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The best way to do "green computing" isn't to buy a *new* computer, but to continue to use old ones that would otherwise be disposed of, where the manufacture costs are already sunk.
Aleutia E2: low power to the people
Posted Feb 5, 2009 2:17 UTC (Thu) by Simetrical (guest, #53439)
Software and the environment
Posted Feb 5, 2009 5:59 UTC (Thu) by eru (subscriber, #2753)
Maybe. But the software developers (both closed and open source) make this unworkable. Every distro release brings more bloat, and the bloat seems to be growing faster than features, so you really cannot stick to older computers for more than about 8 years (in my experience), unless you stop entirely upgrading your software. But in today's networked world, than mean you don't get security fixes (who updates Red Hat 5 these days...), and you also don't see web pages and documents in newer formats (just for fun, tried Netscape 4 a few days ago on a Windows box. Crashed on the first modern web page it saw...).
I think the real way to green computing is for software developers to learn how to do more with less. This way both new low-power boxes like the Aleutia E2, and old computers become useful, and stay that way until the hardware breaks.
Posted Feb 5, 2009 7:45 UTC (Thu) by Cato (subscriber, #7643)
These distros do have full security updates because they are just variants of the main distros. Crunchbang even includes Flash, Java and so on.
The challenge for these older machines is video - many people expect to be able to see Youtube these days. Really the only solution longer-term, as video becomes higher resolution, is to use the older machine as a thin client - LTSP and many other solutions are quite handy here, and the free VMware server makes it quite easy to centrally host Windows images for thin client use within the home through VNC.
Posted Feb 5, 2009 11:12 UTC (Thu) by eru (subscriber, #2753)
Yes, the light-weight distribution variants alleviate the problem somewhat,
but they really can only change some of the system layers (like the desktop)
less resource-intensive. They cannot make OpenOffice.org or Firefox less bloated. Another problem is that these are oddbal variants which are a bit
different to use from mainstream distributions, so less sophisticated users
will find it harder to get help with them from books or magazines. The use case I have in mind here is a non-geek relative or friend running a virus-infested Windows98 on an old machine... how to linuxify him/her without purchasing new hardware?
Quote [...] Crunchbang, which runs fine in just 200 MB RAM [...]
See the problem here? 200Mb is *huge* if that is needed just to run the OS
and basic desktop utilities without undue delays (as opposed to running
some application that really puts lots of memory to good use). Circa 1995
I used to run OS/2 Warp on a 75Mhz Pentium with 32MB. It was about as
user-friendly as the today's Linux desktops, and did not feel any slower.
So just *where* does all that computing power go? I can think of two
visible differences between my 1995 desktop and current: 8-bit vs 24-bit
colour, and antialiased fonts, but I don't think that comes even close
explaining the difference.
The challenge for these older machines is video - many people expect to be able to see Youtube these days. [...]
I have found a 600Mhz P3 to be quite sufficient for decoding standard
definition and below, when you use a well-optimized player (Mplayer seems
to be the gold standard here), and your display supports the Xvideo
extension properly. But HD content clearly goes out of reach. Does
piping video around the house with VNC really work? AFAIK its encoding
is not optimized for photorealistic video (as opposed to desktop
graphics that have large smooth regions), so you will be transmitting and
forcing receiver to decode vastly more bytes than with a real video codec.
Posted Feb 5, 2009 11:21 UTC (Thu) by Cato (subscriber, #7643)
SliTaz is an even lighter variant that looks promising as well. In all these cases you'll need to help the friend/relative get started, but at least Crunchbang and others provide live CDs and an easy install process - no different to standard Ubuntu in that case.
I'm counting a couple of running apps such as browser and word processor in the memory usage. Crunchbang and SliTaz clearly use way less than 200MB just to start up.
As for video, I found a 700 MHz PIII too slow for Youtube Flash videos, which is the key application for Joe Public. You are probably right about VNC not being optimal for video, but perhaps it would work OK for smaller Youtube-sized videos (not full screen) - I have used SSVNC logged into a remote system showing a webcam view from Skype and it does work over the Internet, using SSH over VNC, but not very well. I'm reasonably sure that smaller videos would work fine over 802.11g WiFi, but not SD or HD TV of course.
Posted Feb 5, 2009 12:25 UTC (Thu) by eru (subscriber, #2753)
Odd. I recall having success with Flash with an old machine of about that
speed (I don't have access to it right now so cannot check). Video playback
is really sensitive to having a correct X11 setup: even a faster
processor cannot play video smoothly, if it has to update the screen in
the generic way, instead of the Xvideo. The display bit depth may also
Posted Feb 7, 2009 15:21 UTC (Sat) by cortana (subscriber, #24596)
Posted Feb 10, 2009 14:00 UTC (Tue) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
The challenge for these older machines is video - many people expect to be able to see Youtube these days.
Sadly, the free Flash players are even worse. The MPlayer plugin for firefox is a much better solution right now performance-wise, but getting to the videos is not easy. There are special download pages and plugins, but they tend to break every few months.
All in all an exercise in futility. It would be so nice to have a fast stable client for Flash video.
Posted Feb 5, 2009 7:58 UTC (Thu) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
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