As with my mobile digital setup, my hardware setup has gradually miniaturised over the years, and I put more and more effort into reducing the power requirements of individual PCs, to reduce the CO2 footprint environmentally.

Reducing the Environmental Impact

Each PC and its mains powered peripherals are connected to a power strip which switches off when the PC is powered down. Additionally, a power meter is fitted to the power strip to monitor each PC systems power consumption, and a number of the peripherals are also plugged into AM10 X10 modules so that they can be remotely switched off.

Windows based software development PC

The main Windows development PC is a Shuttle SBG62G small form factor PC, which I built with a SilentX power supply, a low noise fan, and rubber mountings to reduce vibrations and thus reduce noise still further. This PC runs Windows XP Professional, and takes care of all work I need to do that requires use of Windows.

Display wise, it uses a 19 inch LCD display, which at the time, was bought to reduce power consumption over a CRT display.

Linux based software development PC

My main Linux development PC is a Mini-ITX based PC which I built using a 600 MHz VIA M-II C3 CPU, and running Ubuntu Linux 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon). The system is built into a Travla 138 case, with a half height DVD, and a 60 Gigabyte Seagate Momentus 2.5" hard disk drive. Until recently, I used SuSE Linux 10, but I have been very impressed with the advances of Ubuntu Linux, and have moved over to Ubuntu instead of SuSE.

For any task that requires software development or web development, or even general email or web browsing, a slower, but lower power 600 MHz PC seems to have worked perfectly well, and reduces power consumption in the process, and is very quiet. It is not the fastest PC in the world, but for general web based development, web browsing, email or documentation, it works very well.

Display wise, the main Linux development PC uses a 17 inch LCD display, which again, at the time, was bought to reduce power consumption over a CRT display.

Linux based test server / home entertainment PC

My test server and home entertainment PC runs Ubuntu Linux 7.10, and is again a Mini-ITX based motherboard, this time, running a 1.3GHz VIA M-II CPU. This system is built into a VoomPC case, which provides it with a very distinctive look, and has the advantage of using the aluminium case with extruded cooling fins to reduce the use of fans for cooling, and thus minimise noise.

Building Computers

Building hardware is nowhere near as hard as people may think. It can be cheaper than buying a complete system however, and enables you to gain a much greater insight into how your computer works, and can enable you to tweak your computer's performance. In fact, the first IBM PC I built rather than bought, was built from bits of discarded computers I found in skips (dumpsters in the US) in Central London in 1993, with a main box in one skip, a keyboard in another skip, a mouse and assorted cables in another skip, and a CRT in another skip. In fact that computer still works perfectly well now.

I have lost count of how many changes I've made to the PCs and Sun workstations I have, or have had - most of them have worked, however, failures can be fairly catastrophic, as some of the fried motherboards and add-on cards I have amassed would seem to suggest. I have prepared a couple of web pages to act as pointers for those who may be curious about various hardware modifications, the pages cover the hows and whys of cooling computers and interfacing a Linux laptop to household appliances.

The Museum PC Relics

I also have 2 old Sun Workstations running SunOS 4.1.3 and FreeBSD (one is a SUN 4/110, and the other is a SPARCStation 1+), complete with Sun CRT displays, and external SCSI tape drives and external 20 Megabyte hard disks. They are very rarely powered up however, due to their power draining capabilities!