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I think it isn't a fundamental problem, you are right you can build a wake up circuit running on a few milliwatts. The problem is that most, especially older power supplies will draw a current from the mains even if the device isn't using any power, essentially they are quite efficient if you are drawing 100W but if you are drawing .1W it looks a lot worse. You could certainly build a power supply that was a lot better and I am sure there are some built as such now. It just requires slightly more thought and is possibly slightly more expensive so it is taking a while to happen.
are we not supposed to turn things off at the wall to save electricity? whilst an appliance is on standby they still use electricity, albeit a small amount. The power consumed on standby is regulated by the EU i think!for modern computers you can reduce the amount of power consumption whilst on standby by altering your power settings, having the machine go idle, or hard disc drives closing down after a set time period of idleness, etc.you can also use software/hardware to monitor all of you peripheral units and turn them off after another predefined time period.
It occurred to me, while you were talking on another thread about your laptop battery; that as people increasingly use laptops, they are never really 'switched off', in the sense that people do not remove the battery, and so they are constantly draining a small amount of juice from the battery (OK, it is only a minute amount; but if the argument is that we should not tolerate any standby power consumption, then that should necessitate the removal of batteries from devices on standby).In my case, I have all of my computers on UPS, which means that if the power dies, they are running off lead acid batteries which will last about 20 minutes. The trouble is that lead acid batteries should never be allowed to totally run down, so switching off at the mains would risk damaging the UPS batteries.
Another thing that most of us are guilty of, wireless mice. How many of us leave the batteries in when the pc is turned off?