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Television Media

How Close is the Open Entertainment Center? 332

Posted by Cliff
from the ideas-to-think-about-hardware-to-build dept.
why-not-now asks: "Recently there's been a lot of talk about open source/free software that enables your PC to act as a DVR, all-purpose media player, DVD player, CD player, MP3 player, etc... not to mention the ability to play all sorts of video games (if you know where to look). The idea of the set top MAME console is nice, but with a little TV/Audio out, a little know how and the right software, are we currently able to put together a free version of the big convergence media center others are trying to do?"
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How Close is the Open Entertainment Center?

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  • by TerryAtWork (598364) <research@aceretail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:59PM (#5089988)
    It won't be getting closer anytime soon.

  • Very Close (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:00PM (#5089996)
    see MythTV: http://www.mythtv.org/
    • Re:Very Close (Score:5, Interesting)

      by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:38PM (#5090238) Homepage Journal
      Yah mythtv is close.. But where are the fricken ISO images???

      Here, lemme hit any potential PVR software author what me, and millions of other people who don't ever want to see a shell prompt on their PVR want.

      1. Make an ISO
      Nobody wants to download this from here, that from there, tar xfzv make compile and pray you have all the correct dependancies. I just want to download a ISO image, burn it, boot it and it works.

      2. Slick interface
      Myth's interface is a good start but could be better. I would suggest reading the OSX interface guidlines at apple, there's a ton of usefull info on how to make an intuative gui there.

      3. Bells and whistles
      Since %99 of the world is windows (myself included) I want to be able to configure a samba share so I can access what I record on another PC. Same goes for netatalk and the apples.

      Also add in support for things like alphanumeric LCD's in case someone wants to add a LCD to the front of this thing.

      Point i'm trying to make though is the majority of people that want to use this won't have the time or patience to do a bunch of side tasks to complete their main task, which is building a PVR.
      • Re:Very Close (Score:2, Informative)

        by lonegd (538164)
        1) There's a thread in the mythtv-dev mailing list regarding the creation of ISO images. So don't worry - its in the works.

        2) There are a number of different mythtv themes to choose from and remember its not a finished product...its gonna get better

        3) If you can mount it, you can use it :) The only restriction would be the bandwidth available.
      • Do you realize how much work this guy's already done. Now from the sight it looks like he'd be willing to accept your help, as he's accepting modules from other people.
      • It blows my mind that after 2 or more years "debating" hardware specs and distributions, no one has bothered to just make something WORK yet. Why do you need a full distribution? Why do you need fancy hardware?

        I'm a firm believer that ALL you need is a suitable Window Manager, a hand-me-down PC, and a $30 TV Out card off price-watch.

        Why do you need an ISO? There are already a lot of Linux Distro's that have most of the apps you need, just unselect the stuff you don't need.

        The Slick Interface is the trick. I don't even think you need a full blown "Window Manager" because you would want to run EVERYTHING full screen anyhow. All you need is something like Acid Launcher hacked to be used full screen, and return to the launcher when your done with that app.

        The ONLY bell/whistle you need at all is complete control of your apps and your launcher by using a USB GamePad (Logitech and MicroSoft sell several for about $20-$40).

        If you could grab a gamepad, choose a game or play an MPEG by ICON on your TV screen using the gamepad as a pointer, and when exiting the game/movie you come back to the launcher... What else do you need?

        The Launcher HAS to be full screen, and easily hackable (text file that you can enter a number of buttons in, with only command line and path to the icon for each button needed).

        Once your that far, I don't think it will be that long before people start hacking apps that work well in full screen mode with gamepad control.

  • by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:00PM (#5089998)
    Damn tower keeps falling off when I crank up the bass!
  • Clues? (Score:5, Funny)

    by fobbman (131816) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:02PM (#5090017) Homepage
    "...all [mame.net] sorts [zsnes.com] of [epsxe.com] video [linuxgames.com] games [transgaming.com] (if you know where to look).

    That sounds cool. Where [mame.net] might [zsnes.com] I [epsxe.com] find [linuxgames.com] information [transgaming.com]?

  • Q & A (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:03PM (#5090019)
    are we currently able to put together a free version of the big convergence media center others are trying to do?"

    Sure we are. Here are the main differences between it and the other product:

    Ours will have an incomprehensible command line interface and/or multiple GUIs that responds 10-15 seconds after the user asks it to do something. Neither GUI will be standard - in fact, it will ship with both, and proponents of the two camps will froth at the mouth when discussing how their widgets are prettier than the others.

    It will not support any receivers / amps made less than 5 years ago unless the user knows assembly.

    When a user asks for support, he will be told "RTFM n00b, j00 M$ shill. Astroturf somewheres else, whilst I read THE SOURCE for my knowledge. This is the Tao of programming, numbnuts, and you thought it was funny to beat me up in high school and take my lunch money. haahahah, I am the BOFH"
    • by thecampbeln (457432) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:23PM (#5090148) Homepage

      Sure, there are a few projects out there that are trying to do this kind of thing. And there are a lot of people who would be interested in this sort of solution, but with responses like:

      what you are trying to say is "i want a free PVR-like thingie, can someone make one?"

      ...these projects will have a difficult time getting off the ground. I don't remember where I read it now, but someone once said...

      The biggest problem with Linux is its supporters.

      As the stereotype (which has been beautifully microcosmed in this discussion, BTW) is that they are a bunch of socially in adept zealots who have delusions of grandeur. The parent comment put this quite well in a language they would understand (though I'm sure it could have been conveyed in one line of Perl, yes).

      So my question is (like) that of the original poster... when will someone with computer knowledge (that is not necessarily a *nix guru, though not a moron either) be able to follow some instructions on a site (buy this encoder board, install that DVD recorder) and setup a Digital Media Player that will cover the popular requests like MAME, DVD Video, MP3 (and OGG, and...), Slideshow (Image Display), etc?

    • It will look great, and come in an attractive package. When it doesn't work, you can view a comprehensive 'help' screen, which will mainly tell you how advanced their technology is. It won't work at all with any games more than a year old, and will be two slow for any games coming out next year.
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:04PM (#5090030) Journal
    You do realize that the first 3 links arent 'open'.

    Just because you can emulate arcade roms, snes roms and psx discs, doesn't mean it's legal to do so, or that they're somehow 'open'. Spyro the dragon and Mortal Kombat are not Open Source.

    And to answer your question, you can do all that now. All you need is a machine with enough power and TV outs, or a VGA scan converter, and a lot of free time to set it all up and make it work adequately.

    Or are you asking 'how long until someone sets up an easy to use linux interface for all of these softwares?' You can answer that by looking at how long it took to set up an easy to use linux interface at all.
    • An emulator is not a rom. Sony does not own an emu written by someone else. It is also legal in many places to own a backup copy of any game you own. So if I say I have a mortal kombat board sitting on my desk in front of me then it is ok for me to download a copy of the mortal kombat rom.
    • You do realize that the first 3 links arent 'open'.

      Just because you can emulate arcade roms, snes roms and psx discs, doesn't mean it's legal to do so, or that they're somehow 'open'.

      The software linked to is open. You can get the source and basically use it as you will. Of course, they're not terribly useful without some content that is typically not open, but so what? The same goes for software allowing you to play CDs, DVDs, or even record television. If you add in software and hardware with the ability to play CDs and DVDs, it doesn't require that the CDs and DVDs be open. The question is "is the convergence system open?" not "is the content used with the system open?"

    • Emulating a system is legal. Playing and possessing ROM versions of the games is also legal, provided you own a copy of that game. Despite what Nintendo says on its site -- that emulating its systems is illegal -- precedent exists in the form of Sony vs. Connectix. That case established that you are free to use another method of accessing the content you paid for. Do Sony and Nintendo like the fact that you can use an emulator and a ROM to play their games? No. But can they do anything about it if you've bought the games legitimately? No.

  • by realmolo (574068) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:04PM (#5090031)
    If you don't mind that it will be a collection of parts that don't particularly work well together, won't have a slick interface, and won't fit in with the rest of your AV gear, style-wise. Nothing amuses me more than reading about people spending a gob of money (and time) to turn their PC into a half-assed Tivo, when they could've just bought a fucking Tivo for less money, get something that is slick, and been happier in every way. Of course, I also think that Tivo is fucking stupid. Mostly because I see no point in recording, or watching at all, the shit that is on TV.
  • by Maeryk (87865) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:06PM (#5090041) Journal
    Maybe Im not part of the target demographic, but I have a nice widescreen, I have a Tivo, I have a CD player capable of mp3 playback, I have a 2/3 pulldown DVD player which gives me better quality than any PC ever will, and I have a Denon sound system.

    About the only thing I can think I might be missing is the opportunity to play hacked/burned/whatever games, but in my experience, they usually look pretty damn lousy on a huge TV anyway.

    Like I said.. maybe some people will be into this.. but IMHO I cannot stand to watch things on a computer NOW because they look so crappy, let alone piping that into my TV.

    But maybe I'm not the audience they are looking for.

    Maeryk
    • I'm the audience (Score:5, Informative)

      by GooseKirk (60689) <goosekirk@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:27PM (#5090171) Homepage
      I've got one PC with a 21" NEC Multisync monitor. No TV, no Tivo, no Playstation, no stereo. And I love it. I'd hate to have the setup you've got.

      The only downside is the monitor isn't as large as I'd like. 21" is pretty much a minimum size. I'm hoping for a huge flat widescreen monitor in the future.

      My PC doesn't have an AIW or any other TV capability, because I don't have cable - thanks to the wonders of the internet, and my friends who do have cable, I don't really need it. But DVDs played on my PC look far better than on my friends' TVs. The colors are more vivid and the image is sharper - what's not to like? And 200gigs of instant-access MP3s kicks all kinds of ass over an MP3-enabled CD player. Logitech and Klipsch make speakers that sound terrific to me.

      Best of all - if I rent a DVD and don't get time to watch it (happens all the time to me), I can just copy it to my hard drive 'til later.

      And everything's available through one interface, in one place, with a wireless mouse or remote. No piles of remotes, no jungles of wires, no components stacked all over the place.

      As far as I'm concerned, this is how it should be... bring on more!
      • Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. This is the exact person who the MPAA, RIAA, and Congress are fighting against. This is the person who is helping to take YOUR rights away, because he can't be bothered to buy music or use rental services correctly. He has no qualms about stealing music or movies from people who trust him and continue to provide him with their services.

        And he's constantly looking for more.

        You're the villan they're looking for. I didn't think anybody like you actually existed.

        • Like they need a villain. They'll take away rights from people all over the world, regardless.

          The MPAA, RIAA and sometimes even Congress are damage, and geeks will route around them.

          As long as the MPAA, RIAA and the few cable/satellite companies have monopolies on media delivery, and continue to cling to outdated business models, resist new technologies, squash fair use, and attempt to implement nonsensical and tyrannical schemes of all kinds, they are the villain. Far as I'm concerned, anyone who disagrees is a retard, a shill, or just plain old-fashioned contrary (and good for you if you are that curmudgeon - it's cute).

          These corporations could choose to sell me the services and products I want, and I'd be glad to pay for them. But they won't. They are irrelevant, and the world will move on in spite of them.
        • This is the person who is helping to take YOUR rights away, because he can't be bothered to buy music or use rental services correctly. He has no qualms about stealing music or movies from people who trust him and continue to provide him with their services.

          I'm not so sure - he/she only admits to having a fairly large quantity of mp3s. Those *could* be perfectly legal fair-use rips made from bought CDs. In fact, we should presume them to be innocent, legal copies, until stated otherwise.

          As for the rental bit...that one's a little hairy. The "Innocent until proven guilty" stand on this would be that the copy is watched once, then deleted. While still technically illegal, the net outcome is the same as if the copy hadn't been made - and could fall under the umbrella of "timeshifting", which is legal (for now...) As long as the copy is destroyed after viewing, and not distributed, that seems a valid argument. The original poster doesn't say anything regarding what happens to the copy after viewing, so I guess we'll never know =)
          • by GooseKirk (60689)
            Most of my MP3s are indeed legit (my CD collection is irritatingly huge), but not all. This is how I operate: I buy what I would've bought even if I couldn't get a "free" copy of it. But stuff I wouldn't buy for the going price, I might download.

            Certain artists, I'll always buy their CDs/DVDs, out of respect and a desire to see that work continue. Independent artists in particular need this.

            Counterexample: I wouldn't buy the soundtrack to "Battlestar Galactica" in a record store even if I won the lottery. I wouldn't take it if it was in the free box. But I'd download it for free, cause it's kinda goofy and nostalgic to have around. And if it were available to download in MP3 for a nickel a track, I'd buy it. Go figure.

            Same goes for bootleg/OOP material. If I can't buy it anyway, but would/will if/when it becomes available, then it's no harm, no foul.

            Is it legal? Is it ethical? Doesn't seem like a clear-cut issue either way, but I sleep just fine at night.

