September 15, 2005

My life now has meaning!

Posted by Scott at 09:01 AM

Okay, that's a very tongue in cheek declaration. As you know, I've gone from supporting a wide variety of intellectual property items under ARC to being focused on just our USB offerings under TransDimension. But day after day, looking at issues, digging through C++ code, hardware code, waveforms... well, it just wears on you after a while. You get distanced enough from the products that people actually use that you start to think that what you do has no meaning, no value. Yes, your stuff is in really cool widgets, but nobody knows. I'm not allowed to say what we're in because those companies don't want their sources known.

USB in it's current availability consists of three forms: low speed (used in keyboards and mice), full speed (often seen in cameras and older USB products), and the newer 2.0 high speed (much more common today). I spend about 90% of my time dealing with our popular high speed offerings and spend the remainder with our legacy full speed offerings.

I was reading Walt Mossberg, the technology guy at the Wall Street Journal, review the new Motorola ROKR cell phone -- the cell phone that integrates with iTunes. That link is to a free WSJ article -- no subscription required. I got down to this part:

once the song transfer started, Katie and I were both stunned by how long it took -- Katie's 100-song transfer finished in just less than one hour, and mine took 64 minutes. Transferring that many songs on an iPod takes only about three minutes, so this was really annoying. Motorola explained that one reason for the slow transfer speed is that the phone uses the older, slower version of USB called 1.1 instead of the newer, faster USB 2.0.

When he later compares it to the Sony phone, he says:

The Walkman uses the speedy 2.0 version of USB to transfer songs from a Mac or Windows PC, and the difference is shocking. Each song took about 10 seconds to transfer to the phone; the ROKR took around a full minute per song.

Ah-hah! USB high speed (2.0) has value. It makes the difference between a download so annoying you don't want to bother to a convenient "what the heck, why not" experience. I rarely get to talk about the cool products our high speed USB cores are in, but I can tell you without legal worries, that our Nashua designwork is not in that pokey Motorola ROKR cell phone. If our high speed design was on that chipset, Walt would have one less major thing to complain about. The user experience would be completely different -- aside from Apple's requirement that the ROKR only hold 100 songs.

Actually, blaming it all on use of USB full speed is bunk. Full speed USB can transfer roughly a megabyte per second. It's certainly faster than most US DSL or cable modems. If the typical song MP3 file is a few megabytes, it should in theory only take a few seconds to transfer it. There's a bottleneck somewhere else in this cell phone besides the USB core. The cell phone design as a whole probably isn't really ready to accept external data that fast. It could be the software, the slow speeds writing to flash, system bus problems, but putting the blame on the fact that it uses 1.1 full speed USB is faulty.

Sigh, I go back to having a meaningless life...