Sunday, 17 March 2019

Consuming Power - It Never Ends

First things first - working out how much power your computer drains. Well, there happens to be a device where you can measure the power drawn from the power socket and into the computer - a mains power meter. Mind you, that really only works for components that you can remove from the computer to test be able them, which pretty much excludes things such as CPUs and power supplies. The best way to do that then is to measure the power drain while the item is plugged in, and then again while it isn't. However, there are items, such as a single memory module, where that isn't really all that possible. Hard drives? Well, that is possible, particularly since you can book off of flashdrives these days (using a process called a live boot). Oh, and you'll also need to do a bit of maths.

Mains Power Meter
Checking the power of your computer while it is idle is pretty straight forward - put it into sleep mode. Well, not quite because in sleep mode it is as good as off. Rather, it is better to turn the computer on, and then wait for everything to settle down. Oh, and don't start surfing the net, or playing the latest edition of Fallout because your computer isn't going to be in idle while you are doing that.

As for going full bore, well, that little device plugged into the mains isn't going to help simply because you aren't going to get the computer to go 'full bore' simply by using it, by playing a top end game, or even by editing a video you intend of uploading to Youtube. Instead what you need to do is something called a stress test, or even a torture test, and there is software available for you to be able to do that (or else you could just write a program to calculate every prime number up to infinity because apparently that is what a stress test does). Basically, the reason you want to do that is to test your computer's reliability, and if it fails a stress test, then maybe you need to do some upgrading because that is an indicator that maybe your computer will fail under a heavy load. However, when it comes to stress testing, it is really only the graphics cards, the CPU, and the RAM that need to be tested. Oh, and it may also indicate if you need to invest in some cooling strategies.

One program you can use to stress test your computer is called Prime 95. This program basically searches for very large prime numbers (a number that is only divisible by 1 and itself). If your computer can run this program for 24 hours without crashing, well, you can assume that you have a pretty reliable computer on your hands (come to think of it, I haven't given this a go yet - I might have to do it sometime, after exams of course).

Monitors

Okay, first let's look at a picture of the different types of monitors:


So, there are three types: Cathode Ray Tube, which you probably saw dumped out on the street a few years ago because, well, they're obsolete (unless you happen to be a hard core gamer), the LED, and the Liquid Crystal Display. When it comes to power consumption, the LEDs and the LCDs beat the CRTs hands down. In fact, they also beat the Plasma screens hands down as well, though interestingly the Plasma screens seem to only come in the larger sizes. Mind you, the bigger the monitors, the more power they draw, but that's pretty obvious.

As for brightness, well, if you do happen to be power conscious, then maybe not having your monitor up mega bright probably would be a bit of a help, considering that the brighter your monitor is, the more power it is going be drawing on. The following chart gives you a pretty good impression of how the power consumption increases with brightness, though it is more of a curve, and a simple diagonal line with power increasing slightly at first before jumping through the roof.

Dealing with Dust

Well, this can be a bit of a catch-22. The more dust in the computer the worse it runs, and there are also temperature considerations to take into account. Oh, and dust is flammable, so there is also that to remember. So, could you deal with the dust by putting a stocking over the computer?

Well, that might work, if it didn't also have to deal with the fact that there is little to no airflow, so once again we have temperature considerations.

Then there are all the spiders hidden away as well
However, there is this concept called air pressure - negative and positive. Now, positive air pressure is where the pressure inside the case is greater than that outside the case, while negative is the opposite. The problem with negative air pressure is that while air might be blowing out through the vents, computers are hardly vacuumed sealed, which means that you can be assured that air (and in turn dust) is getting in through the other cracks. So, it seems as if positive air pressure is the way to go, that is increasing the pressure in the case so that the air flows out through the cracks - but there is a catch: the air has to come in from somewhere, and that is usually through the vent where the main fan is located, and when air comes into the computer ...

Another interesting thing is that a lot of the air comes into the computer past the hard drives first, and one reason for this is because hard drives need to operate within a certain temperature range, so it is also necessary to keep them operating within that range. Another way of dealing with the heat is to create thermal zones by compartmentalising the computer. This way you can keep the components that tend to over heat away from components that don't like heat. If you look at modern graphics cards you will actually note that a lot of them have been encased - this is one of the reasons (the other is simply to make them look cool).

Water cooling has actually come into vogue these days and operates much like your car's radiator does. In fact a water cooled computer will actually have its own radiator. However, this works only as long as the water coolant remains intact, because if it starts leaking, well, you probably are going to need to buy yourself a new computer - so don't start kicking it around the house because it seems like a fun thing to do (I know, I used to bang the disk drive when it was going to slow, but I was 13 at the time).


With CPUs, the smaller they get, the less power hungry they become, but another modern feature is that they have become quite power conscience. Unlike your kids, they have worked out that if they aren't in a specific room, then there probably isn't any point in leaving the light on in that room, so they basically turn it off until they need it. Okay, that's sort of an analogy, but I'm sure you understand what I mean. It still reminds me of how my Mum used to scream out 'I don't own shares in the electricity company' whenever I left a light on, so when I started working the first thing I did was purchase shares in the electricity company, and then gave them to her.



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Consuming Power - It Never Ends by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

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