Looking for Algae--the Next Voyage

The Brazilian winter was almost over, and while the mild winters in Florianopolis allowed me to work on the Agape, the coming of spring meant that it was time to set sail for new adventures.

Grayson, the youngest of the Pollywogs, showed up early in the morning at the dock, as I got ready to sail. "What are you doing?", he asked. "I am getting ready to study algae", I answered. "Algae!", he exclaimed, "why are you looking for that?"

Algae is very important to our lives. It is estimated that 73% to 87% of the net global production of oxygen is produced by algae. It is at the bottom of the food chain for most life in the sea, and it is being studied as a way to produce food for the teaming masses of tomorrow. Yet algae, like a lot of other things, is being threatened by global warming and other aspects of pollution.

How does this fit in with computing? Most of the readers of Linux Journal have at least one computer in their houses. I lost count of my own computer stock at about 15, and some of them are real electrical power-eaters. A lot of them have really dangerous chemicals in them, like lead and acidic materials. Fortunately, over time, power requirements per CPU and graphics cycles have gone down, as have costs for the hardware. Manufacturers, either through legislation or social and civic concern, have moved to making their systems from more environmentally-friendly components.

Unfortunately, we still have desktop systems today that are measured in the hundreds of Watts. My desktop machine has a power supply rated at 450 Watts, and I recently saw an IBM workstation rated at 850 Watts. Although it is true that these machines do not soak up that much power continuously, the power meter on the house does cycle quite fast when they are turned on.

Normally, we do not think too much about the cost of electricity when we run these systems, because either we do not pay for the electricity (our school or office does) or we are careful to turn off the computer when we are finished with it. However, several colliding factors may change our thinking for us.

First, the number of computers is poised to increase dramatically. It took us 60 years or more to manufacture the first billion general-purpose computers. Due to the drop in price of computers, it is estimated that the next billion computers will take only a few years. In the USA alone, there are families that have a computer for each child, for each parent and a home router. At some periods of the night, all of these systems may be on while Mom and Pop work and the kids scan the Net, do homework, play games or call their friends over VoIP.

The next thing to consider is that computers are replacing other types of electronics in our daily lives. VoIP telephony, multimedia systems(think LinuxMCE) and messaging systems of all types are beginning to be commonplace. Each of these systems shares a common characteristic: they do not function if the computer is turned off. These duties used to be managed by fairly low-power specialized devices, such as TiVos or drone devices, such as analog telephones.

Some people are replacing these relatively low-powered specialized devices with "media centers", relatively high-powered CPUs that act as servers for all of our daily needs, complete with "not-so-thin" clients that exist in every room. These systems have to be "always on" to do their jobs. This moves the demand for electricity to new highs.

I met a man who had five Pedabytes of data in his home cellar--a combination of TV shows he had recorded and movies he had copied onto his server. When I mentioned how cool it was, he said, "No, it is actually quite hot."

This brings about another point: it takes power to run the computers, and it takes power to cool the computers. In hot climates, the power for cooling the computers is almost equal to the power to run them.

Finally, all of this is compounded when you are "off the electric grid". When you are not hooked up to a dependable, reliable, adequate, inexpensive power supply, "always on" computing really suffers.

"Off the grid" could mean a city facing long brown or black outs. Having an uninterruptable power supply for mission-critical computing (and what could be more mission-critical than recording "The Simpsons") gets exponentially more expensive as the power requirements go up.

"Off the grid" also could mean people who have to generate their own power. This could be due to being in the middle of the Amazon jungle, far from any power lines, or it could mean being on the wrong side of a mountain in upstate New Hampshire. Or, it could mean being on a small island atoll or a small sailboat in the ocean. When you are "off the grid", the costs of generating your own electricity often increase dramatically.

In Brazil, the world's largest hydroelectric plant is called Itaipu. It generates 14 Gigawatts of power. Itaipu can generate enough electric power for 40 million desktop systems at 350 Watts of power apiece. It will take another 25 "Itaipus" for the next billion computers, and another 25 "Itaipus" (more or less) to cool those next billion computers.

We need to do our computing in smarter ways.

Today, there is a lot of concentrating on low-power, environmentally-friendly computing. Computers are being manufactured that are also RoHS-compliant, which means when they are discarded, they are easier on the environment.

It also means concentrating the computing power on the task at hand. It does not take much power to move data from an Ethernet port to a disk, or vice versa. Therefore, server systems that can do this simple task can be made to be very low power. It means turning off the high-power gaming machine when you are not playing the game, but leaving on the low-power server to capture your next TV show, or to accept and channel your next VoIP call.

The Linux Foundation has developed a new initiative to work on power management. This is good news. Linux can become (along with the choice for supercomputing, embedded systems and server farms) the "green operating system". We should help both the Linux Foundation and Linux move along this path, if not just to save ourselves money in electricity
and cooling, if not to help those "off the grid", then to help save the algae.

I finished stowing the gear on board the Agape. My time ashore was over, and it was time to shove off and look for new algae fields to study. I was fairly sure the Pollywogs would miss me, and I certainly would miss them and my other friends who visit the restaurant "Alideia dos Piratas".

As Grayson helped me with the docking lines, he asked me when I would be back and when he would see me again. I gave Grayson one last hug and a solemn salute before I climbed aboard.

"Perhaps never", I answered, "but when you really need me, I will return."

I did not look back as the Agape sailed away from Florianopolis, where I had spent so many happy months and met so many very wonderful people.

Jon "maddog" Hall is the Executive Director of Linux International (http://www.li.org), a nonprofit association of end users who wish to support and promote the Linux operating system. During his career in commercial computing, which started in 1969, Mr Hall has been a programmer, systems designer, systems administrator, product manager, technical marketing manager and educator. He has worked for such companies as Western Electric Corporation, Aetna Life and Casualty, Bell Laboratories, Digital Equipment Corporation, VA Linux Systems and SGI. He is now an independent consultant in Free and Open Source Software(FOSS) Business and Technical issues.

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Great Article

hotmail sign in's picture

Great article i have to agree with you when we think about the environment and conserving more energy, great article idea to be spreading

One who dont know about it

Anonymous's picture

One who dont know about it before may get useful information from this post , This one seems to me different type of post......well i wanna say that The way how u tried to explain some posts at here seems to me different 70-536 there are certainly different posts at here,but i didnt find any post related to projects like 70-540 ...if someone have information about it,do tell me!Well any updates related to this post?if yes than do tell me!actually i came here while surfing net to get data related to projects of 70-541 and find this post different one...Is there anyone having information about 70-542 if yes than do tell me!...any updates?if yes than do tell me!

o ne

kayya's picture

thank you big brother

Congrats for releasing such a

Anonymous's picture

Congrats for releasing such a nice post.This is nice post which I was awaiting for such an artice and I have gained some useful information from this site.I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my friends check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else .Thanks for sharing this information.

LIPO 6

Wow, what a story. You're

Custom papers's picture

Wow, what a story. You're quite good as writer, may I say! :)
Now, seriously. You brought up an important topic. Power consumption is a problem, as we get more and more and more electronic devices in our lives. Essays prove that the rate the power consumption grows is higher than the rate of power production increases. That can cause severe consequences as our world is ultimately dependent on energy.

Great post.....just ultimate

save fuel's picture

Great post.....just ultimate content and quite informative article But I think that you must more focus on prime topic...!!

Looking for Algae--the Next Voyage

hotmail-sign-in's picture

Thanks for this good article..I am looking forward at your rss feed Now. wow...Great post.....just ultimate content and quite informative article But I think that you must more focus on prime topic...!!

Looking for Algae--the Next Voyage

nail biting 's picture

Thanks for this good article..I am looking forward at your rss feed Now. wow...Great post.....just ultimate content and quite informative article But I think that you must more focus on prime topic...!!

Thanxxx

eariyorum's picture

thanx for share:)

thanx for share (:

eariyorum's picture

thanx for share (:

thank

fx15's picture

thank you tesekkur ederim

what the?

resimler's picture

You are absolutely right that there has to be a move from those high end
gaming pc that are used most often with only 1% of their power to small low power consumption computers like the mac mini.

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One who dont know about it

danie53595's picture

One who dont know about it before may get useful information from this post , This one seems to me different type of post......well i wanna say that The way how u tried to explain some posts at here seems to me different 70-536 there are certainly different posts at here,but i didnt find any post related to projects like 70-540 ...if someone have information about it,do tell me!Well any updates related to this post?if yes than do tell me!actually i came here while surfing net to get data related to projects of 70-541 and find this post different one...Is there anyone having information about 70-542 if yes than do tell me!...any updates?if yes than do tell me!

re

hkn's picture

that it needs simply because of the idea of Opensource. Because those involved with Opensource are concerned about green matters, I reckon that green issues will naturally come up and naturally worked towards. I have a lot of confidence konteyner fiyatları in this. Even with the simple fact that Linux can get so much more out of older pc's, and that you can really resurrect an old PC by installing Linux, it shows that Linux is a heck of a lot more green than other software manufacturers.

Thanks.

Hıyar's picture

i totally agree with you when it comes to saving the environment and conserving energy stuff.., but it would be more helpful for you and linux if your articles were written by someone who can write. your article really dont make any sense.

I believe the power of

srhn's picture

I believe the power of material. Natures power is so high. When we try to destroy the nature it answers quickly

Focusing on the ability

Free online Advertising's picture

Focusing on the ability burning of a computer is like absorption on the gas breadth of a Prius, blank the actuality that the action to accomplish (and actuate of) either is abundantly bedraggled and consumes a actual ample bulk of energy.

The better botheration with computers is that they are about disposable accessories that get tossed afterwards three years. If they captivated the aforementioned bulk of ability but had an boilerplate lifetime abundant best than that, you'd accept a abundant cleaner industry overall. But humans wish new computers all the time, of course, so they absolve it with the placebo of activity efficiency, just like Prius owners absolve their admiration for a big, bedraggled auto by afraid a agglomeration of batteries (full of nickel) into it to abate gas mileage.

what is SGI?

emo's picture

what is SGI?

Green

Jewellery's picture

Already, I think Linux has the 'green image' that it needs simply because of the idea of Opensource. Because those involved with Opensource are concerned about green matters, I reckon that green issues will naturally come up and naturally worked towards. I have a lot of confidence in this. Even with the simple fact that Linux can get so much more out of older pc's, and that you can really resurrect an old PC by installing Linux, it shows that Linux is a heck of a lot more green than other software manufacturers.

I am not a biology student,

ravi's picture

I am not a biology student, but this green operating system sound very exiting for me. Power is really a big point to think.. and this could be a great move by linux community.

environmental effort

eowyn's picture

The goal of the new environmental effort is to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by setting targets for energy-efficient computers and components, and promoting the adoption of energy-efficient computers and power management tools globally.
i believe Linux is doing everything they can to help in this effort.

Linux - environment?

Hindi Lyrics's picture

Aren't all OS trying to be more energy efficient? It's the microprocessor companies that can make maximum difference though :)

energy saving tips.

eaun's picture

i like your article but im having a problem understanding some of your points. anyway, here's some of energy saving tips that you can add to your next article,. how about turning off your PC when you're not really using it. i understand that most people tend to leave their computers unattended and not turning them off!!!

algae

fhorty's picture

hey, nice idea about power management. can Linux have something like a computer that can acquire its power source from the sun. more like a solar panel for energy conservation so it can save your precious algae. how much does it cost to run a normal PC for 24hours?

here's a tip

zoo's picture

when you're writing an article for the company (Linux) and the saving the environment, try support your argument from the beginning of your statement. you discuss the importance of algae during the first sentences but you end up promoting the company.., try to do it in a subtle way by already corroborating the company's action to promote environment-friendly projects.

what the?

zoo's picture

i totally agree with you when it comes to saving the environment and conserving energy stuff.., but it would be more helpful for you and linux if your articles were written by someone who can write. your article really dont make any sense.

bad ibm :(

e-okul's picture

bad ibm :(

Aglae

NHSE's picture

It didn't occur to me that aglae is such important. It produces 73%-87% of the world's oxygen. I always look upon aglae in my aquarium as a pest, looks like i am going to look at aglae in a different angle after reading your article. Thanks!

Regards,
NHSE

Focusing on the power

caballosweb's picture

Focusing on the power consumption of a computer is like focusing on the gas mileage of a Prius, ignoring the fact that the process to make (and dispose of) either is incredibly dirty and consumes a very large amount of energy.

The biggest problem with computers is that they are essentially disposable devices that get tossed after three years. If they consumed the same amount of power but had an average lifetime much longer than that, you'd have a much cleaner industry overall. But people want new computers all the time, of course, so they justify it with the placebo of energy efficiency, just like Prius owners justify their desire for a big, dirty sedan by sticking a bunch of batteries (full of nickel) into it to reduce gas mileage.

_____________________
Submited by : Libros Gratis

Cool Article. The world is

I Have Acne's picture

Cool Article. The world is endlessly fascinating really. There are always new ways of looking at things...

Here in the United States we find it easy to ignore the issues of the world. We find it easy to ignore the future. It's easy when you're on top. When you're the empire. Of course this attitude is destined to ruin us all.

It's so sad that people don't know history... We are only repeating it.

Point?

Anonymous's picture

This is such a pointless article...

Point?

pinoguin's picture

The environment is never pointless, go Algae!

I didn't realize that

Blog Directory's picture

I didn't realize that computers took up that much power. Knowing that I really should turn mine off more often. I tend to just leave them on all the time.

plural/singular?

oombas's picture

There doesn't exist something like 1 Alga.
So Algae are important ...
Sofar you are right.
But that is of no importance whatsoever.
The conveyed message is important.
So let us focus on the content and not on the form.
Did you understand what John 'maddog' Hall meant?

OB

Just some thoughts

Chel's picture

First I have to say that reducing power consumption a bit, will not stop or reverse global warming. The CO2 we have put in the atmosphere will not disappear, and the melting permafrost will continue to add CO2 and methane.

That said, it still is a real good idea to use resources, including power resources, well. Computers are more efficient now, but software becomes less and less efficient. I started writing letters with an all mechanical typewriter. Later on I had a Commodore 64 that could boot and start a ROM based text processor in 3 seconds and used only a few watt. Now one needs about a gigabyte of RAM, many gigabytes of diskspace and a processor that can do billions of operations a second, to type a letter. This "progress" is well described in the song "Every OS sucks" by "Three dead trolls in a baggy": 64 kilobytes of RAM was enough to go to the moon, so it must be enough for me! The song still can be downloaded somewhere on the internet.

Still we can do a lot to reduce power consumption. Modern large disks consume less power than older small disks, but can hold a much more data. New small devices can replace a number of other power consuming devices, I replaced my ISDN switch, ADSL modem router etc. by a box that does ADSL, VOIP, routing, firewall etc. for only 7 watt, and saved a permanent 50 watt. I don't do RAID, but I have an automated backup with rsync to a server with USB drives that spin down between backups and are connected to an ARM server taking only a few watt. My server does storage for other diskless devices, like set top boxes doing audio, video etc. and a PC, so those devices can be less than 10 watt when used. The server uses power reduction techniques and so uses about the same power as my previous server (Celeron 400Mhz) but is many times more powerfull. My advice: for every device think twice about power consumption. A lot can be saved.

Reducing or not reducing CO2, that is not the question....

Jon maddog Hall's picture

Lots of prominent scientists have argued global warming or not, and whether you can reduce the already existing CO2 by planting trees, or whether the soon-to-die leaves will release that CO2 back into the atmosphere when they rot. But as you say, that is not the real issue.

In my article I point out that more "Itaipu"s will be needed to power these new computers. I wish it were as easy as adding more hydro plants. But some of these new plants will be burning oil, coal or using nuclear energy, and adding to our pollution problem in one way or another.

So the answer is both to be thoughtful about how we can reduce the need for power as well as where we can get new power sources. I congratulate you on the steps you have taken over the years.

maddog

I plant weed as a way of

surfer jay's picture

I plant weed as a way of reducing my computers' CO2, does it count? :-)
Now seriously, what you say is right, however the problem as you probably know is we pump petrol out and convert that fossil into more CO2 by turning it into Gas/Gasoline/Diesel/Kerosene/etc and ends up being burned again, what once was fossilized by mothers nature now it is not anymore. Add up all of our tech toys sucking electricity from coal (more fossil fueled) generating plants and we end up in the mess we live.
Environmental damage really sucks by the way, so no more Itaipus please..
What about green-good-clean-fun energy?
Great blog, I'm missing all your funny stories all the way.. gonna catch them up someday

You are right

feuerwehr's picture

You are absolutely right that there has to be a move from those high end
gaming pc that are used most often with only 1% of their power to small low power consumption computers like the mac mini.

Actually.....

Jon maddog Hall's picture

I did not really state this. My point was more along the lines of using the right computing solution in the right place.

There will probably always be a place for higher powered computers to solve problems quickly, and perhaps to play games. But we can limit the power consumption by making sure they are used in the right place at the right time, or use them for just a few hours a day, then turn
them off.

But for computers that we need on all the time, we should try
to limit their power usage.

In addition, we may find that manufacturers may build new motherboards with two or more processors on them, one to do the scheduling and jobs where low-power is adequate, and the other processor to be turned on and initialized when high power is needed. We have only begun to address these problems.

maddog

Green computing is good thing...

Antoni's picture

...but Linux has be energy efficient for long time. By design it run only what we want it to run, like no GUI on server. Anyway looking forward for new entries in blog! I hope microcomputing would not be the only subject.

Oto kiralama

oto kiralama's picture

FTC Sends Patent Trolls a Warning 2 hours 46 min ago
Tomorrow's Army Will Run Linux 6 hours 46 min ago
It Looks Like Qtrax Blew It 22 hours 46 min ago
Trolltech Picked Up by Nokia 1 day 4 hours ago

hi!

küresel ısınma's picture

very nice share! thank you:)

Not just microcomputing....

Jon maddog Hall's picture

Large server farms are notorious users of electric power. This was especially true as long as management of these farms did not have the IT department paying the electric bills. Almost as soon as the electric bills started to be the responsibility of the IT department, it became a priority to reduce the electric bill.

Virtualization, spot cooling in Sun's new Blackbox:

http://www.webhostdir.com/news/articles/shownews.asp?id=22495

and other techniques are working to eliminate electricity waste and get more efficiency out of each watt.

Spinning down disks that are not being accessed, turning off power to main memory that is not being used, and many more techniques that we have known how to do for some time, but have not been as compelled to use until lately.

Warmest regards,

maddog

energy consumption

sachin's picture

To slash energy consumption, AISO.net switched from 120 individual servers to four IBM blades running virtualization software that lets one computer do the work of multiple machines. The cooling system cranks up for only about 10 minutes an hour, and when the outside temperature drops to 60 degrees, air is sucked into the building to cool the servers. Solar tubes built into the roof illuminate the facility's interior.

server is very big problem

Anonymous's picture

I have 2 big web site.But i cant find good server.what i do i dont know :(

hey

Faruk's picture

u can to use VPS server :)

çöp konteyneri

konteyner's picture

Already, I think Linux has the 'green image' that it needs simply because of the idea of Opensource. Because those involved with Opensource are concerned about green matters, I reckon that green issues will naturally come up and naturally worked towards. I have a lot of confidence konteyner fiyatları in this. Even with the simple fact that Linux can get so much more out of older pc's, and that you can really resurrect an old PC by installing Linux, it shows that Linux is a heck of a lot more green than other software manufacturers.

re: reply

Faruk's picture

Hello.. u can to use VPS server ;)

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