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The most ecological technology is one you use for a long time. This is especially true of computing technology, where the embodied energy is several magnitudes higher than the energy cost of using it.

solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2009

@solderpunk have you seen this article? Kinda blows wide the TLS power consumption conversations in #gemini

@jaranta

@rysiek @solderpunk @jaranta seeing the scope of the energy difference in creating a microchip I have to agree. Yeesh. Computing is dirty

@tomasino @rysiek @solderpunk @jaranta This is actually a debate people are having?

I mean, let’s start with bitcoin mining. Last I read, that power consumption now equaled that of the Netherlands.

@Shufei @rysiek @solderpunk @jaranta it came up in the gemini mailing list. Í haven't been following to closely because the specifics are quite over my head

@tomasino Ai... I need to catch up with the list, but it is just down the line. Bootstrapping into sysop is munching all my noggin cycles.

@Shufei @tomasino Honestly, you've missed very little of value. Since there is so little I still want to consider possibly changing in the core protocol, I've half-fantasised about unsubscribing myself. If I consistently put half the time and energy I sink into trying to wrangle the list into writing Gemini software, documentation and content, the whole project would be much better for it.

@solderpunk @Shufei having your presence in there is very helpful to keep things from running away at any given moment. It's appreciated

@Shufei @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta I hadn't seen this exact article, but I'm aware of the overall problem and it has weighed heavily on my mind for a few years now. I am simultaneously very interested in but deeply skeptical of the "sustainable computing" movement. I have, with some difficulty, resisted the temptation to buy any new "low energy" toys like ESP8266s for years for this reason.

@Shufei @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta It's a problem that needs wider recognition in hacker circles, IMHO. I once read a review of one of the Pinebook machines (I forget which, where, when). In a comment, somebody laid out what they considered fatal design flaws which meant they would not buy one. Somebody replied and said, roughly, "yes, those are all serious problems, but this is the first laptop the project has produced, they are still learning. If enough people buy these laptops, they will make enough money to be able to design a second one and it will be better, and they're cheap enough you can upgrade as soon as that happens". Nobody batted an eyelid at this mentality! Of deliberately buying flawed hardware with the express intention to discard it after a few years, in order to improve the odds of less flawed hardware materialising in the future! These new ARM machines are so cheap, and their low power consumption advertised so enthusiastically, that people think of them as inconsequential and almost even disposable. Maker types buy dirt cheap ARM boards and use them to automate the most trivial of tasks, literally in order to do things like receive notifications on their phone when the tumble drier downstairs has finished, or when something is put in their mailbox, saving them O(1) minute of inconvenience required to just go look. It's really heavy duty Jensen's paradox stuff.

Long post 

@solderpunk @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta Hmm, I see. Little arms aren’t inconsequential for me, so I certainly would bat an eyelash at that.

What do you see as a cultural corrective to this? Something we could emphasize as a more contemplative pacing in the cycle to iron out issues before release? Part of the problem is the clock, natch. Funding aridity keeps projects starved, so they fall short of deadlines or expectations. What could create a buffer against that?

@Shufei @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta Before continuing, I should quickly disclaimer that I'm not an angel in this regard, and as my (now kind of obsolete, sadly!) handle suggests I used to be an enthusiastic "maker type" myself who was far less conscious of this kind of thing. I still own RPis and Arduinos and things. I'm trying not to buy new ones and to use the ones I have for things I really think worthwhile.

I honestly wonder if shifting emphasis entirely away from manufacturing new open hardware designs and instead toward reverse engineering, refurbishing and "upcycling" already manufactured stuff doesn't make a lot more sense. Unfortunately that's easier said than done, lots of electronic stuff is designed deliberately to make this stuff difficult for reasons of copyright, industrial espionage, etc., etc.

@solderpunk @Shufei @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta When I first started to really stress about this kind of thing, I lived in NZ, and I envisaged myself making a lot more use of cheap old chips that you could buy on eBay from Chinese surplus electronics sellers, and I had lots of fun browsing their wares and dreaming of projects. Then I moved to the Nordic realms and buying stuff online from outside the EU is such a hassle here with customs fees and stuff that I just can't be bothered. :(

@solderpunk @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta The closed corporate stuff are the real issue, then, really. We keep having to build around that gravity well, tiptoe around black boxes. That is bound to set up ridiculous inefficiencies. I hate to bash capitalism in polite company, but... 🤷🏽‍♀️

@Shufei @tomasino @rysiek @jaranta I think the situation around fully open toolchains for FPGAs is slowly getting better (last time I looked closely it was pretty dire), so that's good, at least. Avoiding committing silicon permanently to any one fixed design seems like a good thing. I kind of like the old fashioned 7400/4000 series "cookbook" design philosophy for this reason, although it doesn't play well with miniaturisation and may lead to slightly higher overall power consumption (although taking into account embodied energy maybe not).

@xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino The Wii idea is kind of cool, and given your penchant for meshnets, reminds me of the XBox network in Little Brother (or some other Doctorow novel of that era). Consoles are an interesting case, actually, in that (more or less) exactly the same device is widely available all over the world (compared to phones, tablets, etc) so interoperability issues are likely to be less of a problem. They're kind of like "standard salvage platforms". Hmm...

@xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino I am meaning to repurpose one of my idle RPis into a Yggdrasil node thanks to your influence, by the way!

@xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino Of course, they also tend to be heavily locked down platforms to prevent game piracy, which is not ideal. But they all get broken eventually...

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino FWIW, I work in the environmental field, live and work off-grid, and produce all of my own power at home from solar panels and wood that I hand-harvest off my land. While computing is a very large part of my life, I don't own many computing devices because of their high embodied energy and hazardous waste disposal problems at their end of life.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino Some years back when I was in graduate school, I worked to revive old, discarded hardware from my university and to use it to build a mini "hacker lab" for my fellow CS students to hang out together and teach one another about free software, system administration, networking, and basic hardware repairs. We built a great little community around that.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino I remember being quite pleased when I got an old single core laptop with 256MB of RAM, a 2GB hard drive, and a floppy drive to run a lightweight Linux distro with lynx and pine and to surf the net in text mode using a PCMCIA wifi card from Ebay. I tried showing this to my grad student colleagues in environmental fields, but I just got blank stares.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino My point was that they didn't need to throw out their computers every few years to get the latest new thing. They all seemed convinced that their 18 month old desktops were lagging and thrashing because their hardware was too old. I was trying to show them that the hardware was fine, but their software and data formats were hopelessly bloated.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino Text is still king when it comes to communicating our thoughts and ideas to one another, and it is both a universal format and an energy efficient one. Anyone who wants to complain about extra data transfers or clock cycles spent on securing Gemini communications with TLS should ask themselves what goes into the download and rendering of a webpage.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino How many network requests go into a typical webpage? There's the HTML file, which is already more bloated than text/gemini. Then there's the obligatory CSS file (or 6) and a huge payload of JS. Don't forget every single inline image that has to be downloaded and rendered in the browser. Throw in some ads and a video player, and you're all set.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino If I still had that old laptop, I have no doubt that I could browse Gemini space over TLS with no issues and see exactly what the author intended. I certainly wouldn't say the same for the vast majority of the web. Thanks again to @solderpunk for creating such an environmentally friendly protocol for truly sustainable computing.

@lambdatronic @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @jaranta @tomasino Thank you for the kind words! It's wonderful to hear this kind of endorsement from somebody living the kind of life I hope to one day.

@xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Reviving this "old" (by Fedi standards) thread because I've continued to think about this, and want to keep thinking/talking about it.

I'm less sure on the idea of hacked game consoles as "standard salvage platforms". Most of them are built to run off AC grid power, which I doubt will have much of a place in a radical solarpunk and/or post-collapse society (not yet thinking about this stuff within the context of a coherent model, sorry). And while they have the advantage of extreme standardisation, they're probably substantially outnumbered by phones and tablets, which are also more portable and much easier to run off random hax0red up power supplies. Maybe the post-manufacturing future of computing is all about liberated mobile devices?

@solderpunk @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino I’d say it’s a safe bet, and portability is certainly a concern for any repurposed console systems. Old smart phones are everywhere already and have their own UI attached. It’s a strange pivotal point as so many projects still haven’t come to terms with this ARM environment.

@xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Yes, I was thinking the exact same thing, started looking over their website for the first time last night. Assuming it's an accurate assumption that if computer manufacturing were to start winding down in the nearish future then the most abundant and practical salvageable platforms were mobile devices, then I think PostmarketOS and things like it should be considered...well, I was about to say "critical solarpunk infrastructure", but "infrastructure" doesn't sound very solarpunk at all. A seriously crucial tool, anyway.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino They list the "Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Value Edition" on their wiki as a device where support is "overall in a pretty good shape". In an astonishing stroke of luck, I have a recently-retired non-Value Edition S4 Mini that I'm not using at all. I don't know what the difference between the VE and non-VE models are, but hopefully there's a lot of compatibility between them. I might need to have a play with this...

@solderpunk

@xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino

This is really fascinating stuff. I had no idea about PostmarketOS, but I LOVE the thought of repurposing all these old smartphones people have laying around. There's so much computing power tucked away in utility drawers and it's all low-power SoC kinda stuff, no new manufacturing required.

This is a fun read if you're so inclined:
postmarketos.org/blog/2018/04/

@kvothe @solderpunk @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino I vaguely followed their matrix dev groups for a while. I got the impression postmarketos was kind of stalled in some areas, and certainly encountering frustration, haha. It’s a lovely project and would do heaps good if it could become a priority.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino
While salvaging and reviving old hardware is a great thing, I doubt that this provide a long term solution. From the perspective of a person with the skills and tools to do this, there is a vast pool of great discarded hardware, sure. But if there are a few billion people in demand, this won't help very long. Those devices are not build to last, let alone to be repaired. Fixing software seems feasible, but good luck with a broken IC.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino
It would be beneficial if open hardware would stop competing with commercial devices in terms of features and performance. It's a trap. If we want to make electronics that is compatible with a solarpunk utopia, we need to increase its lifetime by a factor of at least 10. To achieve that, electronics need to be designed to be repairable. This means to use hand-solderable packages and standard components that will be available for decades.

@marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Do you think that a relatively short run of mass production of ICs of a type that currently don't exist at all - like DIP-packaged chips implementing post-80s technology - is a worthwhile thing to do to push things in this direction, or do we need to accept a substantial drop in capabilities and build future utopian hardware out of already existing m68ks and the like?

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino
In the long term it would be great if we had open ICs to assure availability of replacement parts. Maybe decentralized, local production of silicon becomes a thing. Its doable if we increase the semiconductor scale.
What we can do right now is to make modular designs. If we could find a way to abstract away from a specific microcontroller for example, one could start to create a piggyback-board for the IC and design the other stuff to last.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino
It those discussions we often talk about the most complex stuff, like CPUs and μCs. But most electronic components (and therefore thrash) is the periphery. Likewise most of the electronic waste is not from computing stuff, but household-devices.
The high energy consumption of electronics is justifiable if we could produce it cleanly. Not being able to recycle all that toxic stuff contained in consumer electronics is not.

@marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Is there much of a periphery, these days? Aside perhaps from power management stuff? My perception is that for a long time now we have been trending toward "system on a chip" solutions where everything that used to be a peripheral gets put on the same die as the CPU/uC. Which is certainly a problem. Once raw materials have been turned into a chip I'm dubious they can be extracted and reused without that process being more destructive than it's worth. If this is true, it seems to make more sense to build single-purpose chips that plug together like lego (something like the old fashioned 7400/4000 IC series mentality), so that when one part breaks it can be replaced, rather than forcing us to discard everything else on the same chip. Naturally, this does a lot to reverse the trend of miniaturisation, but I think that's just something we'll have to suck up.

@solderpunk @marsue @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino So there are toxic externalities and supply chain issues with current exotic materials. And these provide a problem both in a long term crisis under the current regime and in “utopia”. My question for hardware gurus would be how much of those externalities and exotics are *actually* needful? Silicon is everywhere and more or less friendly. Who is doing cleaner / simpler IC production and experiments minus rare earths &c.? It can’t be impossible.

@solderpunk @marsue @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino In terms of a production crisis for a generation or two, we certainly have enough computing laying around for a while. How long it does so is anyone’s guess. But what we have a deficit in is a go-to solution for alternative networking. Wifi, Bluetooth mesh, fine. But backbone nodes need to be in place so people can avail of them. And those nodes need to be DIY on multiple architectures. We have a ham radio solution. Who else is doing this?

@Shufei @solderpunk @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino
I think a lot of the harm done by our "modern" electronics is due to the dogma of ever increasing performance. Take tantalum for example: it is mainly used in capacitors and mined in highly critical conditions (coltan mining in Rwanda and Congo). Tantalum capacitors are mainly used for their high energy density. Which means they can easily replaced by the use larger components without rare materials.
Yes, we exploit people to have slim smartphones.

@marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino I admit I don't know enough about the fine details of the process to comment on it with anything like authority, but I'm kind of skeptical that production of semiconductors is viable in anything like a solarpunk utopia. Not so much because of the process of growing crystals, sawing off wafers, doing photolithography, etc., but because the mining and refinement of silicon, rare earth metals and other things you need to do first. That needs a huge amount of energy and infrastructure, and also ties in hard with ideas around land and resource ownership. If you don't want big capital or big states or anything like that involved I'm not sure how feasible it is.

@xj9 @marsue @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Can you elaborate on the highly adaptive system architecture idea? Am I remembering correctly that you have been espousing the idea lately that OSes are bloat and we should be running much closer to the metal? Or am I muddling up ideas I've absorbed from you with those I've gotten from @neauoire? Too many inspiring solarpunk ladies on my timeline! Are you talking about some kind of ultralight hardware abstraction layer?

@solderpunk @xj9 @marsue @rysiek @tomasino @neauoire I think I railed at you about C being bloat and too abstracted from current architectures, haha. I am no expert, natch, save that I can attest that the closer to at least a more genuine assembly, the better computers work socially. C64 effect. The metal helps keep them concrete, helps prevent black box obfuscation. Not that we ought to go back to punch cards and switches, but that should be part of a “neo-unix” philosophy.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino
Silicon is abundantly available and the processes of producing an integrated circuit and producing a solar panel are quite similar.
We computer people are often concerned about computing stuff, but if we look at how to solve the energy production problem in the future we find the same issues on a much larger scale.
Solar cell production is highly energy consuming, generators contain significant amount of neodymium and windmills are made of fibreglass

@marsue @solderpunk @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino We better start parking asteroids at those Lagrange points, haha. Get the robots on them.

Energy is a pickle eh. I do think solar will eventually get there for manufacturing scale. Recently reported that experimental high efficiency pv had been made without exotics... something like 65%? Combined with thermal recapture and widely deployed it will be a generous game changer for all production bottlenecks. Just TPV panel the Gobi and Sahara.

@Shufei @solderpunk @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino
There was good article in the low-tech magazine about the sustainability of PV:
solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2015
I am optimistic too, that we find ways to produce less energy intense and less harmful solar panels. And we need to get rid of our dependence on always available electrical energy and adopt our consumption to a fluctuating supply.
There is some promising research on perovskite and organic technology.

@marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Well, windmills *can* be made of wood, not fibreglass, Low Tech Magazine had a nice piece on that, too. Personally I suspect we really will need to combine a little bit of technological innovation on the energy production side with a whopping big dollop of reduction on the energy demand side. I don't want to roll things so far back in time that we're, say, not manufacturing antibiotics, but I suspect I probably skew more heavily toward primitivism than a lot of other people might.

@solderpunk @marsue @xj9 @rysiek @tomasino Yes, I daresay medicines are a critical production that no one but a few scary hairshirts will entertain giving up. I do wish there were permacultural zones wherein some of us “primitivish” people could live to work things out better. No internal combustion, at least. DIY power only. I don’t see why a few hundred km couldn’t be set aside for that here and there.

@marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Well, I kind of suspect there will need to be a drastic reduction in demand, too. I love computing and it has influenced many parts of my life to a great extent...but it's an empirical fact that humanity can survive with a great deal less of it, and, indeed, without out it entirely And if we can get by with less of something, and that something is necessarily incredibly resource intensive to manufacture (which I suspect is the case with anything like a modern computer) then I think it's really hard to justify everybody having even one of their own. I see the shift toward getting as much use as possible out of already manufactured devices as happening alongside a transition to more communal use of computers, and a shift in computing priorities. But I freely admit I have no friggin' clue about even the rough details of any of this.

@solderpunk @marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino Point taken about repairability, though. Before I had a weird eco-guilt induced suspension of hobby electronics activities, I was very much into homebrew computing and the idea of us needing to shift toward computers designed for ease of manufacture and repair in low-tech environments. Big through hole chips, separate chips for different functions glued together, not individual uber-chips, that kind of thing. That kind of machine would still make my heart and soul sing in a way that a repurposed smartphone will never, ever do...but I don't see that kind of machine ever being manufactured in large quantities, or ever being as flexible a platform for things like mesh networking as phones.

Of course, there is room for both. Maybe options for easier interfacing of the two is also a topic of critical importance.

@solderpunk @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino
I hold up the individual, unregulated access to information as a right we have to fight for. Even if it takes a (as small as possible) environmental toll. Because humans one or two generations to the future, still need to know why sustainability is important and avoid the mistakes we made.
It's too early to assess the influence the internet, but look at the invention of the printing press. I wouldn't want to live in a society before that.

@marsue @xj9 @Shufei @rysiek @tomasino No, neither would I. I quite agree with you and I'm certainly not trying to push for some kind of "environmentalist dark age". I don't think communal computing resources (vaguely along the lines of public libraries) are necessarily at odds with individual and unregulated access, but I grant it increases the risk of losing that.

The whole question of what constitutes "worthwhile computing", which is worthy of minimal environmental toll, and what is "inappropriate computing" which is just squandering of resources, is perhaps the trickiest part of this whole thing, and likely to prove the most controversial.

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