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 Post subject: Radical rethink on green computing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:39 am 
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After having followed the "green business" for well over a decade now I have pretty much concluded that most green businesses are little more than lip service or green washing.

True ecologically sound construction, logistics, use (throughout the life-cycle) and recycling rarely succeeds.

And this is the situation in Europe, where things are (I'm sorry to say) much further in this field than in North America.

With this blanket assessment I think most "green computing" is also pretty much greenwash or trying to make our conscience better.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not here to point fingers at anyone nor am I any holier. I use fairly energy inefficient computers that mostly just heat my room, even though I use 80+ certified PSU which is RoHS compliant and I recycle all my used computer hardware.

So, my question is: what could truly radical green computing be like, using current mass produced technology?

I want to stress the purchase/use/after-service cycle, rather than technological fancy breakthroughs that are on the horizon.

I'm envisioning the following (this may sound harsh, but stay with me):

0) Don't use it, if you don't need it. Even more, don't buy it, unless you really need it.

1) absolute and average power draw limits set for the computer system (including peripherals and displays)

2) Absolute amount of time / day that the computer can be turned on (i.e. that it can be used. Absolutely no idling allowed).

3) Minimum life-time before upgrades. I.e. no upgrades until the machine has serviced X amount of years (unless it breaks, under which scenario fixing is the 1st choice, not partial/full replacement).

4) Minimum set of criteria for upgrades/re-purchases (which companies, which certifications, which processes must be completed for the purchase to be valid 'green computing purchase'). This includes things like ecological life cycle analysis, hazardous chemical, energy efficiency, projected usable life-time for each component. For companies earlier track record, environmental impact, climate impact, overall energy efficiency (esp. in materials logistics) and peer reviewed certification from trusted sources.

All of the above may sound harsh, but if our energy situation is as dire as many geologist have been saying now for the past few years, we may have to start changing our current thinking.

And even if the energy for (constructing, transporting, using) computers doesn't come really expensive, there is the climate to worry about. Currently computers and their use is far from carbon neutral, even though sometimes using computers can be less harsh than the alternative (which usually entails moving atoms vs. bits).

So, my questions:

0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.

1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?

2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed? This could mean passing up on "revolutionary" faster cpus/gpus/hds, etc and having a relatively "slow" computer compared to the best available.

3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not (currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?

4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?

If not, do you think _real_ green computing, instead of just RoHS+marginally improved PSU/CPU efficiency, will happen in the foreseeable future?

I mean let's face it, PSUs may have become slightly more efficient and RoHS may cause less dumping of _known_ hazardous materials, but this has been all lost in ever accelerating uprade cycle (more & faster) and increasing total power demans (look at the wattage of PSUs and real power draw in the past 10 years).

Food for thought.

regards,
Halcyon

PS I will refrain from answering my own questions for the time being :)


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:08 am 
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Location: UK
Quote:
Currently computers and their use is far from carbon neutral


It's hard to imagine computer use ever being carbon neutral; most energy is generated from hydrocarbons and probably will be for the forseeable future and you need energy to do anything.

0) No.

1) No.

2) Maybe.

3) Yes, as long as it was not hugely more expensive.

4) Yes, as long as I didn't have to sacrifice performance.

Quote:
do you think _real_ green computing, instead of just RoHS+marginally improved PSU/CPU efficiency, will happen in the foreseeable future?


No.

Quote:
(currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?


How is Apple worse than Dell or HP?

Sorry if this makes depressing reading. :wink:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:29 am 
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This falls in the same category as e.g.: You are not allowed to travel outside your hometown unless you are a government official.

IOW not feasible.

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 Post subject: Re: Radical rethink on green computing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:15 pm 
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halcyon wrote:
0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.


Absolutely, although I would prefer to keep my own storage. And, I'd want to be certain that the transition to centralized computing occurred as individual computers finished their natural life cycle — it's a bad idea to manufacture a brand new set of centralized computers if the exisiting non-centralized computers just have to be thrown out.

Quote:
1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?


Let me answer this with another question: Would you be willing to live without SPCR? The vast majority of my computer time is spent generating content for SPCR — it's a work device for me, not a toy. So, yes, I'd love to limit my computer use, but, given what I do with it, I don't see how that's possible.

