Tuesday, February 09, 2010

As a "physical" winter storm approaches: how "hardened" is my digital life?

With a (back-to-back) winter storm approaching, and the possibility of power outages, conceivably prolonged, one wonders how well various electronics would fare.

An article by Catherine Roseberry at About.com states that the acceptable range for laptop use is about 50 degrees F to 95 degrees F. Most well insulated homes will not go below 50 F for a long time (at least on upper floors) unless it is extremely cold outside during the outage. In the summer, during a heat wave, indoor temperature could go up quickly; the basement will be the coolest place. The link is here.

Note the tip about not leaving the laptop in direct sunlight or in a hot car when traveling. Remember, even if it is only 60 degrees in March outside, in a locked closed car it will warm up quickly.

She also recommends laptop stands to dissipate internal heat. I’ve never heard this before.

If you go to stay with someone during an outage or go to a hotel, remember to pack everything: laptop battery charger, Blackberry connector, and Blackberry charger. Use a subscription wireless service (Verizon, etc) rather than a free service for maximum security.

A quick search of Dell’s website (link) found a server with recommended operating temperature the same (50 F to 95 F) and a permissible storage temperature that surprised me: -40 F to +149 F (like maybe it could have to be stored on another planet some day).

All this suggests that most electronics can stand long time temperature changes (moisture is another matter), but should be recooled or rewarmed very gradually before reuse. Some offices allow air conditioning or heat to be turned off on weekends, which means that on Monday mornings computer might be brought up in more extreme temperatures, which is not good.

Since many of us have invested in compact disc collections over the years (since the late 1980s) proper storage and care becomes an issue. We’re gradually finding out that they don’t necessarily last forever. The foam padding and program notes could sometimes cause damage over long periods of time. In some CD’s, the aluminum oxide coating may tend to oxidize. One site (link) says that they should be stored at temperature 50 to 68 F with 40-50 % RH, but in many homes temperature and humidity gets higher in the summer. People with very large collections of classical music could consider taking care of their old vinyl; wear is less of an issue with albums that as a practical matter aren’t played often. If stored upright in original sleeves, temperature is probably not as big an issue with analog media.

More and more classical music is being offered as MP3 albums to be downloaded “legally” sometimes at lower prices than CD’s. One advantage for this method is that the files could be backed up offsite (Mozy, Carbonite, Webroot, etc), offering protection from physical destruction, either by natural disaster or theft.

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