Category Archives: environment

Green Screens for Earth Day

A Green Screen from the 1970s

A Green Screen from the 1970s

Original Post:   21 April 2008
A few of us are old enough to remember the old “green screens” of IBM terminals in the 1960’s and 70’s.   In these days of BlackBerries and mice and touchscreens, “green screens” and line-by-line outputs seem quaint, but once they were very innovative compared to “punch cards”.
Well, “green IT” is coming back.   We’ve suddenly discovered that our appetite for technology is filling up data centers with servers and hard drive storage and network switches, all of which suck electrical energy like a refrigerator gone bad or a steel mill.  
What are we doing at the City of Seattle to “get more green” and use less energy?    First, we’re really getting in to “virtualization”.   For the last few years, whenever we’ve added an application, we’ve added a server.  A new online payment system for electrical permits?  Add a server.  A new business license system?  Add a server or two or three (application server, database server, presentation server, etc.).   Often, each server was only 5% or 10% used.
With new technology, such as VMWare software, we can use one physical server to emulate five or ten or even 40 servers.  And use one-fifth, one-tenth or one-fourtieth of the power and the cooling and the space.  We are actively pursing a “green IT” technology using VMWare.  The “new green screens”!

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Filed under environment, history of technology

Paper and Technology and Environment, Oh My!

Seattle Earth Day Events

Seattle Earth Day Events

Original Post:  21 April 2008
In many places in our modern society, we are actively looking to reduce paper use, water use and electricity use in the name of “saving the environment”.   And, when you look at it on the surface, creating and using paper is bad for the environment.   We cut trees, we use a lot of water and energy to create paper, and, if not recycled, it fills dumps or pollutes the air when we burn it.   So, should we use a lot more computers and hard drives and CD’s/DVD’s to create and store documents, plans, spreadsheets and the other “artifacts” which move our society forward?   Well, think about it for a moment – first, the total fossil fuels used to make one desktop computer weigh over 240 kilograms, some 10 times the weight of the computer itself (http://www.it-environment.org/compenv.html) There are 500 million obsolete computers in the United States alone and only 10% are recycled.   (http://svtc.etoxics.org/site/PageServer?pagename=svtc_global_ewaste_crisis )
So, is information technology “greener” than using paper and cutting trees?   Well, gee, even though I’m an unabashed “chief geek”, I’m not so sure …
Happy Earth Day 2008.
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Filed under environment