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[P]
An Open Letter to the Consumer Electronics Industry

By fluffy grue in Op-Ed
Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 05:56:55 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Dear consumer electronics industry:

As you may be aware, most of your low-powered devices come with what's known as a "wallwart," an external transformer pack which hangs off of the wall.

Please stop using wallwarts for everything.


I am a long-time and avid buyer of your products. The number of products that I have is a testament to the amount that they have improved my lifestyle. However, it troubles me that so many of your products use the "wallwart" style of external power supply. There are so many of them that they crowd each other out on my many power strips. They are all slightly different sizes and shapes, and although most power strips now provide outlets to fit the vast majority of wallwarts, they are at a wallwart to cable ratio much, much lower than the actual ratio of wallwart to cable devices in my collection.

May I be so bold as to suggest adding a length of cord where the receptacle interface currently is? I know this sounds quite far-fetched, but please, hear me out. It doesn't have to be much - maybe one to two feet at most. Laptop computers have used such a setup for years. Various other devices use such a remarkable device as a length of wire as well; for example, the transformer on my computer speakers, the transformer on my drum machine, and the external power supply which powers my computer monitor.

However, the vast majority of the devices that I need to hook up to a power strip — the transformer for my serial Wacom tablet, the transformer for my powered USB hub, the transformer for my house-wide MP3 broadcast system, the transformers for many of my video game systems, the transformer for my new slim-line DVD player, the transformers for my modem and many network hubs and wireless access point, and countless other labor-saving and life-enhancing devices I have around my house — have one thing in common — they all use wallwarts.

This is very upsetting. In certain places, I need to have 3 6-outlet power strips daisy-chained so that I may power 8 low-voltage devices. As a relatively low-income member of society who otherwise manages to spend far too much money on your fine products, I would appreciate not having to spend large amounts of my wages on power strips, and in fact I stick to strips which use a 5:1 cord:wallwart ratio, as they are only $3 at Target. I suppose that I could simply buy a number of miniature extension cords to add the external length of cord to the wallwarts, but they are not particularly economical.

On a related note, why must the wallwarts be so big? Most of the devices which are being powered take less than 10 watts at 12 volts. This certainly does not necessitate transformers which seem to weigh a pound each, especially considering that the external transformer on my laptop (which certainly has higher power requirements than a minidisc player) is only maybe two ounces. Some of these wallwarts feel vastly over-engineered, in fact, and I can't help but wonder if you're actually adding in lead weights to make the transformers seem more impressive than they actually are. (Many years ago I bought a telephone which used this tactic, in fact; it was perhaps two pounds and felt as though it was robust and well-engineered, so when it broke after two weeks of minimal use, I opened it up to find that the actual circuitry was perhaps one ounce worth, and the rest of the mass was, indeed, lead weights.)

I understand your requirements in keeping the power supply separate from the device itself in order to make engineering and regulation simpler (since then you only have to certify one power supply independent of the hundreds of products which it will power), and as a user of many of these products I also appreciate how the device itself can be powered with replacement power supplies, should the original fail or be lost, and it also allows the bulky and hot-running circuitry to be separated from what is otherwise a sleek (and some would say "sexy") device. So please, I reiterate that I am not asking for the abolishment of external power supplies. I am merely pointing out that it might be friendlier to consumers to make a simple modification to the existing external power supplies which would further boost the comfort and convenience which your many fine products afford. Or, perhaps, bringing the "miniature extension cords" to market in a cost-effective way (perhaps they could be sold in bags of 20 for a unit price of, say, US$0.50 each).

I thank you for your time, and I hope to be liberated from bulky wallwarts in the future.

Sincerely,


A Consumer

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An Open Letter to the Consumer Electronics Industry | 93 comments (70 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
Why they are so big (5.00 / 4) (#3)
by tftp on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 10:07:54 PM EST

This certainly does not necessitate transformers which seem to weigh a pound each, especially considering that the external transformer on my laptop [...] is only maybe two ounces

That bulky transformer is all low frequency steel and copper. The high-energy transformer (one inside the switching power supply that your notebook uses) may cost more, and you still need those high-voltage transistors, optocoupler, PWM chip, high frequency filter... I dealt with switching power supplies, and they are very neat, as long as you are willing to pay. But wallwarts are low tech marvels, and they probably cost less than a single 250V rated transistor for the high-tech power supply.

But still... (4.66 / 3) (#8)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 10:17:07 PM EST

Must a simple 10:1 stepdown transformer and a bridge rectifier weigh that much for a device which draws 10-20W?
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Heavy metal (5.00 / 5) (#10)
by tftp on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 10:27:38 PM EST

Must a simple 10:1 stepdown transformer and a bridge rectifier weigh that much for a device which draws 10-20W?

Yes.

There are several factors involved, and I honestly don't remember all the formulae. But there are at least two items of interest:

  • Required diameter of the secondary coil wire
  • Required density of the magnetic field
The former relates to how much current you can draw from the coil without it overheating, melting and setting your house on fire. The latter relates to how much energy can go from the primary to the secondary coil through the magnetic field (that obviously both coils share). Low frequency transformers (made with soft steel) are quite inefficient, and saturate easily, this limits the energy density. Ferrite-based transformers, made with ceramic magnetic materials, are much better at that - but they won't work at low frequencies. There are plenty of lower order effects one has to keep in mind as well. Any book on electrical engineering will readily give you a set of graphs to properly design a transformer.

[ Parent ]
Maybe going about it the wrong way (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:27:28 PM EST

Maybe the question I should be asking is why do these low-power devices (which can't possibly need more than 500mA) come with high-power transformers (which are rated for 1-1.5A).
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Re: Maybe going about it the wrong way (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by tftp on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:37:37 PM EST

why do these low-power devices (which can't possibly need more than 500mA) come with high-power transformers

  1. How do you know how much these devices need in static mode?
  2. What peak current those devices can demand?
  3. What internal resistance of the power supply these devices can tolerate?
  4. What AC noise (50/60 Hz) is allowed on the output?
  5. What single model of a power supply the OEM can use with several products?
  6. What emergency margins the safety regulations require? In all relevant countries?
  7. How the primary power surges correspond to the safety margin of the transformer?
  8. etc.


[ Parent ]
C'mon, man (5.00 / 2) (#39)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:11:24 AM EST

Stop raining on my righteous indignation with those pesky "fact" things that all you gestapo types use to brainwash everyone.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Technology is improving (none / 0) (#68)
by gidds on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 02:10:47 PM EST

...in this area.  Bulky transformer-driven power supplies are slowly giving way to the more complex but much smaller switch-mode power supplies.  I'm told that they're now available on a chip.

Some very recent wall-wart type power supplies use them, notably for some mobile phones (cellphones).  I've one that's no bigger than a normal (UK) mains plug!

I look forward to these becoming more widely used...

Andy/
[ Parent ]

looking for... (5.00 / 6) (#7)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 10:16:03 PM EST

this?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
Hey, cool (4.66 / 3) (#9)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 10:18:29 PM EST

Yeah, that sort of thing. :) That still seems a bit expensive, though, and it'd be nice if it were just a native part of the wallwart to begin with.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

I [heart] Sony (4.66 / 3) (#12)
by rusty on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:05:36 PM EST

My Vaio (and I assume yours) does this right. The way there's a long skinny power cord from the machine to the brick, then a shorter regular sized cord (with regular plug) coming off of that. It's not even just this article -- many's the time I've remarked to myself what a great power supply design that is.

I think I've only ever owned Sony laptops, so maybe all laptops are like this. Nevertheless, that is the right way to do it.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Yeah (3.66 / 3) (#14)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:07:34 PM EST

My Thinkpad has that kind of power supply.. of course, it also turns itself on for no reason in the middle of the night.  The thing is fucking possessed, I swear.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Turns itself on (5.00 / 2) (#22)
by rusty on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:20:16 PM EST

It's reporting your personal habits back to IBM and Microsoft, who will pass them on to Doubleclick, the MPAA and the RIAA. Nothing to be concerned about, citizen. Buy more, and be happy.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Too bad for them (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:22:54 PM EST

Ah, I see what's going on.  Unfortunately for them, they can't track me - I ripped out the tooth with the chip, and I wear my tin foil hat wherever I go!

