Computer Tip: Laptop Battery Life
In a conversation I had earlier this week with a friend it became pretty evident that there are many misconceptions out there about the best ways to take care of the battery on a laptop to give it optimum life. So here's an attempt to clear some of that up.
Most laptop batteries today use a Lithium-Ion technology to store their charge. LiIon batteries require different care than older NiCd and NiMH batteries. NiCd and NiMH batteries would lose their ability to hold a charge more quickly if they were not drained fully before being recharged. LiIon don't have that limitation. Their life span is mostly related to the total number of times they are charged and discharged.
Most LiIon batteries have a life span of somewhere around 500 charge cycles before they won't accept a charge any longer. Fully discharging then fully recharging a battery would be one cycle. Likewise, discharging half way and recharging would be a half of a cycle. After around 500 total cycles the battery is done.
As batteries go through charge and discharge cycles, their capacity to hold a charge diminishes gradually until it just won't take any charge at all. You will see shorter and shorter times that you can run your computer on battery.
So basically the more you use your laptop running on battery, the more quickly that battery will wear out. If you discharge then recharge your battery every day, you'll probably get a little over a year out of your battery before it won't take a charge any longer. The moral of the story here is to plug in whenever you can to avoid going through the charge/discharge cycles.
With older laptops and batteries, it was best to remove the battery from the computer once they were fully charged to avoid overcharging. With newer laptops and battery chemistries this is no longer the case. The charging circuit always maintains the ideal charge on the batteries, so it is best to plug in the computer and leave the battery in the computer all the time.
After a battery is worn out, take it to any number of facilities that collect batteries for recycling. Two of the more common collectors are Radio Shack and Best Buy. The service is free.
Multimedia Tip: Photo Composition
I'm going to go with a cop-out this week and just direct your attention to my second photography class from about a year ago. The class was on techniques you can use to create visually appealing images. So when you have about 45 minutes, crawl up on your couch with a laptop and watch the class:
Bonus Tip: Synchronizing Files Between Computers
I came across a really cool free utility this week designed to synchronize and share files between computers. It's called FolderShare.
It works on both Mac and PC. On each computer you can select one or more folders that you wish to synchronize with other computers. Those computers don't even need to belong to you; you can setup shares to synchronize files with other people. And it all happens automatically. As soon as you create a file in, or copy a file into a shared folder, FolderShare begins synchronizing it with all of the other computers that are sharing that same folder, completely behind the scenes. There are no limits on the size or types of files. The data is also compressed and encrypted so it transfers quickly, and can't be viewed by third parties.
The other nifty thing that it does is that it can (optionally) make all of the files and folders on your computer available via the FolderShare web site. You log into the site and can see and download any of the files and folders on your computer at home. (The files are downloaded directly from your computer; they aren't stored on the FS site.) So you might not need to carry a USB flash drive any longer, as long as you have access to the Internet you have access to any of your files at home. The service even works if your computer is behind a firewall or router.
I have some file shares setup between me and some business contacts, and some friends. We can all access and share files without having to exchange the files via email or a web site. It all happens in the background. It's a great way to share pictures or video with friends and family.
I was thinking of writing a program like this and charging money for it. Then I discovered this service, and it's totally free, so it looks like I'll have to find another software idea. :)