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EU Portables Power

Standardized Laptop Charger Approved By IEC 289

Posted by timothy
from the best-news-all-month dept.
Sockatume writes "The IEC, the standards body which wrote the phone charger specification used in the EU, has approved a standardised laptop charger. While the 'DC Power Supply for Portable Personal Computer' doesn't have a legal mandate behind it, the IEC is still optimistic that it will lead to a reduction in electronics waste and make it easier to find a replacement charger. Unfortunately the technical documentation does not seem to be available yet, but previous comments indicate that it will be a barrel plug of some kind." I wish they'd push a yank-resistant and positive-connecting plug along the lines of Apple's MagSafe.
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Standardized Laptop Charger Approved By IEC

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:10AM (#45714023)

    On a magnetic yank resistant plug

    • by Zanadou (1043400) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:32AM (#45714309)
      But, what about on a plug resistant magnetic yank?
    • by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:33AM (#45714325)

      can't use something like magsafe because all computer standards push the industry towards the lowest-common-denominator cheap component solution. This is from lobbying of all companies. Thus the "benefit" to consumers is cheap products. no wonder apple stands alone and garners 90%+ of profits in the personal computer space.

      Hint to manufacturers: there's a portion of the market that likes nice things, or at least not bottom-of-the-barrel cheap things.

    • by tysonedwards (969693) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:37AM (#45714379)
      There is a single patent on the connector, filed September 26, 2005 and issued December 25, 2007.
      In 2001 UL created and released to market - as a standard enforced by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission - a magnetic reversible plug for use on electric fryers that would disconnect if pulled.

      Apple's offering is technically different in the sense that the cord can also "attach itself" to an electronic device, and where it will not provide power should it not be acted upon by another magnetic field.
      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        I'm actually quite surprised someone hasn't challenged that one yet.

        • by jandrese (485)
          They're probably waiting a couple more years before surfacing and suing Apple for a Billion dollars.
      • by brianwski (2401184) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:57AM (#45714651) Homepage
        In a another example, my HP Veer Smartphone (it's the Palm Pre line) has a magnetic charging cable that can ALSO carry data and audio!

        Seriously, the HP Veer hardware was nicely designed, but the software is a train wreck. I still can't understand how the iPhone doesn't have a MagSafe recharge option, but my HP Veer does?
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by kelemvor4 (1980226)

        In 2001 UL created and released to market - as a standard enforced by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission - a magnetic reversible plug for use on electric fryers that would disconnect if pulled.

        Emphasis mine. Yep, our patent system is that bad.

        Until people start cooking with their apple computers I suspect apple is going to be okay.

        • by Aaden42 (198257)

          Lemme dig up my original Core Duo Mac Book Pro. Pretty sure you could roast meat on that thing when it got cooking. At least roasted my leg a couple of times when the cores hit 99C!

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)

      Manufacturers can put a yank resistant device just outside of the plug.

    • by mlts (1038732)

      Wasn't there prior art, from a Japanese crock pot that had this technology initially?

      What would be nice is to not just have power, but to have data and video on this connector. That way, one can have Thunderbolt, HDMI 2, power, 2-3 lanes of USB 3.5, 1-2 lanes of USB 2.0 (for keyboards and HIDs), and of course GigE or 10GigE, all on the same wire.

      Of course, with the space freed up on the device with this one port doing virtually everything, maybe device makers might start putting back the Kensington lock sl

    • by slim (1652) <john@hartn u p .net> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:10PM (#45714869) Homepage

      A Yank resistant plug might do well in Europe and Asia, but I think most manufacturers wouldn't want to alienate the American market.

      • A Yank resistant plug might do well in Europe and Asia, but I think most manufacturers wouldn't want to alienate the American market.

        In America we're Americans. We're only "Yanks" to foreigners. Most Americans would probably not make the connection. No connection, nothing to yank. Problem solved.
        I guess it does sound simmilar to "yankee" which is a slur against denizens of the northeastern US.

