Ecomodo - The Best of Treehugger

This week at TreeHugger: Once there was a little paper company in Finland called Nokia. They started making plastic boots, and that didn't work out too well, and then decided to give mobile phones a shot. That worked out so well that they now have the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship, held each year in Savonlinna, Finland.

Power usage is a hot topic for computer users everywhere, whether its extending battery life on laptops or controlling the temperature of hundreds of systems within a datacenter. Happily, now there's a new tool that can cut your personal PC power consumption almost in half. Part experimentation, part product design, all ironic and wickedly funny, "Off" is the latest from electrical-engineer-turned-designer Scott Amron. It raises the question: hang up your jacket or turn on the light? You can't do both....Lastly, look deep into the Ambient Orb, a groovy little ball that changes color in sync with incoming data; it grows more purple, for example, as your email box fills up or as the chance of rain increases. Far out, man.

Once there was a little paper company in Finland called Nokia. They started making plastic boots, and that didn't work out too well, and then decided to give mobile phones a shot. Soon, everyone in the country had one, and soon, everyone was having that love-hate relationship with this technology. In 2000, the Finns started getting even with the first Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship, held in Savonlinna, Finland. There are traditional "over the shoulder" distance throws, and more recently Freestyle was added, where aesthetics, style and creative choreographics and Naomi Campbell imitations are judged. All phones are properly recycled; first prize is, unfortunately, a new cellphone.

Power usage is a hot topic for computer users everywhere. For some, it's a matter of how long a laptop lasts without being plugged in. For others, it's controlling the temperature of hundreds of systems within a datacenter. It is rare to find a tool that actually digs into your machine to analyze each program that is running for power use. But Powertop from Intel does exactly this—it's a tool that provides information on reducing power usage, tips and tricks for Intel-based computers running Linux. PowerTOP looks right at the programs you are running; By fixing (or closing) these applications, you can immediately realize the power savings. This stuff is not for the faint of heart—they talk about rebuilding the Linux kernel like they are ordering a pizza—but the savings are incredible; one guy extended his battery life from four to seven hours.

Part experimentation, part product design, all ironic and wickedly funny, "Off" is the latest from electrical-engineer-turned-designer Scott Amron's Die Electric. We think the borderline subversive, tongue-in-cheek approach to mindful electricity consumption is great. Off is pretty much what it looks like: a fully functioning, combination light switch/hook, and therein lies the dilemma. Do you hang up your jacket or turn on the light?—you can't do both, and nobody likes a wrinkled jacket, right?

Lastly, the Ambient Orb is a groovy little ball that changes color in sync with incoming data, growing more purple, for example as your email box fills up or as the chance of rain increases. Mark Martinez of Southern California Edison couldn't get people to conserve energy when power supplies were tight, no matter what he did, and then applied the power of the Orb. Within weeks, Orb users reduced their peak period energy use by 40%. Martinez says "it's nonintrusive. It has a relatively benign effect. But when you see your ball flashing red, you notice." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.