Quote:
2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed? This could mean passing up on "revolutionary" faster cpus/gpus/hds, etc and having a relatively "slow" computer compared to the best available.


Absolutely, although what is "Y" years? I do not believe there will be another killer app that requires faster processing than already exists. Specialized tasks may still require upgrades, but computing power for general use was adequate six or seven years ago. A P-II 450 MHz is good enough to play back video, which is the most common computer intensive task that I can think of, apart from games. And, these days, games are not limited by the computer, persay, but the graphics subsystem. All other tasks would be better accomplished by specialized processors. If you're going to be playing with HD, better to use a small, specialized MPEG2 decoder than include the functionality in every singe computer that is shipped. Maybe that will change when HD becomes universal, but for now, most "general use" computers are very overpowered.

Quote:
3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not (currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?


No. The political ramifications of setting up a government approved "Green" list frighten me, since certification will have to become an integral part of setting up a business. That puts far too much reliance on the governement to get things right. Far better to rely on a public "black list" that lists (or taxes?) products that are especially bad.

Quote:
4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?


Yes, see my answer to 2). I think that a big issue here is the performance requirements of modern operating systems <cough> Windows / OS X </cough>. If the function of the OS hasn't changed substantially since Windows '95, why does Vista require an 800 MHz computer with 512 MB of RAM, while Windows '95 would run on a 20 MHz 386 with 4 MB of RAM? Yes, Windows '95 was an inferior product, but I can't believe that the role of the operating system has changed enough in 10 years to require 40 times the processing power. There are umpteen versions of Linux that show you can still make an OS with modern capabilities without requiring modern hardware.

That said, some development in general computing could still be useful for applications that require it. For example, there are environmental benefits to having a single computer that can handle all the needs of a broadcast station or a data centre (vs. having individual machines for every possible task). I just don't think that every computer needs to be powerful enough to handle the needs of a broadcast station.

Quote:
If not, do you think _real_ green computing, instead of just RoHS+marginally improved PSU/CPU efficiency, will happen in the foreseeable future?


No. I think your point is that _real_ green computing depends on chaging the habits of comsumers, not changing the hardware in question. And *that* requires slowing the rate of progress and dismantling the attitude that progress is everything. Develop the attitude that what you have is good enough, and you'll do much more for the environment that going out to buy a "Green" power supply. In the long run, will a 5% more efficient computer really make up for the cost of throwing out the old one?


Last edited by Devonavar on Mon Oct 30, 2006 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:46 pm 
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Quote:
Yes, see my answer to 2). I think that a big issue here is the performance requirements of modern operating systems <cough> Windows </cough>. If the function of the OS hasn't changed substantially since Windows '95, why does Vista require an 800 MHz computer with 512 MB of RAM, while Windows '95 would run on a 20 MHz 386 with 4 MB of RAM? Yes, Windows '95 was an inferior product, but I can't believe that the role of the operating system has changed enough in 10 years to require 40 times the processing power. There are umpteen versions of Linux that show you can still make an OS with modern capabilities without requiring modern hardware.


Now, now, now. Let's not just bitch-slap MSFT. Last I checked, the minimum requirements for OS X were a PowerMac G3, which was touted as being 2x as fast as a PII-400MHz (which would make it equivalent to an 800MHz x86 machine). Granted, the minimum RAM for OS X is only 256MB, but pretty much every review indicates that running it on less than 512MB or even 1GB is painful at best. And hey, OS X is based on UNIX...

With all the multimedia / gaming apps that people want / like, you're going to end up with bloated code. As you mentioned, the biggest problem is the memory subsystem and its need for faster and faster GPUs with more RAM to do everything that the average consumer asks it to do. It's not like you can take a modern AGP (which is in itself an obsolete video interface) card and plug it in to an 440LX or 440BX board since it used a 3.3V AGP slot. It wasn't until the i815 chipset that you had a 1.5V AGP slot from Intel (which limits you on how slow you can go, FWIW).

Would I like to see a slimmed-down version of Windows (especially server) that could run from a low-powered, low-processor-speed system? Hell yes. But let's not just shit all over MSFT and blame them for increases in power use by computers.

-Derek

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:54 pm 
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Taking small steps is the engineering process in a nutshell. Lots of small steps add up.

