Battery life

In recent times, I have lugged my Toshiba Equium with me while working away from home; I needed a full screen laptop of my own for attending to various things after work hours so it needs to come with me. It’s not the most portable of things with its weight and the lack of battery life. Now that I think of it, I reckon that it’s more of a desktop PC replacement machine than a mobile workhorse. After all, it only lasts an hour on its own battery away from a power socket. Virgin Trains’ tightness with such things on their Pendolinos is another matter…

Unless my BlackBerry is discounted, battery life seems to be something with which I haven’t had much luck because my Asus Eee PC isn’t too brilliant either. Without decent power management, two hours seems to be as good as I get from its battery. However, three to four hours become possible with better power management software on board. That makes the netbook even more usable though there are others out there offering longer battery life. Still, I am not tempted by these because the gadget works well enough for me that I don’t need to wonder about how money I am spending on building a mobile computing collection.

While I am not keen on spending too much cash or having a collection of computers, the battery life situation with my Toshiba is more than giving me pause for thought. The figures quoted for MacBooks had me looking at them though they aren’t at all cheap. Curiosity about the world of the Mac may make them attractive to me but the prices forestalled that and the concept was left on the shelf.

Recently, PC Pro ran a remarkably well-timed review of laptops offering long battery life (in issue 205). The minimum lifetime in this collection was over five hours so the list of reviewed devices is an interesting one for me. In fact, it even may become a shortlist should I decide to spend money on buying a more portable laptop than the Toshiba that I already have. The seventeen hour battery life for a Sony VAIO SB series sounds intriguing even if you need to buy an accessory to gain this. That it does over seven hours without the extra battery slice makes it more than attractive anyway. The review was food for thought and should come in handy if I decide that money needs spending.

Manually adding an entry for Windows 7 to an Ubuntu GRUB2 menu

A recent endeavour of mine has been to set up a dual-booting arrangement on my Toshiba Equium laptop with Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows 7 on there side by side. However, unlike the same attempt with my Asus Eee PC where Windows XP coexists with Ubuntu, there was no menu entry on the GRUB (I understand that Ubuntu has had version 2 of this since 9.04 though the internal version is something like 1.9x; you can issue grub-install -v at the command line to find out what version you have on your system) menu afterwards. Thankfully, I eventually figured out how to do this and the process is shared here in a more coherent order than the one in which I discovered all of the steps.

The first step is to edit /etc/grub.d/40_custom (using SUDO) and add the following lines to the bottom of the file:

menuentry ‘Windows 7′ {
set root='(hd0,msdos2)’
chainloader +1
}

Since the location of the Windows installation can differ widely, I need to explain the “set root” line because (hd0,msdos2) refers to /dev/sda2 on my machine. More generally, hd0 (or /dev/sda elsewhere) refers to the first hard disk installed in any PC with hd1 (or /dev/sdb elsewhere) being the second and so on. While I was expecting to see entries like (hd0,6) in /boot/grub/grub.cfg, what I saw were ones like (hd0,msdos6) instead with the number in the text after the comma being the partition identifier; 1 is the first (sda1), 2 (sda2) is the second and so on. The next line (chainloader) tells GRUB to load the first sector of the Windows drive so that it can boot. After all that decoding, my final comment on what’s above is a simple one: the text “Windows 7” is what will appear in the GRUB menu so you can change this as you see fit.

After saving 40_custom, the next step is to issue the following command to update grub.cfg:

sudo update-grub2

Once that has done its business,¬† then you can look into /boot/grub/grub.cfg to check that the text added into 40_custom has found its way into there. That is important because this is the file read by GRUB2 when it builds the menu that appears at start-up time. A system reboot will prove conclusively that the new entry has been added successfully. Then, there’s the matter of selectively to see if Windows loads properly like it did for me, once I chose the correct disk partition for the menu entry, that is!

Why go elsewhere when you can get it at Argos?

It is perhaps a sign of the technological times in which we live that even mainstream stores like Argos stock computing equipment these days. For instance, last weekend, I bought a Seagate Expansion 2 GB external hard drive in there for backing up my digital photo collection and never got to a local independent computer shop like I had planned to do. Maybe, it was the convenience and lack of fuss with a catalogue shop that swung it for me but the largest size at the other place was 1 GB according to its website anyway.

Other items bought from the pervasive chain have included a BlackBerry, a Vodafone mobile broadband dongle and an Asus Eee PC. All have done what I have asked of them and without any trouble but it does make me wonder about the threat to the specialist PC stores from their more mainstream competitors and it isn’t just Argos either. Tesco also tempt folk into their stores with technological goods and I must own up to having a cheap DVD player from¬† there.

In former times, I might have been lured into purchasing at online stores until the reality of dealing with inflexible delivery services took away the shine after a few years. After all, I’d prefer not to burden neighbours with taking delivery of any purchases. My current job offers the possibility of some home working so that might be an option for those things that do need delivering but there remains a certain immediacy to going into a real shop for what you need and bringing it away on the day (having paid for it, of course) that is difficult to beat.

While I tend to decide what to get using my mind after doing some research, others may prefer the idea of getting some advice in a shop and that’s where the specialists score. In fact, it may be the only way that they are going to cope with the onslaught from megastores like Argos and Tesco. All this reminds me that going to a local independent shop next time is in order because they cannot be doing brilliantly in these cash-straightened times.