Henry the Solar Powered Web Server®

Is now serving up the www's...

This website and server was designed and made to abide by the principles and ethics of the very exhibition itself; a presentation of projects by designers who explore the use of waste, offering insights into how one might approach the issue of waste and what new opportunities this can bring.

It's designed to be of a low-tech nature whilst maintaining a contemporary. Choosing to structure the website statically (that's with no use of a database or CMS), dithering of images and other compression methods, we're able to keep this website 80% lighter than the average (750KB in fact). Drastically reducing the required energy.

Talking page weight, in general practice this might mean speed and convenience -- in our case, it's much more purpose driven and can be the difference of having a website on display at all. The more you shave off in page size, the better the performance and the smaller the website's carbon footprint will be.

Because of this approach, the website can be run on a tiny computer (that might not even be as swift’y in tech as your mobile phone). It needs 2 to 3 watts of power an hour (dependent on how many people are viewing the page) and is powered by a 120 watt off-the-grid solar PV system (currently on show at the exhibition) but will soon be stationed somewhere longer term, with desirable conditions, eg. North facing on the roof of my apartment 💡.

All this packs into an old, defunct henry the hoover who was spotted on gumtree, selling for parts and which was stripped of its motor. Aside from the strategic opportunity to make all things tech warm and personable, Henry was chosen based on its basic functionality: a retractable chord storage, it’s perfectly compact and not to mention a go getter (it has wheels).

Typically sun powered systems such as these have limited energy storage and I am expecting the page to go down on occasion, perhaps even regularly: say we had long periods of cloud coverage. In the case that it goes offline, the site can still be accessed via an RSS feed.

Questioning consumption with something omni present and which doesn’t have a physical presence (like the internet) can be challenging, especially when growing up with it so close touch. The Internet already uses three times more energy than all wind and solar power sources worldwide can provide.

To the right, you would have seen a dashboard, where you can read about the current energy consumption of the website (watts and amps), the battery capacity (indicating wether now is a good time to be browsing the website) along with upcoming weather conditions.

The goal of this website's existence, is to raise a general sense of awareness when consuming the internet but also when creating for it - do we really need to have a 'HUMVEE' of a website? (over use of high res image/video content, rotating carousels, etc) or can the same result be achieved with an energy-conscious approach (*cough cough)?

We would like to credit the Low Tech Magazine Team (Kris, Roel and Marie) who were a huge inspiration and who provided the foundations for this project.

We modeled the same approach from their Open Source Project and from the beautiful documentation of the Low Tech Magazine's solar web server ❤️.

Kyle Mac is a multidisciplinary designer - working in brand, interaction and creative coding. Now with a better understanding of defunct Henry hoovers, internet consumption and power via the mighty ☀️.