People often stop me in the street and say “Hey, Pete. Should I leave my computer on all the time, or turn it off when I’m not using it?”
Well, here are your answers. Once and for all. Real facts coming your way…
Q. *Won’t leaving my computer on all the time consume lots of power?*
A. Depends. If you left it working flat out on mathematical calculations, then yes – over Â£100 per year. If you leave it doing nothing with the monitor switched off, then about Â£15 per year. If you put it into “hibernate” mode, then it will consume sufficiently little power to be insignificant.
Q. *Doesn’t turning it on and off wear out the components?*
A. Yes, to an extent. However, you’d have to turn it on and off about a dozen times a day, every day to see any difference. The additional stress caused by turning it on and off twice per day isn’t significant enough to be worth considering as a factor.
Q. *Does leaving it on all the time wear out the components?*
A. Again, if you leave it on all the time when you aren’t using it, then you will shorten the life of the components, but really not by much at all. Very few home computers actually die because the components wear out – they are normally just abandoned because they become laden with spyware, junk or trojans, or they are replaced for a better model. Don’t let component life worry you.
Q. *So give me a good argument against leaving it on all the time.*
A. As long as you turn off the monitor to conserve power, the only argument I can think of is that while the computer is turned off, it can’t be attacked by miscreants. But then, as long as you’ve got a decent firewall, you shouldn’t really let that worry you.
Q. *In conclusion?*
A. Really, you can do what you like. As long as you aren’t bothered about Â£20 per year, there are no convincing arguments one way or the other. If you find yourself turning the computer on more than twice per day, then it may be worth leaving it on. Don’t leave the monitor on – that can waste a lot of electricity. If you want to save more energy, use hibernate mode.
Q. *Where do the numbers come from?*
A. A computer running at full pelt is about 200 watts, or 0.2 kilowatts. There are 8766 hours in the year. 0.2 * 8766 = 1753.2 kilowatt-hours. At 6p per kWh, we get Â£105.20 per year. When idling with the monitor switched off, the computer consumes about 30 watts, which is about 263 kWh in a year. This comes out at Â£15.78. These are only rough estimates, based upon an average computer and an average electricity tariff.
Q. *Thank you. I shall not take these figures as gospel. I shall just use them to get a rough idea.*
A. That’s the spirit.
**UPDATE:** As Lyle rightly points out in the comments, computers don’t like power cuts. Shame on me for omitting to mention this. If you live in an area with an unreliable power supply, then you should turn your computer off when you aren’t using it (though I expect that if you are in this situation then you have already bought a laptop). Also, if there is a storm brewing and you think that the power may go out, turn your computer off, switch it off at the wall, unplug it from the mains, and put the plug on a non-conductive surface (like plasticene or velvet).
**2008 UPDATE:** The numbers, of course, are prone to change. Three years later, electricity costs twice as much, and I found that my current computer draws about 70 W when idle. Â£15 becomes Â£50.
*This was originally written in my diary, and copied over sometime in 2008*
I still have thoughts, you’ll be pleased to discover. They just come to me at a different time. Instead of materialising when I am sat in front of a computer, they come at night and haunt me in the darkness, terrorising the very core of my being.
Just thought I’d share the good news.
A year ago I got a Sony Ericsson T610 (what, you want a link? Go and search Google for yourselves, I’m too busy ranting) to replace a Siemens C35i which I had owned for years. I was pretty happy with it. I didn’t have any problems learning to use it, and initially my only gripe was that it was damn slow compared to the old phone. I didn’t let this bother me too much as I knew that it was not a problem with that particular model of phone, but just the expected consequence of cramming more and more bells, whistles and gongs onto what was once a really basic concept, namely “the telephone”.
Then I went and spent Â£30 on a USB cable and some software to jack it into the PC, downloaded all the photographs that I’d taken, and realised that they actually looked quite crummy. After a little experimentation I established that it was partly due to a poor resolution of about 350×280 pixels, and partly due to a very small and weak lens.
As my contract approached 12 months of age, I phoned my provider and put the squeeze on them to give me a free upgrade. They offered me the Sharp GX15. I did a little quick research, discovered that it seemed to be exactly the same phone, but with camera resolution up to 640×480. Worth a try, I thought.
So, where are we so far? I’m upgrading my phone purely on the basis that the new one may have a better camera. We’re nearly there, people.
So the new phone arrives, and I put my SIM card in it, and I charge the battery, and I realise that I forgot to copy my phone numbers from the old phone to the SIM card, so I swap the SIM back, do the copy, swap the SIM again, and copy the numbers to the new phone.
And then I put it into camera mode and press the button to take a snap.
The phone emitted a deafening synth-shutter sound, causing birds to take flight outside the window.
So I went into the menus to find out how to turn down the volume of the synth-shutter sound to a level which was less likely to result in structural damage to my office. Ideally, the same level as the subtle, though still naff, synth-shutter sound which the T610 used to use.
I can’t find this option. I can only assume that Sharp have gone all vigilante and decided to do something about the problem of people taking camera phones into showers and brothels and taking photos of those in attendance without their permission.
