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Designing for mobility has become increasingly important as laptop usage soars. A program that supports mobility doesn't waste battery power by polling the system or accessing peripherals unnecessarily, nor does it break when the user moves from place to place, changes monitor configurations, puts the computer to sleep, or wakes the computer up.
To support mobility, programs need to be able to adjust to different system configurations, including network configuration changes. Many hardware devices can be plugged in and unplugged while the computer is still running. Mobility-aware programs should respond to these changes gracefully. They should also be sensitive to issues such as power usage. Constantly accessing a hard drive or optical drive can drain the battery of a laptop quickly. Be considerate of mobile users by helping them use their computer longer on a single battery charge.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you design your software to support mobility:
- Avoid polling for events. Polling the system needlessly wastes CPU time, which in turn wastes battery power on portable systems. Most modern APIs have ways of notifying your program when something interesting happens. Register to receive these notifications and respond to them as appropriate; otherwise (if your program has nothing to do), it should be completely idle.
- Try not to require that the user insert the program CD when using your software. Give the user an option to install everything on a local hard drive.
- Minimize access to files on the hard drive or on an optical drive. In addition to improving performance, you can reduce battery consumption by letting the drives spin down more frequently.
- Use modern networking interfaces to adapt to network configuration changes. Mobile users may change locations or wireless access points at any time. Use CFNetwork and other modern interfaces to handle these configuration changes for you.
- Be forgiving when accessing the file system, in case network volumes go offline. If a network volume disappears, notify the user and provide an option to save files to a different volume.
- Be sensitive to screen resolution changes and the plugging in and unplugging of monitors. Mobile users may need to plug in a projector or other device that requires a different resolution, so do not assume a fixed screen size in your software. If a monitor disappears, adjust the position of any windows that were on that monitor so that they remain visible.
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