back to article Council worker develops PC energy-saving program

A county council could slash its annual energy bill by £40,000, thanks to a computer program developed by one of its staff. Peter Kear, an IT support team leader for Staffordshire County Council, has invented a patch management program that automatically scans the authority's 7,500 computers and switches off those that have …


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  1. Michael

    praise for a script?

    So he managed to write a script that issues a shutdown command to a PC if it is running, not exactly imaginative. Lets guess for windows machines

    shutdown \\computername /t:01


    /sbin/shutdown -h now

    The story here is that the council and other councils that have lots of PC's which should be shut down every night aren't doing so. Why not?

  2. Nick L

    Hibernate vs sleep vs "off" vs really off

    So apparently this turns the PCs off rather than leaving them in hibernation? Well, that's a waste of everyone's time as it means the PC will have to boot every day rather than just load from hibernation state.

    Sorry to post an IT-related comment, but Hibernation saves the current state to disk, then powers off. On next power up, the PC goes through the normal POST routine and the state is reloaded from disk.

    There is no difference between power consumption of a computer that's "off" or in hibernation. Both consume a small amount to provide +5V standby in order to turn on with the soft power key

    Standby mode consumes a little bit more energy as the computer's state is suspended to RAM, and the RAM is kept refreshed when the computer is in standby mode.

    "Hard" off, removing 5V standby, would require turning off at the socket or the use of a physical off switch that some PSUs provide.

    Can El Reg get back to the core values of Bulgarian Airbag related stories now, please?

  3. Kevin

    hibernation mode?

    The article suggests that hibernation mode uses more electricity than being switched off. This is clearly wrong as a PC in hibernation IS switched off. Perhaps they mean standby mode?

    Besides, wouldn't hibernation mode be far more sensible as users wouldn't lose any unsaved work?

  4. Cameron Colley

    Why didn't someone tell me?

    If I'd have realised that nobody knew how to completely shut down a machine programatically I'd have patented the idea and made myself a fortune.

    Oh, I forgot, remote shutdown has been possible for years. Why is this supposed to be an innovation?

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely 4.30 would be more appropriate?

    8pm at a council?

    Surely 4.30 would be a more realistic time and would yield even greater savings....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give that man a job at Bogcaster!

    I am pretty should this bloke wood be a an ideal cadidate for a job at Bogcastershire County Council. The only snag is that they use Lictus, nor Macrosoft.

  8. CJ


    This isn't new. I've been doing this for years on the networks I have run. Installed as a scheduled task to run at 6pm, the PC will announce it is shutting down in 30minutes and if there is a user sitting there using the computer they can stop it from shutting down. How is this NEWs?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are they on?

    Somebody also might wish to look at why users leave their PCs on overnight in the first place.

    'round here it's because the centralised admin types load them with so much admin and monitoring crap that fires up at boot time that it takes the older ones 45 minutes to boot and login. So, unless you enjoy an hour's runthrough of the XP boot process every day, you leave the thing on.

    If their admins are anything like ours, they may save 40,000 quid in leccy, but they'll lose millions in productivity.


  10. Fitz

    'No substitute'...?

    Mick Clarke, the county council's cabinet member for organisation and performance said: "Peter's programme is undoubtedly a great help, but it is no substitute for switching off computers when they are not in use."

    So a program that switches off computers when they are not in use is no substitute for switching computers off when they are not in use..?


    I think that's manager speak for 'I really REALLY should have thought of this, but I didn't so I'll downplay the significance.'

  11. Fitz

    My solution

    ...and I might add, I've been doing this for a long time for 2000+ desktops; except my solution is a scheduled task that runs locally on the workstation to prevent the annoying lazy users from avoiding the 'hassle' of having to wait for their computer to boot in the morning by unplugging their network cable.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "A major difference to many other systems is that the program closes down computers completely rather than just leaving them in hibernation mode, said a council spokesperson"

    Presumably they mean "standby" not "hibernation" as I can't see the difference in terms of power wastage between the PC being off and in hibernation.

  13. Phil ward

    What about the monitors

    we have a script that scans active computers each evening and shuts them down if not on an exclusion list - but so far have not worked out a way of shutting down their monitors.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice try - could do better

    I suspect that the council spokesperson is confusing hibernate with sleep: a hibernating computer draws approximately the same power as one that has been powered down. Nevertheless, I can see that this system could save a lot of wasted power.

    However, could we do better?

    By their own figures, they plan to shut down computers between 8pm and 8am - twelve hours. When does a typical council employee go home? Let us imagine that it is 6pm (for anyone working the traditional nine to five I am being conservative in my assumption). That leaves an additional two hours of wasted power. Or to put it another way, we have the opportunity to save an additional 16% of the power saving claimed.

    How might we achieve this? Add a script that runs on shutdown to pull patches and anti-virus updates from the server rather than push them. Encourage staff to shutdown when leaving the office. Continue to run the 8pm script, but also generate a report of machines that were still running at that time. Use that report to identify departments that are wasting power by forgetting to shut down machines. Name and shame such departments.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When they are switched off

    "when they are switched _off_ to ensure they have the latest anti-virus protection installed"

    How is it able to scan the machine when it is turned off? Am I missing something?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Great - someones managed to write code that can physically unplug a PC from a wall!

    If the machines were actually hibernating, then they'd be in the same power state as when they were 'off'. I assume they actually mean in standby mode.

    Thing is though, the software probably doesn't save significant power. Any monitor and PC that isn't actually physically switched off at the wall is still in power-down standby, and still drawing power. So they're probably saving zero from the monitors (if they have power saving active), and the saving from the PCs could be minimal.

    There's also the small point of the hidden cost in wasted time as everyones PCs turn on, load the OS, and they log in. Over a year this will add up.

    Even just setting the machines to hibernate would save some time, and just as much energy. Or alternatively just buy energy efficient PCs and turn the various power saving options on - setting a machine to enter standby after 30 minute inactive would save more power.

  17. CharleyBoy

    scans while switched off?


    Kear said: "We already have software that scans every county council computer when they are switched off to ensure they have the latest anti-virus protection installed.


    Okay, I'm missing something here - maybe some background in my education. Are these thin-clients? It does not read that way. If not then how the hell do you scan them when they are switched off?

  18. Carl Fletcher


    I hope the program is a hellofalot more clever than it's reported to be... I can imagine a lot of very annoyed people when it first switches off and loses the document they were working on the previous night. And what's so bad about Hibernate mode exactly? Doesn't it write to disk and switch the computer off completely anyway?

  19. Ishkandar

    Brilliant innovation

    "Darling, I've just solved this major problem that's been plaguing the Council for the last ten years ! I just need an hour to finish up before I come home for dinner. I hope to be home by 9.00 pm......Aw, WHAT !! It's...It's...ALL disappeared !! My computer just SHUTDOWN !! Aaaargh !! "

  20. Gavin

    wow simple scripting

    How did this make the headlines, this can be done with simple scripting, its nothing fantastic and nothing special.

    my main questions is how the hell can he get his users to not only know what an I.P address is but also find it and add it to an exclusion list?

    How the hell can he trust his users simply not to leave their computer in the exclusion list permenantly?

    Also after looking up their i.p address once i'm sure at this mircale of user intellect will mean its now on a sticky note on the users monitor and not updated when DHCP decides it fancies a change?

    Christ the most i can get out of my users is double clicking correctly even that is sometimes too difficult.

    Save money by all means but not at the expense of my own sanity

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BOFH been there, done that...

    Our trusted Simon Travaglia's BOFH already did that, in 2004.

    Episode 28 BOFH 2004

    BOFH switches to power-saving mode.

    Lights out.

    There you see only one of many possibilities of things going wrong. I must agree that "servers are like old people - you put them to sleep at night and there's a few dead ones in the morning."

    Have these guys been reading BOFH from 3 years ago?

    The whole idea is not new, as noted. If his scan fails to recognize if that PC is being used at the moment, he'll have a lot of angry users on his hand.

  22. Dave

    Not new......


    This isn't a new idea by any means. The I.T. dept. of the school I work at has been doing this for months now to all networked systems.

    They just checked with us all to set a shut-down time that would not cause issues.

  23. Dave

    No Overtime

    I guess it saves doing too much overtime - can't work past 8pm because the computer keeps switching off. No getting in early, either.

    I try to get my PC to do its virus scanning and other annoying resource-consuming things when I'm not around, so it can devote its full attention to me when I'm at my desk. Something like this would be a bit annoying if the limits were set too tightly.

  24. Nano nano

    What about Xbox ?

    I think the Xbox would benefit the environment if it hibernated itself if not used for say 30 minutes. Just think how many Xboxes in kids' bedrooms, whirring away and getting hot ...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think they meant: in the process of being powered down.


  26. Torcuill Torrance

    How to switch off the monitor/lamp/printer/mobile charger by your PC

    I've been using the Intelliplug(tm) for some time, it senses when your PC shuts down and disconnects power to the other connected items. When you switch your computer back on again, all your other devices follow suit.

