Sustainable Computing Systems

A few years back, I came up with a project that sounded fun: build a Linux system focused on older hardware. It pained me to see operational machines made non-functional simply due to software-side demands. Wasteful. Now, though, I’m not convinced of it’s practicality. Is the problem with the older machines simply due to OS creep, or could the OS expansion be due to user demand?

Most users have increased their demands on their machines. So many Internet apps, for instance, are video and image rich. An older machine, even with a lean OS, will still be taxed by the demands of Flash, et al. My goals would only be realized by refining all the apps, too. Then those those refinements would ripple back to the mainstream systems, giving them performance gains. Upon which new apps would be built utilizing the freed resources. Thus, everything would revert back to the previous state. Assuming, of course, that I was able to overcome such other challenges as security.

So, how do I look at my original goal, now? I’m refining my vision. My concern was waste. How do we maximize these obsolete systems? Perhaps we could look at a more basic level. Look at the computer as a series of pieces, then apply the cradle-to-cradle lifecycle approach. Perhaps dissembling the machines and returning those components to the manufacturing stream.

A truly sustainable economy has zero waste. Every item, at the end of it’s life becomes a building block for something new. That’s my underlying vision. The task is both simple and massive.

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