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Build an Environmentally-Friendly PC 249

Posted by Zonk
from the being-green-is-so-pc dept.
ThinSkin writes "While gas-guzzling cars are greatly to blame for releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, computers play their role in warming up the Earth too. ExtremeTech has an informative how-to article on building a green PC that will not only help save the planet, but will also slim down that energy bill. An important component, or culprit, to consider is the power supply, so investing in an 80 PLUS PSU is a step in the right direction. The article also discusses how to configure Windows Vista to utilize its power-saving options."
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Build an Environmentally-Friendly PC

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  • low end amd x2 and geforce 6150 video as well as using xp.
  • by Shatrat (855151) on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:50PM (#18212210)
    Don't build a PC, re-use old hardware and keep it out of landfills.
    Efficiency in new PCs has it's place, but it is nothing compared to the benefits of re-using old hardware which can be perfectly good for most tasks as long as you arent in love with Microsoft Bloat, ExXxtreme edition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by larien (5608)
      Depends; you can get much more energy efficient CPUs these days and if you used to by cutting edge, it may not be the most efficient. There's a balance somewhere between pollution (toxic chemicals in components) versus power draw; I'm not 100% sure where it lies...
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      Amen! Buying a new PC won't save energy any more than buying a Hybrid. It probably doesn't even decrease our dependence on foreign oil, because most of our power generation is based on fossil fuel sources anyway, and most of the cars driven in the US are actually built in the US to avoid paying import taxes.
      • by Qzukk (229616)
        So I should just keep using my 300+ watt dual p3 with 15 fans going full speed just to keep the thing from melting down in the summer, plus the AC costs from keeping it from melting me down in the summer?

        It does everything I need to do at home, but maybe a system like this can do everything I need to do at home cheaper.

        For bonus points, I'll even be able to turn my speakers down several notches.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676)

      Don't build a PC, re-use old hardware and keep it out of landfills.

      The problem is that modern users have needs that won't be fulfilled by the old hardware. Sure, if you just browse the web and play solitaire, then an old PC is going to be fine. But these days people do things they didn't do in the past, like edit HD video, and manage thousands of RAW images from digital cameras. Those old PCs aren't going to cut it.

      • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:49PM (#18212964) Homepage
        Ha ha. Yeah, I'm sure *everybody* is editing HD video and storing RAW images from their digital cameras.

        Sorry dude, but just because *you* might be doing those things, doesn't make you any less the exception. The fact is, *most* people would be just fine with old hardware, because most people really do just browse the web, check their email, and write documents with their PC.
        • by Ed Avis (5917)
          Where's the software you can use to browse the web on old hardware? Netscape 1.1 or whatever would be full of security holes and in any case not compatible with most interesting sites of today. So for security if for nothing else, you have to have the latest version. That does impose some minimum hardware requirements.
          • Where's the software you can use to browse the web on old hardware?
            Right here [csant.info]. Oh, by "browse the web" you meant "gawp at flash". Sorry. My bad.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mr_Tulip (639140)
            How old are we talking here?

            A 400-800 Mhz CPU with 256 Mb RAM will do 90% of the stuff you do on a PC (unless you're a gamer). I can run Damn Small Linux, Ubuntu or Windows 2000, OpenOffice, Firefox and many other applications without any problems.

            This is on the kind of PC you can often pick up lying in the street or at you local landfill.
        • by Damek (515688)
          You're mostly right. My mother? Over 60 years old, and she certainly doesn't edit HD video.

          Me? I'm rarely a geek and I mostly just browse the web and play solitaire. But once in a while I find myself needing to do more than that, and that's what I need some power for. HD video still isn't in the cards for me, need-wise, but standard video? Sure, it comes up once in a while. And certainly MP3s and such.

