Holiday Gift Idea II: Power To Your People!

Hey, here’s a semi-geeky gift that they’re sure to get a charge out of…a high-current  USB charger built into a common household receptacle. You may recall that I installed a couple of the FastMac USockets some time ago. There’s one at each of our night-stands, conveniently providing power to charge phones and tablets as we sleep.

At the time these things were comparatively rare so I ordered them directly from FastMac. Given my past history in construction and renovation I was able to install these myself. However, the fitting the USocket into the outlet box wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The USockets depth made it difficult to fit the wiring back into the box. I ended up replacing the box with a deeper one in the end.

While on a visit to our local Lowe’s I recently found that they have a similar product made by Cooper. These sell for around $20 and may be more conveniently available to you.

Like the USockets, they replace the existing outlet so you’re going to need to have some facility with tools in order to get them installed. They come in the Decora style so you may need a new cover plate. I see that Amazon has them In several colors, too.

If you’re not so handy with tools around electricity you might consider this alternative from RCA , also found at Lowe’s. For only $15 this one features quick, tool-less installation. It’s designed to plug directly into the existing outlet. Once installed the device sticks out about 1/2” from the wall.

Unlike older USB chargers, all three of these devices provide enough current to satisfy a tablet or high-end smart phone.

I like the fact that these device can’t go missing simply because someone needs to charge something else at the other end of the house. I especially like the fact that I no longer need outlet strips everywhere to accommodate all the chargers.

The Fastmac USocket Revisited

FastMac-USocketSome time ago at Engadget there was a post reporting that Fastmac was about to start shipping their much delayed USocket. The USocket combines a normal wall electrical outlet with a DC power supply that feeds a pair of standard USB ports. Further, each port provides enough current to charge even heavy loads like Apple’s iPad.

I though that this device sounded like a great idea so I visited the companies web site and ordered four. That would let me put one at each night stand in the bedroom, one in my office and another in our TV room.

Near the end of January I placed the order then waited for delivery. In fact, I forgot about the order. When in mid-May I finally remembered that I had placed the order I filed a trouble report with Fastmac to inquire about its status.

The company literally never responded to my trouble report. Instead, they simply shipped the order. I did receive an email notice that the order had been both billed and shipped. Given their behavior I doubt that I’ll ever buy anything from them again.

Continue reading “The Fastmac USocket Revisited”

Notes From The Road: FastMac U-Socket Finally Shipping

It’s somehow fitting that I find myself this week in a hotel in Berkeley, California…and missing the charger for my cell phone. While I’ve been tasked with a project here in the Golden State said device seems to prefer taking a breather, recharging if you will, in my now quiet and comfortable home office. That shirker.

So, lacking a charger, I find it curious that FastMac has finally started shipping their U-Socket, an electrical outlet with built-in charger. U-Socket provides a pair of powered USB ports, which is great since so many devices have now settled on some variation of USB bus power as a charging scheme.

Claiming to provide a whopping 2.4 Amps (!) in total U-Socket has enough juice to charge four devices, supporting even heavy loads like smart phones, iPads and Mifi devices. Remember that some of these device require >700 mA to charge & operate while many USB ports are current limited to 500 mA. I wonder if FastMac has addressed the issue of parasitic power? That is, continuing to draw a meaningful amount of line power even when there is no device connected.

At $19.95 each they don’t seem too costly. Given how fond Stella has become of her Nook Color and G2 I could see these as practical for outlets near bedside nightstands in our home.

Hotels and motels the world over should take note of this device. It’s an obvious choice for such establishments…assuming that the prior safety concerns have been completely addressed.