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Bokks Linux Based AV Component 144

Here is an article about a new linux based AV stereo componenent. This one is from Bokks and it has a lot going for it: Plays your MP3s, MPEGs, VOBs, and soon Divx. Has standard audio and video ports, a sleek form factor, and what looks to be a sexxy interface. Its ethernet interface can take input from NFS or Samba, or the net. The only downside I see is that it has no DVD drive for built in ripping, and it has only a 20G drive. But at $400, this is pushing the line of reasonable for this type of device. Should be available in Feb.
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Bokks Linux Based AV Component

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  • by mjed ( 514439 )
    Will they be putting out a bigger, optional hard drive? 20 gigs isn't too much when yuo consider the average file size of mp3s and mpegs.
  • It's about time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sketerpot ( 454020 )
    Hopefully in the future stereos will move away from plain uncompressed stuff and towards things like MP3s. It will be nice to be able to fit a huge bunch of music on a single CD, called "Peter's Favorite Music" in my case, that you can play on good audio hardware, not just old Sound Blaster speakers.
    • " can play on good audio hardware, not just old Sound Blaster speakers."

      That's easy... go to Radio Shack and buy a 1/8" to RCA audio cable, plug the 1/8" plug into the output of your sound card, and hook up the RCA jacks into the auxiliary input of your stereo (assuming it supports it). Switch the stereo to use the aux. input (as opposed to CD, AM/FM, etc), and you're good to go.

      This is the setup I have and it works awesome.... just make sure you keep your speakers far enough away from the monitor. ;)

      - Jester
    • Re:It's about time (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Compression is a short-term band aid meant for $1500 one gig drives and times when 24 meg of ram as a lot. Let's instead hope for a day when storage and networks permit the common use of 96 khz 24 bit recordings. MP3's are the computer equivalent of eight track tapes.
    • Hopefully in the future stereos will move away from plain uncompressed stuff and towards things like MP3s.

      Lets hope not. Some of us actually care about sound quality. As a friend of mine said, high fidelity and lossy compression can't exist in the same sentence. There's plenty of scope for lossless compression in the future, but lossless compression works by removing redundancy, which in turn narrows the scope for error correction. It's always a trade off, and IMHO, we should be aiming somewhere in the middle -- modest lossless compression, while still retaining a degree of error correction.

    • you do know that is possible to use speakers other than cheap computer speakers on your computer, right? These days alot of companies even sell nice speakers meant for computers. Personally, i have one of my computers hooked up to a nice set of amplified of altec lansing speakers meant for a dvd player. And i have my other hooked to my stereo reciver playing through a very nice set of infiniti speakers.
  • 266 Mhz + DivX? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ajna ( 151852 )
    Will a 266 Mhz x86 processor be able to play DivX smoothly? I ask because my 333 Mhz laptop has trouble keeping audio sync...
    • it has a MPEG hardware decoder, so depending on how well the software divx (i dont know anything about divx) is written to take advantage.

      • Thanks for the reply. In my quick scan of the article (which seemed very movie-pirate oriented, btw... hmm) I didn't see the mention of the hardware decoder. Having one would help, though.
      • I seriously doubt a hardware decoder would help DivX at all, because DivX is not exactly MPEG compliant. It's kinda... rogue. That's about the best way to describe it (it's a hacked-up Microsoft MPEG-4 codec). My bet is that the software has no support for hardware decoding anyway.

        On another note, 266 mhz is probably enough to decode DivX movies fine. I was doing it in Linux on a 400 mhz Celeron 6 months ago, with about 40% cpu usage...

        You -definitely- need hardware video overlay, though.
    • Well I can play most (not all) divx's without problems on my celeron 300; mplayer uses 40-50% cputime. That is with software scaling to 1280x960. So I guess this box won't have too much trouble with it...and when it does it can use framedrop (and so can you on your laptop).
    • DivX seems to work well on my 266MHz PII laptop... I don't know if my MPEG decoder card is helping. Some other things that might make a big difference: cache size, processor multimedia instructions (such as MMX), video card bandwidth (PCI vs. AGP), and DRAM memory bandwidth (My laptop does 528 MB/sec, my desktop does 2100 MB/sec)
    • Of course... when a divx is playing, the cpu will be completely devoted to decoding it. On your laptop, the processor also has the os running and all those apps on it.

