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Potato-Powered Web Server 136

chazR writes "The guys at Temple of Thee Lemur have done it again. A genuine potato-powered web server. That's potato as in vegetable, not debian distro. This is even cooler than Project EUNUCH. Be gentle with it."
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Potato-powered web server

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  • The only reason things like this get done is because they <i>can</i>. Why do you think the Unites States and USSR were in the space race? Becuase they new it was possible to leave earth and they thought it was damn cool to beat the other to it. But good thing they didnt nuke the moon, that would just suck.
  • I know. I was pointing out that CmdrTaco didn't follow the advice he gives posters on the page where I type this message and on the story submission page (well, there he actually says (Are you sure you included a URL? Didja test them for typos?))

    But I imagine he may have done it on purpose to lessen the intensity of the slashdot effect on the potato-powered webserver.

  • Stanford University have developed a webserver the size of a matchbox here at the Wearables Lab []
  • No... I think it was meant as a joke... That "I'd like to clarify that although we are rather (in)famous for potatoes, let me assure you that all our web servers run on 100% electricity." is "informative".

    At least I hope it was a joke...


  • I stand corrected. I always get confused, because banana trees reproduce by cuttings, so I forget that those ARE actually fruit. Thanks for the correction.

    Geek-grrl in training
  • That was a great game You can find a demo version on Sierra's [] site in the download section.
  • Putting a comma between "This" and "is excusable," however, is inexcusable.

    Ever get the impression that your life would make a good sitcom?
    Ever follow this to its logical conclusion: that your life is a sitcom?
  • "Old memory boards due to low power consumption".
    Uh huh.

    Can anyone say troll?

  • Have you been playing The Incredible Machine?

  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @11:22AM (#1057857)
    First potatoes, what's next? I'm thinking that a crank-powered web server would be nifty...or maybe windmill powered with a battery charger. I'm seeing a competition for alternative powered web servers.
  • They could have made this project a little simpler (although it wouldn't have been self-contained) if they had used a standard issue netboot ROM and booted the thing across the network. Coulda mounted the filesystem via NFS and had a hell of a lot more space to play with, too...
  • Um... That's the same link they printed in the article.
  • by HomerJ ( 11142 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @11:29AM (#1057860)
    I guess if one vice president(Al Gore) can invent the internet, another vice president(Dan Qualye) must have taught alot of /.'ers how to spell.

    It's potato, not potatoe =)
  • I could not be the first one to come up with this name, right?
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @04:01PM (#1057862)
    Bicycle pedal, thats right, right under the desk. Geeks can surf and burn calories at the same time.

    Reloving door, attach a generator to a busy building and watch the electrons dance. Maybe even a webcam so we can watch our unwitting hamster wheelers.

    Solar, but with no batteries so you know the weather is crappy if the server went down.

    Mice balls, a tiny generator inside every mouse. Sure it'll be much harder to roll on the desk but you'll be providing a valuable service.

    Mandatory "donations," want to get in or out of the bathroom? Turn a crank for a while to make x amount of power before the door will unlock. Raise productivity by removing air fresheners and serving slightly spoiled food in the cafeteria.

  • by Mawbid ( 3993 )
    (Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs! Don't forget the http://!)
  • Now this is trully green powerd computing.

    Hate to tell you this, but over here in Europe potatoes are *not* green. They're brown with maybe some green bits growing out of them, but that's all. Overal, they are definitely not green.
  • Please take a look at the photos in the gallery. I am not sure, but shouldn't the power cables on the motherboard be connected the other way round?
  • By virtue of being /.'ed, the low powered potato server will now be overloaded. They did warn against too many accessing at once on the page, but my guess is that everyone at slashdot will go ahead and connect to the potato server anyway, overloading its small potato power capacity. Oh well...I thought it was pretty cool.

  • by B.D.Mills ( 18626 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @04:59PM (#1057867)
    If I got bored, I would see if I could improve the performance of the potato-powered battery by inventing my own.

    Here's what I would like to try:

    5 Copper rod electrodes
    5 Zinc rod electrodes
    5 polystyrene cups
    6 wires with alligator clips each end ("alligator wires")
    1 kilogram of washed potatoes


    Kitchen blender
    Steel wool


    * Cut the unpeeled raw potatoes into large chunks and place in blender.
    * Blend until smooth.
    * Place potato mixture into the polystyrene cups, distributing evenly.
    * Clean electrodes with steel wool. This removes the oxides.
    * Place one copper and one zinc electrode into each cup.
    * Connect the cups together in series by connecting copper electrodes from one cup to a zinc electrode from the next with four of the alligator wires.
    * Connect the remaining two alligator wires to the free ends.

    I would draw a diagram here, but the <PRE> tag is not allowed HTML.

    This should give a battery with an output of 7.5 volts. I have no idea of the current, though - the only way of knowing would be to try it.

  • Should we be even in the teensiest bit surprised that it got slashdotted?
  • Barring that it is a very strange motherboard, or a 'unique' power supply, wires should be black to black in general.

    Could also be a non-operational mockup before it got going -- ? -- hope it is, would be awfully spiffy to have a potato powered server.

    ("Hey, man, the server is down again!"
    "Huh? What? Really?"
    "Wait a second.... Is that ketchup on your chin?"
    "Uh... No, no...")
  • []

    Seeking; proceeding by inquiry.

    A specious but fallacious argument; a sophism.
  • Reloving door, attach a generator to a busy building and watch the electrons dance. Maybe even a webcam so we can watch our unwitting hamster wheelers.
    Someone must have done this already, it's just too cool. We need a URL...
  • Good observation! It's must be fake.
  • by roryi ( 84742 )

    that should *probably* read: [] [] is also an interesting read... :)

  • by Mignon ( 34109 ) <> on Sunday May 21, 2000 @05:34PM (#1057874)
    I just read the f ollowing article [] that says that McDonald's is cutting its French fry cooking time from 210 to 65 seconds, but wouldn't provide any details about their new system.

    This web server explains alot...

  • WOW, SO COOL, How Neat, Never seen anything like it!
    THat "404 File not found" error is just awsome.
    To bad the Url doesn't work.

    you can visit the Worlds cheapest webserver here though "" Sorry, don't know Html.

  • Now if they powered it with a single spud that would be something. Each Zn/Cu cell is 1.5V if I remember my high school chemistry. So 5 sets of electrodes in 5 spuds gives them 7.5 volts to play around with. Now if they had taken a Rio 500, converted it, and powered it with a single spud and then taken the output through the USB port to a hub THAT would habe been an accomplishment.

    However, as it is, my hat is indeed off to them anyway. May their web server spudder along for a long time to come...

  • I think Rob had 1 to many 40s this afternoon.


  • that, in the spirit of Al Gores announcement. Dan Quayle will state that he invented the Potatoe server
  • Beowulf [] is set in 6th-Century Scandinavia []. Potatoes [] originated in the Andes [] and were brought to the new world from Peru by the Spanish conquistatdores in the 1500s/1600s. So Beowulf would have been dead about a thousand years before he could get a potato, and probably a while longer before he could get any French Fries...

    Dan Quayle probably couldn't spell Beowulf either...

  • Basis for my argument? Project EUNUCH. Yah, they played 3d games on a 486 chip w/oa a FP unit at 247 MHz in a socket 7 board. Puhleez! It's possible, but I doubt these guys are actually capable of building a web server like this.
  • So.. a piece of paper soaked in vinegar could work as well as a potato... if not much better.

    but its not as cool as potato! You see giving someone a smart alecky response produces a big YAWN! I could make one out of batteries, but thats no fun! Now, a fruit bowl powered one would be cool. Better yet, how about a computer that charges batteries for a server by a toilet flushing... I know mine is used enough to power my boxen. (a such is the bowels of college students)

  • Has DEVO been notified of this?
  • I've seen on the Discovery Channel that a guy made little hand crank generators to power small devices. These things were great for running laptops and such. Crank for a min or two, power yer laptop for 5 min. Not great, but if you are in dire straits, it'll getcha by. It was designed for emergency situations for flashlights, and for guys out in the jungle :) I wish that I knew who it was, and I was waiting for consumer devices based on it, but it's been a year or more sinceI saw it, so I've kinda given up :)
  • And as a side benefit as the flywheel slows down as its energy drains the computer runs slower and hence requires less energy. Therefore it will never use up all the available power and just keep getting slower and slower indefinantly...

    Note to pedants, dont bother poking holes in this, I know it wouldn't work that well. 8)

  • now im gonna be getting emails like this: o"ur web server will be down tomorrow to replace the potato's. we will be installing potato's from idaho which should last us another week"
  • The article was edited after the fact. It initially said A HREF="" and left out the http:// part. Pretty easy to figure out, but annoying to click on.
  • Actually, it probably isn't. Right now there's still a broken link in the story.

