to minimize that naturally by moving their equipment. Treated eyeglasses will help you minimize all sources of glare. Ask your optometrist if he can help you see better at work.

If you think this tip is just for those who wear eyeglasses, you are wrong. So called computer gaming glasses have tints and treatments that help reduce glare and eye strain. Some are quite stylish and look like sun glasses. In fact, you can use them outdoors to lessen glare as well. But, they also tend to do other things to help you that regular eye glasses do not. For example, they tend to wrap more around your head to prevent glare coming in from the sides. In addition, this can help keep your eyes from drying out as well.

If you spend long hours in front of the computer, call us and ask us about glasses. And, no, you don't have to look geeky. The styling is actually pretty nice. Of course, you might have to explain why you are "too cool for school" and wear your "sunglasses" indoors. Start a new fashion trend that will actually benefit your eyes and your work.

The Cloud is Really Out There

I get very tired about hearing cloud this and cloud that. The cloud is not the answer to everything. In fact, you have to be very careful even with conceptually simple things like backing up to the cloud. I wrote an article on why latency a while back. Latency issues often place the upper limit on what you can do with your Internet connection because you are not steadily moving large streams of data. So, backing up large amounts of data seems to be a relatively good way to use that connection. Well.... There is large, and then there is massive. The problem is that many people want to back up massive amounts of data over their Internet links. That does not work out well because 100GB of data uploaded over a 768Kbps DSL connection will take at least 15 days! And that is assuming you are not using that link for anything else. So, what can you do? Well, you can get a faster link, but the best solution is to back up really large amounts of data locally and back up only incremental changes or the most critical information over your Internet link.

Want to see how fast you can back up over your Internet link? Use this link: < {link repaired 4/22/2016]

Cloud storage can also be expensive in other ways, so you could really save a lot by limiting what you store in the cloud or shifting to local disk based backups. The example here leaves out a couple of cost/business factors. One, you have to physically move data off site to have off site storage. Two, you have to get someone to do it reliably. That is not as easy as the more automatic method of backing up information to the cloud. But, as your backup size increases, cloud backups become an untenable option. w

©2014 Tony tirk, Iron Horse