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Power Earth IT

Companies Waste $2.8 Billion Per Year Powering Unused PCs 348

snydeq writes "Unused PCs — computers that are powered on but not in use — are expected to emit approximately 20 million tons of CO2 this year, roughly equivalent to the impact of 4 million cars, according to report by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy. All told, US organizations will waste $2.8 billion to power 108 million unused machines this year. The notion that power used turning on PCs negates any benefits of turning them off has been discussed recently as one of five PC power myths. By turning off unused machines and practicing proper PC power management, companies stand to save more than $36 per desktop PC per year."
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Companies Waste $2.8 Billion Per Year Powering Unused PCs

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  • Magic smoke (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:52AM (#27339397)

    Unused PCs computers that are powered on but not in use are expected to emit approximately 20 million tons of CO2 this year

    How exactly does that happen? What about the computers that are powered by a nuclear reactor?

    I thought when CPUs emit smoke you have to buy a new one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      You're forgetting that the method of environmentalists is to always assume the worst, then multiply that until it's newsworthy. Then claim it's 'scientific evidence' just because somebody made a computer model with values that don't actually exist.
      • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:00AM (#27339947) Journal

        Umm you forgot that along with "scientific evidence", they also claim the consensus is in and the science is settled so if you question it, you either hate people or work for an oil company.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) *
          Deliberate misinformation and hyperbole is now insightfull???
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by SkyDude ( 919251 )

            Deliberate misinformation and hyperbole is now insightfull???

            Did you forget where you are?

      • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:53AM (#27340217)

        Exactly. Environmentalism will get more traction if they are honest about their data. We as a general population are use to hearing the doom conditions, as people are trying to push their agenda. So they do their computer models and give the results of the 4th standard deviation of the results.

        The more truth is the fact if we reduce our power consumptions for the long term then the power companies can lower their output, as there is less demand. However the fact that your PC is on last night doesn't mean you PC is the cause of so much Carbon in the air. As it would still be there if you turn it off.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ahankinson ( 1249646 )

          Exactly! Like how Neo-Cons will get more adherents if only they used more facts.

          Not everybody is driven by science or data. In fact, for a lot of people, putting numbers like this in front of them is the only way that they'll understand that they have an impact on the environment, whether it's empirically true or not.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jellomizer ( 103300 )

            Well there where always be a group of people that you will not convince. However if you are going to get the general population, I think responsible environmentalism is the key.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

          Well, where I am at we get our power from a pair of nuclear reactors so I ain't worried about this too much. Couple this with the fact that one of my more popular services with my SMB customers is to set it up so they can log into their office machines from home if they don't feel like coming into work but want to get a little work done, and the fact that WOL can sometimes be iffy and having a PO'ed client bitching at you because he had to come into the office after a dentist appointment because for whateve

          • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

            by NeverVotedBush ( 1041088 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @10:02AM (#27341471)
            You do realize there are consequences from getting your power from nuclear reactors and then wasting it, don't you?

            Higher load means more reactors may need to be built, it generates more radioactive waste, heats up more water, raises the risk of accident, etc.

            And since you are using nuclear fuel that much faster, more has to be mined and refined which adds to CO2 loading, chemical and radioactive chemical waste streams.

            In addition, since the country is on a grid and utilities can flow excess capability into neighboring regions, you reduce that excess capability and therefore increase the amount of CO2 that some coal or natural gas-fired plant generates.

            There are consequences for everything.

            And sure, your computer or two doesn't make much of a contribution, but the more people that feel like you and also waste power adds up. That is the attitude that got us where we are now.
    • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

      by philipgar ( 595691 ) <> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:10AM (#27339469) Homepage
      Actually, even the ones powered by coal are likely not wasting much CO2. Considering a machine is most likely to be sitting idle at night, and that the coal plants have to operate 24/7 (they can't dynamically lower their power output, that's provided by secondary sources during the afternoon). Power usage generally peaks in the afternoon, and so other power generation stations (those like natural gas that can be brought online quickly) handle the peak load, but, as coal power is cheaper, they try to get as much as possible from the coal. If the base load provided by the coal is greater than the power being consumed, than any additional power demanded isn't really "wasting" electricity. It's just using electricity that has already been generated. Of course, if this amount is great enough to change the power plants operating conditions, it does matter, and as far as the businesses are concerned, this power does cost money, and quite a bit of it.

