lights off…lights on…

I must have mentioned previously that here in Ghana, rationing of water and electricity (load shedding) on most areas are a normal occurrence. Just by good luck, the area of Tamale that I live in doesn't have scheduled load-shedding nor it has the rationing of tap-water. But this luxury comes at a very heavy price, as I have recently found out - you never know when the electricity supply is cut (and usually the availability of tap-water follows the pattern of electricity supply). Since there is no scheduled load-shedding in the area I live in, when the lights go off, its the "general lights off" as is known here, and it means the whole town is without electricity!

Anyway, coming back to the "heavy price" of this uncertain supply (or more appropriately, the uncertain cut-off) of electricity, I found out what happens to a laptop battery when you have all sorts of power-hungry devices (mostly the USB plug-and-play devices such as external hard drives) are plugged in and the mains power is suddenly cut off - my laptop battery just went dead! It actually happened a couple of weeks ago. I was burning some pictures from my external HD that requires mains power to a CD on my laptop, and suddenly the mains power was off. As soon as the external HD shut off, my computer went dead. Nothing I did to make it come back worked. The power indicator on the battery showed that it was fully charged, but none was getting through to the computer. I thought my laptop HD was gone, which meant a disaster, for I hadn't backed-up my system (which I do at least once every couple of months normally) since I came to Ghana. I do update the copy of "Documents" on external HD every week or so, so I wasn't too worried about losing much of my recent work.

I think I was more worried because I didn't know exactly what was wrong with my computer - other than that something was seriously wrong. The battery seemed to be fully charged (as I could check the charge-level indicator) yet I couldn't start up my computer. After thinking all sorts of scenarios in my head, I started to work out the next plan of action. It seemed that all roads were leading me to Accra or Kumasi - for there are only a few computer service centres here in Tamale but unsurprisingly not a single one specialising in Apple computers. In fact I haven't seen another person using a Mac since I came to Tamale! I was pacing back and forth in my living room wondering what to do next when it came to my mind that I actually have a spare battery, which had come in very handy previously when I was travelling and didn't have regular access to mains power. I decided to give one last try - change the battery and see what happens.

My laptop came to life as soon as I replaced the battery and pushed the power button! I can't express how relieved I was. Nothing was lost, but the blank CD that was in the drive when the computer shut off wouldn't come out - the burning program was still seeking the source (the external hard drive) to copy the materials from, and with no lights the HD was off. I "force quit" the CD burning program after some struggle to find it in the running processes list (I was using the built in burner, which doesn't have a GUI!). The CD was ruined but it got ejected at last.

Now was the turn to check the battery which had just died. And it wasn't too hard to know what had happened. The burning smell that was coming from the section of the battery which connects to the laptop to supply the power was telling me everything I needed to know. It was the same familiar smell that you get from a blown-up fuse or other blow-up of electronic devices. One of my laptop batteries was unusable now, and it hit home how careful I have to be while using my gadgets here in Ghana! Anyway, the relief at seeing my computer back to life more than compensated the loss of a spare battery. And I am much more careful now when using these external devices. I try to put as little strain on my laptop power, and don't try to copy or move things directly from one external device to another, and I don't use external devices during weekends (when they tend to cut-off power here without any notice!) - the lesson you learn the hard way!

Well it has been two weeks since my last post, and I have just blurted out the story of my dead battery, which actually happened even before my last post. Hopefully my next post wouldn't be as mundane as this one though...hopefully...

4 thoughts on “lights off…lights on…

  1. keshuvko

    There are many things hidden in your story of dead battery. 🙂
    Hopefully the next story will be about something good to you.

    (I saw a visitor of my site from Ghana and wondered who s/he can be. Are you the one? :))

    Date:Mon 10 Sep 2007 11:23:05

    All the best

  2. mahesh

    i too am wondering about the "hidden things" in my story of dead battery keshuv. and i might be the visitor from Ghana on your blog!

    ymjp, i actually had the surge was not the surge but the sudden power cut that blew my battery...i think what i need is an UPS or something like that but no budget to afford that, unfortunately...have started backing up the documents to an external portable HD everyday now...

  3. deepak

    Your post has an eerie echo of contemporary Nepal with loadshedding, scarcity of water, endless queues in petrol pumps. We used to frown at the mention of African states, But, we no longer fare better!

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