Is cloud computing really green?

Apart from its key advantages of increased efficiencies, scalability, redundancy and decreased costs, another significant concept that hails cloud computing today is its potential to operate business applications more efficiently, resulting in a potentially lower environmental impact. This is what makes cloud computing one of today’s IT buzzwords, and there are studies to back this up.

A recent study, titled, “Cloud Computing and Sustainability” from Microsoft (with Accenture and WSP) compared the environmental footprint of running business software internally or with an outsourced provider. The study showed that, compared to running their own applications, by outsourcing companies can reduce the energy use and carbon footprint of computing by up to 90 percent. We could rattle off another dozen reasons why cloud computing should be greener. But is it really?

Network-based cloud computing is rapidly expanding as an alternative to conventional office-based computing. Not only this. Our day-to-day computing activities are also migrating from hard drives to Internet servers. Recently, Facebook came up with a statistic that shows how much new data enters cyberspace on a regular basis. According to the networking site’s count, more than 100 million photos get uploaded to Facebook each day. As cloud computing becomes more widespread, the energy consumption of the network and computing resources that underpin the cloud will grow. Environmental groups are worried that the trend will result in a bigger carbon footprint.

At a time when there is increasing attention being paid to the need to manage energy consumption across the entire information and communications technology (ICT) sector, there has been less attention paid to the energy consumption of the transmission and switching networks that are key to connecting users to the cloud.

Going back to the Facebook example, data that is created and uploaded to websites like Facebook is stored at data centers. In order to keep these data warehouses running and comfortably air-conditioned to prevent overheating, uninterrupted power supply is a must. This can result in some heavy energy consumption. As of now, data centers are responsible for two percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and according to experts, the number will increase in near future.

However, there are companies telling that the growing trend towards cloud computing is making online computing more energy-efficient. An analysis of Pike Research has backed up some of these reported benefits, suggesting that a reduction in the cost of the energy of global data center can take place by up to 38 percent by 2020 because of the extremely efficient cloud computing. But, environmental groups and other skeptics still have doubts with regard to how green cloud computing can truly be.

According to a Gartner report that examined the carbon footprint of the ICT industry, environmentalists are concerned about the industry’s apparent confusion with the difference between efficiency and sustainability. It says that companies need to recognize that energy efficient is not green on its own, and is no longer enough.

Another point to be noted here is none of the cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft or IBM are publishing metrics at all. Is it because companies using cloud computing are simply outsourcing their emissions? Until cloud providers start becoming more transparent around their utilization and consumption numbers, how green is cloud computing it is still a subject to debate.

My friend starting embracing… Linux

So all my friends know I’m obsessed with Linux and I occasionally give them computer related advise. I let him my friend Satish borrow my laptop with Ubuntu on it and he loved it. Then about 6 months later I ended up installing Manjaro Linux on his main laptop.

Flash forward to now and it just came up in conversation that all of his machines run Linux. He has never had to call me for OS related issues even once. It honestly made me forget he is a regular linux user. This speaks loudly to how far Linux has come.

Things to do after installing Manjaro Linux

Manjaro is a solid GNU/Linux distribution based on Arch Linux. It comes with some useful and commonly used softwares pre-installed.

However, since it’s targeted at broad audience, sometimes we have to remove or add some softwares or tweak there behaviors to suit our needs. Like all my “Things to do after installing distroX” the content is subjective however designed to be helpful to Manjaro newcomers. As Manjaro is based on Arch many of the instructions here are also applicable to Antergos.

Disclaimer: Many of the instructions in this article must be used with caution as they target intermediate/advanced users

Before installing any applications, changing themes etc this tutorial walks through some things to after a fresh installation of the operating system.

Update to the fastest Manjaro Mirrors
sudo pacman-mirrors -g
Remove unwanted applications installed by default
sudo pacman -Rs empathy epiphany gnome-shell-extensions
Upgrade and Optimize the Pacman database

Do this regularly….

sudo pacman-db-upgrade && sudo pacman-optimize && sync

If you get the “lock database” or “failed to synchronize” error use the command

sudo rm /var/lib/pacman/db.lck   
Pacman Configuration

Applications in the Manjaro and Arch “official” repositories are constantly updated then old versions are removed from the repository. Each package is upgraded as new versions become available from upstream sources. Pacman (Arch package manager) saves to disk a list of packages available in a repository. Manjaro uses its own software repositories by importing Arch’s packages to maintain compatibility. This allows Manjaro to perform some more testing before labelling them “stable”. The outcome of this is a slight delay for Manjaro software updates compared to Arch.

The Arch User Repository (AUR) is available in Manjaro and is community-driven and was created to organize and share new applications to help expedite popular packages to the end user. In Manjaro you can install AUR packages through the application Pamac and activating access in preferences..

Open the pacman configuration file using this command:

sudo gedit /etc/pacman.conf

uncomment these 2 lines by removing the “#” tags

#Include = /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

Multimedia/Compatibility Codecs

In general, codecs are utilized by multimedia applications to encode or decode audio or video streams. In order to play encoded streams, users must ensure an appropriate codec is installed. Manjaro like most linux distributions do not install all these out of the box. Installing this command will cover all your bases for multimedia playback formats.

sudo pacman -S exfat-utils fuse-exfat a52dec faac faad2 flac jasper lame libdca libdv gst-libav libmad libmpeg2 libtheora libvorbis libxv wavpack x264 xvidcore gstreamer0.10-plugins flashplugin libdvdcss libdvdread libdvdnav gecko-mediaplayer dvd+rw-tools dvdauthor dvgrab
Some Gnome Extensions
  • Activities Configurator: Changes the appearance and behaviour of the top panel
  • Battery Status: To hide the battery when its 100% charged
  • Coverflow (Alt-tab): To iterate through open windows in a coverflow manner
  • Dash to Dock: A configurable dock for to easily access my favorite applicaions
  • Drop Down terminal: An “out of the way” terminal that appears/dissapears from the top of the screen when toggled.
  • Media Player Indicator: Adds media controls to the panels system tray
  • Places Status Indicator: A dropdown menu giving access to home folders, system files and plugin devices.
  • User Themes: Switched on sets permission to add addition Gnome Shell and GTK themes
Some browser tweaks
Private browsing..
  • Firefox: firefox %U --private
  • Chrome/Chromium: chromium %U --incognito
  • Midori: midori %u --private
  • Opera: opera %U --newprivatetab
  • Vivaldi: vivaldi-stable %U --incognito
  • QupZilla: qupzilla %u --private-browsing
Annoying keyring popup in some Webkit-based browsers
  • Chromium: chromium --password-store=basic
  • Vivaldi: vivaldi-stable --password-store=basic

To avoid typing them in terminal over and over again, append these commands to there configuration files located in /usr/share/applications/. For example, to make Firefox open in private mode, add this line to /usr/share/applications/firefox.desktop:

Exec=/usr/lib/firefox/firefox %u --private

Note: Unfortunately after updating Firefox you have to do it again.