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Low Power Computing

3 - 4 min read

I spend a lot of time with computers. Despite having very small amounts of power at my disposal (especially during the winter months) I still need to be able to do some web development - both to earn money and as a hobby. I also like to spend time surfing the web of course. Making this happen is challenging and, like everything about this way of life, a constant work in progress with lots of room for improvement.

Dead Dell

[[PIC OF DELL]] This is my old laptop, Dell. Dell is dead now; I killed him. It was an accident but I am glad. The CPU was hungrier for power than I'd have liked. The 15.6" screen was the bigger problem though - 'bigger' being the operative word. Despite being backlit by nice efficient LEDs it used too much energy. Even with the backlight turned down as low as possible, the CPU in low-power mode and using an efficient solid state drive (SSD) rather than a mechanical hard disk, this machine would only last for a couple of hours on a full charge. On a particularly dark winter's day I might only be able to spend 15-30 minutes charging the battery, meaning it could take a few days just to get it fully charged once. I run off 12v leisure batteries (charged by solar panels). I do have an inverter, which changes the voltage to 230v so I can use normal household plugs and the charger which came with the laptop. Inverters waste some power in the inversion process though. Not a lot, but I'm playing with tiny amounts to begin with so am looking to eliminate waste wherever possible. So I bought a (relatively) cheap 12v laptop charger which plugs into the cigarette-lighter style sockets (the same kind you find in cars) which I've installed in the 'van. Cheapcharger is suspect number one. I had a much older and badder laptop called Eee (you'll hear about her later). I was trying to use Eee as despite being extremely slow she had a bigger battery, very low-powered CPU and much smaller screen so would last longer on a charge. I'd previously removed Dell's wireless card to put in Eee in the hope that it might use less energy than Eee's original wireless card. When reassembling Dell I made a stupid lazy mistake. The card had been attached with two wires. I should have covered them in tape to insulate them before putting the machine back together but instead I just left them dangling. Danglywire is suspect number two (prime suspect in my mind). One fine morning I plugged Dell in for a good charging. I thought I heard a strange sizzling. Instinctively I unplugged the charger. Then I spent a few stupid moments convincing myself that I had either imagined the sizzle or that it was some exotic sound of the farmyard outside, an environment still quite new to me. So I plugged the charger in again. This time the sound was easier to place as it was accompanied by the sweet smell of cooking plastic. Both smell and sound were coming from inside Dell. His last emanations. I, accompliced by either Cheapcharger or Danglywire, had killed Dell. Frowny emoji.

Eee. Languid Eee.

Eee's alright. She's just really really slow.

Thinky [needs a better name!]

Thinky is my current proper laptop. Not a beast by any means, but fine for my purposes. I love this little one. I paid such stupidly small amounts of money... price / IPS screen / RAM / SSD / looking into bigger battery i3wm - started my transition to Vim/terminal. made for educational market so tough Bit chunky by modern standards but I don't care, I don't need my laptop to be skinny. "I refuse to go out with a laptop whose ass is smaller than mine".


My Android tablet. Combined with a lovely bluetooth[link to king bluetooth etymology] keyboard I am managing to get most coding done on this machine now. The time:energy ratio is so much better than even Thinky. Now I'm mainly using the terminal I can get most of the work done here and just power up the laptop to finish off whichever items are left on the project checklist (inspecting/editing elements in browser are the main problems at this time).


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