            As far as the renting DVDs thing, as far as I'm concerned, it falls under timeshifting. Crappy or even average DVDs are too big to keep around on a hard drive frivolously, and the good ones I buy anyway. If it is technically illegal, it's very much a victimless crime, and anyone who would whine about it is a sanctimonious prick who deserves to be ruthlessly ignored.
      • But DVDs played on my PC look far better than on my friends' TVs. The colors are more vivid and the image is sharper - what's not to like?

        When the picture is so clear that you can actually see artifacts of the MPEG-2 compression. That's not to like.
      • So what you're saing is you don't need a TV because you can break the law and get what you want. Way to go, asshole.

        You can get better sound, better images, plus all the goodies you got in any advanced home entertainment system.
    • by sessamoid (165542) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:51PM (#5090320)
      Maybe Im not part of the target demographic, but I have a nice widescreen, I have a Tivo, I have a CD player capable of mp3 playback, I have a 2/3 pulldown DVD player which gives me better quality than any PC ever will, and I have a Denon sound system.

      You are in the target demographic, but you just don't know it. Whether or not it suits you in particular is another matter. While we're comparing units, I've got a very nice home theater system with thousands of dollars in speakers and a front projector and a 8 foot wide screen, and the source is almost completely driven from my htpc. The 160 hour Tivo is also piped through the htpc. My 6000 tracks of vorbis files are available on the network to my htpc.

      Software dvd decoding has advanced to the point that it equals pretty much even the most absurdly expensive hardware players, and for those with projectors it provides better scaling than anything but the best Faroudja chips. Unfortunately, all the best software for htpc's are currently available mostly for Windows and a box of similar functionality is still quite a ways off.

      You should at least give it a chance. Go to AVS Forums HTPC section [avsforum.com] for more information. In short, a media center pc gives you the best of all worlds (including remote control operation and several well-designed simple interfaces) without the cost of audiophile level gear.

      • Software dvd decoding has advanced to the point that it equals pretty much even the most absurdly expensive hardware players

        AFAIK, aren't the software DVD players all flag-reading players? Which would mean, no, it doesn't equal even reasonably priced dvd players on progressive output on DVDs with bad flags (all too common).
    • one answer: because you can :-)
      that is the joy of hacking.
    • Cause its easier to download porn off the internet than it is to actually go to the store and buy it.
  • by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:06PM (#5090045)
    They have DV connectivity out the wazoo.

    And emulation capability [emulation.net] out the wazoo too.

    Now if what you're asking for is a PC that acts like a Mac; just wait 5-10 years and they ought to be up to the standards of today's PowerBook. ;-P

  • by _Sambo (153114) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:07PM (#5090048)
    You can buy a Tivo
    Buy a VCR
    Buy a DVD player
    Buy a Gaming Console or two
    and then filter all of these through your receiver and/or high-er end video card, but notice that not once is the word 'free'mentioned.

    And that is why Microsoft is aiming its marketing muscle in this general direction. I'minterested to see how well it does. I get to play with a Media Center box from HP here in the near future.

    I'm interested to see how well the new toy from Bill works.
    • Have a look at mythtv [mythtv.org] - It does pretty much all of the things mentioned above, more than MCE - and acording to the review anandtech gave of MCE, my mythbox preforms far better on lower priced hardware.

      All credit really should go to Issac and the other guys contributing to this project.

      Recent CVS additions include a mythweather module and support for running decoding and encoding on different machines on the network (for a truly connected home ;p)

    • Keep in mind that not everyone has access to what I think is the key attraction for a HTPC - Tivo. I live in Canada, and there are no PVRs available - except for Bell ExpressVu, which offers one as part of one of its digital satellite recievers, but not standalone for those of us that don't want their service. The only option available to me is an HTPC. The problem is that there are no good TV Tuners available for a reasonable price (Hauppagge makes one that looks great, but it's $250 US). So I'm desperately looking for a good solution.
      • Thanks to the guys on the mjpegtools and MythTV discussion boards, I found a Matrox Marvel G200-TV for $50 at compuvest.com and while it was probably a return (CD-ROM envelope seal was broken) it seems to work just fine. Hardware MJPEG compression on the G200 lets me record at about 25% CPU on a P3-1Ghz. Haven't gotten around to MythTV yet, but the mjpegtools do the job for now.
  • I can walk to an open Circuit City in about three blocks. You have access to all sorts of nifty entertainment gadgets.

  • by Null_Packet (15946) <nullpacket@do s c h e r.net> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:07PM (#5090058)
    It hasn't been a software issue for months, but rather a hardware issue. It's quite easy to build a GUI via software, but quite another to build a nice, clean hardware interface. For example, I can go out, buy a component-sized/look atx case for $100-200, buy a motherboard, cpu, memory, nic, etc, then spend countless hours setting up the OSS tools used to make a PVR- but then I have spent ~$500 and I could have bought a Tivo for $150.

    There's still items like the Audiotron and Compaq Music Centers for audio, and of course you can use a pc for these, but the fact remains that the effort required to build such a device is outmatched by the lower cost of one or more components. Why would I spend even as little as $200 plus 5-10 hours work when I can spend $250 with no-hours work?

    Many of the solutions out there are still not very hardy and quite fragile. To reduce time in building these, there really should be a PVR/HTPC Distro.
  • by Tom7 (102298) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:08PM (#5090062) Homepage Journal
    To me, the idea of an open entertainment system that you describe doesn't seem to mesh.

    Why does it matter that you're running on a free platform when you're playing non-free movies using illegal technology, pirated video game ROMs and MP3s?

    In order for this to be real, we'd also need a collection of free movies and video games to add to the admittedly significant cache of free music. (There are also plenty of free video games, but since you are talking about MAME I don't think this is what you had in mind.) Otherwise, why does it matter if your media center uses pirated software, too?

    Don't get me wrong -- I love the idea of disconnecting ourselves from the corporation-controlled content and software, but I don't think it helps us much if we develop a lot of free software in order to continue to consume the proprietary stuff.

    On the other hand, I'm not saying that using pirated everything is all bad -- maybe a generation kids who grew up sharing things on Napster and clones will result in a less conservative congress, where things like the Copyright Term Extension Act won't be so common. (Which is what has me feeling so cynical right now...)
    • by Maeryk (87865) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:16PM (#5090106) Journal
      On the other hand, I'm not saying that using pirated everything is all bad -- maybe a generation kids who grew up sharing things on Napster and clones will result in a less conservative congress, where things like the Copyright Term Extension Act won't be so common. (Which is what has me feeling so cynical right now...)

      Or, possibly, that generation will grow up realizing that their time and effort is worth something, and learn to despise people who are ripping them off of even their 1% royalty from the music companies, and then push for even stronger legislation to keep it from happening.

      Somehow I dont see Corporate America getting any weaker.. but the current trend towards opressing the employee and empowering the corporation will lead to much more agressive employees and/or fed up people starting their own businesses. Once that happens, they will start attempting to make some money doing what they are doing. And face it, no-one cares WHAT record company they are ripping off when they copy MP3's or ogg-vorbis files around. Whether its the biggest music conglomerate, or some teeny tiny band who has their own label, they dont give a crap.

      So no, I dont think you will see a "less conservative congress".. I think you might, however, see the teeth of some of the copyright and control acts that are happening now be actually used on something other than another corporation.

      (And no, I'm not a troll, at least, not intentionally, But I recently found out it is going to cost on the order of 6K$ for my little band to record and produce 100 cd's.. and that doesnt count the cost of studio time, but _does_ count the cost of making sure we have applicable rights to all the songs we want to do.)

      Maeryk

      • Or, possibly, that generation will grow up realizing that their time and effort is worth something, and learn to despise people who are ripping them off of even their 1% royalty from the music companies, and then push for even stronger legislation to keep it from happening.

        So the ENTIRE GENERATION is going to be made of up musicians who are willing to bend over and agree to a contract with an RIAA-member record company? Intriguing.

        The reason unknown bands sign on the dotted line is because the record labels can provide publicity. Another way to get publicity, one that doesn't cost anything, is to allow copies of your music to be freely redistributed through P2P channels and similar -- even inject your music directly into this distribution system.

        There are plenty of talented and well-known artists RIGHT now that support free distribution of their art. Stop ignoring their existence because they don't fit in with the point you're trying to make.

        making sure we have applicable rights to all the songs we want to do.

        Hmm... maybe you should record ORIGINAL songs instead of 'ripping off the hard work of talented underpaid artists'.

        • And what then? Eventually the musicians will want to get paid for their talents and paid big. No one dreams of being a poor pop star.
        • The reason unknown bands sign on the dotted line is because the record labels can provide publicity. Another way to get publicity, one that doesn't cost anything, is to allow copies of your music to be freely redistributed through P2P channels and similar -- even inject your music directly into this distribution system.

          Im not denying that that is a good way to get exposure. It is not, however, a good way to pay for dinner, new equipment, or the cost of recording the next (or first, if you truly follow the DIY formula) CD. I do music because I love to, and I would love to do it for a living.. but right now, I cannot afford to quit my job and starve for a few years to see my dream. I certainly wouldnt argue with a recording contract at this point, if it put some money on the table. but I have a hard time believing that anyone would willingly send money if they can get the song for free, no matter how many pleas I put out to the contrary.

          Hmm... maybe you should record ORIGINAL songs instead of 'ripping off the hard work of talented underpaid artists'.

          Where did I say artists are underpaid? You seem to be the one railing against the music machine here, not me pal. I like some of the "oldies".. (no one wrote em like Flatt and scruggs) but even if you want to use something that is considered "traditional" there are rights you have to secure to use it. (ever notice the "with permission of" or "thanks to" on the record albums near the titles?)

          The onus of lawyers has made it nearly impossible for Joe Musician to look up and find out if someone actually owns a song, who owns it, and who you need to send the money too.. but there is at least one company that I know of that handles it all for a nice reasonable fee. Per copy. So you send say, 100 bucks, you can make 100 copies, (or whatever) per song.

          The musician was an example. Substitute "hard working non-permanent employee at Microsoft" and make it about software. The meme works across a bunch of levels I can think of off the top of my head.

          maeryk

    • At least for the PVR part, it does matter. Current commercial PVRs (TiVo/ReplayTV/TVserver) depend on a single commercial provider of guide data, so they can only be used where the guide service is available, which is, at the moment, in only 6 countries AFAIK (US, UK, JP, D, Aus, Sw). All others are left out in the cold.

      An open PVR can be adapted to use whatever guide data is available online (and usable guide data is available in a lot more than 6 countries), making PVRs accessible (if the software is usable) to lots more people.

    • In order for this to be real, we'd also need a collection of free movies

      Shhh! Don't give /.ers any ideas. I don't want to see any more movies about Linux.

  • Alternatives (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Amsterdam Vallon (639622) <amsterdamvallon2003@yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:08PM (#5090063) Homepage
    ... to spending dozens of hours and thousands of dollars combining Open Source DVD players, CD players, and MP3 players are the following:

    1) Print a few more copies of your resume out and send them to companies. You've been out of work long enough and any minute the bill collectors are going to throw you and your family in jail.

    2) Plant a tree. Picket outside fur factories and SUV dealerships. Teach a neighborhood child how to play the piano. Read to your kid. Make love to your wife.

    3) Abandon all the worrying about conforming your life to the absurd paradigns and social revolutions inspired by lunatics like Richard M. Stallman, who was pink-slipped by the MIT Media Lab after years of little to no productive work.
    • 4) Abandon all hobbies and spend time and money only on Amsterdam Vallon-approved activities.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:56PM (#5090368)
      > 2) Plant a tree. Picket outside fur factories and SUV dealerships. Teach a neighborhood child how to play the piano. Read to your kid. Make love to your wife.

      "OK, buddy, I made love to your wife. Now did you use that time I freed up to code up my frickin' MAME/DVD/DiVX set-top box or not?"

  • always behind (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kippy (416183) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:09PM (#5090069)
    You can have the all open source entertainment center if you're willing to always be at least 2 or 3 years behind what is current. Users who want to view the latest video disk format will have to go to best buy to get the needed player to do so. It takes the hacker community a little while to duplicate a comercial product.

    The entertainment industry will almost by deffinition be ahead of the open source entertainment subculture.

    Honestly, would you rather play some mame roms rather than the Clone Wars on a brand new GameCube? The open source hardware is just not there and the software will always be lagging.

    this isn't a troll. I honestly think that the commercial stuff will eternaly have the advantage of easy configuration, compatibility with current media and ease of use.
    • You can have the all open source entertainment center if you're willing to always be at least 2 or 3 years behind what is current. Users who want to view the latest video disk format will have to go to best buy to get the needed player to do so. It takes the hacker community a little while to duplicate a comercial product.