          I consider myself slightly above average. I think, judging from YouTube and other data points, that
        • by dangitman (862676)
          When did I say that everybody was doing it? I merely noted that some people have different needs. I said an old computer was fine for people who don't have those needs. So, why so angry?
      • The vast majority of people don't need high-spec machines (except perhaps to cope with the creeping bloat and associated slowdown that accompanies Microsoft installations that aren't regularly reinstalled). Google run their server farms on commodity hardware - if they can do it, well, what's your excuse again?
      • by toddestan (632714)
        I think the idea is, unless you need a new PC, the most environmentally friendly thing to do is keep using the one you have. To buy a new computer just because it uses less energy is actually bad for the enviroment once you take into account the costs of building the new PC, and properly disposing of the old PC.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by crabpeople (720852)
      When I toss electronics in the trash, I like to think im helping future archologists by giving them one more specimen to study.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geeber (520231)
      Don't build a PC, re-use old hardware and keep it out of landfills.

      And then turn it off when it is not in use.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      But what if that "bloat" is what you want to use? It's not as if there is an alternative that does everything windows does, so people won't switch. Just calling it bloat doesn't put people off ;)
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:52PM (#18212228)
    Many reports now indicate that Vista will load even a Core 2 Duo cpu at 20-30% just to run the interface. When you compare this to my normal 0-1% for WinXP or KDE, you'll see that you won't be saving any power at all with Vista unless you turn off the default interface. (Add to this also the extra load on your GPU from running Aero...)
    • by Cereal Box (4286)
      Prove it. The whole point of Vista offloading graphics processing to the video card was to keep the CPU from being loaded down with drawing the GUI.

      I suppose you hate MacOS X as well because it forces the GPU to do extra work and, let's face it, it's not exactly as minimal an interface as KDE or Windows XP.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Prove it. The whole point of Vista offloading graphics processing to the video card was to keep the CPU from being loaded down with drawing the GUI.

        Well, that raises an interesting point. Now the GPU is doing that work. MORE work might actually get done, because there is overhead in handing it off to the GPU, although the penalty to your CPU will be less. But anyway, the question then becomes whether handing the processing off to the GPU takes more electricity, because the GPU might be less efficient overa

    • I'm running Vista on a P4 3Ghz system right now total load from Windows components is about 1% from the DWM (the desktop composition engine). Firefox is using as much or more CPU time just dealing with the animated ad and the input of my text.

      So maybe Vista will eat up 20% of a Core 2 if you screw something up, but it eats almost no CPU normally when properly configured.
    • What reports? I'm running Vista Business with full Aero (on 2 screens, 20" and 17") and loads of silly gadgets, about 10-15 different apps open including two copies of Visual Studio, a local Xming server, firefox, thunderbird, MSN, Acrobat reader, anti-virus etc. etc.

      My CPU usage is idling at 2-6% looking at the little CPU gadget (which is probably using some of that itself..) And RAM usage is at 65%, and I've never ever seen it higher than 80ish. The general experience is easily faster than any version of
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Shatrat (855151)
      Many reports now indicate that any made up sensationalist drivel at all can be modded Interesting on slashdot.
      I'm as big a fan of linux and detractor from Vista as the next linux greybeard, but let's not stoop to making stuff up when theres such a plethora of real problems with Vista.
      • by westlake (615356)
        Many reports now indicate that any made up sensationalist drivel at all can be modded Interesting on slashdot. I'm as big a fan of linux and detractor from Vista as the next linux greybeard, but let's not stoop to making stuff up when theres such a plethora of real problems with Vista.

        has it crossed your mind that maybe all these "BadVista" stories are "made up?"