If you want to make a real change, you must move the mass consumers. Getting them to change their habits substantially with the sole purpose of saving energy is extremely difficult. It's much easier to invest in switching to renewable energy sources and fix tech to be more efficient. Denmark has a wide range of green taxes and it actually works. A tax on widely used energy-inefficient components would probably help change the market.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 2:10 pm 
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Whoops, thought I had mentioned OS X in there. It wasn't meant to be a Microsoft flame... fixed in an edit.


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 Post subject: Re: Radical rethink on green computing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 2:33 pm 
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halcyon wrote:
0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.


I don't really understand how this would help. Basically, for what I can't just download, I need my own storage anyway. For things that I could download, shared storage would be ok. Sharing cpu cycles would increase my power bill but I don't know what things that I do would benefit from offloading to some distant site.

halcyon wrote:
1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?


I'd like to do it just because life should be more than just computers. Yes.

halcyon wrote:
2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed? This could mean passing up on "revolutionary" faster cpus/gpus/hds, etc and having a relatively "slow" computer compared to the best available.


I'm using a P3 now so I think I'm already doing that.

halcyon wrote:
3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not (currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?


Yes IF there is some trivial way to do it. Easily accessible list of green companies.

halcyon wrote:
4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?


It already takes 40W on idle and 60W on full load. Laptops seem to be taking over full size computers in homes.

halcyon wrote:
If not, do you think _real_ green computing, instead of just RoHS+marginally improved PSU/CPU efficiency, will happen in the foreseeable future?

I mean let's face it, PSUs may have become slightly more efficient and RoHS may cause less dumping of _known_ hazardous materials, but this has been all lost in ever accelerating uprade cycle (more & faster) and increasing total power demans (look at the wattage of PSUs and real power draw in the past 10 years).


Well, about PSUs... I think that we are going to see a step-by-step move to just a single voltage, likely 12V. This makes the power supplies much simpler and more efficient.

Also the power supplies might in the future have "multiple cores" so that when you just use let's say 100W then just one of your PSU subunits would be powered on, and when your load increased, more PSU units would fire up.

These combined would give us very high efficiencies for the PSU.

Also I think that with perpendicular hard drive technology, the laptop drives will soon be enough for typical home use, and I suppose they are less harmfull to environment than 3.5" because they need less building material and use less power.

And WTF do typical home users need more power anyway? Typical office usage was possible with computers from 10 years ago, watching movies is possible with about 500MHz computer. It's not like every joe random would be doing video editing with their computers today.

Mostly high power computers in homes are needed just for games, or for countering brain damage when windows slows down because of virus infections and a gazillion background tasks like virus scanners and etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Radical rethink on green computing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:14 pm 
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halcyon wrote:
0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.


Depends upon the implementation. While at university I used exactly this system, with no qualms whatsoever. But a government controlled system? To misquote Chuck Heston, "You can have my HDD when you pry it from my cold, dead hands"


halcyon wrote:
1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?


I already do. Are you implying a forced limit? That would be silly. The cost of enforcement would outweigh the gains in energy savings.

halcyon wrote:
2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed?


Defined by who? Controlled by whom? A requirement such as that is fraught with potential abuse. File me under "no, thanks"

halcyon wrote:
3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not?


If the information was collected and publicized by the independent media., yes. I already do that with groceries and many other products, there;s just no info on computing part companies.

halcyon wrote:
4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?


Voluntarily, yes. If forced to, then no.



You also have to look at the positive environmental effects that computers have, largely through the dissemination of information to a much broader base than was possible before the internet. This spread of information speeds the adoption of new ideas, and can have a net-gain effect. There's also the potential for reduced energy usage via computing. Rather than driving to multiple stores looking for a product I can shop around online and make one trip. Or, I can telecommute from home, and never leave the house during the week.

It cuts both ways. In the grand scheme of things the energy impact from the use and manufacturing of PC's is really pretty tiny. But theire potential for positive change can be huge.

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 Post subject: Re: Radical rethink on green computing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:57 pm 
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halcyon wrote:
True ecologically sound construction, logistics, use (throughout the life-cycle) and recycling rarely succeeds.
It's because recycling is unefficient in so many levels. Most recycled products are of worse quality then the original product, take paper or plastic for example. It costs more recycle then to make a new one (except in the case of aluminium).
Quote:
I'm envisioning the following (this may sound harsh, but stay with me):

0) Don't use it, if you don't need it. Even more, don't buy it, unless you really need it.

