Augmented Network Interfaces


Here’s an interesting bit of research to come out of Microsoft and UCSD. The Somniloquy project is a new type of network interface. It’s a USB device that allows a computer to continue network communications after being put to sleep. By offloading these tasks, machines that would normally stay awake for RDP and file transfers are only powered up when absolutely necessary. The device uses a Gumstix board like the one used in the Tor hardware adapter. The device pictured above has two USB interfaces, but the second is just for debugging and not needed for proper operation. The board runs BSD and creates a USBNet bridge to the Vista host. When the host daemon detects the computer going to sleep, it hands off active communication to the gumstix. They developed “stub” applications to handle the various types of communication. For downloads, they used wget to download only the portion of the data that was still left. For bittorrent, they customized the command line client ctorrent to manage the download. Both programs wake up the PC upon completion and transfer the file off of the SD card.

[via Engadget]

35 thoughts on “Augmented Network Interfaces

  1. so let me get this.

    isnt BSD a unix variant?

    So this Microsoft funded reasearch project is using a unix interface?

    great deal, good thing they didnt use windows Ce or something to power the board, might have cost more.. :P

  2. BSD means open liscence… meaning MS can do what ever mods and never have to give back the code.

    Linux means they couldn’t do that.

    As for this device, I’d say it’s nice but in the long term, it’d be better to look at having central ‘home’ servers doing 100% of the work with thin client wireless terminals ,in my oppinion at least. or more advanced routers running stuff like DD-WRT doing the downloads.

    The problem is in my house we have like 4 fully powered computers do simple tasks that don’t require all that much power but I’ve yet to see an easy Linux server solution or a cheap Microsoft solution.

  3. Can you people just read linked pdf?

    BSD or ‘Gumstick OS’ as I seen previously on other site with this device are just plain lies ;)

    It is writen there clearly (point 4.1 – Hardware and Software Overview) it runs Linux.
    Moreover I have some trouble thinking of other os with neccessary functionality – maybe some vxWorks’ crazy stack, but nothing realy working.

    Sorry, but you are wrong.
    You can do anything with linux without giving back code if you did not touch kernel. If you touch kernel you can use it still internaly, but according to GPL2 while distributing it you have to give along them source code (or some way to get one).
    This is just application running on Linux, so they do not have to give anything.

  4. I am very excited that this type of technology is being looked at. Not really for the particular application they are planning to use this for but for other “things”. I can think of a whole slew of things I would do with one of these. I do wish someone other than MS was developing it, MS tries to put a strangle hold on anything they develop…the fact that MS is developing this particular project is only a minor obstacle though. Anyone know of similar technology being developed atm?

  5. This is a fantastic little thing.
    i was looking for ways to do this myself around last november.
    i was thinking of buying this tiny computer that i have now forgotten the name of. (was also related to a PSP project i was working on, cancelled now…)
    Gumstix were looking pretty nice too, but i later gave up on the idea.
    Plus, i never sleep my computer anyway.

    But i am thinking off off-loading all things to a smaller computer and just VNCing in to it with a thin-terminal. (netbook for now lol)

  6. @ Jason
    Just some pet peeves about people actually learning to speak correct English:
    – $ is not a letter
    – BSD is not linux
    – “something”
    – “their” (!!)
    – “can’t”

    And, arguably, you got the smiley wrong :-)

  7. To everyone who is shocked about MS using BSD…Hotmail ran off of BSD for years, it was developed on BSD and then MS bought it. They converted it to running on windows 2000 server back in 2001 or so. They understand the value of BSD like some people only wish.

  8. It actually makes sense.
    Their windows mobile platform is too slow
    and bulky for this device.

    I didn’t really read TFA but lets all
    remember that the Windows network stack
    is based on *BSD code. Last time I greped
    Windows sources (Windows XP), it still
    had *BSD (license) headers and comments.

    And like some others said, hotmail was
    acquired running on *BSD boxes. So I don’t
    really doubt they have some engineer team
    for *BSD.

    And yes, *BSD license is a lot more
    permissive than GPL. The major difference
    is that they can copy the code, build the
    binary and distribute it without providing
    the sources (liek they do with windows).

    What a moronic attitude.

    Want to spel chek my txt too? Ill give
    ya a hint, start with “liek”.

  9. @jachor

    Just read TFA, you are right. It is Linux.

    “We run an embedded distribution of Linux
    on the gumstix that supports a full TCP/IP
    stack, DHCP, configurable routing tables,
    a configurable firewall, SSH and serial
    port communication.
    This provides a flexible prototyping
    platform for Somniloquy with very low
    power operation.”

  10. Hmm. Now if they could just figure out how to get desktop computers below 5 watts and let them stay active to do this ;)

    Does anyone know of a modding scene concerned with underclocking/undervolting?

    I know that AMD Mobile procs can go down to .350 volts, and I have had an Athlon64 running at 7mhz before.

    Seems smarter to just fix your OS to have functionality when in Standby, and make your FSB run lower so your processor is only going 300-500mhz.

    I wonder if you could shut down the video and make it think it is in standby, while keeping the network alive?

    This is interesting though, I wonder if you have to run all communication through it, and if it is a passthrough device to a real LAN interface?

  11. What would be even cooler is if it used a usb external harddrive for storage. When the PC is awake, the drive could be read through the usb network dongle. When the PC is asleep, the data the dongle downloads could be stored on the drive.

  12. Linux or BSD??

    Section 4.3 – “We have implemented a flexible packet filter on the gumstix using the BSD raw socket interface to support applications that do not require stubs, e.g. RDP, SSH, telnet
    and SMB connections.”

    So, the answer is yes… Linux userland with BSD sockets.

    Can’t we all just get along??

  13. @bigbob,

    I have been to spcr, I haven’t really browsed the forums much though.

    I meant why can’t the OS and PC go into a real low power mode out of the box.

    Most of my PC’s can change the Front-side-bus on the fly, so why can’t the OS control it?

  14. Unfortunately my laptop has a slow SATA
    disc. My work around was to permanently
    attach a 4Gb SDHCI card to the card reader.

    Now I have two roots. The first is located
    on the SD card. It holds most of stuff
    including a X server, complete gnome desktop
    and other tools like firefox.

    Miscellaneous stuff like openoffice, etc are
    on my second root (the sata hdd).
    My /home is also on the hdd.

    Since the primary root is mostly a read-only
    filesystem (except when I update the system),
    I can get read speeds which largely surpasses
    the hdd read speed.

    To be even more cool, I can turn off the hdd
    at any time to save battery power.
    (since the running system is in the SD card).

    Well.. this is my el cheapo solid state disk.

  15. Talk about a HUGE security vulnerability if someone uses that thing. Gankin a password would then require unplugging that device and installing another setup for keylogging.

    Microsoft has the worst ideas imaginable.

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