      However, saying the plant is releasing more CO2 for these computers is generally not true.

      • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Informative)

        by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes@[ ] ['xms' in gap]> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:03AM (#27340283)

        28.8 billion kWh/year is more than enough to 'change the power plants operating conditions'. A 125 MWe unit (the output of one generator of a nearby power station) delivers about 1 billion kWh/y, so shutting down all PCs at night would make a significant dent in the base load.

        • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Velska1 ( 1435341 ) <> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:12AM (#27340343) Journal

          Dude, you can shut down a PC at night, and get it running in the morning.

          You can not, however, do the same thing with a power plant. It takes much longer to cycle up.

          Anyhow, what we would need is a lot of high-efficiency photovoltaic panels, that would create the most power exactly when you have peak demand in the areas where solar is viable to begin with.

          • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

            by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:24AM (#27340445)

            You are missing the point completely. The point is that if most businesses started switching off their computers at night, the power companies would most likely change their operating conditions.

            It might make it less economically viable to maintain such a high base load during the night, meaning it becomes more profitable to shift some of the power production on the sources with a shorter power up/down cycle.

            Educating companies about how much money they are wasting is likely to be far more effective than asking them to be green for the environment.

    • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:25AM (#27339799)

      What about the computers that are powered by a nuclear reactor?

      Is THAT what they're pushing as minimum spec for Windows now?

    • The CO2 emissions are entirely useless to the purpose of the story and are just put in for emotional appeal.

    • What about the computers that are powered by a nuclear reactor?

      I just hope Sony doesn't make it...

    • Re:Magic smoke (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PianoComp81 ( 589011 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:16AM (#27340379)

      What about the computers that are powered by a nuclear reactor?

      It's still wasting company money. Who cares about how much CO2 is put out when really all the company really cares about is how much money they're wasting? For that matter, if we turned our computers off at home, we'd save money on our own bills. I know my power bill would probably be $20-$30 less if I turned my computer off when it wasn't in use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Electricity is a fluid commodity. Although long-distance transmission losses mean that power is consumed mostly near to where it is generated, I wouldn't make a blanket statement. The study is, after all, making generalizations about computers all over, which are powered by a mix of energy sources. So, the emissions attributable to them should take that mix into account.

      In making these kinds of calculations, I'd just figure the energy makeup of the entire United States [] (or whichever country you prefer
  • by rarel ( 697734 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:53AM (#27339401) Homepage
    I'm at work, enviro-conscious, and I love my company. So I'll turn my workstation off right n
    • by daem0n1x ( 748565 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:22AM (#27339783)

      It has nothing to do with loving your company. What people don't realize often is that wasting company resources affects those who work in it.

      If the employees are wasting too much power, the money to pay for them won't be taken from shareholder dividends or executive incentives. It will come from salaries.

      So, it's not about loving the company. Don't waste company resources because, in the end, it's YOU who pays the bill.

      Besides, also think about the impact of waste on the environment.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:11AM (#27339999)
        Don't be so naive. You save the company money, you won't see a dime. Shareholder dividends and executive incentives expand to fill the available budget.
      • Re:obvious reaction (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:16AM (#27340019) Journal

        The story says $36 per desktop computer per year could be saved. Now that sound like a lot of money at a company with 500 desktops ($18,000). But that company will have at least 500 employees and probably more. At 10% more or 550 employees to work those 500 desktop computers, that brings the potential salary increases to about $32 a year. If the average person works 38 hours a week and 48 weeks a year (1842 hours), that's about a penny or less per hour raise.