1) absolute and average power draw limits set for the computer system (including peripherals and displays)

2) Absolute amount of time / day that the computer can be turned on (i.e. that it can be used. Absolutely no idling allowed).

3) Minimum life-time before upgrades. I.e. no upgrades until the machine has serviced X amount of years (unless it breaks, under which scenario fixing is the 1st choice, not partial/full replacement).

4) Minimum set of criteria for upgrades/re-purchases (which companies, which certifications, which processes must be completed for the purchase to be valid 'green computing purchase'). This includes things like ecological life cycle analysis, hazardous chemical, energy efficiency, projected usable life-time for each component. For companies earlier track record, environmental impact, climate impact, overall energy efficiency (esp. in materials logistics) and peer reviewed certification from trusted sources.

All of the above may sound harsh, but if our energy situation is as dire as many geologist have been saying now for the past few years, we may have to start changing our current thinking.
The first one sounds reasonable. The rest is just eco-fascism. The energy situation sounds overexaggerated. It's like a mantra of a religious cult preparing for mass suicide, because the world is going to end. We have heard it before and the world hasn't come to an end yet. Opec countries have a good reason to let us think that the world is running out of oil. Scarcity boosts up the oil price and their profits. They can sell less for more. Eco-activists have a good motive to exaggerate and lie also, because it's for a good cause, right? It's an unholy alliance between them, both fighting for the same goal for different reasons... I'm sure that the world will run out of oil at one point, but will I be there to see it happen? I'm pretty positive I won't be.
Quote:
And even if the energy for (constructing, transporting, using) computers doesn't come really expensive, there is the climate to worry about. Currently computers and their use is far from carbon neutral, even though sometimes using computers can be less harsh than the alternative (which usually entails moving atoms vs. bits).

So, my questions:

0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.
Sharing cpu cycles through virtualisation? Sure. Sharing my personal computer? Never, because personal computer is just that, too personal. I wouldn't share my cellphone either.
Quote:
1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?
It starts with limiting the computer time, then what? Tv, cellphone, lamps, warm water, ban on motor racing? If the X was 168, then sure.
Quote:
2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed? This could mean passing up on "revolutionary" faster cpus/gpus/hds, etc and having a relatively "slow" computer compared to the best available.
By my own choise? Yes, I'm already using sense with my upgrade choises. By law? No. Sometimes the upgrade brings energy efficiency (see Prescott -> Conroe). When I upgrade the old parts don't leave the system and end up in the junk yard, they are still in use many years later, just not by me.
Quote:
3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not (currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?
Never. That would mean that I would most likely end up paying more for something with crappier quality.
Quote:
4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?
Only by free choise.
Quote:
If not, do you think _real_ green computing, instead of just RoHS+marginally improved PSU/CPU efficiency, will happen in the foreseeable future?
Your definition of _real_ ... I hope not. I also know it won't. Eco-friendliness is a priviledge of the rich and the world won't run out of poor people.

People could stop polluting completely, but they won't because of law of diminishing marginal returns. The benefits for being more enviromentally friendly wouldn't outweight the inefficiency, that would come with it. Someone would have to end up paying for the priviledge of being eco-friendly and there's two possible outcomes. It is payed in lost jobs of the rich countries, when they cannot compete with the developing countries who aren't following the rules. Or it would be paid by the developing countries who would get the short end of the stick, because they aren't technologically as advanced as the more developed and able to compete with superior technology.

There's no need to pass up laws that are hard/impossible to follow, braking a law just undermines it's authority. Or to pass up laws that would end up slowing down the technological progress and limiting the choises of consumers.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:11 pm 
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Opec countries have a good reason to let us think that the world is running out of oil. Scarcity boosts up the oil price and their profits. They can sell less for more.


Can you show me one quote where an OPEC spokesman says the world is running out of oil? Don't worry, I know you can't, cos there isn't one. OPEC countries don't want the oil price too high, because it increases investment in alternative fuels and fuel-efficiency measures.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 5:55 pm 
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jaganath wrote:
Quote:
Opec countries have a good reason to let us think that the world is running out of oil. Scarcity boosts up the oil price and their profits. They can sell less for more.


