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Life Cycle Assessment of 2022 Laptop

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 12:56

Laptop manufacturer Framework commissioned Fraunhofer IZM to do a detailed life cycle analysis on their Framework Laptop 13, which is designed to be upgradeable, repairable, and customizable. The functional unit used in the study is the use of this notebook over 5 years. Although the laptop is modular and repairable, no product failure and thus no repair was assumed. The configuration was assumed to include 16 GB of memory, 256 GB of storage, and two expansion cards with USB-A and USB-C connectors.

Unfortunately, the researchers only calculate the environmental footprint of the laptop in terms of global warming potential and resource depletion, not energy consumption. Nevertheless, the study is interesting for its detailed breakdown of components, with the display and the electronic circuits responsible for the largest environmental damage. The total impact for the Framework Laptop is estimated to be 200 kg CO2e. Almost 70% of this is due to the production phase.

Read more:


Untangling the Mystery of the World’s First Rooftop Solar Panel

Thu, 08/17/2023 - 17:05

“In 1909, inventor George Cove posed in front of an early rooftop solar panel of his own design for a photograph. One hundred and ten years later, the resulting image was reprinted in the official journal of the US’ most prestigious research institute – but Cove was nowhere to be seen.

Using a range of sources such as newspaper archives and historic city maps, Bellingcat sought to establish the seeming mystery of Cove’s ‘disappearance’ from the photograph. This analysis of archival material from the pioneering days of solar energy tells a cautionary tale about the ease of misattributing historic photos.”

Read more: Untangling the Mystery of the World’s First Rooftop Solar Panel. Foeke Postma, Bellingcat, August 2023. Image by Bellingcat.

Heating Babies, not Spaces

Sun, 08/13/2023 - 10:55

“A rather charming seat on wheels. The little pot underneath is filled with burning peat to keep baby’s feet warm.” Quoted from: The people of Holland, by Nico Jungman, 1910. Thanks to Joe. Previously: Restoring the old way of warming: heating people not spaces.

No Tech Reader #42

Sun, 08/13/2023 - 10:45

Extensive Landscape with Travellers and Windmills, a Town Beyond

Fri, 08/11/2023 - 16:04

Extensive landscape with travellers and windmills, a town beyond, Jan Brueghel (II). Made between 1622 and 1678. Dimensions: 17.7 x 27.6 cm. Source: Netherlands Institute for Art History.

