Green Solution For Digital Waste Problem

By VisionwizTeam at September 2, 2011 | 2:36 pm | Print

Green Solution For Digital Waste Problem

A digital dumping ground lies inside most computers, a wasteland where old, rarely used and unneeded files pile up. Such data can deplete precious storage space, bog down the system’s efficiency and sap its energy. Conventional rubbish trucks can’t clear this invisible byte blight.

So what to do?

Johns Hopkins University computer scientists Ragib Hasan and Randal Burns have suggested some “green” solutions to the digital waste data problems: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and dispose.

Hasan and Burns devised a five-tier pyramid of options, inspired by real-world waste reduction tactics:


Reduce: At the top of the pyramid, the most preferred option is to cut back on the amount of waste data that flows into a computer to begin with.

This can be done, the Johns Hopkins researchers say, by encouraging software makers to design their programs to leave fewer unneeded files behind after a program is installed.

To coax the software makers to comply, computers could be set up to “punish” programs that do excessive data dumping; such programs would be forced to run more slowly.

Reuse: Software makers also could break their complex strings of code into smaller modules that could serve double-duty. If two programs are found to utilize identical modules, one might be eliminated in a process called “data deduplication.”

This the second-best option in the waste-management pyramid, the researchers said.

Recycle: Just as discarded plastic can be refashioned into new soda bottles, some files could be repurposed. For example, when old software is about to be removed, the computer could look for useful pieces of the program that could be put to work in other applications.

Recover: Even when waste data can’t be reused or recycled, these digital leftovers might yield information worth studying after private identification details are removed. In their paper, the researchers suggest that “obsolete data can also be mined to gather patterns about historical trends.”

Dispose: Sitting at the bottom of the pyramid, this is the least desirable option, the researchers say, and the messiest, when you consider the energy used to completely eliminate old files or the real-world pollution created when one destroys an old hard drive or other form of storage media.

However, the scientists say, one solution could be a “digital landfill.” This could be accomplished with a “semi-volatile storage device” that would provide a temporary home to data that is designed to automatically fade away over time, freeing up space for the next tenants.

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