Monday, October 19 2009, 05:38 am

How-To: Earn Your Carbon Credits

The past few years have showed us a boom in the fad of "going green" with everything from automobiles to your home. Some people have taken advantage of the situation and claimed the need to put a price on the amount of carbon emissions each individual puts in the air. Everyone should be given a quota and if you go over that quota you need to buy "carbon credits" otherwise you face "penalties." I'm glad we haven't reached la-la land just yet, but there are simple ways to go green without going overboard.

I run a server at home for routing, web, email, files, and almost any little idea I think of. Now that I've told you I will have to kill you as ISPs frown on this freedom of expression. Anyway, this server has been comprised of spare parts and/or whatever I could buy for $20. Now that I have a decent job, I decided I wanted a computer I could call a server and stand by it. It also had to draw less electricity and put out less heat and noise. Let's compare my setups:

  • 1.4ghz "Tualatin" Pentium III-S
  • 512mb PC-133 RAM (i815 chipset limitation)
  • ASUS TUSL2 motherboard
  • 320gb Seagate 7200.10
  • Intel 100 mbit and 1000 mbit PCI cards
  • $50 case with 350watt PSU (all-in-one)

  • 1.86ghz "Lynnfield" Xeon L3426
  • 4gb DDR3 1333 ECC RAM
  • Supermicro X8SIL-F motherboard
  • 2x1TB Seagate 7200.12 (RAID 1)
  • Dual on-board Intel 1gb NICs
  • Antec MicroATX case + SeaSonic 500watt 80 Plus Bronze PSU

The junker runs at a nice loud, slow pace. PHP and any disk intensive request was a several second ordeal. Most of that is due to the limited amount of RAM. I hooked up the Kill-a-watt power meter to the junker to see how much electricity I'm wasting. 62 watts - at idle. The computer is lifeless and it's eating enough energy to power an old school light bulb. Think of all the nuclear power I'm wasting; I can't sleep at night.

Putting the new server together was the fastest assembly for me yet. Most things are now on-board and the only power connections were for the motherboard and hard drives. Hitting the power switch brought forth... silence. Ah... What's this? A BIOS prompt. After installing Fedora 11 x86_64 using my USB drive (no CDs or floppies were hurt in this process, something other OSes can't say), I ran the power meter on it. A whole... 40 watts at idle. With more than 10 times the computing power (and 1 vs 4 cores) and an additional hard drive, the new system was eating 22 (woot math) less watts! Just to put this in an even more interesting twist, my one year old desktop computer pulls a hefty 96 watts out of the Earth. It has a 9800 GTX+ helping it get that high though.

What's the meaning of all this? Well, I should get some nice medal from Al Gore for saving the planet, right? Heck, I'd take just a letter. Now get out there and green up your computing environment. Doctor's orders.

Saturday, February 28 2009, 07:45 pm

Chug, chug, chug, chug...

How on earth does the world use Vista? Yes, Microsoft Windows Vista. Backstory: I received a new laptop two days ago. An ASUS N80Vn-X5. It came with Vista Home Premium 64-bit. This is my first copy of Vista as I run Linux on all my machines. I did have a copy of XP but I stopped using that a few years ago. Why did I stop using XP? Because I wanted something more out of my computer. XP is fine and all, but I can accomplish more with Linux - not just because it is free.

I unpack it from its box and I plug in the AC adapter and boot the thing. Vista starts to load - and load - and load. 10 minutes later I get to the desktop. Why on earth did it take that long to get to my desktop? Wait a minute... the hard drive is still chugging. Why?

The first thing I do is kill the hideous sidebar that takes an extra 5 minutes to load on startup. Gone. The second thing I do is disable automatic updates. Now, I realize some readers will think better of themselves and call me an idiot, but I rarely use Windows and I know how to update it so I'm quite OK running updates when I should instead of having Windows do it for me.

It came with SP1 so I figured it should be pretty harmless. Where to update this thing? Hm, I don't see anything. Ah, I'll just use IE's "Windows Update" link. Oh what's this? There's an update to Windows Update. Oh! It requires a reboot. *Reboot* Ah, that was a nice 10 minute reboot. Windows update has about 30 updates for me. Fine. Downloading/updating takes about 15 minutes thanks to the attrociously large 100 meg .NET update. I'm on 20 megabit Internet mind you. Rebooting again. Seems that I'm up to date now, or am I?

The only thing loaded on this thing is about 5 ASUS utilities for the fingerprint reader, webcam, and some software that looks like it encrypts files. Grand total of hard disk space in use? 20 gigabytes. That alone is enough for me to be offended permenently because what does that 20 gigabytes net me? A video player, picture viewer, a web browser, and a movie maker. The features don't match the disk space requirements. It's also using 1 gig of RAM with no programs running. Yes, I uninstalled the Office 2007 trial.

Why would I be offended? Example: My default Fedora install cost me 4.5gigs. What did I get besides the stuff already in Vista? Full office suite, photo manipulation, SELinux, bittorent, GPS mapping, SIP phone, Pidgin, GCC, and a few other of my programming utilities, not to mention Wine, which will allow me to run Windows apps.

Time to reboot just to see that reboot time again. *clicks Restart* "Configuring updates stage 2 of 3..." What's this? WHAT'S THIS? I have updates turned *OFF* and Windows is installing updates. Stealth updates - w00t. The little trust I had with Microsoft is completely gone at this point.

I let it reboot and go back into Vista just to find that after I log in the hard drive is chugging - and chugging - and chugging. 10 minutes later it finally quiets down and I decide to reboot to get into Fedora. *Clicks Restart* "Configuring updates stage 2 of 3..." Yeah. I'm done with Microsoft.

Saturday, October 11 2008, 04:42 am

New Family Member, Rawr

Long story short, I have a new cat.

Sup, Chloe.

Tuesday, March 25 2008, 09:10 pm

What is the definition of a "smartphone?"

2007Computex_e21Forum-MartinCooperAfter discussing the reasons to ignore advertising and think on your own on computer software, it's time to cover the same issues with cell phones. What's the cell phone in your hand as of 2008? Can it take 5 megapixel pictures? Does it sport a GPS receiver? How about support for running applications written completely free and open? Have you heard the term "accelerometer?" If you've said no to any one of those questions, please, please continue reading. Most people consider a cell phone that can send and receive calls to be all they need, but they could never be more wrong. Cell phones are the devices that Amercians have yet to discover their full potential, as the rest of the world (Europe, Asia, etc.) have exploded with.

The root of the problem lies in the cell phone providers in the US. Verizon, at&t, T-Mobile, and others, only provide lackluster phones that are cheap, pack little punch, and wear out easily. The cell providers also like to maintain full control over the entire phone, down to the operating system of the phone. Marketing and other business managers of these providers wish to maintain the idea that Amercians are stupid. To a point, everyone could agree with that, but this idea has been around ever since cell phones were introduced in the 90s and has not changed at all. It's time for a change.

iphoneThe iPhone? No. Never mention that terrible name. It's not a smartphone. The iPhone is a marketing major's wet dream. It contains no innovative features outside of the touch screen, which isn't very effective to begin with. When the iPhone came out, the idea of a "computer-like" operating system was the first time such a product was advertised to Americans, however devices like the iPhone had already been in existence for several years. Why didn't you hear about them before? The answer is easy. The cell carriers could only market their low-brow budget phones to "everyday" (a.k.a. dumb) Amercians to gain huge profits, but now they could team up with Apple to market and advertise a device that can only make calls and costs an extremely high amount of money. Never mind the fact that there are dozens of better phones, where the iPhone is laughed at in countries in Asia and Europe.

This begs the question: Why would you ever need something more than a plain-jane phone? Do you ever find yourself lost in the city or on vacation? Need to take pictures but have two devices to lug around? What about those times you are waiting in the airport bored to tears? You could have a GPS to show your exact location and locate nearby places of interest. A camera that would take pictures big enough to print out professionally. Complete music collections at your finger tips, with stereo wireless headphones or 3D games such as Quake. You could also get in touch instantly with a full web browser, e-mail or instant messaging. If you still don't believe you need anything more than a phone, then you need to borrow a device that could do all of this to see for yourself. A Nokia N-Series "multimedia computer" is a start if you want a commercial product. Take a look at the OpenMoko project for a Linux-driven equivalent.

I personally own the Nokia N95-1 "multimedia computer" (Nokia's marketing at work). The phone does everything I mentioned so far, and is expanding every few months with new updates and new applications. Sure, the phone costs a pretty penny, but I haven't spent a dime on updates or legal applications. I've owned it for a year now and I do not regret spending so much money for it one bit. The ability for me to remain mobile, and retain all the abilities of a desktop computer are entirely worth it. I urge you to look for a phone that will do more than take and make phone calls. You'll find yourself being more productive and doing things you wouldn't think possible.

This post will end here, before I bore you half to death again. However, I left off many important points of discussion that I highly suggest you, the reader, follow up on your own. Mobile operating systems, application development, and the hardware inside the devices.

Wednesday, March 19 2008, 09:03 pm

Linux... and You!

Linux-penguinThe world is never the same place for more than 10 seconds. Why should those boundaries stop at computer software? Ask yourself this when you wonder why people would use an operating system other than Microsoft's Windows, Apple's OS X, Sun's Solaris, SCO's OpenServer, etc. The general public has been stuck with newspaper clippings and TV reports about the computing world. This left them with the assumption that computing started and stopped with the Windows logo, the Apple logo, etc. As long as the computer functioned enough to let them work, they were satisfied; however, notice my diction. Now that broadband has reached almost every home, consumers are branching out and learning that computers are more than just tools for word processing. The boundaries they were accustomed to were artificially set in place by classical marketing techniques of those with power of commercial software enterprises, and are now broken down with the fluidity of information pouring in from websites across the Internet. If none of my previous sentence made any sense to you, I feel you are still trapped in a box from a retail store. I suggest you get a box cutter and metaphorically cut yourself out of it. Use a free operating system!

Yes, I realize there are dozens of statements similar to my own, however, I wish to differ in their points with reaching out at the facts of life, rather than strictly matters of opinion. The rest of this post is targeted at baseline consumers and the IT infrastructure of corporations everywhere (not for employees). The freedom that is brought with open, free software is always underestimated. People cannot imagine a life without Windows. From my own experiences growing up, I was instinctively stuck in a Windows rut from DOS 6.2, Win 3.1, Win 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP. AOL, to the Internet. I used Internet Explorer religously until 6.0 and always had PC games instead of consoles. I have seen these same thoughts residing in my friends, family, and co-workers. Corporate software companies have a perfect grasp around the necks of countless consumers. The old saying "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" rings true here, but I have an answer to that question. As most people recognize in my character, I have a knack for being curious, and the corporate software world couldn't fill my curiosity as American politics can't fill Amercian needs. This lack of innovation, along with money, are just two reasons of many, but they are the most important of them all and the only ones worth mentioning without boring you half to death. You're already halfway by now, so I don't want to kill you before you got to the end.

The world changes every 10 seconds and so should you, unless you like sitting on the couch all day, but then you wouldn't be reading this so I have you covered. Corporate software is based on the requirement of meeting requests that have the highest bid. Cash is everything, and this is the number one reason why you should look else where. Abandoning the software you have used forever (and emptied your wallet on) is the first step of cutting yourself out of those boundaries. If you are stuck on the fact that you need Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, or Crysis, you need to seek professional help. There is no sarcasm here. The future computing world is about freedom and choice, not boxes with price tags. This is not a matter of opinion, as what I speak of has been happening for the past decade. The movement of free software has been small and quiet, but it has not faltered or missed one step.

To make that second step and completely exit the box, you have to change the core of your computer software as well - the operating system. I will not, in this post, recommend that everyone go out and download a Linux distribution and blow up their hard drives and install it; it's silly, and no one should ever mention it. In hind sight, I will dictate that consumers read about the options that Linux, and other open operating systems bring to the table. A fine example of this learning process can be seen in my friends and family whom I've shown Linux too. They initially were weirded out, but that's completely normal. After they used it, they found the same simple operating processes worked the way they knew them, and adapted to oddities as they used the system. What I've shown them is only about 5% of the Linux world. The other 95% is another made up Internet percentage, which is largely unexplored even by myself. It would also take a few hundred blog posts to explain more than I've spilled out here, and I may continue in the future, but that would require you, the consumer, to start cutting out of that box first.


Before I hear some thirteen year old pizza-face tell me that Windows is "easy" and "lolz better," or from a fourty-year-old IT guy whose job it is to clean mouse lint, I wish to remind them that they failed the reading comprehension test of this post and they should be beaten with a stick. The same learning principles apply to Windows as does any computing software. If you picked up a native from deep in the Amazon jungle and threw Windows Vista at them, would you dare refute the fact that it wouldn't be that easy for that individual? If you would, you only support my second opinion - I hate people.

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