Can you show me one quote where an OPEC spokesman says the world is running out of oil? Don't worry, I know you can't, cos there isn't one. OPEC countries don't want the oil price too high, because it increases investment in alternative fuels and fuel-efficiency measures.
Some things are said between the lines. As for the market price? I don't think the price really reacts to market without the approval of OPEC, if they wanted, they could say it's running out and still name whatever price they wanted.

That said, I'm pretty sure you are right on this.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:47 am 
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Erssa wrote:
Some things are said between the lines. As for the market price? I don't think the price really reacts to market without the approval of OPEC, if they wanted, they could say it's running out and still name whatever price they wanted.

Yeah, they could say that and within two weeks the EU and US would announce they'd increased funding into energy savings and alternative energy sources ten-fold, as well as expand nuclear capabilities. Within 25 years oil demand would be in a huge decline. I'm pretty sure they think on a scale that's at least that long, and driving up the price short-term would not really serve the producers in the long run.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 9:18 am 
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Quote:
And *that* requires slowing the rate of progress and dismantling the attitude that progress is everything.

Progress as used here is in the defacto mass consumer capitalist definition. Which is apropos.

So much of what's good for the environment is simply terrible for 21st century capitalist economics. Without expansion, you have contraction. It's not a system that can exist in stasis, it's either going up or down. As long as our economics relies on this model, I can't see environmentalism doing anything fundamentally necessary (to right the wrongs as environmentalists see it... irrc, we're supposed to be at the about 1.5 minutes from midnight on the doomsday countdown for the human race... or was that only for nuclear annihilation? :lol:).

halcyon's points & questions are right on, imo, but some of the responses in this thread already show the typical mindset. re-- "The rest is just eco-fascism." I understand the impetus for draconian rules, but I tend to favor Devon's counter proposals about hw limitations and agree wholeheartedly that it's about changing attitudes & behavior. If enough people's attitudes & behavior changes, then all kinds of things are possible.... but given how tough tough it is to survive financially, I have a hard time envisioning large numbers of people (let's say half the developed world) making such changes voluntarily.

btw, I have friends who successfully use a single PC in a 4-user family. Each one has his own HDD in a mobile rack: When you want to use the PC, you insert your HDD, powerup, use, then power down and remove your HDD.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 4:33 pm 
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derekva wrote:
Would I like to see a slimmed-down version of Windows (especially server) that could run from a low-powered, low-processor-speed system? Hell yes. But let's not just shit all over MSFT and blame them for increases in power use by computers.

I actually installed and ran Windows XP on a Via C3 533Mhz with 512mb of ram for a while. It's slow, yes, but it was just a regular, out of the box installation with no slimmed down kernel or anything. I removed the CD drive once I was done with the installation. Total power draw according to my Kill-A-Watt was 10 watts at idle, and about 15 at full load.

Laptops have similar characteristics, with far better results in terms of usability. My 1.6Ghz IBM Thinkpad runs XP great and draws just 12 watts at idle with the monitor off (i.e. using an external display panel) and peaks at 30 watts with CPU Burn and it's own display on and at maximum brightness. Again, just a regular old XP install.

So certainly power consumption is nothing inherent to Windows, it's probably more a reflection of the fact most Windows computers are big, bulky, and designed to gain speed at the expense of energy efficiency. Most Macs seem however to be designed like laptops, which cost a little more but draw anywhere from half to a tenth as much power as a desktop system.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 4:36 pm 
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jaganath wrote:
Can you show me one quote where an OPEC spokesman says the world is running out of oil? Don't worry, I know you can't, cos there isn't one. OPEC countries don't want the oil price too high, because it increases investment in alternative fuels and fuel-efficiency measures.

That is exactly why Saudi Arabia continues to state that it can supply all the world's oil needs for the next 200 years - then at the same time they refuse to permit anyone to examine their oil reserves. They know the oil is running out, but so long as no one else thinks it will run out they get to have a steady income supply right up until the final couple years when they say "Oh hey, we're out of oil. Our bad." They pocket the money for many more years by keeping alternatives from becoming cost effective.

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There are too many questions as to what efficiency protocols could be used. Or indeed what lifecycle costs really are: leave your PC on 24/7 and waste energy? Turn it off and replace failed components after a power cycle? Or is it visa versa? Which has the lower environmental impact? There is no agreement on this or any other issue here...The real question is a political one. A great many technical questions will become political ones... Which why greenwash exists.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:39 pm 
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how much resources does my (now) triple post waste? arrrgh!


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MikeC wrote:
halcyon's points & questions are right on, imo, but some of the responses in this thread already show the typical mindset. re-- "The rest is just eco-fascism."
My reason for immediately dismissing his way of thinking is different.

He makes the same mistake the eastern european communists made. Namely assuming everybody is the same. I'm single, work in an IT job, live in a city and use public transport. My sister has four kids, a clothes shop and a big car, because there is no public transport in their village. Now explain to me why we should be allowed to use the same amount of computer time?

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:47 pm 
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Now explain to me why we should be allowed to use the same amount of computer time?


The idea of the government (and it would have to be the government) telling you how much time you are allowed to spend on your computer is fundamentally flawed; the government has no right to do that, the same as it cannot tell me where to go, what to do or anything else as long as I am not harming anybody else. It is within the scope of government, however, to promote energy efficiency through the use of green taxes and regulation, to try and make the cost of computers/fridges/ovens/whatever reflect their true cost to the environment, in economic jargon to price in an externality; that is perfectly legitimate.


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Austerity and self-deprivation are never going to work, no matter what kind of technology you're considering.

As with cars, there's no need for it. There are a number of things that can be done to make the situation with cars much greener, but they're not being done

Unlike cars, it seems to me that immediate necessity in technological development will make computer components tend to become more green. If not, taxing out wasteful, (and actually inferior) techniques would meet with much less opposition than is the case with the situation concerning cars.

The picture, however, is complicated by the fact that, unlike cars, the role of the computer is still expanding. Just imagine what computers will be doing in your home 20 years from now.

So it might well be that the energy involved in the use of computers, even on a per capita basis, could not realistically be lessened anytime soon. But this shouldn't discourage, in any way at all, any momentum towards more eco-friendliness in the computer world.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2006 10:43 am 
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0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.

1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?

2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed? This could mean passing up on "revolutionary" faster cpus/gpus/hds, etc and having a relatively "slow" computer compared to the best available.

3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not (currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?

4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?



Faced with questions like these, we must be sure not to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Arguing that, for instance, computers are wasteful and radical change is called for, does not mean necessarily that any of the above are applicable.

I can see the need for behaviour to change, but I don't think everyone agrees on what we should change to become. The common thread I see in all the questions above is "would you be willing to make a sacrifice?". I think most people would be prepared to make a sacrifice, if they thought it was worthwhile. I think generally, the case as to how worthwhile such changes might be has not been made, and must be won before change will happen.

I would be willing to make the right change, now what is that right change? I am reminded of people who reduce their salt-intake but then live on take-away food, or who buy energy saving lightbulbs but then drive their children to school in an SUV. I don't want to make that mistake, the mistake of being deluded.

Personally, I would buy a green motorcar if I could afford one. As it is, I can't afford to own a car; they are highly taxed here in the UK. This is not to say I would not own a car unless I could own a 'green' car, but I would buy a car which I believed to be cleaner. But anyhow, many of the hybrid cars are hardly greener than standard cars.

Certainly the technology needs to change, but I think our very nature doesn't support such change. It is true that people suffering from green-guilt will seek a green-fix, but they are like dieters who snack after having exercised. Green-guilt is not going to bring about a green revolution.

I think the hope is that an evolving green consciousness will allow governments to take draconian measures to force business to change. Unfortunately, this is very reminiscent of communists instilling their draconian measures. Let us remember that Trotsky favoured the militarisation of society, a policy very similar to that used by Hitler's SS. I don't want to see a green militarisation of society, where we are all obliged to do our green duty.

So for me, the thing to do is to educate people about the true impact of green decisions. Rather than trying to build up a green consciousness which is not based on fact, I want to see an honest approach where we educate people and allow them to decide for themselves. I want to know the true good that wind farms, tidal power, etc can have. I don't think this has been done, we have only been told that 'green is good', which sounds to me like 'four legs good'.

We must divorce ourselves from draconian measures, they are a mechanism of the past and they should be left to history. I want to see the truth be discussed, the truth of what impact prospective measures might have, and I want the decision left to me.

