Nesting in the wires

I just upgraded my Macbook Air to OS X Yosemite.  But never mind about that; I realise that I’ve started building a bird’s nest of wires.

redwall

Recently I’ve become enamoured of a couple of things.  The first is saving money and especially that money which ‘leaks’ from my family budget through slow, grumbling month-on-month charges like electricity.  I measured my large 4U server with dual-core, dual-Opteron motherboard and it was chomping 183W every hour of every day.  As it was a £10 purchase off eBay the motherboard was a good buy but at my local electricity supplier’s rates that was costing me approximately £17 per month.  Too much!

So I started a drive to move services such as my web server and gaming software off it onto something lower powered.

I fell in love with small form factor PCs such as the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black.  They are truly astonishing and I have a wonderful collection of them on my wall, festooned with power cables and wires which keep them fed.  Take for example the Raspberry Pi – it draws just 250 milliamps when under light workload.  The Beaglebone Black (of which I am highly impressed) draws just over 300.  In terms of power usage that is much better than the large server hardware underneath them.  Of course they are less capable machines and do less – however for what they do that does not matter.  If you think of computers in terms of four main measures of CPU, memory, storage and network then not all computers need everything big.  Something like my little Raspberry Pi for example, let’s call him “hugo”, only need to monitor signals from the variety of devices I’ve scattered around my house and environment to measure things such as light levels.  Hugo then passes things off to another small computer – let’s call her “jess” – who then determines if house lights should be switched off or on.

Much more satisfying than having a great clunking computer doing all this is a little farm of smaller devices which share out the work.  Each can be specialised to do their job well, an added advantage is that they can be turned off independently and worked on without affecting what the others are doing.

I love my micro-PCs!