        But it gets even worse. The heat cycles of computers heating up when in use and cooling down when powered off will take a small toll on the life of the computer. So I guess the real question might be is if the computer lasts 2 years instead of 3 or 4 or even 5 years, how many of those would need to be replaced because the Co2 emitted from making the things from scratch outweighed the entire carbon savings from the $36 worth of electricity not in use assuming that the power for those computers don't already come from a Co2-less generating facility. My guess is that an early replacement on any of them will offset any environmental savings which sort of makes this idea more hand waving then anything.

        • by cyclocommuter ( 762131 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:42AM (#27340541)

          I assembled an AMD Athlon / Athlon ASUS A7N8X and a Pentium 4 / MSI motherboard powered PCs at about the same time more than 5 years ago and these computers are being powered on and off almost everyday. They still work.

          Newer PC components especially the motherboard usually still have juice in them even though you power them off. The CPUs and graphics card even when powered on will still experience heat cycles ranging from just above room temp when idle and depending on the efficacy of the cooling system, to 60 C (for CPUs) or 90 C (for high end graphics cards) when playing games.

  • by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:53AM (#27339403) Homepage

    I think the fundamental problem is that in the West, energy (specifically watts-hours of electricity in this case) have been so cheap in the last few decades as to be effectively free. This is changing now through worldwide recession and the depletion of the easy-to-get fossil fuel. Once electricity prices start seriously ramping up (which they inevitably will), companies will be giving their utility bills a lot more scrutiny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Once electricity prices start seriously ramping up (which they inevitably will), companies will be giving their utility bills a lot more scrutiny.

      I suggest you look at photovoltaics and a little thing called Moore's law. Electricity will be cheaper in the future than in the now. Of course, conservation, including automagically turning off unused computers, is still the best buy. But my computer stays on. 8 months out of the year, it's an efficient electric heater. 2 months out of the year, it's an undesira

  • Productivity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:55AM (#27339409) Homepage

    I could lose $36 worth of productivity in a few days. My desktop and servers stay ON.

    • by struppi ( 576767 )
      What, because you have to wait 30 seconds until your computer boots up? Go get a coffee while you wait!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by worip ( 1463581 )
        No, because logging on, firing up applications and development environments, opening any projects/files that you are working on takes time. Say conservatively 10 mins per day. That is 50 mins per work week. That is almost an hour of my time a week - already exceeding the cost of the energy (depending on your hourly rate of course).
        • Re:Productivity (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Zebedeu ( 739988 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:31AM (#27339825)

          Never heard of suspend? Hybernate?

        • Is ten minutes a day really that conservative? I know booting machines feel like they're taking an age, but normally it's only a minute or so. How many times do you turn your computer on/off a day? What is making you watch it doing so instead of doing something else?

          • Re:Productivity (Score:4, Interesting)

            by zehaeva ( 1136559 ) <`zehaeva+slashdot' `at' `'> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:07AM (#27340315)
            even if you assume 1min per day to turn on you've got 20min per month. depending on your pay grade you maybe at that 36 dollars a month(200k/yearish). if you throw in having to download a profile from the server and security scripts running, even a an increase in that time of getting the computer to a usable state, say 3min per day, nets us 60min to month so that expands to people making err 70k a year? Automated off and on systems to prime the systems before the employees get in would be best. but how much to develop that? cost/benefit analysis always interests me.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lauwersw ( 727284 )
          Don't tell us you're reading /. from home, we don't believe you. That will cost you at least 10 minutes a day as well...
      • In an large business environment, software updates, scans, audits, defrags, etc all happen at night, and WOL isn't always magically delicious (some people turn off their surge protector instead of their computer + monitor). Thus, a policy of "keep your &#$#^$@ machine turned on or I'll reboot it for updates while you're working" is instituted and adhered to with the tenacity of the BOFH. After just one time of having their work-flow or coding-zone interrupted (losing _far_ more than $36 in productivit
  • by jw3 ( 99683 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:59AM (#27339419) Homepage
    Of course, this solution is not for everyone, but it works quite nice at the university where I'm working. Three departments (chemistry, biology and physics) got together to form a computer administrative unit. Essentially, any workstation at one of these three dpts has the same version of OS (mostly Windows) with the same software installed. And each of these installations includes condor [] for distributed computing. Effectively, you get something comparable to a 1000+ nodes cluster -- and some of the machines are quite strong!
    Scientists and students alike are allowed to use it freely for their computations. There is a batch submission system, and a whole lot of numerical calculations run on these computers during night. There are a few caveats, though:
    • many biological applications need a large amount of data -- and the moment that you need to transfer gigabytes to each of the nodes (as they do not share storage) the whole thing is no longer reasonable.
    • you always have to take into account a 1-5% job loss, so if you want e.g. 1000 simulation runs, you should dispatch 1200 runs to be on the safe side. The job loss comes from a) machine being switched off b) machine having all sorts of random troubles (disk full, some weird software interaction) c) some jobs take awfully long to execute, so when 99% of your other jobs are done, you just need to kill the others.
    • Sometimes you rather launch the job locally and wait two days rather then spend half a day on preparing and testing the batch submission and get the results next morning (my time is more valuable than the CPU time...)