Management: *So, this whole shower and brothel thing then. What can we do about it?*
Tech: *Well, the phone could make a noise that can’t be turned off by the user.*
Management: *Good, good. What sort of range does the camera have?*
Tech: *I guess you could make out a nipple at twenty metres.*
Management: *Right, so people who are twenty metres away have to be able to hear it too. Could the user possibly cover the speaker?*
Tech: *I guess they could…*
Management: *Right, so the sound has to be loud enough to penetrate a centimetre of bone and flesh, yet still be audible twenty metres away.*
Tech: *But sir, that would mean that the sound would be deafening to someone stood twelve inches away if the speaker **wasn’t** covered.*
Management: *What are you, some kinda wooly minded liberal?*
Tech: *No, sir. Long live Maggie Thatcher.*
Management: *That’s more like it.*
Reader: *Does Pete have a point?*
Pete: *Yes, I do. I mean…*
Yes, I do. I didn’t take many photos with the old camera, because the quality was crap. Now that I have a phone with a better camera, I’m still not going to take many photos, because I can’t do it if anyone is in the same room for fear of them thinking that I’m one of those people who thinks it is still the mid-80s and keeps their phone (and their voice) on maximum volume, to ensure that everyone else in the vicinity knows that they have one of these fantastical new-fangled mobile cellular telephone gadgets.
That’s just not the way that I work. I’ve always been very conscious of the noise pollution caused by mobile phones and the use of them, and have always practised the utmost discretion.
Which, in this case, means not taking photos.
As a closing request, if anyone out there has a GX15 or similar Sharp model and knows how to turn down the volume of the shutter sound, obviously I’d appreciate your feedback. Comment below or click the fantastical magical “contact” link at the top of the page to email me directly. Ta.
This morning, on my drive into work, I saw a man on the pavement up ahead with a leaf blower. He was moving a big pile of leaves from the pavement into the road. Fed up of being treated as a second rate citizen by dint of being in a car, I ploughed through the pile of leaves at 60mph. In my rear view mirror, I saw a cloud of leaves descending around the leaf-blower operator’s head, and smirked to myself with the satisfaction of a job that had been well done.
From the Fiction department:
He couldn’t help feeling a little bit smug at his predicament. Not because it was a particularly enviable situation to be in, but because he had so accurately foretold it.
The last few weeks had been hectic, while she was packing all her possessions and making arrangements for her new flat. As they were dividing up their CDs, there had been plenty of opportunities for reminiscing, over both good times and bad. The passion involved in these final formalities had startled him, and he had found himself wondering whether this was the right thing to be doing. Was it possible that all this was a big mistake, and if he opened his mouth now and said what he was feeling, maybe they could forget all this nonsense? Well, yes, that is what would have happened, but only for a few months, before things returned to their old ways. And anyway, that’s not what happened, so let’s move swiftly on.
The final move was very sudden. It all took place on one day. It seemed that when she left, she took pretty much everything in the flat. In truth, she actually took away less than she left behind, but the mind has a tendency to wallow when so many reminders pass in front of you in such a short time. The enormous pile of boxes and bags in the living room was siphoned off into cars, and within an hour the boxes were gone, and she was gone. There was no grand teary goodbye. They would either meet again or they wouldn’t. If they were going to, then a big goodbye would clearly be unnecessary. And if they weren’t, then fate must have a good reason for her actions.
The carpet was strewn with dust and dirt and bits of cardboard, so he equipped himself with a vacuum cleaner and navigated his way around the furniture. After all, as long as you leave the furniture in one place, then the dust can’t get under it, right?
This task completed, he performed a few other necessary tasks to convert a flat for two into the world’s most awesome batchelor pad. He cleaned the bathroom, and moved his razor from inside the cupboard to the convenient surface next to the sink, where it quite patently belongs.
He dedicated the entirety of the bottom two shelves of the fridge to beer and beer alone. The one can that had been in the door was opened and poured into his favourite Guinness glass, the one that he never used to be able to use because it was always on the coffee table with the dregs of some elderflower cordial or suchlike in it. Can I use that glass? No, I’m not finished yet. We’ve got plenty of other glasses. Nag nag nag.
He removed the dinner plates from the cupboard, the ones that they had bought together. He briefly considered a ceremonial plate smashing, but then thought better of it, and returned them to the cupboard, albeit underneath the two chipped plates that he had owned since University.
He stood in the middle of the sitting room that was now his kingdom, and saw that it was good. His face bore the smug grin of which I spoke so many paragraphs ago. His mind bore the realisation that he was alone. His friends had long since been relegated to the status of acquaintances, as she had gradually drawn him away from them. He didn’t think that it had been her intention to harm him, or make him depend upon her, though that was always a possibility. It was just that she was a quiet-evening-in kind of girl. She had a tendency to read a lot of books, and before she had met him, her life existed mainly in her own mind. I guess she just wasn’t a social animal. He had always been quite content with the single life, but ever open to the concept of love. He kept a tight circle of friends, and looked to them for the support that kept things in perspective when sleep refused to come, and the mind suddenly wants to know what it all means and where it is all going.
But where were they now? The world had changed around him, and there was nowhere to go. Some of them were paired off now, enjoying their little oasis of bliss, with no real requirement for his friendship right now. Some of them were miles away, perhaps back in the town where they’d shared those riotous nights in the pub, or perhaps they’d moved to somewhere else entirely to find the action. Some of them were so long-forgotten that he wasn’t sure that he knew their addresses anymore.
And so here he was. Probably at least a hundred miles from the nearest person that he had ever considered to be a friend. Hi, do you remember me? We were friends once. Yeah, I remember you. How’s it going? Not too good, can we talk? Sorry, mate, not a good time. How about next week?
He sought a pen, turned to a blank page and wrote “List of Options” at the top.