I often wonder, if I eventually have my own start up, what would it be like? Well amidst all the beans bags, laptops, bikes, and working in the sun, one of my big things is being efficient. Not only in a work sense but in a energy/green sense too.

It’s always amazed me at previous companies to see dozens and dozens of people leave the office, often for the weekend, leaving their pc on, monitors on, lights on etc… This must clock up millions of hours a year for some of the bigger companies, of wasted electricity, more heat so the AC has to work harder, and just general dust and crap being ventilated around the office. So not only is it a cost issue, it’s also a slight health issue (especially for developers as we stereotypically have bad allergies).

Often developers are the worst. Typically we run a server OS to develop on, but on a desktop. So our desktops by default act like servers, fully on all the time, all guns cocked and ready to fire. No hard drive spin downs, or system hibernation, a screensaver is about as far as it goes… and then we leave for the weekend leaving them on.

There are numerous reports (such as “Yes we can solve the energy crisis”) showing (for the UK) that per person we use far too much electricity in relation to renewable energy sources. In fact if fossil fuels suddenly stopped, we’d be …in trouble. In London we may even have to drink our own sewage, filtered of course. So until renewable sources of energy improve, the cost of energy is only going to increase. Just to recap, here are the reasons we should be greener with our pc’s:

  • Cost – If a pc is left on for 24 hours, an employee will use it for around 8 hours of that day. So that’s 16 hours a day wasted. We’re only using it 33% of the time. Plus at weekends a full 48 hours worth wasted, equals 128 hours a week per person. Now, multiply that over a team over 50 people, over a year. (128 x 52) x 50 = 332800 hours of wasted electricity. To be general, let’s say our pc’s run at 120W (as they never idle), and cost 2p a minute to run = £6656. Not the biggest amount, but include monitors, and power saving during the day, and it’ll probably squeeze closer to £7,000 – £8,000 for 50 people.
  • Heat – leaving 50 pc’s on constantly in a room will affect the temperature slightly. It’ll also push more dust around your desk area.
  • Security – rathert than leaving your pc logged in and locked, it’s good practise just to log off completely and shut down. Especially if someone else wants to use the pc and isn’t an admin, as they won’t be able to unlock it.
  • Closing A Day – it’s a good way to close a day and ensure you work to finish at a certain time, rather than leaving your pc on with things half done. It’s very easy to work up to the last minute, then dash out.

So how to combat this. It’s quite easy really, you enforce a power setting policy on all pc’s. If using Windows, go to Start > Control Panel > Power Options

  1. Go to the “Hibernation” tab, and enable Hibernation
  2. Go to the Power Schemes tab
  3. Select Home/Office Desk as the Power Scheme
  4. Turn Off Hard Disks: 30mins
  5. System Standby: 2 hours
  6. System Hibernation: 4 hours

You can do this per pc, or if you have the right software I think you should be able to enforce it as a domain policy.

This still leaves two issues though, firstly getting people to actually do the above. It’s very easy to grumble and say it’s not worth it. And secondly, remotely working, how can you do so if you’ve turned your pc off.

Motivating people to be green through rewards

As mentioned above the cost saving isn’t huge. In the example of 50 people, the yearly saving won’t have a huge impact on the company of that size. But as a team, think of what you could do with £8,000. A better way of looking at it, is that if the employees are green, and do save that amount of money, you can re-invest it in them (in something green! or beneficial).

For example, the development team would like some more bean bags, a PS3 with Flat Screen TV, a pool table, and a decent dartboard setup, as well as a fully stocked beer fridge. All of these things cost money. Propose to them that if they cut energy usage by being greener as per the above steps, saving £8,000, then some of that saving can be used to buy the above list of things. A green savings budget as such.

I know there are complications around measuring it, but I’m sure it can be done. Each year the energy costs are added up. And if below a set level per person, then the money saved is used as a “green savings budget” for the team to buy extras around the office, or go away on trips, nights out etc… A fairly good incentive.

How to turn on your pc from home

This step isn’t as hard as it sounds, and I’m surprised by the number of people that don’t use it. I’ve always used it to turn on my pc at home if I need to get onto it. What I’m talking about is Wake On Lan.

I won’t go into the details too much. Simply put, it’s a way of turning on one pc, using another over a network. It can vary between hardware and OS but most pc motherboards support it these days, and it’s enabled by default (I think). Windows also supports it out of the box, although with Linux you may have to do a slight fix, and most distro’s leave the NIC in a non-enabled state. I’ve included the instructions below I passed out to the developers here.

What Do You Need?

  1. Connect to the VPN
  2. Download a wake on lan app
  3. Find out your PC’s MAC address
  4. Start > Run > type “cmd”
  5. At the prompt type “ipconfig /all”
  6. Look for and note down the MAC address
  7. As an example the MAC address for my PC is 00:4D:09:86:4A:E8

Waking Your PC

  1. Connect to the VPN
  2. Open the downloaded WakeOnLan application
  3. Set the MAC address with what you found above
  4. Set the SubNet to 192.168.1.255
  5. Set the Send Options to Local Subnet
  6. Set the port to 9
  7. Click Send
  8. * (or if in Ubuntu\Debian, run the command: sudo aptitude install -y wakeonlan && wakeonlan -i 192.168.1.255 00:1D:09:76:2A:E8;)

    • …Wait a few minutes for your pc to boot
    • You can check if your pc has booted, either by trying to RDP onto it, or doing a “ping 192.168.1.x” in a command prompt to see if you get a response.

    Summing up

    Get the above implemented and you’ll be on your way to a greener, and more happy (…bean bags and PS3) development team. With regards to energy, in writing this I also found out, each time you search on google it boils half a kettle. How random. Slightly ironic as I was googling about energy saving.

Colin Grossman


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