      P.S. My 333mhz desktop can watch divxes just fine with no lag.
  • This should be very easy to throw a larger drive into. Unless of course they did some of the whacky stuff TiVO did.. but even then it wouldn't be too bad.

    Take this device and throw a 120gig WD drive in there. Or why not even take the existing HD out and put one of those little ram-disk things in there (you know what I mean, like the kind in the i-opener). Then you can have it be totally silent and just play movies off the file server hiding in the basement with 500gig of space. (What? You don't have one yet? :) Of course that may require a little more hacking because the little info we have says that it will play all those formats from the HD.

    Having ethernet on it sure opens lots of neato doors.

    The only down side that I can see is that it dosen't support the TiVO like recording functionality. You need to record your stuff somewhere else, then this just plays it. I see that as my only reason not to buy one.

  • Ogg? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NewbieSpaz ( 172080 )
    No Ogg Vorbis support though. .ogg's have better compression than mp3's and is OSS. If they get it to work on there, it'd make it even more attractive...
    • Re:Ogg? (Score:2, Informative)

      by ikeleib ( 125180 )
      Stop whining and write a fixed point CODEC!

      That is the single thing that keeps vorbis from being included in various appliance devices.

      Coders of the world: Write a CODEC that can decode on a 74Mhz ARM 720T using less than 30KB of data space.

      • A fixed point codec is an issue for portable players, which run on very limited hardware. This is a stereo AV component that contains a 266 MHz x86 CPU. (I play Ogg files on my 200 MHz Pentium all the time without any problems.) If this thing will play movies, then this box has the specs to run ogg123 directly without any optimization at all.
        • This is true. However, if portable players (which are cheaper) begin supporting it, then larger players will also probably start supporting it.
    • According to the forum on, Ogg support is being developed for the box.
  • I'm certain someone will have posted a similar comment by the time I hit submit but...


    Can you replace the drive with because...
    Multiple choice:
    a)My mp3 collection is HUGE, I mean it's SO much bigger than yours you should be turning green with envy.
    b)You can only fit hours of on this drive according to my calculations which I will now list in order to invite ridicule on my crap math skills.
    c)the clever sales person told me you have to have at least 80GB of memory these days and he wouldn't lie to me he was really clevar.


    That should save everyone else lots of typing.
  • by amorsen ( 7485 )
    This is the first reasonable digital audio/tv device I have seen. The ones before have been tied to proprietary formats, ridiculously expensive, or limited in capacity or quality. Of course the hard drive is too small at 20GB, but that can be remedied by putting a file server in another room (so you don't have to listen to the noise). It would have been nice to have a DVD drive, but again, it's just a matter of copying the DVD to the file server.

    If they added a VideoLan Client [], it would be practically perfect. VLC by itself probably doesn't support the hardware MPEG decoder, and the CPU isn't fast enough to do DVD decoding in software.

    • This is the first reasonable digital audio/tv device I have seen. The ones before have been tied to proprietary formats

      So is this one. It supports MPEG audio layer 3 (patented), VOB (MPEG 2 (patented) plus Dolby Digital (patented)), and DivX (MPEG 4 (patented)). And the royalties for such patents are

      ridiculously expensive

  • there's a handy little mobo/case called the SV24, made by shuttle. it has:

    RCA/S-video out
    normal audio out
    4 usb ports
    2 firewire
    etc... (standard mobo parts, ps2 ports etc etc)

    put together a nice multimedia system for only $490 some, plus it's actually useable as a computer!

