Every Watt Counts--Charge Phone While You Drive

dave.wilson@latimes.com

Q: Can I save electricity by recharging my cellular phone in the car, or do I pay for that with increased gas costs?

A: The friendly geeks at Q&A; labs have spent weeks exploring the answer to this question, and we've interviewed several electrical engineering types. Their unanimous answer: It depends.

Assuming the phone is always in the car with you anyway, you won't suffer any increased gasoline costs transporting the unit. The key question is whether you use less energy recharging the cell phone battery from the car's cigarette lighter than you would if the phone were plugged into a standard wall socket in your home.

When you use the standard adapter for the home recharge, you'll notice that the adapter gets hot. That's a sign of energy inefficiency, meaning lots of juice is being wasted. On the other hand, the car recharger uses direct current (your home uses alternating current), which is also pretty inefficient, especially over long distances.

Most of the people we talked to think this is a wash, but one person thinks you'll reduce energy consumption by charging in the car. In any event, charging in the car does reduce consumption off the electrical grid, and every watt helps these days.

Q: I'm using Outlook Express and DSL. It works fine, but after sleep mode, I can connect to the Internet but not to my mail server unless I reboot.

A: You don't say what operating system you're running, but start with paying a visit to http://www.microsoft.com to see whether there's a patch that will address the problem.

The quick-and-dirty fix, of course, is to disable sleep mode. For Windows, right-click on the desktop, choose Properties, click on the Screen Saver tab and disable the settings. You might also be able to get there by hitting the Start button, then going to Settings, Control Panel, and clicking on the Power Management icon.

Q: I have a Gateway PC with Windows Me and have three questions. First, I'd like to know how to print just one page of a four-page document. Second, I have been turning off my printer. Is this a bad idea? Finally, how do I place an icon on my taskbar?

A: Here goes. When the print dialogue box comes up, on the lower left you'll see a Print Range box. Select the Pages option and choose the number you want.

Second, turning off your printer won't hurt anything.

Finally, hold down the left mouse key over the icon you want to put on the taskbar, drag it to the preferred location and release the key.

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Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A; at techtimes@latimes.com.

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