if you are really stuck, you could use the flow from a tap to run a small hydro wheel. Of course, this would be abominably wasteful for normal use, but it's an option.
There is no practical way to provide the power you want. Some have created generators from bicycles. These provide around 100 watts of power if you are in pretty good shape. Not that great since your computer probably takes a minimum of 30 watts while working on it. 1 hour of pedaling would give you 3.33 hours of run time, assuming NO losses converting from your generator to charge the battery, then from your batter to your computer etc. Real world you would be lucky to get 1.5 hour of usage from 1 hour of pedaling. AND you would have to have this contraption with you. Your best bet is to either:
1) stop using so much power. Use an LED headlamp for light if you need it (AAA bats, rechargable) and only use your computer when you have power to charge it.
2) carry a heavy 12 volt gel cell battery and charge that up when there is power. Use an inverter or whatever to power your 'puter.
Don't know what the solution would be for having a fan run all night. Probably a 12 V battery and either a 12 v fan or a regular fan and an inverter.
During power outs at home (occasionally during storms/winds) I use a car jump starter (just a sealed battery in a plastic housing) to run a couple of compact flourescent lights off an inverter. This allows us to read etc. For moving about the house we use LED head lamps or flashlights or candles. As you have said, candles are cheap and available everywhere they are needed.
What I have wanted, but were never really made would be something like this: Give me something like the old Palm Pilots that used AAA batteries and had black and white screens. Allow me to hook up a folding keyboard. Allow me to use a flash memory card like that used in cameras. Make it cheap. I like to write when on the road. I have tried modern Palm Pilot type devices. They all need a separate charger and don't stay charged long. Plus they are expensive. I tried a stand alone e-mail device from
www.pocketmail.com. Too expensive of a service for what it did and hard to touch type. Laptops are too expensive, fragile, stealable, etc.
Another idea I had, but it would have to be cheap and available anywhere. Give me a basic, smaller than normal laptop style computer. Use a black and white screen like on the Sony Book Reader device (uses very little power). It should not have a hard drive, too fragile and uses too much power. Make it run off of either 12 volt or any voltage so you could use a batch of rechargable AA's or whatever. Use internal flash memory for loading programs like Linux and OpenOffice. Use USB ports for flash memory for data etc. WIFI is OK. Make it really basic. If it has wifi it should work with firefox. Hell, if it had internet capability and a basic text editor and could work with a Flash Drive it would be all set. You could even do it without any onboard memory, just load linux on a flash stick and use that.
The pivotal idea to remember said by Bob L.
"stop using so much power"
Candles are great!
The only practical way I know would be to harness my feet power, this is the only way I know. All other solution require that I do not travel and live in a place or I have a very large van, truck, etc, and then, I would just use a gas powered generator and be good.
I do think if I use LESS power, I could maybe keep the computer running for one hour per day by walking. This is all I need. I do not type in computer in the jungle.. hehehe.
I will soon have a motorcycle battery and the 12 volt converter to power my computer. I can then experiment and learn what I need to recharge the lead battery, and then give me 1-4 hours of computer use.
The pedal things are too big for my backpack, and difficult to set up in a Hotel room, I really think this power thing on the bottom of my shoes could work.
I need the math done, how much electricity generated in one hour of walking?
I walk close to three hours per day, every day, nothing better to do, so I wonder around a lot.
A solar cap would maybe be ok, or a small solar backpack, a backpack with a cell on it.
I do NOT want to wear a hat or hae a backpack on all the time. Maybe the foot, cap and backpack together could recharge about 10 AA Batteries.
Then the math problem again, how long does 10 AA batterie last to power my computer?
You got my attention again. I am sorry I do not post my e-mail address but publicly listing your address leads to spam.
Understand, when I am listing numbers/calculations, they are REALLY rough. Barely back of a napkin type discussions.
You said, "how much energy is expended in walking?" That is not the point. Energy expended in walking is energy to walk. Any addition energy to charge a battery etc. adds energy expended during your walk. Adding a device that charged a battery while you walk would make the walk harder. The only advantage would be that if you walk a lot of hours, you would have a lot of time spent charging batteries, so you could expend few watts. It would take the same amount of watt-hours, just less watts. (energy per second etc.)
One idea I had was making some sort of rowing machine using a rope, a handle and a device with magnets and coils. The magnet and coils would be attached to your feet or a bed in front of you in the "device". The rope, when retracted would be wound up in the "device" you would sit on the floor, with your knees bent, leaning forward you would then lean back, pullin on the rope in sort of a rowing machine motion. I have been working on a way to do this with minimal size and weight, and no rolling seat etc. How would this work? Probably not well. Bicycle type generators cn give you around 100 watts if you are in reasonable shape. They will really tire you out, but you could do it. Of course, carrying a motorcycle battery around will also tire you out. BTW, consider that a motorcycle battery is filled with a very nasty acid that will leak out if tipped over unless you get one of the more expensive kinds that are designed to be mounted on their side or whatever. They also release hydrogen gas when charged that can explode. Be sure to vent the gasses and take other precautions. Also, shorting the posts can create fire, explosions, acid splashing, global whining and all kinds of mean nasty things.
As far as the 10 AA batteries. NiMh bat's are around 3 watt-hours each, for the good ones. This is from fully charged to fully empty presumable. That means roughly 30 watt-hours for ten assuming no losses and you will use all the power. My Dell laptop was measured between 19 and 30 watts depending on what you are doing. Lets forget about inefficiencies and just use the 30 watt number. Those ten AA's would power your laptop for one hour. If you were on a pedal bike, you could supply 3+ hours of power for that laptop if you worked hard for one hour. Could you do it? Yes. Does it make sense? I don't know. If you figured out a way to charge your computer battery off of a car/taxi, maybe you could just pay someone a little to charge it for you? Maybe you could just spend an extra dollar or two a night for a hotel that has power more often. I don't know the solution.
Since you want to bring a laptop anyway and only occasionally really have a problem with power, think about this: Get an older palm pilot that runs on AA or was that AAA batteries. These were black and white and lasted a fair time on the batteries. when power is a problem, you won't have internet anyway, and you won't be able to charge your phone etc. SO you can do your writing and simpler things with the palm and folding keyboard and then when the power is on, hook the palm to your computer and do what you do. There are probably other things that you could use such as a phone or something with a blackberry type keyboard. Even if you don't have service, where you are there are probably some that could save your typing and then be hooked to your computer. Won't be AA battery powered, but might last a long time on a recharge. I am sure there are some that can be hooked to a folding keyboard. I was looking at what TravelVice.com guy does, and it would be perfect if that device he has ran on AA batteries and lasted a long time with them.
I still think just accepting the fact that you may not have power often and living with it would be your best bet. If I was in your shoes and wanted to use the computer a lot with intermittent power, I would buy an couple extra computer batteries and charge them up for those periods when the power is off.
Your power "serious wants" basically come down to:
1) computer typing
2) internet use (computer and cell phone)
1) see above
2) wait 'til the power comes on
3) LED headlight with AAA batteries
4) no practical solution that I can come up with, but a motorcycle battery and a 12 VDC fan sort of works. A hell of a lot of money and weight for a little convenience/comfort.
Andy has an E-mail..
with the AT
This is my personal address, please write if you wish.
I agree, the walking would be more difficult, but I would like to utilize the time I am already using to make electricity. I know me, I do not make special efforts.
I cannot upgrade rooms, the place I will need this is in the jungle or off the grid. I am planing to connect to the grid and power out, then try to trickle feed and last for 10 days off the grid.
Off the grid for more than ten days and I need to buy a gas powered generator and carry for 100 US here in Togo.
Petrol or gas is everywhere I have ever been on the planet, hard to leave the gas world. I need to power up with Coca Cola, hard to leave that world also.
10 AA batteries for one hour of computer time.
Motorcycle and car batteries are almost always available and rechargeable AA batteries are not.
The palm idea is good idea, and Travelvice.com is ok, however he is spending about double the money in intenet cafes than me or more.
I have electricity from the Grid, 99 percent of the time. However, to go into the jungle and really explore, I need a better juice set up or to buy a car, the easy solution is to buy a car, but then the danger for my life increase by 20 fold. People who own vehicles also have things of value to steal or be killed for. I just look like a Hobo..