LogoWatch Special How Unix will save the planet

Readers present convincing eco-case

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Last month, LogoWatch turned its attention to The Unix versus NT organisation. According to the blurb which accompanies its exciting new logo:

The dark green color was chosen because it represents life, nature, growth, and ecology. This corresponds to the re-growth, rejuvenation, and general UNIX renaissance we now find ourselves in.

This provoked us to comment: "We're sorry? Nature? Ecology? Have you gone completely bonkers? A Reg pin to anyone who can demonstrate the link between UNIX and the environment. Do us a favour."

Well, that was all it took. Cue stampede of sysadmins eco-warriors falling over themselves to prove that Unix will indeed save mother Earth from environmental apocalypse.

How, you're wondering, will it achieve this miracle? Well, so numerous are the apparent ecological benefits of Unix that we have collated the data as follows:

Recycle, protect and survive

About to throw that 486 in the dumpster? Hold on a minute, says Josef Mollers:

With M$ products, you need a new system every year, using enormous amounts of energy to produce the new, adding heaps of dangerous waste when getting rid of the old system. With Unix and its descendents, these "obsolete" boxes can be put to new uses!

Ruven Gottlieb agrees:

[This is] particularly relevant in the case of Linux and the free BSDs, as old machines that have served their purpose are often redeployed as web or file and print servers, or routers.

And should you want technical details, look no further than Nik Borton:

Well, I run Slackware 7.1 on an AMD 5x86 with 32mb of RAM and a PIO mode 4 (ie, not even DMA, never mind UDMA) hard drive as a firewall, a router, DNS, HTTP, FTP and Samba servers, and run MySQL on it as well. It does on-demand dialling to BTInternet. It performs beautifully, unless I get cocky and recursively grep across the entire file system (which only puts IP masquerading off).

Put Win9x on it, and it displays a deathly fear of doing anything at all.

Right, time to dig out that Sinclair ZX81. We always knew that it would be useful for something...

Power crazed

So, what about the power consumption issue? Simple, says Tim Barnard:

A Windows-based server usually needs a faster processor and more memory than a Unix based system doing exactly the same job. All things being equal, a faster processor consumes more power than an identical CPU at a lower speed. Less power means that less fuel needs to be burnt to produce the electricity. Less pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide are released into the atmosphere and Unix is envionmentally friendly!

Another way to look at the problem would be consider the energy used to heat the coffee for the sysadmins who have to apply patches to keep Microsoft web servers (theoretically) secure.

And then there are further peripheral energy benefits, according to Mike Schrimshaw:

In my work environment, we generally replace 4 NT/Oracle systems with one Sun mid-range server; this saves electricity, and petrol for those poor NT admins that would otherwise have to drive in to the city at 3am to reboot or massage something.

Talking of rebooting, what about Mike Edwards' theorum?:

More power is used by a system when it first boots than while it's simply running. Since Windows is known to be unstable, requiring far more reboots than should be necessary for a server (or client) OS, it stands to reason that systems running Windows have higher power requirements than those running a stable OS - hence, environmentally unfriendly.

We conclude this heading with a snippet from regular correspondent Jonnyhonk who has, as ever, an important contribution to make to the debate:

Windows has more letters than UNIX and thus takes more power to type.

Thanks for that. It's amazing how many people failed to spot this blindingly obvious factoid.

Go hug a tree

Amazonian Indians can rest easy in their hammocks, safe in the knowledge that Unix will not be making too many demands on their forest environment. So says Alan Drew:

Unix has always supported the 'n' up printing format that uses (usually) half as much paper, by printing two portrait pages half the size on a landscape A4 Sheet.

I still haven't figured out how to do that under windows NT, therefore use Unix, use less paper, result less destruction of rainforests.

Simple as that. Jared Jennings expands this argument:

Less packaging in landfills (to the extent that Unix means you download it over the internet instead of buying it in a box...) ... and third-world countries can use the money that they didn't spend on MS products on education for farmers so slash-and-burn doesn't happen as much. Presto, rainforests saved by Lin.., er, Unix.

Indeed. Jens Benecke continues and summarises:

The free Linux/BSD systems .... don't (necessarily) come in plastic wrapping with 1200 pages of glossy dead tree documentation, and with several additional CDs (most of which you'll never need). Also, the Unices don't need to be distributed as physical cardboard packages by stinking 18-ton trucks. Instead, most of these OSs come through the network, at light speed.

So, they save the environment:
- less chopping up forests
- less expensive and poisonous chemical process for making glossy paper
- no physical distributing -> no burning fossil oil
- no physical storage space per distributed copy needed, therefore less storage buildings, i.e. less environment disruption by spreading concrete everywhere.

Through the network at light speed? Not at Vulture Central they don't, mate. Justin Murdock notes how Unix will save the countryside from one extravagant building project at least...

...by not earning Bill lots of money, the Free OSs help save trees from being turned into not-very-greenbacks; these won't be used to carve up the landscape building a horrid house with LCD panels instead of windows...

Nice one. But have we forgotten the ozone layer? Have we forgotten the rivers? James Newsom has not:

When's the last time you saw a true Unix guru bother take a shower (water conservation) or use hair spray (save the ozone) to control the vasts amount of hair or use other scented products (no pollution or litter!).

Unix will also help to stave off global warming, says a cool-headed Graceland:

Unix causes less frustration, so your head stays cooler and therefore the impact on global warming is less than if you use Windoze.

Convincing stuff, is it not? Let's move quickly on to...

The human factor

There is, naturally, a human and social benefit to Unix. Jens Benecke explains:

Because Unix systems are so much much more difficult to administer ;-) you will need more highly skilled administrators, even with less, more stable, more reliable machines. Therefore, you will lower the unemployment rate among BOFHs in your area.

So, fewer people will have to live off their unemployment allowance and this money can be invested e.g. into an extinction-endangered species project instead.

Aha, it all makes perfect sense. Then again, maybe there are just too many people around. More Unix is the solution, expounds Kit Halstead:

The single largest problem facing the environment is human overpopulation. The more UNIX we have, the less the population will grow. Quite simple when you think about it, really.

Very droll.

Unix the Eco-Warrior

Not only is Unix out there saving the planet, it's also helping us to understand just what a good job it's doing. Tom Hodgson is the man looking at the barometer:

Unix Systems are used for metereology, siesmology and many other environment science activities ;)

Furthermore, John-Mark Gurney has hands-on experience:

Every heard of GIS (Geological Information Science)? Ever been to www.usgs.gov and looked at all that is offered there? There are plenty of people that use Unix in their research of watersheds and distribution of plant life from information provided by the USGS and other sources. This help plan where damns should go, and the impact of industry on the local ecology.

The programs that are used in these endeavours are usually Unix-based programs. I happen to know this because I maintained the Unix server used by the GIS department at the University of Oregon.

Alright, alright, we believe you. So, why use Unix for this essential, life-saving work? Derek Miller tells us why:

Since the models that are used to predict global warming are extremely complex (you know, equations with more than 2 variables), you wouldn't dare run them on any of the yucky OS's that MS makes. Thus, the models (at least some of them) must be run on UNIX.

Thanks for that, it's a great weight off our minds.

I'm sorry, I've lost my marbles

Well, it always happens that you end up with the contributions which defy normal classification. Harald Albecht seems to have missed the point of the challenge:

As it is with almost all command scripts under Windows, you simply do not have enough environment to hold all the environmental variables created using the "set" command. You have to create your own environment with enough space using the /E option. With Unix, there is no need to do so, as you always have an automatically growing environment...

Er, right. Worse still, it appears that someone has spiked Dennis Price's coffee:

Since the UNIX OS is used to enable the internet to function AND Unix is straight-up command-line coding that enables only good(it works) and pure (no bloat) computer actions which is DIRECTLY RELATED to genetic code(because it's CODE) that ALSO enables all good and pure life in the universe to exist in peace and harmony.

Still, he can always get together for a chat with Steve Huyssoon:

First, I shall say that we are indeed in a time of rejuvenation of life and the environment of Earth which supports life. This is what they were getting at with their logo explanation. UNIX, you see, is at the core of all this, for UNIX is emerging as the operating system for free thinkers (you were on to this already) and serves as the foundation for all other software entities that are allowing for the transcendence of emerging thought across the divisions we even still find ourselves in as we go through our day. You see, thought is the beginning and end of our little story here. UNIX is *apparently* the operating system that is supporting our joyeous reunion of thought in our emerging New Earth wherein our developing ecology of physicality and thought are best served by a lack of boundaries. In this context, then, you see that there is no real separation between what is typically considered Earth Ecology and our Thought Energy Ecology that will lead us into the New Earth which shall include all that could not be included before.

Enough, we say. Enough of this madness. Thanks to all those readers who attempted to tackle our eco-challenge. In keeping with our noted generosity, we'd like to give Reg pins to all those who wrote in.

But we can't. In fact, we can't give pins to anyone who wrote in, and here's why:

Compare and contrast

The prosecution rests. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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