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Well, it did... (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:08:15 PM EST

You may recall that my Picturebook was stolen last September.

Regardless, my iBook's power supply is much nicer. Out of the box it's a slimline wallwart, but its plug is modular, and it comes with a cord replacement. Of course, the very first thing I did was turn it from a wallwart to a corded brick.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

I think all laptops are like this (none / 0) (#49)
by theR on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 02:05:40 AM EST

Though I'm not sure for the reasons. It may be because a huge proportion of all laptops (Dell, IBM, Sony, etc) are all supposedly made by one or two companies that the big sellers buy from, it could be because the manufacturers actually thought about the problem, it could be because it benefits them monetarily in some way. I certainly don't know why, but every laptop I've seen has had the two piece power cords.



[ Parent ]
Why don't you just say *laptop* (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by sacrelicious on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 02:35:06 AM EST

instead of Viao?

5 of 6 laptops (all of em since '96) i've owned have had this feature.

That said, I agree completely.

[ Parent ]

Because (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by rusty on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 02:35:37 PM EST

The only laptop I own is a Vaio, and it's the only one I have personal experience with. Sony makes lots of laptops, and I have no idea if they all have plugs like this. It appears they do though, from other comments.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
...or this? (none / 0) (#35)
by NFW on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:56:14 PM EST

I like the other approach better (a bunch of cheap short cables), and it's way cheaper, but just for the sake of completeness:

Dr. Ferd's Wall Wart Remover

I am not affiliated with the manufacturer, distributor, retailer....


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Gah (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:03:06 AM EST

That's expensive. It looks like it only does one, also. Those old-fashioned two-prong extension cords with the three sockets at the end work better for cheaper. :P Well, and then you end up with a mess of cables instead.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

My desk lamp has this (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by Stereo on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:22:42 PM EST

My italian table lamp uses a 12V halogen bulb and therefore needs a transformer, which is a black box in the middle of the power strip. Love it.

kuro5hin - Artes technicae et humaniores, a fossis


Lamps (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:31:45 PM EST

All of the halogen lamps I've seen (including the one I bought last night) just put the transformer into the base of the lamp itself.

Also, my SIDstation (which is, admittedly, pretty low-power) came with this really cute wallwart which is oriented sideways, so it fits into the same space as a normal plug. However, it only puts out 200mA at 6V, but still, it's much more compact than other wallwarts which put out similar amounts of power.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

You mean.. (none / 0) (#38)
by Stereo on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:07:19 AM EST

this really cute wallwart which is oriented sideways, so it fits into the same space as a normal plug

You mean the transformer is included in a longer, thicker plug which looks like this?

~~~~~[___]=

That's great!


kuro5hin - Artes technicae et humaniores, a fossis


[ Parent ]
Not quite (none / 0) (#51)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 03:15:21 AM EST

Wrong axis. :) But you get the basic idea.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Get a better power bar (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by Therac-25 on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:34:57 PM EST

like mine
--
"If there's one thing you can say about mankind / There's nothing kind about man."
No, see... (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 11:44:48 PM EST

That's a suboptimal solution. For starters, it'd be cheaper to just get enough $3 powerstrips to fit all of those transformers anyway. Also, what about when you're just plugging two polarized things into a wall outlet in, say, a hotel? If the transformers were designed to fit into regular outlets, it wouldn't be an issue.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Kensington Smartsockets (none / 0) (#37)
by pyra on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:05:58 AM EST

are also quite nice.

Pretty colours too ^_^.




--
"It was half way to Rivendell when the drugs began to take hold" - Hunter S. Tolkien "Fear and Loathing in Barad Dur"
[ Parent ]
Like yours what ? (none / 0) (#56)
by bugmaster on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 06:21:04 AM EST

Which company makes the power supply "like yours" ? What's it called ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Sorry (none / 0) (#80)
by Therac-25 on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 11:30:36 PM EST

It's called the Mighty 8 by Fellowes.
--
"If there's one thing you can say about mankind / There's nothing kind about man."
[ Parent ]
Cool (none / 0) (#82)
by bugmaster on Fri Jun 07, 2002 at 02:53:19 AM EST

Cool, thanks. And it's pretty cheap, too, compared to that $89 other one. Fellowes might be getting a new customer soon :-)
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Avoiding wallwarts.... (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by jeffy124 on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:14:31 AM EST

One purpose of wallwarts is to allow the company to sell their product in many countries by only changing the power cord that plugs into the device and the outlet. Typically (and unfortunately) this results in wallwarts.

OTOH, it appears Hewlett Packard caught the concept with the DeskJet 720 printers (and most likely other products as well.  There is a cord that plugs into the back of the printer, at the other end is a small box.  However, there is a non-typical or non-standardized plug here that connects another cord from the box to the outlet, no wallwart.

Clearly, companies making products commonly plugged into power strips (eg, home network hubs, cable/DSL modems, home theatre systems, etc) should seriously consider HP's approach.
--
You're the straw that broke the camel's back!

Well, yes... (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 01:53:23 AM EST

I thought I made it pretty clear that I don't have a problem with external power supplies. I love external power supplies, in fact. The problem isn't that it's external, but that it's shaped in such a way as to needlessly block off outlets...
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Maybe the US mains socket is too small. (none / 0) (#76)
by static on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:03:57 PM EST

I mean, the old two-prong socket is a fantastic space-saving idea and the plug-and-socket makers didn't really want to abandon that when they had to include earth pins.

Now the Australian or the British sockets are another thing: much bigger by default. So though plugpaks can be a problem, it's not so great. I have a powerpower under my server with two plugpaks in it - but ordinary mains plugs just fit into the sockets adjacent to them, due to complementary profiles (a bit like kerning letters).

Wade.


[ Parent ]

Sony's variation (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by thebrix on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 09:42:19 AM EST

My Sony Clie PEG-T425 has the same solution but comes with two leads, one with a two-pin and one with a three-pin wall plug. So, by swapping, you can charge the Clie in all European countries.

This is the first time I've seen both plugs supplied by default, and they're very useful; compare mobile phones where they are never supplied and the 'other' wall plug is always extortionately priced :/

[ Parent ]

Wallwarts (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by sigwinch on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 06:40:43 PM EST

One purpose of wallwarts is to allow the company to sell their product in many countries by only changing the power cord that plugs into the device and the outlet.
The other main purpose is so the product designer doesn't have to think about safety. There are a lot of regulatory and testing requirements for equipment that directly connects to AC power. If you design in a wallwart, you don't have think about it, the wallwart vendor already did it for you.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Netgear Ethernet Hubs/Switches.. (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by molo on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:30:40 AM EST

Netgear hubs and switches use a device like you suggest. A standard (pc-style) plug goes between the transformer and the outlet. A custom cable goes to the device. I like it very much, and hope others follow a similar example.

--
Whenever you walk by a computer and see someone using pico, be kind. Pause for a second and remind yourself that: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." -- Harley Hahn
Not all Netgear switches... (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by mattwnet on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 06:31:35 AM EST

I just bought a Netgear FS-105 5 port Fast Ethernet switch. It has one of those "wall warts" too, which caused a big problemw hen I tried to connect it to my UPS.

[ Parent ]
wait... (none / 0) (#42)
by pb on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 01:09:24 AM EST

You mean my Commodore 64 had it right 16 years ago, and they've been fucking it up ever since?  How unsurprising.  :(

By the way, would you mind terribly converting that &mdash; into a -- ?  It isn't a big deal, but not all of those entities display well in all web browsers, and they can be replaced by common ASCII characters.  The mdash entity isn't nearly as stupid as the ndash or the rdquo, however ...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

Er... (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 01:47:19 AM EST

If you'd posted it as an editorial comment when it was in the edit queue, I might have done that, except that I personally don't think that I should have to work around your browser's bugs.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#59)
by pb on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:45:20 AM EST

I think I did, but maybe by the time I posted it, the story was out of Editing.

I just mention it because it's something I end up having to support--there are a lot of people who use NS4.x internally where I work.  Also, as I mentioned before, I really see no point in replacing single ASCII characters with HTML entities--the ASCII characters will be around for much longer, are more compact, etc., etc.

&mdash; isn't as bad, but I figured I'd let you know anyhow.  :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Uh... (none / 0) (#66)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 11:44:04 AM EST

The thing is, all of the characters replaced by entities are more compact than the entities, but the entities are there for a reason — cross-encoding support. You don't have to worry about high-ASCII when all of your characters are 7-bit.

And two dashes look ugly. :P
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Irony (none / 0) (#69)
by rusty on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 02:31:14 PM EST

Ironically, on my browser (Galeon 1.x/Linux) mdashes display as two ASCII dashes next to each other.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Maybe it's your font? (none / 0) (#91)
by Logan on Sat Jun 08, 2002 at 09:12:01 AM EST

I'm using Galeon 1.x in Linux and appears as an unbroken dash. Perhaps your current font lacks such a glyph or something?

Logan

[ Parent ]

What? (none / 0) (#85)
by pb on Fri Jun 07, 2002 at 10:12:14 AM EST

All of the characters that I'd replace the entities with are 7bit; they're standard in e-mail.  Everyone uses ", ', -, ..., etc., etc.  They have zero problems with cross-encoding support.

Or am I missing something?

The only argument I've seen in favor of &mdash; (and none of the others, I might add) is that "two dashes look ugly" -- and there's no guarantee that an &mdash; will even be rendered as one big dash, as Rusty pointed out.  At least my two dashes are consistently rendered as two dashes, and not as one dash, two dashes, or &mdash;.   :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

ASCII kludges (3.80 / 5) (#52)
by J'raxis on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 03:33:13 AM EST

Blech — your “ASCII kludges” are ugly… you need a better browser, don’t you?

— The Raxis

P.S.: I wasn’t able to work an “–” into this. Oh, there’s one!

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Inefficient HTML Entities (none / 0) (#60)
by pb on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:47:39 AM EST

Is that why we have &mdash; ?  Aesthetics?  I suppose that's a reason, and probably the only reason.  I can accept that, but it's still no reason for the rest of them.

P.S.  Good thing that isn't an &ndash;, or I'd have to smack you.  :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

No... (none / 0) (#83)
by J'raxis on Fri Jun 07, 2002 at 08:57:59 AM EST

The symbols have existed in professional print typography for, … well, a long time. But certain characters had to be left out of ASCII to make all the important ones fit, so I guess things that could be simulated (three periods for an elipsis, etc.) or just forgotten about (the difference between a hyphen, n- and m-dash) were left out.

