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Article: Device profile: ZapMedia ZapStation

Nov 30, 2001 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

The ZapStation is an audio/video jukebox that digitally stores and plays music and video files transferred from CDs and the Internet, plays DVDs, allows for Internet surfing, and provides daily news from USAToday. The ZapStation connects directly to TVs and stereo receivers, and provides high quality multimedia playback at the touch of a remote control. Currently, the ZapStation is being marketed to high-end consumers — audiophiles who want a more convenient way to enjoy their music collection than through a clunky CD changer or PC to stereo connection.

The ZapStation is powered by an 800 MHz Intel Celeron processor (running Linux) and contains a built-in 30GB hard drive, on which 10,000 songs or 20 hours of video can be stored. Its peripheral interfaces include composite video out, S-Video, and SVGA options to match high-resolution systems, as well as audio out options to link with stereo systems, including digital S/P DIF audio out. The remote control makes it easy to command the ZapStation, while the wireless keyboard interface enables interaction with web sites, composition of e-mail, and editing of song, artist, and album information.

Rear panel of the ZapStation

What's inside?

The ZapStation contains the equivalent of a medium performance desktop computer. Its CPU is an 800MHz Intel Celeron, equipped with 128MB RAM. The device boots Linux from its internal hard disk (Linux BIOS may be used in the future).

The ZapStation's embedded Linux operating system is based on kernel version 2.4.2, along with some ZapMedia-developed proprietary modules for video. ZapMedia did the port of Linux to the ZapStation themselves, starting from a Red Hat distribution. The system's graphical display functions are based on a modified version of XFree86, along with Qt and Java, plus a customized Fresco Browser. Because there is no mouse on the system, there is no need for a window manager such as KDE or GNOME.

One interesting software component of the ZapStation, is the support for Windows Media Audio and Video. WMA and WMV codecs were included, with the full cooperation and support of Microsoft, according to Chris Solomon, VP Business Development and Marketing.

Why Linux?

“At the time [we developed the ZapStation], the other embedded operating systems [we looked at] did not have Java or DVD capabilities. WinCE and [Embedded XP] might be viable alternatives now, but they were not two years ago,” said Solomon.

“We believe in the GPL for infrastructure software. Almost all of the operating system on the ZapStation is GPL'd,” Solomon added. “To illustrate the strength of Open Source software, almost none of the OS has been changed by ZapMedia. In a couple of cases we fixed some bugs in a GPL'd application, and in those cases we have always tried to send the fixes to the maintainer. All our GPL'd code will be available soon on”

“The Embedded Linux market is exploding and I don't see that ending soon,” noted Solomon. “Historically, embedded OSes have been built in house. With Linux, you get all the advantages of in house development (code ownership, customizability) along with the advantages of a large support infrastructure.”


The ZapStation 100 is currently available for purchase for $599 via the company's website, with a stated availability of “usually ships in 2-3 business days”.

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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