    i mean, that's a nifty box and all, but you can build a better one for not that much more. it does everything that the unit above does, and much more besides.
  • From the article:
    Hard drives are also not a permanent medium, so until DVD burners become much cheaper the files on those drives are subject to crashes and loss.
    Technically correct: Hard drives are not a permanent medium. But neither are DVDs, which, while they don't suffer from hard-drive style crashes, still get scratches and also deteriorate over time. I've read that most cheap CD-Rs begin to deteriorate noticably after ten years or so, and although DVD-R(AM?) media is likely to be of higher quality, it's still far from permanent.
    • DVDs, which, while they don't suffer from hard-drive style crashes, still get scratches and also deteriorate over time

      A scratch does not damage the information on a piece of optical media, only the clear plastic that is protcting the information; that is why the plastic is there, you can get a scratch kit to fix it. If you need to record something for extremely long term archival, you can get silver, gold, or platinum CDs. Most commercial DVDs are burned on silver or gold, so unlike your VHSs, they should be usable many generations from now.

      When he says hard drives are not a permanent medium he is referring more to the fact that they have moving parts and are prone to data corruption than their archival value. Overall, I think we should be glad we are moving from extremely short lived products, i.e. magnetic tape, and short lived products, i.e. film, to store our multimedia art on.

  • But at $400, this is pushing the line of reasonable

    If you feel this is a good buy, please say so.

    If not, then why post it?

  • Why a hard drive? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Saturday December 01, 2001 @04:55PM (#2641793)

    This would be perfect without the hard drive. If the box has network access, why do you need it? It's just an extra component that could fail.
    • If the box has network access, why do you need it?

      The Bokks is designed to allow you to transfer content to the hard drive, then take it with you. At the size of a few of VHS tapes, it's small enough to take anywhere, plug in and enjoy.
  • by omega9 ( 138280 )
    It plays .vob files? Does that include encrypted files? I've searched the company site and it doesn't mention anything about being able to DeCSS .vob files. And I can't imagine having much fun with only unencrypted .vobs.

    Wouldn't it be niftier to pack some hard drives into an actual DVD player and stick an ethernet port in the back? You could have all the features of this box plus the ability to rip straight from DVD. Course the MPAA wouldn't let it see the light of day.
    • VOB files can be unencrypted too. I have quite a few DVDs that have unencrytped VOBs on them.

    • And I can't imagine having much fun with only unencrypted .vobs

      Most pr0n DVDs are unencrypted and I've had a lot of fun with those.
  • A Start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 90XDoubleSide ( 522791 ) <ninetyxdoublesid ... t ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday December 01, 2001 @04:58PM (#2641807)
    This product is, IMO, not something worth buying, but it is a step in the direction of a cool new concept for a set-top box that archives nearly all your media in one place. One major problem I see is that DIVX is not a useable technology for archiving your movies in the way that high quality MP3s are. MP3s, along with bigger and cheaper storage, have reached the point where they are the only format 99.5% of people need: a good VBR MP3 (averaging 200-240kbps) sounds extremely close to the uncompressed song, but even an extremely large DIVX looks downright crappy compared to the original, and a good Sorenson 3 encoded movie would be huge, require processing power in excess of what a cheap set-top box would use to decode, still have some quality problems in high-motion scenes, and will not receive the kind of adoption as MP3 due licensing costs.

    There is also less need to keep all your 1.5-3 hour movies in one device that can play them all without switching media as there is for your 2-15 minute songs; I see DIVX more as the result of the fact that most computers don't have DVD burners.

    • Well, I'll say that DivX encoded from a DVD looks pretty awesome, especially considering that you're sometimes taking 6-8GB of data and making into about 700-800MB of data. With that in mind, it looks REALLY good then.

      It all depends on how good you want to make it when you're encoding.
  • by OblongPlatypus ( 233746 ) on Saturday December 01, 2001 @05:00PM (#2641808)
    A: They thought it would be a nice middle ground between nothing [] and more [].
    • That's a common mistake, when trying to please everyone with "common ground" you end up doing some half-measure that no one likes - for those who want to actually store files on this thing, 20 gigs is obviously not enough, for those who just want to use it to playback stuff from the "basement server" (like me) it's just an extra, uncesessary component that generates heat and noise, and just one more thing to break.
    • It's the perfect size for a simple reason:
      The device is meant to play movies off your mounted LAN monster hard drive, but have enough storage to download a small selection and take the box with you for to view elsewhere, or to TRADE/copy videos on another LAN, like your office LAN or your friends LAN, or a LAN party...
    • Why is the hard drive only 20G's ?

