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Media Hardware Hacking Software Linux

Neuros OSD Review 55

An anonymous reader writes "The Neuros OSD promises a lot — it claims to be the first open source Linux-based embedded media center and it "records video and links your PC, portables and entertainment center". Bold claims, but can it live up to them? has a two page review of the Neuros OSD."
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Neuros OSD Review

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  • I'd get one if.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:00PM (#17371866) Journal
    I've really been thinking about getting one of these. I currently use the Xbox, mod'd to run XBMC. If the neuros can work that well out of the box (preferably running a port of XBMC) then I'd be sold. As I see it now it's still too much work compared to the Xbox solution.
  • No 16:9? (Score:4, Informative)

    by riceboy50 ( 631755 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:11PM (#17371952)
    According to TFA, this does not yet support 16:9 aspect ratio. Presumably that also means it doesn't support HD content. I wasn't clear if this is supposed to be a new DVR solution, but if so, then it needs to support HD and 16:9 before I'd consider it.
    • Re:No 16:9? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:12PM (#17372454)
      Also lists resolutions, which top off at 720x480. Definitely not HD preserving, and likely no HD tuner. Of course, an HD tuner PCI card is about $100, so it may have put the vendor over their price point.

      Doesn't take much to support 16:9. Also is effortless to support most sets with HDMI and distinct audio ports with a DVI-HDMI cable.

      I have a diskless mythfrontend on my TVs HDMI port, running 1280x720, and the backend has an HD Tuner. Absolutely beautiful.
      • by $1uck ( 710826 )
        diskless? What do you mean? No harddrive? I'm by no means a Linux expert (though I've been comfortably running kubuntu at home as my primary computer for several months now), and have been thinking about trying to setup a dvr with an hdtv card and possibly wean myself from the cable company. I have a few extra pc's laying around the only one that is stable though is a via epia (roughly 1ghz) the rest are old amd's that got flakey after a year (2900xp and an 1800xp) or two. How much time, effort, and mon
        • by Junta ( 36770 )
          The frontend is diskless, no hard drive or flash, netboots off the backend. I started with slax and heavily modified it so it runs off of a ramdisk root and nfs mounts most everything. I did this because it allows the box to sleep (ACPI S3) and resume despite being diskless. If I did nfs root, it couldn't access the utilities/libs to get the network straight again, usb flash disk similar story, it seemed that it wouldn't bring up usb good enough on resume, so ramdisk was my answer. The frontend, btw, wa
        • by Junta ( 36770 )
          Forgot some of the negative things.

          First off, it was a moderate/somewhat hard effort for me. Keep this in context, though, as my day-to-day job involves putting together similarly complex net booting stuff, so diskless systems are old hat for me. Running X, booting it so it can sleep and be diskless, and doing it all in such a small amount of memory were challenges beyond the everyday (systems I work with rarely run X, never sleep, and always have gigs of ram). Myth itself is documented pretty well, but
          • by $1uck ( 710826 )
            My day job is Web development (mostly java, although I've done some c# and vb) so the sql isn't a problem although I'm shocked that you'd find use for it in configuring a pvr/dvr. I've built several of my own computers from commodity parts the problem is they never seem stable for much more than a year. I'd blame windows, but I think ends up being the hardware configurations or maybe just crappy products from TigerDirect? I guess I'll just have to start putting together a shopping list and be more careful
            • I haven't had many problems in terms of longevity. Three of my systems did develop severe issues over the years, but invariably some fan in the system (1 chipset, 1 case fan, and 1 video card fan) had either stopped spinning or was spinning slowly and generating heat itself instead of mostly moving heat as it should. Replacing the fans resolved each problem. General rule of thumb is that if weirdness develops over time and persists through different OSes, hunt down bad fans and if you are lucky, no perma
    • I'm not even this can be resolved in software-- it appears to have s-video in, and composite in/out. HD is usually component, DVI, or HDMI.
    • by mrgsd ( 668128 )
      4:3 non HD. Out of sync recording. Lame.
  • Not All Three (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbannerman ( 974715 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:12PM (#17371972)
    I RTFA and noticed the following snippet;

    I have quite a large TV - a 37" widescreen - and the playback on that screen was quite poor. Whether this was related to the widescreen issues mentioned below or the general quality of my input source I'm not sure, but I certainly won't be using the OSD to record TV for playback on my TV.

    I'm not sure I can justify spending money on something that'll record stuff that only looks good on the PC or a portable player... if I wanted that I'd just use my PC's inbuilt functionality. Still, a good start.
    • by karnal ( 22275 )
      NTSC is horrible. NTSC on a higher def TV apparently is even worse.

      I put together a PVR about a year or so ago, and it takes so much time to go through and calibrate it so that the colors and contrast look okay across all recordings.

      I'd say a device like this would be good (like you said) just for smaller devices or SDTVs.
  • What the hell is this thing? A Tivo without a hard drive? Do I hook it to my TV or my computer? Or both (via ethernet.)
  • Review (Score:4, Funny)

    by dj961 ( 660026 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:21PM (#17372036) Journal

    The Neuros OSD is small. Very small. At only 14cm wide, 14cm deep and 3.2cm high, it fits comfortably in just about any hole you'd care to stow it.

