Lego Comes In All Colours But PCs Need To Be Green

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Building a computer case from Lego is a sustainable concept but the rest of the computer has to measure up

Lego, the children’s versatile building bricks, have been used to build printers and all manner of other technical wonders. When Mike Shropp, author of the Total Geekdom blog, decided to build an energy efficient, powerful grid PC, he saw the opportunity to add a bit of sustainable re-usability by employing the Lego he had lying around.

Schropp writes, “I’ve been addicted to Lego for longer than I can remember so, when the opportunity comes up to work on a new project of some sort, the question that invariably arises is: can I use Lego?”

High Performance At Low Cost

Using the bricks as the housing for his project, Shropp set about building his customised computer. The system would be hooked into IBM’s World Community Grid (WCG) which crunches numbers for charity organisations trying to crack the great problems of the planet – such as cancer and other medical research, nutritious rice development, and genome projects.

Limiting himself to a $2,000 (£1,223) budget, his goal was to hit a phenomenal 100,000 “crunching points” per day. Crunching points are arbitrary measures of compute power on public project grids such as WCG. A very good average would be around 300 points per hour so, at around 4,000 points per hour, Shropp had set a high target.

His DIY grid unit (folding farm) consists of three complete systems working as one in a single Lego brick housing. Each module uses a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU installed on their own Asus Micro ATX motherboard. Storage is supplied on solid state disks (SSDs), three coolers and eight fans.

The complete Lego system is powered by a single 1,200W power supply, which Shropp calculated to be the most energy-efficient source. This may not sound very efficient but for the amount of work done it is very reasonable.

Shropp shrugs off any criticism by pointing out that the compute power of the machine can greatly help his aim of doing some good in the world.

“In the end the most important thing to me though is that I feel like I’m doing more to help contribute to a good cause in humanitarian and medical research,” he argues in his blog. “I know it’s just one system but every little bit counts in finding cures and solutions.”

In addition, when the system needs to be upgraded, the case can be modified or completely reconstructed time and again without any wastage.

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