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Linux is better for the environment

TechWorld has a story about how the UK government is recommending the adoption of Linux and FOSS as it better for the environment. The story quotes a Californian Department of Commerce report.

The recommendation of using Linux and FOSS in government is hardly surprising, many governments around the world have been reaching the same conclusions. The interesting part is the environmental angle.

I have always liked the lower resource requirements for Linux based solutions. For a couple of years my primary development machine was a Frankenstein repurposed AMD K6-233 (running at 125Mhz) with varying amounts of RAM. Various parts had been changed in it as they wore out - physically or practically. The machine then became a firewall for many years, until late last year. Now it serves as my network and server monitoring machine, which is also a SMS gateway.

The machine has served me well. The CPU is almost 10 years old. I don't have access to reliable stats, but I suspect that it draws less than 50W. My current Centrino laptop draws upto 90W.

Another example is the old Apple PowerBook Lombard my partner uses for surfing the net, checking her mail and typing the occasional document. She seems happy enough with xubuntu, which I installed on it when I got the machine cheap from a friend.

When the motherboard or CPU fails in the old K6 or the PowerBook dies, they will be added to the box of dead parts in my office. Then one day, I will take all the dead bits to the computer recyclers.

How is all this relevant to the UK report and linked article? It shows how long a machine can continue to run linux in a useful way.

As the article points out, most people will just junk their old PCs, not recycle them. I have sourced parts for machines I still use from garage sales or nature strip (Julie doesn't let me out when hard rubbish collection is on). PCs contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium which can leech into soil and even underground waterways when disposed of in landfill.

When looking at a new PC organisations should not only look at the cost of procuring the new machine. The repurposing or recycling of the old machine could be considered. The on going running costs of the machine needs to be factored in. For example a Pentium D 840 draws twice the power than a newer Core 2 Duo E4300 which only uses 65W per hour. These days a Core 2 Duo can be less than 50AUD more expensive than a Pentium D. Not only does the newer machine draw less power, it probably has a longer upgrade lifespan.

When considering Linux and FOSS there are many reasons why it can work out cheaper. Lower software costs, lower hardware costs and lower power consumption. So by choosing FOSS you can look after the environment while looking after your bottom line.