We've all seen the worries that people will need to upgrade their computer systems if they wish to run Vista, thereby leading to the binning of a large amount of perfectly usable kit. However, is it the case that the new kit is more energy efficient and would offset the binning of less energy efficient kit?
Whilst pondering that one, users might also turn their minds as to how energy efficient Vista is compared to XP or Linux. Do all the extra bells and whistles of the 'Aero' interface lead to significantly more energy consumption? Or, if Vista is as secure as Microsoft claims, might it prove more energy efficient than an OS which needs frequent patching? How much energy would the world save having to install fewer patches every month?
Hardware benchmarks for energy efficiency do exist and are continuing to gain traction with more and more purchasers using them to make decisions based on performance per watt and, in the case of laptops, performance as a function of battery life. In fact the Business Applications Performance Corporation (BAPCO) has already announced a joint venture with ECMA International to create a "Performance-Qualified Energy Benchmark for Industry Standard Personal Computers", while the EPA backed Energy Star initiative also offers energy efficiency standards for PCs, laptops and monitors.
So we have energy efficient hardware standards, but what about energy efficient software? I'm not talking about software which has code for optimising hardware for energy efficiency, but software written so as to use the least power during its execution.
Programmers know they can turn on various compiler 'flags' when writing code, i.e. /debug if they want to trace through code for bugs. What about a /green flag which would comb through programs trying to optimise code to use as little processor power or hard disk access as possible? How's about architecting software with energy consumption as one of the key specifications, so that the tasks that are the most energy hungry are avoided wherever possible.
As an ex-NCB technician who used to measure the heat of combustion of different coals in the South Yorkshire area using bomb calorimetry, perhaps I have energy efficiency on the brain, but if hardware manufacturers are touting green credentials for the hardware, maybe OS manufacturers should start thinking about energy efficient software as well.
Operating systems such as Vista are so ubiquitous that software architects wouldn't have to make particularly large savings in order to realise truly massive energy gains. Just imagine how much energy would be saved if every version of Vista for example was re-architected to save just a couple of watts an hour.
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