And as for the quotation marks, they serve the same purpose as parentheses. There are matching parentheses, brackets, and braces, so there should be matching quotation symbols, no?

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

I suppose, but... (none / 0) (#84)
by pb on Fri Jun 07, 2002 at 10:08:26 AM EST

The web is hardly the place for professional print typography; I would hope that anyone who tries to do that in HTML simply doesn't know about TeX, PostScript, PDF...

No, this is a discussion forum, not a book; people write back and forth to each other in ASCII, with little mark-up.  If I wanted to make my own footnotes and margins, you might have a point, but it's all strikingly out of place in my comments.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#87)
by J'raxis on Sat Jun 08, 2002 at 02:43:06 AM EST

We weren’t really talking about your comment, we were originally talking about the article — which is a place I think correct typographical symbols should be used.

Eventually, the correct symbols will be usable in all text forms once UTF-8 becomes the norm. (UTF-8 is a way of encoding multibyte characters along with single-byte ASCII.) You won’t need to know entities or other special techniques to produce the symbols, they’ll be able to be directly encoded as raw character data (multibyte, but still actual characters). According to the W3C standards, HTML, which is now officially a subset of XML, not SGML, is, by default, to be encoded in full-blown UTF-8, not just US-ASCII.

— The U+Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Syntax and Meaning (none / 0) (#90)
by Logan on Sat Jun 08, 2002 at 09:09:55 AM EST

It's part of the general SGML approach to avoid mixing syntax with meaning and simplify parsing. Does a "-" mean a soft hyphen, a hard hyphen, or some sort of dash, or a unary or binary arithmetic operator? While the purpose of many entities is to help with independence from character set encodings, many others are there for a semantic reason. In the SGML world, verbosity is preferred over possibly obscure syntax, and so most punctuation is represented by entities. Of course, LaTeX takes the opposite approach.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either style. In regard to the SGML style, it minimizes the effort on the part of user-agents to predict what the author means. An &mdash; is always an , and in terms of tokens is shorter and simpler than -- would be, thus simplifying parsing. Regardless of how intelligent you feel this design is, HTML is SGML, and until Rusty provides support for stories and comments written in LaTeX, it makes a lot more sense to use something like as opposed to -- on kuro5hin.

Logan

[ Parent ]

Speaking of which... (none / 0) (#92)
by Logan on Sat Jun 08, 2002 at 09:16:48 AM EST

It seems that Scoop isn't very good at parsing and preserving HTML, unless I accidentally put &mdash; instead of &amp;mdash; in a couple of places. Ah hah! It's preview that breaks this. Can't be too hard to fix. One should always encode user data that is being used to populate a form!

Logan

[ Parent ]

Easy & cheap solution (5.00 / 2) (#44)
by Ludwig on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 01:35:16 AM EST

Go to the hardware store, pick up a roll of 18/2 zipcord and a buncha male and female quick-ons. Make your own 6-8" extensions for probably 60 each. They'll be short enough that you avoid the tangled mess problem, and a hell of a lot cheaper than that absurd Dr. Ferd's thing.

Hear, hear! (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by ocelotbob on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 01:40:00 AM EST

The electronics people have gone way too far with the wall warts. My PSone, modem, hub, speakers, answerphone, and cordless phone all use these confounded poxes on humanity. I've also got a few nice items, like the power supply for my digital camera, and my dreamcast, that are nice, sensible pieces of electronics that allow for other hardware to plug into the power strip unobstructed.

I do realize that there are expensive power supplies, etc, that one can buy that will rectify this problem, but why should it be an issue to begin with? If the manufacturer really needs an external transformer, why don't they plug the transformer into the actual device, like is done with the N64? It seems like a much more elegant, and much more efficient solution than having to deal with working around poorly designed electrical devices.

Why... in my day, the idea wasn't to have a comfortable sub[missive]...
--soylentdas

interference (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by j1mmy on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 10:50:21 AM EST

why don't they plug the transformer into the actual device, like is done with the N64?

My guess is interference. I can see this being an issue with speakers, phones, and other things that produce sound using an electric signal.

[ Parent ]

n64 (none / 0) (#77)
by X3nocide on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:33:47 PM EST

Maybe I'm misinterpreting the post, but the n64 is not so inferior as to not have sound. The RCA stanard lines are in close proximity to the gigantic AC transformer, and I get about as much interference as having my speakers placed right next to a 6 way split outlet.

