Boffins dream up Sleeptalking PC standby-mode tech
USB NIC gizmo handles (some) BitTorrent on its own
Computer boffins at Microsoft Research and UC San Diego have proposed the introduction of "sleep talking" technology, allowing PCs to carry out network tasks such as BitTorrent downloads or VoIP/IM listening while in energy-saving standby mode.
Sniffs your packets while you sleep.
The kit, catchily dubbed Somniloquy, involves putting an always-on low power CPU into a PC's network interface. This little machine runs an embedded OS such as Windows CE or Linux, and has some Flash storage of its own.
"Large numbers of people keep their PCs in awake mode even though the PCs are relatively idle for long blocks of time because they want to stay connected to an internal network or the Internet or both," says Yuvraj Agarwal of UC San Diego. "Most of the tasks that people keep their computers on for — like ensuring remote access and availability for virus scans and backup, maintaining presence on instant messaging (IM) networks, being available for incoming voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls, and file sharing and downloading — can be achieved at much lower power-use levels than regular awake mode."
Agarwal and colleagues from Microsoft Research presented their Somniloquy research and prototypes last week at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.
According to the developers, the Somniloquy device can either wake up the host PC in response to network events, or handle them itself if suitable code "stubs" are written for it. Examples of application code stubs tested successfully by the team included IM, web downloads and BitTorrent file sharing. With reference to the latter apps, the Somniloquy team note that "a larger flash on the secondary processor allows the PC to sleep longer".
According to Agarwal and Co, "existing solutions for sleep-mode responsiveness such as Wake-On-LAN (WoL) have not proven successful 'in the wild'". They say that their plug-in Somniloquy gear is better because it can handle some apps without waking up the main machine, requires no alterations to its host platform, and can easily be fitted to existing machines using a plug-and-play USB interface.
Agarwal says that use of Somniloquy on a PC which normally stays on would translate to energy savings of "60 to 80 per cent" dependent on usage model. He proposes that the tech could be installed on NICs in future, avoiding the need for the present retrofit USB peripheral.
Full details for those interested are available courtesy of UC San Diego here (PDF). ®
How about a mobile phone? I use my old WM5 smartphone for overnight downloads (...of Linux Distros...) and stick the files onto a storage card. It takes approximately bugger all power (especially as it uses a few old solar chargers for most of its power), downloads as fast as anything else can over 802.11 and can store huge amounts of data to SD-card. It could also save off to a portable hard drive if it had USB-Host facilities, or off to a Bluetooth storage device.
Plus it's connected to Skype and my work / home email addresses.
It also used to control my coffee maker, but that's not realy related to the article.
Check out OpenWRT
You can put linux on your wireless router (or the like) using OpenWRT and run that sort of thing on it, especially if you attach a USB hard drive or SD card reader.
http://mybookworld.wikidot.com/more_about_c&c/ ? If the MBWE requires tweaking to reduce heat/noise, then it's not relevant to this article's topic.
IMHO any ARM CPU (consuming lt 1Wt BTW) with decent amount of DRAM, some boot flash/ROM, USB host controller and Linux will do the job. And of course, it won't have no stinkin' WD drive connected to the mentioned USB controller when doing this, ever.