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Group Outlines Specs For Linux-based Set-top boxes 92

Posted by Hemos
from the power-your-multimedia-world dept.
Shadowhawk writes "According to Silicon Strategies, a group called "TV Linux Alliance" is creating a spec for digital set-top boxes using Linux. The specifications, dubbed version 0.8, defines the functions for RF tuners and other components in Linux-based set-top boxes. It also outlines the application programming interfaces (APIs) for those devices, according to officials from the alliance."
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Group Outlines Specs For Linux-based Set-top boxes

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  • by packeteer (566398) <[moc.noisnemidbus] [ta] [reetekcap]> on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:33AM (#4554148)
    ...Do these standards help linux spread out and mature or simply go against everything that linux has done right?

    Personally i think if its done right its a good thing.
    • See how Microsoft wants everything to run windows and be compatable with everything else, so yout fridge can talk to your bedside lamp. Well you guys seem to want everything to run Linux so everything takes hours to set up and no-one else can use it. But heh, TiVo is Linux based and I like it. So cool.
  • by cdf12345 (412812) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:37AM (#4554160) Homepage Journal
    I'm I the only one who found no real information here?

    It'd be nice to actually see what standards were set, or at least have a link to them.

    It's like CNN having a news update about a presidental speech and saying "well the president outlined his goals for the economy and foreign policy, he is supported by these congressmen"

    Then failing to say what the policy is.

    Talk about a fluff piece.

  • Members of alliance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wcbarksdale (621327) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:39AM (#4554163)
    From article: "The TV Linux Alliance consists of ACTV, ATI, Broadcom, Concurrent Computer, Conexant, Convergence Integrated Media, iSurfTV, Liberate, Lineo, MontaVista, Motorola, Pace Micro, ReplayTV, STMicroelectronics, Sun Microsystems, TiVo, Trintech, and Worldgate." Odd. Somehow they left out WebTV [msn.com]
    • What were the chances of that happening!
    • MS WebTV is not a competitor. WebTV is just internet access in a box for your TV, that's not what these guys are developing. Microsoft has developed MSTV for use on set-top boxes but the whole thing was actually a huge fiasco for Microsoft and about 8 months ago they completely reorganized their MSTV outfit to either try again or get out of the biz.
      • Microsoft did not design WebTV/MSNTV, they just bought WebTV a few years ago. Twas ex Apple folks under the name of Artemis that actually designed the boxes and started the company. Lasted a couple of years until MS bought them.
  • by Troy H Parker (600654) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:41AM (#4554167)
    The article doesn't contain any meat. What standards? I want to know how I can make use of these standards, are they being made available or are they sort of passed around to others in the industry only?
  • Here's the article (Score:4, Informative)

    by SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:43AM (#4554171) Journal
    HOUSTON, Tex.--The TV Linux Alliance here today announced the availability of its initial specifications for use in developing digital set-top boxes, based on the Linux operating system.

    The specifications, dubbed version 0.6, defines the functions for RF tuners and other components in Linux-based set-top boxes. It also outlines the application programming interfaces (APIs) for those devices, according to officials from the alliance. The TV Linux Alliance is a consortium that hopes to define a proprietary Linux environment for digital set-top boxes.

    The specification also simplifies the implementation of middleware and device drivers for the Linux operating environment. It also paves the way for support of industry-standard content specifications, such as DVB-MHP, Palladium, and CableLabs OCAP, said Dennis Thompson, chairman for the Austin-based alliance.

    "This specification is a long awaited solution that will accelerate the availability of new content and services, though it may include some porting and integration challenges," he said in a statement.

    The TV Linux Alliance consists of ACTV, Apple, ATI, Broadcom, Concurrent Computer, Conexant, Convergence Integrated Media, iSurfTV, Liberate, Lineo, MontaVista, Motorola, Pace Micro, ReplayTV, STMicroelectronics, Sun Microsystems, TiVo, Trintech, WebTV, and Worldgate.
    • Bizarre (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alan Cox (27532) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:56AM (#4554202) Homepage
      Linux already has a standard for TV tuners, video cards and both analog and digital TV systems. The palladium thing does demonstrate the need for more GPL software authors to include language like this
      (from bits of the kernel...)

