As standard, Windows will poll USB devices once every 1ms. However, this can cause the issue of laptops unable to enter the C3 processor power-saving state. By increasing the USB polling interval from 1ms to 5ms the processor can enter a C3 power-saving state during its inactivity.
There are also suggestions that decreasing the polling rate will also save energy generally. I’m not sure.
But, anyway, until I hear that all of this is some kind of urban myth, I’m willing to give it a try.
Here’s a couple of scripts (save them with .reg extensions and run them as required) that I rattled off to activate the “idle” (5ms) and also to return to “normal” (1ms)…
On my main PC and at work I use the excellent John’s Background Switcher to randomise my wallpaper and, in the case, of work display different ones across my multi-monitor setup. It works well and, due to the amount of time I’m usually on them, changes regularly throughout the day.
For my Netbook, however, it’s different. Due to its short bursts of use, changing regularly isn’t so important and, at the same time, I need a program that’s compact and uses as few resources as possible.
Step forward Craig’s Random Wallpaper Changer. This has no options, no GUI interface. Nothing. You simply drop it into the folder that your wallpapers are stored in and then create a shortcut to it in your Startup folder. It will then randomise your desktop background on startup. And that’s it. It then finishes and uses no more resources.
With short battery lives and small resolution screens Netbooks, unlike many other computers on the market, could so with some specific software for their use.
Now, not all of those I’ve found are specifically designed for Netbooks, but all are relevant. And they’re designed for Windows XP.
If your Netbook didn’t come with model-specific battery display then you’ll be left with the rather weak XP default. My favourite options is BatteryBar, although there is also Power Meter Plus.
Mz Cpu Accelerator does a simple thing, but it does it well. It increases the priority of the current application that is in use. If, like me, you normally just view one application at a time, such as Firefox, then this work brilliantly.
F.lux is a rather curious utility that makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day – warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Obviously this is neither specific to Netbooks nor Laptops in general, but due to the nature of Netbook being used anywhere and everywhere, often on a lap and up-close.
I run it on my Acer and don’t notice it. But that’s a good thing – tell it to return to normal and you will notice the difference. But otherwise it remains discreet and just does what it says it will.
If your hard drive is made by Maxtor or Seagate, then you can download the free DiscWizard software from their site. This is a re-badged version of the, usually chargeable, Acronis True Image software.
With a lack of CD drives in Netbooks, the ability to boot from USB keys is essential in the case of any problems. UNetbootin will download one of a number of OS’ and install them onto a USB key ready to be booted from. Not only can you choice from their rather long list, but you can also add your own options.
Ahh, if only XP could have the ReadyBoost technology that they use in Vista and Windows 7, where a USB key can be used to increase performance. But you can! eBoostr is an XP equivalent of ReadyBoost. I’ve not tried it myself, but there is a trial to download and it then costs from £13 depending on your requirements.
Including a battery meter, Notebook Hardware Control allows you to control and modify CPU and battery information on your system. What functionality is available is pretty dependant on your system, but it’s worth giving it a try. But watch out for that huge EULA during installation…
HotKeyz (added 15/07/2009)
A wonderfully discrete and compact piece of software, HotKeyz allows you to create shortcut keys for running applications.
When you have young children it’s important to monitor their online activity. As my daughter has got older, however, I have reduced the amount of such monitoring I do, giving her more privacy.
At first I used CyberPatrol, which is a paid-for product that will do everything from barring particular websites to time restricting program and internet usage. In time I moved to the free Windows Live Family Safety – this would monitor and restrict internet usage. I also had my daughters email settings send me emails that she received. Now both of these have gone (the latter longer than the former).
Now I no longer restrict what sites she can view but instead rely on being able to check her viewing history. She uses IE as a browser and I can check her viewing history at any point. I also know her email password – and she knows she’s not allowed to change it. In both cases it’s down to spot checks (assuming I make them) which makes it more of a threat of being caught than anything else. None-the-less she’s mature enough now to know what’s wrong and what’s right and that I can give her the level of trust that allows me to do this.
Before you wonder why she doesn’t just clear her viewing history, well, apart from it being obvious that she has, I’ve taken steps in that I’ve created two scripts. These (and they work up to and including IE8) will switch off and on the “General” tab in the Options, which is where the option to clear history exists. This isn’t fool-proof but will certainly do for my needs.
Both should be saved as .reg extensions and executed – they need to be run only once.
The first script adds a new entry into the registry and allows you to turn specific tabs off – in this case the General tab, but you can turn off others simply by changing their corresponding dword to 00000001.
The second script removes this new entry and, hence, restores any hidden tabs.
The BIOS on my Acer was horribly out of date and the change logs showed that a lot of useful fixes had been implemented since. As much as I hate doing BIOS updates, due to the possibility of catastrophic problems, I decided to give it a go.
I couldn’t find anything on the Acer site on how to do it, although they offer the BIOS updates, but I did find various forums and blogs where it’s been discussed. In the end I found a combination of advice was the best solution.
In a nutshell, the BIOS has to be upgraded via DOS. And not the Command Prompt DOS-a-like that Windows offers. That means putting DOS on a USB stick and booting from it.
Bear in mind that I have a Windows XP A150 Aspire One. And that when I say USB memory, I also mean USB drive. And vice versa.1 So, what you’ll need…
A USB memory stick. I read somewhere that recommended a 4GB one. No idea why as the files took up 3.2MB in total. Now, and this is where I went wrong initially, the USB memory has to be formatted as FAT32 and not NTFS.
A download of UNetbootin – this is a free program that will create a bootable USB device with one of a number of downloadable operating systems, including any your own. Simply click on the option to download the latest Windows version.
Ensure your memory stick is plugged in and run UNetbootin.
It will prompt for a “Distribution” – change this to “FreeDOS”.
At the bottom of the window ensure the “Type” is “USB Drive” and the “Drive” is the drive letter of your USB memory stick.
Click on “OK” and FreeDOS will be installed onto the USB drive.
Now copy the BIOS files onto the USB drive as well.
Reboot the Acer and press F2 at the “splash screen” to go into the BIOS settings.
Once in the BIOS select the Boot Menu and move the USB HDD to the top of the list (using F5 and F6 to move them up and down).
Press F10 to save and exit.
Your Acer should now boot from the USB stick.
The FreeDOS screen will appear with an option to select a default option. Do this.
You will now be presented with a list of boot options – select option 5 (FreeDOS Live CD).
I should have maybe said earlier that if you’re not literate with DOS, then you may struggle at this point FreeDOS will now have started and you’ll have a standard DOS screen. Go into C:\ (which is actually your USB memory stick) and find the BIOS files you saved earlier. In particular, find the .BAT file and run it.
The BIOS should now install and reboot your Acer. Make sure to change the BIOS back to boot from your hard drive in future (and, whilst you’re there, check the BIOS front screen to ensure the BIOS version number is correct!).
it’s confusing isn’t it? Different names for the same thing [↩]