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8 February, 2006
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MozillaQuest Magazine Technology

Solutions for the Energy Crises in this Union

Part 2: Computer and Internet Technology

Thanks to the Internet, you do not need to sneaker-net your files between home and office. Rather you can access your work files while you are at home via the Internet -- or almost anywhere there's an Internet connection for that matter . . . Additionally, the Internet opens telecommuting to people who need to collaborate with fellow workers during their workdays.

Mike Angelo and Aric Campling -- 8 February 2006 (C) -- Page 2

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Article Index

[Part 1, Alternate Energy and Conservation]

[Part 2, Computer and Internet Technology]

Computer in a Pocket -- a Portable Office

Even better than that, if you have a large capacity USB key (USB flash drive) and a live CD, you can carry the very essence of your computer anywhere you go with just a USB key and a CD. Better yet, use a live DVD.

We discuss this more fully in our article Give the Gift of Knoppix Linux and a Book for Less Than $30 -- Knoppix for Dummies and our series, Cheat Knoppix.

In essence, a live CD or DVD is one to which an operating system such as GNU-Linux or Microsoft Windows has been installed. The live CD or DVD is bootable. Thus, when you boot the computer in which you have placed a live CD or DVD, it boots into the operating system installed on the live CD or DVD -- not into the operating system installed on the computer.

That let's you run your live CD/DVD and software on any up-to-date PC, anywhere, anytime -- regardless of which operating system is installed on the PC. You can think of your live CD/DVD as a portable computer on a disc and USB key -- and for a cost of only whatever you paid for the USB key.

With the persistent Knoppix trick, you can use the Knoppix live CD plus a USB flash drive to take your own customized computer desktop, application configurations, and data with you from computer to computer. That takes sneaker-netting to even newer, bigger, and better heights.

The Knoppix live CD or live DVD together with a USB Key and the persistent Knoppix trick pretty much give you a portable computer on a disc and USB key. Considering that you can download the Knoppix live CD or live DVD at no cost, the only thing your Knoppix portable computer costs you is the price you pay for your USB key -- and that can be as little as $25.

Internet Telecommuting

Thanks to the Internet, you do not need to sneaker-net your files between home and office. Rather you can access your work files while you are at home via the Internet -- or almost anywhere there's an Internet connection for that matter.

Additionally, the Internet opens telecommuting to people who need to collaborate with fellow workers during their workdays.

Discussing the actual mechanisms for accessing your work files from home or anywhere there is an Internet connection is beyond the scope of today's article. However, if you are not familiar with VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and you want to telecommute, you should bone up on VPNs.

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a private communications network usually used within a company, or by several different companies or organizations, to communicate over a public network. VPN message traffic is carried on public networking infrastructure (e.g. the Internet) using standard (often insecure) protocols, or over a service provider's network providing VPN service guarded by well defined Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the VPN customer and the VPN service provider. (Source: Virtual private network, Wikipedia. Link in the Resources section at the end of this article.)

Simply put, a VPN let's you interact with your company's LAN (local area network) just as you would if you were at your work desk rather than at home or at some other remote from the workplace location.

Some practical anecdotes

MozillaQuest Magazine Technical Editor, Aric Campling, is all about conserving energy. Here are some practical anecdotes from Aric about, heating, air-conditioning, telecommuting and riding the rails.

Aric is a systems analyst at an academic hospital in the Boston area, which encourages its employees to conserve. Every workday Aric uses the subway to commute to work. His employer subsidizes his subway pass. Thus, the subway commute costs only about $2 a day, and it is relatively stress-free.

He has tried driving to work, burning the gas, sitting in traffic, and paying for parking ($9-$27 a day). However, Aric much prefers just sitting on a train and reading the newspaper. Furthermore, Aric much prefers to use the subway and his own two feet as his primary transportation, even just to go into town, to the mall, museum, movies, or theater.

On Fridays, unless he has a pressing need to be in the office (such as for meetings), Aric telecommutes to work. The hospital provides him with a company laptop computer. Using a home wireless network and the laptop computer, Aric can connect to the hospital's secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) using software from Nortel and an RSA SecurID key. The SecureID key is a small device that displays the current pass-code needed to sign into the VPN, which changes every minute or two and is synchronized with the server.

With the VPN, Citrix thin-client software, and office applications installed by the hospital on the laptop, telecommuting for Aric is just about the same as being in the office. When telecommuting, Aric has full access via the hospital VPN to the Hospital network storage, all Hospital office and clinical applications, and to the Hospital's internal website, which he needs to do his work. If he is working on a file at work and wants to work on it at home as well, Aric just saves it to a network drive. With the Hospital's VPN, Aric doesn't need to sneaker-net files.

The hospital also allows Aric to install the VPN software on his home computer. That way, Aric can telecommute without the hospital laptop if need be. Let's say for example, Aric gets the Flu. He still can function, but doesn't risk infecting his co-workers.

Another example is if Aric leaves his hospital laptop locked in the desk drawer at work. He can use his own personal laptop at home, a windows XP-based PC, to telecommute when necessary.

Aric uses a timer thermostat that turns the temperature at home way down every workday during the winter. That prevents the furnace from running all day to warm an empty house.

The timer thermostat also turns the temperature down overnight. While he's nestled deep under his bed covers, the rest of Aric' house does not need to be warm. The timer thermostat keeps the house warm only when someone is home and awake to appreciate it.

Aric always turns lights off in rooms he's not using. Clothes are washed in cold water. They come out just as clean as if they were washed in hot water.

He only uses the air-conditioner to keep his home cool in summer when someone is home to appreciate it. (Though admittedly, when Aric lived in Florida, the AC ran a lot more often just to keep the house even bearably warm.)

These are just a few ways conservation-minded businesses and people can strive to reduce energy waste (and save some money while they're at it).


  • See Conclusion on Page 3 ----->

  • <---- Back to Page 1


    Article Index

    [Part 1, Alternate Energy and Conservation]

    [Part 2, Computer and Internet Technology]

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