    Rob and gang will routinely fix a URL after they put a wrong one in without saying they updated. You posted 20 minutes after him.
  • Looks like they have been slashdotted already. Hmmm...wonder what the ratio of potatoes to hits is?
  • I didn't think potatoes were vegetables. Or is it that tubers are a subset of vegetables? I'm confused. I always thought that vegetables were parts of a plant that we eat that don't have seeds (tomatoes are a naming exception). Potatoes have eyes, which are kinda like seeds in that they can spawn new plants. Does anyone know if potato plants have actual seeds as well?
  • Sigh. Yeah, and 5 minutes after being submitted to slashdot and it's mashed potatoes...
  • It's also Quayle, not Qualye...

    This massage (ooh yeah, that's the spot!) was brought to you by pickle the nitpickers inc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Gives a whole new meaning to the term "fried power supply!"
  • Now all we have to do is figure out how to use humans instead of potatoes...and hire Keanu Reaves.
  • .... i'm prolly just missing joke/point but anyway : )

    potatoE is English and potato is American... Last time checked I'm speaking English so i think i'll just keep on using potatoe ; )

  • ...I'd bet my left nut that it isn't. Forgive me if I'm being obtuse and the people here who are apparently taking it seriously really aren't.

    Potato, lemon and other vegetable-electrolyte electrochemical cells are, even with big electrodes, only good for a few milliamps per cell. With the nail-sized electrodes shown here, one Cu/Zn electrode pair per spud, and six or seven spuds, they could manage 0.8V (barely) per cell, and 1mA on a very very good day indeed. Probably much less - "high-current" spud cells do it, I think, with many pairs of electrodes in close proximity.

    Charitably, this setup could do 5.6V at 1mA, or 0.8V at 7mA, or intermediate values with series/parallel combinations. Any way you slice it, it's less than six milliwatts. Let's give 'em the benefit of the doubt and say 6mW is it.

    You can light an LED with that much power. That's about all you can do. Running any sort of PC hardware - desktop or mobile - from 6mW is ridiculous. Wristwatch, yes. More than enough juice. 80386, no way in hell.

    If the displayed device actually is the server you're connecting to (or not, depending on slashdotting...), then the "Power Converter/Regulator" is, one way or another, a regular power supply, and the spuds connect to nothing.

  • St. Brendan's expedition from Ireland, if it wasn't mostly mythical, was probably in the 600s, probably a bit late for Beowulf to get decent French Fries.
    All of the well-known Viking expeditions to North America were long after Beowulf. Erik the Red got to Iceland in the 900s; Leif Erikson got to Greenland a bit later, and from there down to Vinland, aka Atlantic Canada. There'd also been another expedition of Icelanders or Greenlanders (I forget who..) who'd sailed by some islands that were probably Canada but didn't land. If the allegedly Viking Kensington Stone in Minnesota wasn't a hoax, it was from the 1200s. So even if Leif met some Inuit in Greenland who traded freeze-dried potatoes with their neighbors 6000 miles to the south, that'd be a bit late.
  • hehe...
    it's down already...
    guess someone really got the munchies
    Kris "dJOEK" Vandecruys

    I played it a few times when I was younger, but have never been able to get hold of it since.

    Where o where can I get it from?

    (or was it The Even More Incredible Machine?)

    -Shane Stephens
  • Lowest powered embedded chips I could find on Intels site used .112 watts, or 34mA at 3.3v, (eg SB80L186EA-13) so unless someone can convince me that potatoes are more powerful than they seem... I guess its a hoax.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Next Project: A web server powered by hot grits!
  • Probably memory issues...2MB is very little to run an OS and a webserver in. Not having to load the pages and software into that 2MB gives them some more room to play with.

    Also, I think the ROM is a bit less power-hungry that your average network card...
  • I was looking at the images, especially this one [] and that's a network card the "Spud Boot v0.3" ROM is sitting on, right?
    Why is it sitting on the network card and not the mother board? I've never used boot roms but that doesn't seem right.

  • If you follow their creative spelling, do it right!
  • O.K. its race to get the first server to run decomposing Pig manure. This kinda stuff can get out of hand . . .
  • Actually, the critical resource here is probably
    not the potato itself, but the zinc on the nail
    getting oxidized. You should be able to reuse the potato as long as you keep changing nails.

  • They just closed port 2300 try 80 or 113, not web pages really but it shows that it is up. Well that and the fact that you can ping it.
  • My science teacher had one of those potato-powered clocks in her classroom. After a few weeks it didn't keep time very well, due to the decomposing power supply. It didn't have the best smell, either.
  • I can't seem to get through to the site, as usual with /.

    I am wondering if the variety of potato used, has been genetically enhanced to function as a powerplant? - heh heh.

    The potato powerplant!

    Since it won't be eaten, will europeans say this kind of potato is ok?

    And how would you like your web server prepared?

    Pomme Frite of course!


  • Nope, its handrolled php3.

    - Steve
  • .. but you can't share one electrolyte for five cells. Think about it: connecting the positive rod from the first one to the negative rod from the next one is effectively shorting out another "cell" in between them, thus cancelling out your voltage gain, drawing a fairly large current across the jumper, and blowing your efficiency all to hell.

    Now, if you *sliced* the potato, with insulating separators in between the slices (Saran Wrap, anyone?) *that* would let you turn your spud into a higher voltage battery .. stack up the slices with the separators and duct tape the whole thing together. Red Green would love it. ;-)
  • Actually it was Al Gore, and the voice was perfect (except there was no detectable lisp). I forgot to check the titles, did anyone notice if Gore did his own voice for the show?

    I don't know why they have to be so mean to Steven Hawking, it seemed pretty unnecessary to depict him as so evil.

  • He was doing his own voice. This article talks about the gues voice appearance. []

    Aparently one of Gore's daughters work for the show.

  • I don't remember where, but in a catalogue I saw a small hand crank device designed to power a cell phone in emergencies.
  • trevor bayliss invented the wind-up radio and then i believe a torch, last i heard he was working on the laptop idea. see for the company that sells his inventions, and for an article on himself. susan c
  • But I'd really like to know: do potatos taste as good when they've had all their electricity taken out?

    Probably not. After use, you'll have oxides and salts of zinc and copper in your potato, which probably won't taste very good.

    The potato is actually just acting as an electrolyte and semipermeable membrane - the power comes from the zinc and copper.

    There's also the possiblity of sponsorship here. If it were powered by burgers instead of fries, they could put up one of those 'one billion served' banners.

    A neat idea, but it probably wouldn't work. Burger grease wouldn't make a very good electrolyte.
  • to link that webserver on a chip with this potato power concept. A whole computer isnt going to last too long just of tatties, whereas one of those process controllers takes basically ziltch power. Relatively.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @11:51AM (#1057918) Journal

    The citric acid is a much better electrolyte. Although I really prefer to power my servers with a large bank of "6-cent batteries". Just take a nickel and a penny, soak some paper in vinegar, and put the paper between the two coins. Instant electricity.

  • AntiNorm wrote:

    Perhaps it would be a more economical idea to use *gasp* batteries or *gasp* AC?

    It's all about flywheels!

    Then again I like the idea of burning Anonymous Cowards who post nothing but flamebait, to power my webserver.

  • Network Boot ROM's do sit on network cards. Remember that the normal ROM would have to contain network card drivers for every card in existance if it were the other way around.
  • But then it wouldn't be fully potato powered. Besides, 2MB is plenty considering it's not being used for anything useful anyways.
  • Wow! I mean, you researched that! I'm dumb struck with either respect or pity. Not sure which.

    Also, in one of those links mentions:

    crop rotation a way of conserving soil fertility by successively planting on the same ground different crops with varying food requirements

    I believe the correct definition is:

    "Crop rotation in the 14th century was considerably more widespread than John?"

  • ... along with Stephen Hawking and some other people.

    Could be good. :-)

    Ford Prefect
  • Solve the world energyproblem, let all pc's run on stressed employees :)
  • Actually, a potato-powered device would still run on electricity, the difference is that the electricity comes from potatoes as opposed to a {coal|nuclear|gas|oil|solar|hydraulic|insert_power _source_of_choice_here} power plant.

    - Ed.
  • While this is true, also if you leave the potatoes sitting long enough, you can then obtain a vodka-powered web server, at which time it can be sold to Boris Yeltsin.
  • Last year I saw a windmill in the Flathead valley about 15 miles North of Missoula. I always thought it would be interesting to put a few servers in there, set up a wireless optical internet link, and have the worlds largest wind-powered ISP.

  • The DC-DC converter seems like it's the most important part of their project, but they don't give much mention to it.

    I've experimented a bit with alternate power sources for PCs, and I've found the average 386 mobo with a few megs of memory and nothing else takes 1 to 2 amps at 5v!
    Maybe that converter's a lead-acid battery in disguise... ;-)
  • This is very normal.. it's as good as anywhere else, and is a convenient place to put a boot rom.
    It doesn't have anything directly to do with the network card per-se, only that the card provides memory addressing and a socket for a rom.

    If the motherboard had a boot rom socket, they could use that...
  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @01:00PM (#1057930)
    Recall, it's not the potato that does the powering.. the potato only acts as an electrolyte.
    It's the copper/zinc electrodes that are really used up, and their size (as well as how good the electrolyte is) determines how much current can be drawn.

    So.. a piece of paper soaked in vinegar could work as well as a potato... if not much better.
  • What's next---french fry powered PCs?? :-)
  • The potatoe after being slashdotted has been turned into a hot potatoe.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can see it now.. "Please excuse us for the recent downtime. Bob from accounting mistakenly roasted and ate our server with a helping of hot butter."
  • This gives "server farm" a whole new meaning...


  • According to Nitrozac []!
    Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Think that "the dog ate my computer" would go over well with my instructor at my colege?

    Stand out your own head for a change! -- TMBG
  • By virtue of being /.'ed, the low powered potato server will now be overloaded. They did warn against too many accessing at once on the page, but my guess is that everyone at slashdot will go ahead and connect to the potato server anyway, overloading its small potato power capacity. Oh well...I thought it was pretty cool.

    IIRC, potatoes can only put out a volt or two of electricity, and they only last for a few days before you have to replace them with fresh potatoes. At this rate, it could get very costly to run a web server (or pretty much anything else) off of potatoes. I remember having a potato-powered clock when I was younger, and while it was nifty to be able to run something like that off of a potato-powered chemical reaction, there's only so much it can do. Perhaps it would be a more economical idea to use *gasp* batteries or *gasp* AC?

  • Actually, there was a rumor back before the iBook came out that Apple was going to license the technology from the guy who created the hand crankable flashlight and/or radio and would be releasing a crankable laptop. There was also talk of having the "crank station" separate so that there would be one "crank station" in a classroom and the students could recharge their laptops when necessary.

    I wonder what happened to this idea. Maybe everyone's favorite rumormonger, Ryan, can help us out here.

    MacSlash: News for Mac Geeks []

  • The real link to the Temple of the Lemur is []

    and the link to the Spudserver page is []

    All that aside, I think this is really cool. Reminds me of something I saw on MacGuyver, when he powered his alarm clock on a potato.

    I would also like to beat the Beowulf trolls to the punch by saying that such a thing would dramatically improve the economy in Idaho.

  • by CoughDropAddict ( 40792 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @11:09AM (#1057942) Homepage
    I'd like to clarify that although we are rather (in)famous for potatoes, let me assure you that all our web servers run on 100% electricity.

    We Idahoans learn quickly that we have to be sure and beat potential antagonists to the inevitable potato crack. :-)
  • We've slashdotted major websites
    We've slashdotted a Commodore 64-based Webserver
    We've slashdotted a VEGETABLE

    What's next? How do you top a vegetable? Slashdotting a webserver running on an actual living brain is all I can think of...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Powering a computer from a couple of potatoes is not possible. The current you can get from a potato is just a few microamps which is just enough to power a digital watch. From my experience, a 386 motherboard without any expansion cards installed takes 500 milliamps at 5V, which is 2.5 Watts. A digital watch takes 1 microamp at 1.5V. I think that the 'power converter/regulator' box is either empty or contains a battery to power the motherboard.
  • ...while we're being slashdotted. We're in the process of moving to a better co-lo facility, on the produce isle.

  • LOL! "Score 3, Informative"


  • . .it's [] called the Xbox.


  • by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Sunday May 21, 2000 @11:20AM (#1057982) Homepage
    this has to be one of the coolest things i have ever seen.

    Runs at 233Thz (That's tuberhertz)

    It can just see the guys one night

    Sysad 1: "what the fuck is wrong with the server?"

    Sysad 2: "sorry man...the box got fried"

    Sysad 1: "What happened...did it overhead"

    Sysad 2: "Naw man, we got hungry...the box is fried...want some french chips?

    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller