The carbon footprint of a laptop is mostly in the manufacturing. Servers are different, and ARM chips are starting to change the game.

Apple is one of the few companies publishing the carbon footprint of their products. These reports go all the way back to 2009 and they publish reports for new products as soon as they are released. They’re based on the ISO 14040 and 14044 international standards for lifecycle assessment, include multiple configurations to match the options available for purchase, and assume lifetimes of 4 years for macOS/tvOS devices, and 3 years for iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS devices.

For example, the new MacBook Air 13″ with the Apple Silicon M1 chip with 256GB of SSD storage has a carbon footprint of 161 kgCO 2. …


How often do you follow references in scientific writing only to struggle to find the source of a claim or number? Why are pinpoints not used in scientific citation?

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My law undergraduate degree taught referencing of legal authorities using the Oxford University Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA). Originally created in 2000 for use at Oxford, OSCOLA is now the standard in most UK law schools, and used by many international organisations.

Like any other referencing style, OSCOLA sets guidelines for how to cite a range of different legal sources. One particular concept is the pinpoint. This is a page or paragraph number which appears after a citation, often when attributing a statement to a specific judge, or when referencing numbered paragraphs. …


Progress in renewable energy has pushed IT carbon footprints down, revealing how much more work is needed in manufacturing.

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Climate change is the biggest and most important long-term challenge we face. Everything about tackling this problem is focused on carbon dioxide ( equivalent) emissions and how we reach net zero, or ideally net negative.

The underlying story in the Dispatches documentary episode I was recently interviewed for was that the tech industry uses a lot of energy, which is generated from sources with a high carbon intensity. Such analysis typically focuses on the use-stage energy, usually electricity, because renewables still make up a minority of global primary energy demand. As of 2019, wind power accounted for 5% of global power supply, solar 2.5%, …


Is Zoom good for the environment?

It is obvious that Zoom is better for the environment than flying but what about vs driving an EV or public transport? The problem is we can’t be sure.

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Kyoto, Japan

I was recently invited to discuss the topic of IT energy and the lack of transparency in an episode of the documentary series, Dispatches, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK at 8pm on 16 November 2020 ( available online here). One of the topics I was asked about was video conferencing, and Zoom in particular.

Although claims about how green video conferencing is compared to travelling to a meeting are not new, the sudden growth of online meetings caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has brought this into the mainstream.

It intuitively makes sense that speaking to someone over a Zoom video conference is better for the environment than flying to meet in person. The problem with intuitive assumptions is that they often work out to be more complex than you think. …


More rigorous transparency regulations for negative externalities to force companies to measure, and reduce.

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Tokyo, Japan

The common theme across my recent writing on IT energy is the lack of transparency and data for accurately assessing environmental impact. Whether you are trying to calculate the emissions of your cloud computing infrastructure or comparing the most sustainable laptops, vendors need to publish the data behind their operations and products.

When you look into who is reporting what, the surprising thing is that many companies are already doing a lot. However, there is a wide spectrum of detail when it comes to that transparency.

The most transparent

In the EU, big, public companies are legally required to publish annual non-financial statements. Directive 2014/95/EU applies to public-interest companies with more than 500 people, including listed companies, banks, insurance companies and other specially designated public-interest entities. …


Public cloud price wars have ended, and a new battle over who is the greenest has begun.

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Tokyo, Japan

Earlier in the decade, public cloud was a pricing battleground. AWS, Google and Azure announced regular price decreases. Prices for compute and storage were the usual targets, but innovative pricing mechanisms such as Google’s sustained use discounts were another attempt to compete.

Instead of focusing on pricing-led growth through price cuts, recent years has seen the product portfolio take priority. The AWS revenue run-rate is $43B, growing 29%; Azure $25B, growing 50%; and Google $8bn, growing 70% ( source). And we know that AWS is very profitable. …


Up to x3 more energy required for 5G vs 4G

5G networks have larger antennas, larger bandwidths, and higher base station density. How can the industry expect x20 more energy efficiency by 2030?

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Takayama, Japan

5G is the next generation of mobile communication technology which started rolling out in 2019 and is planned to replace 4G over the coming decade. You may have heard about the idiotic conspiracy theories about 5G and burning cell towers (BBC, 2020), but prior to CVOID the hype focused on the main benefit of speed: download speeds are expected to be up to 10Gbit/s (Hoffman, 2019) compared to less than 1Gbit/s for 4G (ITU, 2008). I have measured 4G speeds of over 100MB/s in central Tokyo, but otherwise I expect that type of performance is rare! …


How to measure the problem, the uncertainty around the current situation, and the limited number of growth buyers

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Kyoto, Japan

Recently I have spoken to several people asking about startups in data center energy, the area of focus of my MSc research at Imperial College London. The most common question is: “Where are the interesting opportunities?”, followed by “What interesting startups have you seen tackling this?”

If you have an idea for a new software product, it is a rule that another startup already exists doing the same thing, and they have probably raised significant VC funding! The on-prem to SaaS transition has happened and everything you can think of has multiple businesses already competing. …


Dead references in researching and reading academic papers

How do we keep crucial references around?

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Hakone, Japan

Science is built on the work on others. This means researching numbers, methods, and principles from previous articles, all which must be correctly referenced. Without referencing, you risk making claims which cannot be substantiated, or worse, being accused of plagiarism.

Academic course submissions are routinely run through analysis software to detect unreferenced material. The rules of plagiarism are drilled into every modern student, made even more important due to the ease of access of online content, or cheating using paid essay-mills.

I am currently working on a meta-analysis paper which means I have had to read lots of academic articles. It’s normal to flick back and forth between the main text and a specific reference. This is like falling into a Wikipedia browsing hole, but instead your browser tabs are filled with PDFs and journal articles to come back to. …


Where is your data?

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Shikoku, Japan

A few weeks ago I went to check the latest updates in my RSS feed reader, Feedbin, and it was down. I searched on Twitter and found a lot of people complaining, so it wasn’t just me. I couldn’t read any of my subscriptions.

Feedbin is a great service. It is usually reliable, fast, run by an independent company, can receive email newsletters, lets me save web pages, and respects privacy. It allows me to read all the blogs I subscribe to as well as following specific people on Twitter, because I don’t use any official Twitter client.

However, it is a SaaS product. I use their web browser client and everything is hosted on the Feedbin servers. If they’re down, I can’t access anything. …

About

David Mytton

Researching sustainable computing @imperialcollege. EIR @seedcamp. Previously Co-Founder & CEO @serverdensity (acquired by @stackpath). https://davidmytton.blog

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