        • by weilawei (897823)
          I'm an American and that seemed pretty obvious to me. Then again, there's no shortage of people using the term on this site. I'm also from Mass, and it doesn't seem like a slur to me. Hell, we call ourselves massholes.
        • by Wootery (1087023)

          I guess it does sound simmilar to "yankee" which is a slur against denizens of the northeastern US.

          It always struck me as odd that that word made its way into the NATO phonetic alphabet.

    • One of these [wikipedia.org] would make it Yank resistant.

  • patented (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:10AM (#45714025)

    You can't use MagSafe because it's an Apple innovation. It took a major stroke of genius to put a fryer plug on a laptop.

    • Re:patented (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:22AM (#45714203) Homepage Journal

      And yet the Pogo charger performs the same function with the same magnetic disconnect mode. It's used by a handful of top tier tablets and phones, but clearly someone has found a loophole in Apple's patent for the connector, as it's functionally identical.

      • but clearly someone has found a loophole in Apple's patent for the connector, as it's functionally identical

        I haven't had a change to look at this Pogo connector. If they managed to make the design much closer to the original fryer plug then they could license that. If it is close enough to the old patent they could easily (ha!) claim that the Apple patent doesn't cover it.

    • Re:patented (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:48AM (#45714515)

      It's interesting actually... I genuinely wondered why you don't get mildly electrocuted when you touch the completely exposed connectors end of it, until I actually saw what they'd patented: What they've patented is that it won't provide power until it's acted on by exactly the right magnetic field to indicate that it's plugged into the laptop already.

      At least for me, that passes all the tests of non-obviousness and first people to think of it.

  • Fingers crossed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:12AM (#45714045)

    Hopefully the source article won't be quietly edited after-the-fact so that I look like a raging moron, as happened with my last submission. :/

    • Must be nice to have that problem.

      I've been here ~10+years and my subs NEVER get posted.

      • You're complaining? I've been here fifteen years, and I've never had a submission accepted either!

        • Meanwhile I'm a relative newcomer and I'm 1/1 with my COIN [slashdot.org] "slashvertisement" submission. After I submitted, I noticed a nearly-identical submission preceding mine in the firehose. Amusingly, it's mine that made it to the front page.

          When I emailed the COIN folks to let them know they made it to slashdot's front page, I didn't even get so much as a "Cool, thanks!". Now I wish I had started spamming my referral URL in the comments :P
        • by RevWaldo (1186281)
          You're lucky! I've been here thirty years and the first time I submitted an article CowboyNeal slashed me to death with a bread knife!

          .
        • by weilawei (897823)
          You're complaining? When my grandpappy was a boy, he had to walk uphill, both ways, in the snow just to send a submission by pony express and he never got accepted once!
        • by whoever57 (658626)

          You're complaining? I've been here fifteen years, and I've never had a submission accepted either!

          I have had multiple submissions accepted and rejected, but the one thaat really rankles, is the one in which I took the time to write some new text to describe the article, then someone else copy/pasted my text into another submission that got accepted in place of mine.

          • by weilawei (897823)
            You know, that suggests an awfully easy way to get a submission accepted, if such is your goal in life...
      • One of mine did, but it had Rotund Priquepull's name on it.

  • So Would Apple (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kagato (116051) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:12AM (#45714055)

    "I wish they'd push a yank-resistant and positive-connecting plug along the lines of Apple's MagSafe."

    So would Apple since they have a patent on the MagSafe design. I suspect it would be quite the patent windfall.

    • So would Apple since they have a patent on the MagSafe design.

      Perhaps they could use a design like on those Japanese domestic deep fat fryers instead.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That sounds unlikely, because those provide power whether they're plugged in or not, and hence would be an electrocution risk (unlike apple's design, who's patented functionality is not providing power until it detects the correct magnetic field to indicate it's plugged in).

