I have the answer to a lot of the questions in this meandering topic. NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) batteries really like to be charged for a while when you first get them. Like 24 continuous hours because they ship discharged. They aren't supposed to have a 'memory' like NiCads but they kind of do. The advice to drain and recharge a few times is sound, but you'll want to change the registry key to keep it from powering off after five minutes.
Also, to get rid of the sounds, in the windows folder there are some .wav files that are these sounds. You should delete them, replace them with better sounds, or, if you get an error when it can't find that sound, create a zero kb file and name it the same thing as that sound. I have changed my sounds a number of times, and for some reason some .wav files don't work at all, though they aren't any bigger than the normal ones. Anyway, hope this helps, and I want people to check out my site, please go here if you have a minute to see how to integrate a Linksys EC2T network card so you don't need the dongle...
e-mail if this helps: mailto:email@example.com
Thanks, and I hope this helped someone.