No Tech Reader #41

Thu, 08/10/2023 - 10:42
  • Dissertations on fab labs and maker culture. [Cindy Kohtala] “A list of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses on open design, fab labs, makerspaces, digital fabrication, 3D printing, maker culture, etc.. Contact me to add yours, and sorry if I missed it!”
  • Introduction: Alternative Histories in DIY Cultures and Maker Utopias. [Digital Culture & Society] “Activities considered “low-tech”, the non-digital in DIY (Do-It-Yourself) cultures, are often pushed aside in the rush to promote the most photogenic high-tech tools, such as 3D printers, laser cutters and computer numeric-controlled (CNC) routers.”
  • Solar Generator Trailer- Electrical System. [Low-tech Lab] “This tutorial presents the sizing and construction of an electrical system for a solar generator (1 kWp or ‘kilowatt peak’) which can be moved by bicycle. This structure was designed to fit on the CHARRETTE, an assisted trailer designed by the Véloma association, whose plans are freely available.”
  • Opportunities of living in an urban and low-tech environment. [Low-tech Lab] “Andréane Valot, designer and graduate of ENSCI – Les Ateliers in 2021, shares her assessment of 8 months of experimentation with a low-tech approach to life in an urban environment, in this case applied to her Parisian studio.”
  • Rower generator. [Gene’s Green Machine] “I thought it might be a fun challenge to build a rowing machine generator.”
  • The Anti-Ownership Ebook Economy. [The Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy] “Something happened when we shifted to digital formats that created a loss of rights for readers. Pulling back the curtain on the evolution of ebooks offers some clarity to how the shift to digital left ownership behind in the analog world.”
  • How to generate an Ourzine pdf? [Ourzine] “Ourzines are a way for people to connect with written text without the distractions of digital screens. By refocusing our attention from the unending onslaught of new content to paper, Ourzines give readers the space to choose what they want to engage with and to do so mindfully. No links, no ads, no rabbit holes – nothing but what you have decided to read.”
  • Reviving Chromebooks with Ubuntu: Autonomous Servers, Planned Obsolescence, and Permacomputing. [Anarcho Solarpunk] “A tutorial and slight manifesto on reviving end-of-life Chromebooks. How to make them into autonomous servers, and why we need to rethink computing in the age of climate collapse.”
  • The buttons on Zenith’s original ‘clicker’ remote were a mechanical marvel. [The Verge] “The Zenith Space Command, one of the first wireless television remotes ever to exist, is a monument to a time before we took the remote for granted. It also just so happened to contain one of the most influential and intriguing buttons in history.”
  • Version 2 of my solar-powered, ePaper digital photo frame. [Plotting The Curiosity Vector]
  • The myth of neutral tech and the politics of not doing in the attention economy. [Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies] “When performance is increasingly monitored, output and achievement glorified, inactivity deemed laziness and laziness deemed undesirable, doing nothing can be a radical act.”
  • Clicks of Desire – How  the Internet obeys you. [The New Atlantis] “Where once it was occasionally possible to opt out of ‘reality’ (by taking drugs, say), it is now increasingly necessary to think about how to opt in to it.”
  • Who Makes Our Smartphones? Four Moments in Their Lifecycle. [The Routledge Handbook of Ecomedia Studies] “We hope we have provided reasons for holding on to smartphones for as long as possible, if for no other reason than to help release some of the pressure on workers laboring across the supply chain.”
  • Low-tech et sobriété numérique: une étude d’usages du smartphone. [Université du Québec à Montréal] “Afin d’interroger la sobriété d’une
    high-tech, nous nous sommes concentrés sur le smartphone; objet emblématique du quotidien, autour duquel nous avons mené un travail de design. Nous avons ainsi mis au point une pellicule de sobriété numérique, qui permet de flouter l’écran et gêner l’usage du smartphone, créant ainsi une barrière entre l’usager et son objet high-tech. Notre objectif de recherche est d’étudier les effets et la potentielle diminution d’usage quotidien de ce dispositif.”

How to heat your cabin with steam?

Thu, 06/01/2023 - 10:58

This is a guest post by Mikhesh The Steamer.

It does not have to be just about the winter regarded with apprehension, which did not prove to be as much problematic in Europe at all. In the outlying hills, there is a lack of electricity or gas source. On the other hand, there is usually water and wood nearby. A steam heater can be assembled from things you find in a garbage dump, thrown away in a workshop or in a hobby market.

In a cabin with a fireplace after thirty minutes, the temperature is at best slightly higher, but with steam heating, a T-shirt is enough for that time. You can also spread the steam behind several corners and you don’t have to rely on heat radiation. Wood consumption is equal to a regular fireplace. The difference is in how we deal with its energy.

Steam, that’s what it’s all about.

It is not surprising that many cities used steam for heat distribution in the past. Steam has a much greater heat capacity than water. A supply of 10 liters of water in the tanks is enough for my system to heat a 30m3 brick house from an internal temperature of 5-10°C to 30°C within 3.5 hours. The heat will then pass into the walls and I will last until the morning at 18°C with an outside temperature of 5-10°C. I reach a comfortable temperature within 30 minutes.

I heat these 10 liters of water in pipes which are forming a tank with a total volume of 20 liters. I expect a reserve due to bubbling water and easier regulation. The water itself evaporates according to the intensity of the heating. You will know the appropriate volume after a few tests of your setup and its sound: It manifests itself with a strong bubbling sound.

Disadvantages and risks

The system works with minimal pressure, at a rough guess up to 0.3 atmospheres. I solve the risk of overpressure with a plug loaded with a small weight directly on the tank. I covered this part with a metal cover into which I enter through the small door.