      Only true if the entertainment industry can convince people to keep shifting formats. The problem is that once quality has gotten "good enough" people will stop shifting. The music industry would love to convince people to shift from CDs to DVD-Audio or MiniDisc or something else, but people just won't stand for it. They've already purchased the music, it sounds fine and the disc will easily least their lifetime (barring mis-treatment). Why upgrade. DVDs may be the last video format they can get people to upgrade to for a long time. People feel "done". No, it's not the perfect format, but it's good enough.

      On the subject of consoles, you are more correct. Consoles are nowhere near stabilizing, the gains from generation to generation remain obvious to any user. But I don't think it matters to people considering this sort of project. I think most people are interested in unifying audio and video (DVD, CD, VCD, television DVR, MP3s, Oggs, etc). Anything else, like MAME, is just icing on the cake.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:10PM (#5090073)
    Sure the software for an OSS based media center is available and being put together by some groups. (e.g. MythTV, etal)... The real problem is putting together a good looking peice of hardware that will do the job.

    For example: Where are the slim-line style cases similar in style to current VCRs and DVD players ? Where are the low-profile good quality video capture cards? or the motherboards with good video capture capability built in ?

    And what about price. For the digital media center to really take off... it needs to be priced within the range of current DVD-players etc.

    The ideal box would have a sleek case design, be very quiet, yet be powerfull enough to handle playing demanding media formats. Not to mention be able to burn captured shows off to cd... or for the very rich DVDs...

    Softwares there... now we just need a company to put a hardware package together and get the price down below $1000 bucks..
    • www.mini-itx.com

      Benchmarks show the performance of the newest C3s (933mhz) on par with P2 450s. Plus, almost everything is included... . All that in a 6" x 6" x 1" mobo w/1 pci slot. Imagine the possiblities... not bad for $160.
  • by beanerspace (443710) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:12PM (#5090084) Homepage
    The other night, I had rented the movie "We Were Soldiers [weweresoldiers.com]" but the kids were sleeping so I figured why not just drop the DVD into my brand new Gateway, put the headphones on and watch it on my computer. No thoughts of copying anything or breaking any laws, but I could only watch the first 8 minutes due to the copy protection scheme.

    A VCR I purchased a few years back when dead on me a month or so ago. When I opened it up to see what the problem was, I was confronted with cheap plastic gears -- apparently made to wear out over time. And so it goes.

    So until there is more money in creating all-in-one computers that are home entertainment systems that are washing machines and toasters, we're going to continually get knickle-n-dimed to death -- or at least until I break down and buy a HD TV flat panel display.
    • No thoughts of copying anything or breaking any laws, but I could only watch the first 8 minutes due to the copy protection scheme.

      Could you explain how copy protection allowed you to play 8 minutes of the movie but nothing after that?

    • Doubtful your DVD explination is correct. Remember, occam's razor.

      It's highly likely that the DVD you rented had been completely fscked up by someone else who had rented it before you did. How often do you rent DVD's anyway? I'm not sure I have ever rented one that I didnt have to skip a minute or so of the movie somewhere due to disc abuse.

      ~GoRK
  • already done? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kendric (634134) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:12PM (#5090086)
    My computer is the only source of media I use anymore. I use it to listen to music, play dvds, watch tv, radio, games, etc. Luckily, my computer is a P4 so it can handle all the extra data. However, my other computer can do almost all of it and it is only a P2 400mhz.

    My question is, according to the article we want an open source program that does it all. I have several programs that do this but are from microsoft (WMP etc) and not a one can do all that I want. This leads to a fundamental question about computer design: we don't want to know how to do it we just want it done. Like a telephone, we want the computer to do what it is supposed to do without any question. To use a telephone, you pick it up and dial, but we have become so used to it that we don't even realize that this piece of technology hasn't been around for centurys.

    The goal of creating an open source all in one PVR program is to make computers less like a computer and more like a tool that everyone knows how to use. I love open source, but I don't mind not knowing how it works if it works. We pay for phones, so why shouldn't we pay for software that provides an entertainment package for us.
  • by Cpyder (57655) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:12PM (#5090088) Journal
    ..create a "complete" multimedia center, with open source software. It's based on RedHat Linux, and features DVD playback, MP3/OGG (with an ingenious ranking system), tv-recording (time-lapse viewing coming soon) with automatical importing of program guides from the web, a picture browser, games (including MAME!).

    It's also being equiped with communication features such as e-mail checking, a phone answering machine, and even a who's-rang-the-door feature.

    Check it all out at their website, davedina.apestaart.org [apestaart.org], and join their mailinglist!

    You can also come hang out at #davedina on Freenode [freenode.net]

  • Unless you have free open-source software that can play the latest windows media player formats then your set up box WILL NOT have the same capabilities of the latest boxes being sold. Unfortunately such software would probably be in violation of the dmca... sorry.

  • No you're not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lightspawn (155347)
    "are we currently able to put together a free version of the big convergence media center others are trying to do?"

    Not as long as you don't care about usability. Right now it's all about how smart we are because we figured out how to use Linux and how we need to get the best and the brightest and filter out the rest by having every potential open source user go through the same ordeal.

  • Happy with my system (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bytor4232 (304582) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:28PM (#5090175) Homepage Journal
    I am very happy with my media center PC. Its Debian Testing.

    Hardware:

    • Moderately fast CPU and MB, plenty of RAM
    • ATI Radeon 7000 (Composite/SVideo out) going to video in on TV
    • Audio out to reciever
    • Wireless KBD and mouse
    • SNES Joypads wired to parallel port
    Software:
    • MPlayer for DVD
    • Snes9x for games
    • Two X configs: One for TV, one for Monitor.
    Not as user friendly as I would have hoped for the wife and kids, they still have the tendency to use an actual DVD and SNES console for games instead of the copies on the computer, but I think the experiment for me was at least successful. My current plan is to make it user friendly enough that I can put the DVD and SNES in my daughters room.
  • While it is true we are seeing convergence between the traditional TV and computer, and while this does portend an opportunity for open source in that regard, the net effect is a converged home, not just entertainment centers.

    The new combo TV/computer will be part of the entire home system...one that includes the air conditioner (Now, in Korea, I can control my AC over the net), and the refrigerator...baby monitors...home security...etc.

    Think open source home...

    We're close, but not in the next two years.
  • by Travelr9 (514162) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:31PM (#5090188)
    I know the desire to homebrew this sort of thing is nearly overwhelming for a lot of Slashdot readers, but all you have to do is wait just a little while, and the major Japanese consumer electronics firms are going to make all your dreams come true. Not just programmatic integration of A/V devices, but open integration. Not just open integration, but Linux-based open integration. Check out this story (reg. required) in the Financial Times from about a month ago: Matsushita and Sony in Linux tie-up [ft.com]

    Here's the key quote for those who don't want to register:

    "Matsushita and Sony have agreed to jointly develop the Linux operating system for digital consumer electronic products, in a highly unusual and cooperative deal between two of the fiercest rivals in the industry... Sony and Matsushita will continue to use the existing operating systems for specific products - such as Windows for Vaio - but expect the newly developed version of Linux to be increasingly used in home electronic devices, such as portable and home AV products."

