• Bookmark of Frugal computing: On the need for low-carbon and sustainable computing and the path towards zero-carbon computing

    On the need for low-carbon and sustainable computing and the path towards zero-carbon computing.
    Computing and infrastructure currently use around 11% of the world's electricity and is projected to grow 3 - 4 times over the next 20 years. As makers of software (and hardware) we've got to find a way to extend the lifespan of devices for as long as possible.

    Taking into account the carbon cost of both operation and production, computing would be responsible for 10 GtCOโ‚‚e by 2040, almost half of the acceptable COโ‚‚ emissions budget

    The report about the cost of planned obsolescence by the European Environmental Bureau [7] makes the scale of the problem very clear. For laptops and similar computers, manufacturing, distribution and disposal account for 52% of their Global Warming Potential (i.e. the amount of COโ‚‚-equivalent emissions caused). For mobile phones, this is 72%. The report calculates that the lifetime of these devices should be at least 25 years to limit their Global Warming Potential.

    25-years on the same mobile phone. I can't even imagine. I'd love it if that were possible in today's world. Maybe if it was a "dumb" phone. But even then wireless network's lifespans aren't even that long these days.ย 

    I used my iPhone 6S+ for around 4 years until a pin broke on it and I could no longer charge it. "Repairing" it (my first option) would have meant getting a new iPhone 6S+ for half the cost of a brand new iPhone XR. I hope I can keep my phone for at least as long as I've had my current computer (7 - 8 years).
  • Two Memories About Trees

    Where I live in Yokohama we have some small forests that they've decided to turn into parks. There's some paths through them, they're nice. I'm not sure if they're "native" forests or not, but the patches of green are nice.

    Trees are something I've found myself become more of an advocate for as I've gotten older. We need more of them. Not just for the carbon capture features, but for the purely practical reasons: their shade helps cool us down and they clean the air. There's also some psychological benefits of seeing green, too.


    Growing up in southern California, our house was a typical post-war ranch style house. In the back we had 3 big lemon trees that produced more lemons that any person could consume. Out front the entire street was lined with tree.ย  Most houses didn't have trees in their yards because of these mature trees provided shade most of the day. It was great when you were playing outside, riding your bikes and skateboards.

    But these trees roots were deep and apparently starting to interfere with some plumbing. So the city decided to cut them all down. They replaced them with these young trees that looked like toothpicks in comparison.

    The difference in street temperature and the harshness of the light being outside was immediate. Without trees to filter the sun going outside your house you were blinded be the light. The rest of the neighborhood kept their trees, just ours became this hot barren wasteland.

    But it's been 20 years. Writing this post I looked at street view on Google maps to see what has changed. All of the trees on my street have gotten bigger and can provide enough shade for a single parked car. Except the one in front of my old house. It's still a twig (or more likely got replaced again). The city also seems to have found their way to the rest of the neighborhood as there's not much shade along the sidewalks anywhere anymore.


    One of my favorite summer treats were tips to Knotts Berry Farm, an amusement park.ย  The day before we'd go we'd visit the local Vons and pickup sub rolls, deli meats, and other sandwich fixin's. We take the van (a Ford Econoline). This van had 2.5 rows for seating: two seats up front, a bench in the back, and a single seat in the middle, giving you a nice open area around the sliding door.

    Knott's has multiple parking lots, but one of them was park-like and almost entirely covered in shade. We'd park there with a big cooler full of sandwich goods and drinks. During lunch we'd leave the park, enjoy the breeze, and have a nice picnic in the van.ย 

    Sometimes, even with the trees, it was a bit warm. On those days we'd have our "Texas coolers" (a cool/ice cool wet tea towel wrapped around our neck) help. Without those trees any picnic would have been hot and miserable.


    I don't really have a way to end this post. I just always think about trees and heat island effect more during summer and these two memories of growing up resurfaced themselves.ย 
  • Raising Awareness for the Carbon Cost of our Systems

    One of my original reasons for building Tanzawa was I wanted a blogging engine that, while pleasant to use, put a hard focus on efficiency for the express purpose of reducing carbon emissions. This has informed a number of architecture decisions in Tanzawa itself: no big background tasks, no db server, only make optimized images on their first request to save disk / cpu and more.

    To bring this in to focus, each page on Tanzawa has a badge that from websitecarbon.com that measures and reports the amount of carbon required to get that page from my server in Germany to you. It's not perfect, but it raises awareness.

    I don't run any analytics on my site, so I have no idea how often people click on things on my site, but my buddy mario saw I post I wrote andย  decided to test his own fusioncast.fm website.

    Mario is using carbon as a guide in his website redesign

    This is the first documented instance I have of people being inspired to reduce the carbon impact of their sites based on my work! One site down, a million left :)
  • First Days with Tanzawa

    This was my first week using Tanzawa to power my actual blog and not just the dev blog. So far it's been great. I love how easy it is to post. I love that my site is IndieWeb native. I love that my site's stability has improved because I no longer require a database server. And I love that it's using fewer resources. It's great.

    This said, there's been a few rough edges that need polishing. Approving 50 some-odd webmentions after OwnYourSwarm started importing un-sent checkins required 50 some-odd page loads. Ouch.ย 

    I'd also like to improve site performance more in respect to images. Currently Tanzawa automatically requests the most efficient image format that your browser supports. Image format selection is all handled by the browser automatically (no Javascript). This alone usually cuts transfer size in half.

    While cutting the transfer size in half with a format change is a good start, I still don't need to be serving (at times) 4000px wide images. This is noticeable in streams where posts usually have images ( Checkins etc..) where the text loads instantly, but the progress bar lingers while images load.

    Rather, I'm going to change it to serve a resized (max 800px wide? ) image unless the original is specifically requested.

    Lastly, I want to start building a list of things that must (not should) be done before I can feel comfortable releasing Tanzawa for others to use and then start working on that list bit-by-bit.
  • Took my bike to the cafe to work a bit this afternoon. Itโ€™s so much fun. I canโ€™t but feel like my parents and peers were sold a lie that driving brings freedom.ย 
  • Response to Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities

    We've been using our electric assist "mama-chari" a lot more recently. I've been taking it to a local coffee shop that I'd usually walk (15 minutes) or drive (5 minutes)to and it's been great. My wife has been taking it to her parent's house (5.5km away) where I'd either drive them round trip or we'd take the train. Travel time ends up being about the same regardless of the method of transport we take.

    What I like the most about cycling is how you can travel quickly and you're not disconnected from your environment like you are with a car. It feels more human.

  • Bookmark of Izumicho, Kanagawa, Japan Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index

    How polluted is the air today? Check out the real-time air pollution map, for more than 100 countries.

    Love this site that shows me the air quality from around the world. The simple visualization at the bottom with a colored square for each day of the year really lets you easily see trends in air quality over time. Izumi-ku, Yokohama's air quality looks to be improving over the years. Yay!

  • Bookmark of How and why I stopped buying newย laptops

    Being an independent journalist โ€“ or an office worker if you wish โ€“ I always reasoned that I needed a decent computer and that I need to pay forย quality.

    This is article about How and why I stopped buying new laptops from Low Tech Magazine about reducing your environmental impact by avoiding the upgrade cycle and using your old (or used) laptop inspires me to continue using mid-2014 Macbook Pro as long as possible.

    The author favors older Thinkpads because of their repairability. Repairability gave me a pause when I originally purchased my laptop. Thankfully it hasnโ€™t been a problem yet, but I fear it may take my machine before itโ€™s time.

  • Lazy Load Images Without Javascript

    Sustainability of websites is mostly determined by how much electricity the website consumes. All websites consume electricity 24/7. There's a server powered up, listening for requests. They consume it by proxy transferring bits to the client and they consume it on the visitor's computer by rendering the content.

    You can't do much about electricity consumption of a server being online 24/7 beyond simplifying your hosting infrastructure (you don't need a load balancer). What's easier to control is the the number of bits you send to clients who visit your website.

    Images are a large source of unnecessary bits. We shouldn't be uploading raw uncompressed 40MB images designed for a poster to display on a smart phone. They'll load slow, chew through our visitor's data plan, and consume unnecessary electricity to transfer and render such a large image. You should resize your images for the web.

    Traditionally images are input into a website with a simple image tag like below:

    <img src="https://jamesvandyne.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/voted.png" alt="Ballot approved" border="0" width="600" >

    You tell the browser where the image is, give it some alt text for cases where the image doesn't display / accessibility purposes, and maybe even set a size. Once your browser encounters this tag it will dutifully download and display the image. Life is good.

    But what if that image is halfway down the page and completely off screen? Doesn't matter - still downloaded.
    It doesn't matter that they may not scroll down far enough to see the image, it's in your markup the browser downloads it. This is a waste of electricity and bandwidth.

    There are methods using Javascript to dynamically change the src attributes of your image tags when the user scrolls near, but then your simple image tag now requires Javascript and client side computation just to display. It's not an elegant solution.

    Turns out there's a better way without Javascript using the loading attribute on your images. Support is in all major browsers since mid 2019 / early 2020. It works out of the box on Firefox/Chrome, but it must must be enabled in Safari under the Advanced > Experimental Features settings for now.

    Graph displaying caniuse data for the loading attribute

    By simply adding loading="lazy" to our image tags the browser will lazy load our images, i.e. it won't download the image until is nearly in view.

    So by modifying the example above to

    <img src="https://jamesvandyne.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/voted.png" alt="Ballot approved" border="0" width="600" loading="lazy">

    we can reduce the number of data transfers, reduce total transfer size (unless they scroll the image into view), reduce electricity consumption across the board, and improve page load times. It's a win-win-win.

  • Long Way Up

    I started watching Long Way Up this weekend. What a fantastic show and fascinating journey see - from the tip of Argentina up to L.A. on electric motorcycles.

    As a fan of electric vehicles the first few episodes are bittersweet as they figure out how the bikes and charging work. Cold weather shortens the lifespan of any battery, so starting the journey at the end of winter and traveling through remote areas without a solid grid increases the challenge to a new level.

    Seeing the beauty of these towns makes me want to visit Argentina and Chile so I can see it with my own eyes. The flight from Japan would be brutal as most flights to South America from Japan transit in Houston or L.A. โ€“ so a 10 - 14 hour flight to make it halfway.

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