      * For the avoidance of doubt the "preferred form" of this code is one which
      * is in an open non patent encumbered format. Where cryptographic key signing
      * forms part of the process of creating an executable the information
      * including keys needed to generate an equivalently functional executable
      * are deemed to be part of the source code.
      *

      and I'd urge the FSF to adopt such language in the GPL next generation too
      • Re:Bizarre vs. GPL (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:51AM (#4554365)
        I see little point in adding additional terms to the GPL when current terms are being ignored.

        Dell/Red hat was notified in JULY 2002 that the Dell PowerEdge Web Server version 3.0 Powered by Red hat Linux was violating the GPL by not provide the source code or a written notice of the source code. Red hat's Mark Webbink responded that under contract between Dell and Red hat, the Red hat v7.2 packages (on CD 2 of 3 and CD 3 of 3 of the PowerEdge Web Server) where distributed by Dell, not Red hat and Red hat would make sure the GPL was honored. Dell responded that the next release of the PowerEdge Web Server would honor the GPL including the non-RH packages covered by the GPL on CD 1 of 3.

        Well, the next release is out under the name of Dell PowerEdge Server version 3.1 Powered By Red Hat Linux [dell.com] and guess what:

        It does not include the source code for the non-RH portions on CD 1 of 3
        It does not include a written offer for the source code for the non-RH portions on CD 1 of 3
        It does not include the source code for the RH 7.2 packages on CD 2 and CD 3
        It does not include a written offer for the source code for the RH 7.2 packages on CD 2 and CD 3

        Mark Webbink refuses to respond to e-mails requesting details on what Red hat considers to be a written offer for the source code that was included with Dell PowerEdge Web Server version 3.1 Powered By Red Hat Linux.

        Dell technical support when asked for the after-market part # for the source code explains that Dell does not intend the PowerEdge Web Server software to be "open source" and does not intend to provide *ANY* source code related to the product. In addition, he explained that any customer modifications that Dell intends to be provided is already in the web configuration screens and modifying the source code would only "break it."

        Despite this excuse for continuing the violate the GPL, Red hat/Dell is now (October 29) giving a talk at Georgetown U. to explain why software distributed under the license they are both violating will result in better security.

        So which is it that Red hat/Dell believes? That modifying the source code only breaks it or improves security?

        And Red hat's Alan Cox would like additional terms added to the next GPL so that the Red hat/Dell alliance can ignore those terms as well! That is really cute. Why don't you talk to Mark Webbink about honoring the FSF request to snail mail every reciever of the PowerEdge Web Server version 3.x a written offer for the source code before declairing what more the FSF should do. Maybe if the FSF wasn't busy policing GPL violators like the Red hat/Dell alliance then they would have time to work on GPL-NG instead.

        In short, adding your above language to the GPL is NOT going to ever make RH's Mark Webbink responsive to the requirements of the GPL.
        • If you've got the guts to continue this other than as an "anonymous coward" then I would be interested in evidence that something like that is going on so I can go kick people and find out what is happening.

          It may also depend on the code involved. If its about 'web server software' and that software is dell written and created it may be Dell proprietary. If it is Apache mods then it is under a very weak BSD license and they can take their version proprietary.

          You might also want to ask Matt Domsch at Dell
      • Alan,

        While I do understand your concern over DRM issues, I just wanted to point out that this will also render systems of 'blessed binaries' useless, as the keys would have to be published. This is important for open source online games, such as Netrek, to avoid people cheating by modifying their clients.

