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Watts Up With That

Watt Up With That??
by Gary Woods

Laptop batteries are one of the great mysteries of the world. I'm never sure whether it's a good idea to run on the batteries all the time, or should I have my laptop plugged into the wall as much as possible? It used to be we were supposed to drain the battery all the way down intermittently to make sure we didn't cause the dreaded "memory effect" which would reduce the amount of charge it could hold and the lifespan of the battery.

To add to my confusion is that little percentage display in the upper right hand corner which tells me how much battery is left. I'll be cruising along at 70% or 80% and the next thing I know the screen is dimming and my computer is going into hibernate mode telling me to plug it in "quick."

Well on Mac I found a cool little program called Watts 1.1.1 that helps you keep your batteries working longer by reducing the life-shortening affliction of the "memory effect." The heart of the program is battery calibration algorithm which when used correctly displays the amount of battery time remaining.

The program also reminds you when it's time to re-calibrate and then walks you through the appropriate steps. It can even notify you, using Growl when your laptop's remaining charge dips below a percentage you choose and whenever your laptop switches between battery and AC Power. By keeping your battery maintained and calibrated it will give you longer times between charges and longer times between complete replacements. Watts 1.1.1 from Binary Tricks costs only $7 but you can download it and try it free for 30days.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc