You know all those battery recall notices hardly anyone pays attention to? Well guess what, it turns out fire hazards are pretty real. Just ask Hannah, a Dell Mini 9 owner who contacted the Consumerist with pics of her netbook filling her living room with smoke and scorching her hardwood floor.
"Last night I unplugged my laptop from its charger, carried it downstairs, and placed it on the wood floor of my living room," Hannah wrote. "I heard a loud popping sound and the room immediately filled with smoke while the laptop hissed and sizzled. It died down, I pushed it with my foot, and it started hissing again. There is a large scorch mark on my floor."
The Consumerist put Hannah in touch with Dell, who promptly paid to return ship her netbook for a thorough examination. And for her troubles? Dell sent a free, upgraded laptop, though it's unclear how, or if, Dell plans to compensate Hannah for her burnt floor.
According to the Consumerist, Dell has received the fried laptop, but has no answer as to why the Mini 9 malfunctioned in the first place.
"We take any report like this very seriously, and, as a matter of policy, our safety teams investigate thoroughly following any issue like this," Dell said. "We will get to the bottom of this."
How much battery life does your laptop or netbook have? I don't know. I bet you don't know either. Or, at the very least, you're probably relying on a manufacturer's statement as to just how much computing time you can get on a fully charged battery. But as you well know, your battery life can vary depending on how you use your laptop: If you're rocking the brightness at maximum, keeping an active Wi-Fi on at all times, and burning your CPU at full-blast, you're going to run through your available power far faster than if your laptop was doing little-to-nothing.
Sure, you can hover your mouse over the battery icon of your Windows taskbar to estimate just how much juice is left in the pitcher. But if you want a more comprehensive analysis of how your portable PC will perform at full-blast under whatever conditions you've set up, you'll need to turn to a third-party utility for the full breakdown.
And as it just so happens, I have the perfect piece of freeware in mind: Imtec Battery Mark. Click the jump to find out more about this awesome laptop battery tester!
While it would be nice to have unlimited access to a T1 connection for huge downloads (here's looking at you, World of Warcraft patches), that's just not the case for a majority of users today. We can't all download Linux builds at our work computers. Sometimes, one just has to grin and bear it--"it" being the act of leaving one's computer on overnight for a furious session of non-peak-hour downloading.
Here's the problem: When said download finishes sometime in the wee hours of the night, your computer stays on. That might not be the biggest deal in the world for a single session or two, but suppose you're a mega-downloader. Suppose you're the kind of guy or gal who's always grabbing new files, new updates, new builds of this and that--in short, you're the reason Comcast invented service limitations. Well, it wouldn't be in your best interest to leave your computer on all the time. Computers are noisy. Computers use power. Computers produce heat.
Thus enters this week's Firefox add-on of the week: Auto Shutdown. As the name implies, this quick little addition to your Firefox browser adds some critical functionality to your downloads, be they through Firefox's built-in download manager or the popular add-on DownThemAll.
Ahh, batteries. The bane of any laptop user. It always feels like you just never have enough juice to finish whatever it is you're trying to do on your portable PC. And as the minutes count down on you notebook's battery estimation, you do everything you can to squeeze working time out of your laptop. You crank down the brightness to a near-dusk level. You disable the Wi-Fi in the hope that the Web pages you've physically downloaded will be enough to allow you to finish your work. You even quit out of as many applications and extra processes as you can think of to terminate--maybe a more idle CPU will make for an extra minute or three.
While doing the "Battery Dance" is an unavoidable part of portable computing, you don't always have to be caught off-guard by the ol' low battery warning. Not only are there a handful of applications that give you more details about your remaining battery life than Windows' default notifications, but there are also a bunch of utilities that you can use to squeak as much time out of your laptop battery as possible. Even better, a few of these utilities even automate this process in the background--you won't have to click a single button to reap the benefits of their tweaks.
Provided you still have some juice left in your laptop, click the jump. With luck, we'll be able to get you some extra battery life so you can finish the article...
Who’d have thought that simple pond scum may be the future of battery technology? Demand for portable power sources is increasing--especially for something longer lasting in a small package. Being environmentally friendly wouldn’t hurt. A group of scientists from the Angstrom Laboratory, Uppsala University, Sweden, are reporting a breakthrough in the development of a “redox polymer-based electrodes and batteries with high-capacities and very good cycling performances.” And yes, they’re made from algae--the environmentally repugnant Cladophora, to be precise.
Well, not really algae, but the cellulose from this algae. For the scientifically inclined, the authors write: “We have also shown that it is possible to coat highly porous Cladophora cellulose substrates with homogeneous, several nanometer thick layer of PPy [polypyrrole] to obtain a high-surface area cellulose composite electrode material and that this material exhibits an exceptionally high ion-exchange capacity.”
In layman’s terms: PPy in a homogeneous and uninterrupted nano-thin coating (about 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair) on Cladophora cellulose can both carry a charge and be molded into paper sheets. All it needs to work is “composite paper separated by an ordinary filter paper soaked with sodium chloride serving as the electrolyte.” Bingo-you got a battery that can hold a charge, shows little degradation over a hundred charging cycles, and can be recharged in as little as 11 seconds.
