Is using desktop Linux better for the environment than say, running Microsoft Windows or Apple's OS X?
In this piece, Ill explore the ideas behind Linux as the operating system for the eco-friendly masses, and how desktop Linux could potentially affect the hardware/software sectors of the economy.
Then finally, I'll put the pieces together and examine whether a sudden increase in Linux usage on the desktop would spell trouble for the economy.
Recycle and reuse
Computers and related computing devices can always be recycled. But the idea that computers can also be reused in place of recycling them may be the best way to ensure each computer in question receives the most from its life here on this Earth.
The problem with this kind of reuse policy is that proprietary operating systems and their hardware partnerships tend to encourage waste by their very nature. Example? Get rid of the old so you can buy the new.
If we stick to the proprietary road on the operating system front, reuse of older hardware becomes much more difficult than merely tossing it aside to be recycled.
If instead, one decides to install Puppy Linux or DSL (Damn Small Linux) on the older computer instead of disposing of it, the computer gains extended life straight away. If the computer's hardware is still intact, why get rid of it for recycling? Instead go ahead and see if you can squeeze out another year or two from it.
Need some additional motivation to get more people on desktop Linux? How about this: Running older releases of Windows can be dangerous. Because older releases of Windows are often no longer supported with needed security patches among other fixes, you're putting the older computer and yourself at risk of malware issues.
Alternately, what about buying some new low-impact netbook or something like it? Isn't this just as good as reusing existing computer hardware?
Watts vs Waste
Power consumption. It's something that I have personally listened to people debate about for hours. The issue arises when it comes down to purchasing a new computer using less power vs. keeping the one they already own which is a power hog.
If I buy this new netbook, I'm doing the environment a favor by then recycling my old notebook/desktop in its place, right?
My take on this is rather straight forward. Recycling a working computer is just wasteful without a specific computing speed option not being addressed.
Yes, non-functional computers absolutely need to be dealt with responsibly and placed into the recycle bin with the right people. However, entertaining the idea that buying a new computer to "save energy" while getting rid of a working computer to be eco-friendly seems a bit short-sighted to me.
There are certainly are exceptions here. I myself have needed to upgrade to faster systems for video editing, but I kept the older systems and put them to use in other parts of my office. Ive chosen to reuse 99% of my old computers in one sense or another. It's just better for the environment.
Desktop Linux, it's better for the environment
Software packaging, gas used to travel to the local big box store for software I could go on. But I think you see where Im going with this. When you utilize desktop Linux as an option instead of the usual proprietary OS, you generally find that you've saved on both wasted packaging for software as well as the expense of going out to buy it.
Digital software copies have helped with this to some extent, but the fact is, brick and mortar stores are still stuffed to the gills with packaged proprietary software for the masses.
Some individuals may say this is fine, as it's helping our economy. Software sales are connected to jobs. But what happens if there was suddenly a big enough shift in the economy that people stopped buying software both in person and online?
How is a big box store full of packaged software with a ticking expiration date of OS compatibility a good thing for anyone?
Economic consequences of going green
Just for the sake of exploring such an event, let's say we wake up one morning and half the world suddenly decides that they are never going to buy software ever again. Worse, due to the economy taking a further dive south, no one is in the market for purchasing those shiny new computers we see sitting on big box store shelves.