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ARM Designer Steve Furber On Energy-Efficient Computing

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the tell-us-how-it's-done dept.

Power 195

ChelleChelle writes "By now, it has become evident that we are facing an energy problem — while our primary sources of energy are running out, the demand for energy is greatly increasing. In the face of this issue, energy-efficient computing has become a hot topic. For those looking for lessons, who better to ask then Steve Furber, the principal designer of the ARM (Acorn RISC Machine), a prime example of a chip that is simple, low power, and low cost. In this interview, conducted by David Brown of Sun's Solaris Engineering Group, Furber shares some of the lessons and tips on energy-efficient computing that he has learned through working on this and subsequent projects."

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195 comments

so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered computer? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278176)

That means a portable computer with an ARM processor and a reflective monochrome display big enough to hold normal text pages. In other words an Amazon Kindle DX (separate wired or bluetooth keyboard is fine), but with an open OS that lets me write and run my own programs without having to jailbreak past some DRM crap. Somebody please make something like that? Please??

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278434)

http://openinkpot.org/wiki/Hardware [openinkpot.org]

There are a bunch of cheap 'n cheerful Kindle clones that are supported by the openinkpot firmware, if e-ink is your style.

If you need the refresh rates of an LCD, I think you may have a problem. There is the OpenMoko Wikireader [wikipedia.org] which is super low power and pretty cheap; but the screen(although touch sensitive) is a little smaller than what you want and the CPU is more of a microcontroller [epson.jp] than what you probably want.

You might also consider going the OLPC route. That gets you a rather nice monochrome screen(with backlight color optional) and, while x86, it is a ~1watt embedded Geode, not too power hungry. That one is also by far the most "normal computer" like of the bunch(i.e. no having to code around super slow refresh rates, and running basically standard linux, rather than building binaries for some microcontroller).

Nothing exactly like what you want(that I know of); but there are some approaches...

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278698)

The only OLPC laptops I can find for sale now are on eBay, from people who would willingly profit from a charity. Is there a better source?

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279178)

I don't know, though I wouldn't necessarily be too worried about the ebay units. There might be some international cartel snapping them up by the truckload from poor kids, swapping whatever oddball keyboard the locale required for a custom manufactured EN_US one, and selling them on Ebay; but that seems like a lot of trouble for a not-necessarily-all-that-popular product.

I'd tend to suspect, especially if you buy from a seller with a history of other geek junk buying and selling but no major quantity of OLPCs, that you would end up buying an original G1G1 unit from some geek early adopter who has since upgraded to a newer netbook. My casual ebay search suggests that such people are getting anything from ~$100 to just over $200 for their units. Not exactly impressive cash for a device that sold for $200+ a $200 donation originally. It's just geeks selling off toys they've gotten tired of, probably so they can buy new ones.

It's a limited supply, so you had better not build any long term plans around it; but I don't see any ethical objections...

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278462)

Because there is almost no market for it. Lets see here

A) Monochrome displays (other than E-ink) are generally considered to be low-tech, cheap, pieces of junk. Look at how well monochrome TVs are selling... Yes, it does ease strain on eyes and increase readability, but has the other side of making most of... well anything unpleasant to look at other than text.

B) It will be expensive. Amazon can afford to produce the Kindle at-cost or even with a bit of a loss because they will gain sales in e-books and such. Even if they sell it at a profit they still can buy parts in bulk and make them cheaper than a product with a run of only ~1,000 units or less.

C) There aren't enough apps. What apps would make sense to port to this device? Lynx? Most other things would need more CPU power (making it non-energy efficient) or a colour screen.

Really, other than you, this wouldn't appeal to a large enough audience of people. Best thing to do would be to jailbreak an existing e-reader, its simply a bad business decision to make a product with almost no market.

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279094)

Kindle might have very low computational power, but actually there are some quite powerfull, and can do more than just lynx.

Apps? Just look at where you got lynx from ... And you won't have a shortage

More than just lynx etc. very low computationally intensive? Just look at the chinese netbooks ...

And there you got your actual products aswell

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279784)

I not so sure, it was not all that long ago most of us who even had a computer were working on an 80x86 or 80x88 with a 512k of memory, connected to a 80x25 character monocrome display, with no network interface, and primary storage consisting of a box next to the unit filled with 360k floppy disks.

You know what we were like pigs in s**t happy too. I have cell phone, not a facy smart phone. I just use it I don't think about it. I charge it Sunday night before I go to bed and I talk and text on it as much as I want to all week long. The batter never goes flat over that time frame.

