Tag Archives: global warming

Cloud Computing for Dummies

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CLOUD COMPUTING: And how it could help fight global warming

cloud computing for dummiesONE might think of the Internet as some intangible entity that exists somewhere in the clouds and is simply powered by the people that use it. In reality, the energy required to run the Internet and associated hardware and IT infrastructure is on par with the airline industry.

To put it simply, the Internet consists of huge data centres world-wide that host web pages and online content — some of which act as Internet service providers. The reason for the web’s extra large carbon footprint is that each data centre requires power as well as cooling systems in order to function. Furthermore, information technology is the fastest growing industry on Earth, and is becoming a real threat to sustainable development.

The concept of cloud computing, also known as distributed, Internet-based computing, is the idea of decentralising these data centres and sharing the available infrastructure on a global scale. The goal is to have applications and files stored on large, centralised supercomputers or networks. Rather than storing files and programmes on individual PCs, end users are able to store and access their files via the web.

According to http://www.howstuffworks.com, the concept is very simple: “On your desk, you would have a very low-cost computer with just a processor, a keyboard and a monitor. There would be no hard drive or CD/DVD drive. It would be hooked up to the Internet and would link to a central supercomputer, which would host all of your programs and files.”

Servicing the cloud with Google
In 2007, Google and Apple had a plan to take things forward. Apple was to develop inexpensive consumer computers that were small and portable. This was to leverage the computing power of the vast data centres Google has been building to hold the apps and the data for millions of users.

Unfortunately, development was halted due to different market demands, but Google has made progress since then with its growing library of Google apps. Apps like Google Documents, Spreadsheets and Gmail are all examples of cloud computing that people already make use of.

If we think about it, we do not use an installed programme to check our e-mail. Rather, you log into a web e-mai­l account, such as Gmail or Hotmail remotely. The software and sto­rage for your account doesn’t exist on your computer, but rather on the ser­vice’s computer cloud. We can think of the term cloud simply as a metaphor for the Internet, or a part of it.

So, we have cloud computing to thank for storing all our e-mails and spam and there is more than enough web-space to go around. Gmail accounts alone provide users with close to seven-and-a-half gigs of space. I don’t think I have ever exceeded over two percent of my e-mail quota.

Things get a little more exciting with Google Documents and Spreadsheets. Developed in part as a solution to e-mailing documents back and forth, Google Docs allows several people to edit or revise the same document in real-time. This simplifies the remote process by having a single updated document and speeds it up by having Google store the data.

There are, however, privacy implications, as any data stored by Google has the chance of being accessible to anyone on the Internet. As a small safety measure, one is able to access previous versions of a Google document and is notified when others are using it. As with everything concerning the web, one simply has to be wary when publishing anything online.

Cloudy Business
Cloud computing has huge implications for business in terms of cutting costs. Web-based companies invest millions into their IT departments — a large portion of which is spent on software licences for each computer that uses corporate software.

With cloud computing you would only have to load one application, which would allow employees to log into a web-based service, which hosts all the programs and files required. Remote machines owned by another company, such as Google, for example, would run everything from e-mail to word processing to complex data analysis programs.

“This technology allows for much more efficient computing by centralising storage, memory, processing and bandwidth. In September 2009, an Aberdeen Group study found that disciplined companies achieved on average an 18% reduction in their IT budget from cloud computing.” – www.howstuffworks.com

Of course, all these open-source applications are as good as they are by virtue of the fact that they are free; or at least still free. No doubt more complex apps would demand some sort of fee in order to be used so extensively. I don’t foresee many large web companies hosting the world’s data for nothing, and as much as it makes sense to decentralise the existing infrastructure, monopolies will emerge (or stay in power) that will profit hugely from cloud computing.

The cloud allows sharing of infrastructure and reduces the carbon footprint of IT. The prophecy speaks of creating something that is globally sustainable — providing greater capacity and higher performance at lower costs. This utopia would bring the world together by moving away from indivi­dual silos and data centres and “into the clouds”. Unfortunately, this is not nearly a reality for bandwidth-stricken countries such as South Africa, and will not be as cheap and fair as it should with the existence of Internet monopolies.

Archived under: Web 2.0

Earth Hour 2010

Earth Hour banner

“We have only one planet. Given what we know about climate change today, it would be foolish not to act. Earth Hour 2010 gives an opportunity to the people of the world to unite in a call for action on climate change and to take the lead by making changes in their own lives.” – Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO, WWF South Africa

FOR Earth Hour 2010, WWF calls on all South Africans to switch off their lights on Saturday, 27 March, as a symbolic act to send a powerful message to leaders that the time to act on climate change is now.

The Copenhagen Climate Summit in December failed to deliver the climate deal our planet needs. This year WWF is challenging individuals to take the lead by pledging to reduce their own carbon footprint. We have to show world leaders that we are serious about tackling climate change and that we want them to deliver a fair, effective and binding climate deal – a deal that keeps global warming as far below 2 degrees as possible.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the patron of the campaign, and Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban have already pledged their support for Earth Hour 2010. Other celebrities, who will be switching off their lights, include The Parlotones, Bryan Habana, Jo-Ann Strauss, Marc Lottering and The Stormers.

Participating in Earth Hour is easy and free. All you need to do is:

  • Pledge your support and commit to reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Switch off the lights of your home on 27 March from 8:30pm – 9:30pm.
  • Spread the message to your friends and family.
  • Show your support by posting the Earth Hour 2010 web banner and widget on your website or Facebook pages, downloading the Earth Hour email signature, printing posters or having an Earth Hour event.
  • Download the Green Events Guide, just click on the events button at the top of the webpage. You can download all of the above from the website. Click on the get involved button for loads of information and fun ideas.
  • Download the complete DIY kit on how to roll out Earth Hour in your city

Save the date: Saturday, 27 March 2010, 8:30pm – 9:30pm.

Please email or contact us on 021 888 2800 if you have any questions. We hope that you will support Earth Hour 2010. Together we can make a difference.

Kind Regards,
The WWF team

Protecting ourselves from the Global Warming

“We must protect ourselves from the Global Warming… Top scientists in Colorado believe that Global Warming will strike two days before the day after tomorrow!” – South Park

I was walking past the fruit and vegetable section in a supermarket one winter’s day when I felt a powerful gush of warm air seduce my face. The seducer was a household fan that had a heated coil in its centre which heated the air to a remarkable extent.

I soon learned that these new heating devices are very considerate on their energy usage and weren’t badly priced either. However, our coldest winter yet is thawing to a close, and it won’t be long before we go to lengths to keep cool.

Cooling off:
Contemporary air-conditioning systems are not only heavy energy consumers but also have an utter disregard for the ozone layer. At full volume a household air-con farts out enough greenhouse gases to chock a small elephant.

Thank the pope ScienceDaily have recently reported that scientists from Madrid have produced a solar-powered air-conditioner that is far more environmentally friendly than previous cooling systems. It is said to use a reduced amount of greenhouse gases and does not harm the ozone layer in any way.

The “Absorption Chiller”
Known as an “absorption chiller” the device makes use of solar and residual heat as an energy source. For the science people, the technology combines the use of lithium bromide solution with a reduction in the use of water, which supposedly damages the ozone layer and contributes towards the greenhouse effect.

More technically speaking, the absorption mechanism is capable of producing cold water at temperatures ranging from 7º C to 18º C when the sweating thermometer on the wall displays temperatures between 33º C and 43º C.

A look to the future:
The new cooling system seems to have arrived at a good time too. Last year 191 countries were involved in a signed agreement to avoid the use of ozone depleting substances as well as set a 25% consumption limit by 2010 (as compared to 1996).

By 2020 it will become law for all developed countries to replace all HCFC refrigerants, such as those used in air-conditioners, with green substitutes. No mention of developing countries however. I guess the ‘First World’ is quite content to continue selling the cheaper, more lethal air-conditioners to the ‘Third World’ forgetting that we all share the air that we breathe…