    All in all, you get lots of CPU, but low reliability. Which is fine for many applications. Additionally, not only you prevent energy wastage, but you also use the hardware more efficiently (so that the brand new quad core of the dpts secretary actually gets used in a reasonable way).
    By the way -- our admins hate it, when Windows computers are being switched off. They run the updates at night, as during the day the users are likely to stop an update that takes to long. I was being bashed for switching off computers during night :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by terraformer ( 617565 )
      You are absolutely wrong. A system like that is the exact opposite of efficient if you are leaving the PCs on *solely for the purposes of the cluster*. Grid computing is only efficient when you take what is under utilized and put it to work. The energy in any PC (server or desktop) can be split into two parts. Overhead and active. All of the overhead is what the PC consumes when it is idle (~0% utilization). All of the active is the power between idle and max consumption. On your typical desktop PC, more th
      • by jw3 ( 99683 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:09AM (#27339991) Homepage

        The computers are not being left *solely* for the purposes of the cluster. The policy of the university admins is to leave them overnight for updates, and anyway the users don't like to turn them off (so they don't have to wait for the computer to boot up in the morning). Therefore we are utilising what sits there idle anyway. Furthermore, anyway you don't take into account the overhead of buying a supercomputer / cluster with 1000+ nodes in the first place -- and we are utilising what has already been payed for (both in terms of money from the university and in terms of energy used / CO2 emission that took to produce the units). Finally, buying a supercomputer / cluster is, due to the necessary bureaucracy involved in expensive investments, a major pain in the ass and also a system-administrative effort.

        Of course, this solution cannot replace a proper cluster -- I have already outlined why, and also I agree with you in puncto efficiency. But if you have a bunch of PCs sitting around idle at night, and need calculations -- this may be a cheap and quick solution.


        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          The policy of the university admins is to leave them overnight for updates, and anyway the users don't like to turn them off (so they don't have to wait for the computer to boot up in the morning).

          Then use wake-on-LAN to turn them on an hour before the shift starts and apply updates from your WSUS (or other OS counterpart) server, and then they'll restart ready for the users to log in.

      • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:17AM (#27340025)

        1. paragraph tags make posts as long as yours easier to read, for future note

        2.Your essential point is it's more efficient to use one presumably NUMA supercomputer to complete a task, which may or may not be the case depending on the supercomputer and the task given, but the point is.. they don't have a supercomputer, and likely don't have the funding for one.

        Using their spare pc's at night in a clustered environment would be one of the most cost-efficient things they could do in so far as hardware purchasing, considering they already need and have the pc's setup in the right configuration

        we don't all have a 128-cpu onyx 3800 gargantuan tower sitting in our closets for this kind of computing, we do tend to have at least a few relatively fast desktops available which would otherwise be off or idling.

  • by LoadWB ( 592248 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:11AM (#27339473) Journal

    The ROI article mentions a product which you BUY to shut down your PCs.

    I have a free solution:

    shutdown -s -t 0 -f -m

    You can schedule that at your server to force all computers to shut down at a specified time.