I had a smart phone for a little while. It could not even stand by all day. I had to go back because I was afraid I might miss SMS alerts from critial systems because the things battery went flat.

I would be very happy with a device that was inexpensive enough to leave on the back seat of my car for weeks on end that would be just there if I needed it and ready to go. Something that could connect to the internet wireless-ly and run lynx and those kinda of apps would be just perfect, even if the screen refresh was slow an e-ink based. Things like e-mail would be very doable as well. We don't live in the same world that 80x86 lived in. There is all kind of infrastructure around, let the POP or IMAP server do the thinking, just add a command like TXTPLZ to the protocols that would instruct the server to render messages sent in other formats out as plain characters. Get send html no problem
  becomes 13 and 10. Hell use libcacca to render images as ascii art.

The software you need to write and run on the device could do allot by simply offloading the thinking to the oh lord dare I say it? cloud...

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279500)

C) There aren't enough apps. What apps would make sense to port to this device? Lynx? Most other things would need more CPU power (making it non-energy efficient) or a colour screen.

It's way more than Lynx. There's elm, gopher, nn and with a built-in modem, you should be able to connect to BBS too.

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (2, Interesting)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278888)

Notion Ink has you covered if you can wait until June for their Adam [notionink.in]. It's basically everything you just described, times 9000. And pricing in the bargain laptop range ($350 - $800). I'm not kidding, check it out.

The Kindle's not so bad for this, actually (1)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278918)

It's already running Linux out of the box, and the hacks getting everything a unix geek might want on it [boingboing.net] really don't sound like they're about bypassing DRM so much as they are getting tools onto the system that Amazon just left out.

Static link cross compile a telnetd and toolchain and get 'em both on there and you're set to go.

The only reason I haven't bought in on that action yet is that as far as I know there's no decent third party full size portable keyboard. If it did bluetooth, I'd be totally sold. As it is, I'm almost sold.

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278924)

After reading Joseph Jenkin's excellent book, The Humanure Handbook (http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html and available for free here: http://humanurehandbook.com/downloads/Humanure_Handbook_all.pdf [humanurehandbook.com]), I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about not just human waste but the waste that comes from everyday computing.

I think what you and I want is the combination of a Beagle Board and a Pixel Qi display (http://www.pixelqi.com/). That display has been mentioned on Slashdot before. You could also start developing super efficient programs on something like a PC Engines ALIX board (http://www.pcengines.ch/alix3d3.htm) or a Technologic Systems ARM based board: http://www.embeddedarm.com/products/arm-sbc.php#ts-7800-series [embeddedarm.com] The TX boards come with Debian pre-installed and boot up in less that2-3 seconds. They seem to be very hacker friendly.

Of course, the other side of the equation is the WWW that we connect to. Is there anyone giving any consideration to efficient computing on the server side? Web forums vs. mailing lists; fancy web sites vs. lean, mean, and candid web design? Are there resources online where I can learn how to design a lean, mean, yet somewhat modern looking web site and run it off something like the aforementioned ALIX (500 Mhz AMD Geode) board? Does HTML help at all in this regard?

I even miss the old but lean Slashdot of long ago.

Re:so why can't i buy a !@##$% low powered compute (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279422)

Everyone running a data center is giving thought to efficiency. They pay for electricity and cooling.

where do you get your facts? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278202)

Your credibility as a reference was lost when you fail to expand the ARM chip acronym correctly.

Re:where do you get your facts? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278610)

Your credibility as a reference was lost when you fail to expand the ARM chip acronym correctly.

Hey, on Slashdot old school [wikipedia.org] is acceptable.

Re:where do you get your facts? (2, Informative)

BestNicksRTaken (582194) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279548)

It was Acorn RISC Machine way before it became Advanced RISC Machines Ltd; by almost a decade, when Furber ran the show.

Re:where do you get your facts? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279678)

Probably from a reliable source. The chip that he designed was the Acorn RISC Machine. When ARM was spun out as a joint venture with Apple, it was renamed. Advanced RISC Machines is a backronym intended to keep the same initials but remove the Acorn branding (which Apple didn't want).