        • not providing power until it detects the correct magnetic field to indicate it's plugged in

          Fair enough. I wonder how much they patented. If the patent just magnetic based, then presumably you could add an extra pin and only switch on the PSU when you get the correct command over some 1 wire bus protocol.

          Or do what the USB charger people do and only provide power if there's the correct resistance across some of the pins.

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:20AM (#45714175)
      Instead of using magnets (how do they work?), add a tiny vacuum pump to keep the connector in place. Add some attachments so the keyboard can be periodically hoovered for skin flakes, food bits and the dried remains of various body fluids. One small step for power connector security, one giant leap for computer hygiene.
      • by weilawei (897823)
        So, to eliminate waste of one kind, we're going to replace it with waste of another. Vacuum seals tend to leak over time, requiring you to run the pump periodically--especially if you want one loose enough to pull out when someone trips on the cord. Brilliant.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      So would Apple since they have a patent on the MagSafe design. I suspect it would be quite the patent windfall.

      It would be easy to smash it across the EU on the basis of prior art and obviousness. There were already magnetic power connectors; I have a magnetically-attaching cord here which goes to a waffle iron which predates MagSafe. There were also already autonegotiating power connections before MagSafe. Putting the two together on any power cord is obvious and was only a matter of time. If the government wants the patent invalidated, it shall happen.

    • by fermion (181285)
      This is the rub. Doing something innovative, like magsafe, takes time and is the exact sort of things that patents should protect. The nice thing about magsafe is that there is really no physical connection. It is not yank resistant, it is yank tolerant. Unlike barrel type adapters, there is not stress on the interface, stress that all too often means the device becomes damaged and a $1000 machine is ruined because of a $20 part.

      The other thing is that magsafe cannot be only solution. We cannot be in

  • I hope it works (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fluffy the Destroyer (3459643) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:19AM (#45714153) Homepage
    Dell, HP, Alienware and other company will do anything in their power to not comply with this standard. This means less chance to get money out of customers pockets. Most companies, and I point DELL this time, uses a very much different exagonal type of connection which makes universal adapters a pain in the ass to find while others like HP and other old Dell laptops are usually easy to find and replace at a very cheap price. When it's not possible, you have to call the company to get a remplacement charger for a high enough price. But I would love to see a standard in this as it would make my job much easier
    • This is probably the same reason they won't fully adopt Thunderbolt. While there are some reasons like licensing and requirements, one major reason is that laptop docking stations make a lot of money and customers often need to buy new ones with newer models. Switching to a cable that is universal will make them less money.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Dell, HP, Alienware and other company will do anything in their power to not comply with this standard. This means less chance to get money out of customers pockets. Most companies, and I point DELL this time, uses a very much different exagonal type of connection which makes universal adapters a pain in the ass to find while others like HP and other old Dell laptops are usually easy to find and replace at a very cheap price. When it's not possible, you have to call the company to get a remplacement charger

    • by Kiwikwi (2734467)

      Yup. Dell, at least, has an authentication chip in most of their chargers (the center pin in the typical Dell charger). The chip (or its wire) is invariably the first thing to break, and bam! laptop refuses to charge the battery, or even run the processor at full speed. This causes the weird behavior that the laptop speeds up when you switch to battery power. It also means that you have to ditch an otherwise fully functional charger.

      The purpose of the chip is of course to prevent the charger from being over

  • by Ethan Bernard (2954293) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:21AM (#45714179)

    Just in time for laptop obsolescence.

    • I'm looking forward to lugging my desktop and 37-incher so I can compile where I'm needed?

      Did you mean I have to use one of the beautiful tablets that so many websites are broken on?

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:21AM (#45714183) Journal

    Well, let's see.

    USB can deliver 2.5W. My big old luggable W510 has an adapter rated for (checks) holy crap 135W. To keep things standard we could charge it with 54 parallel USB cables, since things seem to be standardising on USB these days and multiple plugs where necessary.

