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 Post subject: Building a "green" pc
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:14 am 
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The subject of buidling pc's as green as possible is an idea I think we need to pay more attention to. I would therefore like forum members here to supply their input on the matter.

What would make a pc "green". Is it at all possible to set some requirements ?

I think that vendors should pay more attention to this aspect when selling their products and maybe we here could help them out ?

Anyone interested ?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:14 am 
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Palindroman runs a business selling green PCs, he can tell you more.

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What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean...someone who looks ahead, who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions,who cares about the welfare of the people, who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad...then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:47 am 
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If you're building it yourself, as many used parts as possible. That is gonna have a much larger impact on the lifetime carbon footprint than cutting energy use by even 50%.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:00 pm 
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Location: Kingston, ON, Canada
Thinking green is a great idea.
Unfortunately, the majority of a computer's environmental impact (think energy usage, and derivative impact, heavy metals mining and use, chemical production and use...) is during the manufacture of the parts.
After that, the main impacts that a computer part has is using electricity (again, and the derivative impact based on how the electricity is produced) and fuel usage (I think you'll see the pattern - and the derivative impact releasing NOx and CO2 into the atmosphere).

So, the absolute best thing to do is to recycle old computer parts. You aren't causing that initial impact to happen that way.
Since that doesn't seem to be what you are thinking of, energy efficiency is the next best thing. My calculations put the energy usage of a computer over 4 years (6 hours a day) at ~10% of the impact by weight (that probably won't make any sense to you, I can explain more if you are interested), provided that energy usage is proportional to component weight and complexity. This means that being energy efficient can't put a large dent into the impact, but mainly your electricity bill.
Don't let this discourage you, smart brand selection can have quite an impact as well.

If you want to be energy efficient, first think about your computing needs. If you can get away with running linux on something miniITX, great.
Otherwise check this out. It their tests, the idle power consumption is between an E1200 and an E8400 is 5 watts and at load it is 25. That isn't that much of a difference, when you look at it from a whole system point of view.
There is an interesting performance per watt graph on p 10 there.

If you are looking for specifics, WD's earthwatts drives, and Intel processors seem like the way to go. You'll see a lot of low power AMD builds around, but their performance per watt is abysmal. At that point I'd recommend MoDT or miniITX.
Also, from my experience, Asus boards seem to be a little power hungry.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:57 pm 
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Quote:
You'll see a lot of low power AMD builds around, but their performance per watt is abysmal.


abysmal is a bit strong. they're perfectly capable for everything except hardcore gaming. also keep in mind virtually everyone here undervolts their CPU significantly, so PPW is better than the stock settings would seem to indicate.

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JFK:
What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean...someone who looks ahead, who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions,who cares about the welfare of the people, who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad...then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:01 pm 
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Location: United States
Yeah AMD is fine for a daily use system, and best of all the dual-cores are cheap (45nm Intel have impressive power consumption, but start at 2x-3x an Athlon64 X2). A member here named Mariner achieved some incredible power consumption with an undervolted 3600+ Brisbane and PicoPSU, about 33w idle and 53w load. But if you think you need the extra performance and can afford it, Core 2 Duo offers unparalleled performance per watt.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 8:54 am 
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NoMoreNoise wrote:
What would make a pc "green". Is it at all possible to set some requirements?


Two aspects: Power consumption and amount of toxic materials

1) Power consumption

Like Blue_Sky says production and distribution take up the bulk of the power a computer system consumes during a life cycle. According to a study by Eric Williams it's about 80% IIRC, which means 20% of the total power consumed comes from the socket in your home. Prostetnic tried to start a discussion on this topic but unfortunately nobody joined in.

It is possible to build computers that consume at least 50% less power than your average Dell or HP by using the most efficient components. For instance a laptop hard drive and a picoPSU already get you a long way. Combine that with a Sempron. 1 strip of 1024 MB RAM and an efficient mobo (which offers plenty performance for 90% of computer users) and you're hitting 25 watts. Undervolt the CPU and you can even get below 20 watts. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm building 15 watt machines by the end of this year.

Intel doesn't get you there for the simple reason that Intel chipsets are way less efficient than nVidia or AMD/ATI. Only with mobile chips is it possible to get at or below the 20W threshold, but these setups are expensive. VIA can also get you quite low but also has some disadvantages: weak performance (though enough for most users), problems with drivers and BIOS etc (that's what I read) and relatively expensive as well.

The whole idea of my project is that it's possible to make low power computers with regular and freely available components. The Climate Saving Computers initiative - founded by virtually all major IT companies - claims it will achieve a 50% reduction in computer power consumption by 2010. This has been possible for two years already.

2) Toxic materials

You've got RoHS and WEEE to curb excessive use of toxic materials, but that's all I know. The more a computer consists of easily recycleable or even bio-degradable materials, the greener it gets of course. I'm not sure how much is done in this field but I do know that Greenpeace keeps a close watch on companies with its Guide to Greener Electronic.

I'm not in the position yet that I can contact big companies and demand to know how green their methods of production are. I can't produce CPU's or hard disks myself either. The only thing I can produce myself is the casing which usually consists of 5-10 kg of steel, aluminum and/or plastics. These metal cases are usually spray-painted, sometimes contain very toxic flame retardants and are shipped from China to practically everywhere. I'm quite far now with the development of a wooden case which offers all kinds of advantages from a sustainable viewpoint but I'm still not sure if I will really try and sell it.

The thing is I'm aiming quite high with it for the simple fact that you have to look for the limit with these kinds of things. If it all works out the case will be made from wood that comes from forests that are stewarded in a sustainable way, the paint will be 100% nature-friendly, it will be easy to remove the hardware (no screws etc) and disassemble the case for recycling. I just hope it won't be too expensive. It's very hard to compete with the likes of Dell, especially if your ecosystem is double the price. Most people still don't get that there's an invisible price tag to everything you buy. Anyway, the English version of my website isn't finished yet but here it is.



My vision for greener computing: Neighborhood computer shops that earn money by offering services, rather than selling stuff and promoting perceived obsolescence. These services consist in repairing and upgrading computers of clients in a systematic way. Reusing older hardware and replacing the really old stuff with the most energy efficient components available.

For instance, a Pentium IV system from 2003. You start replacing components after five years:

- replace PSU in 2008
- replace hard disk in 2009
- replace mobo, CPU and RAM in 2010

Other services would be advising local schools and companies. Recycle older machines for schools and install multiple workstations with open source software on one or two machines.

If we want a more sustainable society we need maximum transparency and decentralization. Hence the (green) neighborhood computer shop idea.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:15 pm 
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Location: Upper left hand corner, USA
Here are some notions on the topic that I have been tossing about.
Sorry for the long post, hope it isn't too cryptic (it is more an outline of some principles). Would welcome comments/corrections/etc.


Greenest PC is the one not gotten/produced at all
Share/borrow/reuse/use lower tech solutions
Reduce human population via humane methods like family planning. Fewer people = fewer computer users, ... "Any cause is a lost cause without family planning."

Increase lifespan:
Favor second-hand (hardware and software) over new
Run older software on recentish but modest hardware.

Prefer "standard" over proprietary
Interchangeable/repairable/upgradeable
Avoid over-integration (integration without standard components
or where can't keep using sub-components if one fails)

Examples of overintegration:
All in one printer/scanners - should have standard subsystems
(See lot of these being junked because either part broke).
Computer inside monitor (can you still use monitor/computer if one part fails)
DVD or VCR inside TV
Laptops - Some tout laptops as "greener" because of lower power consumption. I question this - if anything, I suspect it is the reverse. Since they are more delicate and harder to repair, use more plastic components and you can't keep part of it and upgrade other parts - seems like they may be more wasteful than a desktop machine built with standard (interchangeable) parts.
Avoid software Activation - (software integrated with particular piece of hardware)
Software tied to piece of hardware (so if hardware breaks or needs upgrading, you have to junk the software. Conversely, can't re-use the software on other hardware.)
Software tied to company servers (if they stop activating it, then it becomes garbage).
"Just say no to activation" http://www.vttoth.com/dontactivate.asp

Favor high quality components
Power supply, motherboard, media
Last longer, better support

High efficiency:
Turn off when not using.
e.g. Use power console with real switches
Shut down when not in use (this includes servers too)
e.g. use hibernate, Wake on LAN, Wake on timer, X-10 controlled

Favor wired over (powered) wireless
Avoid battery power (Also increases security and reliability)
In general should be able to build a corded version that is more efficient than battery powered version. (Avoid losses in charging and discharging battery, also lifespan limits of battery and battery materials/recycling/etc.)
Battery powered devices should have to have an indicator of how fast they go through charges (something standard so can compare devices).

If it needs batteries - Favor Batteries that are:
Rechargeable, User replaceable, Standard (rather than proprietary/device specific)


Select system based on need
Unless know needs and software won't change, get bit more (space/speed) than need (but not cutting edge).
Undervolt/underclock to save power until need full power
Most environmental/energy cost from MFG/recycle
So worse to underestimate and have to get new system sooner than to moderately overestimate
But don't buy too far into future (may be more efficient versions later).
Avoid a low-wattage system that doesn't provide enough compute power for the job. (e.g. If system for a compute intensive task (e.g. folding), use one that gives high efficiency (high PPDPW), not just electical usage.)


Configure software to make computers last longer
(Many computers are prematurely replaced because software problems make them slow or inoperable.)

* Kill vampireware and shovelware http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/vi ... highlight=
* Design computers to preserve user's information
* Security/save users from themselves

Don't upgrade/install new software unless have to.
Favor software that maintains backward compatibility
e.g. WordPerfect over Word

Use sacrificial system for high risk activities
(Trying new software, web browsing, e-mail)
e.g. older machine, virtual machine, ...


Mandatory 10 year warranty on consumer electronics
(See my post in the radical rethink thread for more on this:
http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/vi ... c&start=73

Cost of recycling should be paid up front (when initially purchased), rather than at disposal time.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:21 pm 
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Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 4:49 pm
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Location: Upper left hand corner, USA
Here is further detail on one of the items in my previous post.

Design computers to preserve the user's information.

Seems as if many computers are designed to limit user's access to their data.

* System restore disks that erase all data
* Hard to set up Windows to separate System, Programs, Settings and Data
* Systems like DRM and Activation designed to disable programs
* Software makers push upgrade to latest versions (often buggy or incompatible)
* Programs not compatible with older data

Separate Data, Settings, Programs and System files.
Provide backup for user data.
Make it easy
Make it inclusive (include licensing data for DRM, include e-mails,
favorites, etc.)

Don't allow normal programs to mess with settings of system or other programs
Need special permissions to do that.
Store separately, so can't even do it by accident.

Provide backup of original software on separate media, in case disk fails.

Restore disk should restore system, but leave user programs and especially data intact.


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 Post subject: We might be onto something here !
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 3:00 am 
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Location: Norway
I think we might be on to something here. Maybe we could ask MikeC to set up his "green" pc, seeing he is also somewhat involved in the environmental issued regarding the pc's, especially with his ecopcreview.com ?

I would think that there is a market out there for more environmental friendly pc's and in a few years I suspect it might be all the hype.

Imagine if you will that Dell, Intel, Apple and all the rest of the market leaders started selling pc's approved by, oh I don't know, whatever large environmental organisation is out there.

I am sure Dell i.e. could always hide behind "but we produce what the market wants", but that is to me rubbish and nonsene. Today it is almost nonsensical to produce high power pc when 90% of users only surf the net and do some word processing. In terms of manufacturing it would certainly have some impact if i.e. Dell started producing 90% of their PC's with mini-ITX boards.

I do not have enough knowledge about this but I know what I use my own pc for and it would surely be enough for me to have a very low-power consuming system - as I am sure would suffice for most other users as well.

I'll dwell some more on this and come back with more thoughts on the subject....

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:49 pm 
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jaganath wrote:
Palindroman runs a business selling green PCs, he can tell you more.


Thanks for the tip - had a quick look through some of his threads and also visited his business web site but it is in dutch, which I am not familiar with.

Do any of you know of other sites that could be of interest ?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 1:16 am 
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Location: UK
Here is the (mostly) english version of the site: http://www.wesapo.nl/en/?Home also of course ecopcreview.com

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JFK:
What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean...someone who looks ahead, who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions,who cares about the welfare of the people, who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad...then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:17 pm 
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scdr brings up a lot of interesting points. Laptop vs desktop is something I wanted to start a thread about. I usually advise people to take a laptop if it's all the same to them, as most laptops consume less power than my desktop/monitor setup (app. 40W). However, I'm still not sure if from a LCA perspective laptops are 'better' than desktops. Maybe it's something worth discussing.

