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Building the ultimate open set-top box

Feb 10, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

LinuxDevices founder Rick Lehrbaum has set out to build an HD-capable, on-demand Internet set-top box, just for fun. He has written a detailed article on his current system, which combines Ubuntu, Boxee, custom modelines, and some xrandr shell magic for enjoyable Internet TV viewing, he says.

“Despite TiVo's dominance, the emerging ubiquity of broadband Internet has begun to tilt the playing field away from cable, toward the Internet as a content source,” writes Lehrbaum. Yet, he explains, currently available off-the-shelf Internet set-top boxes are mostly “one trick ponies” tied to specific services. Other offerings are either underpowered, not expandable, or they use closed software stacks. So, he decided to build his own.

Lehrbaum starts by building a nice media PC, using a slim AV case and a powerful 2.5GHz Core 2 processor. He installs Ubuntu Linux, and then the interesting Boxee software stack, customized to launch on startup. Once everything is working with a PC display, he moves the system to his HD TV… and that's when the fun really begins.

Lehrbaum discovers some pretty interesting details about how xorg, gnome, and boxee interact with displays connected via HDMI, and he winds up taking a trip to “modeline hell,” as he puts it. But, he eventually resurfaces with a system capable of connecting to both standard- and high-definition displays. “Now that the BoxeeBox is working satisfactorily, I'm looking forward to taking a break from this project to sit back, relax, and enjoy some video,” he writes. You can follow the complete journey — which includes detailed instructions to build your own “BoxeeBox” — here.

Meanwhile, open source A/V device maker Neuros Audio has launched an x86 IP-STB project not unlike Lehrbaum's project. The company is offering development bounties for software work done on the device.

In other video entertainment news, Amino reports having shipped its two millionth Linux-based IP-STB. Its latest “AmiNet130M” model is a tiny device with MPEG engines, HD (1080i) output, and an ARM processor.

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