Energy Efficient Tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278244)

Use floats where doubles aren't necessary
Bit shift instead of multiply by powers of two
xor r,r instead of mov r,0
Turn your computer off at night (record the uptime with a pen+paper if you want to keep a running total)
Compile to a 32bit target for apps that don't need 64bit addressing
etc.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (3, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278356)

(record the uptime with a pen+paper if you want to keep a running total)

...That isn't true uptime. The point of uptime being a bragging right isn't that you have an APC, but rather your computer is configured correctly so it doesn't randomly run out of memory and crash, your hardware doesn't overheat after a week of constant usage, etc. Almost -any- computer can work 12 hours and not fail. Finding a computer that will last a year or more without rebooting is hard. Simply adding up the amount the computer has been on is not uptime, not in the least.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278482)

When did uptime become 'geek gas mileage'? I really have to read more articles on /.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (0, Offtopic)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279674)

When did uptime become 'geek gas mileage'? I really have to read more articles on /.

It would be understandable if we were talking about penile uptime, but computer uptime just doesn't do much for me.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (2, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278512)

"Finding a computer that will last a year or more without rebooting is hard."

Really ?

In our serverroom we have a few which don't get as many security updates (internal systems), they are doing fine, thank you.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278534)

If we had made use of the services of ksplice it would have been even easier to find them.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (0)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278568)

Well, by computer, I meant not a server and one that has constant general use. Of course its easy to find a server that will run for years. Its a lot harder to find a computer being constantly used, updated and on the internet that hasn't been rebooted in a year.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278926)

For me it is hard to find a year that does not have a long (at least 35 minutes, the time it takes my UPS to discharge) power outage.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278658)

your hardware doesn't overheat after a week of constant usage, etc.

I loved my Acorn: the first computer I ever had and the only one that could get away with nary a heatsink nor fan to be seen.

If not for the lack of software it would have pissed all over the IBM clones too. Still I had Mad Professor Moriati and Lemings (sic), so I was one happy kid.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (4, Insightful)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279052)

Bit shift instead of multiply by powers of two

I'd think a decent compiler should do that automagically, no?

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (3, Funny)

FrangoAssado (561740) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279336)

Maybe he means you'll save the energy the compiler would spend to optimize a multiply into a bit shift :-)

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (3, Insightful)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279142)

Use floats where doubles aren't necessary

That assumes that floats are more energy efficient than doubles. Not necessarily true on architectures that have hardware floating point and save energy by omitting the float portion. They convert the float to double, do the math, then convert back. Check your architecture!

On my Intel Core 2, the execution speed is different by about 0.06% between float and double (edge to double). Can't speak to power consumption though. On my Intel Atom 230, the floats are faster by 0.4%. That's almost certainly saving power, but not a lot.

Re:Energy Efficient Tips (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279746)

Actually, you're only half right. On ARM, there is typically no double hardware, so you get a very slow path for 64-bit floating point arithmetic. On your Core 2, it's more complicated. The x87 unit only supports 80-bit floating point values. This means that any float or double will be sign-extended when it is loaded into a register. You gain a bit better cache usage from using 32-bit floats, but that's it.

No both, however, if you compile with SSE then you will be using a vector for all floating point operations. With floats, the compiler can pack concurrent operations on four of them into a single instruction, with doubles it can only pack two. I'm not sure about the Atom, but I vaguely remember that it splits SSE ops in half, so you really do two 64-bit operations. Either way, you can do twice as many float operations in the same power envelope, as long as your code is suited to vectorisation.

Modern compilers prefer to target SSE instead of x87, because register allocation with x87 is painful. Most operations only work between the top two registers in the 'stack' so you need a lot of register-register copies in a typical bit of x87 code (which burns i-cache too). This is one of the main reasons why you see a performance improvement in x86-64; if you have a 64-bit chip you can guarantee the presence of SSE, so the compiler will always use SSE instead of x87 when compiling 64-bit code. If you're someone like Apple and don't support pre-SSE chips, you can also do this and get the same benefit in 32-bit mode.

Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278248)

Thank goodness for netbooks. They will finally make the ARM a viable CPU for use in a wide range of higher-end PCs. We just need to see Windows support for ARM, and then we'll be well on our way towards it being a widely available option.

Frankly, the ARM is a much nicer architecture to target when writing compiler back-ends and when writing high-performance assembly code by hand. It just isn't riddled with the archaic crud that the x86-32 and x86-64 architectures are littered with.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (4, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278318)

We just need to see Windows support for ARM, and then we'll be well on our way towards it being a widely available option.