      Because that's the size Staples and Circuit City and such were offering on sale with a rebate last week. :-)

  • Alright I'm taking bets on how long till a hack harddisk upgrade is availible:

    1 hr after release
    1 day after release
    2 days after release
  • I think developments on the xbox or ps2 will take place that will allow for this sort of functionality, (it almost happend on the dreamcast the proccessor just was not fast enugh to handle divx rips) and because both companies tend to take a loss on each consle, and will soon or already have ethernet built in, it will make for a good convergence device, once it gets hacked and opend up. could watch divx movies with better quality video out, for some reason divx movies look identical to the DVD on the monitor but not so identical to the DVD when played on TV out compared to DVD played on DVD player.
    • [Xbox and PS2] will make for a good convergence device, once it gets hacked and opend up.

      Hacked? Yeah right. Xbox is locked up tight; apparently, all binaries must bear Microsoft's digital signature. Watch for Microsoft to use its vast re$ources to sue any modchip makers into oblivion.

      for some reason divx movies look identical to the DVD on the monitor but not so identical to the DVD when played on TV out compared to DVD played on DVD player.

      This may be a gamma issue. Try tweaking your TV-out device's settings.

  • yea, they won't hape the MPAA all over their ass if they implement this little feature.
  • Legality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaSyonic ( 238637 ) <(DaSyonic) (at) (> on Saturday December 01, 2001 @05:30PM (#2641886) Homepage
    This is a great product, Don't get me wrong, I want one.

    But the marketing/advertising they are receiving, at least from that review, aims directly towards illegal uses. Take the following examples:

    The first step is to download and install your favorite P2P program that offers a Linux version. Once you have that, you can begin trading movies direct from the box.
    This implies you will TRADE the movies, not just watch them for your own personal fair use.

    For those without a broadband connection at home, the Bokks can utilize the T1 connection at work this way where movies and music can be saved and watched at home later.
    Here it suggests hooking up external equipment to your companies LAN and use their bandwidth for your own (likely) illegal use. Not good either.

    If this product hopes to succeed, it must be presented in fair use. The Rio almost got nailed by the RIAA, but the Rio presented itself as legal fair use, and set a good precedent. This could set a NEGATIVE precedent if done incorrectly. They need to improve their image quick.

    • The company itself unfortunately agrees with the tone of that review:

      Connect it to your TV and view movies youve downloaded from the Internet.

      I don't want one for a variety of reasons. Part is that I don't want moving components, part is that I don't want an electrically noisy PC (face it, that's what this is) with unknown sound output doing the conversion; part is that I'm not going to use something like this for copyright infringement and I don't care to have the seller saying "nudge nudge, wink wink" when I say that.

      There is a legitimate market for archiving libraries of music and movies; there is a legitimate market for wanting to easily listen to a CD you own in the car, at your computer, and at your stereo.

  • What software and codecs are being used for playback? Are they something that's already public domain or are they being developed specifically for this box? Much media playback software for Linux currently is "OKay", but with frequent crashes, poor features, and artifacts, it's got a long way to go. If this is going to be a consumer product, I imagine the software will be a little more polished, or at the very least, provide decent functionality in the form of front-ends that users of other platforms have expected. Is this software to be available to us or will it have to be hacked mercilessly out of the box and liberated from a restrictive license?
    • the codecs will change. i am guessing the mpeg decoder is a hardware decoder so it would not go out of date. but what about the divix codec. it keeps getting updated so how are they going to incorperate an EASY way to upgrade the drivers?
  • Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rjkm ( 145398 ) on Saturday December 01, 2001 @06:12PM (#2641996)
    I see that many people here are complaining about the capabilities and price of the box. For me it is just the kind of STB I was looking for.