    Something along the lines of

    for /f "skip=3 tokens=1 delims=\" %m in ('net view') do shutdown -s -t 0 -f -m %m

    Now, you could be nice and change -t 0 to something like -t 45 and give any poor sucker at a terminal a chance to shutdown -a, or at least close programs. (There will be one error at the end for the success notice.)

    I do not recommend using that on a network without some tweaking: it will also shut down servers which show up in net view. Just a basic idea, and I do use a modified version of it at a couple of sites.

    Even a scheduled wol.exe could run to make sure computers are able to run updates overnight.

    Or you could push out a group policy that forces suspend after an hour of inactivity, and sets Windows Update to wake the computer to run. No fuss, no muss.

    Now, what did all that cost us?

    • by totally bogus dude ( 1040246 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:17AM (#27339775)

      Not so good with Vista though, as the warning dialog appears in another desktop. Part of that secure desktop thingy for UAC prompts and the like. You get a program appear in the taskbar but unless you actually notice it and click on it you'll never know your PC is about to shut down.

      Your basic point is correct though, but I think a lot of organisations prefer to buy stuff than have in-house staff capable of writing even simple scripts like this. Presumably it's for the same reason they'd rather pay some consulting company loads of money to build an SOE we could've done ourselves: if it's outsourced to a high-priced company, it must be better!

      I didn't RTFA, but does the product they're suggesting produce pie charts? That's probably the answer.

  • Dumb Terminals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:15AM (#27339487) Homepage

    Use dumb terminals, something like sunrays...

    Configure them to shut off when idle instead of run a screensaver, when you power it back on it boots pretty much instantly and the user can re-enter their password (or reinsert their smartcard) and be back where they were, all the session state is stored on the server.

    No need to keep machines on overnight for updates, because the terminals are dumb enough not to need updates...

    Dumb terminals boot instantly, so no need to keep machines pre loaded to save booting time.

    Put a power breaker by the door, last one out can turn the breaker off, first one in can turn it on (they used to do this in our computer labs at college)... There shouldn't need to be anything turned on in an office when there's no people there.

    • Re:Dumb Terminals (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:25AM (#27340077) Homepage Journal

      It's sad that it's so easy to come up with ways to save power, but so few places and people actually implement them. I even have a colleague who refuses to turn off his computer, because "a 100 W more or less doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things". He's right about that, of course, but what he and many others don't realize is that doing the little things can actually affect the grand scheme of things. I, for example, use less than half as much electricity as the average household around me, simply because I use energy-efficient products and turn off most things when I'm not using them. It's not a lot of trouble, but if everybody did it, we could easily halve the power consumed by households!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        It's not a lot of trouble, but if everybody did it, we could easily halve the power consumed by households!

        Actually spend the time to turn things off?! I spent too much time turning them on! You're asking too much! It'll take away time from my Jerry Springer!

        I, for example, use less than half as much electricity as the average household around me, simply because I use energy-efficient products and turn off most things when I'm not using them.

        What! Save?!? Save energy!?

        Let me tell you something you tie-died tee-shirt Birkenstock wearing Prius driving hippy pinko! This is America! WE don't conserve! We don't have to! We get our oil cheap. As far back as I can remember, October or so, oil has never been expensive and there's ALWAYS been plenty of it! And let's say, for the sake of argument you hip

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )

        He's right about that, of course, but what he and many others don't realize is that doing the little things can actually affect the grand scheme of things.

        Why do you think so many people on the right ridiculed Obama when he stated that part of his energy plan was to get people using more efficient lighting?

        Simply put: people are stupid. No, really stupid. And so they don't understand the large aggregate effect you get from a lot of small changes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bongo ( 13261 )

        if everybody did it, we could easily halve the power consumed by households!

        I agree with you if you look at it that way. But our world is far more varied and complex, and not everyone is like you. My carbon footprint happens to be tiny (one room apartment, never owned a car, work locally, haven't flown anywhere in 10 years, no kids.) But all those things are for other reasons. Try to change people so that they make a real noticeable savings in energy, like we can start turning off power stations, and it bec

  • Screensavers & ET (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Can everyone please turn off their fucking screensavers and just configure your screen to blank out, your monitor to shut off, and suspend the computer if you can too?

