How Intellectual Property Laws Can Drain Your Battery's Juice

by Matthew Russell

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My 17" PowerBook goes with me everywhere I go and is always within an arm's reach. If it's not sitting on my lap or on the desk in front of me, you can rest assured that it's just a few feet away playing some music, crunching some numbers, or safely stored away nearby in my backpack. Really, I only have one complaint about it: the 2.5-3 hour battery life just isn't long enough. Now, granted, that's a reliable 2.5-3 hours that's been steady and true for going on two years now -- better than any experience I ever had back during times-that-shall-not-be-named -- but I'd still like to be able to get more out of it. It really bugs me when I'm forced to work in an area that I otherwise wouldn't just because I need to plug in.

The simplest and most obvious thing I did to get more battery life was that I bought a second battery. This small investment doubled the amount of time that I can work on my PowerBook, taking the grand total up to 5-6 hours. Better yet, I don't even have to shutdown and reboot to swap out the battery. I can just close the screen, do the switcheroo , and open back up the screen. I didn't even know that hot-swapping the battery was possible until my first battery got so low one time that my PowerBook wouldn't come out of sleep. I was forced to change out the battery without shutting down (which I had been doing for well over a month by that time), but to my complete surprise, things came right back up and nothing missed a beat. I wonder if there's anyone else out there that still doesn't know this is possible? Was/am I the only one?

Anyway, if you dim the screen and don't use bluetooth or wireless, you might even be able to squeeze another 30 minutes or so and push 7 hours of outlet-free, totally unplugged work on two batteries. That's almost a full work day and enough time to get you through a transcontinental flight. This is truly a great thing if you're one of those people (like me) who feels obligated to work for the entire duration of a boring airplane ride.

But if you're not working on an airplane ride, you'll probably be doing one of three other things: talking to the person beside you (even if it's against your own will), sleeping (possibly to avoid talking to that person beside you), or watching a movie (with headphones, and again, to avoid that compulsory chatter.) I'll leave you to your own devices for handling the first two, but will have to point out that your battery life is going to take a beating if you try that third option. I'm sure it's possible, but I don't think I've ever been able to successfully watch an actual DVD from the disc on my 17" PowerBook without having to plug it in at some point -- although I know that I have come close a few times. Although the large screen would seem to be the likely culprit, it appears that the SuperDrive might be the one hogging up all of the power.

Recently, I've been doing some tinkering and found a simple solution that can get us through a 2 hour movie: rip the DVD to your hard drive with MacTheRipper and play it from your hard drive instead of the way you normally would with your SuperDrive. From there, you can watch it with Apple's DVD Player. All you have to do is choose "File -> Open DVD Media" and point to the "VIDEO_TS" folder inside the main folder that MacTheRipper created.

Although MacTheRipper will copy CSS "protected" DVDs (or so it says) that have restrictions telling you not to copy them, there are plenty of "unprotected" DVDs out there like home videos that you can unquestionably copy, so keep that in mind if anyone ever tells you that MacTheRipper is a tool that could only be used for illegitimate reasons.

But since we're on the subject, wouldn't it be nice if it weren't illegal to copy a DVD that you already own to your hard drive? This sure would save us some juice on those plane rides.

There have also been times when I've rented movies, but returned them before watching because I just never did get around to it. It seems like it might be nice to have a service one day that sold you the rights to view a movie one time as opposed to the rights to play a physical disc for some specified time period.

Anyhow, my purpose here was more about telling you how to save some juice than it was to ponder intellectual property laws, although that is an interesting subject that you can feel free to comment on if you like.

Know of any other good tips for squeezing extra juice out of your battery?


2005-10-01 19:35:04
Only one?
I wonder if there's anyone else out there that still doesn't know this is possible? Was/am I the only one?

Nope, your not. I had exactly the same experience, had to bite the bullet and change batteries when the juice ran out, and was also pleasantly surprised to find out you can hot swap them.

2005-10-01 22:17:53
Long-hidden secret
This feature has long been hidden in the depths of PowerBook wisdom. It has been around at least since one of the black PowerBooks I had - either the PowerBook 3400 or the PowerBook G3. Apple Support enlightened me when it became relevant when I called for some other issue and it worked then as it does now.
2005-10-02 00:52:35
iBook ?
Does anyone know whether this feature works for the iBook ?
2005-10-02 14:57:18
You don't need two batteries to find out
Could someone please put their iBook to sleep, pop out the battery, and then immediately pop it back in so that we can get this man (or woman) an answer?
2005-10-03 06:04:31
You can not hot swap batteries on an iBook
Powerbooks have the capacity to hold a charge long enough to swap the batteries. iBooks do not have this feature.

BTW Apple doesn't recommend hot swapping batteries on either model:

2006-02-26 08:05:25
Geez... you get 2.5 to 3 hours and have for YEARS? On a 17" no less?

I've got a 15" Alubook and, even with dimmed screen and no airport or bluetooth and no DVD in the drive, I've never gotten better than 1h9 minutes. And this is on the replacement battery, we're talking about. On the original I only get about 45 minutes. I'd long since resigned myself to this just being the truth about Powerbooks!