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The digital worker's guide to doing business on the go

Paul Mah | Oct. 23, 2014
Today's workers must do an increasing amount of work outside the office and home. If you're one of them, these six tips will keep you productive, secure, comfortable and secure -- all without scrambling to find a power outlet.

Finally, keyboard protectors can protect against an accumulation of grime and crumbs. MacBook users can check out the keyboard protector from Moshi, though most Mac and Windows laptop users can find protectors for a few dollars on Amazon or Newegg.

Monitor Power Use
Modern microprocessors throttle back to an idle power state when not in use to conserve energy and ultimately extend the battery lifespan of laptops. This means that tracking them can be important if you aren't plugged into a wall socket, since a rogue or power-intensive app can drain your juice at a significantly faster rate.

OS X Mavericks monitors this automatically. It also tracks historical power use to identify apps that use more than their fair share of power. Note that some apps have a poor record on this front, including Google Chrome and virtualization apps such as VMware Workstation.

Apple has it down into a science, but figuring power consumption on a Windows device can be trickier. Generally, apps that persistently command high processor utilization are suspect, along with crashed or hung apps that just won't close normally. Cooling fans that kick in even for sedately tasks such as word processing or checking email are also a telltale sign. Identify and knock errant apps off the task list by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del and selecting "Task Manager." Do a quick restart if all else doesn't work.

Finally, don't forget that the display consumes a large portion of the power. Bringing the screen brightness down will stretch the lifespan of your laptop. This means a café with softer light is more battery-friendly than an al fresco setting where you work under direct sunlight or a meager shade. (That's why sitting with your back to a wall should give you a longer run time when using your laptop's battery.)

Keep Things Powered Up
Frequent travelers may want to keep an additional power adapter in their travel bag to avoid the stress that leaving it at home is sure to induce. Travelers determined to carry less stuff can consider slim-line universal laptop adapters from the likes of Kensington and Innergie, which typically comes with a built-in USB port for charging a second device.

This advice applies to Mac users, too, though there are no third-party power adapters available for MacBooks. The PlugBug adapter though, snaps onto the official power adapter from Apple to add a 2.1Amp USB port for recharging your smartphone or tablet.

Bringing your own power source helps if you work at locations where power outlets are scarce. Smartphones can be easily powered by many of the external USB battery packs out there, while business laptops typically offer interchangeable battery packs.


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