Blowing the plug could be unpleasant. It would flood the room with rapidly cooling steam, which is why I cover it. This has never happened in practical use. The steam must have free passage through the pipe at all times. For this reason, I lead the steam through a rubber hose near the ceiling and gradually slope it downwards so that at no point can the condensing water freeze.

It is not necessary to vent the heating steam system. The penetration of steam through the system and the displacement of air is spontaneous. Only at the end does another exhalation occur – plain water, which I take out of the building through the walls. The captured water can be reused.

Common use

I pour water before starting the fire, never during it, because I might get scalded. The heating does not retain heat and cools down immediately after the fire burns out or the water runs out. In practice, however, the room stays warm for many more hours. Then I repeat the cycle.

Kit sheet

When constructing tanks, you cannot avoid welding. The evaporation containers are sunk into the interior of the fireplace and pass through the plate. They consist of 4 pipes connected in pairs and these are immersed in the combustion space itself, which reduces the internal volume of the fireplace. A tank placed on top of the stove alone would not be efficient enough.

We need:

*A fireplace with a cooking plate that will be adjusted for:
*Thick-walled non-galvanized pipes with a wall of 4 mm and a diameter of 40-50 mm for the tank itself in the fireplace. We plunge these through the stovetop and connect them at the top. Their shape therefore resembles a “C”. From there, we lead the couple further to…
*Ordinary water pipes with G thread. An oakum impregnated with vaseline is wound on the screw-threads. Never use a rubber gasket. The steam continues to..
*Brass taps for regulating the given distribution branch. Previously, these taps were used for gas in Central Europe. From here we take the couple out to…
*Thick-walled rubber hoses of the required length. Hoses from compressors for the distribution of compressed air have proven themselves. Subsequently, the steam passes into..
*Old radiator. We are already draining the water from it outside the building.


*All elements must be resistant to 100°C.
*Try to assemble the device in a smaller version in the workshop. You will learn to regulate it and check if it makes sense for you.

I successfully conduct steam up to ten meters away. But it depends on your enthusiasm for experiments. I built my system myself from scraps from work and landfills. Even yours can be unique, where the steam will warm you, also with a great feeling of using discarded items and well-done work.


Steam heating (10m)

1. The wall
2. Possible retention of condensed water
3. Pipe weldment with a diameter of 100mm
4. An old tin heating element
5. Tilting (drainage of condensed water)
6. Water
7. Partition without a hole
8. Partition with a hole
9. Water heater insulation
10. Silicone funnel cap
11. Weight
12. Valves resistant to 100°C
13. Hose resistant to 100°C
14. Different forms of enlargement of the transmission area
15. The body of the steam generator placed on the stove instead of the hot plate.


1. Overall view:

2. another example of a heating element:

3. Evaporation tank inside the fireplace:

4. Opening to fill:

5. Fulfillment:

6. Operational water supply:

7. Heating distribution throughout the building:

8. An old heating element is enough:

9. Demonstration of transition of rubber hoses:

10: Securing the hole, the steam does not escape, but no explosion can occur:

Human Powered Fire Making

Thu, 06/01/2023 - 09:37

People made fire by hand for many thousands of years. We improved the energy efficiency of the process by letting the legs do the work. Unlike modern lighters, the lighter bike does not use fossil fuels. Lighting a cigarette takes about a minute of brisk pedaling.

DIY: How to build your own bike generator.

No Tech Reader #40

Thu, 06/01/2023 - 08:31
  • Out of the wild. [The New Atlantis] “The ideal of nature as it used to be before human intervention is one that Western urbanites created in the late nineteenth century, chiefly as a foil for their own modernity… This vision still permeates much of environmentalism and stands in the way of responsible action toward nature, particularly in the places where we actually live.”
  • Minds on Fire: Cognitive Aspects of Early Firemaking and the Possible Inventors of Firemaking Kits. [Cambridge Archaeological Journal] “We analyse aspects of the two main hunter-gatherer firemaking techniques—the strike-a-light and the manual fire-drill—in terms of causal, social and prospective reasoning.”
  • The Kayak’s Cultural Journey. [Craftsmanship Quarterly] “For millennia, Indigenous peoples across the world have built and used skin boats to fish and hunt, for sport and travel, even for warfare. Now non-Indigenous admirers of the craft are making them, too.”
  • Permacomputing Aesthetics: Potential and Limits of Design Constraints in Computational Culture. [LIMITS 2023] “Permacomputing is a nascent concept and a community of practice oriented around issues of resilience and regenerativity in digital technology. At the heart of permacomputing are design principles that embrace limits and constraints as a positive thing, as well as being creative with available computational resources.”
  • Building and Monitoring a SolarPowered Web Server. [ETH zürich] “In this thesis we focus on building a solar-powered web server. We present existing websites which are fully or partially solar powered, introduce some background about battery state of charge estimation and how to determine the right solar panel and battery size. Reusing components from older projects, we host a static website on an exemplary setup, which is solely solar powered.

Human Powered Record Player

Fri, 05/19/2023 - 04:07

Low-tech Magazine’s bike generator powers a record player. No batteries are involved: a buck converter in the control panel keeps the voltage output constant at 12V. Power use is very low and pedaling is easy. Record: Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline.

Build your own bike generator.

We also published a video of our pedal powered video projector.

Human Powered Dot Matrix Printer

Sun, 04/30/2023 - 15:18

Human-powered dot-matrix printer. Direct power. No batteries are involved. Directly powering a dot-matrix printer is challenging, especially when printing longer documents. The power demand is variable and can increase suddenly for a short time. You must pedal very fast to anticipate these peaks. If you fail, the voltage drops, the communication between the printer and the laptops breaks down, and the machine prints the document all over again. Capacitors could solve this. A laser printer has a very high power use during startup and is incompatible with a bike generator (or a small-scale solar installation).

DIY manual for the bike generator:

History of office equipment:

No Tech Reader #39

Sun, 04/30/2023 - 14:34

Human Powered Electric Guitar

Wed, 04/19/2023 - 06:20

Musician Germán Canyelles uses Low-tech Magazine’s bike generator to power his electric guitar. The guitar amplifier and pedals are plugged into an inverter connected to the 12V circuit of the bike generator. No batteries are used. Recorded at Akasha Hub, Barcelona.

No Tech Reader #38

Wed, 04/19/2023 - 05:00

The poor woman’s energy: Low-modernist solar technologies and international development

Fri, 04/07/2023 - 16:25

“Solar energy often appears a technology without a history, perpetually new and oriented towards the future. This sense of perennial novelty has gone unchallenged by historians, who have generally neglected renewable energy outside the rich world and all but ignored solar energy everywhere. Left to industry professionals, solar history is typically narrated as a triumphalist tale of technical innovation centered in the global North. Such accounts often conflate solar energy with solar photovoltaics (PV) for direct electricity generation… It is tempting to draw a straight line from this innovation to the huge solar PV installations of the twenty-first century; India’s largest, Rajasthan’s US$1.4 billion Bhadla Solar
Park, sprawls across an area the size of Manhattan.”

“Rejecting the eschatology of climate change, such huge mega-projects have reignited the high-modernist idea of progress. They fuse an optimism about the possibilities of science, technology, and human innovation to deliver sustained improvements in economic production and the satisfaction of human needs. In this bright new age, endless rows of solar panels promise to square the circle of economic growth and environmental preservation by providing virtually infinite amounts of clean power for all—and empowerment for women to boot. These utopian ideas, the environmental humanists Imre Szeman and Darin Barney suggest, are coalescing into ‘one of the sharpest and most powerful of ideologies’ today…”

“After the oil shocks of the 1970s, activists in the rich world saw in the sun’s dispersed rays a revolutionary path towards a decentralized ‘energy democracy’, emancipating newly self-reliant citizens from the authoritarian infrastructure of the fossil-fuel-fired electric grid via rooftop solar panels or designer solar homes. Before this point, though, solar energy was more often pigeonholed as something much drabber. A postwar generation of experts cast solar as the ‘poor man’s energy’, to quote a phrase from the period’s best-known international advocate, arguing that the diffuse and intermittent quality of sunlight made it a second-best energy source suited to the scattered rural populations of ‘underdeveloped’ nations… Together these experts imagined solar not as a post-carbon energy source, but a pre-carbon parallel track for those left outside the modern energy economy—a substitute for firewood and dung rather than the abundant and flexible energy of fossil fuels and grid electricity…”

“In the contemporary rich world, going off-grid is framed as a choice. As this earlier episode suggests, though, for much of its history solar energy did not signify the empowerment of the high-tech ‘prosumer’, but spartan compromise with a low-energy past. The physical characteristics of solar energy—available in immense quantity, but diffuse, intermittent, difficult and land-intensive to capture—shaped expert assumptions about its appropriate deployment. In and for the arid tropics, it was seen less as a substitute for fossil fuels than a way to circumvent the expensive expansion of electric grids, marking an admission of the postcolonial state’s inability to deliver public power to the rural majority. Even after independence delivered regimes committed to rapid industrialization, research into solar technologies continued along a low-modernist parallel track. Not simply energy modernization but energy dualism was the pragmatic prescription of the day: large infrastructures for industry and cities, cheap and simple devices for the vast hinterlands of the rural poor. The result was a two-tier energy system, structured by hierarchies of town and country, class, race, and the traditionally gendered division of household labour.”

Read more: Chatterjee, Elizabeth. “The poor woman’s energy: Low-modernist solar technologies and international development, 1878–1966.” Journal of Global History (2023): 1-22.

No Tech Reader #37

Mon, 04/03/2023 - 13:52
  • These scientists lugged logs on their heads to resolve Chaco Canyon mystery. [Ars Tecnica] “Tumplines allow one to carry heavier weights over larger distances without getting fatigued.” Thanks to Matthew McNatt.
  • Barbed Wire Telephone Lines Brought Isolated Homesteaders Together. [Atlas Obscura] “In some cases, as many as 20 telephones were wired together—all of which would ring simultaneously with each call, regardless of who was making it and who they were trying to reach. Agreed-upon codes—three short rings for you, two long rings for me—helped people know if the call was for them.”
  • The vertical farming bubble is finally popping. [Fast Company] “In a typical cold climate, you would need about five acres of solar panels to grow one acre of lettuce”.
  • Seaweed as a resilient food solution after a nuclear war. [ResearchGate] “We find seaweed can be grown in tropical oceans, even after nuclear war. The simulated growth is high enough to allow a scale up to an equivalent of 70 % of the global human caloric demand (spread among food, animal feed, and biofuels) in around 7 to 16 months, while only using a small fraction of the global ocean area. The results also show that the growth of seaweed increases with the severity of the nuclear war, as more nutrients become available due to increased vertical mixing. This means that seaweed has the potential to be a viable resilient food source for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”
  • Traditional Fishing Gears and Methods of the Bodo Tribes of Kokrajhar, Assam. [Fishery Technology] “The popularity and usage of some of the gears like Sahera, Baga, Borom Je and Dura Je were found declining, which may be attributed to increasing popularity of destructive fishing techniques like electric fishing, blast fishing and poisoning.”
  • Low-tech approaches for sustainability: key principles from the literature and practice. [Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy] ” This article develops a seven-principle framework to categorize low-tech concepts based on an abductive approach which included a literature review and interviews with low-tech actors.”
  • Ministry of Truth: The secretive government units spying on your speech. [Big Brother Watch] “The internet contains masses of incorrect information – but this is a defining feature of an open forum, not a flaw.”
  • We’ve lost the plot. [The Atlantic] “Our constant need for entertainment has blurred the line between fiction and reality—on television, in American politics, and in our everyday lives.”

