Catch-up

For the better part of a decade, the school has bought bottom-of-the-line computers, usually without monitors (just keeping the old ones), and with only 12 months RTB warranty. No more than 20 per year were replaced.

There are now nearly 140 workstations on site. A few of the monitors I retired only last month were more than 20 years old. This week I counted up how many workstations would need replacing just to retire the ones that are 5 years old or older. As a result, my budget request for this year (my first in post) has 60 replacement workstations on it, each costing half as much again as those replaced last year.

I think the board of governors is going to get a bit of a shock when they realise how years of underinvestment is now biting us all on the ass, but I can’t in good conscience water it down; they need to know the situation as it stands. However, if they approve everything on my budget, I will be even more shocked.

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

13 responses to “Catch-up”

  1. Terry says :

    Mentioning the amount of power that will be saved by using newer more energy efficient pcs will save so more money.

    • AngryTechnician says :

      I’m glad you reminded me of this, because I’ve been meaning to get some real metrics on how much our old machines actually suck down compared with the ones I bought last year. Just had a look at this power meter from Maplin – ever used one, or can suggest a better model?

      • FobbedOff says :

        Search for 2000MU on the Maplin site and you end up with the meter I have in front of me. Works OK to display power usage and is £2 cheaper.
        I agree with those below about getting rid of CRT monitors. LCDs are so much better for a whole host of reasons although the glass fronted ones are better if you have them in an area prone to vandalism. If you get DVI connections between the PC and monitor then the kids can’t mess with the monitor settings to the same degree either.
        Don’t forget lower fan noise and speed of booting up as more reasons to promote new PCs. Teachers don’t like waiting. Trouble is that new PCs show up the old ones even more.

  2. Terry says :

    I personally haven’t used them, however they have appeared in various schools we deal with. Afraid I haven’t heard what they have show, however plugging on into a new PC then one into an old PC should show quite a significant difference.

  3. Dale says :

    I’ve used similar meters, and they can provide you with some useful “green” arguments. ie. if we turned off our displays instead of screen saving, we’ll save x dollars. (actually you get better savings by fiddling the power-save settings on laser printers).

    If you’re talking 5 year old kit, could some of those be computers with CRT monitors? LCDs generate a lot less heat than CRTs, and can result in savings on air-conditioning costs. (rule of thumb is that a typical CRT generates the same amount of heat as a typical human body.) There are some OH&S benefits as well.

    • AngryTechnician says :

      Just over half the machines in question still have CRTs, though none are in air-conditioned rooms. The only rooms with air-con are the two computer labs, and for no apparent reason, the staff room in the lower school. My own office, which currently doubles as the server room, doesn’t have air-con, resulting in some uncomfortable working conditions in the summer.

      The room is due to be partitioned in a couple of months, and the new server room will finally have proper cooling.

  4. Stephen says :

    I have a power meter, which can measure electrical use in a number of different ways. I hadn’t thought of testing the different PCs for consumption though, and would produce quite a good argument.

    I bought my meter from Amazon for little over £25, and it is brilliant – I’m sure, despite being careful, it has paid for itself many times over at home, so I’m sure the impact at a school would be exponential.

  5. astraltraveller says :

    My previous job at an International School had the same issue. Before I arrived, they had purchased all manner of horrible equipment, including a large number of iMacs that had become totally useless.

    Sad part is that they had no real budget to replace any of those computers, and the whole place was starting to fall apart, no matter what I did. Sticky tape and glue can only do so much when the computers are 5-6 years old already. Yet this school also had the crazy idea of trying to sell themselves as a highly technologically advanced school.

    Luckily at my new school, things are very different. We still have a large number of older machines in the network, but these are being actively replaced as time goes on.

    As for power, I have felt the difference 1st hand. We have 2 computer labs, one fairly new the other quite old. The old has CRT monitors in them, and compared to the other room, it is far hotter in there. CRT monitors chew power and make heat.

  6. Ray says :

    It won’t surprise you to know that I’m really interested in the power-saving answers, to perhaps throw a bit more light on some of the money saving tips that I’ve been writing up (especially this one http://blogs.msdn.com/ukschools/archive/2010/01/15/top-10-ict-money-saving-tips-2-cutting-your-electricity-bills.aspx)

    I think there are a number of levels that could be measured:
    – more efficient PCs
    – using more aggressive power settings
    – upgrading the Windows to later versions with more power granularity

    • AngryTechnician says :

      I’ve already implemented some better power settings to our existing XP installs, but they are a pain to manage even using GPP. Windows 7 upgrade is scheduled for this summer, and I plan to test those that have already been upgraded to evaluate how big a dent that will make.

      I’ve had the power meter I bought this weekend hooked up to one of our oldest RM machines since this morning to measure a typical day’s use; tomorrow I swap it to a 1yo Dell to test the difference with modern hardware.

  7. Jon says :

    Somebody at the recent naace conference sent me these notes from one of the speakers, Peter Hopton – Very PC (Company)

    Sustainability and ICT

    The problem:
    – Financial – electricity costs money. 40% of bills are attributable to ICT
    – Cost = £1 per KW per year approximately
    – 75% of UK generated power is from fossil fuel with the associated carbon emissions
    – Toxicity of materials used in manufacture for example Poly Vinyl philate Plasticicers present in cable effects hormone levels
    – Refresh cycles are usually based on something being obsolete as against being broken

    Want:
    – To use less energy
    – To manufacture with less toxicity

    Principles/context:
    – Toxicity potentially harms people in production, use and disposal
    – Green ICT council
    – CO2 emission targets
    – EU mandated Energy Star as minimum standard for reducing toxic content in procurement
    – UK wishes to be 100% carbon free by 2020
    – DEFRA Quick Wins (or green ticks) targets on toxicity, noise, parts, end of life disposal.

    Green ICT – Economy, Ecology and Performance

    How:
    1. Insightful procurement where you look at whole life time costs
    2. Reducing/eliminating air conditioning in computer rooms
    3. Enforcing power management policies (for example turn it off)
    4. Procure ICT understanding potential hazards to peoples health. Ask suppliers for ECMA370 declaration
    5. Consider your end of life plan for the equipment (there is a residual value – consider how this can be included in contracts to claw back)
    6. Consider the combination of technologies to suit the needs of the schools

    Comments on technologies:
    – SHARED client – (for example ncomputing or NG network monitor). The power of one desktop computer is shared. This eliminates wastage in comparison to thin client
    – Green Desktop – http://www.est.org.uk – to find out what equipment the energy trust recommends
    – Desktop Power Management – Passive, Nightwatchman –Powerman – Verdien – Varismic
    Active, PecoBoo
    – LED Backlight Display – uses 11w as against 34w for monitors
    – Server Consolidation and Power Management – Virtualisation as a tool (Note that this turns off the internal power management so high electricity consumption)
    – Thin Client – power at server room, compression and decompression make this not a green solution

    Server Room Optimisation – to make average 30% savings
    – A/C is the equivalent of a 60% surcharge in energy costs
    – Make sure that the cold air blows out of the A/C unit into the front of the server air input
    – Minimise the distance for hot air going into the A/C so not mixing with cold air
    – Consider venting cold air from outside and sucking back out again

    • AngryTechnician says :

      “Cost = £1 per KW per year approximately”? Maybe I’m crazy, but that doesn’t make sense to me.

      Let’s say I take a 1kW load
      I run it for 10 hours a day, for 185 days a year (rough number of teaching days).

      1kW * 10h/day * 185day = 1850kWh

      At the electricity prices my school gets, that would cost just over £135, which is ever so slightly slightly higher than £1.

      I did a quick check using Goal Seek in Excel, and if I wanted my 1kW load to only cost me £1 per year, I would only be able to have that load on for 1.3 10-hour days, or only run them for 4.4 minutes for each of my 185 days.

      Either the quoted figure is very wrong, or I suck very badly at maths. Would anyone like to tell me which it is?

  8. peter hopton says :

    that should read £1/yr per Watt Left On. (11.4p/KWh, 8760hrs per yr)

    Someone wasn’t paying attention! ;-)