    • My big old luggable W510 has an adapter rated for (checks) holy crap 135W.

      A W520 adapter weighs in at 170W . . . and weighs almost as much as the W520 itself! I'm expecting Lenovo to reach a crossover point, where the adapter weighs much more than the laptop itself.

      I guess my new W550 down the road sometime will have an over 200W adapter . . .

      I doubt that there will be any standardized adapters for us folks in the Monster Laptop Truck range . . .

  • Everyone here chides Apple for putting a deep fryer plug on a laptop and get a patent for it. Truth is, if they don't, someone else will and sue the heck out of them for it. If it was so obvious, why haven't anyone thought about it before Apple?

    It's better if they can convince Apple to put up the MagSafe patent as FRAND. It'll be a bad joke if Apple has to include a MagSafe-to-whatever adapter with their MacBooks

    • " Truth is, if they don't, someone else will and sue the heck out of them for it."

      No, they only need to release it as a free, published connection - and then it's covered by prior art. QED.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:03PM (#45714775)

      If it was so obvious, why haven't anyone thought about it before Apple?

      Two things come to mind: 1) The bottom line. Many companies don't always do the little things because it takes time and money to do things. I'm pretty sure an engineer from another company came up with great ideas but they were cut in planning/development. Apple will spend years on a product before releasing it and they will charge enough to make this strategy work. 2) Featuritis. Many companies focus on too many features. This is related to #1. Following the history of Apple, their products never have the most features. Apple seems to focus only on a handful of them and get them right before adding new ones. Geeks here don't appreciate that as Apple will never win the bullet point count, but for the average consumer they are less impressed with numbers of features than working features.

      Take for example, the original iPod that synced automatically when you plugged in the cable. I think it was at Jobs' insistence that this be a 1-step process. Now doing so isn't technically difficult, but it takes coordination between hardware and software. It also required a philosophical change away from file/directory based transfer to one based on metadata. For example, most people don't care which directory/subdirectory their favorite songs where located but what they were (songs by The Rolling Stones, blue-grass songs, etc.). Now other companies might have been focused on other features like playing every format from Ogg to WMA or an equalizer with 11 bars, etc. Apple concentrated on making the UI simpler for the average consumer.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:28AM (#45714267) Homepage

    One problem with this is that some laptops take much more juice to run than others. So will the standard charger have to be powerful enough to feed the biggest laptop or will we get a range of, say, 3 -- which would be a good advance on what we have today if the same plug was used, so the most powerful PSU could be used with a light laptop, as long as a light PSU had a cutout to protect it from overload?

    The specifications are protected from download by a password, so I can't check :-(

    I doubt that the likes of Apple would adopt this.

  • Strongly agree about safe-disconnect connectors. I think my next laptop will probably be a MacBook, even though I'll just strip MacOS off and put Linux on, simply because of MagSafe. I've wrecked two laptops, one from tripping over the charger cable, and one from it falling of the arm of a chair and landing on the charger connection. Both times, it resulted in motherboard damage.

    OK, you can say I'm clumsy - but laptops are designed to be used on the move.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:45AM (#45714469)

    The minute you standardize, the standards organization then tries to make or suggests it should be compulsory.

    That often restricts innovation in many ways. It is one thing to have standards for connection and interface whether electronic or mechanical, but to try to standardize a whole "charger" ignores what is going on now with resonance charging, even lower power circuits, solar boosting, etc.

  • Apple's MagSafe connector is the opposite of yank-resistant. It can be yanked out more easily than any other connector I've ever seen.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Half right, it's the laptop side of the connector that is yank-resistant; it doesn't go anywhere, regardless of how much the cable is pulled.

      This seems pedantic, even for me...

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Apple's MagSafe connector is the opposite of yank-resistant. It can be yanked out more easily than any other connector I've ever seen.

      That's the point. By "yank resistant" the poster means "you can yank on it and it won't pull the laptop off the table so it smashes on the floor".

      • So it resists a yank by immediately giving out? That's like a water resistant watch that simply allows water to flow directly through it. Or a fire resistant blanket that instantly turns to ash. Or a superconducting resistor.

        Make no mistake, I think the MagSafe connector is fucking awesome, and I can't wait until the patent expires so that I and the rest of the impoverished masses can benefit from such a convenient feature. I'm just nitpicking the language used. A tamper resistant lock doesn't just pop op
  • Apple's magsafe always falls out for me. If they are the pinnacle of design then that tech is not worth it.
    • by weilawei (897823)
      The whole point is to have it disconnect with a moderate amount of force, causing you the annoyance of plugging it back in rather than the annoyance of sending your laptop flying across the room when you trip on it. One of my old external hard drives died this death...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is the Micro-USB turned one way on my Samsung and another on my Nexus units? Fix that first.

  • If I had a dollar for every broken power jack I have seen and/or replaced, I would buy Apple's MagSafe patent. Seriously though, it will probably be something that will vary in quality depending on the manufacturer. I just hope they all adopt it so we don't have to deal with this mess anymore.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:22PM (#45715037) Homepage

    It is raging piles of BS that laptop makers get away with the random charger and random voltage BS they have been pulling over the past 20 years. I really hope they swing a hard hammer with this one and demand that no laptop can be sold in the EU without this connector and using a standard power supply (I.E. 85 watts 17.31624 volts)

    • by weilawei (897823)
      I'd prefer 85 watts at 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058[...] volts.
  • Here we go again:

    http://xkcd.com/927 [xkcd.com]

  • by DutchUncle (826473) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:39PM (#45715273)
    When a musical artist wants to perform a cover of a copyrighted song (which means pretty much *any* song), there is a fixed, comparatively small charge paid to a clearing house. Why is the licensing for a patent like MagSafe so variable and expensive by negotiation with each licensee? We pay the USB and SD and Microsoft and all kinds of other consortia taxes for their standards, whether buried in the connector cost or explicitly in other ways, and in exchange we get the benefits of interoperability. Plus if this is a safety standard on all portable equipment (presumably to be expanded for power+comm at some point), pennies per connector would still make lots of money for Apple without burdening anyone else.
  • Does anyone have an IEC login to share so I can actually look at the standard?

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:41PM (#45715311) Journal

    My company issues Dell laptops, and in the years I've been here I've been issued three as the old ones go out of service. As a result, and because I like to have chargers at home and at work, I've ended up with a fair number of chargers. I've noticed, though, that my most recent laptop won't charge when connected to the previous two model's chargers, despite being the same voltage and current. It'll pop up an error something like "this is not a Dell charger. The laptop will operate but the battery will not charge". I'm guessing some kind of DRM mechanism in the charger itself.

    Assuming that for the sake of argument, specifying a common connector, voltage and current isn't going to do a whole lot of good if the charger and laptop have circuitry that must validly handshake before charging occurs. Unless they're going to tackle that issue also.

  • by nblender (741424)

    I'd love it if they would make it so your laptop would at least run on 12V-30V so you don't have to buy an expensive power supply to plug it into your car or truck. I don't care if it doesn't charge at full rate if plugged in to a car, but at least run.

  • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:10PM (#45717291)

    Seriously, we can do 25.5W on 802.at-2009 NOW. Some vendors are doing 51W by using all 4 pairs.

    Yes, I know many of you have laptops that draw almost 200 watts, but most of us don't need over 50W most of the time. If properly designed, the laptop can just "tread water" by slowing or stopping battery drain while drawing 51W during a work session, and then recharge while you're eating lunch or surfing Slashdot.

    Imagine hooking your laptop up to power and ethernet at the same time! Single connection, less real estate used up on the exterior.

    Just configure the laptop to draw power over the ethernet port, and not only do you not have to worry about a AC to DC brick, but you can travel the world and not have to worry about all the forms of AC power.

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