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Weekly Byte: Keeping Your Devices Alive With Tricks From a Traveling Developer

Working at pMD, I sometimes forget that I'm not a typical developer. We get to travel for charge capture implementations, customer check-ins, and health care conferences, so I've come to conclude that I am, in fact, a traveling developer! Although we have other responsibilities that make my job even more interesting, at the end of the day I am still a developer. This means getting creative in where we code. For me, I sometimes do my best work on a plane. But being mobile has its challenges. Namely, how can I keep my laptop charged to make the plane flight most productive??

Here are some secret (and some obvious) tips and tricks that I employ to keep my Macbook Pro alive for those long flights across the country on a plane that has no outlet.

Before you fly


1) Make sure your laptop has a healthy battery. I rarely check this when I’m in the office, but it's good practice to ensure you have a healthy battery before a trip. Otherwise, no matter what you try to do, your bad battery will end up draining quickly. Check the "System Information" on your Macbook Pro.

2) Update to the latest Mac OSX. Apple is good about their software - well, as much as a giant software powerhouse can be. New OS versions always attempt to fix any previously known power issues.

While traveling


1) Use the Integrated Graphics Card instead of the Discrete Graphics Card. If you can turn off apps that require the discrete GPU, switch over to the integrated GPU! Discrete GPUs are bigger, faster, and just downright hungrier. Turn that off to save juice!

2) Dim your monitor. The lower the brightness of your laptop, the less power the monitor draws. This one is fairly obvious, but tough. Make sure you don't dim your monitor too much where you can't easily see what you're doing! No power saving is good enough to warrant introducing a bug from misreading something. (Make sure to turn off auto-brightness as well, otherwise your dimming will be overridden.)

3) Turn off all apps! Well, turn off the ones you're not using anyway. This is not to be confused with minimizing apps. Laptop apps run in the background even when they are minimized. Browsers especially can be caught attempting to reach the outside world even if you don't have Internet access.

4) Speaking of Internet access, if you're not using Wi-Fi on a plane, disable Wi-Fi and bluetooth! Even though you are not using any connected devices, these enabled radios will draw power in search of nearby devices to connect to.

5) Check your energy saving settings. I've spoken a lot about what you can do while the laptop is active, but there's much to save when the laptop is closed! Make sure your sleep mode settings are set to turn off hard disks whenever possible and disable power nap. These are seemingly harmless, but they can drain precious power while you're not working.

With these tips you, too, can enjoy programming in the friendly skies like I do!
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