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When I got my HP Palmtop upgraded to Double Speed, it felt like a new machine. I was happy as a clam until I noticed the downside. A set of alkaline batteries that formerly lasted six or more weeks now gave a low battery warning in less than four weeks.

If you're concerned about battery life but you'd still like to coax a little more speed out of a standard HP Palmtop then consider the following.

The two greatest drains on battery life are caused by the serial port and the act of saving information on a PC Card. Saving information on a flash RAM card in the A: drive also happens to be one of the slowest operations in the Palmtop. It can take almost 100 times longer to save the same data on a PC Card as it would to save it on the C: drive.

So the first thing to do in the interest of saving battery life is to shut the serial port off when you're running DOS programs. You can do this with the DOS command D:\BIN\SERCTL /O or by starting the Setup program and pressing F6 (Comm) and make sure the "Enable Com1 Port in DOS" box does not have a check mark in it.

If you do not have a PC Card as drive A: then you've done as much as you can to optimize the Palmtop for battery life and speed.

On the other hand, if you do have a PC Card, configure as many programs as possible to use the C: drive instead of the A: drive.

If a program performs a lot of reading and writing to the disk, keep all the data files for that programs on the C: This would include all the files for the database programs such as Appointment Book, Phone Book, NoteTaker and Database. All of these programs are "disk intensive". On the other hand, 1-2-3, Memo and HP Calc do not perform a lot of reading and writing from disk during their operation.

If you use the database applications you can coax a little bit more life out of a set of batteries and speed up the operation of the database by using the FASTDB program. FASTDB.TSR prevents the database engine from writing to disk until you quit the database.

Also, if you have some database files that seldom need to be updated use the DBV.EXE program to view them. DBV does not write anything to the disk at all. It merely reads and displays the data. This could save some time and energy because, if the file has not been altered since it was last backed up, it won't need to be backed up at the end of the day.

If your C: drive is not large enough to accommodate your frequently used data and program files then it's time to upgrade your Palmtop to a larger C: drive. The cost of such an upgrade is falling. An 8 or 32 Mbytes C: drive will decrease battery life in your Palmtop by a small amount (10-15%), but with the slight increase in speed you can turn your Palmtop off just that much sooner.

To further save on the use of the A: drive, use a file compression program to create backups from the C: drive to the A: drive.

Many Palmtop users favor the Stacker program for transparent compression and decompression of files. I prefer using the free compression program LHA. I just make sure to use the Update option with LHA and to use the -w option to set the work area for the program on the C: drive rather than the A: drive. Certainly, compressing files and then writing them to disk takes longer than merely copying the same files from C: to A:. On the other hand, if you compress a file to 50% of its original size and then save it on the A: drive, the battery drain caused by writing to the A: drive will be cut almost in half for that operation.

Finally, if you use the Appointment Book and ToDo list quite a bit, make it a weekly or monthly practice to remove out of date information from this database application. If you want to preserve this information for an annual performance review, check the "Save Removed Items in Archive" option in the Remove Items dialog box. A leaner Appointment Book will load and close much more quickly, again saving a little time and battery energy.

iPhone Life magazine


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