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Old 02-14-2008, 01:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Saving power by changing computing habits and hardware

I have decided to make some changes in my computer system. For one, I own 3 computers that more or less stay on continuously (laptop and 2 desktops). I have started letting my main computer go to sleep when I leave it idle for more then 30 minutes. That computer alone uses up between 400W and 500W of electricity. My laptop uses 65W when it's plugged in and the second desktop uses around 200W. Both desktops now go to sleep when inactive for more then 30 minutes and my laptop I unplug whenever I'm not using it and I close the lid. This helped pretty significantly, however, since I'm on the computer a lot, my desktop doesn't sleep very much and if it's not sleeping, it's not saving. So I have been trying to use my laptop as much as possible to help keep my desktop asleep unless I absolutely need to use it for say, music or movies (I like watching movies on the big LCD screen it has). But that still isn't enough for me.

I'm currently in the process of building a new computer. It will not entirely replace my main desktop, but it will be a desktop that I can use when I want to do anything but play video games. I am using hardware that, in total, should use less then 60W of power and then on top of that I'm building a super efficient operating system to put on it (the operating system is something like Windows XP or Vista for those who don't know) that is based on the "Linux" operating system. My goal is to design a computer system that can be extremely reliable, power efficient and easy to use that I can use for personal use as well as provide to people looking for similar things.

If anyone here has experience with Linux or computers in general and would be interested in being a part of this, please let me know. I'm working on the operating system side right now, trying to strip it as much as possible and get it working well enough that it passes the relative test (giving it to my mom and seeing if she can use it).

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Old 02-14-2008, 01:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Why not turn the computers off while not using them?
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Old 02-14-2008, 01:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Lightbulb yup

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daox View Post
Why not turn the computers off while not using them?
That's what I do.
We have three, 1 laptop, 2 cpu's.
Off when not in use.
Really off. Big green switch on the surge protector off.
I am not sure when the last time I even turned on my shop computer.
I told the wife we're gonna hook the telly up to a wall switch.
I gotta figure that one out, my cable & phone boxes have to stay on but the TV, VCR, DVD can go.
I don't care if they know what time it is.
S.
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Old 02-14-2008, 01:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Don't forget to use a black background on your desktop... that'll save 5 watts on mine.

I'm interested in a good graphics card that has low power requirements and uses a heat sink instead of a huge fan. I was gonna try and build a low power quiet one to replace the one I built years ago but it was way cheaper/faster/easier to buy, so that's what I did the other week. Night and day difference on the sound level. My power consumption (w/o monitor) dropped from 135 watts to 45 watts. Only downside might be the integrated graphics. The front has a "green" 19" CRT which runs around 70 watts. I'm not sure how much lower an LCD would be but I want to hold one until the 24s start to tank in price.

I thought mine was a steal... $400 for a 1.6ghz / 2 GB ram / Vista / 320 GB 7200 rpm, DVD burner Lenovo. Even has a remote which isn't as useless as I though it would be. It's an odd looking duck with a weird blinking eye in the middle that as far as I can tell fakes whether the knob around the eye is set to be on performance (red), economy (green) or auto (blue). The watt meter shows no real difference.

Nets out at $400 at Tiger Direct in Canada, but about $730 US...
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Old 02-14-2008, 02:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If you want help with the Linux aspect, I have been using Linux (and OpenBSD) solely for over six years now - no windows at all on my computers. I am a junior developer for Gentoo and have contributed to many projects. I have used several apps for measuring power from hardware down to the applications, on my laptop, to maximize battery life. So just let me know if you want help, I may be able to offer something.
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Old 02-14-2008, 03:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I did some tests with the kill-a-watt meter, and LCD's don't care as much about background color, I didn't however check on brightness, also with the LCD that I tests, when the computer turns off or goes to sleep and the screen turns it's self off, the little light on the front is the only part that is really on... the kill-a-watt meter showed near zero.
if you are building a computer from the ground up, under clocking the proceser will help alot if you can afford to do that, that is one way that laptops use less power is by taking what would normaly be seen as a fast chip, and slowing it down, because the more you ask a chip to do, the hotter it gets and they can only handle so much heat, so if you want to make a faster chip you have to make it more efficent... simaler to aerodinamics, you can go faster with improved aerodinamics!
look for a computer with fewer fans, some of the mini desk top computers, I think the mac mini is one of them, don't have a cpu fan because the cpu is slow enough that it runs cooler, fans use power, and in the end need a bigger power suply, so you need a fan on that too! of course computers are kind of like cars, their speed is a selling point, even if you don't need it.
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Old 02-14-2008, 03:32 PM   #7 (permalink)
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One of the best ways to build a power saving desktop is to buy one of the Via x86 processors. Via x86 processors also have some power saving mother boards that Intel and AMD lack. Of course if you are using Linux then you need not restrict yourself to x86, but you have to know what you are doing.
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Old 02-14-2008, 04:59 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenKreton View Post
One of the best ways to build a power saving desktop is to buy one of the Via x86 processors. Via x86 processors also have some power saving mother boards that Intel and AMD lack. Of course if you are using Linux then you need not restrict yourself to x86, but you have to know what you are doing.
That's what I'm doing. I'm using a complete VIA setup. The chip is a VIA C7 <1Ghz processor and it has an 80W PSU that I'm pretty confident I won't even really stress since I'm also using a CF memory card from a digital camera as my hard drive to minimize heat and power consumption.

GenKreton: I will definitely be in touch with you about doing some testing and suggestions. If you care to do so, PM me your email address so we don't have to divert the topic of this thread with our technical garble.
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Old 02-15-2008, 07:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
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You may have better ways of dropping Carbon emissions for your dollar than going with an entirely new setup. Post the specs on your other two rigs, depending on what they are you may be able to drop 'em to C7 consumption levels, give or take 10-30W w/o spending much, if anything at all.
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Old 02-15-2008, 11:34 PM   #10 (permalink)
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My main desktop:

Intel Core2 Duo E4300 @ 3Ghz
2GB RAM
4 hard drives
500W power supply

Pentium III backup machine (running on that right now)
P3 733mhz
256MB RAM
1 30GB hard drive
150W power supply

I'm really just building the VIA computer because I've always loved how small they were and I hate how loud my main desktop computer. I'm thinking of salvaging the hard drives from the main computer and putting them in the P3 machine, since it doesn't use that much power, to just host the files like a network share. Then I'm building the VIA machine since the only thing I don't like about the P3 is how slow it is, so the VIA at 1.5Ghz will give me an extra boost in that area and keep power consumption low.

I just love how small the VIA computers are though. The idea of having a desktop computer that was smaller then my computer monitor is always an idea I liked for some strange reason.

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