I'd wager I get more interference from my PC powersupply and soundcard interaction....

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]

You can build (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by medham on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 01:57:23 AM EST

A device from power supplies using consumer technologies.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

What would be nice... (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by squigly on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 04:23:38 AM EST

Is a standard 5/12V power connector so we could plug a few dozen devices into a single supply.

I can think of three... (none / 0) (#63)
by epeus on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 09:57:10 AM EST

The two obvious ones would be FireWire (as used for the iPod) and USB. The carry power, are compact, and can easily be passed through a device. Sadly the one that everyone uses is the 'car cigarette lighter' plug which is as big and bulky as a transformer.

[ Parent ]
Quality as a second language (4.00 / 2) (#55)
by stpna5 on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 04:31:21 AM EST

They are a primarily a result of the downsizing of standards for electrical safety going hand in hand with NAFTA/GATT, busting unions, hiring illegal aliens and de-industrializing the existing infrastructure by moving your manufacturing machinery offshore. There are many more fires caused by aluminum wiring supplanting copper wiring in such applications (as well as in new construction) and wall warts keep drawing a current even when the device is shut down. Turn off your device for two days and leave the wallwart plugged in. It feels like it's running a temperature. I've seen them melt and start smoking, just before becoming flameworthy; not unlike ballasts used in hanging fluorescent light fixture kits which are also prone to this. Nearly all of these devices are fabricated using defacto slave labor in locales on the Asian continent which have no petty UL, OSHA or even the most pedestrian worker safety strictures.

Wow... (none / 0) (#65)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 11:42:01 AM EST

I'd discount that as the paranoid ramblings of a delusional schizophrenic if it didn't seem to make so much sense. :)
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Standarization. (5.00 / 2) (#58)
by tekue on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:35:25 AM EST

It's just an off-the-wall thought, but if all (well, most at least) of the electronics producers standarized the power input at some point, we could have a single transformer that you would plug the little stuff into. It would be like a power cord for low-voltage equipement.

But no, you need to have a separate power transformer for each gizmo you buy, It's Better That Way(R).
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins

Dear Consumer Electronics Industry... (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Ward57 on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:01:51 PM EST

Why are the plugs on the end of wallwarts different? I wouldn't be suprised if they were all made in the same factory.

Why can we only plug one transformer into one device, instead of two or more devices into one transformer?

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment.

Yours,

Tim Whitworth



They are different for the different voltages (none / 0) (#78)
by gte910h on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:50:17 PM EST

The differing ends on the wallwarts are differentiated by the voltage and the type of electricity going through it.

[ Parent ]
Not that many different voltages. (none / 0) (#89)
by Rhinobird on Sat Jun 08, 2002 at 05:57:02 AM EST

Most likey they output 12, 9 and 5 volts, sometimes 7. And it's all DC because these things can usually be battery powered too. I wouldn't mind being able to walk into, say, a radioshack and pick up a universal powersupply with enough end connections for 5 or 10 devices. But then I'd be stuck with what to do with extraneous power supplies. Somebody has got to recycle them..
"If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
[ Parent ]
Build a welder (none / 0) (#93)
by gte910h on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:55:50 AM EST

With enough transformers, you can build a neat welder. Google will reveal the plans.

[ Parent ]
Some answers (none / 0) (#72)
by Mr.Surly on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 03:06:49 PM EST

On a related note, why must the wallwarts be so big?

Because the AC power from the wall is 60Hz. If this frequency was higher, then the transformer can be smaller (and lighter). Lightweight supplies (like the ones for laptops) rectify the AC to DC then re-chop it to high-frequency AC (say ... 40 Khz). Therefore, their transformer is 1/10th the weight, with 10 times the power throughput. Also, these numbers are guestimates -- no need to flame me on the inaccuracies.

I understand your requirements in keeping the power supply separate from the device itself in order to make engineering and regulation simpler