While algae, or more precisely PPy-cellulose composite materials, hold promise, the scientists don’t expect they’ll be replacing Li-ion batteries anytime soon. Rather, they’ll best be suited for things Li-ion doesn’t do well, such as clothing or wrapping paper that blinks “Happy Birthday.”
It seems like we're constantly hearing about promising battery technologies that could ultimately lead to longer battery life, more power, and smaller units, but as of yet, that big breakthrough hasn't occurred. Maybe nanotechnology, which is the current hot topic in the battery innovations field, will prove to be different.
Right at this moment, a ton of research is being put into carbon nanotubes (CNTs) for a bunch of uses, including electronics and batteries. Researchers are drawn to CNTs because, according to them, carbon nanotubes are near perfect. That has paved the way for a professor and a UC San Diego graduate student to discover a breakthrough that involves introducing purposeful defects into CNT structures. By doing so, the 'defective' CNTs actually work better for the development of super capacitors, DailyTech reports.
"While batteries have large storage capacity, they take a long time to charge; while electrostatic capacitors can charge quickly but typically have limited capacity. However, super capacitors electrochemical capacitors incorporate the advantages of both," Professor Prabhakar Bandaru said.
The duo also discovered that other methods, such as bombarding CNTs with argon or hydrogen, could also increase or decrease the charge capacity. In the end, the two researchers believe that their discovery could ultimately lead to electronics that charge faster and last longer than what's available today.
More than anything else, battery technology holds back mobile innovation. Sure, we’d all like super fast mobile CPUs, but the 10 minutes of battery life we’d get isn’t a good trade off. Battery technology has, thus far, advanced at a depressingly slow rate. However, rechargeable zinc-air batteries could actually deliver changes next year.
A company called ReVolt claims to have developed a way to make zinc-air batteries rechargeable. The batteries use oxygen from the air to generate current. Also, they don’t contain any of the toxic materials that are found in lithium-ion batteries, which are estimated to only hold one-third as much power.
In sciency terms, these batteries rely on reduction/oxidation reactions between a zinc and air (oxygen) electrodes. By using new gelling and binding agents, the previously single use batteries can be recharged. They have been tested for up to 100 cycles, but could be capable of 300-500. Smaller batteries for cell phones and hearing aids are supposed to show up in 2010. If that goes well, larger versions for electric cars could be produced. Will this revolutionize the tech world, or is it just so much hot air?
From wireless controllers to tail-less mice, it's a good bet you own a set of rechargeable batteries, but even these are good for only so many uses before they no longer hold a charge. Sanyo's "eneloop" brand, which was first announced in late 2005, has won a following thanks to the batteries coming pre-charged from the get-go and offering up to 1,000 recharges before giving up the ghost, and the newest batch performs even better.
According to Sanyo, a breakthrough in battery technology now allows its eneloop brand to be recharged up to 1,500 times, a 50 percent improvement over the original design.
"Incorporating new technologies for 'material,' 'manufacturing methods,' and 'structure' developed through the knowledge gained since the first release of eneloop in November 2005, the number of times a battery can be recharged has been increased by 1.5 times to approximately 1,500 times compared to conventional models, which makes the total number of times it is able to be recharged the industry No. 1," Sanyo stated in a press release.
The technologies involved include the development of a "highly-durable super-lattice alloy," an advanced manufacturing method consisting of a new additive being added to the negative electrode material, and the continued use of a thick, outer case.
Still getting up off the couch to plug your iPod and other mobile gadgets into an outlet so they can recharge? Pfft - real couch potatoes juice up their devices wirelessly, with the newest way to do so being Duracell's new myGrid charging pad.
If Duracell's myGrid looks oddly familiar, it's because WildCharge has a similar device on the market called the Wire-Free. Like the Wire-Free, the myGrid is stupid-easy to use. Just plug the pad into your wall and drop your power-hungry devices onto the pad, up to four at a time.
Duracell boasts compatibility with a number of mobile devices, including the iPod Touch, iPhone 3G, both the Blackberry Pearl and Curve, and several Motorola and Nokia devices.
If you’ve got a Lenovo laptop with a battery that’s providing sub-par performance, you just might be eligible for a free replacement.
The batteries in question don’t present any fire or safety hazard, so there’s no reason to worry about your health – the folks at Lenovo are simply looking to make nice. “Irreparable damage” and “battery cannot be charged” error messages from the Power Manager or Message Center are the main indicators that you have a bad battery.
If you’re not sure, but you have a ThinkPad R60, R61, T60 or T61 with battery FRU part numbers 42T4546, 42T4566 or 92P1141, and/or a model X60 or X61, with battery part numbers 42T4550, 42T4567, 42T4568, 92P1169, 92P1173, 93P5028 or 93P5030, it’s suggested that you should run the Battery Diagnostic Tool (available here), to find out if you need to swap it out