    Hey geniuses-- there's no point to having your CPU heat up the planet when you create CO2 to run the AC to cool down a room heated by a CPU which is burning fossil fuels to show some stunning complex 3d imagery to absolutely no one in an empty fucking room.


    (Oh, and by the way-- SETI@Home is a bullshit waste of time too. It's not like

  • by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:42AM (#27339613)

    This doesn't take into account the vast, vast amount of time, energy and resources wasted by people who don't know how to use the fucking things properly in the first place. Let's start there before we get to titivating with power-management.

    I've lost count of the number of times I've had to show people how to do the simplest things, to save them hours of wasted effort each week. This usually leads to me writing explicit instructions and disseminating to those concerned but, ultimately, people just don't care (and I have trained people for a living with notable success, so it's not a "techie-personality pissing people off" thing).

    Power-management? How about education. If every office-worker were to spend one day a year going through their daily grind with someone sat beside them who knows how to use their PC's potential (and how to explain it), productivity would double. I'm not just slagging off my luddite colleagues here; I know there are things I could do better, and would genuinely welcome the attention of someone who could show me how.

    Sorry to vent my frustrations here, but it's that or do it at work. To put it bluntly: nice study, but frankly you're just pissing in the ocean.

    • by bertok ( 226922 )

      At least 50% of office workers, even in IT, don't use cut-and-paste to move bits of text from one place to another. The number of times I've seen someone oh-so-slowly type in a piece of data they have in an email right in front of their face just stuns me. And they make typos. Lots of them. Sometimes they correct the typos (slowly), sometimes they don't.

      Even if you're too lazy to remember the keyboard shortcuts, there's at least two different ways to copy with just the mouse in most Windows applications: se

      • The number of times I've seen someone oh-so-slowly type in a piece of data they have in an email right in front of their face just stuns me.

        Are you sure that the piece of data wasn't received in a PDF with the "copy text" permission turned off or perhaps in a PDF of a scanned page with no OCR?

  • So I went to the linked article. Still didn't make sense. Especially the phrase "computers that are powered on but not in use." Then I went into the report the story is based on and it finally made sense. According to the report, 50% of people do not turn their computers when they leave work. So the computer stays on all night, or all weekend. Well those people are just fuckin' retarded.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Migraineman ( 632203 )
      I disagree with that last statement. I'm doing some embedded development right now, and I leave my machines on overnight intentionally. Powering up the entire system to the point where I can continue from CoB yesterday would take 30 minutes or so. I'd chew through that $36-per-year savings in a few days, possibly one day if I'm working at a customer's site running at my external-billing rate rather than my internal rate.

      And no, I can't just go get coffee while the machine boots itself. The applicat
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So you're the exception. Hooray! Seriously, what's wrong with a receptionist turning off their computer that's used for email & a spreadsheet or two at night?

  • by fprintf ( 82740 )

    So this was on the Reg yesterday, and the comments were all virtually the same, on two variations:

    1. The company has to pay people to sit around while PCs power up and down, eliminating any benefit from powering down the PCs since people are so much more expensive.
    2. The company pushes updates and such automatically at night when computer/network usage is low, making it less expensive (again, saving money over power saved) than pushing the updates when people turn on their computers in the morning.

    I turn mo

  • by Air-conditioned cowh ( 552882 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:02AM (#27339719)

    As a Linux user I am used to laptops and desktops never quite working because the BIOS power management only works with Windows.

    There are two possible reasons for that. One is that the open source software hasn't been written yet to take advantage of published APIs or, another possibility is that the manufacture is hiding it's APIs to make it really difficult to use anything except Windows to manage the system power.

    If it is the latter then in it seems to me highly irresponsible on the part of the hardware manufactures. How to save energy when their hardware is not being used is really not something to be hiding for any reason these days.

    I realise I don't exactly represent a significant number of users here. I'm just thinking in terms of what I can do to save energy at my own desktop (apart from the obvious switching stuff off when not in use!) and what's in the way. And Windows-centric BIOS's seem to be the main culprit.

  • by billius ( 1188143 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:08AM (#27339737)
    are malware-laden Windows boxes at small businesses with little or no regular IT Staff. I did contract IT work for small business a while back and some of the computers I had to deal with were borderline unusable. In some cases, a full reboot meant a full 15 minutes before the computer was in some semblance of working order again. That's definitely enough time to make a less savvy user want to just leave the thing on overnight and only shutdown/reboot when you really had to. And of course many of these folks didn't want to hear about how their super-awesome toolbars were the root of the problem.
  • Surely they account for a larger amount than desktops. I can point out racks where there is so little access at night I am surprised the drives don't sleep.

    I am very sure if you looked at every nook and cranny you can find waste. In business areas this occurs for two reasons, the first "I'm not paying for it" and the second being "too afraid to ask if its ok". You could toss in "too stupid to know" and "no one high up will make a decisions" but it really doesn't matter. Waste is built into the system.


  • Let this be a lesson. Don't stay in a sealed room with a PC. You will suffocate.
  • Save Energy! Conversation is Cool! *Powers down server without telling anyone 12 hours before big final project is due.*
  • I don't think that this is in the company's best interest. $36 a year is 10c a day, and even if the machine boots in 1 minute, that's ~$20/60 = 33c of wasted employee time. So there's not that much incentive (carbon trading may change this). I'd be interested to see the effect of Sleep mode, however, as that boots much faster.
    • by rikkards ( 98006 )

      Stand by or Sleep?
      I found putting a desktop into Standby drops the wattage from 82W to 2W.
      Huge difference. In windows, stopping the desktop hard drives did not affect the 82W load. It just stopped it from cycling to a higher wattage with any little disk seek.

      Another advantage with Standby, is you can set up scheduled tasks to wake up the machine.

  • I dont know why someone hasnt designed an easier to setup method to have pc's wake on lan signal boot the hard drive, so that systems can be powered on at 5am or such, prior to folks getting to work.

    That would eliminate most folks problems of waiting for their computer to boot up when they get to work.

  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:30AM (#27340099)

    When my wife bangs her mouse around at home complaining it takes so long for the "screensaver" to give back her desktop. Clearly, the place she works hasn't set any power saving on their machines or she would know what is going on. I believe with about 500 employees at their peak last year, maybe they could have fired a couple fewer on their recent rounds of layoffs if they had actually used power saving.

  • Power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:38AM (#27340145) Homepage

    And any company THAT bothered by this would be using more power-efficient PC's anyway. Face it, 99% of staff using a computer as part of their daily work don't need a full desktop PC and certainly don't need dual-core systems with Gbs of RAM. So instead of faffing about trying to recoup some of the loss from buying that terrible hardware in the first place (monetary costs, environmental costs, maintenance costs, etc.) they would be much better off buying some low-power desktops (like the Atom's, Via's etc.) and thus not pumping most of their electricity into heat wastage, fans, office cooling, etc. when they could just have a small 60W or so (maximum) PC that does the same jobs.

    Those who are committed to their existing hardware - well, they should have been specifying and testing WOL, ACPI sleep, etc. in the first place if they wanted to make sure it worked in their particular environment. Chances are those stuck on old machines will have more problems trying to get the PC to sleep and to wake on cue than they would have just to buy a new cheap desktop. My pet hate is machines that won't WOL without having first been turned on manually - a power cut overnight (when the machines aren't on) means that the PC's just sit there and ignore WOL packets. And that is on fairly recent hardware (2 years old?). I know it's "wake" on LAN, but a full boot and complete shutdown (not sleep mode) will let it respond to WOL packets forever until the power disappears again.

