Jewish World Review Dec. 14, 2004 / 2 Teves, 5765

Laptop batteries made to be all run down; problem with using cell phone to access EarthLink from laptop

By James Coates | (KRT) Q. I've recently acquired a year-old IBM ThinkPad A31 laptop. This is my first experience with a battery-powered computer. I know that NiCad batteries (or at least the older ones) had a tendency to develop a "memory" if they were recharged before they were fully discharged.

When I'm using my ThinkPad at home, should I be using it on the AC power unit, or is this the same as being in "recharge" mode?

--Nick Zohfeld, Homewood, Ill.

A. Millions of laptop owners who mostly use them at home join me, and you, Mr. Z., fretting over whether they should keep using the wall outlets or charge up the battery and then run the laptop on it as a general practice.

Experts urge laptop owners to relax and use the AC outlets most of the time, but to also untether the computer from the wall socket and run the battery all the way down to road-kill dead once every two or three weeks.

This is because chemical reactions take place in each of a battery's cells, and running the thing dry every couple of weeks assures that conditions remain the same in all cells.

Because it's from Big Blue, and because it sells well below $1,000 at many discount outlets, this Pentium IV laptop of yours has become very popular, and I am delighted to tell you that you got the type of battery it uses wrong.

Although nickel-cadmium batteries do indeed suffer that memory problem, IBM's lithium ion batteries are immune from that particular shortcoming. If one runs a NiCad battery down to half-full and then plugs it in to recharge, these batteries tend to remember that setting and start going dead at what should be the halfway mark. The solution is not to do that.

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May I suggest you check out this Web site for a listing of virtually all IBM laptops and the batteries each needs: Produced by California-based At Battery Co., the site covers just about all laptops on the market over the past several years and offers answers to most questions.

Q. I am experiencing a problem with my cell phone's Internet connection and would appreciate your thoughts. I have a Toshiba laptop and a Qualcomm cell phone with an account through EarthLink.

When I travel, I use my cell phone to access EarthLink from my laptop. Everything worked fine until I downloaded some Windows updates. Now, every time I try to dial up EarthLink, I get a "no dial tone" message.

Several technicians have checked out my computer. They all say everything is connected correctly, but I still can't get online using my cell phone. Can you help?

--June Ray

A. Your problem is that these cell-phone schemes to access the Web use a digital access point instead of a conventional analog-modem link. Although it sounds to you like you are getting a dial tone with that digital cell phone, what you hear is not the trusty analog signals that other dial-up links use.

So you need to instruct the computer to stop waiting for a dial tone and just accept the signals being sent downstream by your connection.

To do this, click on Start and then Control Panel and then look for the icon labeled Phone and Modem Options. Open it and click on the tab for modem. This brings up a display showing your EarthLink connection. Select it and then pick Properties in the box that appear on the screen. Open Properties and click the Modem tab in the next display, and you will find a check box to toggle whether the computer waits for a dial tone before dialing a Web connection.

Remove the check mark, and your cell will get you onto the Web because it won't be stopped by that error message you get.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of this column by clicking here.

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