Would I be willing to share computer resources? No. I do want technology to provide me with highly efficient computing and I do want technology to lessen the amount of power used generally. I would happily return to an OS which only required 32MB ram, for instance. As it is, I have underclocked my 3000+ to 1GHz and have not found anything to be too slow. I don't want some wasteful organisational structure controlling my use of my computer. If I want to use my computer for 20 hours per day, I am the one to decide that.

I would certainly be prepared to limit by repurchasing cycle, in fact I don't think one can say that I have a repurchasing cycle, because I only buy new hardware when I need it, and I don't buy the top of the range when I buy, because no-one typically needs the top of the range.

I would be willing to read information about the green-status of companies, if I felt the information was truthful. I would not be prepared to pay significantly more money for such goods, because I would take that as an indication that that company is using their green-status as a cash cow. However I would be prepared to pay probably as much as twice the usual price, depending on the item.

I already do limit the power of my computer, but I would like to limit it more. I wait for technology to allow me to do that.

I must add that I do see the limits of capitalism and I am sympathetic to arguments for state intervention to some degree, but I want people to be truthful and when I sense that someone is not telling me the whole truth, I disengage. Unfortunately, my experience with politicians is that they have not been truthful, but nevertheless I watch and wait until such time as things change.


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In general: people behave according to the incentive systems in place. You see this at work all the time, people will behave to drive a given metric in the "right" direction, even if it may lead to a less optimal overall result for the company, department, etc. This is why it is critical to have good metrics. I digress...

Reflect the true cost of any given purchasing decision (motor fuel, heating fuel, electricity cost, purchasing any piece of manufactured good, blah blah) in the price of that good and people (read: the market) will tend to change their behavior to balance the price vs. their perceived need.

As this is a general statement I'll give a few examples:

1) Reflect the true cost to the environment (used generically here) in each gallon of motor fuel. The cost to remove the carbon from the atmosphere after burning it, the cost to remove the other pollutants (NOx, particulates, etc.). Say this doubles the price of a gallon of fuel (so in the US from ~$2.50 to ~$5.00/gal). This will then drive more cost effective alternatives, etc.

2) That motherboard you just purchased, add in the entire cost to manufacture it (including transporting the components, etc.) and dispose of it in a responsible fashion and it will drive people to purchase motherboards that are less expensive and/or purchase them less often.

3) If the cost of electricity included the true cost, say it would cost $0.20/kWh (pulled out of my arse). Suddenly that computer that uses only 20W less (not counting air conditioning load) is worth bucking up for, etc.

Because products/the market does not reflect the true cost (for a huge number of reasons) people are not given incentive to behave in ways that are better for the long term future of the species.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 6:58 am 
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Quote:
1) Reflect the true cost to the environment (used generically here) in each gallon of motor fuel. The cost to remove the carbon from the atmosphere after burning it, the cost to remove the other pollutants (NOx, particulates, etc.). Say this doubles the price of a gallon of fuel (so in the US from ~$2.50 to ~$5.00/gal). This will then drive more cost effective alternatives, etc.


The problem with a fuel tax in the US is that public transport is almost non-existent; so by raising the price of fuel you are making it more costly for poor people to travel to work etc, while rich people won't even notice and will keep driving SUV's etc. It's a regressive tax. What you need is some kind of green levy on big carbon emitters like HumVees, Escalades etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 8:15 am 
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i think you need to look at the bigger picture of home/business electricity use. it makes no sense to limit someone's computer usage on the basis of power conservation while they are running ineffecient lighting and crank the a/c to below 70F (why?!?!). most people i know use much more electricity for things other than their computer. i was just visiting my dad last week... his electrical bill is over $200 every month. he lives in florida (so needs a/c, dehumidifier), has a pool with electric heat, electric stove/oven, outdoor accent lights etc. in the main tv room he had 2 lamps all using 200 W bulbs... you could feel the heat coming off them. i converted him to 20W CF bulbs and he likes them. in that room alone he went from 400W in lighting to 40W, one-tenth what it was, and the it was noticeably cooler.

i built his PC so i know that it uses 40-50W excluding monitor. he uses it a lot all day but shuts it off at night. that energy use is a blip on his power bill... mandating he use a more efficient pc would be pointless. i consider myself a pretty green-aware guy and that is why i pushed him to CF bulbs. we bought a bunch and tried them in different rooms and for the most part he couldn't tell the difference. i've also convinced him to look at a solar pool heater... they pay for themselves after 3 years or so in his climate. he's not a dumb guy, just unaware of the alternatives. i think a lot of people are like this. i don't think most people have a 300W gaming rig, most people have whatever was on sale at Best Buy or from Dell, and a lot of those PCs are under 100W. i think the average home would benefit more from switching to more efficient lighting and devices with very low standby consumption.