    Sure, you can build a PC with MPEG2 playback, networking etc. cheaper or for about the same price. But thats not what this device tries to replace, at least I would not buy it for doing this. When I saw the older TV Bokks (you can see it on their web page) I thought this would be great as an STB to stream files and live DVB streams from a server in the basement to other TVs here at home. But, although we have one of those at work to play with, I never saw it being offered for sale anywhere.

    The old Bokks has a Geode chip as processor/graphics chip/etc. and a Sigma Designs EM8400 for decoding. I guess the new Bokks is based on the same design. They only added some hardware (like the hard drive) and changed the shape to a brick. The EM8400 is a nice decoder chip. We developed our own driver which is API compatible to our DVB drivers. So, I would not mind playing with one of those Bokkses. Also, if you consider the price of an EM8400 card (e.g. the Netstream 2000), the Bokks does not seem that expensive anymore.

    Sure, I would also not mind if the Bokks were a little cheaper. With VAT (AFAIK 25% in Sweden which I guess I will have to pay when ordering from Germany) its over 1100 German Marks + shipping. Maybe they decide to also sell the old version for a lower price. I at least would be interested in it. On the other hand, the disk and nice brick shape makes the new system really portable. And I think the specs mention only 10W power usage. No noise, little heat, sounds good.

    Now please everybody buy it so that the price goes down and I can get one :-)
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Saturday December 01, 2001 @07:12PM (#2642209) Homepage Journal
    Imagine this.....

    1) 1.2 Ghz athlon with 512 megs of memory

    2) ATI all in wonder radeon that provides not only a TV tuner but svideo/composite A/V inputs and outputs and the ability to do audio/video capture at 720x384 at 30 fps on any of the inputs

    3) Sound blaster Live platinum 5.1 for surround sound playback of DVD's etc.

    4) four 100 gig hard drives on an IDE raid controller. Total capacity of 400 gigs

    5) DVD-R burner, preferably SCSI

    6) CD burner, preferably SCSI

    7) It will be connected to the internet via a switched 100base-T network connected to a NAT gateway that is itself connected through DSL.

    This is the system I'm building right now. Its purpose is much the same as the Bokks device. With it I will be able to play DVD's, vobs, mp3, avi's, mpegs, vcd, divx, etc all on my TV thanks to the all in wonder. Additionally I'll be able to do tivo style recording thanks to that all in wonder. I can rip all my DVD's, encode them to divx, and store them on the raid array or burn them to CD. Or I can just rip them and burn them back to DVD in regionless format with no macrovision. I've got friends overseas that might appreciate that.

    By the time this Bokks device becomes available I'll have this system up and running. I haven't decided whether to use Linux or Windows2000 yet. Which one I use will greatly depend upon device support for the all in wonder and SB Live. We've got an HK A/V reciever with dolby surround sound support. If the SB Live drivers for linux support all the features, and the support for the All in wonder is there, then I'd rather use Linux. But if this is not the case I'll use windows instead.

    Unfortunately this system is going to cost me a fair bit more than $400. I've already got the MB, CPU, and memory. All I'll need is a good case/PS, the hard drives, the video card, the sound card, and of course the SCSI adapter and burners. Total cost will be upwards of $2000 dollars US.

    • You're better off with Windows; the SB Live drivers for Linux *do* have multichannel support, but the software has to be able to decode into two separate stereo devices (for the standard and surround speakers), and I'm not aware of any that actually does that.

      Dunno 'bout the All-In-Wonder, though I vaguely remember hearing/reading that it is supported, at least wrt some of its functionality.

      Btw, in response to your sig: The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. - F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some of us can keep both our religion and our brains.
    • I built a pretty similar machine last January, though unfortunately I had to use Win98 because of driver issues. You should really go for an external VGA scan converter rather than using the All In Wonder's video outputs, because as far as I know there's no Linux support for its TV output and under Windows, all DVD players put Macrovision on the output signal if the DVD calls for it. I'm still using my AIW's video output and last week I finally rented my first disc that Macrovisioned the display (The Mummy Returns). It was inconvenient to rip it to the hard disk and strip off the Macrovision, which took an hour or so, and for my trouble I made a DivX4 CD of it. Of course, none of this matters if you have a TV or monitor with something other than an antenna for input, but I don't.

