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IP-TV STBs run Linux on DaVinci

Jun 20, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Visioneering is readying a line of set-top boxes targeting standard- or high-definition IP-TV (internet protocol TV) systems. The Sonata STBs run Linux on Texas Instruments (TI) “DaVinci” processors, with custom “real-time image enhancement” ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) said to offer “unmatched”… video quality over broadband networks.

(Click for slightly larger view of Sonata STB)

The Sonata DVR (digital video recorder) line comprises four models, all based on TI's DaVinci RISC/DSP SoCs. The lower-end Sonata 100 and 120 use the decode-only DM6443 DaVinci chip, while the higher-end 200 and 200W (wireless) models use TI's encode- and decode-capable DM6446 chips, explains CTO Robert Wallin.

The 200-series Sonata devices can encode inputs from “any type of video source,” including DVD players, camcorders, or other sources, Wallin said. I/O ports on the 200-series devices include component, composite, s-video, and Ethernet. The 200-series devices are also available with hard drives and DVR (digital video recording) capabilities.

The 100-series Sonata STBs support the 720p (progressive scan) high-definition standard, while the 200-series devices add support for 1080i (interlaced).

The Sonata 120, 200, and 200W feature a proprietary ASIC said to provide “real-time image enhancement.” CEO Peter Guest explains, “It improves the clarity of video delivered over broadband networks, such as the typical 5mbps IP-TV network. The improvement is very noticeable in high-definition.”

Additional features include:

  • NTSC/PAL or High Definition
  • H.264, Windows Media Video (VC-1), or MPEG-2
  • USB 2.0 interface — connects to external USB devices
  • Ethernet — works over any broadband IP network
  • Smartcard support

Fast product development cycles

Visioneering was able to develop its Sonata product line in only six weeks, exclusive of production, according to Guest and Wallin. Wallin explains, “It takes about two weeks to get to the first prototype board. That includes defining your product, defining the schematics, and doing your layout. In parallel, you can do most software development on TI's EVM [evaluation module]. The EVM comes with software, source code, codecs, smartcard support, flash memory, and all the I/O for any kind of project you'd ever want to do. So all told, it takes 4-6 weeks to actually complete a product.”

Along with TI's DaVinci EVM, Wallin credit's TI's Code Composer 3.2 IDE, which he says was released mainly to add DaVinci support.

The Sonata STBs run MontaVista Linux. However, Wallin notes that Visioneering received Linux support through TI, rather than directly from MontaVista. TI announced earlier this month that it was selling and supporting MontaVista Linux directly, through an OEM agreement with MontaVista.

When TI first announced DaVinci, it called the products “the industry's first integrated portfolio” of hardware, software, and tools targeting specific market applications. It promised that “software frameworks” would help speed development, and shield system designers from the inner workings of the multiprocessing SoC.

Visioneering also offers a Linux/DaVinci-based “Crystal-i MVS” DVR device targeting mobile applications such as police cars. Additionally, it offers several simple video encoding devices that do not use embedded OSes.


The Sonata STBs are expected to reach customers in 4-6 weeks, priced between $100 and $170 in volume, depending on options. They will not be marketed directly to consumers, but instead will be bundled with service plans from network operators, ISPs, and content providers.

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