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Shutting down your computer for one whole day?

11 replies [Last post]
libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04

AndrewB posted a link on IRC to a Shutdown Day project. The site features a counter to when is this day supposed to begin, and it is now counting less than 12 hours.

It's an experiment to see how many people can go for one day, 24 hours, without a computer, how addicted we are to computers and what would happen if enough people really shut down.

There is a bit of a controversy about the project though, and even an article on engadget suggesting to boycott shutdown day and instead of shutting down use computers twice as much than normal.

Well that'd be impossible for me, personally, I think I probably can't use a computer more than I already am. lol

Anyway, what do you think of the idea? Will you shut down? Do you think it's good to shut down or do you think it's pointless and that it is completely normal to rely so much on computers in this technology age. There are some arguments on that in comments to this blog entry...

I didn't say no nor yes yet, but to be perfectly honest, I doubt I'll shut down. I mean, whole 24 hours? Gosh.. how.. Laughing out loud

Joined: 2006-03-28
Whoa, shutting down my box

Whoa, shutting down my box for 24h hours in around 3 hours? No way! Anyway, I've got to work tomorrow, so it's not even possible to do a day without a computer, even if I really wanted.

free-zombie's picture
Joined: 2006-03-08
I see they didn't shut down

I see they didn't shut down their server.

also, a really successful shutdown day in one country would have been a catastrophe: imagine, say, 20 million computers running less in Europe - I don't doubt the European power station system would have reacted strongly; How well would the turning on again have gone ? How expensive would the whole joke been for the electricity industry ?

libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04
I'm not sure I follow you.

I'm not sure I follow you. If one of the 20 million computers was the one controlling a power station then I guess that'd be a problem, but if 20 million desktop computers would shut down, why exactly would that be such a big problem for the power system in Europe?

free-zombie's picture
Joined: 2006-03-08
I'm not sure 20 million is

I'm not sure 20 million is a sensible number, but I'm fairly sure that the European power system isn't designed for sudden large changes in demand.

libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04
I would think sudden upward

I would think sudden upward spikes in usage could present a problem, but I wasn't aware actual *drops* in use would be such a problem.

But I guess it could happen if it is a complex weird system actually relying on high demand (but that sound rather foolish to me).

Edit: And besides, are computers really taking *that* much power? I would think some other things would take much more (like heating).

free-zombie's picture
Joined: 2006-03-08
ok, I will now do some

ok, I will now do some citing of sources. There was quite recently the idea of having as many Germans as possible turning everything off; this also reached my scout association mailing lists. I will now quote a response on that same list


Hallo Liste,

als Fachmann für Energieversorgung Elektro möchte ich an dieser Stelle mal
auf die technischen Gefahren einer solchen Aktion hinweisen. Unser
europäisches Stromnetz ist nicht auf ein plötzliches Ausschalten von vielen
Verbrauchern ausgelegt. Elektrische Energie kann man nicht in großen Mengen
speichern und deshalb muss immer so viel erzeugt werden, wie gerade
verbraucht wird. Um das zu gewährleisten gibt es verschiedene Arten von
Grundlastkraftwerke (Öl, Kohle, Kernkraft, Laufwasser, (Wind, Sonne))
stellen die so genannte "Grundlast" zur Verfügung.
Spitzenlastkraftwerke (Speicherwasser, Wind) werden bei hohem Strombedarf
zu- oder abgeschaltet, bzw. eingeregelt.

Werden also auf einem Schlag sehr viele Verbraucher ausgeschaltet, müssen im
Gegenzug auch Kraftwerke gedrosselt werden. Das geht so lange gut, bis alle
Spitzenlastkraftwerke aus sind. Fällt nun der Verbrauch weiter, werden
zunächst Laufwasser, Wind und Sonne abgeschaltet. Bis jetzt ist alles noch
normal, kommt auch öfters mal vor und wird automatisch innerhalb von wenigen
Millisekunden ausgeregelt. Wenn nun der Verbrauch weiter fällt müssen die
Thermischen Kraftwerke reagieren. Diese Kraftwerke sind nur sehr langsam
regelbar und können Verbrauchsspitzen nicht ausgleichen. Folglich kann es zu
Notabschaltungen kommen. Es ist sogar möglich das es zu einer Kettenreaktion
von Abschaltungen kommt.
Bei einer Notabschaltung oder Drosselung eines Thermischen Kraftwerkes muss
die komplette Energie die bis dahin in Dämpfdruck und Wärme umgesetzt worden
ist, ungenutzt in die Natur entlassen werden. (welch eine Verschwendung)
Wenn es bis jetzt noch zu keinem Stromausfall gekommen ist, so ist das
absolutes Glück. Wenn aber dann auch noch 5 Minuten später die Verbraucher
wieder eingeschaltet werden wird es wirklich haarig. Grundlastkraftwerke
gedrosselt oder abgeschaltet, das heist, Alle benötigte Energie muss jetzt
aus den Spitzenlastkraftwerken bereitgestellt werden. Selbst wenn eine
ausreichende Menge an Energie bereitsteht, so halten das aber unsere
Stromnetze nicht aus und es passiert genau das gleiche wie am 4. November
2006. Netzüberlast!!!! Die Leitungen zu den Kraftwerken werden automatisch
abgeschaltet, die restlichen Kraftwerke werden Notabgeschaltet. Halb Europa
könnte mehrere Stunden im Dunkeln ohne Heizung sitzen, im Fahrstuhl oder
Parkhaus festsitzen.....

Dieses Scenario ist absolut keine Fiction. (... snip ...)

and a more or less free, hand-crafted translation:


Hello list,

as specialist in the area of Elektro (I assume this is a company or something) energy supply I would like to point out the technical dangers of such a campaign. Our European grid isn't designed for many consumers being turned off suddenly. Because electric energy cannot be stored in large quantities, as much as needed has to be generated at any given time. To guarantee this, there are multiple different types of power station: base load plants (oil, coal, nuclear power, running water, (wind, sun)) provide the so-called "base load", peak-load plants (stored water, wind) are adjusted for high demand.

When a lot of consumers are turned off all of a sudden, power plants have to be throttled accordingly. That works fine until all peak-load plants are turned off. When demand falls even more, running water, wind and sun are turned off. All this is quite normal, happens quite frequently and can be corrected in a matter of milliseconds. If demand falls even more, thermal plants have to react. These plants are only controllable very slowly and cannot balance peaks. Consequently, emergency disconnexion may occur. A chain of disconnexions may also occur.

In the event of an emergency disconnexion or throttling of a thermal plant, all the energy that has been converted to warmth and pressure must be released into nature unused (what a waste). If there hasn't been a power loss up to this point, that's pure luck. When the consumers are turned on 5 minutes later, it all gets really hairy. Base load plants being turned off or throttled means that all required energy has to be provided by peak-load plants. Even if there is a sufficient amount of is available, our grid won't be able to stand it and we get the same effect as on November 4th: grid overload ! The lines to the power plants are turned off automatically, emergency disconnexions are arranged in the remaining plants. Half of Europe could sit in the dark without heating for several hours, be stuck in a lift or parking lot...

This scenario is absolutely no fiction. (... snip ...)

Joined: 2007-03-25
I'm not sure 20 million is

I don't think you can make the assumption that all 20 million computers are going to be switched on at the same time so any impact is likely to be staggered.

However it is also true that power systems are designed for sudden large changes in demand. It's a relatively common phenomenon: for example electricity demand surges during the commercial breaks in popular TV programs as people go and stick the kettle on, think also of the start of the working day when large numbers of machines (including computers) are switched on. Here in the UK there is a large hydro-electric plant whose sole purpose is to be able to generate power very quickly when these surges occur. ( The rest of the time it uses surplus electricity from the grid to pump water back up to its reservoir, so it actually consumes electricity than it generates.

free-zombie's picture
Joined: 2006-03-08
yes, 20 million would be

yes, 20 million would be quite a small number...

tbuitenh's picture
Joined: 2005-12-21
Not switching on computers

Not switching on computers in the morning shouldn't be too much of a problem, since that won't cause a sudden drop in demand, it will only cause the absence of an expected rise. Switching off all lights at the same moment, an only for a few minutes will indeed cause trouble, but that's a completely different scenario.

AndrewB's picture
Joined: 2005-12-18
I am a bit late in posting,

I am a bit late in posting, I could not shut down for 24 hours anyway.

I get far too many emails that I can't miss a day and I had college work to do too.

I also have to use a pocket pc in work as well as semi-frequent visits to the computers up the stairs. All the checkout systems are pc nodes as well.

Joined: 2007-04-14
I'm pretty late in

I'm pretty late in responding as well but I saw the challenge and I knew that I couldn't go an entire day without using the computer...I mean I would actually feel, messenger and the internet...oh so lovely lol.