    It costs about 15quid, remember that a 10W device uses about 10quid of 'lecky every year. This should pay for itself in a couple of months.

    tread lightly


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They could use..

    ..plug in timers! You can get 3 for a tenner in Wickes and everyone understands those (well almost) and once they are off the PC and monitor draw no power and it is much faster than getting the OS to shut down its way and you don't need an admin to set up some complicated script - why did'nt they ask me!

    (I'll get my coat...)

  28. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    People, people, we're talking about a Council !

    It's news because it's a CIVIL SERVANT who has finally actually used his brain for something USEFUL !

    I fail to understand why the common, hard-working grunt is not dancing in the streets with joy. It's part of the Government that has not only discovered a useful bit of tech - even one lying around in the dust for a decade now - but has even had the balls to go and implement a use for it that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

    Not only that, but this new functionality is going to actually SAVE MONEY ! Isn't that a revolution in itself ? Hey, Asmodeus, better do a quick temperature check down there - methinks you might have a snowball or two surviving.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Hybernation vs shutdown

    I suspect that the system shuts down the computers rather than hybernating them so that the users are also logged off and their IDs get uploaded to the servers which will be backed up.

    Also, if you are going to the hassle of writing software/scripts to do this, you may as well shutdown so that each day gives you a clean 'just booted' OS. This can be very helpfull in a dodgy bespoke software environment where memory leaks are aplenty.

  30. John Bayly

    @CharleyBoy: How do they know they're off

    If the machines are allocated an IP by MAC, they can check if a ping is replied to.

    It does mean that some poor bastard had to record all the MAC addresses though.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slow news day then!

    Was doing this in 2000 for the Uni's computer labs AND restarting them via WOL at 7 to be ready for 8 after they automatically rebuilt themselves. Maybe I should go back and remnd them so they can boast about something simple, obvious and known to the rest of the world being a big deal.

  32. CharleyBoy

    Re: How to switch off the monitor/lamp/printer/mobile charger by your PC

    A small circuit and relay attached to a USB line can turn devices on and off with the computer. It isn't using the USB protocol just the presence, or not, of the 5v supply. Someone built me one of these a few years ago (I no longer have it). It consisted of about 4, or 5 components (on the circuit) and switched an extension cord on and off. Absolutely fantastic. I could do with one again now that I'm proliferating eSATA drives left, right and center.


    Matthew: Ta. I figured when I read it that it was simply written badly, but, just in case there is some fantastic device, or setup available to council services which is able to able to scan hard-drives remotely whilst the machine is off, I had to ask.

    I'll take off my tin-foil helmet now then. :-)

  33. Joe


    Typical of a council to make a huge deal about doing something that the rest of the business world has been doing for years... just imagine how many other money saving ideas councils could use if they were run as proper businesses rather than giant overstaffed money pots!!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A challenge

    It will be really revolutionary if someone write a program that switches on and off people's minds (away from computers).

  35. David S

    Re: A challenge

    You've heard of Big Brother?

    (Okay, it's a programme rather than a program, and it isn't written so much as perpetrated, but...)

  36. Glen Silver badge

    You can imagine the conversation...

    beancounter: we spend to much on leccy. our fellow golf club members

    are laughing at us. The BBC says our computers waste power

    while they're not in use!!! How did we not know this!!!

    Something must be done!!!

    head of it: beancounters are moaining, make them stop.

    I know, lets set up a training scheme and send

    little notes to people about "saving energy".

    yeah, that'll work.

    sysadmin: <sarcasm>

    yes, because our users are reliable people who care more

    about the environment than being on msn before 9:01am?


    head of it: that doesnt matter, as long as it looks like were doing


    sysadmin: about that pay raise...

    H.IT/BC togethr: its not in the budget.

    sysadmin: RIGHT THEN!!!

    and the rest as they say is history...

    dammit!! spotted the BOFH refference...!!!

    and i thought i was being so witty :)

    pub in 3?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Centralised Power Down

    I'm sure my old college had a centralised power down system that ensured all systems were *completely* off for its IT rooms.

    At the end of the day they'd hit big red button on the wall which would isolate all the sockets from the mains!

  38. Gwyn Evans

    Downside of the big red button

    At Essex University, the security guards used to use the "big red button" approach of an evening - not entirely coincidentally, the mainframe would often then shut down (as a result of the power spike caused by the disconnect)! Not sure how long it took for the two to be connected, but probably less time that it took to stop the guards taking the 'easy option'.

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