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As regular readers of this newsletter might know, I recently bought a new laptop, and one of the things I was most looking forward to was vastly improved battery life over my five-year-old Surface Pro 3.

You could imagine my dismay, then, when my new Lenovo Yoga C940 would only get between six and seven hours of battery life per charge, far less than the 15 hours Lenovo advertises and the 8-ish hours I was expecting. (Per the unwritten law of Windows PC battery life: Take whatever the manufacturer claims, and cut it in half for a more realistic estimate.) Even keeping the screen fairly dim and being conscious about closing programs I wasn't using didn't make much difference.

Then I found a few tricks that actually worked (a couple of which apply to MacBooks as well):

Use an ad blocker

My first step was to install a different web browser called Brave, whose raison d'etre is automatic blocking of ads and third-party trackers--that is, the elements that follow you around the web so that advertisers can profile your behavior--all without any extra setup.

Although Brave has been around for a few years now, I had avoided it because I felt grossed out by its business model, which involves blocking ads on websites, then layering on its own ads backed by a cryptocurrency of little value. I decided to give it a try after reading about Brave's claim of 40% lower power usage on news websites compared to other browsers. This claim bore out in my experience, with battery life suddenly exceeding eight hours even with brightness cranked up and plenty of programs running at the same time.

Still, I wasn't thrilled about giving up Firefox, which I love using for a variety of reasons, and I still felt uncomfortable with Brave's cavalier approach to upending the entire web publishing industry in which I work.

So I've settled on a compromise: The uBlock Origin extension for Firefox (or Chrome) provides similar battery benefits, as it's known for blocking ads while using using little system memory itself, but it's also easy to disable on specific sites through the uBlock icon next to Firefox's address bar. I've been turning off the feature when my laptop's plugged in, enable ads on the sites whose content I value most, and leaving it permanently disabled on my desktop PC, which doesn't need the power savings.

Make sure to hibernate

The other battery issue I ran into is one that Windows has struggled with for years: Leaving the laptop unplugged overnight would drain the battery, so I might have 5% less in the tank the next day. The solution was to have Windows enter Hibernate mode instead of Sleep if I'm not going to use the laptop for a while. This does make startup a bit slower, but it completely eliminates battery drain.

You can set this up by searching for "Edit Power Plan" from the Start menu, then selecting "Change advanced power settings." In the "Sleep" drop-down, select "Hibernate after," and choose how long to wait before Windows enters its deepest sleep state. On battery power, I've got Windows sleeping after five minutes of inactivity, and hibernating after 15 minutes. (See the image below.)
 

Turn off Turbo Boost

This tip comes from the developer Marco Arment, who's found that disabling Intel's Turbo Boost feature yields significant battery savings on MacBooks. (The same should apply to Intel-powered Windows laptops as well.) As the name suggests, Turbo Boost gives your laptop a little extra oomph if it's not already running too hot inside. The benefits of this feature can be hard to notice in ordinary use, however, especially compared to the drawbacks of spinning up the laptop's fan and putting more strain on the battery.

So how do you disable Turbo Boost? On MacOS, a free program called Turbo Boost Switcher lets you toggle the feature on and off. (There's also a "Pro" version, which for $10 can automatically enable or disable Turbo Boost under certain conditions.)

In Windows, you can just click the battery icon and set the power slider to "Best Battery Life," but this also reduces the screen's brightness and disables certain background functions that you might want to use. As an alternative, download and run this registry tweak, then return to the "Advanced power settings" menu I mentioned in the previous section. Under the "Processor Power Management" drop-down, select"Processor Performance Boost Mode, and under "On Battery," switch from "Aggressive" to "Disabled." This will prevent Turbo Boost from kicking in unless your laptop is plugged into outlet power.

One last tip

If you want an extra-nerdy look at battery performance in Windows, open the Command Prompt (press Start, type "cmd," then hit Enter), then type powercfg /batteryreport and hit Enter. You can then search for "battery-report.html" to view a set of detailed historical charts of your laptop's battery usage. For an estimate of how long your laptop lasts on charge based on all past usage, scroll the bottom and look under "Since OS Install." I'm currently at 8 hours and 53 minutes, and no longer feeling dismayed.
 

Did you know that LinkedIn's default privacy settings come with a mildly creepy feature? Unless you specify otherwise, some of your personal information will be visible to anyone whose profile you've looked at lately. So for instance, if I were to look at your LinkedIn page, you would see "Journalist in the Writing and Editing industry from Cincinnati Metropolitan area" in LinkedIn's "Who's Viewed Your Profile" section. Depending on the context, you might be able to figure out exactly who's looking at your profile, and vice versa.

To disable this feature, head to LinkedIn's Profile Visibility settings and select "Private mode" instead of "Private profile characteristics." You won't be able to see who's viewing your profile, but other folks won't be able to see your activity either.
 

Microsoft's browser reboot: Having failed to gain any traction with its Edge web browser for Windows 10 over the past four years, Microsoft is trying again with an overhauled version. The new browser--still called Microsoft Edge--is based on the same source code that Google uses in Chrome, so it has similar performance and works with all the same Chrome extensions.

By default, however, Edge blocks the trackers that advertisers use to follow you around the web, and it's the only browser that can stream Netflix in 4K resolution. Unlike the previous version of Edge, the new version is also available on MacOS and on older versions of Windows.

I've enjoyed playing around with the new Edge over the last week, and would recommend it over Chrome if you want a similar look and feel with better built-in privacy. But if you're already using a browser with tracking protection built-in--like, say, Firefox or Safari on MacOS--it doesn't do a lot to move the needle.

Watch out for sneaky subscriptions: Security firm Sophos is sounding the alarm over "fleecewear," a clever term for mobile apps that try to trick users into paying for expensive, unnecessary subscriptions. Each of these apps follows a similar pattern: Offer some basic utility such as screen recording, then throw up a splash page at launch with a big, colorful "continue" button at the bottom. The hope is that users, in their haste to start using the app, won't read the fine print and notice that they're opting into a subscription service. (Sophos calls out Android and the Google Play Store in particular for this issue, but some unscrupulous iPhone apps have been deploying the same tactics for years.)

Consider this a friendly warning to be careful what you click on when you're trying an unfamiliar app, and to always look for an "X" or "Dismiss" button--no matter how small or obscure it might be--when presented with a subscription you didn't ask for.

If you do get stuck with an unwanted subscription, deleting the app won't help. Instead, you can view and manage your in-apps subscriptions by clicking here for Android or here for iOS.

Peril for public anonymity: Saturday's bombshell story by the New York Times' Kashmir Hill is a must-read if you haven't seen it already. Hill reports on a tiny startup called Clearview AI that's been selling face recognition software to law enforcement agencies around the country. Just by referencing a single picture and running algorithms on billions of images across Facebook, YouTube, and other sites, Clearview can pull up names, occupations, associations and more.

Police say the tool has been useful for identifying suspects, but it's also prone to abuse and is free from any kind of oversight. In the wrong hands, it could just as easily be used to stalk, harass, or otherwise pry into people's private lives. "Someone walking down the street would be immediately identifiable — and his or her home address would be only a few clicks away," Hill writes.

I usually try to avoid sharing tech news that doesn't contain some kind of actionable element, but unfortunately none comes to mind in this case. One could maybe argue that this is a cautionary tale against putting too much of yourself online, but that's a lot to ask given that social media is a standard way to communicate nowadays. We need actual laws governing how and when face recognition can be applied, and repercussions when companies like Facebook fail to protect people's images from being used for this purpose.
 

 
 
 

Woot is currently selling Amazon's second-generation Kindle Paperwhite refurbished for $35. This model dates back to 2013, so the text is less sharp than newer Paperwhite models, but the built-in backlighting is still superior than even the newest standard Kindle, which has never sold for less than $60. If you want to read e-books without all the digital distraction that you'd get from a phone or tablet, this is a cheap way to get started. (If you must have sharper text, the 2016 Paperwhite is also on sale for $60 refurbished.)

Also a decent deal: Razer's BlackWidow Essential mechanical keyboard with loud-and-clicky Razer Green switches for $55 at Best Buy. Feel free to join me down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole, but do read my rundown of all the different size and switch possibilities first.
 

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Cheers,
Jared
 

 
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