I'd guess that it was more of a decision to make the main casing of the equipment small and light by removing the bulky / heavy transformer, and moving it somewhere else, like your wall. Many wall-warts only step down the wall voltage to 9-24 VAC, which is then rectified, filtered, and regulated within the device itself. Other wall-warts produce regulated DC.

Wallwarts do suck... (5.00 / 2) (#73)
by cr0sh on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 05:59:03 PM EST

But let me tell you something - wallwarts with "pigtails" seem to suck more.

I own an Amiga 1200 - and one of the least impressive things about it is the external power supply - hard to find a spot for, funky connectors, a bit bulky - just plain yuck. I can't say I really like laptop power supplies much, either, but I don't use a laptop much, so I don't worry about it.

As far as wallwarts for my various devices hooked up to my computer, I finally got fed up with it a while back. I had a wallwart for seemingly everything - my telephone even had one (it is a multi-line speakerphone)! I ended up doing the "sensible" thing.

I looked at each wallwart and found what the voltage and current rating was. I added up the current ratings (to find the total current rating), then compared the voltages. Most were 12VDC, some were 9VDC, one (my external ZIP drive) was 5VDC (albeit at 1 Amp!). I then did what any good geek would do - I went to my local electronics recycler (Apache Reclamation here in Phoenix, AZ).

I found a SUN switching power supply with 5VDC and 12VDC rails, which had plenty of current capacity. I then bought a few bus screw terminal strips, some yellow wire, some red wire, and some black wire.

I took all of this back home. I have a folding table for a desk, so using some pipe strapping and screws, I mounted the power supply to the bottom of the desk. I then hooked the yellow wire up and ran it to the terminal strips - I spaced the strips out evenly under the desk. I did the same with the red and the black (yellow went to 12VDC, red to 5VDC, and black to ground). Each strip gave me an "access point" for power. I could get 12VDC, 5VDC, and 7VDC (by the infamous OC'ers trick of using the 5VDC line as "ground", giving me 7 volts potential between the 5 volt line and the 12 volt line). I color coded the lines to match that in a standard PC supply (though on the SUN side of things blue was 12 volts, IIRC). There was also a couple of smaller pigtails coming off the supply - one was 5VDC that I used to power an LED (I mounted it under the table on the edge metal via a hole - instant power indicator lamp), the other was a 12VDC line that I used to power a fan to blow cool air into my 19" monitor that gets kinda warm.

I cut the ends off the wallwarts and wired them into the terminal strips and plugged the devices in. Turned it on and everything worked beautifully. I eliminated about six of those suckers in one swoop, and have plenty of current capacity and terminal strips to add more in the future.

Total cost? About $10.00, most of that being the power supply.

Commodore (none / 0) (#86)
by Vs on Fri Jun 07, 2002 at 03:59:43 PM EST

Yes, I'd like my foot-warmer from the C=64 back, please!

But IIRC, althoug it was wedge-shaped, you couldn't put your foot comfortably on it.
--
Where are the immoderate submissions?
[ Parent ]

Footwarmers (none / 0) (#88)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jun 08, 2002 at 03:10:05 AM EST

This is what I like about the power supply for my LCD monitor. :)
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Wallwarts waste electricity too... (none / 0) (#79)
by tapir on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 09:39:41 PM EST

     Another thing that I hate about walwarts is that they waste electricity when the appliance is turned off.  Although you can turn the appliance off with it's off switch,  electricity still gets burned up in the transformer in the wart -- some of it due to electrical resistance in the wiring, some due to hysteresis in the iron core.

     Now,  a wallwart only wastes a watt or so,  but often it's plugged in all the time and there are a whole bunch of devices that also waste a watt or so because they use a power supply scaled for 30 watts to supply 0.02 watts for a remote control receiver.  Together,  these devices burn a significant amount of electricity,  drive up our electric bills,  and contribute to global warming.  Let's do something about it.

110V ? The price of being diffrent :-) (none / 0) (#81)
by Gerhard on Fri Jun 07, 2002 at 02:37:23 AM EST

I used to work for a large contract manufacturer in the electronics field. Most of equipment we manufactured for local use has internal power supplies. We sometime got contracts from companies that sell their merchendice all over the world. They always used wall warts. Most countries use 220v but if a country used 110v the equipment must redesigned. This is where wall warts comes to the rescue. If some of this equipment went to America we just throw a 110V wall wart, in some European countries the equipment is shipped with 220v wall warts with flat pins, and in a lot of other places with round pins, or even with three thick pins.

An Open Letter to the Consumer Electronics Industry | 93 comments (70 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
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