6 Apr 2004 Grit   » (Journeyer)

Rant:

So, boingboing is having problems paying their "bandwidth bill", and are asking for suggestions on how to raise some cash. In addition to all the usual suspects (sponsorship, tip jars, advertising) there are more than a few suggestions that some sort of P2P technology should be developed to help distribute this content. (Or that they ought to use an existing one.) I like boingboing, but I hate P2P. Hence the following rant.

P2P does not solve server networking costs. Let's ignore UI issues, reliability, security, etc. At the end of the day, N bytes have to be transferred from one computer's uplink to another computer's downlink. (There are certainly advantages to how far across the Internet you have to travel, but nobody I know is charging based on that.) Somebody, somewhere, is paying to send traffic onto the network.

But, you might say, my uplink is idle most of the time. True; most users produce just a small amount of upstream traffic under 'normal' workloads. But there's no free lunch here--- if your upstream provider has any brains at all, they've already taken that into account in engineering their network. Widespread change in user behavior leads to changed costs for the ISP, unless the P2P application is extraordinarily good at reducing wide-area traffic. The ISP has two choices when their costs go up: they can charge more, or they can limit service. Most ISPs appear to be taking the latter route, although some try to push P2P users into a higher-priced plan.

In the long run, wide-area P2P applications will be either squelched by traffic shaping or subsidized by increased connectivity costs. A P2P-friendly ISP almost certainly sends more traffic onto the wide-area Internet than a P2P-limiting ISP, and thus incurs a higher cost structure. The "bandwidth" costs are spread across the P2P-using population at large rather than levied on the operators of a particular service. It's not obvious to me that this is an economic good (or a social good) compared with paying for the services you want the normal way--- subscriptions, ads, or donations.

This is not to belittle the very real problem BoingBoing is facing; maintaining web content or services in the face of increasing popularity is hard for anybody, even those explicitly trying to make money from it.

Fun:

I ordered some more Delcom USB I/O chips. I'm assembling my own USB-based PIC programmer based on the Delcom part for control and a National Semiconductor LM2585S-ADJ to generate the programming voltage. (The PIC12F675 just uses this as a level indicator, and the PIC16F877s can be programmed at normal voltages, so this device is somewhat overkill.) Unfortunately I picked up the wrong type of ZIF socket on my last trip to Silicon Valley (it can't take 0.3" parts) so I need to find a replacement.

In the long run, it might be worth adding a microcontroller so that the USB communication is less overhead. My current design bit-bangs the programming protocol--- somewhat slow at 3 USB commands per bit!

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