Some low-tech computing links:

Artifical Intelligence and Climate Change

Sat, 03/18/2023 - 15:39

Quoted from: Couillet, Romain, Denis Trystram, and Thierry Ménissier. “The submerged part of the AI-ceberg.” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, September 2022.

The energy consumption of a single training run of the latest (by 2020) deep neural networks dedicated to natural language processing exceeds 1,000 megawatt-hours (more than a month of computation on today’s most powerful clusters). This corresponds to an electricity bill of more than 100,000 euros (figures in the millions of euros are sometimes found) and 500 tons of CO2 emissions – that is, the carbon footprint equivalent to 500 transatlantic round trips from Paris to New York. In comparison, the human brain consumes in a month about 12 kWh, i.e., a hundred thousand times less, for tasks much more complex than natural language translation.

Unlike a mere ten years ago and in spite of the improvement in desktop computer capabilities, it is no longer possible today to train a modern neural network on a personal computer (it would theoretically take up to 405 years)… One may object that it is probably not surprising that deep learning algorithms be far less energy efficient than three billion years of biological evolution and that the figures may rather suggest a huge room for potential improvement… This objection would displace the focus of the point made here: in a matter of ten years, the absolute consumption of AI learning skyrocketed to reach levels of hundreds of tons of equivalent CO2 for a single learning task. These levels are at stunning odds with the requirements for the human society to drastically reduce its carbon footprint at a rate of −7%/year, starting today.

Let us pursue on the objection line of argument: “once trained”, the algorithm can be reused billions of times, improving billions of users’ satisfaction and well-being, at a comparatively negligible cost on individual devices; this would make the initial investment, however large, possibly worth it, if not desirable. The argument here makes the untold assumption that AI algorithms do improve human welfare, which is already a debated position, but also hides (i) the fact that practical R&D in AI is a continuous process of trials and errors of deep architectures run on an increasing amount of dedicated servers and (ii) that new algorithms run on up-to-date devices or even dedicated devices, thereby making former equipment obsolete and enforcing the continuous purchase of new terminals.

Quoted from: Couillet, Romain, Denis Trystram, and Thierry Ménissier. “The submerged part of the AI-ceberg.” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, September 2022.

Hand-Cranked Canal Bridge in London

Sat, 03/18/2023 - 07:35

This London pedestrian bridge is entirely manual, with a hand crank to open it for boat traffic. In the video, the architects also discuss how the haptic feedback provided by hand cranking allows issues to be identified and prevents damage. Thanks to Mathew Lippincott.

No Tech Reader #36

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 17:13

Solar Desalination Skylight

Sat, 01/21/2023 - 11:54

“You hand pump seawater or polluted water into a bowl. Throughout the day the energy from the sun heats up this water and, instead of evaporating into the atmosphere, it gets trapped in the top section. All the fresh water will then trickle down into this bottom basin and all the impurities of the salt and polluted water stay behind. You’re going to have a left-over salt brine which is going to be a waste resource, but instead of throwing it away, this salt brine goes into the series of seawater batteries around the perimeter that can light a LED strip during the night. At night you can turn on the light and you get an energy source through the salt batteries. And during the day, this is like a skylight, bringing natural light to the interiors.”

“The power of the sun is amazing, and I was trying to copy this hydrological cycle. It can kill 99% of dangerous pathogens, remove salt brine and reduce the need of having to boil your water. I am not necessarily reinventing the wheel; solar distillers have been around for a long time, but a lot of these systems are heavy, expensive to make and with very complicated designs. I wanted to think about one which could potentially be portable and simple to construct, made out of local materials and able to Achieve a higher yield of water.”

“This new design was exactly the same but at a large scale. We created a recipe book that is a step-by-step guide on how you can create this same design using bamboo and local work. It could be flat packed into a bag and deployed very simply and quickly and then attached to a bamboo structure which allows structural rigidity but also a community shaded spot, where you can produce around 18 liters of purified water everyday.”

Read more: Low-Tech Solutions for Complex Demands: An Interview with Architect Henry Glogau, ArchDaily. Image by Henry Glogau. Hat tip to Michael.