Climate Change: How You Can Help Prevent It

Since it's Blog Action Day 2009 today, I'd like to remind all the readers of my blog how climate change can be prevented by following really simple rules.

Since Unix Tutorial is a technical blog, I'll try and stay as technical as possible within the topic.

Virtualize to consume less energy, get rid of old hardware

Old servers required a much bigger commitment in the past: not only did they cost a fortune, but they also needed a lot of space and required a lot of power. These days, 1u or 2u server solution can easily outperform a computing system which used to take a whole cabinet in your datacentre. And since the cost of supporting old hardware only increases with each year, it makes a lot of sense to simply but a new server to replace the old infrastructure.

If you're really big into the whole life cycle thing, an even better approach is to virtualize most of your systems. There are quite a few great solutions today – vSphere from VMware, Xen and KVM based virtualization from RedHat and the xVM family of virtualization solutions by Sun Microsystems (Oracle).

A ratio of 15 virtual machines per 1 physical server isn't that uncommon, which can give you an idea about the kind of improvement you'll get by following the route of virtualization.

The math is really simple: shut down 15 old servers, keep only 1 new server running – this means greatly reducing the amount of energy and therefore helping the planet stay green for a bit longer.

Read from your screen, print less

Perhaps on a much smaller scale, the issue of printing materials is also a direction you may want to explore if you're serious about helping the climate change prevention.

Many of us still print dozens of sheets of A4 paper a day. We print out emails and directions, man pages and screenshots – many of these to never be used again.

Start small and pay attention to every urge of yours to print something out. Ask yourself a few simple questions just to be sure that you absolutely need each piece of the information printed out.

As a Unix administrator, you should find ways to monitor your printing service. Even simple things like weekly stats of the top users printing stuff out might sometimes help you save really big on the paper and toner cost. Many users print stuff out without a certain reason for doing so – it's just their habit.

This means that if you're familiar with lpstat and lpadmin commands, you have a chance to help yourself and others become more aware of how much you're printing and what can be done to break your printing patters.

eInk-based book readers are a great alternative for those of you who claim they absolutely can't read off screen. It may be a while until A4-sized readers become widely available and affordable, but already you can get a book reader for just a few hundred dollars and this little device can be used for storing and reading of many books – all without much of an environmental impact, since you no longer need paper books.

Use only what you need

You'll be amazed how much can be saved if you run CPUs on your system at the speed sufficient to fulfill your computational needs instead of having everything running at 100% of their speed!

Many modern servers have power-awareness and intelligence built-in. I especially like blade server solutions – Dell, HP and Sun have all got a range of blade enclosures and blade servers on offer.

The beauty of using blades is that blade enclosures are extremely intelligent and configurable devices – you can use them to cap the power draw for your whole enclosure or a certain blade. Such power limitations will usually result in a lower performance, but for many solutions it's not critical at all. For example, if your blade hosts a FlexLM licenses server or serves web pages, it will be almost impossible to spot a performance difference even if you significantly lower the CPU speed.

Most operating systems support power management options. For desktops, this means ability to manage the speed of your cooling fans or the speed of your CPU which immediately has an impact. Sometimes you can also control your graphics card in the same manner. If you add screen blanking and hard drives management to this (configuring the sleep times for periods of long inactivity), you have all you need to reduce the power draw of your PC and ultimately help our planet stay the way it currently is or maybe even get refreshed over the next few years.

That's it for today! Sure enough, these tips may not seem to be all this climate change preventative, but trust me – we all have to participate with however small steps and environmental improvements we can think of.

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  • points like
    Read from your screen, print less
    are valuable ones as i have observed many of my friends to take print outs for unnecessary reasons. more over Projectors can be used instead of giving a printed copy to every one during a meeting.