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Shatrat (855151)
          Who needs stories when you have obvious defects and intentional crippling of the operating system, taking control out of the administrator's hands for the sake of microsoft's business partners. None of the customers wanted their audio and video quality to be degraded unless the met certain requirements and the system was working perfectly, so who was that added for?
          On the off chance that you're not trolling for the sake of trolling and are legitimately ignorant, read this and try to point out just what is
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChrisWong (17493)
      Energy? It'll save plenty: this Vista box is the first desktop PC I have that effortlessly goes in and out of S3 standby mode. This is the suspend-to-RAM mode where almost everything else shuts down -- CPU, network, video, fans, HD -- and a tiny trickle goes into keeping the RAM alive. Yet it transitions in and out of standby mode in mere seconds. Vista makes it trivially easy and convenient to use a PC energy state that uses almost no energy, while it seems a bit of a black art with a Linux desktop. By bri
  • What is that? A PC that's friendly to the environmental? Is this something out of "Chronicles of Riddick"?
    • Kudos, editors. Fastest /. headline edit I've ever seen. It was fixed before I hit "Submit" on the above snark.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:55PM (#18212266)
    We recently had a "build the most efficient desktop PC you can" contest of sorts at work using a outlet-based usage meter. The winner was a guy who wasn't even competing using his off-the-shelf laptop. It was a bit of an eye-opener for the rest of us pseudo-greenies, but it makes sense: laptop makers are always trying to cut corners on power usage.
    • When they get rid of the hard disk, there will be even less consumption.

       
    • by twostar (675002) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:13PM (#18212534) Journal
      You mention using a outlet meter, I wonder why the author didn't do the same thing. On the last page he lists some of the parts and notes "The watts listed are the highest for normal operation when the component is active." He doesn't actually confirm this or even list the PSU. He also clumps together a lot of things and dismisses them.

      Why not hook up a $30 Watt meter and find out how well his design worked? Do an idle test and then run various benchmarks to see how the Green Machine works in reality.
      • Why not hook up a $30 Watt meter and find out how well his design worked? Do an idle test and then run various benchmarks to see how the Green Machine works in reality.

        That's how science works. This is about environmentalism. Completely different.

        I'm not even joking.

        This is exactly the reason the entire socio-political clusterfuck we call environmentalism exists. There are far too many politicians, reporters, and fallen scientists that are trying too hard to get the next soundbite, editorial, or publishe
    • Agreed. But then you'll have someone drop theirs into a dock, with a big ol' monitor, optical mouse, speakers, and whatever other peripherals are connected and you're probably no better off at that point.

      Setting aside issues such as thermal cycling for a moment. If a PC and OS architecture could be developed that would boot almost instantly, the problem of computers left sitting on "because it takes too long to boot up" could be drastically reduced.

      That's where most of the waste is occurring...when

      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        Agreed. But then you'll have someone drop theirs into a dock, with a big ol' monitor, optical mouse, speakers, and whatever other peripherals are connected and you're probably no better off at that point.

        It's pretty well established that of those few who even buy laptop docking stations, even fewer actually use them. Seriously, what percentage of laptops even HAVE a docking station port on 'em anymore? So yeah, sure, you're not much better off at that point, but that point is seldom reached.

    • by solevita (967690)
      Great post; I love my low power drawing laptop, especially as the performance of it is more than I usually need. What I do need, however, is hard drive space and lots of it. I've got a few disks (about 1TB in total) in a tower PC that I'm trying to run as greenly as possible.

      My way of doing it? An old PC that doesn't even need a fan to keep the processor cool, a tiny power supply and running it all headless. I should buy a power plug meter to run a comparison as you did, but I'm quite confident that the d
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dgatwood (11270)

      That's not at all surprising, but not for the reason you think. Laptops work by using a battery to moderate the power consumption. You drain the battery down to typically 95% or so before your charge circuit kicks in and brings it up. That means that unless you measure over a long period of time, you will get a false low reading because the external brick is in trickle power mode.

      Even if you measure over a long period of time, however, a laptop will still always be more efficient than a desktop for a n

      • by llefler (184847)
        That's not at all surprising, but not for the reason you think. Laptops work by using a battery to moderate the power consumption.

        That would be easy to check, remove the battery. My Toshiba and Dell laptops have no appreciable difference whether the battery is installed or not, assuming the battery is fully charged. My Mac Mini (512m RAM, Power, not Intel) uses about the same watts as my laptop. Which makes it slightly higher since that doesn't include the LCD.

        The only real question, then, is why desktops d
      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        That's not at all surprising, but not for the reason you think. Laptops work by using a battery to moderate the power consumption. You drain the battery down to typically 95% or so before your charge circuit kicks in and brings it up. That means that unless you measure over a long period of time, you will get a false low reading because the external brick is in trickle power mode.

        What are you talking about? That's utter nonsense. The laptop runs straight off the power cord when it's plugged into the line. It draws nothing from the battery--- that's why you can remove the battery and still have it run. Lithium-Ion batteries already require sophisticated enough charging systems that the power regulation does not need to be "moderated" by the battery for the laptop to use it to power itself. No Laptop designer with the slightest brains would ever devise a system that continuously drai

    • And the lesson is to use mobile and integrated components, in laptop form or not. Here [silentpcreview.com] is a review of the power consumption of an Apple iMac, but you could easily build a computer with a laptop CPU/GPU etc.

      An added benefit of mobile components is that they don't need much cooling, so you get a quiet computer, too.
    • ... laptop makers are always trying to cut corners on power usage.

      OS choice is important too and this has harmed power savings for everyone.

      Laptops have to keep up with crazy stuff from M$ that now requires a 350 watt video card for it's interface. Laptop power consumption has dramatically increased over the last ten years, which is why they can burn your lap. My five year old laptop needs twice the power supply my ten year old laptop did. The proportional increase is just like desktops.

      Laptop power

  • If you want to be green, how about *not* buying a shiny new energy-guzzling behemoth of machine in order to satisfy Vista's minimum requirements and running Linux on it instead :-P I have looked into the energy-efficient UPSs though [parseerror.com]
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:58PM (#18212308) Homepage Journal
    1. The monitor uses a lot of energy, so a laptop is better as it uses a flatscreen panel - or a PC with a flat LCD panel.

    2. The power supply on most PCs is designed for a full draw, so it is far better to get a laptop which has a power supply for a smaller draw than a giant 300W PC power supply.

    3. Memory is cheaper than CPU, so it is far more efficient to buy a PC with a decent AMD chip that has low power consumption and then cram it full of as much RAM as it can address, than it is to buy an Intel quad core chip you don't really use with minimal RAM. And remember your graphics card has it's own power draw. Basically, RAM is usually 1000 times faster than a hard drive, and can be used for swap files, and to speed processes, so cram it more full of RAM if you want to extend the life of your system and avoid power-intensive disk access. Consider a flash USB drive as well - very low consumption. And use rechargeable batteries for your optical cordless mouse and other devices - ignore the warnings, they work fine.
    • by balthan (130165)
      giant 300W PC power supply

      Haven't followed PC hardware lately, huh? The new ATI card is rumored to use 300W by itself. And power supplies are maxing out at over 1,000W these days.
  • Why spend all the effort on an energy-efficient desktop when many companies have already invested tremendous money to maximize battery life? These days, expandability problems of laptops have been largely solved with Firewire 800 and whatever is the current replacement for PCMCIA. Its more productive to spend your time installing double-pane windows, sealing off drafts in your house with insulation tape or shopping for a fuel-efficient car.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      These days, expandability problems of laptops have been largely solved with Firewire 800 and whatever is the current replacement for PCMCIA.

      Most laptops are still on 400Mbps firewire, if they even have that (although IEEE1394 has definitely become more prevalent, especially in laptops.) And the current replacement for PCMCIA is called ExpressCARD, while the last one was called Cardbus.

      Its more productive to spend your time installing double-pane windows, sealing off drafts in your house with insulation ta

      • by iamacat (583406)
        You are only considering your own use of gas. The impact of producing your hybrid is amortized by several factors:
        • Your money is encouraging car manufacturers to make more hybrid models, invest in better technology and even reduce environmental impact of making new cars based on apparent customer attitude.
          • Other people will see your car on the highway and think of buying one. That's how New Beetle became popular.
            • Someone is going to buy your 17MPG car and drive it until the end of its useful lifetime. Since it
  • by msmithma (524984) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:02PM (#18212366) Homepage
    This article makes an inefficient computer when there are plenty of available components that use considerably less power. My favorites include the Via http://www.via.com.tw/ [via.com.tw] line of processors and motherboards and the PICO PSU from http://www.mini-box.com/ [mini-box.com] claims >90% efficiency for all of its models. Using these components you can make a system that uses about 30Watts instead of the 168Watts in the article. Thats a five fold difference!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jcgf (688310)
      I built a system based on a via epia 6000 at 533MHz. It uses little power and basically runs like shit. It takes 15-18 hours to transcode an avi to DVD while my Athlon 64 3500+ can do it in less than 2. So you need to ask yourself, does it really save anything?

      By the way, I'm looking to sell the epia system (1gb ram, 30gb hdd, slim dual layer dvd burner in a travella case), if anyone is interested reply to this post.

      • by chill (34294)
        It all depends on what you use the computer for. Do you spend most of your time ripping and transcoding DVDs?

        Low power systems like the VIA units are fine for every day tasks. They're even okay for dealing with video and ripping, if you don't spend your life doing it.

        The VIA boards have built-in MPEG-2 encoding/decoding, making them very efficient for watching that transcoded DVD.

        And a suggestion, if I may. You might want to consider just buying bigger hard drives and not bothering to transcode at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HoneyBeeSpace (724189)
      Via Technologies, Inc. is shipping a new processor and starting a "Clean Computing Initiative" aimed at offsetting the chip's environmental cost. They claim it is the worlds first "carbon-free" CPU [via.com.tw].
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:07PM (#18212458) Journal

    The article also discusses how to configure Windows Vista to utilize its power-saving options

    You are attempting to power down Vista.
    Cancel or Allow?
    Allow
    I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    Any more cliches we can apply here?

    I, for one, welcome our power-saving-bleeding-heart-liberal overlords.

    In Korea, only old people conserve power.

    Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these low-power-draw PCs! (kinda defeats the purpose, huh?)

    1. Design low-power PC.
    2. Turn on power-saving options in Vista
    3. ???
    4. Profit! (actually, there is no 3. lowering power consumption is the profit-making step)

    The best way to reduce power consumption in Vista is to allow chairs to be thrown at your PC until it stops working.

    Disclaimer: I once worked for a PC manufacturer
    The demand of the free market will cause PC manufacturers to make low-power PCs. Any regulations mandating low power consumption are doomed to fail and will inversely lead to market inequalities resulting in increased power consumption and fewer low-power alternatives for individuals who want to be free like their information. This is why I created my philospophy of lawlessoprofiteeringism.

    Sorry, 5 PM on Friday, couldn't resist.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:10PM (#18212494) Journal
    that if you do everything that you can to be more environmentally friendly, it helps. In fact, every little bit helps. This is a math problem that finds its value in large numbers. If each of us saves 12 watts per hour of use, that could make a huge difference. 12 x 600 million computers (home and business) is somewhere in the area of 7.2 Billion watt hours, or 7.2 million kilowatt hours. Not sure about you, but that is a lot of saved CO2 emissions. Do the same with your old fridge, say you save 75 watt hours per day, multiplied by say 350 million units. You end up with more HUGE savings. Try this on lights, appliances, hot water heaters, A/C units and it really does add up, so supporting power saving devices is worth the effort.

    By effectively ignoring this opportunity simply because its not a huge savings for each individual, we miss an opportunity to save hugely in both environmental costs, and overall operations costs for those companies supplying our electricity.

    Eventually, both will translate into a better world, in some small way or other, and both should stave off utility bill cost increases, if not stop the growth of electricity usage.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Do the same with your old fridge, say you save 75 watt hours per day, multiplied by say 350 million units.

      Especially with large appliances, cars, and the like, you typically save a hell of a lot more energy by continually repairing it and by not buying a newer, more efficient model than you would by going and buying the most energy-efficient model you can find.

      The amount of energy that goes into building the average appliance is truly astounding. You have to consider all of the materials that went into m

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hankwang (413283) *

        Especially with large appliances, cars, and the like, you typically save a hell of a lot more energy by continually repairing it and by not buying a newer, more efficient model

        As of 2005, the energy cost of manufacturing a car is 3 MWh (0.6 tons of CO2 equivalent) [greencarcongress.com], partially thanks to the fact that many parts of a car are recycled. Your mileage my vary, but that is equivalent to burning about 300 liters of gasoline. Replacing a gas-guzzling SUV (12 liters per 100 km) by a compact (6 liters per 100 km) will

        • by Jerf (17166)
          And the real moral of your post is... Stop guessing!

          I've said several times, I'd love to call myself an "environmentalist" but it involves too much sanctimonious guessing about what's green and what's not.

          This is a place for science, not doing things because they feel good. Things you think are green may be a net negative (much recycling, some poor alternate energy ideas); things that you may think are horrible may be a great idea (certain replacement schemes as hankwang shows, other alternate energies like
      • Two environment threads in one day ;^)

        While your point is largely valid, you have to remember that all of those subsidiary energy costs are amortized over a large number of items, not just one that you're calculating the cost of. Those people that were fed and clothed - they would have been either way. But yeah, it's just a nitpick really the headline cost of an item is not the whole story
    • by Radon360 (951529)

      Not discounting that helping the environment isn't a noble motivation in and of itself, but something that would be more universally accepted as motivation is that it will save you money. $25 a month is perhaps another night you can go eat out, or, over the course of a year or so, money for the next batch of software/hardware upgrades needed to fend off obsolesence.

      Then again, if you're a Silicon Valley/Redmond, WA multi-billionaire, you're probably more motivated by the first reason.

  • Get a good PSU anyhow. They are great. The less power usage = less heat, slower fan, less noise. Also, the better ones tend to have better regulation and put out more stable power. The one I really like is the Corsair HX series (they have a 520 and 620 watt supply). Amazingly quiet PSU, even in my fairly heavily loaded system.

    So it's really a win-win kind of thing. Even taking any sort of environmental concerns aside, a good PSU a a good buy.
  • Does anyone know whether there are any hack to turn DSL routers into basic web servers? My ideal solution, would be:

    - main computer powered down
    - DSL router serves basic web site
    - If requests are made on ssh port or 'extend web site', then Wake on LAN is sent to main PC
    - PC goes to sleep after a certain amount of idle time or explicit command

    Of course this is probably only useful for home PCs, but this would allow the main computer to only be on wh
    • by a16 (783096)
      The Linksys NSLU2 is a nice little device, it's a little ARM based linux box that you're supposed to plug USB disks into and use as a NAS. But of course you can run linux on it (even normal Debain), and hence you could get the setup that you're looking for going I imagine. And super low power usage. Only £55 as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSLU2 [wikipedia.org] http://www.nslu2-linux.org/ [nslu2-linux.org]
    • by WoTG (610710)
      Just this week I've been looking at a potential use of a hacked Asus WL-500G plus OpenWRT. This Asus router has 2 USB ports. The OpenWRT package has some web servers available... and a lot of other stuff.
  • You get a better, quicker bang for the buck reducing methane. It's a bigger culprit in warming, and cycles out of the environment in less than a decade.

    So, I guess you need to build a vegetarian computer.
  • The power plug on my desktop computer is plugged into to a Kill-A-Watt [thinkgeek.com] Watt meter which shows that I am using 94 Watts at the moment. My large 19 inch monitor uses a different power cord and is using additional power not included in that figure. I have an older socket 939 version of the AMD-64 3800+ which, when running a 64-bit version of Linux, throttles the CPU back to 1 GHz during light usage to save power. Under heavy usage it goes up to its full 2.4 GHz speed and uses significantly more power then.

    • by Rick17JJ (744063)

      Ooops, looking at the specs, I see that the power supply is 85% efficient (not 83% efficient). I just wanted to correct that minor detail.

  • Inconsequent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thsths (31372) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:34PM (#18212784)
    This guy wants to build a "green PC", and he uses a wireless keyboard with batteries? I give him the benefit of the doubt: maybe he was not around yet when all the eco hippies were running their holy crusade against batteries. But anyway the problem should be obvious: getting two new batteries every few month probably offsets all the savings of a few kilowatt hours. Especially if they are just thrown in the bin.

    Summary: too much hot are to be green.
  • by linvir (970218) on Friday March 02, 2007 @06:37PM (#18212834)

    In this room sit two very different computers:

    • A P3 Thinkpad laptop
    • A P4 Prescott desktop

    I still love using that Thinkpad, because it hardly even needs a fan, whereas the desktop is practically heating the room [linuxvirus.net].

    Just thinking about it makes me want to sell my desktop on ebay and use the money to stock up on old Thinkpads to save for the future.

  • by neonfrog (442362) on Friday March 02, 2007 @07:03PM (#18213116)
    Several times he said something like, "It's lead free and RoHS so you can throw it away guilt-free!" That's just not true!

    RoHS does not equal guilt-free trashing. It attempts to equal a full cycle approach.

    RoHS stuff is low lead, true, BUT it is marked with a little trashcan that has a line through it. That icon is telling you DO NOT THROW THIS IN THE TRASH. Have it properly disposed of or return it to the manufacturer. While it contains no lead, it may contain OTHER hazardous materials (eat some no-lead resistors and a slice of PCB, tell me how that makes you feel). It needs to be reclaimed, and NOT end up in a landfill. That's what RoHS is ALSO about.

    I'm not a super greenie (I *am* wearing a green shirt) but even I know that trash is a part of the green picture. He had a shred of info about low power and efficient power supplies, but green does not equal guilt-free trashing. Ever.
    • by mollymoo (202721)

      RoHS does not equal guilt-free trashing. It attempts to equal a full cycle approach.

      RoHS [wikipedia.org] is about removing nasty stuff from devices, but it says nothing about recycling. It's WEEE [wikipedia.org] which deals with the full life-cycle.

  • by PhysicsPhil (880677) on Friday March 02, 2007 @07:36PM (#18213434)
    The article talks largely about the power consumption of a computer, but simply making the silicon chips is a major undertaking as well. In the small research facility I work in, we have:

    * Several thousand square feet of cleanroom, stabilized at 40% humidity and controlled at 20 C, with the full air volume being changed every two minutes. The air conditioners run all day, every day.
    * Deionized water cascade system, which run at 4 litres per minute (think flushing your toilet every minute). The DI loop uses several litres of city water to make one litre of DI water.
    * Oxidation furnaces, which typically run at 1000 C
    * Photoresists and solvents of all kinds, ranging from the generic acetone (nail polish remover) to the really nasty stuff. I just replaced 20 L of solvents today to replace what we used over the last week. We trap the used stuff, but it all has to be disposed of safely later (incineration in some cases).
    * A variety of chloro- and fluorocarbons, including C4F8, used for silicon etching. It's not really possible to trap the stuff, so it goes up the stack and depletes the ozone layer.
    * A large number of deposition and etching systems, each with very large vacuum pumps running continuously. We shut these off at Christmas, but that's it.

    This is just for a small-scale research lab. For an industrial fab, this would be multiplied many times over. Just making the silicon chips has a nontrivial environmental impact.
  • I tried to make a green PC once. I thought I did a really good job.

    Then some Greenpeace hippies beat the snot out of me for using up 4 cans of aerosol spraypaint....
  • 3.5" hard disks are hogs at the trough and you can save yourself pocketbook pain (and decibels) by using 2.5" notebook drives in your PC. OS X spins disks down nicely and Apple machines become dormant very effectively.

