Apr 12 2007

Power Management

Although businesses don't often think about energy consumption by idle computers, it's time to start. LocalCooling offers an easy fix.

Idle computers use roughly 30 million megawatts of electricity per year. This isn't just bad for the environment. It's bad for the machines, and it's bad for business. LocalCooling is a small, free downloadable application from Uniblue Labs of Malta designed to overcome some of the power-management shortcomings of PCs running Microsoft Windows XP.

What Is It?

LocalCooling lets the user control XP's power-saving options, determine whether the computer will hibernate or shut down when idle, and decide how long the computer must be idle before entering power-save mode. But the coolest thing about LocalCooling is that it's able to calculate exactly how much power it's saving for you.

The app analyzes the PC’s hardware profile to determine how much electricity the system is likely to use in various states and calculates power savings. It then reports this data back to the LocalCooling.com servers, where it combines data from all of its users. Not only does this let LocalCooling tally the total number of kilowatts of power it has saved (currently more than 300,000), but it also lets users see that their individual actions add up to a significant difference.

Why Should IT Care?

When Microsoft released XP, the company paid some attention to power saving. Hibernation certainly is a better option than a 5-minute shutdown procedure. But XP's power-saving options, unfortunately, are not default settings, and installed software sometimes completely disables them.

By using LocalCooling to take control of shutdowns and hibernation, an individual user can expect to see electricity expenses drop by as much as $20 per year. Large companies could expect fairly significant savings if their employees use the app.

But a nice side effect of LocalCooling is that users gain some control over their PCs and know that their actions can produce a positive environmental impact. The organization claims to help you fight global warming from your desktop.

Will LocalCooling Affect Performance?

Although LocalCooling is a stable app that integrates well with XP, you might see some minor changes in system performance. Machines running with multiple users will likely have problems if LocalCooling is installed on a user account and not the system account.

Additionally, the program may accidentally detect that you have several hard drives when, in fact, you have one and several card readers. This will result in inaccurate power-saving calculations, but it won't interfere with the program’s operation.

The biggest difference you'll notice is that hibernation and suspension now can override running processes. Don't forget to turn LocalCooling off before a presentation or video chat. If you aren't touching the mouse and you LocalCooling is set to hibernate your PC after 10 minutes, it will do just that. Depending on your settings, it might even do this while you're burning a CD. It will, however, beep a few times before it hibernates your machine. Although the beeping is a handy reminder, the programmers could have created a less annoying sound.

To download the application, which requires Windows XP and 2.5 megabytes of disk space, go to www.localcooling.com.

Hank Green is a professional Web developer and an editor at Ecogeek.org, an online community and news site that reports on clean technology.