Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's best for my computer: Hibernate, sleep, or shut down?

We’ve all heard stories about what's best for a computer’s battery.
Here are the expert tips[Fred Peters, president of Huntington Beach IT Services] on how to keep your new laptop running smoothly.

Sleep mode vs. shutting down
Peters notes that your work process will determine whether it’s more efficient to use “Sleep” mode or simply shut down the computer. “It is never fun to have to consistently wait any amount of time if the shut downs are too frequent,” he says. "‘Sleep’ requires more power, but it boots up faster, while ‘Hibernate’ uses less power, but takes longer to come online.” That same logic applies to shutting off your computer completely.
“Your computer will become obsolete before you wear out your computer by turning it on and off a lot,” he adds. “It also doesn't take more energy to start a computer than to keep it running.”
Sleep mode requires a constant, though reduced use of power (0-6 watts). Peters also notes that colorful screen-savers do nothing to conserve energy. Accessing your computer remotely with the Wake on LAN feature also can drain the power.
To get the most for your money, Peters advises adjusting power settings so that it automatically goes into Sleep/Standby mode after about 15 minutes of inactivity, and then shut it down at the end of your day.

Bionic battery life
To get the most out of your computer battery, Peters says to you have to give it a workout. Don’t keep your machine plugged in to an outlet. Instead, discharge the battery daily.

Size does matter
By purchasing a laptop, Peters says that you are ahead in the energy-saving game. Laptops use about 15-60 watts, while desktops use 65-250 watts — plus another 15-80 watts for a monitor.
He also adds that you can further conserve energy by using an LCD monitor and ditching the high-end video card unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, turn off printers and other peripherals when they are not in use.
To kill “vampire power,” suggests purchasing a power strip. With all peripherals connected to one source, it’s easy to simply flip the switch on power hogs any time.

Establish a backup process
In addition to Peters’ great advice about conserving energy, I discovered the hard way that it also pays to save backup versions of your work. Invest in an external hard drive to hold your digital music library, special photos, and other key documents. Frequent backups ensure that your data doesn’t die with your laptop.
While you are in the process of backing things up, create an emergency file (on good old-fashioned paper) that contains your computer’s serial number along with other key data such as your credit card numbers and phone numbers to reach each company, along with contact info to your insurance company. Access to that information is vital, particularly in the event of an accident, fire, computer theft, or other catastrophe.
Peters warns that those key pieces of information are not safe on your computer. If you are like me and absolutely need a digital holding space for those nuggets of information, he suggests sites like LastPass as your online vault.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spring on Titan Brings Sunshine and Patchy Clouds

False-color image of cloud cover dissolving over Titan's north pole and clouds appearing in the southern mid latitudes.

September 21, 2010
The northern hemisphere of Saturn's moon Titan is set for mainly fine spring weather, with polar skies clearing since the equinox in August last year. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been monitoring clouds on Titan regularly since the spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn in 2004. Now, a group led by Sébastien Rodriguez, a Cassini VIMS team collaborator based at Université Paris Diderot, France, has analyzed more than 2,000 VIMS images to create the first long-term study of Titan's weather using observational data that also includes the equinox. Equinox, when the sun shone directly over the equator, occurred in August 2009.

Rodriguez is presenting the results and new images at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome on Sept. 22.

Though Titan's surface is far colder and lacks liquid water, this moon is a kind of "sister world" to Earth because it has a surface covered with organic material and an atmosphere whose chemical composition harkens back to an early Earth. Titan has a hydrological cycle similar to Earth's, though Titan's cycle depends on methane and ethane rather than water.

A season on Titan lasts about seven Earth years. Rodriguez and colleagues observed significant atmospheric changes between July 2004 (early summer in Titan's southern hemisphere) and April 2010 (the very start of northern spring). The images showed that cloud activity has recently decreased near both of Titan's poles. These regions had been heavily overcast during the late southern summer until 2008, a few months before the equinox.

Over the past six years, the scientists found that clouds clustered in three distinct latitude regions of Titan: large clouds at the north pole, patchy clouds at the south pole and a narrow belt around 40 degrees south. "However, we are now seeing evidence of a seasonal circulation turnover on Titan – the clouds at the south pole completely disappeared just before the equinox and the clouds in the north are thinning out," Rodriguez said. "This agrees with predictions from models and we are expecting to see cloud activity reverse from one hemisphere to another in the coming decade as southern winter approaches."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Mars Rover Opportunity Approaching Possible Meteorite

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to capture this view of a dark rock that may be an iron meteorite. Part of the rim of Endurance Crater is on the horizon. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

September 21, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Images that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took at the end of an 81-meter (266-foot) drive on Sept. 16 reveal a dark rock about 31 meters (102 feet) away. The rover's science team has decided to go get a closer look at the toaster-sized rock and determine whether it is an iron meteorite.

"The dark color, rounded texture and the way it is perched on the surface all make it look like an iron meteorite," said science-team member Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Opportunity has found four iron meteorites during the rover's exploration of the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since early 2004. Examination of these rocks has provided information about the Martian atmosphere, as well as the meteorites themselves.

The newfound rock has been given the informal name "Oileán Ruaidh" (pronounced ay-lan ruah), which is the Gaelic name for an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland. The rock is about 45 centimeters (18 inches) wide from the angle at which it was first seen.

Opportunity has driven 23.3 kilometers (14.5 miles) on Mars. The drive to this rock will take the total combined distance driven by Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, to more than 31 kilometers (19.26 miles).

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 for what was planned as a three-month mission.