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BOFH: Carbon neutrality

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Episode 4

"What're they for?" the PFY asks as the Boss rolls in a trolley load of brightly coloured plastic bins.

"They're for our recycling initiative," the Boss responds. "Red for plastic, white for paper, yellow for cardboard and blue for polystyrene."

"What about glass?" the PFY asks.

"Glass is to be sorted by colour into bins in the basement," the Boss replies.

"Hmmm... And what's driving this initiative?" I ask.

"The... company has decided to become carbon neutral by the year 2010 - and so they're moving to implement recycling prior to the announcement being made in the press."

"Carbon neutral in three years?" the PFY says dubiously.

"Yes. Obviously it will take longer for the whole company to convert to this but in the meantime we're planning to implement recycling, energy saving measures and implement the purchasing of carbon credits."

"Carbon credits!" I sneer, unable to suppress the derision in my voice.

"What's wrong with carbon credits?" the Boss gasps.

"Carbon credits are like putting a humidifier in a room then putting a dehumidifier in as well to offset the effects," the PFY offers.

"Only with carbon credits they're in different rooms," I add. "Or maybe it's a bit like putting your heater on in one room of the house and turning the aircon on at the other."

"I'm not sure I understand what you're saying."

"Okay," I say. "Carbon credits are a bit like beating someone up on this side of the world and sponsoring one of those poor starving kids on the other side of the world to make up for the fact that you're a complete shit at home."

"Only people think you're great because you're cancelling out a bad deed with a good one."

"Instead of not committing the bad deed in the first place," I add.

"It's like dropping a crap in someone's desk drawer and offsetting it by cleani..." the PFY starts.

"I think he gets the picture," I interrupt. "So what energy saving initiatives are we looking at?"

"Low power lighting, grey water harvesting and green computing, obviously."

"Green computing - you mean iMacs?" the PFY asks.

"I think he means computing hardware which supports hibernation, processor cycle reduction and suspension and virtualisation," I mumble.

"Oh right, NancyBoy boxes."

"Exactly!"

"I..." the Boss burbles.

"So we'll end up with machines which'll slow themselves down at weird and inconvenient times and lose processing power while they ramp up in response to need?"

"No, I'm sure the bloke said you can tune them to only reduce to a certain point and to speed up recovery time. And with virtualisation you can tune them to consolidate virtual servers onto the least number of machines and shut the rest down till they're needed."

"Still sounds like Nancy-Boy boxes," I concur.

"?"

"A REAL computer has ONE speed and the only powersaving it permits is when you pull the power leads out of the back!" I blurt. "In fact, a REAL computer would have a hole in the front to push trees into and an exhaust pipe out the back for the black smoke to come out of."

"AND," the PFY adds. "they run so hot - even on screensaver - that they keep the room nice and toasty when you're not there - saves on heating."

"All that is a thing of the past though." the boss burbles. "The bloke was telling me that using mobile processor technology the..."

"What bloke?" I ask.

"The... um..."

"Mmm?" the PFY says.

"Bloke... from... uh..."

"..."

"...the... green consultancy..."

"So you and the IT Director talk to some yoghurt-eating fruitcake in a hemp suit and sandals and the next thing we know you're planning to replace our high power server environment with a poor imitation of it?"

"I think you'll find it's the way of the future," a voice from the doorway says.

"Ah, Simon, Steven," the Boss says. "This is... uh... Jeremy from the Power Green consultancy. He's been contracted to the company for a couple of months to help us reduce our carbon footprint."

"Hi," Jeremy bubbles. "Nice to meet you."

"And what is it you do Jeremy?"

"Well, in a nutshell I analyse plant and power usage, server capacity utilisation and desktop usage and feed those numbers all into a sophisticated package which makes recommendations on what hardware to purchase in the short term to improve a company's ITCF."

"ITCF?"

"IT Carbon footprint."

"Ah right, so what you're saying is you'll gather some numbers and dictate what server equipment we buy this year."

"Well... essentially, yes," Jeremy says.

... Two hours later...

"OK," the PFY says as we leave the building via the service entrance. "All we have to do to be nastiness neutral is to find a couple of people bound and gagged in a skip bin, take them out, give them a couple of wallets, unkick them a few times, unelectrocute them with a cattle prod and say 'clothing hippy on discount percent seventy look oh'."

"On the other side of the world," I add.

"Should we stop for a quick lager first?"

"Be rude not to..."

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