        -molo
        • Blessed binaries is a complicated issue. It comes down to what is source and what is equivalent functionality. There is a real difference between "you can't use my service but you can run your own" and "pay $100,000 and we will let you run your code on your computer"
      • That would be nice, but really is just a clarificational (IANAL). I would think it's clear that you don't have the source code if you don't have sufficient information to produce a working executable.
      • Just a heads up. Wasn't sure if you were aware of this, but you responded to a fabricated (well, edited) article, not actual news. Here's [slashdot.org] the confession. Unless of course, I've fallen for yet another one of his trollings [which I hope I haven't].
    • The TV Linux Alliance consists of ACTV, Apple, ATI, Broadcom, Concurrent Computer, Conexant, Convergence Integrated Media, iSurfTV, Liberate, Lineo, MontaVista, Motorola, Pace Micro, ReplayTV, STMicroelectronics, Sun Microsystems, TiVo, Trintech, WebTV, and Worldgate.

      It's interesting to note that Apple is a member of this group. Apple has been rumored for some time to be developing new "digital lifestyle" deveices to follow up on the iPod. Perhaps a iPVR is comming next.
      • An they still list Convergence Integrated Media which, AFAIK, no longer exists.
        • by BigSven (57510)
          Convergence Integrated Media is dead, long live Convergence ;-) The company changed its name but we are still there and we are still into Open Source as you can see at www.linuxtv.org and www.directfb.org.
    • Gee, that's an interesting version of the article. The one I read was from Austin, not Houston, failed to mention Palladium, mentioned reducing porting challenges, and didn't mention Apple and WebTV, among other things...

      Please mod the parent down. Either it's a failed attempt at humor, or it's a deliberate attempt to deceive and confuse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:44AM (#4554175)
    > The specifications, dubbed version 0.8

    How long did it take them to come up with that? I think I'll name my next kid that...
  • Lame. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:45AM (#4554176)
    tvlinuxalliance.org

    To even see the specs you have to print out a license agreement, sign it, fax it to them, and more... So much for an open standard.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Pace/Liberate boxes that the uk cable cos use are complete shit! It takes about 5 seconds to change the channel sometimes, and sickening color schemes to boot! Not to mention that it crashes on you when you least expect it. If the linux boxes are better, than Im all for it. Linux could be in nearly every home...
  • Trademark issues? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cei (107343) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:56AM (#4554201) Homepage Journal
    I remember Linus getting the Linux trademark back a couple of years ago. Don't know if the mark is specifically for "software" or "product" or might include "services", but it seems to me that anyone calling themselves "TV Linux Alliance" and being less than forthcoming with their standard, much less their code, may be up for a challenge.
  • by Troy H Parker (600654) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:56AM (#4554203)
    the Specifications are available here: http://tvlinuxalliance.org/specifications/index.ph p
  • by e8johan (605347)
    "...industry-standard content specifications, such as ...Palladium..."

    This cannot be good. Should Linux-based set-top boxes be used to limit the freedom of the users. I can see the irony, but I do *not* find it funny!
  • by krazyninja (447747) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @04:57AM (#4554208)
    The link here at isurftv [isurftv.com], (one of the prominent members of the tvlinux alliance) shows that they offer a windows based solution already. But Linux is not mentioned anywhere except for the news release. It is clear that they started off with a Windows solution, but the profit margins are so thin in this industry, that they found it is viable only if the OS cost is not a part of the selling cost.
    I wonder how many other industries could follow this trend? Note that MS has its hand into other pies like HAVI (Home Audio Video Interoperability), Media center, recent announcements with Panasonic for CDs etc...

  • by bLanark (123342) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:01AM (#4554217)
    This sounds like a big business thing. What will undoubtedly happen if this alliance makes significant market pentration is that some dude in Washington will lean on them in some way:

    Force Palladium-like stuff on them (or)
    Force viewing stats (or)
    Force no ad-skipping (or)
    or whatever.