    I would hazard a guess that the following ALL save more power than would be saved by shutting off PC's overnight for a lot less hassle and inconvenience:

    - Cutting off background services in Windows.
    - Replacing hardware with more modern equipment.
    - Disabling, centralising and/or just changing vendor of the antivirus programs to use less CPU, disk-access, etc.
    - Replacing 10% of computers with a low-power alternative (even a laptop!)
    - Turning off WAP's and other unnecessary networking hardware overnight.
    - Turning the room temperature up/down by half a degree permanently (depending on the outside environment)
    - Installing doors that shut themselves to keep hot/cold air in.
    - Opening a couple of blinds/curtains to let sunlight into some of the less-used but still heated areas (cold-countries only) or fitting blinds/curtains to reduce the heat taken in from outside (hot-countries only).
    - Training users to use shortcut keys instead of clicking the mouse for everything.
    - Or removing that poxy plasma TV in the company reception which is on permanent loop playing to nobody.

    The thing is, we take power so much for granted that when we get told to "save" it, we worry over the little bits (energy-saving bulbs) and completely forget about the larger draws (heating / cooling). $36 / year / PC is nothing, no matter the scale of the company. Even a 100 PC office (which could theoretically save $3600 / year) will probably spend multiples of that on heating/cooling, bringing someone in to do the work, or make multiples of that amount by selling off some of their old IT kit, fitting those light fittings that only switch on if someone is actually in an office, etc.

    Getting businesses to understand means providing a valid, comparable reason. That normally means *money*. But even the green-friendly companies will save much, much, much, much more money by just replacing el-cheapo PC World computer with a decent low-power one and then selling off the old kit. If you do it right, you would even MAKE money by doing this (I know it's about £200/unit for a decent mini-ITX machine, and you could easily get that for a recent second-hand machine of good spec).

    It's a *waste* of time. The proportion of power you save does not justify the effort to do it, especially not when a tiny, unnoticeable adjustment to a thermostat saves ten times the amount of power, and the hassle associated with implementing power-friendly PC's does not justify the end. Put a sign up and send a memo round to staff to turn off their PC

  • OK, so you turn off your PC's at night. And when do you run updates? Try running updates and patches during the day in most environments and you'll get lynched by the users.

    Yes, there is Wake-on-LAN, but the technology is still spotty. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and Im sure you're using some juice keeping the card alive to respond to the WoL request.
  • The Math... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kenh ( 9056 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:44AM (#27340183) Homepage Journal

    The article said:

    All told, U.S. organizations will waste $2.8 billion to power 108 million unused machines this year.


    By turning off unused machines and practicing proper PC power management, companies stand to save more than $36 per desktop PC per year.

    When I multiply $36 in savings per PC times the 108 Million PCs being described, I get a possible savings of $3.88B, or about $1B more than the original article reported. We "waste" $2.8B, but we can "save" $3.88B by turning off unused PCs and practicing power management? Are the savings or the waste over-estimated? One has to be wrong...

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:49AM (#27340197)

    One of the reasons the machines don't get turned off is the expensive 5 minutes wasted by boot times. It's an irritating waste of precious time as you return from lunch or start work in the morning, it discourages turning off boxes at night, and it discourages turning off boxes during the day when unused.

    Unfortunately, this is partly the fault of Microsoft (who enourage stupid, resource gobbling behavior at boot time like frequent resource scanning by update software and unnecessary disk indexing), and BIOS's that use ancient, proprietary, and frankly broken tools to scan for hardware that hasn't been used in 10 years. The OLPC very successfully uses a LinuxBIOS and booting procedure that cuts this lengthy pause to seconds: it should be on every server and most desktops in the country, but motherboard makers are very reluctant to support it for various reasons. As near as I can tell, it's mostly due to fear of intellectual property issues involving ancient BIOS utilities, and unwillingness to publish their own hardware knowledge associated with their own particular component selection.

    I'd love to see ASUS use LinuxBIOS by default. I've actually been asked to do that for deployments: it wasn't mature enough to use yet at that time, but it seems much more stable now and of higher quality than the average new motherboard BIOS.

  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:12AM (#27340347) Homepage
    I've some coworkers whose PCs would be more productive turned off... I won't even go into their environmental impact... [shudder!] --Ray
  • by TractorBarry ( 788340 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:44AM (#27340563) Homepage

    How dare you call these PCs unused... They're part of my botnet you insensitive clods !

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.