Tech – for Everyone

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

Laptop Power Plan Settings And You*

Yesterday it came to my attention, in a rather distressing way, that my laptop’s battery had gotten too low –> my screen went black and the fan stopped. I looked at my power button and the blue LED was not lit. In a word, my laptop was “off”. (Or, dead.)

My first thought was “*Cripe!* What happened?! What button did I press!?!”.. as I had been happily typing away mere milliseconds ago. Chatting on IM, I confess.

After my initial panic, and my heart started beating again, I pressed the power button and nothing happened — which I know is an indicator that the battery does not hold enough charge for a safe boot up… (or, laptop is dead) and I realized that I had been running on battery for longer than I had thought.
So I took my laptop and plugged it in to the wall outlet.

The blue power LED came on, and Windows tried to load, and then gave me the white-text-on-black-screen “Windows did not shut down properly. Select a …”
I told it to “Start Normally” (the default), and luckily it did so. Computers don’t like sudden power interruptions, and sometimes such events can corrupt Windows beyond simple repair. Which is “bad”.


See, I had been operating under a misconception: I thought my laptop would warn me when my battery was getting low.. and I thought that if I let it get too low, it would automatically do a shutdown process – that it was programmed to do so.
Because sudden “off” is bad.
(And suddenly disappearing from a chat is rude.)

Well, yes, Windows laptops are supposed to. But I was using a “Power Plan” option that – to me, “must have” – setting was not enabled. Here’s how I turned it on again: Advanced Power Plan Settings.

1) Double-click the battery icon (down by the clock) or press Windows key+X to open the Mobility Center and double-click the battery icon (see, Travelers’ Tips for Maximum Laptop Battery Life).

2) click “More power options”.

adv_pwr_stgs

3) click “Change advanced power settings”.

adv_pwr_stgs2

4) Scroll down until you see “Battery” and click the little “+” sign.

5) Click the little “+” sign next to “Critical battery action”
This is what you want your laptop to do when your battery becomes “critically” low.. and sudden off is imminent.

6) Locate the “On battery” option. Click on “do nothing”, and change it to “Shut down” – then click Apply.
Then “OK” your way out of those windows. You are done. Now your laptop will do a nice, safe, proper shutdown when your battery gets too low.. instead of the sudden black of a dangerous “off”.

Note: by default you have three “power plans”. I happened to be in “ultra-turbo full speed ahead” mode (aka “High performance”) so I needed to modify that one, but it pays to check all three!

That was drama I could have done without…

* Orig post: 9/11/2010

Bonus!


Today’s quote:
Where you find quality, you will find a craftsman, not a quality-control expert.” ~ Robert Brault

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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September 6, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Advanced Troubleshooting – Checking For Bad RAM

Some computer problems (aka “issues”) are fairly obvious.

For example, if you knock your laptop off the table, it hits the floor hard, and now the screen is black, and there are several large cracks zig-zagging in the glass.. and maybe some small shards of glass have fallen out..
Well, I don’t think you would need to hire me to tell you you need to replace either the laptop’s LCD screen, or the whole laptop.

Other computer problems require a bit more brainwork.

Such as the ones where something suddenly stops working, and a very unhelpul “error message” appears. You know the ones. Maybe SuperNerd from planet Zorkboo understands Stop error “0x0000000A” IRQ NOT LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO, but… you’re thinking, “in English, please?”
For those, you can start by using your favorite search engine, and search for the exact error message you saw (if it stayed in view long enough to copy down verbatim). Or you may need to hire a SuperNerd from planet Zorkboo (shameless plug: such as myself. See Aplus Computer Aid).

Yet other computer problems are so vague, or.. seemingly random, that even SuperNerd isn’t quite sure where to start troubleshooting (I call these issues “gremlins”.. as in “maybe your computer is haunted by invisible imps”).

An example of this might be a PC that simply randomly reboots itself for no apparent rhyme or reason, on no particular schedule. This could be due to a failing power supply, malware, corrupted system files, overheating, hardware failure, software failure, or gremlins. Where do you start?

Years of experience, special tools, system logs, and a formula of trial-and-error-process-of-elimination helps us computer techs zero in on the problem in a fairly time-efficient way. (Hopefully.) And today I am going to tell you about a free tool, built into Vista and Windows 7, that tests for one of those “hardware failures” that leads to gremlin type symptoms — a RAM memory module going faulty — named the Memory Diagnostic Tool.

“The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the Random Access Memory (RAM) on your computer for errors. The diagnostic includes a comprehensive set of memory tests. If you are experiencing problems while running Windows, you can use the diagnostic to determine whether the problems are caused by failing hardware, such as RAM or the memory system of your motherboard.”

To test the integrity of your comupter’s RAM:

1) Click on the Start button

2) Type memory into the search pane. Now, above in the results window, the top result will be Memory Diagnostic Tool. Click on that.

mdt1

3) A new window will open, offering you two choices. Since the diagnostic tool needs to run before Windows starts up – you have to reboot (restart) your machine. The question is – do you want to do it now, or later? Odds are you want the first option — NOW. Save and exit any work you have open.

mdt2

4) Click Restart now and check for problems. Your machine will reboot, and a basic startup screen will show the tool’s progress and results. This should take several minutes, as many different low-level test are being run.

mdt3

When the scanning tests finish, you should know if your RAM memory modules fail miserably (and need to be replaced) or if you can eliminate RAM as your “gremlin”, and move to the next item on your troubleshooting checklist.. such as the power supply. Hopefully your RAM will pass, but if it doesn’t, the good news is, RAM is not too expensive, nor difficult, to replace. (For a tutorial on laptop RAM, click here.)

Good luck and happy computing.

Oh, yes. Did I mention? Sometimes it’s simply best to hand the headache off to a Pro.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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May 10, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fix Laptop Low Battery Shutdown

Yesterday it came to my attention, in a rather distressing way, that my laptop’s battery had gotten too low –> my screen went black and the fan stopped. I looked at my power button and the blue LED was not lit. In a word, my laptop was “off”. (Or, dead.)

My first thought was “*Cripe!* What happened?! What button did I press!?!”.. as I had been happily typing away mere milliseconds ago. Chatting on IM, I confess.

After my initial panic, and my heart started beating again, I pressed the power button and nothing happened — which I know is an indicator that the battery does not hold enough charge for a safe bootup… (or, laptop is dead) and I realized that I had been running on battery for longer than I had thought.
So I took my laptop and plugged it in to the wall outlet.

The blue power LED came on, and Windows tried to load, and then gave me the classic white-text-on-black-screen “Windows did not shut down properly. Select a …”
I told it to “Start Normally” (the default), and luckily it did so. Computers don’t like sudden power interruptions, and sometimes such events can corrupt Windows beyond simple repair.


See, I had been operating under a misconception: to wit, I thought my laptop would warn me when my battery was getting low.. and I thought that if I let it get too low, it would automatically do a shutdown process – that it was programmed to do so.
Because sudden “off” is bad.
(And suddenly disappearing from a chat is rude.)

Well, yes, Windows laptops are supposed to. But I was using a “Power Plan” option that – to me, “must have” – setting was not enabled. Here’s how I turned it on again:

1) Double-click the battery icon (down by the clock) or press Windows key+X to open the Mobility Center and double-click the battery icon (see, Travelers’ Tips for Maximum Laptop Battery Life).

2) click “More power options”.

adv_pwr_stgs

3) click “Change advanced power settings”.

adv_pwr_stgs2

4) Scroll down until you see “Battery” and click the little “+” sign.

5) Click the little “+” sign next to “Critical battery action”
This is what you want your laptop to do when your battery becomes “critically” low.. and sudden off is imminent.

6) Locate the “On battery” option. Click on “do nothing”, and change it to “Shut down” – then click Apply.
Then “OK” your way out of those windows. You are done. Now your laptop will do a nice, safe, proper shutdown when your battery gets too low.. instead of the sudden black of a dangerous “off”.

Note: by default you have three “power plans”. I happened to be in “ultra-turbo full speed ahead” mode (aka “High performance”) so I needed to modify that one, but it pays to check all three!

That was drama I could have done without.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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September 11, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, mobile, PC, performance, Portable Computing, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

5 Tips for Prevent Laptop-Related Injuries and Eye Strain*

Folks, a reader sent me an e-mail suggesting an article idea. I found that they had pretty well written out a whole article, so I asked permission to share it with you “as is”. Aplus Computer Aid has me jumping lately, so, here it is… (I particularly like #3..)

5 Tools to Prevent Laptop-Related Injuries and Eye Strain

The increased use of laptops has resulted in greater computer-related injuries. Ergonomics experts warn about laptop related injuries. Laptops are inherently non-ergonomic because keyboard and monitor are fixed together – if the keyboard is in a suitable position for the user, the screen is not and if the screen is optimal the keyboard isn’t. In addition, the portability of laptops makes it worse by allowing the user to use it anywhere in bed and on the floor in all kinds of incorrect postures under a poor lighting condition.

Users are more vulnerable to computer related injuries and health problems such as Repetitive Strain Injury, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, eye strain, blurred vision and back pain when they are using a laptop than a desktop computer. You may want to take additional safety precautions and tools when you’re using a laptop. The five following tools help you prevent injuries and enhance productivity while using a laptop.

1. Text-to-mp3 conversion tool. You can use text-to-mp3 software to convert long documents, emails and blog articles to mp3 files, which you can listen while resting eyes, commuting or doing chores. Here are some free online text to mp3 file converters. www.vozme.com (choose Female voice option for better sound quality). SpokenText offers both free online conversion and a Firefox plug-in at www.spokentext.net (requires a registration). Another alternative is Next2Go www.text2go.com (US$25)

2. Speech recognition. You can control the computer and browse the web or have your computer compose email or write a document with your voice instruction while resting your hands and even eyes. Windows Vista and 7 have built-in speech recognition function. www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuAH1WzVkEI&NR=1 (demo), and www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLj4k3x0E0E (demo)

3. Break reminder. Taking breaks are essential in computer-related injury prevention. You can try break reminder software for laptop, which is uniquely optimized for laptop users. www.lalarm.com/en/health_alarm.htm (free for personal use)

4. OLED (organic light emitting diode). OLED is an eye-friendly and paper-like display technology. OLED doesn’t have eye-annoying backlight like LCD does. Laptops equipped with OLED are coming soon- finally next year. Meantime, anti-glare filter can be used to reduce glare from the glossy laptop screen.

5. External keyboard and mouse. An external keyboard can fix the laptop inherent ergonomic problem. It would be even better if the keyboard is ergonomically designed.

References:

· “Is your laptop damaging your health?” ~ CNET

· “When Your Laptop Is a Big Pain in the Neck” ~ The Wall Street Journal

· “Computer-related injuries” ~ Victoria State government (Australia)

* Orig post: 11/30/09

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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August 4, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Monday, Monday, Monday

I suppose I should start today’s by telling you that I will not be holding a software license giveaway this week.

Okay. Okay, okay – settle down (and please put down that rotten tomato). I understand your disappointment.

But the fact remains: both of the products I had lined up proved to be in need of some refinement before I will recommend them here. I do try to look out for you guys. So..

I know that many of my readers like my giveaways, so, instead, let me mention that my friend, and fellow tech blogger, Rick Robinette has found a “limited time” giveaway of a fine PC tune up (optimization) program that retails for $50. Not a contest or drawing, but a straight-up giveaway! Don’t delay. I checked just now and it was still up, but I don’t know how long this offer will last. To get yours see, Get WinUtilities Pro for FREE (while it lasts).


Mondays are great, aren’t they? Great things happen on Mondays. So, I can’t offer a contest today. I will “get over it”. Yesterday was my kind of day. It was 100° in the shade. Occasional light breezes. Almost no humidity. The kind of day that makes one think of swimming pools.

And when I think of swimming pools, I am reminded of a story.. which I posted here. It goes…

How To Rescue A Drowned Devicecellphone2

From time to time I do something stupid — like  stub my toe or knock over my coffee mug or blurt out a blaspheme in the general vicinity of women and small children.
On my better days, I sometimes do all three at once.

This Saturday I went swimming, and I had my cell phone in the pocket of my shorts. Like I said, stupid. To my credit, I noticed that sad fact quite quickly. But the damage had been done. The phone had suffered not just a spill, but total immersion–submersion–and it was wet. In my defense, it was over a hundred degrees. In the shade.

It is a simple and a natural fact that electronic devices and water don’t ‘play well together’. It would not in the least be unreasonable to assume that total immersion of an electronic device (such as my phone) would render it – to use a technical term – kaput.

Quick action on my part, good fortune, and the fact that I wasn’t using the phone underwater (it was “off”) combined, in this particular case, for a much happier result, and my phone seems to be no worse for its adventure. (The fact that my make and model phone is very low end probably, to my way of thinking, helped a bit too. It has always struck me that the more costly to replace something is, the more delicate and fragile it is. A cosmic law, perhaps?)

Tip of the day: Rescue your drowned device with quick action.
Should you be suddenly struck with a case of bad luck and/or fumble-fingers, and you spill your drink right onto your keyboard, or you find some other creative way to get liquid onto your digital device, all may not be lost. The quicker, and more effectively you do the following, the better your chances of saving your device from the recycler’s heap.

1) The first and most important thing is to turn it off and remove any power source. Shut it down, yank the cord, remove the battery, isolate the dilithium crystals! And do it fast. Some devices, such as those connected to your PC by USB cables, and keyboards, get some voltage through their connecting cable, so also remove any attached cords or cables. Turning it off is not enough. You need to open the cover and remove any batteries. Remember, it is not the moisture which will ruin your device, it’s “short circuits”, and those are an electrical phenomenon.

2) Get as much of the moisture out as quickly as possible. Pick it up and let gravity drain it as much as possible. You should have the battery cover off already, now open up the device as much as possible. If we’re talking about a laptop, remove any PCMCIA cards (PC cards), release and remove the optical drive, and turn it upside down and with a screwdriver remove any access panels — such as the one covering your RAM chips. If your model allows, release the spring-latches and remove the keypad.

If we’re talking about a cell phone or PDA or MP3 player, try “popping” its case with a flat-head screwdriver or large coin. If the Web is available on another nearby machine, go online and look at the manufacturer’s instructions for opening the device’s case. Now that it is opened as much as possible, gently blot with a paper towel, or whatever absorbent material is handy.

[Note: If the liquid you spilled is the kind that dries sticky, such as a soda, you have more work to do. If it’s available, use rubbing alcohol (the “purer” the better) and cotton swabs to clean it up as much as you can. If rubbing alcohol is not handy, use water. Yes, water. Distilled if possible.]

Removing the moisture is key: drain and blot what liquid you can see. When that’s done, rest assured that there is still more liquid lurking in your device. Now is when absorption and evaporation become our friend. Since it was a hundred degrees outside, I simply left my phone in the sun for several hours. If sunshine is not an option, you can try using a hairdryer set to low (this will take a while), or if you’re brave (and ready to stand by, and keep a close eye), place it in a conventional oven set no higher than 150 degrees (°C), for an hour. In the case of a PDA or phone, you can also carry it, wrapped in tissue or a hanky, close to your body in a pocket. Another trick is to place the device in a sealed plastic bag with a handful of uncooked rice. Replace the rice every couple of hours or so.

3) Regardless of the method used, I strongly advise you to not reassemble and power up your device until the following day. Give evaporation and/or absorption every chance.

If you are lucky, your device will power up and function just fine — good luck and how quickly you removed the power being the key contributors to your success. If, however, you power up and your device functions strangely, or not at all, you may be able to isolate and replace the malfunctioning component (if you’re an experienced troubleshooter type). Or you may want to take it in to your friendly neighborhood repair shop and have them do it.  Sometimes it is more cost-effective to simply replace the device — your particular situation will vary.

jaws movie poster[note: I re-post this article each year, and someone will inevitably write in a comment about the ocean and salt-water; informing me that salt-water is very conductive and this practically guarantees a ruined device. To them I say, “Ocean? Didn’t you see Jaws ?”]

Today’s free download: Super Mario Bros 3 : Mario Forever 4.4
Hearkening back to the heyday of Nintendo, this game faithfully reproduces the classic Super Mario Bros. Although Mario Forever’s graphics and sound aren’t identical to those of the original, they’re so close most users familiar with the game won’t be able to differentiate.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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June 28, 2010 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Sleepy Laptop*

My mail is telling me it is time to repost an article..

Reader Asks How To Adjust Sleep Mode

Q: My laptop goes to sleep too soon. How do I give myself more time?

A: You can quite easily adjust the length of the “inactivity” time allowed before your computer goes into a power savings mode, such as “sleep”. For those of you really concerned with power savings, you can make it kick in after 5 minutes of idle time – and power users can turn it off completely (It will still be available from the Start >Shut Down menu).

Vista and Windows 7 users will find the settings by clicking Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options

In XP it is Control Panel > Power Options.

powrplan

Here you can quickly choose from one of three power policies, (aka “power plan”) to fit your current usage — Balanced, Power Saver, and High Performance. In the picture above, I am plugged into the wall and I want every ounce of performance. When it is time to go mobile and I will be running on my battery, I want to sacrifice some of the bells and whistles, conserve battery, and stretch my time between recharging’s to the maximum, so I will click on middle radio button.
(Vista/Win7: A quick way to do this to launch the Mobility Center by pressing the Windows key + X)

To set my own times, I click on the “Change plan settings” link under the “Power plan” (Or, “Change when the computer sleeps” link in the left column).

powrplan2

Use the drop down arrows to select the length of time your machine is idle before the power is cut to your monitor, and when it general goes into the power-saving sleep mode. I have set a fairly typical policy here, but my advice for the reader who asked the question was leave the setting for the monitor (screen) to a short time, but extend the sleep time to an hour.. or longer.

[note: by using the “Change plan settings” link, I get a window that allows me to set different times for when I am plugged into an outlet and when I am on battery.]

Today’s free link: a good way to tell if your machine has picked up some malware – or some has slipped by your onboard AV – is a visit to Panda’s Infected or Not website and get a free scan.

* Orig post: October 16, 2007

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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June 22, 2010 Posted by | computers, how to, Microsoft, mobile, PC, Portable Computing, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mobile Computing: Laptops And "Docking Stations"

Docking stations (aka “port replicators”) provide a simple way of “plugging-in” a portable computer to common computer peripherals — such as a monitor and full-size keyboard. The use of a docking station quickly enables a laptop computer to become a substitute for a desktop computer, without sacrificing the mobile computing functionality of the machine – just lift, and go.

laptop-docking-station Most full-size laptops today come with enough ports so that you don’t really need these things, but if you are buying a very small, ultra-portable laptop, you may want to consider such devices. The main advantage is, if you have a desk at the office or your home office with a second monitor, one of these “docks” will be handy as you can connect your desk keyboard, mouse, monitor, power and speakers to the docking station, and then can just pop the laptop in and out as needed instead of hooking up a bunch of connections each time you ‘go mobile’ and each time you get home again.

Some of these “docks” also have “coolers” built in, which quite often is a real boon. Heat is a killer in the digital hardware world, and some laptops run quite hot. If your laptop gets hot to the touch, you may very well want to get a cooler, and if you can get a cooler with all the ports on the back, why not? For more on the different kinds of “docks”, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docking_station

Docking stations are not terribly expensive, (around $75, or less) and – if you own a notebook – worth looking into.

[note: if all you really need is a few more USB ports, USB “hubs” may be the ticket. USB hubs come in an astonishing array of shapes and sizes and vary in the number of additional ports they provide. They tend to average $20 retail.]

Today’s recommended reading: Paranoia on the Internet Pays Off

Today’s free download: ZoneAlarm 9.2
An effective and easy-to-use firewall program, ZoneAlarm does a great job of keeping your PC safe from a variety of threats. ZoneAlarm uses a simple wizard to make configuring a firewall, which seems like a daunting task to many computer users, incredibly easy.

Orig post: 8/29/09


** A Chance To Win A Valuable Prize! **


The folks at Eset have generously donated ten licenses for NOD32 Antivirus 4, to award to my readers. You might not have heard of Eset or NOD32, but it has quietly been around, and winning awards, since the early 90′s (the days of DOS).

To enter the drawing, please see: Software License Giveaway: NOD32 Antivirus 4

Enter my current giveaway and (possibly) win!

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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May 25, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, mobile, PC, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments