Interesting Iphone Observations

As many of you know I spend a good amount of my life hacking away at the linux kernel and our hosting environment trying to make things smoother. Our new cpu controller, memory controller, and process controller (Officially coming out in about 10 days – YEAH!) make a HUGE positive impact on the stability of our systems.

One of the things you probably didn’t know was that our cpu controller had a big impact on the amount of power that we use. I never even considered that our CPU controller would lower our server power usage, but it did. In fact it lowered our total power usage by about 7% (Our WHOLE datacenter!). Not too bad for a software product that was never intended to lower power costs at all. Now that I see the benefits we are actively trying to make it reduce even more power. I think it is reasonable to expect that I can get it to about 9% savings.

Now what does this have to do with Apple’s Iphone? Everything in my opinion. Apple’s iphone has two huge problems that drive me crazy. First, I don’t think the battery life is very good and second there is VERY little cpu and memory protection for apps on the iphone (ESPECIALLY IF YOU USE A JAILBROKEN IPHONE!!) I use my phone a LOT as a phone, a TV (Slingbox), and for all kinds of other internet goodness.

So like any self respecting geek I wondered what would happen if I could apply the principles of our cpu and memory controller to the Iphone environment. So I started testing the Iphone (That means trying to break it and make it die a painful software death) and I found something interesting. Just like our servers, single apps on the iphone burst to huge amounts of cpu usage (Near or at 100% usage) and then fall almost immediately back to 1-3% usage.

This didn’t surprise me at all as the iphone is built on the foundations of BSD Unix, and this is exactly how a stock BSD, Windows, OSX, Linux installation behaves. Now this type of 3% cpu usage spiking to 100% and then back to 3% over and over and over is BAD for battery life. You know what else it is bad for? You guessed it (Or maybe not :) ). Its REALLY bad for stability on the iphone.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you have a jail broken iphone it means there is a really good chance that many of the apps you install compete directly for resources with the phone app and phone capabilities. Uh oh – Dropped calls. Guess who gets blamed for problems when that happens? AT&T. Its pretty hard for the average consumer to determine if AT&T is to blame or spiking software on their iphone. Don’t get me wrong. There is PLENTY of blame for AT&T. They are one of my least favorite companies on the planet (right behind Delta, and Comcast). There are also significant challenges to segregation of memory and cpu resources for non jail broken phones as well so don’t think you non-jail breakers are out of the woods either.

Its amazing to me that an outfit that I respect as much as Apple hasn’t gotten around to solving this problem. In their defense it IS a very very difficult problem to solve. In fact, the primary reason for writing that whole notification system instead of simply allowing background apps to run was to save battery life and to segregate resources.

All of this is tempting me greatly to port our cpu controller and memory controller over to the iphone. It would make it almost impossible for rogue applications to A) Eat up your battery using inordinate amounts of cpu resources, B) Crash your iphone by eating too much memory or CPU, C) Cause your phone to drop calls because of other 3rd party apps.

What do you think? Would you pay $3 for this software for your iphone (Gotta keep the lights on :) ) or am I making something out of nothing and you don’t see any real problem with your iphone?

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

41 Responses to “Interesting Iphone Observations”

  1. If you can port it to the iPhone, then why not license or sell it to Apple directly?

    I highly doubt you’ll be able to make an app that can easily be downloaded and installed by a regular iphone user (non technical, by their very nature), without also requiring the phone to be jail-broken, etc.

    In other words, your market would be limited to highly technically savvy folks only… when in fact the iPhone money is located with the millions of non-tech people who just “want it to work better”.

    If you develop something that can improve the iPhone, then why not use your connections and try to get Apple interested. Odds are high they’re trying to do this task already (or at least have it on the whiteboard) and throwing a few million your way to get a huge jump in development is a no-brainer….

    Plus, it’ll give your company good PR. ;-)

  2. I’d pay $10 if it did what you said it would.

  3. NCLI says:

    I’d pay 20 if you ported it to Android, and made it available for Linux notebooks as well.

    Anyway, if you do port it to Android, please make it available the same way as the eRay process manager, as many countries don’t have access to paid apps yet.

  4. Tom says:

    Wondering how something like that would get certified. I’d pay for it

  5. I don’t have an iPhone, but I’d pay for it if I did. Since OS/X is BSD-based, I wonder if it has the same issue. If it does, I’d pay for an applet for the Mac too.

  6. I probably buy an Nokia N900. I think is one of the best. And I heard that you can put a linux to it.

  7. ReanimationXP says:

    I’d pay a lot. I’m glad to see someone from a company I respect so much is looking into working on the iPhone. I’m an avid jailbreaker since 1.x, and have wondered about much of what you mention here.

    I’m sure if you did this – and it worked of course – you could post it on the Cydia store for excessive amounts of win, internets, and $$ from almost every jailbreaker.

