You’ve heard of the $100 laptop. What about a $100 desktop? Meet Zonbu: a new computer company making desktop computers that are both extremely green and extremely cheap. Impossible, you say? Not so.
Years ago, when the internet’s first wave was crashing on the shores of society, there was an enormous amount of buzz about "the Network Computer", a device that would really be all about connectivity and services rather than being an isolated, standalone machine. It never really materialized, until now. The actual Zonbu box (smaller than a Mac Mini, or thereabouts) has very little inside of it — no hard drive, no CD or DVD drive; just a motherboard and a compact flash card. (And, enough ports for any peripherals you’d want.) The company’s description of how it works:
The Zonbu device does not have a hard disk. Instead, a 4GB compact flash (similar to what digital cameras and MP3 players use) stores the operating system and the application which have been installed. The remaining space of the compact flash is used as a cache to store local copies of files you’ve recently used; special software keeps these copies synchronized with the online storage servers. In other words, when you need to work on a file, the file is:
1.) transparently downloaded to the compact flash cache,
2.) modified locally using the appropriate application such as OpenOffice, Image Workshop or Web Page Editor and,
3.) promptly uploaded to the server every time you save the file.
Since all your data is stored on the Zonbu servers: * You can access the files from any Internet-connected device using the file browser — which initially works only on Windows 98, 2000, XP and Vista.
The reason that this is a greener way to compute is that it increases efficiency by sharing hardware. As we’ve mentioned before, having a rack of hard drives in a data center is more efficient than having lots of individual hard drives in people’s homes, because you can eliminate all the unused space for data on the individual drives. In addition, having a rack of drives in a data center lets you use older, smaller, slower drives (keeping them out of the landfill) without losing performance, because such Redundant Array of Independent Drives (or Disks) (RAID) systems let you combine several small slow drives into what becomes effectively one large fast drive.