    Hackers, on the other hand, start a sourceforge project, another sees what's available, enhances it for their needs, puts it back in the pot, and so on. That will never be controlled in the way this alliance can be.

    I expect that some of the alliance "components" will end up having some restrictions in them, so even they will not be available for open-source hackers.

    The only way will be to write your own, from the ground up (at best keep a "standard" interface). Sorry.
    • by squaretorus (459130) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:56AM (#4554380) Homepage Journal
      Agree. Whats needed is a single simple download that can be dumped onto a fresh / old PC with an easily understood minimum spec by anyone that can instal a piece of windows software without wetting themselves.

      Make it kazaa easy! Have different flavours, and plug ins, and skins, and all the other crap we love, but first make it EASY to install.

      If it needs a big MF of a chip now instead of a dedicated hardware encode/ decoder who cares - we'll have 200GHx PVII systems in Walmart for $300 soon enough! THEN who needs a hardware encoder.

      This stuff doesn't have to be complicated - just enable people to do simple things VERY easily. After that all works start adding the nice to haves.
    • eh?
    • Exactly ! this is why http://www.linuxtv.org/ is for, these are the guys who also did http://www.directfb.org, I don't understand why they have ignored them !!
      • don't understand why they have ignored them !!

        It's a question of ownership. The (the big corps) do not grok open source ("Whadaya mean, it's free? No way!").

        So they want to roll their own. Then it's theirs. Plus, no GPL issues, no patent issues (OK, that was a joke), etc. And they could even licence it!
  • The Dreambox (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zloopy (595401) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:05AM (#4554224)
    This is better:

    The Dreambox 7000S, Dream Multimedia [dreammultimedia.tv]:

    - 250 MHz IBM PowerPC Processor (350 Mips)

    - Linux open source (most parts under the terms of GPL, accordingly
    expandable)- Supports Linux Standard API (Direct-FB, Linux-FB, LIRC)

    - 1 x DVB Common-Interface Slot

    - 2 x Smartcard-Reader

    - Integrated Compact Flash Interface Slot

    - MPEG2 Hardware decoding (fully DVB compliant)

    - Support for MPEG4 decoding

    - Common available NIMs (DVB-S, DVB-T, DVB-C)

    - 100 MBit full duplex Ethernet Interface

    - USB Port Keyboard, Pointing Devices, WebCams and other devices

    - V.24/RS232 Interface

    - Big-size LCD-Display

    - Up to 64 MByte of RAM

    - integrated IDE UDMA66 Master/Slave Interface

    - Support for internal HDD in any capacity

    • Well, nice specs, but by browsing the messageboards I got the impression, that the product have been delayed again and again, not to mention that I see no pricing info on these beasts.
      • Look at the distributers: 499 euros with delivery scheduled for 10th November
      • Re:The Dreambox (Score:2, Informative)

        by RVley (210521)
        It's not delayed, it will be out next week (according to www.electricblue.nl) for 499 Euros.

        Soon there will also be cable (DVB-C) and DVB-T versions. This 7000 can also hold a harddisk. The cheapo-model will not be able to hold a HDD.

        Think it'll be a very nice box, but we have to see how stable everything will be ofcourse.

    • Okay...so I'm reading the specs on this website, and it sounds pretty powerful (well, at least compared to my vintage 198x cable box)...it tells me that it runs linux, it's got a powerPC processor, it can hold a hard drive, etc, etc. So it's basically a little computer on top of my TV...but, what I'd like to know, which the website tells me nothing about, is...what the heck do I do with it?!?! It must be something pretty powerful that you can't do with a regular TV...I don't know! Does it...

      project an image of you into your favorite sit-com or game show?

      replace all those loud, obnoxious anchors on Sportscenter with normal people?

      Will it go back in time and record the show I forgot to tape?

      Is smell-o-vision finally here?

      Is it an add-on that will give me picture in picture in picture?

      Or is it just a really big SAP button that will let me enjoy my shows in English, Spanish, and Canadian?