    Just lube it.
  • Goatse? (Score:3, Funny)

    by scribblej ( 195445 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:28PM (#17372086)
    The Neuros OSD is small. Very small. At only 14cm wide, 14cm deep and 3.2cm high, it fits comfortably in just about any hole you'd care to stow it.

    Oh my!

    I'm trying SO hard not to post a link to a certain hole.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The goatse man laughs at such a small device. He can fit at least 4 in his hole.
  • by zorkmid ( 115464 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:41PM (#17372200)
    And then you'll have something. As it is now it's not terribly useful.
  • First? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:51PM (#17372290)

    first open source Linux-based embedded media center
    I think not. MythTV based systems have been commercially available for a while.
    • by jbrader ( 697703 )
      How about a link?
      • Here's one []

        There are others. I remember seeing another company with one about 6 to 8 months ago.
        • by jbrader ( 697703 )
          Wow, that one's pretty good. I poked around on the internet yesterday and saw a couple but they were all more than that and didn't have the fancy stereo-like case. I'm gonna be buying a big new tv pretty soon and I might pick up one of those to go with.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by |<amikaze ( 155975 )
      Please note the word "embedded".

      • Please note the word "embedded".
        Fair enough, but does a consumer really care what the hardware platform is? Consumers are interested in the capabilities of the device and what it looks like. Some (at least here) might care if it's software is open source. This device is smaller than any MythTV system I've seen (though only just compared to Mac Mini's used as frontends), but it's not really first in any way a consumer will care about.
  • Let's see... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:03PM (#17372384) Homepage

    Widescreen? Nope. HDTV? Nope. Dual tuners? Doesn't look like it. Display on front to show what it's recording? Nope. Support for digital cable (cable card)? Nope. Downloadable programs over the 'net? Nope. Suggestions based on other users TV viewing? Nope. "Season Pass" like recording? Doesn't seem like it. Fits nicely in a rack of home theater equipment (doesn't look like a PC)? Nope. Ability to hack? Yes. Monthly fee? No.

    Let's compare that to a TiVo series 3.

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, soon, yes, yes, yes, no, yes.

    It only won in the last two categories.

    Yeah, I'll drop my Series 3 for this thing. Heck, I wouldn't drop a Series 2. You can hack a Series 2 to add other stuff, and still have the great TiVo UI and service.

    I've yet to see what I consider to be even a mildly compelling alternative to a TiVo. Unless you have all the parts sitting around and want to build a MythTV box for free, they just aren't there. I mean, why should I choose this over a cable company DVR which would give me things like On Demand and HD?

    TiVo: Still #1, no serious competitors since the death of ReplayTV.

    • by milas ( 988484 )
      You obviously haven't experienced the joys of the Motorola 6xxx running iGuide. Or even worse, the previous version aka the alpha of iGuide Comcast shipped out hoping nobody would be able to tell the difference.
    • by eno2001 ( 527078 )
      Hmmm... you sound like a "gadget guy" and not a tech. If you feel OK with just buying something that's already built and bending over for the restrictions imposed on you by corporate head office, that's actually OK. Just not for people like me. The main reason I don't go with the Tivo that DirecTV offers me is that I can't archive the TV shows for my collection. But, to a tech (vs. a "gadget guy"), there is more fun to be had in building a system from scratch and then perfecting it so it has more featur
      • Hmmm... you sound like a "paragraph guy" and not a paragraphs guy. If you feel OK having no one read further than I did, blah blah blah I didn't read any further.
        • by eno2001 ( 527078 )
          Thanks for pointing out that I exceeded the twelve sentences per paragraph rule by two sentences. It contributed OH SO much to the conversation. I learned the twelve sentences per paragraph rule in grade school like any other moderately educated kid born before 1980. I suspect you learned to write by aping others online? Typical 21st century drivel is what you just wrote.
          • Um. Why did you reply to the troll? You just validated his pitiful existence :)
          • If you look at it it is just one big horrible blurb of text. (no I'm not the AC) Twelve sentences per paragraph might be alright if your sentences are short, but not in this case. Paragraphs are about readability, not silly rules you learned in grade school. And as far as schooling goes, mine taught me to divide my thoughts into neat little packets and use paragraphs to distinguish between them. Using unwieldy long paragraphs makes you look like a sloppy thinker, not to mention that 90% of people probably d
            • by eno2001 ( 527078 )
              Well I was actually being a bit trollish myself. However, it does irk me when I see idiot writing where there are three sentences per "paragraph" and the text looks more like a poem than an essay.
    • It only won in the last two categories.

      That's because you picked the categories, based on things the Tivo has, rather than features the Tivo lacks.

      why should I choose this over a cable company DVR which would give me things like On Demand and HD?

      Because you don't have to hack it to allow you to copy *your* videos off it, re-encode them, edit out commercials, record to DVD, etc.

      A spare computer is a better option, IMHO, but this little thing has it's benefits as well.

    • .... you would say:

      -It does not taste like lemonade.
      -It does not look like lemonade.
      -It is not made from lemons.
      -It is not opaque like lemonade.

      for bunnies fucking sakes, this device has a completely different use, which I'll let you guess in order to allow you to improve your reading comprehension skillz (you read TFA I am sure, so try again).
      • You make some nice points, but you make me wonder...where are you buying your non-opaque milk??!?
  • This is so obsolete, it's fascinating, just like the stories of people who rent phones from 1970 and people who still send telegrams. If someone just now introduced something this obsolete, it makes you wonder how many people are still selling Commodore VIC-20's as new technology.

  • by lushmore ( 41101 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @10:37PM (#17373004)
    I had an OSD for a couple weeks and returned it. I'm an embedded Linux developer by trade, so it would have been right in my wheelhouse, IF I had a ton of free time to work on it and time to wait for Neuros' and others' contributions. But seriously, you can't call it beta if > 50% of the features on the box don't work reliably. It's not fair to review the unit at this time. It's nowhere near done.
  • I've been using a Roku HD-1000 for several years to playback HD content. Its kind of the same idea as this thing, but why didn't these guys add support for HD? The roku is diskless also (completely fanless/motorless too, so completely quiet), so it is very nice for home theatre. Just plug via ethernet to a box with a drive and a tuner card to record stuff. Oh, Roku is also linux based and programmable.
  • TFA mentions that the little box requires some non-free kernel modules. Doesn't shipping this violate the GPL?

  • This thing barely works and is hard to use.
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @11:01AM (#17376464) Homepage Journal

    Neuros bought most of the video codecs and Linux BSP from a third party. How do I know? - I was an engineer for said third party, and wrote/developed a few of the modules for this platform. In fact, I'm intimately familiar with the video and audio playback code.

    That said, I have a few comments:

    The sound and video often get very out of sync and sometimes the video judders, or slows to get back to where it should be...[emphasis added]

    First of all, I had not observed this at all when using a pristine source. We did recognize that our coping mechanisms would produce a similar result if the incoming source had missing frames or audio, etc...

    In fact A/V sync was one of the enduring problems on which I worked during my tenure. Suffice to say, we chose to gradually pull audio and video back in sync when sync was lost because our clients complained that the alternative appeared too jittery. Unlike other vendors, we could present acceptable quality playback with as much as 1/4 of the frames missing from the input stream. Most other encoders/decoders would produce a noticeable, annoying frame-jitter whenever there was a loss of either audio or video.

    But, aside from that, here are some more things the article failed to mention:

    1. The processor is a TI DM320. The ARM 9 can run at ~200 MHz, and the DSP at ~100.
    2. The DSP, not the ARM, does the video encoding/decoding. The DSP or the ARM may be used for audio playback, depending on the codec used.
    3. Typical ARM CPU usage during playback is less than 50%. When audio is done on the DSP, you can easily attain less than 10% CPU on the ARM. The DSP does the overwhelming majority of the work on this platform.
    4. We ported MicroWindows to this platform. Though it might not be in the BSP, you can definitely run it on the Neuros if you have the time to port it.
    5. It has 64MB of SDRAM. The address space of the processor allows for up to 256 MB to be installed, if anyone is interested.
    6. Likewise, you can replace the 4MB flash memory with a larger one, if you'd like. Typically, there is about 256MB of address space per chip select.
    7. You should be able to get X up and running on this platform. Some of our past clients used GTK on this same platform.
    8. If you are interested in debugging, telnet to the board and look at the /proc directory. Several of our modules will list interesting statistics on video and audio performance such as: Number of dropped/delayed/skipped frames, audio/video sync difference, number of frames, number of interrupts, etc...
    9. The platform does support IDE drives. Someone willing to get out a soldering iron and tinker could very easily add tivo-like video recording to this device. But why would you do that when...
    10. The device is designed to be used with USB hard drives. The reason why an HD isn't included is because the usage model is that of a user plugging in an external USB HD, and encoding to that. That way, you can expand the recording capacity of the device without cracking open the case as above...

    Hope this helps.

    I do feel some connection to this project because I did a lot of work on this platform. Truth be told, I'm thinking of buying one just for sentimental reasons; unfortunately, my company didn't hand out samples. I do know quite a bit about the BSP, and would be happy to answer any questions regarding the platform that I can.

    • by JoeBorn ( 625012 )
      We'd certainly love to have you on the ML, etc even if you don't have time to participate otherwise, and we've been known to give discounts to people that can help out. Send me an email.
      • Does it boot from the SD/MMC card yet?

        One of the last things I did was to make the board check for an SD card at startup, and boot from that. Failing to find a card, it would then default to the flash. (More or less like the original PC's would boot floppy by default, then HD). I don't think these scripts made it into the releases, but it wouldn't be too hard to do.

  • >the playback on that screen was quite poor
    >On the other hand it played back quite nicely on my PC

    This unit only has composite tv-out. 15 years ago that may have been what most users expected but composite signal will not look "good" nowadays when approximately 99.99% of video playing devices and TVs have some option of S-VHS, component or HDMI signals.

    Maybe this was intended as a psp/ipod/pc video recorder with a "preview on TV" option?

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone