Earth Day may or may not appeal to your eco-conscience, but keeping the reins steady on your computer's carbon footprint and energy consumption makes good technological and financial sense. Reducing your energy output can prolong the life of your hardware--especially a laptop or Netbook--and can help save cash, which we all know is the 'greenest' motivation around.
This collection of environmentally friendly software lassos together these apps, plus a few others to help understand and appreciate our planet's cities, flora, and outer space neighbors.
Edison for XP and Windows Vista is the newest one-stop app for monitoring how much energy and money you save when you tighten up your computer's sleep and shutdown schedules. A slider lets you decide after how many minutes you want to shut down your computer's display and hard drive during the peak work day. You can program differing criteria for off hours. Manual customization is also possible if you need to ease into greener computing.
GreenPrint World and GreenPrint Premium
How many extra pages do you really need when you print that page from a Web site? And how many sheets of paper do you generally recycle after replicating that page? We all agree that it's much better for the environment if you can avoid inking up those unwanted extras in the first place. The free GreenPrint World and pro-level GreenPrint Home Premium can help (watch the video.)
Vista Battery Saver
Vista users wishing to shrink their energy footprints a size can get started with Vista Battery Saver, a freeware app that disables certain Vista features, particularly when your power reserves dip below a predefined threshold. This app is especially useful for owners of Vista laptops who are running on limited batteries.
A perpetually running computer is an energy-dumping computer. Luckily, even if you're too lazy to shut your computer down yourself, freeware like Auto Shutdown can schedule shutdowns for you. Not only that, this app gives you five modes for taking your rig offline, and lets you program hot-key combinations to launch the sleep or "off" mode of your choice without opening the program's interface.
Energy Saver Google Gadget
If you've got Google Desktop, Google's Energy-saving gadget will monitor your power savings from your Google Desktop dashboard. You'll have to make some concessions, of course, like letting your computer hibernate or shut down after shorter intervals of idleness, but seeing that you spared enough energy to power a JumboTron at a baseball game may cause you to rethink just how valuable 24-7 access to the computer is to you.
What better way to celebrate planet Earth than to dive into its oceans, soar over its crust, and acquaint yourself with its diminutive, dusty red neighbor? Google Earth's new tools make the substantial application a stand-out. One of the program's best uses is taking part of a global community of virtual cartographers who work together to populate Google's digital Earth with the monuments of human achievement (Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal)--as well as use the technology to map out areas of crisis we can tackle as common inhabitants of the same greater home.
Microsoft WorldWide Telescope
Microsoft's free WorldWide Telescope takes in extra-earthly sites gleaned from the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, and a network of other terrestrial and space-based telescopes. Within the application are tools for getting intimate with nebulae, galaxies, constellations, and planets you never realized were part of our cosmos. Best yet, Microsoft and the astronomy community have teamed up to create interactive virtual tours of the stars.
Coral Reef screensaver
If diving into the oceans using Google Earth feels too "meta" or detached for you, consider this instead: a 3D screensaver of a healthy coral reef replete with schools of brightly-colored fish, shadowy, azure waters, and just beyond the scene, a sunken ship that's ever-so-slowly being claimed by seaweed. The deep ocean colors and calming motion of the fish swimming to and fro pull you into the world beneath the waves.
Beautiful Spring Flowers in Bloom Screensaver
Back on dry land, this sunny screensaver of bright, springtime flowers celebrates existence in its own way. Close-ups of crinkly, hot pink petals and a field of yellow tulips can't help but lift your spirits, while purple, star-shaped flowers grab your attention with their intimacy and intensity.