Welcome to what I view as one of Linux biggest issues and why I’ve switched many of my systems to Windows 7 from Linux to achieve efficient battery use without all the (Mildly Fun) hassle I had to achieve it in Linux . Regardless on the way I found many a solution to keep my little lappy alive as long as possible on the go in Linux and Windows XP and what sort of tech geek would I be if I didn’t share my discoveries back with the community! Though before I start none of these options will be as effective as just buying more RAM to reduce Swap file usage, a low power SSD drive and 12 cell battery, but it never hurts to assist these hardware changes!
- Use ether of these two open source CPU frequency control applications to maximize battery life by restricting your CPU multiplier speed. Remember though there is fine line between extending the race to idol so much that it uses more power in the lengthened process time than your CPU’s/Fans to at full with dynamic switching to begin with. Rightmark CPU Clock Utility is the more advanced and lightweight but much less user friendly so I prefer Notebook Hardware Control as it has broader control over the computer and is easier to use but uses about a third more system resources.
- Run a cache Ramdisk for certain write heavy applications, which can speed up the system a lot and enables the HDD to remain spun-down for longer periods. Firefox Guide Here.
- Use free lightweight alternatives like many Linux distributions do such as Rulesplayer for video(XP Only), Foobar2000 for music, Chrome for browsing(Chrome does peak my CPU more than Firefox when first loading a page but is lighter throughout and much faster), Microsoft Security Essentials for protection, Foxit Reader for PDF’s, 7zip for RAR/ZIP extraction.
- Turn off unnecessary services/chipsets for Webcams ect. With applications such as Ecobatt if it supports your laptop if not learn to build your own scripts with Microsoft Devcon.
- Disable unnecessary services. If you don’t want to play in the scary Microsoft services control panel and have a easy undo button give Game Booster a go.[www.iobit.com]
- Defragment your HDD to reduce seek time allowing it to finish its task and Spin-down earlier.
The tools you want to do this with are first pagedefrag from Microsoft sysinternals as this allows you to defragment your pagefile, Microsoft Bootvis to arrange all your system and start up applications on the fastest outer rings of your HDD. Following these set up scheduled maintenance with either MyDefrag/Ultimate Defrag Freeware Edition
- Slowing down your optical drive as you would for watching a movie silently on a laptop can also be power saving for low access tasks. An advanced to try this with is Nero Tool Kit [www.cdspeed2000.com]
- Underclocking/disabling your graphics card fans when in 2D mode if it supports it and controlling your case/system fan speeds with Speedfan if you know how hot your system can comfortably get while remaining stable and queit can save power. New Nvidia cards support powersaving modes and user profiles can be made to enhance upon this with RivaTuner.
- Uninstall any unnecessary bloat from you system with Revo-Uninstaller and open Run and launch msconfig to stop any applications you don’t frequently use or require from auto-starting at boot.
- I also optimize my registry by removing empty spaces/unused blocks using RegCompactPro which speeds up PageDefrags job and give the PC a monthly clean with ISysCleaner Pro which normally finds a few more files than the popular CCleaner but is a bit slower.
Lastly I have some old(Year Old) fast USB flash-drives that actually made a difference to Windows 7 as dedicated readyboost drives. Now XP users can emulate and actually drastically improve upon this sudo raid 0 access to system files using ebooster but I found the programme caused BSOD’s with anti-virus database files miss-matching with the threaded reading so use this at your own peril but its Ramdisk tool works honestly fantastically with Firefox. If you are really after super-fast read/write times though a cheapish option is the iRAM PCI-Express Ramdisk from Gigabyte for the PC. But as a poor student I’ll stick with the free open source optimizations to make me happy!
Switch To a lightweight distro such Crunchbang Linux Lite 9.04.01 (very fast/lightweight Openbox distro) or WattOS RC1(Power conserving distro) if its to minimal for you. While these both may be Ubuntu based distributions, which doesn’t by any means give them the lightweight pedigree of a complete distribution such as Arch Linux or the efficiency of a personally compiled Gentoo Installation. The Linux giant Ubuntu has however made drastic improvements in performance with its 9.04 base and mostly sustained them with 9.10 which gives reason to stick with the hardware/user friendly platform as it no longer falls really that far behind the aforementioned distros!
For those of you who are interested an external look at Ubuntu performance gains/losses over the last few years releases have been graphed here in a great article by Tux Radar [www.tuxradar.com] Though the two derivative distributions above go just that little bit further and put the apparent official lightweight respin of Ubuntu, Xubuntu to shame!
CrunchBang Linux goes down very well with performance Linux users who don’t like squandering their computer resources on the OS, enabling them to feed all their systems remaining power back into the task you set out to do with its applications. This means it is great for gaming and RAM munching photo editing apps (Though to make Gimp windows usable on its Openbox window manger its best to install version 2.7 snapshot and use single window mode). Crunchbang achieves its snappy responsive feel by using a lot of customized scripts by its dedicated user community to execute system functions verses relying on a big heavily featured window/system management systems. Now if you add this to the fact it also uses very lightweight default applications its a dark little speed demon on even the oldest setup. The OS only requires 256MB Ram for the live CD and 500MHZ CPU. There is two things you need to do to switch this system from a performance geeks OS to a frugal laptop OS and the first is simply disable the desktop monitor Conky as this causes frequent but negligible CPU and HD activity. Second is install WattOSPM which is a GUI power management application for setting the terminal tools Laptop-mode-tools, x-backlight and powersaving values! This is a fab tool once you learn all the correct settings to control/disable your hardware saving a few extra precious watts of charge!
A fairly lengthy review of WattOSPM on the older WattOS Beta 2 Distro release was done by Raiden a while back and helps to explain how to use the GUI [www.raiden.net] while we wait for a more complete guide than the breif explanation in the documents folder after installation. The demon can be installed on any Ubuntu based OS and a guide on how to do this can be found here [www.ubuntuforums.org].
OK now following your choice of lightweight Linux OS you can also apply these extra tweaks to increase your mobile uptime.
- Install cpufreq-selector (Which in vanilla Ubuntu can also enable CPU frequency switching within Gnome Panel Frequency Monitor). Do this carefully as there is a fine line between saved cpu/fan volts and extending the ‘race to idol’ excessively if you are using CPU hogging apps. How to install on Ubuntu [www.ubuntugeek.com]
- Use a Ramdisk for any frequently caching applications like Firefox to prevent the HD spinning up/writing!
- Search out hardware control/disabling scripts for popular netbooks/laptops where you can save a couple of watts turning of webcams ect. at chipset level these can be found on the Easy Peasy/Cruncheee forums for many netbooks.
- Install Intel PowerTop for a user-friendly tool that monitors each and every application and tells you which of them are causing your computer to waste power waking it unnecessarily from idol states. It also provides you with tuning suggestions to achieve low battery power consumption. The solutions for the software it identifies as problematic can be found on Intel’s Project site. [www.lesswatts.org]
Shockingly Ubuntu hasn’t really done much to improve power management on its OS surely slowing its growth as the go to Linux as it has placed it as a low priority issue (Lauchpad Blueprint) so most of the recent improvements to Linux power management is actually thanks to the work done by Powertop helping developers improve their software and the paired work by the Kernel developers to rectify this situation between more important upstream fixes! Personally I ask why spend so much time brownifying a desktop interface if people don’t get much of a chance to use it because your OS squanders the systems battery so much!