      I actually use the machine mainly for timeshifting, though the capture software that comes with the AIW Radeon pretty much sucks ass. It either generates MPEG-1 files which lose audio sync after an hour or so, or huge MPEG-2 files which limit me to a couple hours of recording time due to FAT32, and which I can't edit using Virtualdub. You can select AVI if you want to record directly to DivX4, but then it seems to encode in MPEG anyway and transcode to AVI, creating the same sync problem. There is a patched version of VirtualDub out there that does time shifting but I can't get it to record, and I've yet to try any of the commercial DVR programs. Ironically, assuming the capture support is there, it may be easier to redo the thing in Linux using OpenDIVX assuming my Athlon 900 is fast enough.

      I see a lot of complaining about using DivX to archive videos. Here's the thing. Not all of us aren't trying to burn our own DVD's at home or be l33t h4x0r p1r4t3z. Some of us are just trying to replace old VHS VCR's. I got all 13 episodes of B5-Crusade on two CDR's (the 9 episodes I like at 300Kbps, the four I don't like at 200) and the quality was A LOT better than if I had used two VHS T-160's. That will hold me until I can buy the whole series on DVD like I'm doing with The Prisoner, and since I'm not spreading them across the internet I really don't care what anyone else thinks about the quality.
  • Hey what do you know! 48 hrs ago I submitted this exact story (hey, same link too!) to slashdot and guess what kids! It got rejected.
    theres slashdot for ya.
    • OH MY GOD!! You got rejected?? and this joker's submission was ACCPETED???? That's it, I am writing to my senator and making up some picket signs for a protest... of something or other.

      get a life

      (i guess I should as well)
  • Since it runs linux you could allways mount a few harddrives on other systems.

    A few notes:

    It has an 266mhz x86 processor (perhaps a pII?), this doesn't really sound like a processor that's fast enough for decoding divx, does it?

    But fast enough to do some decent retro mame gaming.

    I wonder what kind of 20gb drive is in this device. They better put in a quiet one, since people will leech their stuff 24/7 with this thing. Currently my cable decoder even has a 4gb harddrive the noise makes me crazy enough to disconnect it when I don't use it.
  • The only downside I see is that it has no DVD drive for built in ripping

    It's not to surprising, considering that they wanted to sell the device, rather then just getting lawyered the fuck out of :P

    Once they're successful they might be able to do things like throw in a DVD burner a-la recent Macs, but don't except a home DeCSS machine on store shelves anytime soon :)
  • by Jobe_br ( 27348 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `hturdb'> on Sunday December 02, 2001 @12:34PM (#2643758)
    Those who are electrical engineers correct me if I'm wrong, but this device appears to be centric to Europe in its video output. Its listed as having SCART, S-Video, and Composite (PAL) output. From what I know, the Composite signal isn't the only thing that is PAL/NTSC specific - S-Video is as well! If that is in fact the case, I don't believe any North American television will be of much use with this device. Too bad, in my opinion.
  • Without composite audio out, I guarantee you that the noise level of the outputs makes them totally worthless for even the less picky audio enthusiasts like myself. If I pause the machine and get a buzz through my otherwise totally clean Sherwood and MC500 pair, then the box isn't worth a ten dollar gift certificate.

    Come on, for the love of christ somebody had to have a decent stereo on the team that developed this! Nobody in their right mind uses analog anymore for anything other than vinyl or magnetic tape, it is impossible to clean the signal even over the three feet between components. And when your signal is already digital (as it is before the cheap DAC on the sound card gets ahold of it and messes it up), why the hell not supply it as digital, so that $300 DAC in the sherwood isn't just twiddling it's thumbs. Coaxial outputs are basically free, and even optical out is hardly prohibitive anymore.

    Keep it digital, folks, analog is the useless buzzing child of the past.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling