Our dear ole’ Earth is breathing a heavy sigh as of late, and April 22 is the day we humans have designated for celebrating our home on the planet.

Let’s talk about ways we can observe, conserve, reuse, and repurpose with open source. And, let’s end with two stories about refreshing an older system and saving energy at home with low-tech solutions. 

ObserveThis handy Bash script puts your Linux machine in night mode for stargazing.

Conserve: Check out these sustainable farming projects.

Reuse: Have a few Raspberry Pis at home collecting dust? At some spark to your weekend with one of these projects.

RepurposeMake an old computer useful again! The key: to install software appropriate for the hardware resources you have.

Refreshing an older system

At Ambrose University, Steve Morris (Director of Information Technology) leveraged open source to bring old systems back to life. This was a timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every organization has a few spare computers in storage. Ambrose University used these extra PCs to help the campus transition immediately to work remotely.

With some staff only having desktop hardware, old laptops were repurposed with Fedora Linux to give staff something to use. “During the initial stages of this pandemic, Linux and OSS allowed us to deploy some old hardware to people and places also giving them something that was secure and enabled them to continue to work,” Steve wrote about Ambrose. “Linux has continuously allowed us to provide services securely using sometimes just whatever we had around.”

A great innovation was how Steve’s team used Linux to support the few university staff who still needed to work from campus. They installed Fedora on a spare PC and set it up as a dedicated video conferencing station. Staff who don’t normally have a computer can use the video conferencing station, enter their video conference meeting ID, and join that way.

Save energy with low-tech solutions

It’s not always about high-tech. My favorite low-tech solution is a power strip with a timer on it to define when certain devices got power. It has eight outlets; four are powered on only according to the timer, and the other four are always on. These timer power strips are really useful. They are meant for things like coffee makers, or terrariums, but I bought timer power strips to control power to another tech in my house.

I first purchased this for my old laptop; it was six years old at the time, and the battery held a charge for only two hours or so. It’s not good to have a laptop battery always charged or always discharged, so I would have to remember to unplug my laptop from the wall when the battery was at 100%, and plug it back in when the battery was getting low. After I got this power strip, I set a schedule on the timer so the “timed” (laptop) outlet would be powered on for about an hour, enough time to charge the laptop battery. Then the timer would be off for about an hour and a half, to run my laptop from the battery. I plugged my monitor and speakers and other desktop items into the “always-on” outlets on the power strip, so they were on whenever the power strip was on. I switched off the power strip when I was done for the day.

Share your story

What tips do you have for saving energy in the home, office, or vehicle? Or restoring an old device?

Let us know in the comments how you’re using “low tech” (i.e. a power strip), a device (i.e. Raspberry Pi), scripts (i.e. Bash), or software (i.e. Python) to power your low-power solution. Or the steps you’ve taken to upgrade an old piece of tech to be used again today.