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What is more energy efficient, source based or binary?

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

There are distros like Gentoo which are source based, meaning that you have to download and compile the source of a program on your computer to use it. And then there are, the majority, binary distros where you can install pre-compiled packages ready to install immediately.

So I was wondering, in relation to energy efficiency, which of the two is better overall? Compiling certainly spends much more of the CPU and hence more energy, but since every program has to be compiled somewhere, if you don't compile it someone else on some other computer will.

So the question pretty much comes down to how many times a program gets compiled in a source based world and how many times in a world of pre-compiled distribution. Where compiling happens less, there is more energy efficiency and overall less carbon footprint. Smiling

So what do you think?

Joined: 2006-06-19
Interesting question. I

Interesting question. I don't know, but I know ...

zonbu uses 15W. I think it's gentoo based but I'm not sure. I
didn't bother to ask because I ruled out their "subscription"

Fit-PC uses 5W. I know it's gentoo-based because I asked them.

I, myself, am in the market for cheap laptop and am waiting for
ASAS laptop, which is coming this month or so, a modification of
Xandros or debian-based. I forget how much power it uses, but it's
not much.

So to answer your question, so far gentoo (source-based) is winning.
But I can't explain why.


Joined: 2006-03-28
Well, pre-compiled distros

Well, pre-compiled distros should be more energy-efficient since the packages are only compiled "once" (actually I'm sure that it's more than once, but I guess that's not that important right now) by the distributer. On source-distros every user has to compile by himself, plus all the test-builds the distributer has to do anyway before release.

free-zombie's picture
Joined: 2006-03-08
The Zonbu is gentoo based,

The Zonbu is gentoo based, but I don't think it lets you install extra software just like that, and I'm sure the upgrades they give you are binaries.

With gentoo, everything, especially many many times, for as good as every user. In Debian GNU/Linux, for instance, almost every package is compiled twelve times (12 architectures) plus probably few times during development. (that is packaging...)

Obvious, innit ;-)

libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04
Well in the interest of

Well in the interest of crediting source based distros like gentoo there's a point to be made about the gained efficiency by compiling. When you compile software on your machine it is more perfectly fit for that machine and could hence run faster on it, which should translate a bit to energy efficiency.

I'm just not sure how really significant it is, and it may still be that because the amount of times compiling happens on source distros the gains are multiple times negated...

So.. the next question would be, how demanding compiling really is on energy? How big of a problem could we reasonably make it to be? Maybe some comparisons could be made with other energy consuming devices like 100W light bulbs, TV and LCD screens to see just how significant a fully loaded computer (when it's compiling a lot) is compared to other electrical devices.

a thing's picture
Joined: 2005-12-20

I highly doubt the small extra runtime efficiency from software compiled on the machine outweighs the energy used up when compiling.