Friday, February 16, 2007

Skype downloads approach 500 Million

In the next few days, Skype will pass the 500 million downloads mark. I seem to remember someone saying that Kazaa was the most downloaded program ever, and looking at the Kazaa home page, they currently show 389 Million. Skype is at 498 Million as I write this, and is downloading at almost a million a day. The download rate was over 1M a day when they made a new release available and existing users were getting updates. Compared to Kazaa, Skype is downloading every day, what Kazaa is downloading every week.

How are the competition doing? Vonage added a few hundred thousand users last quarter. Thats a few orders of magnitude away from being a competitor!

Of course, Kazaa is based on an earlier version of the P2P technology that powers Skype, and which is about to come to the world again via Joost. Joost just released a new beta for Windows, and their first beta for Intel based OSX. I still can't justify upgrading from my own Powerbook G4 (it just works) so I'll have to wait for them to backport to the older systems, and use my work laptop.

Monday, February 12, 2007

AMD Enhanced Power Now - Variable Cores and Clock Rates

There is an interesting article in The Register about the latest variant of AMD's enterprise power management system.

As I've mentioned before, in the interests of saving power, some enterprise server systems are varying their clock rates so that they end up showing a higher utilization at low load levels that you would expect. This non-linear relationship of load to utilization is one of the things I highlighted in my CMG06 paper called "Utilization is virtually useless as a metric".

The latest twist: in AMD's upcoming four core systems, individual cores will be stopped completely if there isn't enough work for them to do.

The effect on utilization metrics will depend upon how each operating system interacts with the power management capabilities...

For Solaris the so-called "idle loop" is actually quite busy. An idle CPU watches its neighbors to see if they have too many jobs on their run queues, and gets work by migrating processes that won't get to run soon to itself. Interrupts are also bound to individual CPUs, so that data structures don't have to migrate between caches at high interrupt rates.

It will be interesting to see how these technologies interact.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Embedded songs from iJigg

This is a very nice embeddable player from iJigg, below is Continuum from my friends in Fractal, and also Smuggled Mutation by Estradasphere, which is from Palace of Mirrors, one of my most-played CDs in recent history. Its so varied and well played its impossible to get bored by it.

Fractal on iJigg

Another music website, where users tag and vote for songs they like - kind of Digg for music. Worth a try, so I created an account and uploaded Fractal's title track from their first CD - Continuum.

What do you think?


New Joost Beta

They just released a new build, it fixes some problems and has some minor user interface enhancements. I left it running for a while and now I'm starting to run out of content that I want to watch... There are about 30 channels for beta testing. probably the most demanding are live music videos, Joost has fine sound quality and keeps up with very rapid on-screen action better than I would expect in full-screen mode on my Dell laptop. It becomes a bit more pixellated when its working hard to keep up, and the sound glitches to repeat a sub-second fragment now and again if it gets behind due to network slowdowns. On low action images, its very nice and clear.

In comparison, I've noticed that on my Slingbox TiVo, it does constant pitch sound stretching to slow down the display at the start of a show, thats how it sneakily builds up a buffer without making you wait.

The Joost folks are promising new content, an OSX version and an expansion of the beta program soon. I've had a few comments requesting beta invites, and I haven't had any to give. If and when I have any spare invites, I'll post it, so hold your comments...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

You can help search for Jim Gray

I met Jim last year when he gave a talk at eBay. His sailboat went missing, and a lot of people have collaborated to allow up to date satellite images to be posted on the web for anyone to take a look at and see if they can see anything that might be his boat.

My (ex-Sun DE) friend Geoff Arnold now works at Amazon, he blogged that they have configured a web service called Mechanical Turk to support parcelling out the work of looking at images. If you already have an account, then sign up for the service takes a couple of clicks.

I hunted through images for a while, and found a cargo ship, that's all :-(

Geoff's blog
Werner's blog
Search for Jim

Please take a look yourself and pass the Mechanical Turk search for Jim URL on...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who needs a custom built Myphone?

The mainstream phone manufacturers are looking for hits in the mass market, and looking for large niches to broaden their market. However if you take a "long tail" viewpoint, everyone wants a slightly different phone, and many people have phones that are the least bad one they could find.

How about phones for people with poor eyesight? If you are over 50, can you read the small print on your phone's screen without reading glasses? I have a friend who has a medical condition that causes very poor eyesight, and sets her 17" laptop screen resolution very low so she can read it. She would like a phone that has just the applications she needs, big easy to find icons for them, and big fonts on a large screen for the address list and other applications. Hard to find in the shops, but easy to custom build.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Making a case for Myphone

I mean that in both senses of the phrase "making a case". I have produced a lump of plastic, and I have good reasons why I want to build my phone.

Here are the first parts I made, two copies of an LCD bezel with a rounded outside surface and a cutout to locate the LCD. The standing part is as it was made in the 3D printer, sideways on to get a smoother finish, and with additional "support material" that holds everything in place while the "model material" sets. The part lying flat is the same, but is face down and has the support material removed. The size is about 5" by 3" and the bezel is 0.1" thick. It took about 7 hours to print the pair of bezels, each contains 0.6 cubic inches of model material and the total including support material was about 1 cubic inch. The bezels cost $10 each to make at Techshop in Menlo Park ($100/month for membership, $10/cu inch to use the 3D printer).

This experiment went quite well, and the next step was to extend the design to form a complete top and bottom case that fit together. This was kicked off using black rather than white plastic, and lying flat, face down. This prints more quickly, but uses more support material to create the base. The base will give the phone a textured surface, which can be made shiny by dipping in acetone, and I'm hoping it will look cool, like a carbon fibre finish. Pictures of the design, cad files, and a photo of the 3D printer in action can be found at the SVHMPC Wiki, I'm updating them as work progresses. The case walls are thicker than they need to be, so the final design will use less plastic and cost less than the $40 I was charged to make this complete case.

The purpose of this build is to figure out where to put the contents, so I can mold support brackets into the design and make an attempt at a working prototype.

Why am I doing this? Some of us are attending the Emerging Telephony conference in March, and I want to have something to show. Also its fun to make things, fun to hang out at Techshop, I'm learning a lot from the 3D printer instructor, and in the end I will have a phone that evolves rather than being thrown away every few years. If I want more memory, a bigger LCD, or different trade offs in features/size/battery life, I don't have to start from scratch or accept someone else's set of compromises. That's why I call it my phone.