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#1 2018-09-26 07:55:40

Destry
Member
From: Haut-Rhin
Registered: 2004-08-04
Posts: 4,745
Website

Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Yesterday I discovered Low-Tech Magazine, which has been online since 2007. I don’t know how I have missed it for so long, but sadly I have, until yesterday. That’s when someone shared news about their new off-grid solar-powered version of the site, which they are migrating to permanently.

As I write this, the solar-powered site is in ‘down mode’ because the power supply is out. This is normal, as the article explains. The article is on the solar powered site too, which makes a nice means for comparison when you can see both.

As I wrote in M’don, I’m very impressed by all this, and inspired. Some may recall me talking about ‘green content strategy’ in the past like a stark raving madman, but these people are doing it, albeit on a small scale, and a feasible scale it is. What I hope to see now is more people doing it, myself included. I’d like to run my own solar-powered publishing initiative, but cover different topics than clean tech; low-tech mag doing that to the nines already!

There’s a crap-ton of good reading at L-T Mag. Be aware all that backlog won’t be migrating to the new solar site, though, at least not at first, and they do plan on taking the old ‘on-grid’ version offline eventually.

While I won’t be investing in the solar publishing tech just yet (no cash), I am now hard-pressed to take a good look at my long-term writing aims and ask if an AMP stack is really in my future. I’m not sure.

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#2 2018-09-26 09:00:29

Bloke
Developer
From: Leeds, UK
Registered: 2006-01-29
Posts: 10,286
Website GitHub

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Inspiring indeed, thanks for the share.

As I was reading I was thinking “Hey, if they had a network of these solar things in various sun-drenched locations they could serve the best one with some clever trickery” but someone beat me to it in the comments. And I agree with the guy’s observations on the image quality too: optimising them with imageoptim would give a better overall impression than dithering + fake colourisation. But on the whole, I’m impressed.

Now, here’s a random thought: can we conduct any kind of experiments of our own here? Make a site in Txp. Make the same site in WP, Drupal, Joomla, Perch, etc (e.g. each on a subdomain on the same hardware) and find a way to measure the ‘energy efficiency’ of each. Page weight, I guess would be one measure. But also stress imposed on routine administration tasks like making pages and articles, disk usage, etc.

We already know Textpattern is fast and lightweight. What if it could become known as the go-to solution for an energy efficient site too? In a world of spiralling costs, is there a market for a “green” website solution?

I’ve not thought this through, it might be a waste of time, just throwing it out there.


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#3 2018-09-26 11:55:35

Destry
Member
From: Haut-Rhin
Registered: 2004-08-04
Posts: 4,745
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Bloke wrote #314171:

[Txp] What if it could become known as the go-to solution for an energy efficient site too?

Is it possible? I don’t know, but I’d love to know. Sign me up for anything I could feasibly do.

I guess my first question would be, is it possible if Txp relies on a database? That seemed to be one of the points critiqued in the article and why they favoured a static site.

This is also why I was musing about my future writing aims. For example, I want-need to rely on endnotes for researched long-form pieces, and Txp/Textile is a very strong option for me for that. But maybe I don’t use endnotes in web versions of articles now and provide annotated versions of my nonfiction as low-cost ePubs, or whatever. That might be smart, actually. ‘Here’s the narrated version in the solar site for free. If you want the meticulously detailed/annotated version for proof of every facking thing I say, here’s that too for €4,99.’ Whatever.

But if I can still do endnotes in static pages powered by the sun. That would give me yet even more pause. Maybe then I just provide the annotated versions by a donation system, which is all rage these days.

Musing aloud, here.

In a world of spiralling costs, is there a market for a “green” website solution?

Absolutely there is. More importantly, there is an ecological imperative for green web publishing solutions. I think the door is about to blow wide open on this kind of thing too in many ways and options.

In any case, you mind find these economic collapse notes from my dark ecologist homie, Professor Jem Bendell, interesting. And if you really want to scare the feeble-spirited, read his Deep Adaptation (PDF) paper, which the journal Bendell sat on the editorial team for refused to publish because it was so uncomfortable. I think it’s the most important piece of writing available to the public at the moment.

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#4 2018-09-26 12:36:53

Bloke
Developer
From: Leeds, UK
Registered: 2006-01-29
Posts: 10,286
Website GitHub

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Destry wrote #314175:

is it possible if Txp relies on a database?

I would expect so. A static site will likely consume fewer resources since it’s not involving dynamic lookups, but aggressive database and page cacheing mitigate a lot of that overhead. On a site that has lots of rarely changing articles (e.g. a blog with no comments) you only really need one page hit to render new articles once, then everyone else can be served the disk copy anyway. If you make an update to an article, just invalidate the cache for that resource, the next hit gets the updated content and from then on it’s static land.

Things like contact forms are dynamic by their very nature but the lo-tech solution is to just publish an email link instead!

The MySQL and PHP processes run in the background listening on a socket or waiting to be spawned, so they’ll be consuming resources. I don’t know how efficient they are in real terms. Apache or Nginx etc will be running anyway to serve the site, even if it’s static HTML, so you can’t easily get away from that.

Other members of the community at the sharp end will know more, but I’d guess you could comfortably write and publish in Textile as you do now, with a decent cache plugin set to a year’s expiry or more, and you’d use little more energy than a regular SSD hit for a static page. I might be wrong.

Things will improve further if/when we interpret plugins once and cache them on disk. Allowing people to serve their site templates solely from disk (or a plugin that does this) may also reduce the need for database hits. Then the database will largely be for operating the admin side.

If you wanted to be super green about that, you could separate concerns. Do all content editing on a local clone and push changes to the server when done. That way you’re not consuming power on the web server box itself, except for transferring files or database info to inject new content. Site visitors are then the majority power consumers.

In any case, you mind find these economic collapse notes… interesting.

Cheery stuff. I’ll read!


The smd plugin menagerie — for when you need one more gribble of power from Textpattern. Bleeding-edge code available on GitHub.

Txp Builders – finely-crafted code, design and Txp

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#5 2018-09-27 09:02:53

jakob
Admin
From: Germany
Registered: 2005-01-20
Posts: 4,136
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Bloke wrote #314177:

A static site will likely consume fewer resources since it’s not involving dynamic lookups, but aggressive database and page cacheing mitigate a lot of that overhead. On a site that has lots of rarely changing articles (e.g. a blog with no comments) you only really need one page hit to render new articles once, then everyone else can be served the disk copy anyway. If you make an update to an article, just invalidate the cache for that resource, the next hit gets the updated content and from then on it’s static land.

Oleg’s etc_cache is your friend here. I already like aks_cache but etc_cache allows you to be more granular about it and doesn’t wipe the entire cache if one thing changes…


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#6 2018-09-27 13:19:12

etc
Developer
Registered: 2010-11-11
Posts: 4,259
Website GitHub

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

I think almost every site can be greatly “greened” by using, say, apache cache. This way an average site would rarely even need to start the PHP/MySQL servers. But the rules depend on site’s specifics, a general-purpose CMS can not do much better than sending LastMod/ETag headers.

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#7 2019-05-23 15:20:03

Destry
Member
From: Haut-Rhin
Registered: 2004-08-04
Posts: 4,745
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

I held up on sharing this, thinking Julian might (he turned me on to the link), but since he may be occupied with other things…

The Low-Tech mag article has been inspiring more work in similar directions. Good article here, Digital Guide to Low Tech.

I’m especially excited by where this is coming from; people motivated by ecological concerns. I think this low-tech philosophy, which embraces no-tracking or ‘clickware’ as part of the effort, can play a role against ad-tech and content marketing spew. I really hope this catches on.

I love this effort to try measuring website energy consumption and CO2 generation. The numbers are actually quite staggering. I always knew the Internet was an energy hog, but when you start seeing the values, it’s kind of horrible.

There is so much the world can and should be doing to draw this down. As the world continues to burn, site owners have a moral obligation to make their sites as low impact as possible — or be taxed for the privilege to not be. A carbon tax for website owners. (Not a bad idea, actually, but where would the money go?)

And in any case, it’s just making the web interesting again for me, because I was near fed up with it not long ago.

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#8 2019-05-23 16:00:54

Destry
Member
From: Haut-Rhin
Registered: 2004-08-04
Posts: 4,745
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

I have some work to do. :{

I know my pictures are not optimized, so that’s step one. I will probably make a point of using fewer of them too.

I also need to check with my host if they are running renewable. I don’t think they are. This seems to be a key factor in the calculations. Will probably make a change again when the year paid runs out.

Lastly is how much difference there is between Txp and some other option. Not that I would make that leap, exactly.

I wonder, though, is there an energy difference between a regular run of Txp versus the new Txp flatfile rig? If files are flat on server, isn’t there less web server calls? Dumb question? ;)

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#9 2019-05-23 16:24:56

jakob
Admin
From: Germany
Registered: 2005-01-20
Posts: 4,136
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Destry wrote #318185:

I have some work to do. :{

I reckon yours is pretty good: as it says « C’est tout bon ! ». I hope you’re reading it right: lower is better!

I know my pictures are not optimized, so that’s step one. I will probably make a point of using fewer of them too.

While the dithered effect is refreshingly down to earth (and on-topic for the low-tech site) in the sea of high-gloss imagery, it’s not really thaaat practical for most people. It works well on that site, though.

I also need to check with my host if they are running renewable. I don’t think they are.

Images and video and audio are generally the biggest load, plus anything that has to come in one huge block. Your site is a million times better than all those all-singing all-dancing WP themes. I had to bite my lip the other day when a close acquaintance boasted about their new site and everyone oohed and aahed, and I didn’t have the heart to say: “Do you know you’re making your mobile users download 9MB on your homepage?” (it’s 12.5MB once the slider has finished cycling!). I had a look under the hood and it’s using BeTheme which includes the code for every widget you could possibly use (they 400+ site permutations), whether or not you are using it. You’re a saint by comparison!


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#10 2019-05-23 16:29:06

etc
Developer
Registered: 2010-11-11
Posts: 4,259
Website GitHub

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Destry wrote #318185:

Lastly is how much difference there is between Txp and some other option. Not that I would make that leap, exactly.

I don’t think CMS are sole responsible — how you use them accounts too. For example, flat-file Grav homepage scores very badly (13928 / 17063), probably because of a crazy number of pictures. Client-side Javascript can have a large impact too.

I wonder, though, is there an energy difference between a regular run of Txp versus the new Txp flatfile rig? If files are flat on server, isn’t there less web server calls? Dumb question? ;)

I don’t think so, unless you avoid starting PHP server at all, but then txp can not run neither.

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#11 2019-05-23 16:51:33

Destry
Member
From: Haut-Rhin
Registered: 2004-08-04
Posts: 4,745
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

jakob wrote #318186:

I reckon yours is pretty good: as it says « C’est tout bon ! ». I hope you’re reading it right: lower is better!

Yes, ‘c’est bon’ in all categories but the ‘environmental’ category. :{

I am ranked 2,460th out of 17,061 sites evaluated. I can do better! :}

While the dithered effect is refreshingly down to earth (and on-topic for the low-tech site) in the sea of high-gloss imagery, it’s not really thaaat practical for most people.

I like the effect, but agree it’s not ideal for all situations. I could compress though, and I haven’t done that yet. There’s a nice compression client for Mac I discovered. I have to find that now, come to think of it. Oh, here, the one mentioned in the article, in fact: Image Optim.

I will only ever link to videos, never embed them. I hope that’s a difference.

etc wrote #318187:

I don’t think CMS are sole responsible — how you use them accounts too. For example, flat-file Grav homepage scores very badly (13928 / 17063), probably because of a crazy number of pictures. Client-side Javascript can have a large impact too.

Yeah, I’m not saying it’s the sole factor. But in the discussion about this, there’s a big emphasis on static site generators being better. People talk about this all – the time in M’don. I don’t know if there is or how much, and I’m not about to benchmark it, but based on all the yabba-dabba-doo about it, there seems to be a difference.

I don’t think so, unless you avoid starting PHP server at all, but then txp can not run neither.

Okay. So there’s no impetus for the flat-file approach on the energy point, at least.

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#12 2019-05-23 17:37:39

jakob
Admin
From: Germany
Registered: 2005-01-20
Posts: 4,136
Website

Re: Low-Tech Magazine, now solar-powered!

Destry wrote #318188:

Yes, ‘c’est bon’ in all categories but the ‘environmental’ category. :{

I am ranked 2,460th out of 17,061 sites evaluated. I can do better! :}

As I understand it, your site is in the top 15%, i.e. 14601 are ‘worse’ than you. But maybe I am reading that incorrectly.

There’s a nice compression client for Mac I discovered. I have to find that now, come to think of it. Oh, here, the one mentioned in the article, in fact: ImageOptim.

Yes, it’s effective and free. One thing worth noting there: if you have images with correct copyright attribution in the metadata, the standard setting in ImageOptim strips that out. You can set it not to do that in the settings. (It doesn’t do that dithering, though).

There is a very detailed article on the Google Pagespeed site on the different compression approaches which can go further than ImageOptim does.

I will only ever link to videos, never embed them. I hope that’s a difference.

If you still want the visual aspect of videos, show the preview image but not the video until it’s clicked on (as discussed on the forum elsewhere). Or make the video show in a modal that loads only when clicked on.

Static site generators …

If the end result is simply a collection of html files with linked assets – which is what the principle is supposed to be – then your server only needs to serve static content and you don’t need a database or php at all. You’ll lose any dynamic capability, such as filtering or searching – making it unsuitable for lots of sites – and of course you need to recompile your site (or at least the affected pages) whenever you make updates to your site.

I’m not saying it’s the sole factor …

Like in building construction, it’s probably worth trying to gauge the relative effect of different factors. Some things have a big impact and others you can tweak and optimise ad infinitum but the overall effect is negligible by comparison.

I don’t know much about this, but by way of example, you could spend ages optimising the last bytes out of every image to reduce server retention but at the same time are using a CDN that replicates your entire site across the globe multiple times even though most of your readers are local and there’s little need for that CDN server in Singapore or Australia. In that case, switching off a CDN may be far more effective.
Then again, for large and complex sites, a cache / CDN may reduce server load significantly and – I’m guessing wildly here – there may be a payoff point where the energy cost of redundant duplicate data retention is less than the energy cost of renewed page processing. I’m sure people have looked into this, just as they have for building construction.


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