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Fuel Quality and Operating Costs - Lessons for the IT Consumer


A little over a year ago I purchased a new Nissan Murano. I know, it's like an SUV. My friends told me it would consume gasoline like a thirsty dog. I am happy to say, that over the 12,000 miles the vehicle has traveled it has been more fuel efficient than I expected. Driven carefully around town, it delivers a little over 19 mpg, and on the open road as much as 25 mpg. The original sticker said it should deliver 20 mpg on a city cycle and 25 mpg on the highway.


I have experimented with different grades of fuel to see how the octane rating might impact fuel economy. Put another way, I set out to explore if it is worth the extra cost to use high-octane fuel, mid-range octane fuel, or if financially it makes more sense to run the vehicle on the lowest cost fuel. The result was somewhat surprising.


Findings: The higher octane rated fuel costs an extra 10-30 cents per gallon but fuel consumption is within the same range that has been observed with low-octane fuel. Admittedly, the car does seem to run better (a little more responsively) on high-octane fuel.


Refueling was done when the tank was almost empty (18-19.5 gallons per fill). The distance traveled was between 350-465 miles per fill. Every refill was made slowly until the tank was full.


I wanted to know if running on low grade fuel might has any long-term disadvantages so I asked some automotive service technicians for their perspective on my observations.


Switching between fuel grades is not a good thing--apparently it can confuse the electronic ignition control system. One mechanic claims that switching of fuel grades can do damage to the oxygen sensor (whatever that is). Several technicians told me that low-grade fuels cause increased combustion chamber deposits, rapidly cause purification (another bad thing) of engine oil, and thus causes increased engine wear.


So there you go. If we are to believe service technicians the Nissan Murano should be run only on high-octane fuel--despite the fact that it increases vehicle operation fuel costs by up to 15%. You see, that is what the manufacturer recommends, and vehicle warranty can be affected by operating the vehicle outside of the manufacturer's guidelines.


So what does this have to do with computers and information technology? Let's see...


If I purchase a computer that is supplied with a particular commercial operating system, and I exercise my consumer rights by installing a non-commercial open source operating system I may upset the oxygen sensor (oops--there isn't one, so ignore that one!). I may void the warranty and that's scary! Check out Run Linux, lose warranty.


Support staff readily express fears and concerns that running an operating system that was not provided by the vendor may cause harm to a computer. A Google search could not locate a single report to support that, just like the notion that low-grade fuel might destroy my vehicle. Hmmm, let me think about that one a little more.


Lastly, it seems that the nice people who support commercial computers really want consumers to spend more than is necessary in long term operating costs--do your home work, by the time you add up the cost of OS updates, anti-virus software, software updates, and so on, the cost burden is significant. A cost that could be avoided with an open source operating system and open source software.


Above all, like my experience with the fuel efficiency of my Murano, you too might not really notice any loss of computer operating system efficiency by running Linux. And to top it off, it might save a few dollars too.


Ah, but if you do replace that commercial OS, be prepared to void all manufacturer's support and still be happier!


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