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Let's burn the planet ... because we can!

Sunday, 6 August 2023  |  schwarzer

There is a term, that in recent years my brain is using a lot when trying to explain to me what my eyes observe. Late-Roman Decadence. I am not a historian, so I might be inaccurate with its actual meaning. For me it just means "wasting because we can". If you want to see this in action, delete your YouTube cookies to get out of your tech bubble and open its start page. Probably depending on your location, it's all about eating the biggest meals for 9000€, driving the fastest cars for 777k€, destroying expensive things in the most hilarious ways for 2M€ as well as giving homeless people 100€ and filming them at whatever they do with it before they fall back into their own life of being spat out and ignored by society. For me: disgusting and worth another strategically well sized and well placed comet.

But that's just the depression speaking. So let's not look at the world, let's look at and try to tackle my own little problems.

I like to have my laptop efficient and quiet. No fan, no moving parts that "klack" or whatever. Just silence. Bonus points if the AC adapter does not emit high-pitched buzzing. My ears are broken and very sensitive to noise. But I also like to have a machine that is as low-spec as it can be. Using less resources should be a good thing, right? So currently I am using an Acer Swift 1, which comes with an N6000 1.1GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM. This is fine for me performance-wise and I can have my usual 5 to 10 applications running with no problems at all. It even plays many of the coop games, my girlfriend comes around the corner with once in a while. For KDE work, the translation summit workflow is one of the things I tend to wait for. It would of course be faster on a higher spec'ed system but it takes around 20 minutes with Fedora and around 4 minutes with Debian on the same machine, so other factors than hardware seem to play a big role in this story as well. Also, I can still have that laptop at the... well... top of my... well... lap without burning my legs or making my blanket smell funny.

On a side note, this laptop sucks in other ways. It cannot do suspend properly. If it wants to go to sleep it immediately wakes up again with full display brightness and it repeats that every few minutes. Acer support says: no Windows, go fuck yourself. (Disclaimer: They did not actually say "go fuck yourself", they just stopped responding once I mentioned Linux.) Also the touch pad is only recognised as PS/2 device and lacks all gestures like scrolling and such. (Yes, I learned to use scrollbars again and hate scroll indicators that are thin or hidden.) Again, without Windows, you do not have the right of owning properly working hardware. I spent weeks looking into these two issues but none of the proposed solutions I found worked for me, either because they only work on Swift 3 and upwards with more settings available in EFI or they just did not do for me what they did for some other people. But broken hardware being sold and then fixed with Windows drivers is a completely different topic I do not want to delve into. Back to what I want to talk about. Buying another passively cooled laptop in the future. So what is the market up to?

Due to the bad Linux experience with the current Acer laptop, I decided to specifically look for Linux devices. Tuxedo to the rescue! Let's look at their current lineup. The InfinityBook 14 v2 was passively cooled but it is not in stock anymore and according to their support, there are currently no plans for new passively-cooled laptops. OK, so ... what are they up, then? In their latest news, they show a Stellaris 17 - Gen5 ... with absolute high-end hardware which needs an external water cooling system to operate properly. One of the key selling points is that the graphics card alone is allowed to draw 175 watts. Let's burn the planet ... because we can!

I do not want to pick at Tuxedo here in particular. The processor vendors are playing the same game for years. If they can gain 5% performance by increasing power consumption by 30%, they will do it. Complete nonsense, but it sells. Bigger, faster, louder. Let's make sure nobody realises that a 1GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM might be enough for 90% of the people. Instead, make the people think they are missing out so they consume without thinking about their actual needs. The same success story the car manufacturers are wallowing in with their SUVs. Let's burn the planet ... because we can!

So, what now? "Everything's fucked" is not a healthy attitude. But trying to change things seems impossible because of all the "not listening" you get when trying to talk to vendors about it. ... Yes, even from small vendors.

I will continue watching the Tuxedo space because I would like to support what they are doing (Linux-wise, not Hardware-wise). I will also keep an eye on AMDs Ryzen Embedded R1305G CPU and its close friends. Maybe some laptop manufacturer will be stupid enough to put it in one of their models. They could at least sell one of them. My backup plan is to buy a laptop with e.g. a low-spec Ryzen U series CPU and hope the fan can be made shut up with energy profiles and disabled boost and such. But that feels like wasted resources again. I will also continue to write to laptop manufacturers even if they do not even bother answering because my desires are too non-mainstream and as such too expensive to deal with. ... But I also ask myself, why bother at all. If the majority of our society (I am talking "western" here but the rest of the world is catching up quickly) is happily burning the planet for no reason but the fun of it, why am I trying to disagree and having a hard time? Why not just party along and wait for the cleansing comet? ... I guess it is one of life's challenges to find an answer to that question.