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Preserve the battery life in your digital devices

By JASON BAILEY
Sun Advocate / Progress

We demand a lot of the digital devices that we carry with us every day. We expect them to take all the abuse we put them through, from early morning until late at night. We depend on them. Unfortunately, our cell phones, PDAs, audio players and notebook computers won't run forever. They all depend on battery power to keep them alive and kicking.

While some batteries seem to go forever, eventually they have to be recharged. And recharging is, at the very least, inconvenient. So if we can stretch the battery's life between charges, the fewer recharges we will have to perform.

And lucky for us, stretching battery life is often fairly simple. All we have to do is decrease the drain on the battery. There are a number of ways we can do that.

First, disable Bluetooth when it's not needed. Bluetooth is a short range wireless technology found in many notebook computers, PDAs and in a majority of cell phones currently on the market. Unbeknownst to many people, Bluetooth stays on and broadcasts a signal even when it's not actively being used.

In fact, some people see significant increases in battery life after Bluetooth is disabled, as the technology is fairly very battery intensive.

Two, disable wireless networking when it's not needed. The wireless networking hardware found in many of today's notebook computers and PDAs waste a lot of battery power constantly searching for potential wireless networks to connect to.

Some notebook computers have a physical switch on the front or side of the computer that powers off the wireless networking hardware inside. Many notebooks also have an icon in the system tray near the system clock that can disable the wireless hardware with a click of the mouse.

Three, dim the LCD screen so it's not as bright. The brighter the screen is, the more battery power the device will consume. Luckily, most notebook computers dim the screen automatically when on battery power, but display settings can override that behavior, preventing the screen from dimming when AC power is unavailable.

Four, disable system sounds. Many cell phones, for example, play a sound every time a key is pressed or a picture is taken.

Five, if the digital device is a digital audio player, like an iPod or Zune, consider purchasing a model that does not use a magnetic hard drive for music storage. Unlike Flash based drives, magnetic hard drives have a number of moving parts, which translates to greater power usage, and thus, shorter battery life.

Unfortunately, nothing can store as much music as a magnetic hard drive. Players with flash drives are severely limited in storage capacity, but they do last significantly longer on battery before a recharge is needed.

Six, try to avoid using digital devices in extreme temperatures. Electronics don't operate as efficiently in really hot or really cold environments. That means shorter battery life.

Seven, turn off the GPS receiver in your cell phone when it's not being used to seek a location. Even if the GPS features are not in use, the phone will constantly attempt to find GPS satellite signals, which will put a severe drain on the battery.

So master your battery usage, and you'll find yourself charging your battery a lot less often.




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