Opera Unite could be downright dangerous (to trees!)

Opera logoI’ve been on a personal quest to turn as many computers as I can off. I’ve even considered buying a second, low power, computer to avoid having to fire up the monster I’m typing this on. And I’ve moved to using my Atom netbook and phone for things like Twitter and looking up people on IMDB. As a computing enthusiast I’ve been starting to feel ever more guilty about the energy consumption of my favorite toys. So when Opera launched their Unite prototype yesterday I couldn’t help but feel concerned about the environmental side effects of their so-called reinvention of the web.

Unite turns your browser (or rather Opera 10, which actually probably isn’t your browser) into a web server. It lets you share files, host a chat and even serve web pages from your PC. For as long as that PC is on, and Opera is running. And that’s what scares me a little. If this thing were to seriously catch on, a lot of people might be tempted to leave their PC on longer, or even 24/7.

Opera Unite

Let’s say you’re sharing the pictures you took on vacation with your family. I usually have hundreds of one megabyte snapshots to show for my trip, and I’d at least invite my brother, parents and in-laws to take a look. Not all of them would do that right away. So I’d have to leave my computer on for a day or so. And my connection’s upload speed would make looking at all the images and downloading their pick a frustratingly lengthy ordeal. So even if I’d set a date and time for my family to see the images, it would probably take them a long time. And during that time both the receiving and the serving PC would need to be on.

I think Opera’s approach is exactly what we don’t need. In a time when everything seems to be moving towards storing your stuff online (‘in the cloud’ if you will), Opera wants to serve them from your own PC. I say if you want to share pictures, put them online. Don’t leave your computer on for days because someone might want to get one of your files. There are better options, most of which let you turn off your PC and save a tree in the process.


  1. your wp theme is very good,but there is a little bug it’s your search input textbox, i think this is will be beter


    thanks you for your amazing working!

    Comment by zhangdaqian — June 18, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  2. input class=”searchInput” type=”text” value=”Search…” name=”s” id=”s” onblur=”if (this.value == ”) {this.value = ‘Search…’;};” onfocus=”if (this.value == ‘Search…’) {this.value = ”;};”

    it seems html code in your comment is not ok ….

    Comment by zhangdaqian — June 18, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

    • Thanks. Not so much an error as a usability issue, but I added code similar to your example into the template, and it works fine.

      Comment by Roy — June 18, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

  3. thank you!

    save our planet!

    greets from germany

    Comment by menes — June 24, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  4. I’ve been turning on my computer 24/7/365 for as long as i have had one, some 25 years. Everyone I know does the same, I thought everyone did. Why would you turn it off anyway ? Makes no sense to me. I read this and laughed. You are silly. Trees… hahaha.. like as if people could have any impact on something as huge as our planet.

    Comment by scott hill — June 24, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  5. Consider the amount of energy these servers consume. If everyone in the world were hosting there own websites instead of uploading to the massive social network, it might actually save energy. Especially if the image and video sights weren’t “ON” 24/7. Besides, trees grow back.

    Comment by David — June 25, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  6. @Scott: You’re kidding me, right? If you’d tell everyone you knew to to turn their computers off when not in use it would definitely make an impact. Especially if they spread the message further. No offense, but it’s this kind of attitude that’s killing the planet.

    @David: I’m not so sure about that. Sure, servers use lots of energy too. But all of my websites, portfolios and image galleries only use a small portion of a server. That machine servers stuff for a bunch of other users too. I’m not usre how many people share my server, but I’m confident it would take more power for all of them to host through their home PC.

    And because heat is a major concern in data centers, servers are usually the first market where more energy efficient components catch on.

    Comment by Roy — June 26, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  7. And what about “Wake On Lan” bios function ?

    Comment by Frédéric Debailleul — June 30, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  8. I’m not sure that has anything to do with it. Waking computers through the internet is tricky at best, and you’d have to set it up so it boots straight into Unite. Which I think it doesn’t let you right now.

    Comment by Roy — June 30, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  9. You haven’t gotten enough reinforcement here (I’m surprised?). Your observation is totally right on; the power usage would be just stupid if something like this caught on. We haven’t reached the technological point where our personal machines are low-enough-impact to be used as servers in this manner.

    An alternative approach might be a clever software solution (this is not). For example, you have a group of people sharing a group of things, say a family sharing photos. Distribute them around to the family! So if Sally wants to see Billy’s pictures, Billy need not be online. This can even be done in bits and pieces and things can be compiled–think BitTorrent. Sally could still get photos from Billy (2 person family), but the larger the family the less time each of their individual computers need to be on on for this to work. I’m pretty sure that storage space and network bandwidth are increasing more quickly than power consumption is decreasing. And we get backups in case Billy loses all his precious family photos!

    Comment by Dave Thompson — July 9, 2009 @ 4:21 pm

  10. :)) @scot & @david leth’s make the math

    1 computer uses 500 W – 130W(average) /h – just the unit without the other stuff like the monitor
    1 server for 1000 users uses 200W(average) /h

    so one public server is 650 times more energy eficint than a personal one

    Comment by Stefan — July 10, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  11. oh an I know you are trying to do a good thing but you just made it some free publicity 🙂

    Comment by Stefan — July 10, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  12. oh and you should start a discution about avatars… online games… I’ve seen a very interesting subject for second life … 1 online avatar takes about 1.8 KW / year – about as much as an average Brasilian

    Comment by Stefan — July 10, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  13. So…..how exactly does leaving your computer on kill or otherwise harm trees again? I don’t know of any modern power plants that run on wood…

    Comment by DSquare — July 12, 2009 @ 3:29 am

  14. We’ll I use Opera on my WM^ touch pro but not the desk top it firefox all the way. Don’t think I will need it after that review.

    salt lake homes for sale

    Comment by Tom Winand — August 1, 2009 @ 5:32 am

  15. :)) …power plants transforms chemical energy into electrical or thermal energy…+ polution and CO2
    polution makes the the climate to shift… rapidly … dus makeing it imposible for them to adapt 🙂

    there you go 🙂

    Comment by stefan — August 8, 2009 @ 7:07 am

  16. 4 DSqare, the answer for killing trees

    Comment by stefan — August 25, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  17. it’s funny how your concerned about saving energy and saving trees, especially when here in quebec most of the power come from the strenght of water thought a barrage turbine…

    Guess that doesn’t apply for many countrys thought.

    Comment by RageX — October 1, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

  18. this is actually an extremely useful program with a little networking\PM knowledge, and you don’t have to “kill trees”

    I set my computer to use the S3 standby(dumppo.exe), which uses almost no power, and then have the network card do wake on lan whenever i access the ip of my computer(with dyndns I now use a set url).

    Poof! I now have access to everything on my home computer with almost no wasted power. I just have to wait 15 seconds for the computer to start back up.

    As, far as i know hibernate will work this way as well, but my BIOS doesn’t support it (circa 2002 computer)

    And if you’re really worried about power, you can even use the opera:config page to set it to work independently of the opera proxy servers, so you don’t eat electricity on their servers as well.

    Comment by WOLguy — February 11, 2010 @ 1:34 am

  19. haha this sounds too familiar to me! Okay, I don’t use an old browser like Opera 10, but I think our differences stop right there. This little “Monster” has to be turn on at the beginning of the day if I want to show pictures to my family the next day 😉

    I actually thought it was because my hard drive was full, but since I bought an external hard drive to put all my pictures on, there’s actually… NO difference.

    Maybe send it for a check-up then 🙁 But that’s always so incredibly expensive.

    Comment by Major Pixie Lot Fan — October 20, 2011 @ 7:26 am