Quote:
Do any of you know of other sites that could be of interest ?


Most of the sites I know I found on this forum.

http://www.cadepc.com/index.php

The owner of this site actually posted here a while back but I don't feel he has taken up any of the advice he got. I see absolutely no difference between his systems and regular systems, except perhaps for the 80+ PSU. Then again, he hasn't got much choice as his shop is in the States and we all know what Americans want: Bigger, better, faster, stronger.

http://www.verdantcomputing.com/

This site is already a lot better. It has a lot of info in green computing, so much so that I contacted them hoping that they'd be willing to exchange knowledge and experiences. They never answered me, unfortunately.

I also advised them on their shop. What products they should take up and that they should give exact numbers on how much power the printers and monitors on offer actually consume. Just a nice icon with a windmill on it isn't what I call transparency. It can easily be labeled greenwash if you're not careful. From what I can see they haven't changed much, except for adding a 1000W PSU which no one needs.

http://techboston.com/meetearthpc.htm

I'm a bit disappointed to see that the configurations of their Earth PC's haven't changed all that much. 54W for an 'Earth' PC is just way too much. Dell, Lenovo and HP are touting 45W, Epeat Gold Award systems. Fujitsu even has a 25W PC this year. Why these companies do not come with massive marketing waves is a mystery to me. They're probably more interested in selling people dual core monsters.

I haven't seen any other sites lately but I'm sure there are more.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 1:03 pm 
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
I like the TurtleStep case. Can it be bought anywhere online or you're exclusive seller in the Netherlands??


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:06 am 
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Strid wrote:
I like the TurtleStep case. Can it be bought anywhere online or you're exclusive seller in the Netherlands??


It'll be sold in the Netherlands first, after that probably Germany. It all depends on how well the prototype is received. It's not easy to combine sustainability with issues such as EMI/RFI and fire safety, but all in all I'm quite positive for now.


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 Post subject: Intersting article
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:27 pm 
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Location: Norway
Came over this article in Atomic, an australian magazine.

"But he went with a reasonably powerful Asus. He wanted the power of a Core2 Duo for future unknown computing tasks; he wanted to tinker with powerful equipment; and he wanted to feel good about his new laptop."

Very nice and quite to the point I'd say....

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:41 am 
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Location: CA
floffe wrote:
If you're building it yourself, as many used parts as possible. That is gonna have a much larger impact on the lifetime carbon footprint than cutting energy use by even 50%.
Depends on what it's used for. As the uptime increases the relative amount of energy for operation compared to construction changes.


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 Post subject: building a company that does this
PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:31 am 
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Location: Osprey FL
Hey, the info here is tremendous!! I have been putting together a company Green Wise Systems, for the better part of the last two years that aims at doing a lot of what is being said here. I thought it would be good to let forum participants lead the hardware specification process... So far there aren't very many participants but that will change when we start to advertise in the next week... btw I would be interested in your case design and maybe even partnering to produce a better product... My current production system has a 32 watt spike during post but pulls 27 watts during regular use and idles at 22. Look forward to hearing from you. Lee


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 Post subject: Greetings from Verdant Computing
PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:24 pm 
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-- Vendor --

Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:49 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Brooklyn, NY, USA
I run Verdant Computing, which was mentioned by Palindroman a few comments back. We exchanged emails a little while ago, and he mentioned this site and this thread to me.

It's really great to see this discussion. A few thoughts and comments about what has been said here:

EPEAT seems to be a good guide for new green computer equipment, if you're looking at all the environmental factors, and not just energy efficiency.

Solid state drives seem to bode well for the future. Having less moving parts makes them more reliable. (Now if only the cost would come down...)

It's true that a lot of the environmental impact of a computer happens in it's manufacture and distribution. So definitely use it as long as you can. Make sure you upgrade it. When you're done upgrading it, give it to someone else to use or repurpose it for another use.

Human behavior is also an important factor. Make sure to use the energy saving features on your computer, and turn it off when you're done using it. These actions can have a big impact.

We have information on our site about many of the topics discussed here. I'd be happy to hear any comments you have. We're a small shop, but we'll try our best to listen and respond.

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President/Founder, Verdant Computing
http://www.verdantcomputing.com/


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