Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Please, No More IT Charity

There seems to be this unshakeable belief in Western culture that Africa and ilk are simply dying to get a hold of our used electronic gear. With a few exceptions, nothing could be further from the truth; everyone who wants a cell phone in Africa has one, and China is completely sated with this junk. Most donated computers also require software and technical expertise, which recipient countries simply do not have in any great supply. There are still some companies shipping refurb over the waters, most notably Computer Aid International, but I have to say that their time is probably about up, particularly when countries like India are now begging for the charity to stop. Even CNN admits that wealthy nations are Shovelling IT into great big heaps in foreign places.Let's end the snobbery; if your gear isn't good enough for you, it's not good enough for an African, an Indian, or anyone else either. If you are in IT, start accounting for the environmental cost of the equipment that you buy, and start using equipment to failure instead of palming boxes off on local charities or your employees. And if it's your personal gear, think long and hard about the rationale for buying another electronic thingy. Like your cats or your kids, assume it's going to be yours forever.

A Thump on the Head

When I was a kid we used to get Reader's Digest every month which I really enjoyed - I am surprised to see it still in print. One of my favorites was a section entitled 'A Thump on the Head' where they fingered a variety of celebrity no-nos. Here's one from Kevin Maney from USA Today, he's from the technology departm... oh, I guess you knew that.

Nice little article here about the Intel Classmate. It's cool, it's innovative, it's... a throwaway machine?!?!?! From the article:

The Classmate's flash drives make it boot faster than any current laptop and it practically can't crash. The computer is so cheap, if you spill tequila on it while writing — which, I don't know about you, but happens to me all the time — you can just throw it away.

Only $300 dollars. Ok, now I want you to go through this next sentence like you are singing the theme song to Batman. Here goes: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, Maney! We don't do that in 2007.

It brings up another childhood memory, that of the comic strip
They'll Do It Every Time. Sometimes the author would put the letter 'UTK' over the dumbo's head. As they say in the math texts, I'll leave it to the reader as an exercise to figure out what those three letters mean.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Hear a Thud, Can I Get a Splash?

Pretty good feedback on the Emergy-C palette done by Jon Doucette - it's in the top 20 percent on Colourlovers and a few folks have redone their pages after noticing it. One guy suggested that the iPhone people were already well aware. I don't doubt that some manufacturers are 'watt conscious'; my Mio, for example, seems to use low wattage palettes. And of course, I'm not going to win any awards for web design.

There's been some additional research as well. Zdnet has a nice article on how the CRT isn't quite dead yet, with about half all of televisions in North America using the CRT technology, and 71 percent of the world total! And they are still price competitive with LCDs for computer monitors. We probably have until 2009 when LCDs will take over, but by then the new plasma and OLED technology will be right there. This guy also did a very nice analysis of the underlying problem, and found that adjusting the brightness of your LCD monitor had a significant effect on power consumption. All in all, a few more ideas to move the concept along.

Computer Addiction Not Rational, Sustainable

The last thing on the mind of any addict is the external costs of their actions. Internet addiction has been with us for years but it has yet to make it into the DSM-V. Email addicts are abundant; theres even a 12-step program specifically designed to help you kick the 'bit. Much of the activity in virtual worlds, such as the ubiquitous sex playgrounds in Second Life, are addiction driven as well.China has taken the lead on addressing the problem, citing it as a grave social problem, and instituting a treatment center that uses fairly severe methods. Msnbc, the original reporter, took their copy of the article down. I hope it has nothing to do with the MS in msnbc... after all, it's addiction we are talking about...

It might sound funny but there are serious costs to these activities. For one, if you are an employer, you may be sued for firing employees that are addicted to online chatting or adult sites. And the green point is this - if your can't shut off your machine, how are you going to conserve power, get out of your three year upgrade cycle, and stop buying a new cell phone every year? Ask yourself - could you really participate in Shutdown Day?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Virtualization: Some Don't Care For It

Up until now, I thought that virtualization was a sans cerebellum, but it appears some think otherwise. According to a recent survey, about 1 in 10 companies think it's too expensive to implement, or they don't have the money (there is a difference.) One guy thinks Solaris in the answer...

And for some strange reason, it appears the Europeans are none too interested either. I'm not sure why this is; perhaps it is because there are more vendors in the European space, and companies are waiting for a clear victor to emerge. There's definitely a big battle going on between everyone and you-know-who.

There's no telling how this is effecting the server market either; some say server sales are going down, others up, and there are a few other players on the sidelines such as PG&E that are supporting the technology through rebates, etc. Still seems pretty cut and dried for me; after the smoke clears, I think we will the technology implemented in most organizations.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Risk is Part of the Job

Is the CIO a manager or a leader? Remember, managers optimize existing processes, and leaders invent new ones. Seems like most think that CIO are mostly managers because they don't take risk. I'm not surprised; no CIO got fired for installing Oracle, or Microsoft, or SAP, or EMC. Projects using these technologies might fail, and fail horribly, but no heads will roll because they did the 'smart thing'. After all, everyone knows IT is a tough industry. And the fact of the matter is, with 80 percent of the typical IT budget going towards Opex, IT is a hardly a strategic endeavor. Why bother with leadership?

Well, the ironic thing is that most (non-CIO) people think that the CIO should be a leadership role - they have no guts, etc. The numbers are clear - about 40 percent of CIOs proclaim they are not innovative, one third think their shop is constrained, and a quarter are simply reactionary. If anything, this just reflects the environment they are working in; leadership is rarely rewarded except in the absolute top notch of companies. And since most CIOs do not work for top notch companies, they go along, get along, and get their 200K a year. It's a job.

There are a few good ideas for getting them out of this rut; Mine is of course to crunch the IT spending and get them involved in green projects. Vin thinks that CEOs should force them to spend 25 percent of their budget with vendors less than three years old. This is also a fine idea. Clearly, CIOs can't just keep repeating that they need to align IT and business goals, which is what they have said for the last 12 years. This mantra has nothing of the chopping block mentality that is so lacking, and the job is clearly more than just smooze and chat. How about make money, save money, and bring in business?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ballmer: I Prefer the Bottom

Steve Ballmer says that he prefers the bottom. From the article:

In a meeting with corporate customers in New York last month, Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said, "Everybody in the operating system business wants to be the guy on the bottom," the software that controls the hardware. And he vowed that Microsoft, whose Windows operating systems are the main source of its corporate wealth and market power, would "compete very aggressively with VMware."

This is response to the repeated accusations that Microsoft is making it very difficult to run Vista in a virtualized environment. The MS response is that they considered virtualization a security threat. Another security threat? This gets more mileage than the Prius; if we could put security threats in our gas tanks, the energy crisis would be over.

He's right though, this is going to be a big battle, and time is going to be on his side, with the options for not upgrading to Vista already dwindling. And with MS giving away virtual PC for 'free' and VmWare profits rocketing upwards, it will be jockeying to the finish line. Let just hope it's not a race to bottom, where everyone loses. Oh wait, that's what Ballmer wants. Well Steve, if you do in fact get on the bottom, just make sure you don't roll over on your belly. You know what will happen if you do.

EnergyStar vs. EnergyBlackHole

What happens when an impossibly bright light enters an impossibly dark place? We are about to find out when the EPA releases version 4 of their EnergyStar standard in a few short months. It's the first time the standard has been updated in 15 years; needless to add, virtually every device out there currently meets the antiquated standard. Strange cough, strange cough.

The new standard should up the bar. For example, an
80 percent efficiency rating for PC power supplies is required, effectively killing off items such as this 2000 watt monster. It will also address standby power, which is currently set at a whopping 30 watts for PCs. Servers will be included in the specs, using a fairly complicated measurement protocol that attempts to address real-world performance. This will come in handy, as it is predicted that half of the data centers in the world will run out of power by 2008. And with legislators in the US and EU chomping at the bit to regulate these data centers, EnergyStar might be just in time. To save the (computing) world, that is.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Off My Chest

I've had these sites floating around for a while. Here you go, served up cold:

  • No Jackhammer Required - HP redesigned their printer packaging from indestructible PVC, plastic inserts, and a foil bag. Hey, it counts.
  • KyotoPotato - goes potato on us. I have no idea what the hell this is, but it aims to 'make energy efficiency more fun by encouraging users to switch off their PCs' Game on, let me know if this works.
  • Ecologee - going for the brass kahuna by trying to design an Internet powered by renewable energy. It's interesting, good fine links.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

No More Airport Juice

Just another nail in the box, but it looks like airports in Montreal and London are plugging their electrical outlets, or charging to use them. Don't know about London, but in the case of Montreal it might have something to do with the fact that Imperial Oil is rationing gasoline in Canada after a refinery fire. I guess they are just tired of giving away free electricity - but it never was free for them, was it?

Raise the Dead

When does your electronic gear die? Usually when its too expensive to fix it, or is superseded by better, more efficient technology. Or maybe never if you owned an eMachine around 1995, pictured at right.

Fact is, we probably throw these things out too soon, especially when you have dudes like Lance Ulanoff giving tips on how to fix them. I read the article and laughed because most of the time he's fixing these things in 5 minutes; it's too true, most of the time the fix is very easy. I fixed a laptop once that had a whole can of soda poured into it, and it only took about an hour.

Of course, the US doesn't have the culture for fixing things like the Chinese and their cell phones, the Cubans and their cars, and Indian and their locomotives. Maybe it's time to try and raise the dead.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Let's Play Find the Stooge

Gotta hand it to the Microsoft marketing department, they are good. After Vista getting blasted in the press for being horrible for the environment, Microsoft has reacted quickly on two fronts. First off you can now get Microsoft Virtual PC for free, allowing you to, say, run XP inside of Vista. Obviously this is a ploy to show that MS is really into virtualization, which generally is more efficient, green, what have you. But it's all balled up because it's only applicable to Windows. WTF.

Secondly, they now have their intermediary PC World (read, stooge) announcing that they are developing a green Vista PC. This is patently absurd; I'm taking my Tums right now. From the article:

A spokesman for the Green Party suggested on Tuesday that the choice of Vista for a a so-called green machine could be a mistake, and called on retailers to offer more PCs without Windows pre-installed.

"It would be a good thing if PC World was to offer operating systems other than Vista. XP or no operating system preinstalled at all would be ideal," the Green Party spokesman told ZDNet UK.

Righto. Vista is dead before it got out of the gate. I repeat, I bet that no company will announce that they are upgrading to Vista across the board; they will get blasted from all sides with green goo cannons. Should have went into the fried chicken business, MS, with that 10 billion you spent - there's real money in chicken!

Le Deluge, La Revolution

Australia bans the bulb. Ikea bans the bag. These are the first two shots fired in the anti-tech revolution. Why? Because I can't think of a single technology that has ever been banned before. Ok, maybe the Supersonic Transport, which was banned in the US in the 1970s. But that's about it.

I don't know where this is headed, but I'm sure this is going to leak into IT - rationing laptops, banning Vista, etc. Once folks get comfortable with the idea of banning poisonous, wasteful technologies, the flood gates will open; Hmmm, that seems to be right about now. Down periscope.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We're Dealing With Addicts Here

Addiction is not a pretty word. It's onomatopoeic in that its pronunciation, like 'sizzle' or 'zip', reflects its underlying meaning. And yet it appears that every day we are dealing with more and technology addicts.

Who are these people? Well, they start off like you and me, except they start going crazy when you pull their gadgets from them. Crazy like a Forbes editor who breaks down crying after being derived of his cell phone, blackberry, and email for 40 hours. Dennis, congratulations for trying, most don't have it in them. Crazy like they are going to sue their boss for exposing them to technology in the first place. Crazy enough to know that they can't participate in shut down day because they will go nuts.

I have to admit, I know what they mean. When I first moved down to Boston, we didn't have Internet for about three days while the guys came and installed it. I was up with my laptop, trying to catch a wireless signal from a nearby house. Sometimes I would get one, very weak, read a few emails and then it was gone. This went on for hours...

Or take my cell phone. When I call someone, I'm kind of expecting an answer. You know, it's a cell phone - you carry it with you, charged up, ready to talk. It's not like your landline where, understandably, you can't always be there to pick it up. Ring, ring - where are you?

This sounds harsh, but I'm not the only one; in fact it seems like I am on the 'less twitchy' side of things. Fully one third of Americans spent over 200 a month in communication costs in 2005. Everyone has at least one story about the coworker who went nuts because the phone was dead, put his fist through a monitor that blacked out in the middle of a stock trade, etc. And if you are in IT, you have hundreds of these stories. Point being this - if we are truly addicted to these things, how are we going to do without them when, for example, power costs hit 50 percent of your IT budget? Is the modern day business more like a hospital?

Why Take Your Chances on a Big Jet Plane?

Ok, that's badly paraphrased Led Zeppelin. But I found a juicy little story over at Vinnie Mirchandini's blog about travel, particularly travel related to IT consultants. Vinnie wonders, as do I, why so many companies are still accepting 15 to 20 percent surcharges in their contracts just to fly consultants in to do the work, particularly in metro areas where there is plenty of local talent. Services Safari isn't too happy either.

There's a perfect storm brewing here. First is the skyrocketing price of fuel. Second is the changed culture of the workplace, where even high priced consultants expect to be home for the weekends - Vinnie brutalizes them on this point, tells 'em to get a room. Third, travel is no longer glamorous, in fact, it often stinks, ala JetBlue.

This is just a classic example of managers living in the past, remembering their glory days when they were young, single, jetting around the world on cheap gas and eating three squares a day on the client's dime. Time for a mindshift; cap your T&E at 5 percent, or your clients will do it for you. They just aren't going to pay these fees anymore; the planes, the extra hours for stranded consultants, the UK road tax. It's waste, and it's your problem. Otherwise the market will have you for a tasty snack.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Three, From England

Never thought I would say it, but England is coming out as the leader on environmental policy. It easy to identify a leader - they get attacked by everyone. Take the new rubbish tax that Lord Bruce here is staunchly against. Of course, he's too late, as they have already bugged 500,000 wheelie bins to check them for weight. Wowza.

This, in connection with their road pricing scheme will really start to cut down on waste in the UK. Bravo for the Brits! They are doing what they should be, passing tough regs and filling their coffers with money from the scofflaws. Why do they have all the gumption? How if they could just get rid of those damned pieces of junk that sell for under 99p...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Three, it's the Magic Number

and it's all you need to know to get the total cost of buying a server today. Simply multiply the cost of the server by three. One is for the sticker price, two is for the heating and cooling, and three is for the power that it is going to drink.

Need more help? There's plenty of seminars nowadays on calculating these costs.


There's so much talk about getting IT ready for a pandemic that I wonder if someone knows more than we do. When the bird flu hits, the resulting surge in telecommuting might severely choke off bandwidth. Apparently quite a bit of research has been done on how long IT departments can hang on with high absentee rates - 25 percent out sick seems fine, 40 percent out seems like a problem. Of course, this could be yet another 'service' that consultants like Deloitte are offering to terrorize their clients into buying services. "You know, if the bird flu hits..."

Not that I don't think you should be ready with a serious telecommuting program, or have one in place right now. It is a simple money issue; for example, these guys saved $350,000 in real estate by implementing telecommuting, and there is evidence that office space rates are dropping due to rises in telecommuting. Why buy space? Or, if you really feel you have to, how about trying an IT hotel?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another Six Percent Solution

Here's another six percent to think about. For the entire US energy supply,

That's six percent. Adds up fast doesn't it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Six Percent Solution

Did you know that 94 percent of all email is spam? Let's do a little math; 100 percent minus 94 percent... that leaves only 6 percent of this data stream as legitimate. Spam increased 147 percent in 2006, and caused a 334 percent increase in processing requirements for corporate email - accordingly to the article, some systems are simply melting down. What a waste.

Big companies are closing the door on this 'free speech' fast. Brian Livingston reports that 75 percent of Fortune 100 companies are now publishing lists of ip addresses that are legitimate to send email from their company. In addition, 45 percent are using DomainKey authentication technology to digitally sign their emails, and they are rapidly expecting their correspondents to do the same. So, if you are not using some authentication method, you message may go right in the virtual dustbin.

Many entities have tried the ole email tax to put an end to this nonsense. Michigan and Utah tried it. AOL and Yahoo proposed it, then AOL did it in January by launching a certified email program. Of course, the US Government forbids it, but it seems like you can get around them pretty easily these days; you don't tax the email, you charge for the certified email, you see.

I'm in agony here guys, you know that. As the son of the son of an immigrant, this six percent solution is unacceptable. Phil thinks, as do I, that from the cost perspective alone, running in-house messaging is absolutely obscene. George thinks it's not that bad, and of course there is always Google who is surely to get into this game. A lot of the naysayers think that third party hosters can't be trusted with something as sensitive as email. But let me ask you this - do you do your own banking in house? Because if you are trusting someone with your money, your emails seem like just a trifle.

Authentication, tax, third part hosting, the only thing I know is that as the costs to send these emails go up, the resources that can be allocated to sending them must go down. That's called efficiency. And that's why I think Google will be the email hoster for the world.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Criminalizing Waste

Are we on the brink of defining waste as a crime? The signs are everywhere that we are, and we will. Simply, waste is something that which we will not with up put. Anymore.

The signs from the IT industry are ominous. Let's start with Joel Johnson, former writer for Gizmodo, who uses his yearly quota of vile invective blasting his former readers for buying every new gadget that comes out. It's a strange speech; he repeatedly refers to his former audience as 'assholes' and 'retards', and coming from a guy that spent two years pushing this stuff, that seems a bit extreme. Then there's the EU ban on profligate energy products and the Energy using Products directive, both of which affect a wide spectrum of IT gear. These are bills that are specifically designed to criminalize the waste of energy, including a large part of the energy used to fuel computing. How about the proposed ban on incandescent bulbs in California? No more lights?

It won't be the first time it this issue has been addressed - see poster on right that supported the rationing of goods in WWII. I can only wonder what will happen when there is a quota placed of the number of laptops placed into service each year; will people fight over them to get the latest and greatest? Or will they realize that the strategic edge on IT is completely gone, and they should destroy IT as we know it, outsource everything, and start using software-as-a-service. Should we mandate telecommuting two days a week, under the guise that driving is criminally wasteful and photons should be moved, not people? Chop off peoples' mouse-moving hands?

Except for the hand chopping, I personally don't think this is so crazy. In fact, I think it is necessary. And with computer energy use threatening to increase another 75 percent by 2010, seems like riots might be in the cards - the robots vs. the workers, as it were.

Where are We?

Lots of recent jaw about data centers, which has produced some new facts and bedfellows. A new study conducted by Jonathan Koomey, the well respected energy analyst from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, estimates that 1.2 percent of America's energy goes towards powering data centers. This is a critical update to these figures; the last study was in 2000. Energy use for these centers also went up by 50 percent from 2000 to 2005, and that is expected to rise another 75 percent by 2010.

The Good thing is that folks are teaming up to solve the problem. PG&E for example is now leading a national utilities commission to coordinate activities for the high tech sector. They are also offering to reimburse up to 50 percent of the costs of any server consolidation project. That will save a bundle. Get the big vendors and Google on board and we'll have ourselves a brouhaha.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I love Harperesque lists of facts. Here's one on eWaste:

  • Amount of eWaste recycled in Billings, Montana last year, in tons: 80
  • Number of commercial US jet fleets that could be produced with the aluminum America throws away each year: 1
  • Number of states that mandate that all computer waste from governmental agencies be refurbished by prison labor: 1 (Texas)
  • Ratio that the Australian eWaste stream is growing, as compared to other waste streams: 3 to 1
  • Number of computers thrown out in America each day; 130,000
  • Breakeven point between servicing a laptop and buying a new one, in months: 18
  • Number of cell phones thrown out in one year, in America: 130,000,000
  • Cost of the planned tax on garbage that the UK plans to implement, in pounds per month: 10

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Career Is Over, CIO...

but a new one is beginning for you. I like to call it the CGO - Chief Green Officer. Here are some tips to make the transition.

Corporate responsibility is now your responsibility - As Chuck Hollis mentions, you now have an obligation to run your IT shop efficiently. To start, extend the life of your servers from 3 to 5, or even 7 years. I been saying this for months now, but Chuck's article is the first time I have seen it in print.

Eliminate the "'chain of lies" - I'm sure you have you heard this one before (from Chuck):

  • Business guy says 100GB to application guy who doubles it to 200GB.
  • Application guy says 200GB to database guy who doubles it to 400GB.
  • Database guy says 400GB to server guy who doubles it to 800GB.
  • Server guy says 800GB to storage guy who doubles it to 1.6 TB.

And the business guy ends up only needing 10GB, rather than 100GB. And terabytes go unused.

Oh yah, master chief. Let's keep the 16,000 percent increases in storage requirements down to a bare minimum.

Recycling is now a must - With WEEE in Europe and the dozens of regs now active or pending in the US, there's a lot for IT managers to think about when they dispose of used equipment. Make sure they know what they are doing.

Lose the Shelfware - Still installing Access on every single machine? Getting pushed into reupping your million dollar Oracle maintenance agreement? Rolling out package after package with no training? Time for it to go.

No Virtue, Virtualization for Vista

It's getting pretty clear that Vista is only intended to have one specific use. One very, very specific use. And this is it; buy Vista, buy a new PC, and then install Vista on your new PC.

Why else would Microsoft refuse Mac users the right to install Vista on their Mac using Parallels, without buying the most expensive version? Why do they allow installs using Bootcamp, which only allows one operating system at a time? To be fair, some folks think that Apple doesn't want OS X virtualized either, although Apple's opinion is only briefly mentioned in the article and unsubstantiated.

Why is it that they focus so much on the benefits of sleep mode of Vista, when in fact a potential 10 million PCs will be trashed because of Vista? I bet sleep mode doesn't work in a virtualized environment, that's why. Most of all, why is Microsoft now billing Vista as a 'transition OS' to their new Vienna OS which is due out in 2009?
The level of insanity is getting a little dizzying.

I'll sum it up - Vista, you have sinned. In your thoughts and in your words, in what you have done and what you have failed to do. I banish thee to a dusty shelf in a Best Buy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

House of Mystery Around Mercury

Mercury is one of those proverbial bad elements, right up there with lead with the amount of documented badness to the environment. So why is it that Canada (along with the US and India) refuses to support a global ban on mercury pollution? It's a regular House of Mystery.

I did some research into this to solve the riddle. Canada is not a big producer of the metal, so there's no economic incentive. They don't process a lot of eWaste, although India does and they are against the ban as well. Aha, how about this. According to the EPA:

The primary sources of mercury to the environment are fossil fuel burning (primarily coal) and solid waste incineration (Nriagu & Pacyna, 1988). Power plants in the U.S., according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are one of the main sources of mercury pollution—48 tons a year.

Good thing the EPA took our power plants off the regulated list for Mercury in March 2005. Maybe Canada plans on burning up a lot of those Athabascan Tar Sands they are developing, generating a lot of mercury vapor in the process, and they don't want to be hypocrites? Sounds plausible to me, could be that's mystery solved.

Gas Powered Laptop

My, my what will next think of next. How about this cool gas powered laptop that runs on methanol. With an OLED display for both the display and the keyboard, this 'top is ultrathin, and ultracool. No pricing yet, but apparently expensive is the operative word.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More Options in Green Web Hosting

The number of options for green web hosting has expanded quite a bit in recent months. Right now, green hosters fall into two categories, mostly related to how they get their power. One group buys Renewable Energy Certificates that insures that the power they use is generated in an ecofriendly manner, typically wind or solar but it could be biogas or geothermal as well. A few offer discounts to non profits, telecommuting, etc.

Obviously there's going to be a big battle brewing here over what is the most environmentally friendly thing to do; we are going to see the usual heavy marketing on the small differences in model that each provider has to offer. Take this one that concentrates on AISO, a provider that make their own energy :

According to AISO’s website, many of the so-called green Web hosts out there don’t run any environmentally friendly technologies at all, but instead buy RECs as a marketing tactic in hopes of making you think they’re helping the environment. AISO says many RECs merely go toward helping polluting power companies boost their green portfolios and meet EPA or government guidelines. “One of the things that has to change is these companies have to stop looking to traditional power and data centers. They have to buy their own buildings and land and use their own green services… and buying green credits doesn’t make your company green,” Nail said.

Sounds like marketing to me - does one really need to buy their own solar panels and land to be a green hoster? Also, some of the companies such as Acorn and ecoSky, seems to support only open source servers and scripting. I'm going to look into these options and move New View onto the one I think is the best.

Goldman Sachs Manhandles Feds

I always thought that people entered politics for the power that it affords them. That got turned on its head this week when I noticed the the US Government is only appropriating about one billion dollars next year for renewable energy; that's the same amount as Goldman Sachs is investing in renewable technologies, like wind, solar, biodiesel, and ethanol.

Maybe they think the free market will solve the problem without government intervention or funding. This happens, compare FedEx with the US postal service and see who won that game. Going with private investment is a fine idea, just realize that GS will be running the country in a few years when they own all the energy making apparatus.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Everybody Wants a Piece of eWaste

There's been lots of movement on the eWaste front, as ruling body after ruling body starts getting serious about the issue. Oregon is trying for the third time (the charm) to get an electronics recycling bill in place, with obvious embarrassment I might add. Looks like they are going to go with the manufacturer's responsibility model.

Saskatchewan is now requiring consumers to foot the bill, by tacking on fees when the items are purchased. Some of the fees are pretty weighty - $10 for a desktop, up to $45 for a TV. Personally, this is my favorite scheme as it encourages "Reduce" more than any other.

At the national level, several countries such as India realize that they have to do something. In India, the problem is two-fold; not only must they deal with their own waste stream, but also the waste coming from the US because its ten times cheaper to process there. Looks like the manufacturers' responsibility model is in the lead. In addition, Greenpeace has reported that Mexico, China, Thailand, and the Philippines all have groundwater contamination from electronic waste. That should get some politicians interested.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Build A Free Computer Lab

If you really want to create something from nothing, you have to go where there are few resources e.g. no billion dollar hardware budgets, no million dollar software projects. Africa is a good bet. These guys from eTux demonstrated amazing resourcefulness and built a lab in South Africa with no budget, using the Linux terminal server project and Edubuntu. Capital Outlay - $0.

Solar Typos

Sietch has a review on a solar powered keyboard and mouse. It's the first one that i have heard of. Coming from the Genius Corporation, it is wireless, uses USB, and features a four button mouse. No word on the pricing.

Energy Turned Flesh

Picenum has an article on how many energy slaves the typical Brit has working for them; I wrote this up for the United States a while ago. Picenum makes more generous assumptions, in that they think a human can burn about 3800 calories a day. Me, as I sat here drinking coffee and eating toast and jam, was not nearly as generous; I used 2200. Be that as it may, they have combined their numbers with another report to break out where all this energy is going. Turns out that the average Brit has about 16 slaves recreating on their behalf, but only one computing.

Looking at the data, I was wondering if increasing the computing budget could reduce the other items; for example, by using your computer to 'think' about how you take your vacation, can you actually save energy? The answer is probably yes.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

For the Price of a Song

Music - it predates the written word. A God Box of all the music ever recorded would take up maybe 60,000 CDs. We don't really know why we like it except for the fact that it makes temporary structures in our minds that are pleasing. And, recently, a lot of people are questioning the environmental impact of music services such as iTunes that do this kind of thing on a big level.

At the human body level, music is a lot like any other consumable. It doesn't get clamped on to your arm or leg; you listen,
then it's gone. It's not like an artificial limb, more like a candy bar, where you chow down and throw away the wrapper. And these wrappers are the problem.

One of these wrappers is called the CD-ROM, and iTunes sells the equivalent of 416,000 of these per day. Now, I haven't done the math on the Shuffle, but it seems like having a few a these Shuffle things around is going to be a lot better then having 416,000 CDs a day being produced. If you absolutely need the get the CD, music vendors like Green Amoeba can sweeten the deal by taking your eWaste when you make a purchase, but this seems like a slightly inferior business model. Again, no math on this one, but having the semi-permanent Shuffle with the virtual mp3 songs seems better than having the semi-permanent CD-ROM player with the semi-permanent CDs.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

90,000 Dead? Try Telecommuting.

Filed under Baseline - the CDC has just published a report on what companies should do if the US is hit with a major influenza attack. Among the many recommendations, they suggest implementing telecommuting if the death toll hits 90,000.

Not bad, not bad, let's go one step farther. How about 300 million Americans slowly dying from damage to the ecosystem? Can we implement telecommuting based on that? If you need a little help getting your program going (and a few reasons why it's a good business case), Sun has a nice packet on why telecommuting is the solution. True, you won't have the 90,000 dead to point to, but the guide is chock full of other great facts and figures.

Gore, the Fortune Teller

I found a story yesterday on Al Gore which suggests that he is reading my mind. It relates to his speech in Silicon Valley the other day which suggests exactly what I just said, that techies need to start figuring this green stuff out:

The work already done in information technology, computational science, biotechnology and other specialties that are present in this valley, more than any other place in the world, are going to be the most valuable resources" to combat the crisis, he said. "Just as information technology changed the world, clean tech and green tech right here based in Silicon can chart the course and save the future of this civilization.

In fact, in the same speech he encouraged executives to use their collective technical knowledge to innovate. C'mon Al, I just said that yesterday, are you sure you didn't crib ecoIron right before your speech? Maybe it's in the water.

Green Options an Option

I came across Green Options the other day, a green blog/forum/news space out there that will probably give the Hugger a run for their money. They seem to cover everything and they have a whole stable of bloggers ready to grind out the news, including Jeff McIntire-Strasburg of sustainablog who I have linked for some time. Seems like they're trying to do it professionally; this is good, as the stories are usually more meaty and researched, but it can take the edge off the individual opinions.

There are two intriguing parts of their site - the forums and the 'Green Report' - which are fresh in the green blogging world. I haven't found a green forum page which is heavily used yet, but I think this one might be. Also, the Green Report is a neat idea, it is laid out like a newspaper, kind of Drudge Report-esque, but better. I can see reading that every day. Take a look.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Go Green, INTP's and INTJ's

Nice article here from CNet describing how Silicon Valley is going from silicon to solar. Now I've been saying this for months, this is the next evolution of the geek. And in this post, I'm going to explain why.

Here's why. All this green environmental technology stuff is going to require people to figure it out. All those solar cells, all those geothermal power plants, all those battery powered cars, these are all going to take people. But not just any people, we're going to need real dedicated visionary types, go getters who can really put some determination and effort into figuring this stuff out before the global meltdown. Self directed individuals, hard workers, innovators. A quick look at my Myers Briggs profiler shows me that we will need a lot of those INTP's and INTJ's. Why, those are the Nerds!

The problem is we are only talking about 5 to 9 percent of the population here, and a lot of these guys are busy doing other things like being a dentist or running a multinational corporation. However, with IT collapsing on itself more and more every day now, looks to me like there will be an abundance of Nerds lurking around for something to do pretty soon. Why don't you finish up that pointless software/hardware maintenance you're doing now and convince Bossman to get into this environmental racket? You will all be happier.

China about Sated on eWaste

The China eWaste saga continues, but I think I can add a few more pieces to the puzzle. Let's start with demand; China is growing like mad, sucking up about 30 percent of the world's supply of minerals and other raw materials. It's these minerals that are of interest to us, as eWaste is full of minerals. Gold, steel, iron, copper, eWaste has it all. So this waste stream, except when it has hand grenades in it, is a good one to import and process; it's a waste stream that no one wants and they are happy to send it to China.

Now, we all know that the 10 million unlicensed Chinese who process a lot of this stuff don't do the best job at it; acid baths, open air burning, etc. And maybe they aren't getting rich off it, but the potential does exist to make big bucks off recycling. For example, check out Zhang Yin, who in five short years made 7 billion processing waste paper in China. So there is some profit to be made, people are getting rich, and there is definitely potential to turn the free waste stream into cash.

Up to now, I think that this has been fine with the Chinese. However, now I think we are going to see a shift for several reasons. One is that they know that the eWaste processing is causing serious health issues, and the burgeoning middle class won't put up with that. Two, they are coming out with Chinese RoHS, which has no exemptions and will require detailed labelling and reporting. I believe they will use these regulations to climb to the next rung on the ladder; namely, to selectively limits products coming into China for use by their new middle class. This will allow them to expand their line of 'clean goods', while simultaneously phasing out the old eWaste program. Essentially, they are transforming the amount of resources they need to build things into buying clean goods from other countries.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Few Items

Here's a few items I have been keeping on my bookmarked list for a while now.

Solid State Disks - such as the 128GB monster shown here, put out by A-Data. I think there is great promise for these drives because of their "solid stateness", if only we can get past the slow write time and relatively short lifetime.

Looking for an ecoMachine? Try this writeup from the Hugger that has a variety of models from NEC, Greenmachineshop and EcoSystemPC.

Friday, February 02, 2007

We Can Change the Time, How About the Tune

Many of you know that daylight savings time is going to be extended by a full two months this year, starting on March 11 and ending November 4. Lots of states seem to be doing their own thing, but overall, the change is supposed to save 100,000 barrels of oil. Since we use about 20 million barrels a day, I figure that's about .0013 percent, only 1000 times more efficient than black Google.

Of course, none of the computers will like this; you will pretty much have to patch every OS, piece of hardware, and software suite that you own. Here's some more help. Something to do this Spring, but here's my point; changing the time on millions of Americans and computers is within our framework for change, but mandating, say, CFC bulbs in every household is not (except for California.) Why is that?

It's a Breeze to Go Virtual

with VMWare's Converter, that is. This handy tool will convert your Microsoft server into image files that work with VMWare. Also converts other formats like Virtual PC, Live State Recovery, and Ghost. Two editions available, one free and one not.

Now you just have to figure out what those Windows machines will cost in your virtual environment. Well, it's easy, just use the Microsoft Virtualization Calculator.

Now's Your Chance

If you are worried about the massive surge in eWaste that upgrading to Vista will produce, you're not alone. One study found that 50 percent of all business computers cannot run Vista Basic, and 94 percent can't run Vista Premium.

What to do, what to do. I think this guy has it figured out. His father wanted the Vista installed on his computer, the son installed the Ubuntu. Natch, dad thinks it's great, best thing to come out of Redmond in years.

I don't think it's so crazy. The Vista release is prepping your users for a change. Doesn't really matter what the change is, and if you don't have to throw out 94 percent of your machines, so much the better.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Look Ma, No Lithium

From the what-else-is-new department; apparently we won't have enough lithium to power all the world's vehicles either (900 million), using those cool battery powered cars that are up and coming. And with most of lithium supply in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia, there will be some interesting geopolitical dynamics around resources in the coming years.

No Copper. No Tin. Those stinky landfills are looking more and more attractive for mining.

The White Waste Stream

Chris Jordan has some neat artwork that captures the amount of resources we use every day. Shown here is 30,000 reams of office paper, the amount used in America every five minutes.

Dress it up a little and hang one by every printer in your office with an appropriate slogan. People will think twice before printing.