of course from a silentPC perspective, i'd love to see more power efficient PCs (especially GPUs) 8)

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:05 am 
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jaganath wrote:
The problem with a fuel tax in the US is that public transport is almost non-existent; so by raising the price of fuel you are making it more costly for poor people to travel to work etc, while rich people won't even notice and will keep driving SUV's etc. It's a regressive tax. What you need is some kind of green levy on big carbon emitters like HumVees, Escalades etc.


You're correct of course. Do you think there would be a push for more transit if the proce of gas was $5? I think so. In other words, the market would respond by demanding more transit options; over time, people would move closer to their jobs, etc. Of course this would negatively impact the price of the house I built in the suburbs....maybe it's not such a good idea after all :wink:


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:21 am 
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OmegaEntropy wrote:
jaganath wrote:
The problem with a fuel tax in the US is that public transport is almost non-existent; so by raising the price of fuel you are making it more costly for poor people to travel to work etc, while rich people won't even notice and will keep driving SUV's etc. It's a regressive tax. What you need is some kind of green levy on big carbon emitters like HumVees, Escalades etc.


You're correct of course. Do you think there would be a push for more transit if the proce of gas was $5? I think so.
Not really, that's how much fuel costs in Europe. It's mainly the governments that are pushing them. Bio fuels are more expensive, even with the huge support from goverments. Regular consumers are indifferent. They would use a more ecological solution, but wouldn't pay a premium for it. And it's not helping that public transports are costly as hell. Even with fuel costing 1.5euros/liter, it's cheaper to drive between cities then to use a train or a bus.

Personally I don't like to bio fuel -campaign. Even, if it pollutes less when it's burned in the car engine, the manufacturing of the biofuel creates huge amounts of co2, which are left out of the biopropaganda...

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:28 am 
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Even, if it pollutes less when it's burned in the car engine, the manufacturing of the biofuel creates huge amounts of co2, which are left out of the biopropaganda...


OK, now you really are talking out of your hat. Biofuel crops absorb CO2 while they are growing; this CO2 is then re-emitted when the biofuel is burnt, so it is a net zero or near-zero carbon fuel source. Of course the processing requires some energy, usually derived from hydrocarbons, but the net carbon emissions are still less than fossil fuels.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 12:40 pm 
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jaganath wrote:
OK, now you really are talking out of your hat. Biofuel crops absorb CO2 while they are growing; this CO2 is then re-emitted when the biofuel is burnt, so it is a net zero or near-zero carbon fuel source. Of course the processing requires some energy, usually derived from hydrocarbons, but the net carbon emissions are still less than fossil fuels.
This way of thinking works only, if you believe nothing would be farmed on the fields, if the bio fuel crops weren't farmed. Farming on European Union is in a sad state anyway, at least here in Finland. Farmers are just looking at what sort of crops gives them the biggest subsides and then grow it. I'd rather see food grown on the fields absorbing that co2 , but there's the subsidies...

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 3:10 am 
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OmegaEntropy wrote:
Of course this would negatively impact the price of the house I built in the suburbs....maybe it's not such a good idea after all :wink:


Hehe.

The whole suburb infrastructure has to be revised as soon as possible of course. It's a disastrous design that could only have been invented in the US free market valhalla. Anyone seen 'The End of Suburbia'?

And as for biofuels: They are just one in an array of alternative energy sources for transport (hydrogen, ethanol, electricity). There's not one answer to the energy problem. It has to come from a combination of alternatives. Biofuel is a good thing for trucks especially but you have to plant a whole hectare of coleseed for instance to keep a truck going for a year. There's simply not enough land to let all trucks drive on biofuel, just as there isn't enough platinum (I believe) to produce enough fuel cells.

And reduction of computer power consumption is also a small solution for reducing power consumption as a whole, just like CF bulbs or LED, godd insulation of homes etc. Every little helps. Besides, I believe you can stimulate a shift in awareness more easily by adressing people's computer use and efficiency, simply because they sit a lot behind them and identify themselves with them (even more than a TV).


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