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Using a laptop or netbook is in theory supposed to afford mobile computing, but this isn’t always the case. For instance, you might be attempting to connect to the web via a poor wireless connection, or be experiencing problems with a 3G connection. Your computer might even crash for no reason; but on the whole, these issues can be easily resolved.
A mobile computing problem that isn’t so easy to resolve is when your battery fails. Often it doesn’t matter what type of laptop or netbook you are using or which operating system you have installed; if the battery is damaged or over-used, then it simply won’t charge.
Sadly these problems seem to be exacerbated under Ubuntu. An example of this comes with the Dell Mini 10 netbooks; under Ubuntu Linux their battery problems seem to be made somehow worse.
Don’t be discouraged, however, as there are plenty of ways to fix these battery problems – a battery that you think is dead might just need a little coaxing back to life!
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Checking the BIOS
The first thing you should do if you suspect your Dell Mini 10 (or indeed any battery-powered portable computer) of having a faulty battery is to check the BIOS. This is accessed via the splash screen that you see when your computer first switches on – typically you would open the BIOS by tapping the DEL key when your computer starts up.
With the netbook computer connected to the mains you should see that the AC power adaptor and battery are present. If this isn’t the case then you can certainly consider your battery is suffering from some sort of fault; furthermore, there is a good chance that there is a problem with the AC power adaptor or the connector. You have probably guessed that the power connector mounted on your computer feeds both the motherboard and the battery, and if the battery isn’t charging correctly you may need to contact a hardware support technician (or in the case of a Dell computer, speak to Dell support directly) in order to investigate whether this is the cause of the battery fault.
If the battery doesn’t work in a similar device (for instance, you might have purchased two Dell Mini 10 computers) then you should take steps to find a replacement power cell (see below).
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Reducing Heavy Loads
If your battery is detected as present, it might be performing poorly due to your Ubuntu Mini 10 power settings or simply the way you use your netbook. Many problems with your Dell battery can be easily resolved by changing a few settings.
For instance a typical Dell Mini 10 user running Ubuntu will probably have Wi-Fi switched on, a common cause of fast battery loss. Disabling wireless networking while you’re not using the Web or your computer is standing idle is a very good idea, as is altering the Ubuntu power settings.
You can take a look at these by opening System > Preferences > Power Management and open the General tab, where you will find options for determining how the computer behaves when the power buttons are pressed. Meanwhile on the On AC Power tab you can turn off the hard disk drive and switch off your display.
Additionally, you might consider disabling accelerated graphics under Ubuntu on the Dell Mini 10. This is easily done by switching to the traditional Gnome desktop via Preferences > Switch Desktop Mode.
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Extend Battery Life with Powertop
If you have concerns over your Ubuntu-powered Dell Mini 10 battery but are still able to squeeze a few minutes out of it, you should probable consider the PowerTOP utility, a tool designed to help Intel computers running Ubuntu to use the battery more efficiently.
This is available via the Ubuntu Software Center, and shouldn’t take too long to download. Once the software is running, you can observe which processes and applications are using up the most power and disable them.
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Finding a Replacement Battery
Eventually, however, you may find that your Ubuntu Mini 10 battery requires replacing. Depending on whether the computer is still in warranty this might simply be a case of calling Dell and getting a new battery at a small discount or heading online to find a suitable replacement.
If Dell isn’t playing ball the best website to choose from is eBay, where you will find a good choice of replacement batteries, some of which will offer increased uptime compared with the original. You should also take a look at specialist battery shops; most importantly, shop around to get the best deal, making use of a service such as Google product search so that you can easily compare prices.
- Author's own experience.
- Image credit: Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook, http://www.dell.com/uk/p/inspiron-mini1018/pd
- Dell community support, http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/laptop/f/3518/t/19351376.aspx