  8. Russ says:

    I just got an iphone last month and am enlightened by how smooth and easy it is to use. I havent downloaded alot of apps yet and am still learning how the phone works. So I havent had any CPU issues as of yet. But I am always worried about loading too many apps onto any device, because I cant stand when things start to slow down. That is very bothersome.

    It sounds like your cpu solution would be great for the iphone. And i think if the cost is reasonable, you should be able to market it pretty simply.

    I need more experience with the iphone to really give my two cents.

  9. WW says:

    I’ll pay!! I want it!

  10. Evan says:

    I don’t know if you could package kernel modifications into an iPhone app that gets into the App Store, but if you could demonstrate improved stability and battery life, you might have something sell to Apple itself.

  11. Brent2 says:

    I’d take it farther. My recomendation would be to expand it for laptop use as well, be it standard Linux or an Apple machine. This could help with laptop battery life just as much as it could for an iPhone.

  12. bcolmer says:

    I would totally pay for that. Does poor signal and being in an area with heavy network usage also kill your battery? Could this also address that problem?

  13. Tony says:

    With the craptastic battery life that I get out of my iPhone, I’d pay you $20 for something that would smooth things out.

    i love the functionality of the iPhone, but I used to be able to go 3-4 days between charges on the N82, I’m lucky if I can get through an entire day now.

  14. edjusted says:

    I don’t have any problems with CPU usage but anything that wrings out more battery life would be welcome. I’d pay $3 for it.

  15. digi says:

    If you made this app, it would easily be worth $3. I assume you’d release it on the Cydia Store?

  16. This idea is cool, but it sounds more like something for Apple to buy, not for iPhone owners to buy.

    The iPhone’s supposed to work smoothly. Why should people pay more for something they’ve already paid for? (a phone/computer that should be working)

  17. Jay R. Wren says:

    As usual i love the subject matter of your post. IMO power usage is going to be the great reason why C and C++ hang around over more efficient in people power languages and platforms. Sure, we could do everything in high level languages, but given enough usage of the code, it is going to become prohibitively costly from a power consumption point of view. The efficiencies of unmanaged strongly typed languages will show themselves directly via power consumption. Its going to be “green” to minimize cpu usage.

    Are your cpu and memory manager linux kernel patches documented on lwn.net anywhere? I’d love to read about them.

  18. Mark Sevi says:

    Matt,

    Let me just say that the series of events that led me to Bluehost couldn’t have been more fortuitous. In an attempt to find a host that allowed more PHP mem for my Drupal installation I found BH. Once I logged in I knew I had found the host of my dreams.

    I don’t have time to read through your blog but I will soon. Just wanted to give my congratulations for doing hosting right; for your amazing tech support staff, and for really understanding what value really means when it comes to what a webdev needs.

    I’ve added two hosting accounts of my own, sent six clients your way, and will continue to sing the praises of Bluehost to whoever will listen.

    All my best,
    Mark

  19. Matt,

    I like the article and the thought process behind it, but I wonder about the scalability of the iphone compared to a full data center. It seems that you may be comparing apples and oranges.

    I think that your results in your data center are impressive for sure, but do you think that those same results would be seen on an iphone and if so would most users notice a 7% increase?

    Believe me, I’m all for seeing the iphone battery last longer and seeing performance improved, but I I’m not sold….yet.

  20. Both – I don’t see a problem at the moment, but I’d also pay $3 to make sure I never do :-)

    Maybe the questions is also – will this become more of a problem over time, or less..? – more of course.

    At some point, it will become a requirement, and you will have pioneered [or maybe licensed] the technology :-)

    keep up the great work..

    pc

  21. Casey says:

    You know, Matt, I have watched as your company has gone from recommended by nearly everyone to being blacklisted for bizarre hosting bans and “unethical” practices. I have told everyone I know that this is not the case and my experience has always been uneventful.

    Until today. I run a small SMF forum with about a dozen active users (140 regiestered) storing less than half a gig and with 10 gig transfer and found my site suspended for consuming resources. It took me all of 30 seconds to find hundreds of online complaints for this issue, many from long-time customers like myself who are dismayed at that they could be customers for years and suddenly, without warning, have their accounts suspended.

    Maybe you should worry more about what’s happening in your own company than what’s happening w/ the iPhone. Complaints about this kind of activity are EVERYWHERE and I watched as your company was delisted as a recommended host from the university where I studied web design.

    You would never have operated like this when you were hungry and service-oriented. I know, because you wrote me personally when I was deciding where to host and asked questions.

    And the suspended account message on the public site — that’s just a real kicker. If this was commercial site, you would have done real damage to me.

    Count me in with the group of customers who once talked you up and referred numerous customers to you via my design business and is disappointed to see what this company has become.

  22. Dan says:

    Hi,
    Yes, $3.00 for that if it was necessary to use it. I agree with paul at the moment, since I dont see much of a concern, however, should that change, no problem.
    A very good idea though. Keep us up to date for sure.

