I’ve tracked the IT industry for many years and it does appear the hardware and software providers’ only goal is to get you to buy new kit.
Now while they have to make money, it does seem totally unnecessary for something as open as the PC architecture to limit upgradeability. For instance, when Intel or AMD develop a new generation of processor, you bet it won’t fit in existing processor sockets. The only way to benefit from the new procesor is to buy a brand new PC. That’s such a waste. There has been so much change in processor sockets that users are forced to upgrade. According to the PC Buyer Beware site:
The pace of change is now so rapid that it is becoming increasingly necessary to purchase a new motherboard, processor, and even RAM in order to upgrade to a faster processor.
I’ve also heard that AGP, the graphics card connector isn’t really backwards compatible. It’s a lost opportunity.
However, there’s been some progress. I recently bought a new digital camera and it connects perfectly to my PC thanks to USB 2.0. If only the industry could agree a universal standard for processor sockets and other essential PC upgrades. Maybe we could prolong the life of our hardware.
There is no one answer. The industry relies on businesses and consumers to buy the latest hardware, software, mobile phones and gadgets. The manufacturers create demand for new products and fulfil that demand with ever-more sophisticated products. Financially, the IT industry seems like it can print money.
Personally, I think this model of driving innovation is not sustainable; nor is it good for the environment. We are becoming a throw-away culture. I would prefer the industry to innovate in a way that prolonged the life of products. And I would be prepared to pay more for such products. Would you?
I have mentioned previously that our reliance on Moores’ Law has meant programmers no longer worry about the limitations of the target hardware. Coding used to be an art-form, squeezing the maximum performance using the tightest programming techniques.
Today’s coders simply link to a bloatware library – accessing application services over the web that may see a computer run millions of lines of code.
The issue today is not that computers are not powerful enough…the issue is that we must use this power in a responsible, environmentally friendly manner. Green IT has as much to do with good programming practices as extracting greater efficiency from the underlying hardware.
For the last few days I’ve been looking at the issue of green IT. It strikes me that a major contributor to the energy inefficiency of modern IT is our reliance on Moore’s Law, which has progressively lowered the cost of computing power.
My very first home computer had only 32 Kbytes of memory, yet it was a superb games machine. My first PC only had 512 KB of memory (yes, I mean kilobytes, not megabytes), yet it saw me through three years of undergraduate Computer Science. As I recall, it ran MS-DOS 5.0, Word Perfect 5.0, an 8086 assembler and even the Zortech C++ compiler 1.0.
Clearly things have moved on and my mobile phone now has a 2 Gbyte memory card thanks to Moore’s Law. But, with almost infinite computer resources available to application developers, I worry that we somehow have lost the art of writing elegant, resource-constrained computer programs.
It does amuse me that PCs expel hot air. Along with the fan for the CPU, we can now buy fans to cool the hard disc, graphics cards and the inside of the case. AMD and Intel claim their dual core processor architectures will dramatically reduce power consumption. But I fear, any gains in efficiency will quickly be consumed by even more power hungry peripherals.
The BBC website is reporting on “Green Shift“, a taskforce led by Manchester City Council to oversee the piloting of a “green PC” service in which individual machines use 98% less energy than standard PCs.
The way the PC industry operates is simply not green. I’m writing this blog on a PC that was last upgraded in 2002. It has the same 1.7 GHz Pentium chip, 512 MB RAM and graphics adapter it originally came with. I’ve added an M-Audio sound card, a second hand SCSI disc system from eBay, DVD rewriter and Freeview adapter.
Over 40 years ago Gordon Moore predicted how the integrated circuit would enable people to buy chips for the same price but double the complexity every two years.
The law has more-or-less governed hardware development. It has been great news for consumers of IT, up to a point, but has also led to built-in obsolescence and it is not green. Moore’s Law may have driven the IT industry for the last 42 years, but in 2007 we need a new law, one that will reduce the landfills of old hardware.
Our office has been rather hot today. Even though the aircon is on full blast, it is ineffective. Why? because the PCs on our desks and computer monitors are radiating heat. In fact, PCs have a fan to expel the hot air from inside the case straight into the office. The PC generates hot air, because the chips it uses run hot, and a fan is used to cool them down, by blowing the warm air straight into the office. Desks are placed back to back, and the hot air radiates back to the user. So we need to pump up the air conditioning. It all seems grossly energy inefficient.
Are you green? If not, why not. Everywhere I turn, people are turning green. Green is a vote winner; green demonstrates corporate social responsibility and in some circles, green is cool.
Of course we must save the planet. But what impact will little me make. Not much unless my neighbour does, and his neighbour, and hers too… Green is about a collective. We must all work together.
I haven’t suddenly gone raving eco-mad. Rather, I have been tracking a steady growing interest in Green IT. I wonder how much of an impact we can make, as individuals, as businesses and as an industry to reduce our carbon footprint.
I recently had to hand back a smartphone after an extended evaluation. The thing is, I get bored of new technology. At the time I first received it the SonyEricsson M600i certainly looked impressive.
Sadly, while it offered high speed 3G Internet, it did not support Wi-Fi, limiting its use for cost-effective high-speed mobile Internet access. What I found most annoying, however, was that the device lacked some of the basic applications found on the equivalent MS product. Why should I have to pay $45 for QuickOffice Premier when Windows Mobile devices have Pocket Office for free? So the M600i has been sitting in a draw for the last six months – pretty much unused.
Instead I found salvation in the Windows Mobile-powered O2 XDA Orbit.
It’s not perfect. I have said previously that I dislike the fact that Windows-based mobile phones don’t work properly as phone, but Microsoft will get this right one day. When that day comes, SonyEricsson better watch out…Symbian-powered devices like the M600i will be doomed.