And you also mean the porting of thousands and thousands of x86 apps as well? If the ARM version of Windows can't run the apps people want, they aren't going to by an ARM netbook.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278832)

Just out of curiosity, while I've done some programming professionally, I haven't touched C or Assembly in well over 15 years, since I needed immediate results and haven't had bosses that allowed anything less, how much work is it to convert something from X86 to ARM? Assuming you didn't write it with the intention of every needing to do so, vs having planned for such a possibility.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (2, Interesting)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279328)

What conversion? If you write an app in C++, it RUNS on anything with a compiler. Now, if you use bad compilers such as MS one there will even be trouble with compiling it on other platforms. I.E: gcc and llvm compitable means it will compile for anything those 2 can compile for(litteraly about anything). You never plan for it, instead you do the code properly the first time. What to not do: overdone amount of assembly(needs to be changed), compiled against binary blobs(needs to be ported), using weird libaries, ineffective coding, using a weird compiler, etc.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (4, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279570)

You haven't actually ported any non-trivial app, have you?

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (2, Interesting)

emt377 (610337) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279448)

Just out of curiosity, while I've done some programming professionally, I haven't touched C or Assembly in well over 15 years, since I needed immediate results and haven't had bosses that allowed anything less, how much work is it to convert something from X86 to ARM? Assuming you didn't write it with the intention of every needing to do so, vs having planned for such a possibility.

Depends on the ARM CPU. ARM7/ARM9 are alignment sensitive. ARM Cortex has a bus/cache interface that allows arbitrary alignment. Porting to the former may be difficult depending on the software, or may simply be tedious, the latter is usually as easy as a recompile if the platform and toolchain is similar (e.g. Linux+gcc).

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

mzs (595629) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279662)

Does Cortex still behave like this?

You have a struct { int8_t a; int16_t b; int16_t c; }

It will get layed-out on PPC, SPARC, and X86 like so:

a0bbcc

Will it get laid-out in ARM like so?

a0bbcc00

That's how things were often configured in ARM toolchains because in this way the same sequence of instructions can be used to access an array of such structures, not a different sequence for the ones that are aligned on 32-bits and those that are not. Do you loose the useful rotations with misaligned loads with Cortex then?

The strict alignment is already there in portable code since on PPC floats and doubles (and vector types) need to be aligned properly and on SPARC every type needs to be. But what I described above is a different wrinkle about how things get padded that can and does trip-up coders since they are new to it.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278842)

You're forgetting that the future of low-powered home machines is just in accessing the internet. Everything will just be done in the browser, so the computers only need to run the browsers.

This post can be read as serious or sarcasm; I leave it up to the reader.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

ChatHuant (801522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278848)

And you also mean the porting of thousands and thousands of x86 apps as well?

That's what emulation is for; if MS decides to port Windows to ARM, they'll probably provide an emulator and a shim layer for native calls, and at least support a number of major Windows apps (even though they'll probably run S.L.O.W.L.Y. to begin with). Silverlight and .NET apps should also run more or less out of the box.

Most People Don't Care About Most Apps (1)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278978)

And you also mean the porting of thousands and thousands of x86 apps as well?

I suppose there's probably a market for that; there's certainly some subset of the population that's attached to specific desktop applications.

But I'd bet a larger subset of the market just wants to write documents, send/receive email, and browse the web. Ubuntu or some equivalently friendly Linux distribution will do the job nicely there.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

ogdenk (712300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279110)

Windows CE has been available on ARM for over a decade.

Besides, I want an ARM netbook because it's NOT a PC and DOES NOT run Windows.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (3, Interesting)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279568)

And you also mean the porting of thousands and thousands of x86 apps as well?

But most people don't USE thousands and thousands of apps. Or even hundreds of apps. Most people don't even use dozens of apps. You got your web browser and your IM client (maybe), (maybe) an email client, a DVD player, and I bet that's it for the vast majority of computer users outside of work. IM & email clients can be handled by the browser. Seriously - Chrome OS or Android running on a nice 1-2gHz dual-core ARM beast with hardware accelerated HD video w/ 4GB of memory is probably all that most people need at home, as long as it's got a decent screen, keyboard and mouse, they're set.

Download your Android apps, of which there *are* thousands (though many different versions of a much smaller number of TYPES of applications) for expanding into more obscure things. Most of which would be games, of course.

I'd like to see Chrome OS & Android merge sooner rather than later. Absolutely no point in having these be separate projects - with the rise of 'superphones,' there's not that much difference in horsepower anymore, and one platform target is better than two from a developer standpoint (usually).

IMO, anyway. :)

I'm hoping the day when I can take my dual-core 1+ gHz superphone out of my pocket, put it in a dock at home to get a big screen, real keyboard and mouse and true broadband home connection. Shouldn't be more than a year away. C'mon, Sprint, with the Supersonic! I'll fire up the beastly machine when I need to run Photoshop or whatever, but most of the time at home, my computer use is watching TV/movies/websurfing/email.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279824)

I wonder how much energy we could save if Windows and Linux would only load what's necessary for you to load an application, rather than load a million "services/processes" on startup. I think I'd be fine if my computer loaded just the mouse, keyboard, and display support and a background picture. Then if the computer needed to generate a sound or play an mp3, it could load the audio support. And if I need the network connection, it can load the network support. And if I plug in my iPod, it can load iTunes and all of the baggage that comes with that. There are times I use my computer without any of those things, yet they all load anyway. Aside from saving energy and making startup faster, I bet the hard disk would last longer with less reads. Why can't they go back to only loading anything when it's needed, rather than assuming you'll need them?

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279876)

They'd have to make an app store that works exactly like the iTunes store. That is, give people a way to sell apps for a low cost and make it really difficult for most people to get them without paying. It worked for the iPod. I'm thinking it didn't work for Android cause they left out the DRM part, which is good for my brother but bad for people trying to sell the apps.

Re:Netbooks will make the ARM viable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278578)

So because netbooks with less powerful CPUs are selling, this is going to translate into a demand for less powerful CPUs in high-end PCs? Why? And even if Microsoft were to back ARM that doesn't really help. The Linux world is used to having every architecture supported because it is all done in one place - the maintainer of the distribution. The Windows world is very fragmented, but more importantly it is (for the most part) BINARY ONLY. If some exotic Linux app isn't distributed in binary form for your distribution/archtecture, you more than likely can get the source and build it yourself (possibly with some tweaking required). On Windows, if Adobe doesn't offer Photoshop for ARM then you're shit out of luck. This is a much bigger hurdle by far than whether or not Microsoft is going to support ARM. The Windows world is still in the relative infancy of supporting the x64 platform.

ARM is viable right now, except for some drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31279658)

Fuck Windows. All we need are graphics drivers that we have the source code for. We have the source code to everything we run these days, and most of it has been made portable and compiled for and tested on ARM. Except graphics drivers. That one thing is holding us back.

No always has been (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278316)

In the face of this issue energy-efficient computing has become a hot topic

No. That has, and never was the case. The problem is A) Programs now take a lot more CPU usage (compare CPU usage for the same task in Office 2007 and Office 97) B) CPUs are designed primarily to be faster (needed because of point A) C) Battery technology isn't improving as rapidly as the rest of the components.

Look at the Poqet PC of the '80s, it had very aggressive power management which wouldn't work today. Computers have -always- tried to be energy-efficient in the portable sector. And quite honestly, its about the only sector that needs work on energy-efficiency to gain any benefit.

Indeed (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278562)

The phone market has always been looking for ways of extending battery life. I have a phone which is basically a computer with an antenna. It plays videos, music has wordprocessor, gps, maps etc and the battery still lasts up to 3 days.

 

Re:No always has been (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278914)

isn't that the point - energy efficient computing means software as well as hardware features.

So Office 2007 takes way more CPU and memory to run; all the intensive cloud and web based server apps take a lot of power to cope with peak demand, and so we all run out of energy and end up with brown outs and much more expensive electricity.

When that happens, maybe people will start to take notice and efficient, not bloated, software will become more fashionable. Microsoft will no doubt bring out D# and sell us all more servers and development tools all over again - see everyone wins :)

Re:No always has been (1)

DdJ (10790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278992)

This line of reasoning makes one wonder how much energy it'll take to edit documents with the new iPad versions of iWork, on an iPad with a keyboard attached. Honestly it's something I'm actually considering.

The best subnotebook-like device I ever used in terms of power management was my eMate. I would take that thing to a conference, and in one case actually a business trip to Europe, and not have to charge it until I got home (ie. I got days of use out of it before I had to recharge it). But nobody builds stuff like that anymore.

