Developer: Christoph Sinai
Price: free (donationware)
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.3. Universal.
I like small efficient programs that do one task well. That’s a hangover from my Unix days, and you can blame Kernighan and Ritchie for that attitude. I also own a brand new MacBook Pro (Core 2 Duo). I’m changing jobs in January and will have to leave my almost-new MacBook Pro (Core Duo) behind because it’s a university-owned computer. So I now own my notebook and am not using an issued unit. But that’s a story for another time.
One thing a notebook owner needs to do is keep tabs on her computer’s battery. In fact, even with current battery technology, it’s a good idea to condition the battery at least once each month. Conditioning refers to a complete depletion of the battery’s energy reserves and then a full recharging.
In addition, a tool that monitors the battery’s condition is a good idea as well. Enter coconutBattery.
Installation and Use
Installation is simple. I downloaded the archive, decompressed it, and copied coconutBattery to the Applications folder. I then started the program by double-clicking its icon. (Standard operating procedure applies here!)
There isn’t much in the preferences list to set, just a custom battery capacity and a computer serial number (should the software not determine these facts automatically). The former is used to track battery condition and the latter to determine the approximate age of the computer. For my system, I left these alone because the program sensed the appropriate values correctly.
The main program window presents data sensed from the system, including current battery-charge state, maximum energy, number of load cycles, age of the system, and more. A screen capture of the main window is shown below.
coconutBattery offers the facility to store the maximum capacity of the system battery so the user can track battery condition over a period of time. That information is stored in a side panel accessed by clicking the small triangle to the right of the Additional Info heading.
It’s a fact that computer batteries age. When they age, they lose energy capacity. Even with conditioning, there are a finite number of charge/discharge cycles a battery can sustain. Knowledge of the number of cycles and the current maximum energy storage capacity of the battery informs the user when it might be appropriate to replace the battery.
Knowledge Is Power
One caveat is appropriate. When I run coconutBattery, my system seems to be under a relatively heavy workload. After a few minutes, the system fans really began to crank. I loaded up the excellent Temperature Monitor utility and made the screen capture displayed below. The pink curve depicts the CPU temperature. The rise begins when I start coconutBattery and declines after I shut down the program. I’ve e-mailed the programmer about this situation but have not had a response as of this writing. It isn’t that the load is untenable; I’m just curious why the program induces such a heavy thermal load.
I also loaded Activity Monitor and watched the impact on system performance as the program ran. It was second or third on the list, which doesn’t seem all that bad.
I also searched the program and Web site for recommendations about when to condition the battery. A feature that acted as a timer or reminder of when to fully discharge the battery and then recharge it would be a useful addition to the program and a significant boon to the end user. (I know I’ll have to set a reminder to tell me when to condition my battery!)
I want to monitor the status of my system’s battery. I picked up a copy of coconutBattery for that purpose. So I’ll be checking the battery periodically with this program. It’s actually a pretty good little utility that fits my sense of how things should be done. I’m giving coconutBattery a Good rating because of the CPU load that appears while the program is running. coconutBattery is a simple, elegant program for monitoring a very important system resource.