Friday, April 25, 2008

Altitude vs. Hard Drives

If you look on the side of computers like your standard ThinkPad or Dell, you'll see a spec outlining a maximum altitude of 10,000'. This includes iPods and anything not running Flash Memory. The reason is simple physics: a disc runs in between two readers- an electronic charge passes between the disc and *presto* memory. The altitude challenge comes in thanks to limited oxygen molecules, which aid the disc in "floating" between the readers on a bed of oxygen molecules, passing the charge. Looking very much like record needles, with limited O2 to provide a buffer and allow the disc to float in a stable manner, the disc wobbles, scratches on the readers, and loses memory. Enough of this and your hard drive is rendered useless.

Still, here's a list of our electronics, what is working and what has encountered problems:

- iPod: Works in Base Camp, although from time to time strangely turns itself on. Damn ghosts... higher than Base Camp, it's toast.

- iPod Shuffle: Works like a charm, even up high. Computer connector for charging this little lightweight toy is at Base Camp, solar charger is for use up high. Man, is this thing popular with the Sherpas. G-Man and Tendi barely let me keep it long enough to charge it when not in my pocket. Lhakpa has laid claim to it after this trip is over. Might as well scratch "Lhakpa" into the back. Mom won this in some Safeway drawing, believe it or not.

- Dell 600: For use solely at Base Camp, running basic Windows XP and an older version of IE. Trucks along reliably, charges using our Base Camp electrical setup. There's some rhyme or reason to this solar/battery/generator wiring harness that we are keeping our fingers crossed will make sense by the time we leave here.

- Dell XPS: Same as the 600 model, Windows XP and straight out of the box enroute to here. Works in Base Camp, hasn't gone higher.

- Itronix Duo-Touch: Works great at all altitudes, has a Flash hard drive as set up by the General Dynamics guys. Touch screen cracked in the cold, rendering the stylus useless. So we have to attach a keypad & mouse to continue operating. Other than that, no problems whatsoever, probably going to Camp II & III if this dispatch blackout ever ends.

- BGAN: Need a PhD to operate initially; User Guide is about 700 pages thick. Works well once you figure it out.