    Everyone who buys a big LCD monitor without looking at the wattage is not doing the power grid a favour. The best value in an LCD monitor seems to be the 19" screen -- anything bigger is a hog at the trough, regardless of who makes it. Philips makes a 19" LCD monitor that only uses 34 watts.

    Ne
  • ///ly safe computer.

    It's when you throw it out that it hurts the enviroment.

    duh!!!
  • Misguided... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday March 02, 2007 @09:21PM (#18214190) Journal
    First off, it's nice to have energy-efficient everything. However, a world of attention is being paid to squeezing a few more percent out of PCs, which are using about as much power on average as a lightbulb. I'd really suggest you take a look at your refrigerator before spending lots of money on low-power PC components.

    Just a few days ago, I was looking for new power supplies. The cheapest I found 80%+ PSUs like Seasonic were over $40, meanwhile, 70% efficient PSUs are $10 (both prices including S+H). It will take quite a while to pay off the difference in electricity, even here in CA, and my PSUs don't seem to survive very long to begin with.

    Incidentally, is this guy a complete moron???

    From TFA:

    A PC uses 200 to 400 watts, depending on its configuration and use.

    They certainly can, but most don't. Mine max-out around 90W + 30W LCD.

    In fact, most computers drain more power than they need during normal operation,

    Everything drains more power than needed. Nothing is 100% efficient, nor can it possibly be.

    If a PSU meets the certification [...] Only when the PC requires full power will the PSU run at the full wattage load.

    As opposed to non-certified PSUs that run at 500W when the system only needs 20? What? That doesn't even remotely make any sense.

    an inefficient 500-watt PSU typically drains more than 500 watts of power.

    An efficient 500-watt PSU always drains more than 500 watts of power as well...

    If you've got the money, upgrade your green PC with a better drive once they are released.

    Well, he's just completely defeated the purpose of this "green PC" by telling people to throw away perfectly good working components. Good job.

    Also, it's hard to take his "green PC" seriously with a Core 2 Duo, instead of something like a Turion (or a Geode like the OLPC), which would uses about 1/4th the power. Saying it's "green" because it is lower power than a P4 is setting the bar pretty low...

    This is an awfully brain-dead article for /.
  • by Damek (515688) <adamNO@SPAMdamek.org> on Friday March 02, 2007 @10:04PM (#18214444) Homepage
    This isn't actually an Extreme Tech article, it's a PC Mag article [pcmag.com].

    A friend of mine sent this to me recently since I'm somewhat active in environmental circles and also a "tech" guy in some senses to my friends. I'll note here the same thing I noted to them:

    You may as well just buy a Mac mini. 66% power usage (110 watts for Mac mini vs. 168 for this guy's setup), no Vista (100% better if you ask me), no time spent buying separate components and assembling them (easy!!), and Apple has a nice trade-in/recycling program, not to mention they're compliant with EU environmental standards.

    And these days you can even run Windows on it if you really really have to for some strange reason. No, I'm not a Mac fanboy. I'm just pointing out the obvious. Greenest, easiest PC you can buy? A Mac. Someone please prove me wrong buy pointing to a "greener" PC from Dell, HP, Gateway or some other major manufacturer.
  • I know... (Score:2, Funny)

    by GLneo (993471)
    we should make our computers from dominoes!: http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/03/ 02/0040228 [slashdot.org]
  • by SIGBUS (8236) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @12:56AM (#18215244) Homepage
    Last week, I heard a muffled "pop" coming from my server, followed by it powering off. Sure enough, after six years, the PSU had finally succumbed to Bad Capacitor Syndrome [badcaps.net]. I picked a new PSU that had active power factor correction and a high-efficiency design - and found that my UPS was reporting about 40% less load, in spite of the only change being the power supply.

    Switching from a CRT monitor to an LCD made another big difference. It's surprising how much of a power hog a CRT can be. The 22" widescreen I have now uses less than half the power of my old 17" CRT!

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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