Living with a Netbook: Battery Life to Screen Resize: Page 2

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Still, all netbook users should be aware of a few tricks to extend the battery life.

The screen consumes a huge percentage of the battery power and there are times when you might want to turn off the screen but leave the computer otherwise running. For example, if you're listening to music or a podcast or if you're going to step away for a bit or just look away from the screen for whatever reason.

One of my favorite little Windows programs is Wizmo from Steve Gibson. It's free, small and offers a few handy features, such as turning off the monitor, while leaving the rest of the computer untouched.

Wizmo is a single file. Once it's on your computer you interface with it using shortcuts that you create. A number of icons are included in the file so that the shortcuts for different functions can each get their own icon.

Wizmo is great for netbook power management
Wizmo is great for netbooks
The features are invoked by running the program with parameters built into the shortcut.For example, to turn off the monitor use the "monoff" parameter:

"C:\wizmo.exe" quiet monoff

The wizmo.exe file can reside anywhere. The "quiet" option suppresses the ding noise Wizmo normally makes when it's invoked. To restore the monitor just move the mouse. Users of the Asus 1000HE don't need this; there is a small X button on the silver stripe above the keyboard that does the same thing.

Wizmo can also suspend the computer immediately if you'll be away from it for a while (substitute "standby" for "monoff"). Of course your could just close the lid but Wizmo saves wear and tear on the hinges.

Also, there are times when you may want to configure the netbook to keep running when the lid is closed (more below). My main use for Wizmo has nothing to do with netbooks; I use it to turn off my computers (substitute "shutdown" for "monoff"). The red stop sign sitting just above the Start button seems very fitting.

Netbook Web Browsing

Web browsing on a netbook requires an education in vertical real estate. The 600 pixel height, combined with all the chrome on standard Windows applications, leaves very little space for content.

But there is much that can be done.

The first thing I found myself dealing with, however, was the font size. A small screen means small words on web pages; too small, very often, to read. As a netbook user your best friend is likely to be the Ctl-Plus keyboard combination, which increases the font size.

If you make it too big, Ctl-Minus steps it down. This works in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Firefox is great about this, as it remembers the font size for each website individually.

There are many adjustments you can make in web browsers to increase the usable vertical space.

Perhaps the most obvious is to suppress the display of add-on toolbars such as those from search engines. The Asus 1000HE came with the Windows Live toolbar pre-installed in Internet Explorer. In Firefox, you'll also want to suppress the Bookmarks toolbar. In both IE7 and Firefox 3, do View -> Toolbars.

Space can be saved at the bottom of the screen too. In both browsers do View -> Status Bar and uncheck the status bar. I like having the status bar, but after living with a mere 600 vertical pixels you may feel that it's a luxury you can't afford.

To use every last vertical pixel, the F11 key forces both IE7 and Firefox 3 into full screen mode. It's a toggle: press F11 again to restore the normal layout.

A maximum-sized screen is great, for one screen. When you have multiple tabs open though, it’s time to learn some keyboard shortcuts.

I started with Ctrl+W, which closed the current tab. This let me open a group of tabs, F11 into full screen mode, read one tab at a time, close it, then read the next tab. This works in both IE7 and Firefox 3.

Next up, I wanted to bounce around the various tabs while in full screen mode. Windows users are familiar with Alt+Tab to jump between running applications. It turns out that Ctrl+Tab does the same thing for tabs within both web browsers.

If you want to go both forward and backward through the open web browser tabs, things get more difficult. Moving to the previous tab is a three finger salute Ctrl+Shift+Tab. That's too much for me.

Firefox also supports Ctrl+Page Up/Down to move forward and backward through tabs. However, on many netbooks the Page Up/Down keys require the Function key, so you're back to three keys.

Next Page: resizing Firefox for netbooks


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Tags: Firefox, Internet Explorer, netbooks, battery, policy


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