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Cheers - AE

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


I've mentioned once or twice before that I tend to think of all the various groups who have a vested interest in perpetuating the anthropogenic global warming theory - by which I mean everyone from Greenpeace, WWF, the Sierra Club, RSPB etc. to governments and heavy industries involved in the manufacture and operation of solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power generation - collectively as "Big Eco". This afternoon I realised that I've left a group off the list and I feel that while they may not be the biggest component of Big Eco, and maybe not even an especially large part, nonetheless they are deserving of a place among their peers. I'm talking about people who make things for guilt ridden warming believers who sooooo want to be green, or at least want to be seen to be green... okay then, at least doing their bit. People who will make something like the Eco-button - yet another website that goes in for the Al Gore style of illustrating a remark about CO2 emissions with a photo of a chimney producing what looks suspiciously like water vapour*.

Anyhow, according to the blurb in the annoying Flash slide show** on the site this clever little gadget saves you money and helps stop the planet from feeling sad and crying.
With one simple click your computer is instantly put into energy saving ecomode, the lowest power mode available. Then hit any key on your keypad and your computer is ready for work again, instantly returning to where you left off.
Oh, just like Sleep mode then?

From the FAQ:
...ecobutton™ does not employ the normal Standby mode ... The mode that ecobutton™ engages is a deeper energy saving mode than the regular Standby mode you usually find as default on a Windows PC.

On most PCs there are 4 inbuilt sleep states - S1, S2, S3 and S4. With each successive sleep state, from S1 to S4 (hibernate), more of the computer is shut down. However, the majority of PCs are actually supplied with S2 and S3 disabled leaving just the most shallow sleep state (S1) and the deepest (S4 hibernate) available to most users. Most people tend not to use hibernate due to the length of time the PC takes to wake up leaving just S1 as the only convenient option.

The sleep states built into most PCs are as follows:

S1 = Basic Standby (Shallow sleep). Typically wakes up in no more than two seconds
S2 = Less power consumption than S1 and greater than in S3. Wake up is usually two seconds or slightly more.
S3 = Less power consumption than in S2. Wake up time is the same as S2.
S4 (hibernate) = The lowest power state but with a long wake up time - sometimes a few minutes or more.

ecobutton™ re-educates your PC to use S3 when the ecobutton™ is pressed.
Well, a few criticisms if I may.

First, let's get the platform/OS whinge out of the way. The whole world isn't using fucking Windows, ok? However, that really doesn't matter because of the second point: I can assign a hot corner a button on the monitor (not the hot corner, Angry Exile, you dickhead) to put the computer in sleep, which appears to be mode 3 by default (I've never changed it since I bought this machine and it's on mode 3 now). As far as I know it's like S3 on PCs except that OS X copies whatever's in RAM to the hard drive anyway. So whenever I move the mouse pointer to the hot corner press the monitor button it's just like pressing your Eco-button except it didn't cost me however much your big green button on a USB lead retails for. Nor did it cost our fragile and weeping world the energy cost of manufacturing something to do what can I can easily do without it.

Ah, you might be saying, but Windows users make up the vast majority and the Eco-button is really for them. Yes, there are way more Windows users, but after Googling for a few minutes I found out that the Eco-button doesn't seem to be doing anything they can't already do either. Just like Apple users it looks very much like most XP users and all Vista users (I imagine Windows 7 too when it's out) can do it for free and without the need to manufacturer anything they don't already have. There are free downloads about to create hot corners on Windows machines*** and it seems that XP and Vista both support S3 sleep. Apparently in XP Microsoft deliberately disabled it with a registry key since not all hardware supports it properly (apparently in S3 sleep some won't re-awaken from USB mouse/keyboard inputs - I'd hope that Eco-button's makers found that out and worked a way around it, or know it to be false), so I imagine the Eco-button software gets round this in addition to periodically letting you know how many planet tears you prevented being shed today. But getting round it just involves googling for the registry hack, though I'd make sure the system is suitable before I did it or used an Eco-button because I'd be a bit pissed off if, having smugly tapped my Eco-button before going for a Jimmy Riddle, I was forced to turn the bloody thing off and back on again before I could go back to work. Vista users can apparently do it simply by playing with power settings in Control Panel, and even if you don't bother downloading something to let you use hot corners it's pretty trivial to set it up to go to sleep after a very short period of inactivity - you can forget pretty screensavers because they won't have a chance to do anything. And all of this can be had without dropping 15 quid on something that has had valuable resources used to manufacture, package and ship from the factory to the customer - plus however many stages in between.

Now I'm not saying it's a piece of crap. I'm not saying it's a rip off (though for some reason it's about £15 in the UK and about $15 - about £8.60 - here in Oz). I'm not saying it won't work. I'm not even saying it's a solution looking for a problem. Because I've haven't tried it and never will I really don't know about any of those. However, it does seem like this is a product for people who want to be, or at least to look, more green but who are also either so amazingly computer illiterate that they can't type a few words into the world's best know search engine, or who can't be arsed to look into ways of configuring the fucking computer themselves to do what the Eco-button does except without the Eco-button's green LEDs. My point is not whether or not the Eco-button is any good but that it doesn't need to be any good. I'm sure it'll sell because it's got a green themed website, a green colour scheme, green lights (presumably powered by happy thoughts) and the magic prefix: 'Eco'. My other point, which is where I started, is that without anthropogenic global warming there is no Eco-button. Imagine if the AGW scare is so comprehensively debunked that even Al Gore and his Alcolytes and everyone else riding the band wagon is forced to concede that really there's nothing to worry about after all. All the firms and groups I think of as 'Big Eco' will suffer in a big way. To be sure some will suffer less - there will always be remote places where solar or wind and some form of storage make more sense than grid connection, and nuclear power might well have a future for a few decades no matter what happens with AGW. The lobbying groups like Greenpeace etc will lose credibility roughly in proportion to how much noise they made about it, which might be a lot when people in your group are sitting on the roof of the Houses of Parliament. But worst off of all will be people that are wholly reliant on it - from climate modellers and researchers to people who make green products like the Eco-button there are people who need global warming to be real for financial reasons. If it's wrong they're fucked, and if I was them I'd be banging the global warming drum as hard and as loud as I possibly can even if secretly I didn't believe a word of it. Their vested interests makes anyone in that position, even if they genuinely do believe in AGW, part of 'Big Eco'.

* It's only fair to mention that water vapour is also a 'greenhouse gas' and one that has an immensely more powerful effect than CO2, further magnified by the fact that there's vastly more of it in the atmosphere. This raises 3 questions:
  • Why aren't we worrying about H2O?
  • Why not make a gadget that stops the kettle just short of boiling and so produces less of the dreaded water vapour (and of course a little CO2 from the energy saved as well)?
  • If you insist on products aimed at the CO2 worryists how about not illustrating it with a picture of the wrong fucking gas?
** Okay, Flash looks good but for a company selling eco-gadgets is it appropriate? I find Flash heavy sites make my computer run a little warm - not much and by no means dangerously so, but surely the use of Flash means my computer is using a little more energy than if they'd just used HTML? Good move for a company selling greenery? I'd say that if you buy into standby mode being bad on the grounds that it all adds up you should put Flash on your site for the same reason.
*** Haven't tried 'em, don't need 'em, so can't vouch for 'em. You did see the bit where I said I use a Mac, didn't you?
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