Battery Powered Linux Mini-HOWTO: Introduction

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« Ages 6 and up. Batteries included. »

1.1 Before you ask

This document does not describe how to install Linux on laptops, but how to optimize a ready-configured Linux for use on laptops. Please read the Installation-HOWTO or your distributor’s handbook for help with installing Linux.

This document does not describe how to use an uninterruptable power supply and the powerd daemon, either (even though a ups is a big battery). Read the UPS-HOWTO for details about that subject.

1.2 What this document is about

More and more people own portable computers these days and in turn, more and more people install Linux on such machines.

Installing and using Linux on a laptop is usually no problem at all, so go ahead and give it a try. Unlike some other operating systems, Linux still supports and runs well on even very old hardware, so you might give your outdated portable a new purpose in life by installing Linux on it.

If you need help with installing Linux on a laptop or if you have questions about laptop hardware, you can check the excellent Linux Laptop webpage at http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kharker/linux-laptop/ where you will find a lot of useful information and detailed help. The Linux Laptop page describes hardware configuration for specific laptop models and chipsets.

This HOWTO however will focus on the one problem that is common to all portable systems: Power consumption.

Yet, I have not found a Linux distribution that comes with a configuration optimized for laptops. Since I could not find this kind of information anywhere else, I have started to collect a few simple but effective tricks that will help you save battery power and in turn increase your system’s uptime while running on battery.

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(Sidenote. I received a complaint by a reader that these tips were not very effective with his laptop. So does all this really work? Yes, but don’t expect miracles. I was able to increase my laptop’s battery time from 90 minutes to more than 120 minutes.)

1.3 Roadmap

If you are a laptop pro, you can probably skip the General Information section. If you are a Linux pro, what you really want to know can be found in the Changing some general system settings section. If you are a Linux distributor, please read A message to Linux distributors.

1.4 Feedback

Your feedback is welcome. Please send comments to hanno@lava.de. Did it work on your system? Do you have new tips? Are there any outdated links or addresses in this text?

I am sorry, but I will not be able to help you with questions about specific laptop models. I don’t claim to be a laptop guru, I just happen to own one laptop myself and I simply want to share the information I collected. Please check the Linux Laptop webpage first, probably someone else has already written a page dedicated to your model. Ask your manufacturer’s technical support. Or go the the laptop newsgroup comp.sys.laptops and ask there.

1.5 Disclaimer

All methods described here were tested by me and worked fine on my laptop, unless noted otherwise. However, I cannot guarantee that any of this won’t crash or seriously damage your system. Life is dangerous, so keep backup copies of your important files before playing with your Linux configuration. If things go wrong, I do not take any responsibility for your data loss. In other words: Don’t sue me. Thank you.

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1.6 Copyright

This document shall be distributed under the standard HOWTO-copyright notice, found in the HOWTO folder at http://sunsite.unc.edu/mdw/linux.html.

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