    The reason this trend will go places is quite simple: The much-bandied-about "Microsoft Tax" is real, and the major CE manufacturers don't want to pay it. This combined with the strong likelihood (--> certainty) that MS will attempt to commoditized them ensures that they will fight back. These guys are not only smart, they are bigger than Microsoft (Sony: $60bn revenues) and they are determined to not get cut out of the market, or turned into Compaq/HP style failures. Who benefits? The Linux community is going to get a huge boost, because the single best weapon these firms have against MS is Linux, and they are going to use it with a vengeance.

  • by cp5i6 (544080) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:32PM (#5090198)
    The new shuttle mini boxes.. roughly the size of a barbie microwave oven.. with the new nforce 2 chipset allows you get get a very powerful dolby digital 6 speaker compliant sound system. (About 600$ with everything included already)

    connect to that a usb TV tuner that supports Video Out also (for about 200$ from hauppage) and you have a little box that plays dvds on the tv along with surround sound

    you have 200$ left over to buy an IR kit that you can plug into your computer's mobo and stick the receiver on the front panel and program your remote control. ( I know there's been lotsa projects on the web for remote controled computers and it's not that hard) simply program the remote's buttons with a specific command per button.. ie... button 1 will call winamp.. button 2 will call the tv tuner.. so on so forth. so for about 1000$ you can easily have a hobby to try and set something like this all up

    btw speaker systems are not included in this equation... cuz good ones can throw yer costs another 300$.


    if you don't like the oven.. you can buy a small form factor desktop case... it's roughly the size of your everyday Amplifier case. To make sure you can get a small one.. buy one of those ECS motherboards... only 3 pci slots (some have only 2) ... 1 for a sb audigy ... 2 for a dope ass video card with video out ... 3 for the tv tuner ... IR sensors are located on the mobo and you just need to buy the front panel extensions for those...

    here's a rack up of total costs

    Case with power supply (Enlight is a good compnay)- 50$
    Mobo (ECS brand)- 50$
    CPU (p4's 1.8 ghz are cooler runnign and quieter)- 120$
    SB audigy 1/2 platinum ex (comse you a remote that you can hack at and already has IR plus has all that digital audio out/in, line in/out, optical in/out for all your sound needs)- 160$
    Geforce 4 ti4200 w/ video out- 150$
    Hauppage winTV HDTV PCI- 230$
    hard disk (80 gigs depending the size of your por .. mp3 collection)- 100$
    Klipsch pro media 5.1 speakers- 300$
    USB gamepads x2- $40
    DVD driver w/software- 50$
    windows 2k- 80$
    winamp- Free
    Aol im- Free
    Divx encoder/decoder- free
    Watching pr0n on the big screen tv - Pricesless

    Total Cost of Project: ~1400$

    and it's very possible... I'm half way there already... all I need now is that HDTV tv tuner... and a big HDTV 60" plasma display.
  • Yes, I think we are able [extremetech.com] to do something like this. The question is whether this will ever be a big hit outside the geek scene.
    Free Software/Open Source is one thing: You program once, have fun, and then release the compiled files together with the source. Of which the latter will be gladly ignored by the masses. But that's OK. They use the compiled version and are happy. And you are happy that your program is being used. That you also share the compiled version doesn't add extra cost for you because it's digital stuff that can be copied effortlessly.
    But with hardware it's a different game, IMO. Even if you offer the schematics for such a multimedia all-purpose entertainment thing, someone still has to compile... ehh build it. This time it's physical so easy copying is not possible (unless you have access to a replicator [calormen.com] somewhere). So, who is going to do this? People won't be willing to assemble stuff for themselves. Heck, even *I* used to do more myself when I was younger (and had more time and enthusiasm). Nowadays I buy quite a lot...
    But maybe it's the chance for some garage company to just build the stuff based on open sourced layouts? Hmmm... Not sure that this will work either. What about distribution channels? One reason why Free Software/OSS has been so successful is that almost everybody has access to the Internet somehow and if a person knows the right address, he/she can download all that is needed. So, the distribution is more or less just a matter of getting people to know where to look. Physical things however have to be shipped, to be physically delivered by any means. And people will want to have a look at them in some kind of shop before they are going to buy them. (The gateway business model)
    So the bottomline of my reasoning is, that I am quite sceptical whether it will be a big success. But it could be a reasonable (moral) succes within the geek community, so why not try? Just don't expect to see the equivalent of RedHat or SuSE anytime soon.
  • XBOX (Score:2, Interesting)

    by InfraMan (637711)
    I have been considering the XBOX for just such a thing. You can get one for around $150 US. XboxMediaPlayer [xboxmediaplayer.de] The XboxMediaPlayer for the Xbox allows you to use a modded Xbox to play DivX, XVID, (S)VCD (MPEG-1/2), MP3 & other supported video/audio formats via your TV so it can used as a multimedia jukebox. It also supports network streaming via XStream. Plus a simple clean looking interface navigatible via remote control. Plus there are XBox a MAME, NES, PSX, Atari 2600, c64 emulators ... There are a few projects coming to fruition. One converts exe's to run on the XBOX. And another is a non MS compiler. So soon we will have all these apps available with out having to have a $25 mod chip for the XBox. I'm going to get two of these. One to replace my dead DVD player with the media player. The other for the ultimate MAME / emu. arcade machine I'm going to build. Perfect solution for this application. CHEAP, TV out, good graphics and networkable. Plus you can play XBOX games on it too! [caustik.com]
    • by Lxy (80823)
      I like what you're saying, but please learn to use HTML properly.

      And to all you who piss and moan about the Xbox hackers: it's not because we're ripping off MS, it's not because it makes a cheap PC, it's because we CAN, and we feel really good about an Xbox that runs stuff it's not supposed to when it's all said and done.

      Oh, and when Xboxes are $50 at the pawn shop, you'll thank the geeks that are writing the docs and writing the code that you'll be looking for then.
  • At least the more computer savvy and DIYers are. There are several packages out the to turn your pc into a PVR, such as:

    Freevo [sourceforge.net]

    and

    MythTV [mythtv.org]

    The problem with these packages at this point are twofold.

    First, they aren't exactly easy to set up. Most people will need to recompile their kernels for bttv support, and not every Linux user out there knows how to safely rebuild a kernel. Then, at least with freevo, there is the matter of getting your dependencies set. This can be difficult for some, especially Redhat 7.3 users, as many of the packages that freevo relies on claim Redhat's versions of gcc or some obscure perl module are b0rked.

    Also, they are missing some of the features that some commercial PVR's boast, such as HDTV (the tuner cards cost about as much as a PVR) and making suggestions for shows you might like.

    Personally, I'd like to see a PVR distro.. perhaps a even Live CD. That would help solve the difficulty of setup, but as far as lack of features go, given time, I suspect any one of these projects can superceed commercial PVR's, at least among the slashdot type crowd.
  • by tmasman (604942)
    I've just started putting together the hardware yesterday. It's very do-able, and there are a few people that are actually doing a great job at setting up nice GUIs. (MythTv). I plan on basing it off of Linux, but if I can't find the neccessary parts/drivers/software, I'll end up using Windoze 98. I'm actually building the thing in a customized case that will go pretty well with my entertainment system, and I'll have it networked with my other computers for head-head action... It's not just a glorified Tivo. It's another computer on my network, who's primary function will be to replace my DVD player, VCR, CD Player, while adding a MP3 player & another spot for gaming.

    It's very possible & many people are doing it.
    (Media.Box [sarahemm.net], ebox [bluelightning.org], FreeplayTV [freeplaytv.org], etc...)

    Just a side note... This is not a replacement for Tivo or any other recorder.
    It's alot more expensive & a lot harder...
    This is a project for people like those that read /.

    -MasMan

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."
    -Albert Einstein
  • by nedron (5294) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:51PM (#5090314) Homepage
    Frankly, I don't see "convergence" happening in the living rooms of most Americans. How convenient would it really be for most? Not very. A single system unit might be of interest to a person who lives alone, but of what use is it for a normal family. Oh, it would be useful for generating screaming matches between Billy and Janey, because he wants to watch Gunsmoke (dates me, doesn't it ) and she wants to play Nintendo. There's only one screen, so convergence in this case (which would be VERY common) yields a benefit of ZERO.
  • by Cygnus v1 (32061)
    I'm keeping an eye on hardware (specifically the Shuttle XPC barebone systems, HDTV tuner/capture cards, and RF remotes) and software (anything that will work with said hardware) that might allow me to build a small-form-factor PC that could sit in my entertainment center and act as:

    HDTV tuner

    PVR

    Progressive-scan DVD player

    Music Server

    I'm still a ways away from purchasing an HDTV-capable TV, and am taking the time to educate myself along the way. An affordable (less than $1k) home-built entertainment appliance like I've described that doesn't require a keyboard for light operation is probably a ways away.

  • Then this is not for you. The reason people build systems like this is not economical, it's because they can. Why else would we have projects like mythtv.org, or freevo.sourceforge.net. Other projects have a similar folowing, like text mode quake (http://webpages.mr.net/bobz/ttyquake/), or my favorite recent project, Bar Monkey (http://www3.hmc.edu/~bgreer/barmonkey/). Again, if you have to ask, this product isn't for you.
  • Flamethrower Linux (Score:2, Informative)

    by mprecup (581338)
    Something i've been watching for awhile now. It has just about everything all there. http://staff.washington.edu/jmgasper/
  • HTPC Forum (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrakkenFire (641666) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:55PM (#5090359)
    There is a great forum over at www.avscience.com the specific forum link is:

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php? s= f7c95c994ee82c919bd2336b4ad8bc8b&forumid=26

    That forum is related to all things PC/Media related.

    They also have a specific Linux users forum at:

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php? s= f7c95c994ee82c919bd2336b4ad8bc8b&forumid=76

    The other forums at avscience are great resources too, so dont hesitate to check them out, but these two forums should fit this particular topic.
  • Convergence, IMHO, is for the guy with a lot of extra money, a lot of extra time, and a burning desire to read his e-mail on that 54-inch flat-screen plasma monitor in his living room.

    I don't trust anyone who wants to turn a PC into a "media center." The convergence devices that Microsoft and others envision are designed for PASSIVE entertainment. Don't stand up and say anything, just sit there on the couch and watch. An internet-connected PC is designed for ACTIVE entertainment. It encourages you to participate, to communicate, to share your knowledge and ideas and creations with the world. Linux was not created by some schmo on the sofa with a clicker in his hand.

    This is not to say that passive entertainment is a bad thing, mind you. What I'm saying is that a general-purpose computer is not the right tool for this job. Ultimately, we're better off having a PC for one set of tasks and a TiVo, DVD Player and PS2 for another. If people really wanted full-fledged PCs in their living rooms, the guys who created WebTV would be billionaires right now.
  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:04PM (#5090432)

    Over the past few months I've been looking into this. I really want a PVR, but can't buy one off-the-shelf (no service available in .nl).

    One of the things I noticed is that it doesn't seem possible to put more than one capture card into a PC. At least I've seen reports that say Windows can only handle on capture card. If this is true, it would be a shame. I currently have two VCRs. If I buy a PVR, I'd like to improve on current functionality and be able to record two programs while watching (with PVR functions like 'pause live TV' available) a third.

    Now, I haven't been able to absolutely confirm this. Does anyone here know, and is the situation different when you use Linux?

    And how adaptable are current open-PVR efforts? Is it possible for a non-programmer (at least, nothing beyond a few simple Applescripts) to e.g. get the software to recognize guide data from a different website than originally intended? Most software PVRs seem linked pretty much to a single guide data provider.

    • There's nothing specific to Windows that prevents multiple capture cards. I can choose to capture from my ATI AIW's S-Video input, composite input, TV tuner or Firewire port, or my nForce2 mobo's Firewire port. The new AIW also allows plugging in an additional PCI capture card (TV Wonder) and getting PiP functionality, or watch one/record another.
  • MoviX (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trunkboy (624638) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:18PM (#5090523) Homepage
    MoviX is a linux distro designed for just that. It's new, young, and needs developers. (Roberto is great though) Many of the PVR apps build on an existing distro, this one is entirely to BE a PVR. Also, it boots from CD, so the hard drive is free to use for storage, etc. http://movix.sf.net -Shawn
  • by Osrin (599427) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:20PM (#5090535) Homepage
    ... the issue appear to be one of simplification. www.mythtv.org and www.freevo.org are both examples of some pretty advanced projects that could easily stand up against the MS offering with some dedicated resource applied to it to cover the install and hardware issues. We know that it's more than possible... one poster commented that he would stick with his Tivo. If memory serves me correctly Tivo is a linux based box that some commercial vendors have done a great job of packaging. When you look at shipping home entertainment goods of this nature the project constructed around it has to have a really big set of ambitions around integration with existing home entertainment hardware and functionality. MythTV still has to tackle things like control of external set top boxes and time shifted TV... it will come, but the project team seems to be too small to tackle it in any timely manner.
  • ...I already have this. Take one pIII 550, 448mb ram, gf2mx, network card, dvdrom drive and cdrom-burner and a hauppage wintv2go card.
    Then get the dvr software hauppage has on it's website, add mame and your done! I record whatever I want on my HD, timed useing a tvguide website. The only thing I have to do is put in when and what I want to record, presto! That last step is really all that separates my setup from a true tivo...but then, I only pay subscription for my phat .edu line :)

    So what exactly is the problem here? That it runs windows?
  • TuxBox (Score:2, Interesting)

    by keyslammer (240231)
    I'm surprised no one seems to have mentioned the TuxBox [tuxboxproject.com] project.
  • See MythTV [mythtv.org].
  • Ive been using a PC as my MEdia center for months now. Works great. My secret was NOT to use a remote control. I just used a wireless mouse from logitech, and have it hooked up to my projector full time. 12 foot screen all the time is nice. I did have to write my own software to handle an Episode Guide, I used the Creative Digital VCR PVR ($50 now). It does the Mpeg2 encoding on its card, so it doesnt eat up CPU. Plus it is easy to export to mpg files for use anywhere.

    So, TV, DVD, DivX, Mp3's--anything you can think of, and its is pretty easy to use--Mainly due to Logitech wireless LED mouse.

    I posted my hastily written EPG code here: http://x-epg.net/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=55 [x-epg.net].
  • by William Tanksley (1752) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @07:03PM (#5090769)
    FreeplayTV [freeplaytv.org]
    does what you want, is completely open source (hardware design and the software it runs, currently MythTV), and you can buy a preassembled system from them for just over $300 (although it doesn't include NTSC, you have to pay ATI another $50 or so for that). Since it's based on MythTV, you can play MAME on it, and many other things.

    I want a little bit more before I buy: SPDIF output, for example. But they have the basics already; the rest is coming soon.

    -Billy
  • Once linux users have MPEG encoder/decoder support, then it will be very realistic to start using the mini itx boards for real pvr functionality, because let's face it, nobody really wants a full tower or even a desktop-sized box in their entertainment center.

    The Win TV 250 PVR has an encoder that some users are having success with the encoding, but it is still very young. Serious discussion is going on on this discussion group [shspvr.com]. However, the pci card forces users to choose a larger form factor box that can accommodate a pci card instead of the cool small boxes [mini-itx.com]. The MPEG decoder portion has been gloriously included in the new via epia board using the new chipset. I haven't tested how well it works (or if it is supported in linux yet).

    In essence, using off the shelf components takes a lot of hardware that would normally be on the motherboard of a true home theater component. Thus, to achieve this we are getting closer but not quite there yet.

    All the other operations (mp3/games/networking) etc are already available and very usable on a 933 mhz Via C3.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @07:06PM (#5090786) Homepage
    And no, I don't mean like the standard of one implementation.

    1. But I do mean a CD-distro a la Knoppix that you can pop in your PVR-machine and have it work, and that'll be the "standard". Not running on top of ten different distros. There are a lot of good reasons for having ten different distros, but not on a task-spesific device where you'll ideally want to stay in media-center programs 100% of the time.

    2. Absolutely no messing with a computer first, setting up anything, or running any kind of command utility. At the very most, some kind of hack prompt to choose NTSC/PAL. GUI interface for the rest.

    3. With a good "supported hardware" list that could be a lot shorter than Linux's (like: these TV cards autodetect & tested). As little manual configuring as possible, preferably none. Put some work into autodetection if there are working drivers that don't have so.

    4. Some "smart" media library. For always-on users, the ability to put in a cd, have it get the names from FreeDB, rip as ogg and store (default setting being "manual", with an "always" checkbox. After all, it could be borrowed or something, and then it's not covered by fair use to copy it... Kinda like Windows never wants to remember I want to use Nero and not Windows to burn CDs.

    5. Dunno if it's being done, but run CDs and DVDs at 1x when playing directly (you can dynamically set this can't you?) so they'll be *quiet*. No 52x CD-reader or 16x DVD-reader with a high-pitch annoying whine. Here's definately some of the reason I think you need *one* distro. Keep speed up if you just want to store it for future use though.

    6. *After* you have achived that, try to inspire some mobo-producer to integrate the popular components on one mobo, with a custom made sleek case, something like the mini-ITX/mini-ATX cases I see around. One 5 1/4" slot (CD/DVD/CD-burner/DVD-burner), one 3 1/2" slot (HDD). Ethernet, Firewire and USB for wireless keyboad/mouse. Make it low and wide, like a VCR not like a tower. Important: Make a couple fronts, minimum black/silver. Find a spot on the case front to integrate the IR/radio sensor. A "standard" LCD would also be nice, for when you're only playing music. As for processors, I wouldn't try to put a 2-3GHz proc in this one. Music & DVDs need silence. Cool CPU, passive cooling if you can (maybe with a heat changer like the Shuttle XPCs). As this'll be a ways off, probably SATA, like the Barracuda V. Those smaller cables will be important in such a tight case.

    But like I said, start with one PVR-distro CD that'll run directly off your TV and I think you've come far. Also, don't forget what that Ethernet connection is there for, SMB or similar for moving files to and from.

    Kjella

    Kjella
  • 1) Not everywhere in the world has TiVo.

    2) TiVo is a company with company goals. These aren't always in line with what people want.

    3) MS wants in in this area. If there's a Free alternative to what is essentually an applience (read MS's inertia doesn't apply) then hw manufacturers/assemblers will quite happily tell MS where to go to save a couple of hundred dollars.

    4) It'll be fun.

  • by srNeu (559432) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:27AM (#5092191)
    Check out Telly [interact-tv.com].

    It's a Linux based box with photos, pvr, music, etc. with TV out and IR. If they can ever bring this to market, it'll run $699.

    I was going to build my own, but would end up spending more cash and building a sub-par hack UI. I need something that the wife can work so I can toss my 13 yr. old VCR before it dies.
  • Movix (Score:3, Informative)

    by dago (25724) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:19PM (#5094910)
    for all the ones who asked for an iso solution : movix [sf.net]

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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