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Television Media

Build Your Own Set Top Box 143

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-want-my-hdtv dept.
Kon writes "There is a lot of talk lately about how Divx and other type codecs will spawn a new industry upsurge in the manufacturing of player hardware. But what is the purpose of buying hardware when you can build your own? The only limitation is the software, but projects like Media-BOX and the Divx Project will hopefully change this ;-). And why stop with Divx, when you could potentially use this cheap home-made box to handle everything from games to HDTV (via HD tuner board) to Mp3s? Food for thought." Media-Box is Windows only, but its a long ways along. And that divx site, well, I can't read it. But this stuff is looking really excellent. I'm still itching for the Linux equivelant. I wrote a decent MP3 wrapper, but still want the online browser/tivo/mp3/dvd box. Its inevitable, but it won't happen soon enough.
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Build Your Own Set Top Box

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  • by Shoeboy (16224) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:03PM (#466110) Homepage
    Ok, first off you're going to need some sand. Lots of sand.
    Next get some bauxite ore and some copper ore. We're going to use aluminum interconnects, so the copper will only be used for the motherboard.
    First off, take the sand and use it to form a silicon wafer 12 inches in diameter. (Note, previous versions of this howto specified 8 inch wafers - these will work, but your cost/chip will be much higher.
    Next, purify the bauxite ore to create an ingot of pure alluminum.
    Ok, now we're ready to create the general purpose microprocessor at the heart of our set top box. Using the alluminum, the wafer, a magnifying glass and a laser pointer, create a 6 issue wide superscalar 64 bit microprocessor with at least 256 KB of l2 cache. For best results, try to keep the feature size at .18 microns or below. You may have to try a few times to get this right.
    Be sure to have a very clean environment for this as microprocessor cores are very succeptible to dust. Your garage is not suitable unless you give it a thorough cleaning first.
    Now that you have the microprocessor, the next step is to package it. It is important to use a pin grid array rather than a ball grid array as you may wish to upgrade the processor later.

    *rest of guide clipped for space reasons, but you can get the latest version from the linux documentation project [linuxdoc.org].*

    --Shoeboy
  • Checkout http://www.indrema.com This looks like what you want!
  • I've started working on this, too. I've found a sweet, sweet remote at this ghetto Yahoo store [yahoo.com]. They have a strange policy of not accepting debit cards, but accepting credit cards. In any case, I ended up having to resubmit the order three times over the course of the day, and got order number 1342, 1343, and 1344... :) It's the best remote that I could find (the ONLY one with a number pad on it). It even has a directional pad and buttons for mousing!

    Antec KS780 [antec-inc.com] for the case. It's a black desktop ATX case.

    At this point I'm a little wary of setting this all up on Linux. It seems like it would only take a few hours to do it on Win9X since all of the software and drivers are already written. But eventually I want to write a sort of 'front-end' that has a main menu of functions like DVD, MP3, CD audio, Web browsing, TiVo, and of course, my collection of emulated games. I'd be glad to contribute to your project and to help in any way that I can so this thing can become a reality. I don't want to have to run this all on Windows.

  • P3-600
    Abit BE-6
    256MB PC-100
    WD 40GB HDD
    3Com 3C905B Fast Ethernet Adapter
    ATI AIW Radeon DDR
    Sound Blaster Live! MP3+
    Philips MMS205 Speaker System (not the best I know)
    Generic 4x DVD
    Philips 4x CD-RW
    Wireless Multimedia ready Keyboard (CompUSA speacial)
    Logitech Optical wheel mouse
    Windows 98SE (shut up)

    Here's the kicker.......

    3M MP7730 DLP Projector!

    The AIW Radeon gives me the PVR features of the setop box. It also uses the Gemstar guide info that comes in with the cable signal to give me an onscreen guide, effortless recording and Reminders. The DVD is self explanatory, I hope. The Radeon does DVD playback wonderfully and The 3D performance is spectacular!

    This little ever changing beauty is connected to a 240GB Media server running Linux 2.4 that's in the bedroom, as well as a fast internet connection. The setup is awesome. All my friends were at my digs sunday for the game and the thing had not one problem. We sometimes get together on weekends, get stoned and cruise Atomfilms and other broadband content sites (Yahoo's broadcast.com has been broken for months and that sucks).

    I like it.
  • rattid,
    the gf2 and the radeon both have very advanced hdtv decoding capabilities. There is still a need for a tuner which a separate company makes.

    This is what i was told when I was at the pre-launch briefing for the geforce2 last spring. If you look on reference gf2's, you'll see a header that is designed to attach to a tuner breakout board.

    hope this helps. i would have emailed it to you but there is no address listed. :)
  • by Hanno (11981) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @03:52PM (#466115) Homepage
    Hi,

    I've been hunting high and low for a decent, small box-sized PC-compatible computer for about a year now. Trouble is, here in Germany it is close to impossible to get one unless you are willing to pay about 3 to 4 times the price of a normal computer with similar components.

    - I first tried to build the box with a normal desktop case, but not only was it ugly, it was also quite loud. My dream machine is a PC-compatible system that looks like a stereo component and that is silent.

    - vanilla, plain set top box hardware is hard to get in Germany if all you want is a quantity of "one".

    - those few set top boxes being sold are proprietary and come with long-term contracts, so hacking them is not an option. We did not have an "iOpener" happening here, yet.

    - there are very few "small" computers on sale over here. Those you can get usually are "thin clients" like the Dell Onmiplex or the Compaq Desktop iPaq that are not equipped with a TV out.

    - Looking at its specs, the Multitainer [fujitsu-siemens.com] is my dream machine, but it appears to have been a massive failure. I tested it at my local electronics store and it had a lot of stability problems. Also, it is curious that I cannot get a *new* machine anywhere in Hamburg (one of the major German cities). The few stores that want to sell the Multitainer all have "returned" devices from unsatisfied customers - still for a price tag of 1000 to 1250 dollars.

    - I once had a hold on a bki810 [amptron.com] computer. It was really nice, except that a) it was not upgradable with more recent CPUs and b) its TV out was sub-par. But my main problem: It was LOUD! It had the noise level of a vacuum cleaner! I tried to replace the fans, but no chance: Local electronics stores did not offer silent fans for that size...

    - I've phoned down the local listing of office suppliers for small computers, but none could help me.

    - I've also checked the very popular electronics classifieds, the local German eBay-style sites etc. Noone seems to sell used hardware.

    After all these attempts, my summary of the problems with "build your own set-top box" is:

    * Normal PC hardware is too loud. And surprisingly, some thin clients are, too.

    * Few thin clients have a TV out or can be equipped with one.

    * Those few thin clients that have a TV out offer a lousy picture quality, usually off-centered or not full-screen on a PAL TV. Yes, I've tried several TV out cards and none of them could come near my very cheap DVD player's TV out. Is it really that difficult?

    All in all, I just wish the Multitainer would have been better. It's everything you'd need: Standard PC hardware components and a clever combination of stereo and video connectors. But apparently, it had engineering problems.

    ------------------
  • VFAT is being used. It *is* limiting me to 2gig files. Get a clue, man!

    FAT 2GB
    VFAT 4GB

    It starts off with the fact that I can't install win98 without having linux around. Win98 wants to be the only OS on my box.

    Windows overwrites the MBR, yes, and that sucks, but if you have a linux boot disk you can easily drop lilo back on to the MBR edit a couple of files and WHAMMO! Dual-Boot! Or better yet, buy an el-cheapo machine and a KVM and use them both at the same time whithout needing to reboot.
  • Frankly even though this topic comes up again & again I think they're probably right. Sure my PC CD-player plays music fine but I prefer to have one in my livingroom dedicated to the audio system. Same with the DVD player, while it plays fine on the box & 21" monitor I've got one in the lvingroom 'cause it's better suited / more convenient there. I expect for many of us a TiVo-type consumer box will be far more popular then a homebuilt.

    Well, DUH! But I don't want all these boxes in my livingroom -- I don't have room for it all. My "entertainment center" is full with a TV, DVD player (doubling as CD player), VCR, and receiver. I'd love to play computer games on the TV, but to fit in a computer something else has to go. I see no reason why the DVD/CD player and VCR can't both be replaced by a computer. Make me a "TiVo-type consumer box" that will play and record CDs and DVDs, record and playback TV programs a-la TiVo, act as an MP3 jukebox, play computer games on the TV, do e-mail or any other software -- and I'll buy it. Nobody makes such a box, and I know of nobody who's planning one -- at any price. The Quantum QuickView certainly won't do all that -- but a homebuilt will!

  • ...and hence a piece of CRAP.

    PCChips motherboards are the bane of installfests everywhere. The PCChips Consortium is a loose affiliation of the worst manufacturers in Taiwan and in the People's Republic of China. Example member: Amptron. They are responsible for hideous abortions like the VXPro chipset, the VXTwo chipset, the TXTwo chipset, ad nauseam.

    During a period when I was trying to find a SANE bitty box, I came across ASUS' version [asus.com]. It doesn't come cheap, and it's hard to find, but it's based on the solid-as-a-rock Intel BX chipset and has either a flip-chip socket or a Slot 1 CPU connector.

    It would be great if someone did a bitty box based on Socket A and designed for Duron...the Duron would be an ideal chip for such a box.

    Anyway...DON'T fsck around with the BookPC! You will live to regret it! Particularly if you want to use it with Linux.


    ----
    http://www.msgeek.org/ -- Because you can't keep a geek grrl down!

  • But I don't think the Linux version is ready yet. The only download available on the site is the Win version.
  • Oh... em... erm... then whats this 20GB file (actually, happens to be a movie I got off my DV cam) doing on my NTFS partiton?

    I think ive been trolled...

    Mark Duell
  • Dude,

    it is zapmedia.com with their Zapstation. They are dealing with harmon kardon now to get someone to manufacture some.

    it is a cool system. I don't think it's a secret. Though a friend their told me also.

    -Davidu
  • No - it's not. Much (much) bigger and already involved in the market. Zapstation is - well, we'll be kind and call it a longshot.
  • Actually, I got a really cheap infrared keyboard with built-in mouse made by Acer for around $20. Works pretty well. Well enough that I can bounce the signal off a wall and have the IR reciever sittinf behind me pick it up.

    A question about the BookPC and chip combo... how noisy is this? I'm dying to find a compact system that is inexpensive and quiet. The Athlon rig I have in my living room now is tons quiter than my desktop, but it's still too noisy.
  • Seems to still miss one ... Sorenson :-( Oh well, can't have it all.
  • "Poor bastards, they still measure in inches" - Sgt. Nick Penis

    Visit the AV Sciences Forum [avsforum.com], home for those of us who measure our monitors in feet!

  • Or at least, not right now anyways.... I'm sure that's the goal, but there are so many formats and the signals are so fast that the electronics work out to be rather expensive.
  • just use an HDTV - 46" to 70" ought to keep you happy, and doesn't cost much more than a good large monitor. Besides you could actually find an excuse to set-up the beloved beowulf cluster to stream uncompressed hd to your monitor (1.5 gb/s).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here is a quick status of the project. Sorry for my english, as my former language is french. For the moment, the first prototype is working only for playing. A preview of the final casing is available in the "Proto" section. It's based on a standard pc motherboard, with an lcd control panel and an ir receptor for the remote control, both connected to the parallel port. Details of the configuration: Pentium II 350 overclocked at 490MHz Asus P3B-F motherboard at 140MHz 32Mo SDRAM at 140MHz ATI Xpert@play 8MO for the graphic card 340Mo Quantum harddrive PIO3 Sound Blaster 128 "locked on stereo"(???) DVD drive Sony DDU-220E region free For the software, it seems that they chose to develop both the player/encoder and the OS from scratch. No more details for the moment. The supported formats should be MP3 (+ playing lists), VQF, WAV (both raw of ADPCM compressed), AC3, Sun's AU, AIFF, and probably WMA. You can still use the fish, but the result is really awful.
  • ...joe blow doesnt know the difference between a resistor and a refrigerator magnet...

    Sure he does. The magnet sticks to his refrigerator, the resistor doesn't.

    Duh.

    W

  • > Just give it a rest... Divx is dead.

    No, not DIVX [fightdivx.com], it's Divx ;-) [projectmayo.com]

    ---

  • LIRC supports the infra-red under Linux, your remote can do basically anything with the tools supplied with Lirc (make it execute other software, send X keyevents to windows, move the mouse around), and XawTV supports lirc directly so you can also do al your standard TV remote type stuff. Lirc can switch in and out of different modes etc.. I can press `TV' to bring up xawtv, hit `PWR' to turn off/on my monitor, standard channel buttons, video button, volume etc all work in XawTV. When I get around to it I'm going to write a little menu so I can select and play DivX files with aviplay - including pause, FF, RW, vol, sync etc ... all from in bed :-)
  • WTF? you mean Divx or DivX:)? it is so not dead and now that project mayo is open sourced it may eventually replace DVD.

    Not quite. Their "open source" license is a joke. They're just looking for free programmers for their $100 million DivXNetworks [divxnetworks.com] operation. Project Mayo is as bad as Micros~1. Check out the Open MPEG [sourceforge.net] project, created by a bunch of Project Mayo/DivXNetworks refugees that felt mislead.

  • Ya, I noticed that nobody has done anything similar for the sorenson codec.

    Support for the Quicktime file format IS available, and if someone were willing to tie in the quicktime/windows libraries, then we'd finally be able to watch those damned superbowl commercials online :\

  • I have benn working on something similar to this. But my main problem is the resolution from my tv out card is not good enough for reading from across the room. This makes it tougher to control the system.Right now i have the computer behind the couch and a 15" monitor on a small table.I have been looking for a smaller monitor of some type but havnt found anything I can afford.
  • Lazy? Make 'em links!

    PureDiva: Software only bundled with complete PC's. http://www.purediva.com [purediva.com]

    Ligos: Windows based PTV. http://www.ligos.com/news/pr_timeshift.html [ligos.com]

    PowerVCR: Windows based VCR. http://www.cyberlink.com.tw/english/products/power vcr2/powervcr2.asp [cyberlink.com.tw]

    WinVCR: Windows based VCR. http://www.cinax.com/Products/winvcr.html [cinax.com]

    SnapStream: Windows based PTV (freeware and commercial version). http://www.snapstream.com [snapstream.com]

    ShowShifter: Windows based PTV (freeware). http://www.showshifter.com [showshifter.com]

  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @06:17PM (#466136)
    For a set-top sized box, I would use the NLX form factor. This is an industry standard by the same people responsible for ATX, but it's better. All desktops should be NLX because ATX REALLY SUCKS for anything but towers. The only (very unfortunate) drawback is that NLX seems to be harder to find despite being superior to micro/mini ATX for compact systems.

    NLS motherboards are about 20 by 25-30 cm (8 by 10 or 11 inches). They have no slots and an edge connector on one side that plugs into the slot of an acocmpanying riser card. PCI cards plug in horizontally--parallel to the motherboard.

    Many NLX cases (and industrial racks) allow the motherboard to be removed by loosening 2 thumbscrews. To add DIMMs, you can pull out the motherboard out COMPLETELY without removing ANY cards or cables--sometimes without even opening the case! Yeong-Yang makes a pretty little VCR-sized NLX case [yeongyang.com]. NLX desktop cases are compact, quiet and easy to maintain (No, I don't sell them. I just think they are neat.)

    As for the NLX motherboards, they usually come with matching riser cards. Asus, Gigabyte or Intel should have them, although they are not as common as ATX and may cost a bit more. The rest is just normal commodity hardware (TV tuner/capture, DVD player, huge hard drive etc.).

    I have been thinking of building such a system for a year or two now. Maybe someone else will try now...
  • by heroine (1220) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @06:26PM (#466137) Homepage
    Eventually there will be no computer monitor or keyboard. You'll hook your computer to a TV set, like the old days, except now there will be no window interface, command line, or multitasking.

    It'll be pure menus, pointing and clicking for everything using a remote control. If you want a box with keyboard and monitor you'll have to go to Cray or something and pay through the nose.

    It looks like when he says "TV out card" he's referrering to the RCA output on most VGA cards. There are lots of "TV out cards" but they use JPEG compression.

    The problem with watching movies this way is you have to go from 24fps progressive to genlocked 29.97fps interlaced. Simply using a Microsoft media player on a TV would cause studdering because it wouldn't match the 29.97 interlacing exactly.
  • If people start to learn to build their own hardware, they are forced to learn other things, like how the electronic signals work. Things like HDTV will no longer be closed to public eyes, as more and more people would learn how to build hardware designed to reverse engineer the HDTV security. If this gets to be widespread enough, things like DirecTV's electronic warfare act would be more of a hit to them than to the hackers, as it would take out a high percentage of their customer base. Of course, this would most likely never happen because joe blow doesnt know the difference between a resistor and a refrigerator magnet, but it's nice to imagine =)
  • You don't know her well enough to know for sure how she would feel about you if she got to know you better or how you would feel about her if you got to know her better.
    You might wind up finding that you aren't really all that attracted to her while she finds that she's fallen in love with you.
    You might both wind up as good friends but not romantically interested in each other. There are plethora of possibilities.
    Go ahead and get to know her (without rushing it and appearing too eager, be sincere but play it a little cool), expand your world a little, she might introduce you to someone or something (poetry, rock climbing, jazz, knitting, who knows what) that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise.
    Unrequited love isn't fatal. It just feels that way for a while. Learning that the hard way is part of growing up. Might as well jump in the deep end and get it over with.
  • I agree with you on one point, but disagree with you on another.

    I think it is important that set top boxes made with contemporary off-the-shelf technology become popular. That way, artificially restricted technology will not become the de-facto standard. For example, MP3 has no inherent content-control capability and produces acceptable sound quality. It has become extremely popular and attempts by SDMI to squish it out of existence will be met with consumer resistance. With DATs, mini-discs and DVDs parasitic recording and movie distribution companies got their grubby hands on the technology before "unprotected" formats gained popularity. These technologies are now marginalised or convoluted with content-control schemes like CSS. Content-control is not a feature--it is a pain in the ass and will always be met with resistence if it is introduced into an already large market.

    What I take issue with is the fact you tainted your argument for no reason with your personal prejuduces. No all people in the southern states are evangelical bigots who wish to restrict free speech. Nor do all Christians (evangelical or otherwise) harbour intolerant attitudes towards those with differing opinions or even aree with the opinions of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Conservatives and Christians to not have a monopoly on intolerant views and actions, and it is just as bad to supress or denigrate Christans as it is to do the same to Jews, Islamics, feminists or whoever else.

    For the record, I live in Canada, not the southern states. I am not an evangelical Christian. I my political views are best described as libertarian--not socailly conservative. Thus, I am not personally offended by your comments. I just hate it when political retoric taints a rational argument. It happens a lot on /. and it leave a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, it is well within your right to write it even if I don't like it. If it gets worse, I'll just stop visiting this web site...
  • First, these projects seem silly. I could care less if I can watch DivX movies on my TV. I never like them as much as the real thing. So it seems like an incredibly expensive, worthless project.

    What I really want is a ReplayTV thingie. I want one bad, but not only do I not wanna pay for it, I don't wanna have to spend $500.

    Someone point me to a ReplayTV project.
  • And this differs from an LPX form factor case/motherboard how?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    look at this: http://www.cadsoft.de/people/kls/vdr/index.htm it already works pretty fine.
  • I set up a project at Complify [complify.org] to try to bring all these pieces together. It's very new so don't criticise but contribute. Discussions will be at Sourceforge [sourceforge.net]

    It's an open source project so it can be whatever we want it to be.

    Games, PVR, Firewall, IP Masquearading, Squid Proxy, Email etc etc... All of these things already exist. Let's just do it.

    Send in your suggestions and let's make it happen!
  • Building an HDTV tuner board is all well and good, but who has the resources to develop a high-quality board of this complexity? And once built, what's to say that this is going to be any cheaper to do than a commercial one, given that parts are an order of magnitude more expensive when purchased in small quantities?

    The only real benefit I see to a homebrew, ghetto HDTV tuner is the lack of manufacturer-applied copy-protection systems. And even those can be circumvented.

    But as for the Media-BOX in its present incarnation, I say, whoo hoo! What better way to store and watch movies on your set-top? Oh, wait - DVD. Shoot.

    and, from the site - "(Sorry, Media-BOX is not a 'ripper')" - looks like they're not about to incorporate a DVD-decoder anytime soon. It's too bad - this player's possibly most important feature could be ripping movies from your PC and storing them on your set-top. For your own personal use only, provided that you own the movie, of course, etc.

    Despite that, loading movies from your PC to your TV is still a real plus, allowing you to watch those downloaded pr0n movies on your home-entertainment system. Home entertainment, indeed.
  • Perhaps this famous fish might help to clear things a bit up? The French they are using isn't terribly complex anyway.
  • And that divx site, well, I can't read it.

    Tu ne le comprends pas? Ah, c'est dommage! ;)

    --

  • by Ian Wolf (171633) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:16PM (#466148) Homepage
    My best friend and I are making our own Linux home entertainment system. So far we are progressing nicely, in fact it isn't quite as difficult as we originally thought.

    Right now, we have a marginally stable...
    DVD Player
    TV Tuner
    MP3 Ripper/Player
    CD Player

    And we hope to get...
    video capture and playback
    infrared receiver for standard remote control
    Try these links for...

    Linux support for the Creative Dxr DVD Decoder and drive. http://opensource.creative.com [creative.com]
    Linux and infrared remote control http://www.lirc.org/ [lirc.org]
    Linux and the ATI all in Wonder cards http://www.linuxvideo.org/gatos/ [linuxvideo.org]
  • Quick, before they put up the drywall, install conduit for any and all wiring, especially the wiring that you don't know that you're going to want or need yet. Then, when old standards change or new ones come along, you aren't looking at a lot of drilling or sawing or replastering and repainting, or settling for not being able to upgrade because of the hassle.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ther is a company that announced a product at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas lat month that is just the device you described. They have a set top box running linux that allows you to download movies, games and MP3s. Supposedly, they also have one that has a DVD player also. One other thing, they are going to open source their software, so you could build your own box and get the same features. Pretty cool stuff. Here is the url: http://www.openentertainment.com
  • Vanu is trying to write software that will be able to decode anything from walkie-talkies to cell phones to analog tv signals to HDTV signals. I've seen their demo recently and it was quite impressive.

    www.vanu.com

    m

    ps. I do not work for Vanu and have nothing to gain or loose from their raise or demaise.
  • When ATI released their Radeon w/ video in/out back in the summer, in almost every review I read about it's HDTV capabilities. It was $300 back then, and like ~$200 now (maybe less? especially for a 32MB card).

    The way I read it, it was an HDTV tuner. I remember reading a lot of people saying they were buying the card just for it's HDTV stuff.

    DISCLAIMER: I know nothing about HDTV, how it works, or even how good it looks. I just know it's expensive and I read that stuff about the Radeon. Can someone shed some light?

  • Is there anything like Project DivX for miniature hard disk based MP3 players? I want to build a pocket-sized music player that is free of RIAA cripples, but my areas of experience only cover part of what's needed to achieve this.

    Currently minidisc is the ultimate personal sound system for me, and whem MP3 players ditch flash RAM and move to 6gig HDDs (and become more power efficient, probably via more RAM), then they'll be kind of the hill, except I doubt commercial ones will be uncrippled, so I'd like to look into building my own dream machine.

    Any pointers to projects along these lines? (Even non-miniature MP3 boxes would be great - they would help me in the areas I'm weak in, while I could work on the miniaturisation).
  • Look into biscut PCs. They're probably called other things as well. They're basically a complete PC (such as a 386 or 486) on a circuit board about 15cm quare. And if you're using a low end chip like that, you don't need a fan.

    I'm not sure where to get them - I know about them because my brother worked on a motorised flight simulator, and they used a biscut PC for each of the flight status readout screens, networked to the main PC which handled the 3d virtual reality display. They're perfect - small, quiet, prefabricated, and run normal PC software.

    Sorry I can't help you find them, but just knowing they exist should help. Hopefully someone else here can give a pointer.
  • I can't spell biscuit. At any rate, that's just what the flight sim developers called them - it might not be their proper name.
  • What's needed is a de-facto standard for low-cost generic set-top boxes. This is a form-factor and RF compatibility problem; we're assuming it's basically an x86 PC. It's something to discuss with the high-volume PC makers in the Far East. Especially the ones who won't be making X-boxes.

    While tiny industrial PC-compatible machines do exist, they cost far too much for this job. These boxes need to come in around $200 at retail.

  • Hey. Send me some email. I'd seriously like to talk with you further about these matters. Thanks :)

    ===
  • Wouldn't it be cool if we could all have open source tivo-like boxes. Tivo's good (and it's already based on Linux), but anything can be improved. The main question would be the necessity of having hardware-based encoding. Tivo's cheap for what it does. But as processor power increases...it's possible.

    We'd need a thousand squirrels typing in television schedules.

  • I have been looking on into this same for some time now. about the only thing i can find that would be even some what good to us as a case would be a set top box from http://www.gctglobal.com/ i like their iDVD Box. its great.. first thing i would do is rip out the CPU and put in something that can decode divx's only really bad side.. is when i asked them for a price they said the iDVD box is 700 bucks!! FREAK! if you can get that price down.. there would be a lot of people building these types of players..
  • I assume that this post isn't talking about the DIVX failed Circut City venture. It is talking about the Divx ;) codec, which I think is one of the many mpeg4 codec's out there. It gives you pretty good quality at a much higher compression rate, and on the pirate scene you can rip most DVD's to the size of 2 CD's.

    Mike
  • Good luck, I don't suspect that Sony would be very supportive, and I bet the hardware is proprietary as hell.

  • by crlf (131465)
    Just to let people know, you can play many .avi and most .asf in Linux as long as you're on an x86 platform:

    Avifile Homepage [divx.euro.ru]

    Here is an excerpt from their 'Supported compression formats':

    Video
    Win32 VfW DLLs:
    Indeo Video 3.2, 4.1
    Microsoft MPEG-4 v1 & v2 beta
    Microsoft MPEG-4 v3 ( also known as DivX ;-) )
    Cinepak Video
    ATI VCR-2
    I263
    Win32 DirectShow filters, decompression-only
    support:
    Microsoft MPEG-4 v3 ( this decoder is slower than VfW one, but offers wider range of picture control features )
    Windows Media Video 7
    Indeo Video 5.0
    Motion JPEG ( using Morgan Multimedia shareware codec )
    Open-source plugins:
    Motion JPEG ( using libjpeg, very slow )
    Audio
    Win32 ACM DLLs, decompression-only support:
    Windows Media Audio ( also known as DivX ;-) Audio )
    MS ADPCM
    Intel Music Codec
    Open-source plugins, decompression-only support:
    PCM
    AC3
    IMA ADPCM
    MPEG Layer-1,2,3 ( compression into MP3 is also supported )
    MSN Audio
    GSM 6.1 Audio
    Win32 DirectShow filters, untested decompression-only support:
    Voxware Metasound
    ACELP.net

    It also has support for V4L compression :)

  • >sue to have it revoked for being in blatant violation of the First Amendment.
    >However, the Supreme Court has a very good track record of maintaining the sanctity of the First Amendment.

    In case you hadn't noticed, the rules have changed. As seen in Kaplin's decision (that might be overturned, but don't bet on it), the New Strategy is along the lines of "It doesn't matter what rights the constitution grants you, it doesn't grant you the right to have access to the equipement needed to use those rights in mainstream media formats".

    The constitution will protect your right to yabber on HAM radio, and it will protect your right to free speech via DVD, but unlike HAM radio, you will simply not be able to purchase any DVD equipment sporting the features that allow free speech. And the law can't touch that.

    This is why making un-crippled technology (like these set top boxes) is so important - it will likely be the only way to have a soap box in the dominant media format.

    You might have noticed that the DVD writer that comes with the new apples can write a single DVD, but that DVD is block so that it can't be used to master your creation - in fact you can't actually master your work at all using the DVD writer.
    This is a taste of the future.

    We are approaching a time when the technology of cheap, affordable production and distribution could have resulted in amature content creation (like star wars fan films, eg Troops) becoming a significant part of our media diet.
    In other words, we would have less need to buy content from the industry. The industry doesn't like that idea, and this is yet another reason why these devices are now designed to preclude us making or distributing content. Piracy, while a legimiate concern, is also being used as a whitewash to lever into position the necessary infrastructure to keep consumers and artists dependant on the existing distribution structure, and thus cash cows (the artists too - both sides get screwed, the non-productive parasites in the middle with the keys to the Wall make the money).

    The whole thing is frightening in its genius. I think it's going to work. I think we're going to lose. I plan to build my own hardware, but that simply isn't a consumer option - it effectively means I'm just opting out of the fight. I'm not sure if there is a better way yet.
  • Replying to my message again

    Sorry, I was thinking of making an MP3-only box when I wrote that message, and obviously a 486 ain't enough for video. I think the bisuit PCs come in much more powerful ranges, but I don't know what.
  • Ok, here's the specs:

    333 K6-2 evergreen upgrade processer,
    8MB ATI All-in-Wonder Pro,
    Creative DXR3 DVD Decoder,
    USR 33.6 modem w/ voice,
    Creative 64 Gold value,
    2 hard drives,
    1 CDRW,
    1 DVD,


    I have been using the comp. for 5+ months and must say it works great. Only problem is due to the fact that most of my episode files(I did see the show when it was brodcasted, and did tape on VHS when it did) are a mixture of Divx, MPG, Quicktime, and ASF. To play two out of the three I need to have Windows installed.

    I love my DVD drive and Decoder and recomend it to everyone I know. The only problem is due to fact that only one person is currently developing for the EM8300 chip [freshmeat.net] on the card in Linux/FreeBSD, the drivers are only in 0.82 release. If you want to run DVD decoding in Linux, Buy a god damn . Creative has [freshmeat.net] opened up the source [creative.com] on the drivers somewhat and do support an Open Source project for those drivers. One question that I am sure that has poped up on few geeks minds that own a DXR3 is "Why isn't Creative suporting DXR3 when it's supporting DXR2?" The reason is due to the fact that Creative didn't make the chips for DXR3, Sigma did. They say that they support Linux selectively, but having spoken with the developers themselves, I know that they didn't have any plans as of 10-00. Also, I do know that the DXR2 did have many problems, and I had one upuntil it died on me.

    The Video card works great at 800X600 due to the work of the Gatos Project [linuxvideo.org]. If you do have a DXR2 and ATI, you can use the Pro to use the DXR2 to display on Monitor. I don't know if the video does work.

    Soundcard and others: if it's linux compatable, buy it and use it. If a soundcard is linux compatable and has 5.1 sound, why haven't you bought it yet?!!!

    Pros for my system:
    1) I don't need cable, just need to go to mom and dad's place to record episodes.
    2) Set your own TV network up and delete the comercials except for at the superbowl. Then you watch the commercials and skip the game. Especially this year. (where's my buck Lucas?)
    3) Playlist is a very good feature.
    4) who need a 19" monitor when I have a 32" TV?
    5) It gives me something to tweak everyday.
    6) If you have a "copy" of a movie on your comp, why do you have to go to the theater to find out that it sucked?
    7) It's what made me adiment about re-learning C++ and memory calls
    8) Preview homepages to see how much it would suck if I had a WebTV

    Cons:
    1) Windows based. I want someone to come out with an ASF 2 MPG converter that actually works, and does not do it real time. (I would do it, and have tried to learn, but I'm about 3years to late to do machine code anymore) 2) Only 800X600 may sound great on a tv, but I'm going to have to upgrade when I get an HDTV.(Oh please, please, please santa. Bring me one small one, like say 27") 3) I can't think of another one other than the mess of cables.(hahahahhahahaahahahaha!!!!!!!!!)

    if anyone really wants to talk to me, (bubbles@nospam.rea-alp.com) mail me, and we'll talk. If anyone has a similer situation or a problem, ask, and if I don't know it, then I'll ask around. And if I have a problem, we can talk and I can figure out wtf Microsoft is thinking to not open up asf.

    Also, Taco, Divx is just as good as ASF, and there v2.0 site is even cooler.

    Sincerly,
    Mark W. Wallace

    PS: I also have owned all of these thing for 2+years, so don't tell me that it's not fast enough!!!!!!!

  • No all people in the southern states are evangelical bigots who wish to restrict free speech. Nor do all Christians (evangelical or otherwise) harbour intolerant attitudes towards those with differing opinions or even aree with the opinions of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Conservatives and Christians to not have a monopoly on intolerant views and actions, and it is just as bad to supress or denigrate Christans as it is to do the same to Jews, Islamics, feminists or whoever else.

    I'm not making any of these claims. You are.

    Trust me, I just re-read what I wrote. It was an example. Nothing more, nothing less.

    If I had suggested that there was some central server at UC Berkeley intended to censor all anti-liberal programming, would you have called me a liberophobe?

    Lighten up.

  • http://www.keyspan.com/products/usb/remote/ [keyspan.com] This is a good solution.. USB, works with PC and Mac, prolly Linux too if you wanted to hack together drivers. The beauty of this remote is that it works via sending keyboard commands to the application with focus, even in full screen. Thus, it can be completely reprogrammed, and made to work with any application. I suppose you could even run a macro program, and map keystrokes to mouse-movement macros if you were so inclined. I have one of these, and it works well.. the range is awesome, too. :) Retails for about $50.
  • It generally performs very well. I use it for DVD (only in a secondary capacity, my regular DVD player is superior and I laugh at anyone who claims their PC's DVD player does a better job than a decent component DVD player

    Any particular reason you do that? The folks who hang out at the AV Sciences Forum web site [avsforum.com] can easily afford stand-alone DVD players, and choose to build home theater PCs. I consult with a high-end audio-video dealership, I go to all the trade shows like CES and CEDIA and I can assure you - a good software DVD player in a well-assembled PC delivers a better picture than any stand-alone player currently on the market (there are some pieces in prototype form that may change that when they are released).

    Use software player, like WinDVD 2000 or PowerDVD, through a GeForce2 MX video card & PowerStrip scaling the picture up to the "sweet spot" of a front projector. Run it at 72 or 96 or even 120 hz to multiply the 24 fps of a film-based DVD to avoid 3:2 pull-down artifacts.

    Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I wouldn't use a stand-alone DVD player if you paid me.

  • Have you tried finding the HTPC ? Fairly small pc, with embedded video, network etc. They sell in the UK, but not in France where I live. didn't had a chance to HEAR it, but seems interesting More info http://www.amptron.com/html/htpc.html Good luck, keep us posted ...
  • Are you referring to the BBC? If so, hen yes you do need a TV licence for tuner cards, but the price is ~£105 per year per household, not per tuner. That also covers you for portables outside of the home.
  • This is sorta like a .zip file and a zip drive. I know the difference, but my mom is still confused :>

    DIVX was an attempt to make copy-protected DVDs. Divx is an MPEG4 related codec for making .mpg files.

    I can only assume that the team who developed the Divx codec hadn't heard of DIVX when the developed it. Either that or they are evil bastards.

  • by CmdrButtPlug (308493) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:26PM (#466172) Homepage
    I need a big boy displaying my movies.

    Aaaargh! The image of Arnold Schwarzenegger holding up your DVD shelf is permanently etched into my mind! I think I need professional help!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No, it'll be flashing C:00 !
    bu-dum-dump!
  • From the Tivo Hacking FAQ [tivofaq.com]:

    PureDiva: Software only bundled with complete PC's. http://www.purediva.com

    Ligos: Windows based PTV. http://www.ligos.com/news/pr_timeshift.html

    PowerVCR: Windows based VCR. http://www.cyberlink.com.tw/english/products/power vcr2/powervcr2.asp

    WinVCR: Windows based VCR. http://www.cinax.com/Products/winvcr.html

    SnapStream: Windows based PTV (freeware and commercial version). http://www.snapstream.com

    ShowShifter: Windows based PTV (freeware). http://www.showshifter.com

    Also, the Matrox G450 eTV has some PTV software that comes with it for Tivo like functionality. Not sure how it gets its program guide though.

  • by xerx (63759)
    The whole point of a Set Top Box is price. For it to succeed, it needs to be cheap.

    If I can easily buy new components and make a better one far cheaper myself, including time and energy spent building it, set top boxes are going to have trouble.

    With all the hype, I have still yet to see a place where I can buy a Linux set top box. Coollogic had a press release last year regarding the immediate release of their box, I think Slashdot even picked up on it.

    Well where is it? Coollogic's web site seems to have not been updated since October of last year. Where is their set top box?
  • 1) Buying up as many ATI All-In-Wonder Pros PCI's that I can.

    2) Drop as 'em into a box and try and get XFree86 4 to span over all the outputs.

    3) Modify xawtv (if needed) so that so you can see the inputs from a diffrent card in each session of xawtv.

    4) Get TV-out working. Plug each card into a TV (I have a bunch I've been collecting for this).

    Presto! Videowall!

    Next we need a mpeg2 encoder board to record stuff. And more PCI slots :)

    I'd want to watch CNN, MTV, ZDNET, SCI-FI, and the Comedy channel all the time. :)

    Idealy I'd write my own software for viewing using gstreamer [gstreamer.net], but we'll see...
    --

  • What happens is that things need to get cheaper. While I like building things I'm not gonna shell out $$$ to build one of things. Media-Box is something I might use for its freeness but book PCs are a bit expensive and megahertez requirement (500Mhz plus) I can' get some cheapo computer. Though the popularity of using computers as something other than a normal computer (MAME cabinets, MP3 Jukeboxes) means that things will get better.
    __________________
  • by xFoz (231025) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:56PM (#466178)
    ....the TV crashed again. Honey, will you press the reset button for me.
  • by cje (33931) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:31PM (#466179) Homepage
    If you look at the way that things have been going lately with regards to content distribution, it's easy to imagine precipitous and draconian scenarios involving unreasonable restrictions for set-top boxes. Take, for example, "standard" set-top boxes such as Tivo and ReplayTV. What would happen if conservative legislators passed a law requiring manufacturers of those devices to screen programs against a "black list" and refuse to show certain material?

    You might wind up with a central server somewhere in the Deep South, operated by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson or another such people. When people want to use their Tivo to record certain television programs, that server is sent the name of the program, and can send back a rejection message if the program contains things such as nudity, feminism, or Islam. You might think this is a ridiculous example, but look at the way things are going. We've got some crippling potential restrictions on how HDTV signals can be used. We've got the MPAA saying that we don't have the right to use the data our own DVDs in our own home unless we use it the way they want us to. Don't expect things to get any better.

    Our last refuge might lie in our ability to develop our own solutions. We can build the codecs. We can can throw in big honkin' hard drives. We own soldering irons. There is nothing (conceptually) that is stopping us from developing our own devices. And if the government and the corporate community insist on continually levying these ridiculous restrictions on us, it might be the only option we have left. In fact, you might see a large "black market" for unregulated set-top devices spring up. The threat of this possibility should give the corporate control-freaks some pause, because if geeks have demonstrated anything over the past few years, it is that they will not be regulated. And that is a Good Thing (TM).
  • But what is the purpose of buying hardware when you can build your own?

    Umm, so you can go home, plug it in and use it?

    Duh.
  • Nah, they were 2 cds with mpegs...they're 1 cd now with divx...sometimes half a cd.

  • by dschuetz (10924) <[gro.tensad.divad] [ta] [hsals]> on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:57PM (#466182) Homepage
    I'm building a new house (or, rather, we're paying a big builder boatloads of bucks for a new house), and one of the things I really hope to set up is what I've been calling an UberTiVo. (anyone know how to do a U-Umlaut in an HTML form field?)

    What I've got buzzing around, in the back of my head, is something like this:

    • Kick-ass machine with lots of horsepower (multi-processor, all kinds of RAM, etc.)
    • Big RAID array of IDE drives (like one of those great boxes that turns 8 IDEs into a single SCSI device)
    • Multiple TV tuner cards (including HDTV - has anyone got a good, full-resolution, linux-compatible HDTV tuner card yet? I mean one I can actually buy TODAY, not just something seen at CES).
    • Multiple Video output cards (VGA/S-Video/Composite)
    • Multiple Audio output cards

    (That shouldn't be too expensive, right?)

    Then, this box would be connected to various rooms via Coax (for video) and line-level shielded audio (for audio). Or send the audio through a multi-zone amplifier to wall-mounted speakers. Or something like that. You'd control it via infrared control, repeated from the viewing room back to the box through wireless or wired IR repeaters.

    What would I do with this box? Everything.

    • Multi-input TiVo-like capabilities (record from as many inputs as you've got tuners)
    • MP3 player (with a great TV-based on-screen menu)
    • Video on demand system (just rip DVDs to the RAID array and build a menu around it like for MP3s)
    • Web surfing (gotta get the keyboard/mouse down somehow)
    • Gaming (PS/2, MAME, Doom, etc.)

    Could be way cool. Way, way cool. Of course, a lot of things that I'm thinking about here have significant infrastructure problems -- like, say, how do you distribute HD (TV, not disk) signals through a house?

    In the end, I think the plan I'm settling on involves a big UberTiVo box with multiple inputs, but feeding some massively cool RAID server (that way, I can just use a bunch of really cheap separate computers with one tuner each, if it becomes too difficult to handle more than one input per box). Then use very simple set-top boxes (the little "bookshelf" form factor) with Composite out (or just run VGA straight to an HDTV monitor), sound (to cheap speakers or an in-room stereo), and wireless keyboard and/or game controllers. If I'm really lucky, I can get this sucker to run w/out a fan, too.

    Then, everything just talks back to the main server over 100-meg ethernet. ( that part's easy!)

    Anyone else tackling something like this? From this approach? Or from an approach I should be aware of? I'd love to share ideas....

    david.

  • by The NT Christ (305898) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:57PM (#466183) Homepage
    It doesn't get much more proprietory. We're talking about 2 major custom chips with the "Emotion Engine" being a VVLSI chip incorporating basically all the processing power on the machine - the main CPU and it's two partner vector units - and the "GS" being a custom rendering engine. Just the IO/sound processor is an entire PS1 [minus graphics] which communicates with the PS2 stuff using a form of RPC! So it's not only proprietory, it's an extremely complex piece of hardware. It makes PCI look like RS232.

    The Sony docs from phase 1 were complete - including the systems information you'd need for Linux e.g. cache control details, system-level instructions, page-mapping registers, etc. etc. But these docs were only ever printed in dead-tree format, so it's incredibly difficult for them to accidentally escape.

    The Phase 2 docs are PDFs (I have a set at home which might escape if someone asks me nicely) but they miss out this important information.

    Finally, you'd need some form of Trojan to boot the machine, at least until it's chipped - and if you take a PS2 apart, the first thing you notice is that chipping this mofo is not going to be easy! It's some of the densest electronics I've ever seen. The best bet right now seems to be "accidentally" putting a Trojan download program onto a game disk, probably hidden as a buffer-overflow bug which you trigger deliberately, possibly by sending a packet on the serial port input; possibly by inserting an unauthorized CD.

    All this is assuming Sony will not be supportive ... and I think that's a fair bet.

  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:58PM (#466184) Homepage Journal
    OK - I gotta be cautious here 'cause I don't want to get a buddy in trouble...

    One of the large hardware manufacturers is working on exactly this. Linux-based it's a framework for other companies to license and customize. Their goal is to supply a reference implementation of the base system which of course takes advantage of their hardware.

    Presumably consumer-products companies coming late in the game to "digital-VCR's" will be happy to license this, do some customizing (either in-house or contracted with the developer) and then ship their own branded solutions.

    What's interesting about this for the /. community is just how much of this turns out to be really specialized. From kernel modifications to optimized codecs to specially designed file-systems much of this can't be off-the-shelf for price/performance reasons. Apparently they're not terribly concerned about the home-brew market feeling that it'll just be cheaper to buy a dedicated box then retrofitting other hardware, attempting to get appropriate listings, maintaining the hw/sw, etc.

    Of course I'm sure they're willing to sell their own industry-generic raw hardware to anyone, it's just the package that they're holding out for big fees.

    Frankly even though this topic comes up again & again I think they're probably right. Sure my PC CD-player plays music fine but I prefer to have one in my livingroom dedicated to the audio system. Same with the DVD player, while it plays fine on the box & 21" monitor I've got one in the lvingroom 'cause it's better suited / more convenient there.

    I expect for many of us a TiVo-type consumer box will be far more popular then a homebuilt. It's not like building your own computer 'cause the economics aren't likely to be as sweet and it'll be difficult to get source-material (the listings.)

    Different but related topic:

    What I *do* think would be hot would be custom-program-selection services where one could subscribe and get a selection of program-record-instructions emailed to my TV-box. Rather then it randomly recording stuff it thinks I *might* like or my explicitly setting the recording choices a third option of subscribing to a service (sushi-cooking@asianfood.com or st-nextgen-sans-wesley@stgeek.com) would be interesting.

    Of course for this to work we'd need some sort of TV-listings-XML...

  • by Erich (151)
    One thing you might want to look at is the modified MPEG-2 codec that the guy who wrote Broadcast2000 (the non-linear movie editor for Linux) has... http://heroinewarrior.com/mpeg2movie.php3 [heroinewarrior.com]

    The guy claims quality/bandwith similar to DivX, but the codec is GPL, and is SMP-ready.

    I don't have any personal experience with it, but if I were designing a Tivo-like system that's what I'd look at first -- especially if I was trying to do real-time high-compression video stuff and was willing to get some hefty CPU power it will pay off...

  • I'm waiting for it, too. In my opinion they should forget about competing with PS2 and Xbox and market it as an HDTV box. It could easily be the only HD-DVD player and HD-Tivo in one box.
  • If you're gonna bash Microsoft.. Try to know what you're talking about.

    VFAT 4GB File and Volume limit
    FAT32 32GB File and Volume Limit
    NTFS 16 Exabyte theoretical File and Volume Limit - 2 TB Limit recommeded.

    I have 7.4GB uncompressed AVI file sitting on my drive right now waiting to edited, convertrd to DivX and stored on my media server. All of this stuff is possible (and stable) on windows 98. I am doing it right now [slashdot.org]. If something does go wrong and the system becomes unstable (not that it should with the proper maintanence) Make sure you have a copy of Norton Ghost 2000. It will make a reinstall a 10 minute breeze instead of a 2 (or more) hour hassle. This applies to linux as well.

    What I want to know is...... If you have such a hard time running an easy-as-pie OS like windows.... what the fuck does your Linux install look like? Hehehe.

    There is a saying, Use the right tool for the job. Linux at this point is not the right tool for this job. Perhaps (read someday) it will be and I will probably use it then. But for now, I am using something that works.
  • Pace SkyDigital set top boxes crash disturbingly frequently. The MPEG decoder keeps on working, but the UI freezes so you can't switch channel, browse the schedules, etc until you do a hard power cycle (which involves unplugging the unit's power, since there's no hard power switch).
    --
  • There are actually a whole bunch of relevant projects underway. The pieces are coming together! Some that haven't been mentioned....

    http://www.linuxtv.org (Digital TV hardware based goodies and more)

    http://mjpeg.sourceforge.org (MJPEG capture, playback, MPEG-1/2 encoding )

    Andrew
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A company called Indrema is making a Linux/Tivo/MP3/HDTV/DVD/Game set top box, and guess what it will retail for $299. goto www.idrema.com to check it out.
  • by Jose (15075) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:37PM (#466196) Homepage
    Someone point me to a ReplayTV project.

    there isn't one going per se (at least I haven't seen one yet), but all of the tools are there...on the hardware side, you'll need a tv tuner, and Big-Assed Harddrive (TM).
    On the software side, grab vcr [stack.nl]. VCR is a command line tool to record divx files..it eats processors though, so make sure you got a good one..if you would like something that is a little leaner on the processor, grab mp1e (sorry no web page), the files you write will be bigger, but the quality is good, and only take about 15% of my celery 400.
    To see what is on TV, either grab xmltv [ic.ac.uk], tvguide [cherrynebula.net], or the cream of the crop Mister House [sourceforge.net]

    Mister House looks pretty sweet, since it already embeds links to record shows right in the listings for recording(you'll have to hack it a bit to get it to use vcr/mp1e, but it'll work), and there is already code there for remembering your favourite shows, sorting for movies, etc, etc etc...

    Now if you want to get fancy, you'll grab a DVD anywhere from x10 (to lazy to throw in the link), a second sound card in your Linux box, and a second video card in your Linux box, and it will all get run from your machine sitting in your room so that you don't have a noisy machine sitting your Living Room.
    And of course this also gets you access to your MP3s, and web browser while sitting on the couch...

    So why haven't you built this yet Jose, you ask? I'm working on it OK, GET OFF MY BACK!! =P

  • Not to be ment as flaimbait. but you do know you could set all of that up in windows in about an hour?

    though i do understand the k3wlness facter of doing it all in linux, with pre alpha software.

    -Jon

    Streamripper [sourceforge.net]

  • The infared stuff for the remote control is reasonably easy. Many tv-tuner cards come with a remote control, for the software to use. There was at one point support for the infared in linux, but no software I could find used the infared. We've all seen infared parallel ports, too. You could use one as the infared reciever. You'd have to figure out a way to translate the remote signals into actions by software, but that shouldn't be too bad. Even better, get a remote multimedia keyboard, and use it for everything. You could re-program the buttons to take the action which you want them to take.
  • Using a SOAP module to download TV schedules is not going to work. You'll just end up with General Hospital, Young and the Restless, All My Children and Guiding Light filling up your hard drive.
  • I wish I had finished the web site for it by now, but I've been having too much fun playing with the actual machine! I started to build it out of some parts laying around after an upgrade. The specs are as follows:

    Celeron 533Mhz (basically the best I could fit on my existing PII mobo)

    128MB RAM

    40GB ATA/100 (running at 33 :( ) HDD, 7200RPM

    ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder

    Logitech AST Remote [compuvisor.com] - to control mouse/applications

    Software to control mouse is Girder [stack.nl]. (It's awesome)

    Black desktop ATX case

    Black wireless keyboard/trackball (Compaq)

    Running Win98 (Radeon can't output digital audio thru SPDIF in 2000 yet)

    Creative Labs MP3+ 5.1

    Cheapo black DVD-ROM drive

    100Mbps ethernet

    It generally performs very well. I use it for DVD (only in a secondary capacity, my regular DVD player is superior and I laugh at anyone who claims their PC's DVD player does a better job than a decent component DVD player), MP3 (primarily the reason I built it), watching MPG1/2/DivX movies and VCDs. It can also act as a WebTV in a pinch, though it's running at 800x600 and the text can get hard to read, even when set at largest font.

    I do have some issues with the Radeon card (besides the exorbitant price) - it does straight-to-MPEG2 capture, which is nice, but it doesn't enforce a/v synching, which isn't usually an issue until I decide to compress to DivX. Then you usually need to fire up something like AVI Info [demon.co.uk] to correct the problem. I bought the Radeon because it comes with some TV-Guide type software to control listings and recording, but in my experience, it's not really worth it. From what I hear, the ATI AIW 32 is a better card for straight PVR uses.

