Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Travelers’ Tips for Maximum Laptop Battery Life

Tweak Your Laptop For Max Battery Life With The Windows Key

Travelers, the Windows Mobility Center gives you instant access to the most important “tweaks” you can make to your laptop to get the most amount of use from it before the battery dies (aka “between chargings”). Just hit the “Windows key” + X.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Travelers and laptops:

1) Dim your screen – Laptops come with the ability to dim your screen.  Reducing the brightness down to the lowest level you can tolerate is the best way to maximize your laptop’s battery life.

Use the sliders and drop-down arrows

2) Turn off the WiFi – This and Tip #1 are the “two biggies”. You will save a lot of power (battery charge) by simply only turning PwrOpts_iconon the “radio” when you are using wireless to connect to the Internet. Off when you’re not.
Also, most laptops have a key combination, button, or slider switch to turn the wireless radio on/off.

3) Run off a hard drive, or thumb drive, rather than a CD/DVD – As power consuming as hard drives are, CD and DVD drives are worse. Wherever possible, try to “play” your movies from files saved to disk, or run them on virtual drives using programs like PowerISO, Daemon tools, and Virtual CD.
(See, Tech Tip for Travelers – Make Your Movies More Portable)

4) Cut down on external devices – USB devices, such as a mouse, also put a drain on your laptop battery.  Consider removing them or shutting them down when on battery power.  When maximum battery life is important, charging other devices with your laptop is a “no no”. Take the time to charge your devices before you leave as well.

5) Cut down on programs running in the background – “Always ready” programs, like your IM client, iTunes, Desktop Search, etc., add to the CPU load and cut down battery life.  Shut down everything that isn’t crucial when you’re on battery.
Typically, this is done by right-clicking their icons in the System Tray (by the clock) and choosing “Exit” (or “Close”, or “Quit”).) Also, open Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del) and select the Processes tab — click on those you recognize and know you won’t be needing, and then click “End Process”. Repeat as necessary. (If you do not recognize it, and do not know – leave it be.)

6) Go easy on the PC demands – The more you demand from your PC, the quicker you will drain the battery.  Relatively passive activities like editing a Word .doc consumes much less power than graphics-intensive activities like 3D gaming or playing a DVD movie.

7) Encrypt your hard drive – Have you encrypted your My Documents folder yet? Especially on your laptop? If you have an address book, tax info, a resume, business docs? More than half of all identity theft victims resulted from the physical theft of unencrypted laptops and thumb drives… which contained personally identifying data.

Today’s free download: The easiest way to seamlessly encrypt your whole hard drive, folders, or just selected files, is to install the free TrueCrypt. Use this and even if your laptop is stolen, the thief won’t be able to read your files.
Be sure to set a good password!

[Note: alternatively, you can click Start > Control Panel > Power Options]

Okay, so that was seven tips. Consider it Tech Paul’s Holiday Bonus Gift.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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December 23, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, performance, Portable Computing, tweaks | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech Tip for Travelers

Make Your Movies More Portable

Tis the season for traveling to be with friends and family, and you (may) want to bring some entertainment with you (namely, movies) to help reduce the aggravation of the actual traveling. If you are going to be a “holiday traveler” this year, today’s quick tip is for you.

delay1

Wall Street Journal Online | Getty Images

Tip of the day: The energy required to spin the disc, and power the laser beam inside your DVD (or Blu Ray) drive is hard on your laptop’s battery, and can drain the charge rather quickly… maybe before the movie you are watching ends.

The solution is to “rip” (geek-speak for “copy”) your movie DVD to a file, and keep that file on your hard drive, or on a thumb drive. Then later, when you are traveling, playing the file (watching the movie) this way is less work for your computer and your battery will last longer. Kind of a “must” for those long flights (and.. delays) when access to a power outlet is not convenient.

Today’s free download(s):
For simple, one-click “rips” of your DVD movies, bitRipper is hard to beat. It was a for-pay utility, and now is available for free.

And for those of you who want to watch your movies on an iDevice, HandBrake is a highly recommended Open Source tool to consider. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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December 4, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Portable Computing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Video Tutorial – WIFI Antenna Boost

How can I boost my signal strength?

Folks, I have been asked many times about what can be done to improve the wireless signal produced by a home router/WAP. And, like so many things in life, there is no one, single, best answer. A weak signal slows you down, and can cause “connectivity issues” (aka “disconnects”).

Methods for a stronger signal, at a greater distance, include:
* Replace your router’s firmware with a Linux-based system that allows for “antenna gain” adjustment. (Advanced) — free.
* Add a “reflector” (Simple) — free.
* Replace your antenna with a “signal boosting” (aka “range extending”) antenna, or a directional antenna. (Simple) — $25.
* Upgrade to a Wireless N router. (Simple) — $100.

I recommend the last option. Wireless N routers are quite reasonably priced now. But, as I mentioned in If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It*, some people have a need to “tweak” and “hack”, and try to give things “more power” (ala Tim “The Toolman” Taylor). If you’re one of them, check out this video…
Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “WIFI Antenna Hack!“, posted with vodpod

.. and should you decide to try this at home, of course, you will be doing so “at your own risk”, and any sane person would have six paragraphs of legalese here. I will simply say that, if you open up your existing antenna, and it is a plain wire as shown in the video, and does NOT have a dipole, you can do this and expect a modest improvement. Which may be all you need– and the price is right!

Today’s free link: watch how to make a tinfoil parabolic reflector in this vide0.  And, you may want to look around the Internet some. There are, literally, thousands of these hacks and tips.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 3, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, networking, performance, routers, routers and WAPs | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments