Saturday, August 11

Green pixels: Thinking sustainable in art and technology

From An Inconvenient Truth to LiveEarth, terms like 'sustanability' and 'carbon-neutral' have been thrown around frequently lately. But what does it mean for us working in the arts and technology space here in New Zealand?

"The little rivulet down the hill has to pretty much dry up for this to happen! However 23mm of rain the other day has brought it back to its normal capacity. Yippee, the coffee maker can be started up again."

The quote above, taken from Thinking Unlimited, is a response, albeit one which might send a groan through the average tech-savvy artist. But electricity consumption is at the heart of the digital space, so it makes sense that's where bloggers like Mark Ontkush start. His post stating that "An all white web page uses about 74 watts to display, while an all black page uses only 59 watts.” led to an all-black version of Google, titled Blackle. And while the intent is there, posters to the ADA list looked past the hype, calculating that the savings here are negligible.

> > > BTW, this 750 megawatt-hours/year is not actually very much at all.
> > > If you convert it to megawatt hours per hour, which is to say,
> > > megawatts:
> > >
> > > 750 / (365 * 24) = 0.0856
> > >
> > > you get 85 kW. Heaters, kettles, and vacuum cleaners use in the
> > > order of 2kW each

Programmers working on alternative operating system Linux have focused on power heavily in the last few months, releasing a series of patches that aim to conserve and minimise whenever possible - such as backlighting and a new 'tickless idle' feature. Normally processors 'wake up' every millisecond to keep the system clock going and synced, tickless idle disables this function, resulting in a cooler, less power hungry processor that's truly idle. This PowerTOP project demonstrates some of the basic plusses for open source - their channel regularly has between 30 and 50 volunteer coders exchanging ideas, contributing features, and fixing patches. Their reward (besides saving the earth) is something much more tangible - their laptop batteries last a few hours longer.

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