Re:No always has been (2, Informative)

farble1670 (803356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279350)

Computers have -always- tried to be energy-efficient in the portable sector. And quite honestly, its about the only sector that needs work on energy-efficiency to gain any benefit.

that couldn't be further from the truth. energy costs are just going up. for households it's mildly important as they can usually sleep their computers when not in use. for businesses, energy efficiency ranges from very important to critical when they have massive server rooms full of tens of thousands of CPUs powered and busy 24x7.

moreover, for developing countries, it's again critical. while the L in OLPC stands for laptop and therefore technically qualifies as mobile, it's more about having a battery to deal with locales where the electric grid is often shut down either on purpose to save energy or inadvertently because of a poor / out of date infrastructure.

Re:No always has been (2, Informative)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279786)

And quite honestly, its about the only sector that needs work on energy-efficiency to gain any benefit.

Google disagrees with you, in a really big way.

Also, anyone who has hooked up a Kill-A-Watt to their computer, and then calculated how much money per year they're spending on it, disagrees with you.

This one asshole [nbc-2.com] spent an estimated half a million dollars (of someone else's money) on electricity (which is probably the main reason he really got in trouble), not counting the harder-to-measure increased electric bill for the air conditioning (he was doing this in Arizona).

Energy costs money. People care about money.

Just a marketing prank! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278362)

They just want to capitalize on this whole "green" movement, especially considering their product line coincides with it. If they waited any longer, they might not be able to pull this one off.
 
Market on, but don't make yourself foolish.

Noooo!!! Tell me it isn't so! (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278422)

The Singularity must come!

Real physical limits. Energy production. Getting rid of heat.

Course we could always go nuclear and resume the exponential increase in energy available per individual which has been driving progress for the last 100,000 years, and which stopped in the 1970s (it explains the no flying cars thing, and lack of moon habitats).

 

Re:Noooo!!! Tell me it isn't so! (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278646)

There are 2 ways to increase energy available per individual... Personally I'm hoping we get the whole overpopulation issue resolved first (perferably the humane way), we're kinda screwed overall if we don't.

Re:Noooo!!! Tell me it isn't so! (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278806)

There are 2 ways to increase energy available per individual...

Global warming kills 2 birds with 1 stone. More heat=more energy, catastrophic change=fewer individuals.

Ah, the ways of the FSM are mysterious indeed!

RISC = Good (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278454)

I've always been a big fan of RISC. I even have a copy of ARM System Architecture (c) 1996 by one Mr Steve Furber I pulled out of the basement of Strand Books quite a while ago.

Re:RISC = Good (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278878)

i like MIPS... in college, we had one semester of hands on lab work learning everything about a specific MIPS implementation, then another semester writing a compiler capable of compiling itself for the architecture.

once you can grasp the simplicity and understand exactly whats going on in the chip, features like HyperThreading seem almost stupid because of how much complexity and exceptions they add to the system.

Re:RISC = Good (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279066)

I spent years working with PowerPC ... and then took it in the backside when Apple switched camps to Intel x86. With the resurgence of RISC in the mobile market I may be able to use some of my RISC experience.

I still think RISC is the better all around architecture approach. We used to play around with 'chip simulators' by using the plentiful registers in the RISC chips to hold the registers of the smaller RISC chips we were simulating. Great for VM's, too. Ahh, those were the days.

Re:RISC = Good (2, Insightful)

emt377 (610337) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279502)

i like MIPS... in college, we had one semester of hands on lab work learning everything about a specific MIPS implementation, then another semester writing a compiler capable of compiling itself for the architecture.

once you can grasp the simplicity and understand exactly whats going on in the chip, features like HyperThreading seem almost stupid because of how much complexity and exceptions they add to the system.

Of course modern MIPS processors are threaded as well...

The funny part is newer computers are more (4, Insightful)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278542)

efficient. I mean if you consider any unit of computation vs energy expended. I bet my current desktop computer would compare from a computation point of view to a super computer from the late 80's. (GFLOP to GFLOP) However my current computer pulls about 300W, I'm pretty sure that's alot better than any super computer from the 80's that would compare to it.

Re:The funny part is newer computers are more (2, Informative)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278722)

my mac mini only pulls 14W and isn't far behind your current desktop in performance. my fit-pc2 only pulls 6W. relative to power consumption, both of those machines are easily besting super computers from the 80s as well as your current desktop.

I doubt it (2, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278860)

If the unit of computation is to put a single character on the screen for example. Today, it requires several supercomputer class processors to do the same job as one 286 during the 80s.
 

Re:I doubt it (2, Funny)

Amouth (879122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279480)

but now we have cuved edges and smooth colors - and wait.. still using a square dot to show it.. crap

Re:The funny part is newer computers are more (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279076)

efficient. I mean if you consider any unit of computation vs energy expended. I bet my current desktop computer would compare from a computation point of view to a super computer from the late 80's. (GFLOP to GFLOP) However my current computer pulls about 300W, I'm pretty sure that's alot better than any super computer from the 80's that would compare to it.

300W? I'm pretty sure a coffee maker from the 80's was even that efficient.

Re:The funny part is newer computers are more (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279456)

My Athlon II X2 + 8800GS pulled 95w from the wall, according to my Kill-A-Watt.

Now I have a Phenom II X4 and GTS 250. It pulls about 107w from the wall when idle, and as much as 160w when gaming. (~175w when encoding video)

The funny thing is, I've seen old P4 computers drawing 250w+.

Re:The funny part is newer computers are more (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279902)

And late model PIII's, (which were smoking the early P4's) only sucked 30-40W at the die. Netburst was just a big fail in general. A slow flamethrower.

Begging the Question (2, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278564)

while our primary sources of energy are running out

Just cleaning up our light-water reactor waste (which we cannot leave around for 300,000 years) can power the Earth's advancing societies for a century.

There are much better reasons to go for low-power computing, portability and economics chief among them.

Evident? (-1, Redundant)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278638)

By now, it has become evident that we are facing an energy problem -- while our primary sources of energy are running out, the demand for energy is greatly increasing.

Evident to you and me, maybe. But there are lots of folks who insist that all these issues can be explained away. A lot of them follow Slashdot, and I'm a little surprised they haven't already chimed in.

Evident? (0)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278688)

By now, it has become evident that we are facing an energy problem -- while our primary sources of energy are running out, the demand for energy is greatly increasing.

Evident to you and me, maybe. But there are lots of folks who insist that all these issues can be explained away [cei.org]. A lot of them follow Slashdot, and I'm a little surprised they haven't already chimed in.

(Forgive the double post. Should have previewed.)

Connectivity and standards are the solution (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278760)

If Internet connectivity were ubiquitous and cheap and proper standards were developed and encouraged, we would see a tremendous improvement in efficiency.
1. It takes a very minimal amount of power to use hosted applications, so the end users devices would be low power.
2. Data centers have serious incentives to be efficient, when your annual electric bill is in the $100,000+ range, even a 1% improvement is worth considering, when was the last time you cared about saving 1% on your electric bill.

The WWW is getting us on the right track, but what we really need is to develop a new Internet protocol for hosted applications. I see little reason that we need to continue to try and add complexity to the WWW, HTML was never really intended for Web 2.0+ apps. If this new protocol were properly designed, and very open, and had strictly enforced standards, hardware could be made to accelerate its more power hunger aspects (sound, video, 3d, etc.). This would result in very low powered components that do one thing very well, coupled with a very low powered cpu you could have a full featured machine that consumes minimal power.

Bull... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278776)

"By now, it has become evident that we are facing an energy problem — while our primary sources of energy are running out,"

No, a primary easy source is running out, rock oil, we have like 40-80 years of that left.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum#Future_of_petroleum_production [wikipedia.org]

Shale oil, well theres a ton of that out there, if the world wanted to, they'd be able to access that. The US has about 1,750,000,000,000 barrels
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum#Consumption_statistics [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale_reserves#Definition_of_reserves [wikipedia.org]

And there is a ton of natural gas, and shale gas and coal, not to mention fission, solar, and/or wind.

So, no we are not running out of our primary sources of energy.

Re:Bull... (3, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279106)

Look up "Energy Return on Energy Invested".

Saudi oil has been 100:1.

Shale... 5:1 maybe, 3:1.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale [wikipedia.org]

When they really start using shale, you know the shit is really hitting the fan.

And no matter how much is left (quoted in the reserve figures as recoverable), could be a trillion trillion barrels, nobody is going to bother trying to get it out when it takes a unit of energy in to get a unit of energy out.

Re:Bull...you are not even counting coal (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279318)

We have over 250 years worth of easily available coal here in the US.

Re:Bull...you are not even counting coal (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279594)

Nasty, dirty shitty coal. Coal power should just be illegal already.

Nuke, wind, solar, natural gas all are alternatives with far less pollution and co2 release.

ACORN Risc Machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31278952)

I want NOTHING to do with a processor that fraudulently got Obama elected! We haven't even seen his BIRTH CERTIFICATE! I CAN'T BELIEV....

Wait .. they have nothing to do with each other?

Nevermind, carry on.

Make Boots & Scans Faster (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31278988)

One of the reasons my PC is a power hog is I leave it on all the time. Why?

1) Because boots take a long time. If boots were near-instant like they were on my TRS-80 in 1979 I'd turn it off. (Yeah, yeah, Macs boot fast, yeah yeah, I can 'suspend' but none of that junk ever works properly on WinTel.)

2) Because backups, patches and scans run at night time. If I didn't need those, I'd turn it off.

Figure out a solution there and I'd turn my box off.

Re:Make Boots & Scans Faster (2, Informative)

farble1670 (803356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279404)

I can 'suspend' but none of that junk ever works properly on WinTel

every computer i've owned or used in the last 10 years has been able to hibernate or sleep. that includes macs, linux and win98 to win 7. if you buy a computer that can't reliably sleep, you should return it and get your $ back.

Re:Make Boots & Scans Faster (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279814)

yeah yeah, I can 'suspend' but none of that junk ever works properly on WinTel.

Yah it does. Unless your computer's defective. If it's defective, take it back and get one that works.

Seriously, suspend/hibernate is a solved problem for the last decade. When's the last time you tried it? Windows 98?

Re:Make Boots & Scans Faster (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279866)

When's the last time you tried it?

Last week.

My (c) 2005 gateway (XP) has no audio when it comes back from sleep. My Dell Inspiron PIII has a Linksys WiFi card in the PCMCIA slot. The card dies when it goes to sleep and only comes back with a reboot.

Re:Make Boots & Scans Faster (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279930)

How many bytes was the OS on a TRS-80?

You can't really compare that...

Energy running out (1)

coldmist (154493) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279072)

while our primary sources of energy are running out

And in the 1920s, they claimed we were running out of oil. In the 1970s, they claimed we were running out of oil. Just last year they found a new oilfield off of Brazil bigger than anything found yet. Last year. After everyone said no new large fields would ever be found.

Coal? Clinton locked up the Grand Staircase in Utah, the largest clean coal deposit, with 62 Billion tons of coal [utah.gov].

I don't know. I hate scare-mongering that has been going on already for 100 years, and shown wrong for 100 years, and the next generation doesn't see how poorly it looks.

Re:Energy running out (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279514)

On the first I agree, but there is no such thing as clean coal. That is just a marketing stunt.

Re:Energy running out (2, Informative)

emt377 (610337) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279644)

Just last year they found a new oilfield off of Brazil bigger than anything found yet. Last year. After everyone said no new large fields would ever be found.

The Tupi field is estimated to hold 8b barrels of oil. Given our current global consumption that's a three month extension. It's the biggest field discovered in 30 years - which is pretty telling. Find ten of these and we've got a few extra years. Find only another one or two and it makes no difference. Meanwhile, when the global business cycle points up again our oil consumption is going to follow likewise - again. Prices will rocket, and economic growth will be choked. Oil is really a limited resource and the way we've built our entire economy around it is going to limit our capacity for global growth.

Re:Energy running out (-1, Troll)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279948)

Simple solution but one people are scared of agreeing to. Kill all the blacks in africa and all the slants in asia and the dot heads in india and the camel fuckers in the ME. Keep the NAs because we ain't horrible. Put the mongrel slavic races back into collars and let the white man take his rightful place as the only self-driven intelligence on the planet outside of revs for the NAs. It would free up enough natural resources for the next couple of thousand years, rid our gene pool of many undesirable and regressive traits and make it that much easier to maintain and return africa and asia and india back into the natural habitats for thousands of endangered species. But the liberal and the media along with the fucking invisible sky wizard people have brainwashed the white people of this planet into believing we owe the mongrel races. The only thing we owe them is a bullet in the head or a collar around their necks. And yes, I do not like people who are not white.

Great job marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31279286)

that is simple, low power, and low cost

ARM may have a lot of coolness going for them right now since they are taking on big bad boy Intel. However ARM is certainly not low cost (ask anyone who has bought a source license or that pays royalties).

Re:Great job marketing (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279496)

And how much do you have to pay to make a modern x86 chip under licence?

The physical chips are definitely cheaper than anything x86 with similar speed.

bar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31279372)

Steve Foobar? Maybe its time to hit the bed.

Wierd priorities (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31279882)

My computer? Really? THAT'S the power hungry device I should be worried about? What about, oooh, I don't know, how about my electric clothes dryer with the 240V plug and the massive double circuit breaker in my breaker box?!

Priorities people, priorities.

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