  23. Adam Furman says:

    I haven’t had any issues with my iphone as of yet, but if my phone was crashing i would be happy to pay 3.00 and would pay a lot more if i had no other option.

  24. Ian Littman says:

    Sounds interesting, though it would be MUCH easier to get the app onto Android than onto the iPhone, which has had a CPU upgrade with the 3Gs and doesn’t have a ton of performance issues to start with.

    Out of curiosity, why do you hate Comcast with a fiery passion? Because they’re selling cheap transit to DreamHost and not BlueHost, or something else?

  25. Tyson says:

    Matt,

    I’d definitely pay for this if you developed it and made it available for jailbroken phones. I would think that memory leaks and associated instability on jailbroken devices might be as big a problem, and probably the cause of more woes and instability on most jailbroken devices?

  26. allenj62 says:

    I would pay $10 for this if it could be installed as an app. Just because most people can’t see the problem doesn’t mean it’s not there. Let us know…

  27. ryan says:

    sounds like a great idea.

  28. Stefan says:

    I do happen to have a jailbroken iphone (specifically the iPhone 3G S 32Gb) and I am inclined to agree with your theory of the processes conflicting with the phone app. And though I do believe you, I must also make known that when I used my iphone overseas with different carriers such as: TIM Brasil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Sunrise Mobile in Zurich, Switzerland, I never had a single dropped call. My dropped calls only began once I arrived in the US and began using AT&T. If you could develop this software which by the way clearly would only be available to the jailbroken iphone community as Apple would never approve an application that manages the cpu controller of the iphone, and prove it helps the iphone then i would be definitely more than willing to pay 3-10$ for it. Hope this information doesn’t discourage you in any way but i felt like it was worth mentioning.

  29. sari says:

    I want it, too and I’ll pay for it!

  30. Peter says:

    Matt,

    I think the small amount of $3.00 is worth it without a second thought.
    I feel the same way you do in regards to being surprised that a great company like Apple has seemed to let that issue slip by them.
    By the way, your idea to port your cpu controller and memory controller over to the iphone is a great idea.

  31. Mike says:

    I have had an iPhone for almost a year and this sounds like a great idea for the iPhone and for my Macintosh. I would also be happy to pay for it! Bring it on! (My iPhone is not jailbroken.) Sounds great!

  32. Ken says:

    I would gladly pay $3.00 for that app just so that I can know when a dropped call is my carrier or my os…. And of course, bat life will always be an issue.

    The problem I would expect you face is getting a kernel patch official. The risk apple sees with this would be that you bust the kernel and cause a bunch of service calls to restore it on customers’ phones.

  33. informatie says:

    It sounds like a great idea! I would be happy to pay $3 for that app.

  34. Crystal says:

    Love your blog. I came accross this from hosting with your company. (which is fantastic)
    My Iphone brings me much joy and always has me spending money on new apps, so yes, I think the $3.00 is well worth it.

  35. Matt, I host several domains with bluehost.com great support and would love to see an I phone app as you have described in your post.

    Steveyb

    http://www.netmenz.com
    http://www.dui-tn.com

  36. It will then come in handy if it can be accessed through an Iphone and it is really worth its price as well just for only $3. Although it is true for the battery life issues of the phone. Using it with an internet access could use up more of its battery life as well.

  37. yeoay says:

    I would gladly pay $3.00 for that app just so that I can know when a dropped call is my carrier or my os…. And of course, bat life will always be an issue.

    The problem I would expect you face is getting a kernel patch official. The risk apple sees with this would be that you bust the kernel and cause a bunch of service calls to restore it on customers’ phones.

  38. mintothomas says:

    I would gladly pay $3.00 for that app just so that I can know when a dropped call is my carrier or my os…. And of course, bat life will always be an issue.

    The problem I would expect you face is getting a kernel patch official. The risk apple sees with this would be that you bust the kernel and cause a bunch of service calls to restore it on customers’ phones.

  39. I’m an air conditioning contractor in Knoxville and my battery dies all the time on my iPhone 3G. Of course the thing is slow as well, but seriously, after only a couple of hours the battery crashes. I tried jailbreaking my phone, but the problems only got worse because as you say the apps were fighting for resources. Anyway, a solution to this problem would be greatly appreciated, and at $3, I might even consider jailbreaking it again.

  40. jinlala says:

    The problem I would expect you face is getting a kernel patch official. The risk apple sees with this would be that you bust the kernel and cause a bunch of service calls to restore it on customers’ phones.

  41. Gage says:

    So i want to know where to find whatever you made cause idk what im doing you wrote this in 2009 and its now 2012 i want whatever software you made because my iphone 4 is so slow its lagging just typing this seriously yes its jailbroke and that probably doesnt help much but email me tell ing something about this software if you have made it or not. ThinkxD

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