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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Getting updates automatically

TECH Q&A

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Q Is there a better way to get the latest software updates than opening each application, one by one, and clicking ìcheck for updates?î This approach gets rather tedious with 20 applications from 20 different companies.

A Many commercial programs include an automatic update feature that can be set to routinely check back with the companyís servers for patches, updates and upgrades when you are online. Once the program finds an update, it alerts you that there is something new available and provides a button to get it.

Not all programs offer automatic updates, but check the Settings or Help menu for the options. Common applications like Microsoft Office, iTunes and most anti-virus software have the automatic update feature available.


For example, there is information about how to use the Microsoft Update Service for the companyís software at snipurl.com/7ri87 and at snipurl.com/7rijg. In iTunes, there is a box for ìCheck for new software updates automaticallyî on the General tab in the programís preferences area.

Like Windows, Mac OS X can also look for its own system updates. Go to the System Preferences area from either the Dock or the Apple menu and click on the Software Update icon to have the Mac automatically check for updates on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Q Is there a way to make my laptop battery last through an entire DVD during a long plane flight, or do I have to get an extended battery?

ABuying an extended-life battery for your laptop is one way to increase your computerís running time by a few hours. To accommodate the extra power cells for longer life, these types of batteries are usually bigger and heavier than standard batteries.

Extended-life batteries typically start at around $100, depending on the model. They can be purchased from the computerís manufacturer or from an online battery store like laptopbatteryexpress.com or batteriesdirect.com.

If you donít mind packing an extra item in the laptop bag, a gadget such as the Portable Power Station at batterygeek.net can add 16 to 30 hours of power to a laptop and can also charge other portable devices such as cell phones and music players. Prices start at about $350, and you may need additional cables.

On certain flights, you may be able to just plug in your laptop on the plane ó some now come with power outlets built into the seats. You may need to purchase a special power adapter. The SeatGuru siteís ìUltimate Guide to In-Seat Power Portsî (tinyurl.com/6b5kxq) has more information.

A spinning DVD drive consumes a lot of battery juice. Another way to get through a whole movie before the laptopís battery runs dry is to skip the disc and copy a downloaded film from Amazon, Blockbuster, iTunes or other video site to the hard drive.

Tip of the week

If you have enough to lug through the airport already, there might be one less thing to keep track of: the boarding pass. Some airlines like American and Continental now offer paperless boarding passes in the form of bar codes that can be sent to a mobile phone. When it comes time to board the plane, just display the bar code on the phoneís screen for the security team.

The paperless boarding pass is not available on every flight yet, but look for it when checking in on the airlineís Web site. If itís available, there should be an option for ìe-mail for use on cell phone or other mobile deviceî that sends the boarding-pass bar code to the phone. (American Airlines has more information at snipurl.com/7riud.) And if the phoneís battery is running low, thereís the option to print out a paper pass at the self-serve kiosk.