    Just my $0.02.

  • You can have a look over at linuxdvd.org [linuxdvd.org] for a hardware mpeg2 encoder [linuxdvd.org] that works under linux. This should make at least 1/2 of the PVR work easier. (the other half could be done in software, or hardware if you have say a dxr2 based decoder. [creative.com]
  • Thanks. This /is/ the bki810 computer I wrote about, but I had the earlier version.

    As I wrote earlier, it was far too loud. Also, its TV out wasn't quite good (not centered on the screen, not full screen) and its digital audio output was not accessible on the case, you'd have to drill a hole and get your own cable to use it.

    But of course, I don't know if a) my particular system was just an exception and if b) the new version of the product has been improved.

    ------------------
  • OK - turns out they've announced:

    Quantum QuickView [quantum.com]. License it, pop it in your labeled box and you've got yourself a product. Guts supplied by the same folks that supply TiVo & Replay.

    Why Quantum? The more drives they sell the better for them. It's in their interest to see this market take off and if providing a reference deseign is what it takes that's nothing new in the industry. Besides, they want to be the folks in this potentially enormous market.

  • I've been on the quest for the prefect set-top box for a while now. My main issue always came down to the fact that any case/box I thought of made to much noise (i.e. fan) or was butt-ugly or was to big. The Indrema seems to be the answer and so I'm currently holding my breath. I'm even prepared to by a developer box and pay the extra $300 or so in case there are apps that Indrema won't bless. (because of potential copy-right sillyness, like storing archived NES/SNES ROMs on the harddrive) I can port/compile them myself.

    It already has the web-browsing, MP3 playing, network connection, and sleek case. It just needs someone to port Mame, snes9x, DivX, etc and we're rolling. (HINT HINT HINT) And it's running Linux!! Can you ask for more? Hack a way to patch all your old controllers to work over USB and you can stick all those old consoles in the closet!!

    Now all we need is for it to materialize from it's current VaporWare(TM) state....
  • by jon_c (100593)
    It uses win32 codec binarys from microsoft to do all of this, not really an answer.

    but it works, i guess.

    -Jon

    Streamripper [sourceforge.net]

  • i've got a beige G3 coming to me from a friend that's replacing it, and i plan to use that for all my living room computing.

    it fits under my TV, in the cabinet with the DVD player, etc, and has built-in 10/100 ethernet, component & S-video, 6G hard drive, and a CD ROM

    this last is only important in that i can use either it or the ethernet to get software onto the bugger (i remotely control it via timbuktu from the office rather than hook up a keyboard and mouse) but mostly because i have Virtual GameStation and can play playstation games with the G3, as well as quake and UT. at some point, i'll add a fat video card and USB to it, and it'll do everything my blue G3 in the office can do, as well as pumping video to the big screen.

    that's the plan, anyway..
  • by Wog (58146) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @01:48PM (#466225)
    That the MediaBox is Linux friendly as well. In fact, here are the requirements:

    Requirements for the Linux Version

    Intel CPU of 600Mhz or greater (current libs have more overhead)
    2.2.16 kernel of higher, JAVA 1.3 w/JMF
    20Gb+ storage space (1Gb per imported DVD) recommended @ UDMA66
    Wireless mouse (not required but suggested)
    Settopbox form factor PC chassis (not required but recommended)
    TV-out card (strongly recommended)
    Internet Connection

  • Well, the TV Tuner stuff should be fairly good, especially if you get a card with a bt848 chip in it. I know my Hauppauge WinTV card worked quite nicely under Linux a couple years ago. MP3 rippers and players likewise should be very well supported. What I'd really like to see is a nice all-in-one set top box that you can pop a DVD into, select "rip" and have it unencrypt it and store it on the hard drive for later viewing. i.e. for those days when you've spent the damned money at Blockbuster to rent the DVD but just do not have time to get around to watching it and you don't want to pay the late fee. Maybe even throw in a DVD writer (the new Mac G4's have one) to make a home piracy kit. ;-)
  • The BookPC's are $170 from Directron.
    Then go get an AMD K63 or K63+ 450 for $50.
    K63 is a laptop processor, but works if you set the voltage at 2.1(MB doesn't to 2.0).
    I clock it at 500 Mhz.
    You probably need an IR keyboard or other IR controller. Keyboard is $100. Or you could have got the DVD/black version of the BookPC which came with the IR control.

    Now the software. Currently I just run 'aviplay' to play divx's and some mp3 player.

    But this is all manual. What is needed is a automatic way to detect and play any media when it is loaded either by disc type (CD,DVD,VCD) or by extention (Discs full of mp3,avi,mpg,mp3,mp2,mpa,ac3,vob,mov,...,xmameroms)

    So the architecture would be:

    enum disc_type {CD, VCD1,VCD2, VCD3, SVCD, DVD, UNKNOWN};
    when(disc inserted)
    {
    disk_type = determine_disc_type();
    load_navigation(disc_type);
    }

    blah, blah, blah
  • by rho (6063)

    ü or Ü

    that's:

    &uuml; or &Uuml;
  • You've got a couple of choices in doing this. The hardware way and the software way. Hardware involves video/audio switchers which are expensive and not really designed to be controlled by touchpads in rooms, tho they could be I suppose. The software is less expensive, but still complicated, since you'd have to be streaming video to each unit. If you're going to a computer, it's easy. If you're going to a TV, it gets harder and more expensive.

    The only option I can come up with is a private closed-circuit TV system (similar to the ones hotels have). AFAIK, this requires a special TV if you want to combine internal sources (your personal pr0n collection) and external sources (your Time/Warner cable service).

    I suppose you could do it with regular TVs, but now you're talking about a computer at every TV, and that gets expensive and difficult to deal with.

    What we need is a Free Software solution for integrating a TV and a computer so that TV manufacturers can add the hardware and use the software for no cost.

  • by Coccyx The Clown (237937) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @02:29PM (#466238)
    Instead of waiting for sophomoric efforts by enthusiasts, why not just hack the functionality in the X-box? (when it's available) It has the power, and would be very straightforward if it were done correctly. I imagine one would be able to make it work with just about any of the new codecs. And setting up tv-out on a computer can be a pain in the ass, especially wiring it all up if you dont have your tv right next to the computer (not to mention how to control it with your keyboard and mouse 30 feet away). Sure, these problems can be circumvented, but only with added hardware costs. I say the X-box instead of PS2 because of its x86 compatibility, making it easier to port the stuff over. Im sure microsoft doesnt want this to happen (they stress that the xbox is only for gaming, and it would draw the ire from the movie companies), but how are they gonna stop a hack from being possible without restricting the freedom of game developers? The X-box with dynamically upgradeable codecs would be a kick ass combo, especially if it eventually works with DVD-ram technology to allow several movies on one disk. (all of the star wars trilogy on one disk that could play on an installed base of millions of units?) sounds killer.
  • I find it hard to believe that FAT32 would support an odd size like 32GB for files...

    2GB is an unsigned 32b integer. A 32GB file would require a 36b integer.

    Not to mention that I've had Win98 running on FAT32 refuse to make a large file (I was piping data in, it hung when the file hit 2GB).

    NTFS supports larger files, but only 2TB from what I've heard. No idea what the max partition size is.
  • by Flarg! (265195) on Wednesday January 31, 2001 @12:00PM (#466249)
    If the average joe builds his own set-top box, will it still have a flashing "12:00"?

    You want corn? I give you corn.

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