Chapter 24 Portable Computing (220-901)
The next wave to hit the laptop market was IBM’s TrackPoint device, a joystick the size of a pencil eraser, situated in the center of the keyboard. You use a forefinger to push the joystick around, and then click or right-click, using two buttons below the speaker.
The touchpad is a flat, touch-sensitive pad just in front of the keyboard. To operate a touchpad, you simply glide your finger across its surface to move the pointer, and tap the surface once or twice to single- or double click.
Some manufacturers today include a multitouch touchpad that enables you to perform gestures, or actions with multiple fingers, such as scrolling up and down or swiping to another screen or desktop. The Multi-Touch on Apple’s laptops pioneered such great improvements to the laptop-pointing-device experience that the lack of a mouse is no longer a handicap on many laptops.
Touchscreens can also be a pointing device. Kind of like smartphones or tablet.
In the past, 4:3 aspect ratio screens were common, but these days it is hard to find one on anything but special purpose or ruggedized laptops; all most all regular laptops come in one of two widescreen format ratio. Aspect ratio is the comparison of the screen width to the screen height. While widescreens can have varying aspect ratio, almost all of the screens you find in present day laptops will be 16:9 or 16:10.
Laptops LCD screens come in variety of supported resolutions, described with acronyms such as XGA, WXGA, WSXGA, and more. The W in front of the letters indicates widescreen.
Laptop screens typically come with one of two types of finish: matte or high-gloss. The matte finish was the industry standard for many years and offered a good trade-off between richness of colors and the reduction of glare. The downside of using a matte finish laptop is that they wash out a lot in bright light.
Manufacturers released high-gloss laptop screens 2006, and they rapidly took over many store shelves. The high-gloss finish offers sharper contrast, richer colors, and wider viewing angles when compared to the matte screens. The drawback to the high-gloss screen is that they pick up lots of reflection from nearby objects.
As with other LCD technologies most LCD/LED screens use twisted nematic (TN) technology. Some laptop screens use In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels for the greater viewing angle and better color quality. You will mostly find IPS panels on higher-grade portables.
What you will not find on portables are two other display technologies, plasma and organic light-emitting diode (OLED). Plasma displays demand a lot more electricity than LCDs demand and are completely inappropriate for portable devices. OLED screens sip energy when compared to LCDs, but they are still so expensive that you will only find them on smartphones and tablets today.
Ports work the same way on portable computers as they do on desktop models. You plug in a device to a particular port and, as long as the OS has the proper drivers, you will have a functioning device when you boot.
Most portables use the FN key plus another key on the keyboard to cycle through display options
You can control how the external monitor displays through the Display applet in the Control Panel in Windows. Open Display and click on “Change display settings”. On the Screen Resolution panel, click the drop-down arrow next to Multiple displays. You will see several options, “Extend these displays” makes your desktop encompass both the laptop ad the external monitor. “Duplicate these displays” places the same thing on both displays.
There are two issues with RJ-45s on laptops. First they do not have an off/on switch like the 802.11 and Bluetooth connections. You can turn them off just like you would turn off the NIC on a desktop: disable the NIC in Device Manager or turn the NIC off in BIOS.
ExpressCards connect to either the USB 2.0 or the PCI Express bus. These differ a lot in speed. The USB 2.0 connection has a max speed of 480Mbps and PCIe has a max speed of 2.5Gbps.
PCMCIA announced ExpressCard 2.0 in 2009 with speeds up to 5 Gbps and support for SuperSpeed USB 3.0, we expected to see more to come but instead PCMCIA shut down its offices and there has not been any further development for ExpressCard.
Two great examples of this are wired Ethernet and optical drives. A USB to RJ-45 dongle and a USB optical drive can provide these features when and where I need them.
Another good use for USB adapters is updating connectivity support for older devices. A USB to Wi-Fi dongle or a USB Bluetooth adapter can let me update an old laptop to 802.11ac, or add Bluetooth to a laptop that didn’t come with it built in.
Rechargeable batteries have only a limited number of charge-discharge cycles before overall battery performance is reduced. Fourth, never handle a battery that has ruptured or broken; battery chemicals are very dangerous and flammable. Finally, always recycle old batteries.
Windows has a thing called power management. Which is just the cooperation of the hardware, the BIOS, and the OS to reduce power.
ACPI goes beyond the APM standard by supplying support for hot-swappable devices, always a huge problem with APM.
-Full On: Everything in the system is running at full power. There is no power management
-APM Enabled: CPU and RAM are running at full power. Power management is enabled. An unused device may or may not be shut down.
-APM Standby: CPU is stopped. RAM still stores all programs. All peripherals are shut down, although configuration options are still stored. In other words, you won’t have to reinitialize the devices to get back to APM Enabled.
-APM Suspend: Everything in the system is shut down or at its lowest power consumption setting. Many systems use a type of Suspend called hibernation, where critical information is written to the hard drive. Upon a wake-up event, the system is reinitialized, and the data is read from the drive to return the system to the APM Enabled mode.
-G0 (S0): Working state
-G1: Sleeping state mode. Further divided into four S states.
S1: CPU stops processing. Power to CPU and memory (RAM) is maintained.
S2: CPU is powered down.
S3: Sleep or Standby mode. Power to RAM still on.
S4: Hibernation mode. Information in RAM is stored to nonvolatile memory or drive and powered off.
-G2 (S5): Soft power off mode. Certain devices used to wake a system, such as keyboard, LAN, USB, and other devices, remain on, while most other components are powered to a mechanical off state (G3).
-G3: Mechanical off mode. The system and all components, with the exception of the real-time clock (RTC), are completely turned off.
First is the ability to initialize power management; this enables the system to enter the APM Enabled mode. Often CMOS then presents time frames for entering Standby and Suspend modes, as well as settings to determine which events take place in each of these modes.
Many CMOS versions present settings to determine wake-up events, such as directing the system to monitor a modem or a NIC. You’ll see this feature as Wake on LAN, or something similar. A true ACPI-compliant CMOS provides an ACPI setup option.
In Windows, APM/ACPI settings can be found in the Control Panel applet Power Options. Windows offer power plans that enable better control over power use by customizing a Balanced, High performance, or Power saver power plan. Another feature, Hibernate mode, takes everything in active memory and stores it on the hard drive just before the system powers down. When the system comes out of hibernation, Windows reloads all the files and applications into RAM.
One of the best ways to conserve battery use is to plan ahead of times when you will be unplugged. This can mean a lot of different things in practice, but they all boil down to thinking of to minimize the number of programs and hardware devices/radios you will need to use while your laptop i running on battery power.
Better than that, Windows enables me to designate the files and folders I need as offline files, storing a local, duplicate copy of the files and folders on my hard drive.
To designate a folder and its contents as offline files, right-click on the folder you want and select Always available offline from the menu. The sync will occur and you are done. When you want to open the files offline, go to the Control Panel and open the Sync Center applet. Click the Manage offline files link in the Tasks list to open the Offline Files dialog box. Click the View your offline files button and you are in.
Make sure to have at least a little battery power available. When you are at a airport you might have to power on your laptop to show security it is in fact a laptop.
If you travel to a foreign country, be very careful about the electricity. North America uses about 115 Volts AC, but most of the world uses 230 Volts AC. Many portable computers have auto-switching power supplies, meaning they detect voltage at the outlet and adjust accordingly. For these portables, a simple plug converter will do the trick. Other portables computers, however, have fixed input power supplies, which means they run only on 115 Volts AC or on 230 Volts AC. For these portables, you need a full blown electricity converting device, either a step down or step up transformer.
Once you do that you need to document where all of the screws on the laptop goes. Laptop screws are very small and usually not standard so if you lose a screw finding a replacement will be tough.
When taking parts out of the laptop, organize them and mark where they go.
Laptops are tricky things to deal with and sometimes you will have to redirect the customer to a dedicated laptop repair person. If you feel like not doing that, there are many third party sources to look up and see how to do different things, like removing a keyboard. YouTube and iFixit are great places to start.
Watch the video/tutorial and if you feel it is too difficult for you or if you do not have the right tools, find a dedicated tech to do the job.
The amount of RAM you will need depends on what applications you are running. If you have a client who is just on Facebook then you will only need 2-4GB. If you user plays a graphic intensive video game then 8GB+ will be good.
The obvious benefit of shared memory is a less expensive video card with performance comparable to its mega-memory alternative. The downside is that your overall system performance will suffer because a portion of system RAM is no longer available to programs.
Some systems let you control the shared memory while others just allow you to turn it on/off in the CMOS.
If you have an ancient laptop it will likely have a PATA drive, so you need to pay attention to the jumpers and cabling.
One of the best upgrades is going from an HDD to an SSD. SSDs are way faster than HDDs and use less electricity. The only con about SSDs are their price but you can find a 500-GB SSD for under $200.
To replace these parts, you will need the device model and you may also need to hunt down the part number using manufacturer or third-party resources.
Another consideration with expansion cards applies specifically to wireless. Not only will you need to connect the card to the slot properly, but you must reattach the antenna connection and often a separate power cable.
You will fine one of two types of expansion slot in a portable: Mini-PCIe and M.2. The older ones (2013 and earlier) use PCIe and the newer devices are adopting M.2.
First, remove all power from the laptop, including the battery if possible. Remove the hatch to expose the CPU. Remove the heat sink and fan assembly and lift out the CPU. Replace it with another CPU, apply thermal paste, and reattach the heat-sink and fan assembly. Reconnect the power connector and you are good. Besides a few screws, there is really no difference in a mobile CPU and a desktop CPU.
Portables open in two different ways, depending on the manufacturer. You either peel away layers from the top down, through the keyboard, or from the bottom up, through the base. Either direction requires careful attention to detail, part connectivity, and locations. Every one of the replacements requires you to detach the screen from the main chassis of the portable. Aside from finding the connection points and removing the proper screws, you need to pay attention to the connection points for the data stream to the monitor and the antenna that is in the frame of the display. Once you have it stripped down, you replace whichever component you are there to replace and then begin the process of building it back up.
-If the outlet is good, connect the laptop to the wall outlet and try to power on. If no LEDs light up, you may have a bad AC adapter. Swap it with a known good power adapter.
-A faulty peripheral device might keep the laptop from powering up. Remove any peripherals such as USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt devices.
-Extreme performance issues may lead to a frozen system. If they don’t resolve on their own and you can’t interact with the device, you may need to perform a hard reboot.
-If you have a laptop with a battery that won’t charge up, it could be one of two things: the battery might be cooled or the AC adapter isn’t doing its job. To troubleshoot, replace the battery with a known-good battery. Alternatively, remove the battery and run the laptop on AC only. If that works you know the AC adapter is good. If it does’t replace the AC adapter.
-The reason for very short battery life in a battery that charges properly are fairly benign. The battery has usually outlived its useful life and needs to be replaced, or some programs or hardware are drawing much more power than usual.
-Make sure you have a cool environment
-If the laptop display is very dim it must have lost an inverter. the clue here is that inverters never go quietly. They can make a nasty hum as they are about to die and a popping noise when they actually fail.
-If there is a big crack on the screen, laptops have a port for plugging in an external monitor.
-If you plug a laptop into an external monitor and that monitor does not display, remember that you have both a hardware and as OS component to making dual displays successful. There is usually a combination of FN and another key to toggle among only portable, only external, and both displays.
-Many manufacturers have switched to LED displays on laptops, which has led to a phenomenon many techs long behind us: flickering displays. LED displays do not work the same as CCFL backlights.
-There are two things you can do with a flickering LED display: crank up the brightness so that it goes away (and thus reduce battery life) or replace the laptop.
-If the screen orientation on a Windows portable doesn’t change when the device is rotated, auto-rotation may be disabled. Likewise, if the orientation changes at the wrong time, you can lock rotation via the Screen option in the Settings charm, or via the Display applet in the Control Panel.
-If a tech has recently replaced a component that required removal of the laptop display, dead wireless could mean simply a disconnected antenna. Most portables have the antenna built into the display panel, so check the connection
-Try the special key combination for your laptop to toggle the wireless or Bluetooth adapter, or one for toggling airplane mode. You usually press the FN key in combination with another key.
-You might simply be out of range or, if the wireless works intermittently, right at the edge of the range. Physically walk the laptop over to the wireless router or access point to ensure there are no out-of-range issues.
-With Bluetooth specifically, remember that the pairing process takes action or configuration on both devices to succeed. turn on the Bluetooth device, actively seek it, and try again.
-If only the GPS is not functioning, privacy options may be preventing applications from accessing your GPS location information. Check and make sure GPS is enabled.
-If only the NFC is not functioning, you may need to enable a setting to allow communication with nearby devices. In Windows, open the Proximity applet in the Control Panel and make sure Proximity support is enabled.
-If the device has had repairs or upgrades lately, make sure the speakers are properly connected.
-If no sound is coming from the device speakers, try plugging in a pair of headphones or some external speakers. If these work fine, there is a chance the built-in speakers have been damaged.
-If headphone work fine with the device, the speakers may need replacing. first, make sure the device has been rebooted, double check the audio output device settings, try changing and resetting the default output device, and try disabling and re-enabling the appropriate device.
-If none of the keys work on your laptop, there is a good chance you unseated the keyboard connector.
-If you are getting number when you are expecting to get letters, the number lock (NUMLOCK) function key is turned on. Turn it off.
-Laptop keyboards take far more abuse than the typical desktop keyboard because of eating or drinking around it. If you have a laptop with sticking keys, look for debris in the keys. Used compressed air to clean it out.
-A laptop keyboard key that doesn’t register presses or feels sticky may also have had a switch knocked out of place, especially if the key appears slightly raised or tilted. Look for steps on reattaching/detaching the if possible.
-If the touchpad is having problems, shooting compressed air into it can get some of the debris out of that area.
-If the touchpad is unresponsive or erratic, a good first step is checking the screen for dirt, grease, or liquids, which can make the system go haywire; wipe it down with a dry microfiber cloth.
-Some touch screens may appear to work improperly if they are registering an unintentional touch. Depending on the design of the device, it may be tempting to hold it in a way that leaves some part of your hand or arm to close to the edge of the screen; some devices will register this as a touch.
-Your device may have touchscreen diagnostics available through hardware troubleshooting menus accessible through the BIOS. Refer to the manufacturer’s resources for how to access these diagnostics. If available, they are a quick way to identify whether you are looking at a hardware or software/configuration issue. Try recalibrating the touch pad.
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