Some folks at Microsoft Research of all places have come up with a clever way for you to save electricity and increase your ratio: The researchers have built the prototype of a new network adapter called Somniloquy that can download data via Bittorrent and even offer basic Instant Messaging capabilities while the PC is in sleep mode. A PDF detailing their research is available here.

picture of microsoft research bittorrent ethernet card

How is this possible? Somniloquy uses a secondary, low-power processor that can handle basic tasks even while a PC is asleep. It's also capable of better wakeup triggers in the case that someone calls your Skype account. From a recently published paper about the network adapter:

"Experiments using our prototype Somniloquy implementation, a USB-based network interface, demonstrates energy savings of 60% to 80% in most commonly occuring scenarios. This translates to significant cost savings for PC users. BitTorrent and large web downloads, in the background. In existing systems, these applications would stop when the PC sleeps."

Somniloquy uses ctorrent for all its torrent downloading needs. Media files are temporarily stored on an SD memory card, and the PC occasionally starts up to copy those files and free up the space on the SD card. The researchers tested the interface's Bittorrent capabilities with torrents from Legaltorrents.com, and it seemed like the device was fine as long as only one torrent at a time got transfered.

So how green is Somniloquy? Your potential personal energy savings of course depend on the time your PC has to sleep, as well as the size of your "cache" SD card. Somniloquy's developers did however test a few scenarios, and came to the conclusion that a network card like this one could theoretically lead to energy savings of up to 91% for a large web download. Bittorrent download are expected to lad to similar results.

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