Is Cloud Computing Green?

The problem is that we can’t fire up the public cloud center and then shutdown the corporate data centers at the same time. This migration will take years, and count on an interim spike in power consumption to get us there…which is much of what Greenpeace is complaining about.

Today in Cleantech

One of the nicest things about getting a new computer is starting fresh, a computer uncluttered with accumulated files and a roomy hard drive or SSD. The computer is just that much faster. Well two researchers from Johns Hopkins have released a paper calling for a traditional green approach—reduce , reuse, recycle, recover and dispose—be applied to digital waste. It’s no secret that at the server level, legacy applications and massive amounts of data, can slow down processing and deplete physical storage. There’s a tremendous focus on the hardware side of energy efficient servers, but the other side of the coin is developing a software platform and IT maintenance protocols that will reduce the server workload. It could make a real contribution to the reduction of energy costs.

Today in Cleantech

Could a standard power supply help reduce e-waste and promote green manufacturing among today’s notebook makers? Taiwan’s notebook manufacturers including Acer think so, and it makes a lot of sense on paper. But if history is any guide, the battle is decidedly an uphill one. Just look at the the efforts to standardize handset chargers. If you have a rat’s nest of cell phone chargers and cables stashed in a kitchen drawer, you know exactly what I mean.

PC Makers Still Have Poor Eco Record, Greenpeace Says

Greenpeace today released the latest edition of its Guide to Greener Electronics, and once again PC makers were given low marks. The nonprofit organization ranked 18 global PC and mobile manufacturers on their policies and practices related to energy, chemicals and e-waste. On a scale from 0 through 10, none of the PC makers were assigned ratings above 6.

The use of chemicals including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and brominated flame retardants (BRFs) was of particular concern, Greenpeace said. Dell (13th overall) (s DELL), Hewlett Packard (14th) (s HPQ), and Lenovo (16th) failed to improve their low scores from the previous edition, partly due, according to Greenpeace, to them “backtracking” on their commitments to eliminate these chemicals from their products by the end of the year. Much of the world’s e-waste  ends up in landfills around the globe, from which chemicals seep into the atmosphere and the groundwater supply and create potential health hazards for people, animals and plant life.

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Are Smarter Gadgets Really Good for the Planet?

RFID_midnightcommWith the explosion of low-cost chips, from Intel’s Atom processor to low-power Wi-Fi sensors, just about everything is “getting smart” these days. There are known environmental benefits to this kind of cheap-and-easy digital intelligence, many of them heavily promoted by IBM as part of its “Smarter Planet” initiative. There’s the smart grid, of course, which adds data-rich intelligence to the energy system, but there’s also smart water, smart transportation (including rail, electric vehicles and traffic), and even smart garbage. It’s what Intel regularly describes as the “2 Percent, 98 Percent” rule — that operating IT contributes some 2 percent of global carbon emissions, but IT can be used to minimize the other 98 percent.

But there’s a slightly brownish tinge to all this greener-through-IT talk. The widely cited 2 percent figure only looks at the energy impacts of IT equipment as it’s being operated, not as it’s being manufactured. That’s what’s known as embedded, or embodied, energy. And depending on who you ask, manufacturing can be a major piece of the puzzle — between 75 and 85 percent, according to some research. In 2005, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an environmental watchdog group for the high-tech industry, estimated that a single fab could consume as much energy as a 60,000-person city. Which begs the question: Will semiconductor manufacturing outweigh the environmental benefits of the “smarter planet”? Read More about Are Smarter Gadgets Really Good for the Planet?

Tangent Launches Green Power-Efficient Computer

Tangent, a company that makes computers for fields like healthcare, business and education, has just rolled out a new computer model dubbed the “Evergreen 17.” The $1,195-computer has been designed from the ground up to be highly-efficient and uses 24 watts, or 72 percent less energy than the standards set by Energy Star 4.0. And we give it a few bonus points for it’s skinny sleek design that includes a touch-screen LCD and looks a bit like a black PC version of an iMac (though not as nice).

Making computers more efficient and running them on less energy will have a significant overall effect in fighting global warming — more than 2 percent of our carbon emissions are attributed to computing. Both computer makers like Tangent and Dell and startups like Verdiem, which makes PC energy-management software, have started introducing products to cut power-chugging from PCs.
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Green Computing Still Held Back By Costs

A recent study by computer retailer CDW shows that most IT decision makers believe in making their technology infrastructure greener and more energy efficient. But more than half of those surveyed cite cost as the main obstacle, and see the impact on the environment and on their company’s image as greater benefits than the cost savings from a reduced power bill.

Those results seem at odds with reports from analysts that suggest green, power-efficient computing is just around the corner and is being driven by spiraling energy costs. Most forecasts show computing power costs will have a real impact on companies soon: Gartner projects that by 2010, 75 percent of companies will consider the energy and CO2 footprint of hardware during purchasing.

Computing itself is a major energy-sucking culprit, and IT power consumption will only rise in the future. In August 2007, the EPA estimated that data centers consumed roughly 61 billion kWh in 2006. That’s about 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, which cost $4.5 billion. And it’s expected to increase to 100 billion kWh by 2011 — 2.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, which would cost approximately $7.4 billion.
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Techblog’s 10 predictions for iPhone

Dwight Silverman of TechBlog has penned 10 predictions about the iPhone that are so spot on they’re uncanny.  They are tongue-in-cheek but all ten are probably right on the money.  My favorite:

5. Apple will sell a lot of iPhones, regardless of how good, mediocre or crappy it is.

Check out all ten and see if you agree with Dwight.

Portrait of a Startup: Slim Devices

Like its devices, network digital music device maker Slim Devices is moving up in the world. The company has just moved to slick new digs in Mountain View, right next to AOL and VeriSign. Though not exactly Fifth Avenue, it’s a definite upgrade from their last office, two miles north in an industrial area tucked under Highway 85.

Last week I spent an afternoon with the company whose Squeezebox devices have attained near cult status amongst music fans with a DIY inclination. Leaning back in one of the company’s two fancy new leather chairs (though there were three of us in the room, so one guy had to stand), I was one of the first outsiders to take in the company’s newest device, the $2000 Transporter, a fully geeked-out network music machine. (The New York Times is running a snippet on it today.) Dolly Parton and Beyonce never sounded so good. And no, they were not singing a duet.

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Microsoft SyncToys upgraded to 1.2

Microsoft has recently upgraded the free synchronization tool SyncToys to version 1.2. New features include:

  • The ability to type in a UNC path;
  • Support for longer folder pair names and ability to widen the left pane to see those longer names;
  • The ability to support the maximum length for folder paths, and documentation was added to the help file about how to set up a share to be able to sync deep folder pairs;
  • Better handling of the difference in precision between NTFS and FAT timestamps;
  • More discoverable link to the help file for information on how to schedule SyncToy using the Windows XP Task Scheduler;
  • Support for 800×600 screen resolution;
  • Added a warning for users if the selected action will take some time to complete;
  • Added brief explanations of the actions in the user interface;
  • Improved behavior when choosing folders to include or exclude when there are large numbers of folders involved;
  • Improved support for accessibility modes.

It looks like they have optimized it for lower resolution screens like those found on the Origami.