      I have a computer. I have a TV. Will somebody please tell me what amazing things I can do by putting a computer on top of my TV?!?
    • where's the firewire?
  • by Troy H Parker (600654) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:05AM (#4554225)
    To counter WinXP Media Center edition of Windows XP, we need something similar running Linux, but this "Linux Standard" costs $2000 just to READ, and you don't even know what it contains beforehand.

    Is there a competing standard available or being worked on, that's FREE to read?

    Jesus, Standards were meant to be free.
  • by gotih (167327) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:07AM (#4554227) Homepage
    can closed specs produce open software? the specs will cost [tvlinuxalliance.org] $2000 to license.
  • Modders (Score:2, Insightful)

    by failrate (583914)
    Okay, this alleged Alliance is all well and good (or, more probably, unwell and double ungood), but a bunch of TiVo modders could probably grab some codecs and software off of Freshmeat and do a better job than these big, ungainly businesses. Besides, who really cares what their "standards" are when it will be hacked to pieces within weeks of the boxen actually being released to the public. Encryption keys, ha!! Just grab the old beltsander. Proprietary codecs... didn't the whole DVD industry try that one already??? Didn't hackers already get around that like a mofo? Aaaahhh, these guys are such jerks, I'm just going to go to bed and dream about monkeys smoking hookahs or something more reasonable.
  • by ukryule (186826) <`slashdot' `at' `yule.org'> on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:29AM (#4554277) Homepage
    Looking at the license [tvlinuxalliance.org], it is treated as confidential material. To quote bits:

    3.1 Permitted use. This Specification Version contains information that is highly confidential to the TV Linux Alliance and/or its Founders. Adopter agrees to protect this Specification Version ... This Specification Version may not be disclosed to a third party...

    3.2 Time Period. Adopter's obligations regarding the confidentiality of this Specification Version will expire 5 years after the Effective Date (except for any source code not licensed under the GNU General Public License or other open source license, if any, which will be protected in perpetuity).

    Now, I guess it's fine to put these restrictions on a specification of a GPL-d system, but once they start releasing products, they'll have to release source code - so i'm a bit confused as to what the license implies. They're protecting the standard, but are going to release the source of implementations? Why?
  • by Paul Bristow (118584) <paul&paulbristow,net> on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @05:34AM (#4554296) Homepage
    This site [cadsoft.de] has the terrific and very active VDR project. It has full DVB support, full PVR support, and plugins for DVD playback, DivX, MPEG-4, MP3, LCD displays and more... If you want GPL Digital TV this is the place to go. Sign up to the mailing lists and contribute to this fantastic example of open source working well.
  • Why doesn't... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Tuesday October 29, 2002 @10:51AM (#4555580) Journal
    Why doesn't somebody put together a set top box with a 40 gig harddrive, plus a couple more IDE slots, a couple of PCI slots, capture card, TV out, a network card, USB, firewire and a remote, and sell the damn thing as a kit... then let the standards make themselves... Personally, even if the thing cost 500 bucks, I'd buy one just to make my own Tivo and I'd plug a CDRW into the thing so I could archive the content as well. And before you respond with some rehtorical whitty comment about how nobody would buy it, that's the problem! See, years ago, you actually had to build your television (now that's what I call dedication!!!) I think people have lost a bit of the lust to tinker!
  • According to Silicon Strategies, a group called "TV Linux Alliance" is creating a spec for digital set-top boxes using Linux.

    The way to develop a product is to work out what you want to do, then look for a technology that can do it. Choosing the technology first then designing the product to fit the technology is backwards. Is the objective here to sell an STB, or is it to further the Linux cause? Because a for-profit company should prioritize the former over the latter.
  • * james would be more impressed if netgod's magic powers could stop the splits in the first place...
    * netgod notes debian developers are notoriously hard to impress
    -- Seen on #Debian

    - this post brought to you by the Automated Last Post Generator...

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