Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's Always Better With Two

This article has a unique perspective on computer use in the office; for users that need a laptop, buy them two computers! Get a laptop for on the road use, and a desktop for working at the office. The really odd thing to me is that the company proposing this, Green Machine Shop, actually makes pretty green computers. Here's a quote:

"Notebooks are great for people who need mobile computing, but too many people use them all the time, even when sitting at their desks. The higher heat shortens the lifetime of electronics and battery," said Thomas Schramm, president of, of Ann Arbor, Mich. "The higher noise level and the unergonomic setup can reduce productivity and cause health issues. Using a desktop computer whenever possible and a laptop only when necessary is the best solution."

Ok, the electronics and battery life are shortened. Maybe, but most companies will get rid of these machines anyways on a two to four year cycle. Plus, since about 80 percent of the energy for any computer goes into its manufacture, I am having a hard time justifying two computers to save a little battery life. Maybe as a part of a comprehensive program... maybe. Unfortunately, this seems like a misguided attempt to sell more desktop computers.

What this really highlights is the fact that choosing the green alternative is complicated. I have been thinking for months now that we need a spreadsheet or some tools to help us make these decisions. I have to get on that.


Fat_Knowledge said...

I didn't read the article, but wouldn't it make more sense just to get a docking station and remove the battery when you are docked?

Mark Ontkush said...

thats seems like the logical idea. I think the issue is "appropriate technology" for the job at hand?

Thomas Schramm said...

The goal is to slow down the replacement cycle. Especially the one for notebooks.
My problem with the notebook is that they are just too loud.
And the screen is not the same quality either.
I do agree that for people who spent 80% or so on the road and only 20% at their desk, the docking station with external keyboard/mouse, battery removed and the notebook off the table makes more sense, if they don't mind the noise and disturbance right in front of them.
For some people a 60/40 use might justify the extra spending on a computer, for some maybe a 40/60 use. The longer the equipment is in use, especially the notebook, the better for the environment.
Energy can be generated, a slower replacement cycle, especially for notebooks and with a very clean desktop like the one from should be able to create a better balance that includes everything from energy and water consumption, productivity, strain, stress, health issues, recycling, transportation, etc.
I'd really like to see a study that includes all of the above.
I'm sure a notebook has a much bigger environmental footprint than a desktop where the failure rates, total lifetime shipping and replacement costs, etc. should be quite lower.
What do you think about it?
Best regards
Thomas Schramm
"Healthy Computing Through Environmental Responsibility"

Mark Ontkush said...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the reply, I applaud your work. It fact, Im going to add you into a new category called 'Green Products' or something similar on my blog.

I would also like to see a study on exactly how much computing power people need. I've been in the business 12 years and there is just an abhorrent amount of waste. Eight years ago, yes, you had to upgrade your pcs every thrree years. Now, it seems like it departments are just upgrading to upgrade. Of course, I think there's a big political elements here, as about 80 percent of the typical it budget is for mainteance, so mid level managers concentrate on getting more maintenace dollars, not efficiency.

thanks mark

Thomas Schramm said...

Hi Mark:
I have a new press release out, don't know if you saw it.
The Green Computer Myth: How Green Are Green Computers?

We also have a Notebook Productivity Pack, a sleek notebook stand, made of steel (easy to recycle) and ergonomic keyboard, USB, mouse, etc.
Feel free to check it out. If you have any questions, feel free to get back with me.

Thomas Schramm

Thomas Schramm said...

please feel free to delete my post, don't have your email to keep you informed. Thanks for putting my address out there.