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Go green: power your PC with just 9 Watts

In the future, we'll all work on tower-free workstations, hooked up to IT Support's central server like dribbling, brain-dead human fuel cells from 'The Matrix'. And, like the second and third installments of that trilogy, it will be rubbish.

With no opportunity to fill our hard drives with jpegs, music files and 'hilarious' video, and with the all-seeing eye of the fat controllers able to daily comb through our 'PCs', we'll have no alternative but to work. Hard. All the live-long day.

Nonetheless, there are upsides to this loss of computing freedom and identity.

The absence of PC towers may mean that you have nowhere to display your collection of stuffed toys and commemorative ashtrays, but it will also reduce the temperature in your office. And Mother Earth will be grateful too. Today's average dual-core office PC only rarely uses more than a small percentage of its capabilities, but it still destroys a patch of ozone layer the size of Watford every time you power up. (And getting rid of all that computer-generated heat with air-conditioning soon sees off the rest of the home counties.)

The solution, it seems, lies in products such as the VeryPC GreenHive system, which the Sheffield PC manufacturer claims is the least power-hungry workstation (your bosses') money can buy.

In essence the GreenHive is a single, powerful but low-energy PC, from which a (provided) network cable connects up to seven further workstations. Each workstation consists only of a screen, a keyboard and a mouse, plus a cigarette-packet sized adaptor that VeryPC provides. (This adaptor is known as the 'client box', which brought to my mind a packing case full of besuited men with expense accounts.) The Client Box connects GreenHive, keyboard, mouse and screen, and you're away.

Despite the fact that the GreenHive houses only a dual-core processor, VeryPC reckons that it is perfectly capable of fulfilling the (work) needs of office workers, call-centre cannon fodder and pupils in a classroom (so long as they're not the sixth form computer science class at the Crysis Tester's Technology College). And each 'PC' requires only 9W of power to run.

That's right, 9 piffling Watts.

To put that into context, yer average modern PC requires about 72W to run, and if your system is more than three years old it's probably chowing down on a massive 216W of juice even as you read this.

So even if you're not Bono, Arnie or Swampy (remember him?), you'll save so much green on power bills that you'll be able to afford to go green. Especially when you factor in the initial outlay. Getting a GreenHive for an office of eight will cost around three grand, according to VeryPC. Far less than buying eight desktops and a separate server - and there's less work for tech support to do.

For resource reasons the GreenHive runs only on XP Pro (which doesn't seem to be an unpopular choice) and an AMD chip (no comment). It comes with only a 250GB hard drive, which isn't a huge amount for eight users. But VeryPC says there is plenty of space inside to boost the storage, you get a free online backup service and the GreenHive is designed to exist on a larger network, so what do the workers need local storage for anyway?

I'll tell you: fun.

Virtualisation is set to save the planet, but it's not going to be fun.

Get the latest Green Computing news at the PC Advisor Green Computing spotlight.

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