Vista's mobility features

Microsoft says it's going to post some notebook battery-saving tips in the near future

Even though it's covered with snow, the Microsoft campus is bustling in anticipation of launching Vista today. I'm still running the thing on this fantastic HP DV9000 notebook that Microsoft's PR firm sent me. (Would it be wrong to assume it's a Christmas gift?) Naturally, that means I should do another Vista column, but the only thing I can think of that I haven't already done or set aside for future pieces is a quickie on Vista-on-a-notebook. So here goes.

First, the most blatant: the Mobility Center. Head over to Control Panel, then Mobile PC and the link is there at the top. It's meant as a one-stop dashboard for your core mobile concerns: battery level, wireless network connectivity, external displays, handheld syncs, external displays or projectors, and more. It really is handy; I just can't figure out why Microsoft dropped it three levels deep into the UI. It's also available off the Accessories menu, but that's still two mouse clicks in. I suppose it's easy enough to drop onto your Quick Launch bar or the Startup menu, but this is really the kind of thing for which I'd have "wasted" some of that valuable desktop real estate that Sidebar uses. But as soon as I complained about that to a snow-covered Microsoft gnome, I was informed that you can hit the windows key and the X key simultaneously and pop it right up. Not intuitive, but at least it's there.

I also like the updated Power Options. All the old battery schemes are still there, but Vista adds a few new things as well. You've also got control over what the power buttons do as well as what happens when you close the notebooks cover. Basically, this lets you choose between Sleep and full Hibernate modes.

The HP came with a 2GB USB flash drive that was pre-configured for ReadyBoost . No, this isn't something a manufacturer has to do. You can turn any fast USB thumbdrive into a ReadyBooster by plugging in the drive and then instead of clicking the "Open folder to view files" option, just hit the "Speed up my system" option. Click the "Use this device" option on the next screen and you configure how much memory space Vista is going to grab. Unfortunately, according to Microsoft's ReadyBoost site, the best ratio for system RAM to USB RAM is almost one-to-one, so the 2GB drive I had was almost entirely devoted to performance across from the DV9000's 2GB of system RAM.

Finally, while you will notice some performance boost, I found this is really a big deal only when you're doing something heavier like cutting a DVD, making a big calc, or working with big docs. E-mail and browsing didn't seem affected by ReadyBoost, which is good because running around an airport with a thumbdrive sticking out of your PC is a pain.

Two deals that aren't so useful are the Network Projector wizard and the Sync Center. I do quite a few sales calls and I've yet to encounter a networked video projector. It's local. It's S-Video or RGB, and that's pretty much it. If I ever do encounter a networked video projector, I suppose I'll like the functionality, but it seems like a rare instance for which to build an entire wizard.

Microsoft says it's going to post some notebook battery-saving tips in the near future. Specifically this will relate to personalization changes you can make to your performance-hungry Aero desktop to keep your battery running as long as possible. I'll post a link to this when it arrives. In the meantime, enjoy Vista's launch -- provided Microsoft can dig out in time.

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Oliver Rist

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