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Linux-based Convergence Boxes From Rogers Cable 106

Posted by timothy
from the every-channel,-nothing-but-penguins dept.
nilstar writes: "Rogers Cable wants to dump (slow) WebTV and move to linux based boxes to connect all the major appliances in your home: stereo, tv, computer, etc. via broadband using rogers@home in a service called "triple play". Will this really happen after MS invested C$600 in Rogers? Here is the press release. As the article here on the star says: 'Rogers Cable Inc. will begin testing a new service next month that turns all the communications, computing and entertainment devices in a home into a high-speed smorgasbord of interactive experiences."' Why do I bet these would only be useful with one company's cable service?
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Linux-based Convergence Boxes From Rogers Cable

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    A digitally converged home for my hacked Tivo, my hacked Virgin Webplayer, my hacked WebSurfer Pro, my hacked Gateway Touch Pad, my hacked Audrey, my hacked :CueCat, etc.......
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Firstly, the canadian dollar is actually holding it own againts other currencies, it's just the US dollar that has gained a lot of value.

    Secondly, Having a weaker dollar avantages canadians in some ways, Their exports cost less to americans so they sell more (Canada has a multi-billion dollar trade surplus), and canadians are more likely to buy domestic products since imported products cost more. The result, while the US economy is clearly in a slump, there's still debate whether Canada's economy will even see a any significant slow down.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    600 Canadian dollars. That's not much.
  • Even better - I remember the first time I saw a TV remote control which was a little box with one button that would cycle through all 12 (or so) frequencies. Clicked too far? Oops, go around again.

    Best part, ofcourse, was the wire from the remote to the TV. :P

    Still, I was seriously impressed.
  • Convergence is one of those things that just doesn't work out in the ways people predict.

    Convergence is generally dumb when you take two items that might as well be separate (TV and VCR), and combine them into one. All you've gained is fewer cables, one fewer power supplies, and a slightly simpler interface for normal viewing.

    However, convergence works much better when the converged items share a lot of components. A TiVo and a computer (for example) are fairly similar. You might even say a computer is itself a convergence device, with game playing, word processing et al all merged into one. The cost of making a converged TiVo/computer isn't much higher than that of making one or the other device. You do lose the flexibility in the shared components, but the reduced cost should make up for it.
  • Rogers@Home includes one IP, and you can purchase up to two more at $10 ea. Sympatico includes two IP addresses (via PPPoE). I think that it's theoreticaly possible to grab 255 IPs (check out Roaring Penguin), although they might notice a shortage and come and talk to you about the terms of service.

    I pay $40 / month for my Sympatico (including modem rental).

    I've been NATed for 8 mos, and Sympatico does not have a problem with it. I have my own domain name hosted on my dynamic IP address, and I don't have to worry about them scanning the network for mail and web servers. I am concerned about their plans to start filtering port 25 though.

    I tried R@H in October (free trial month + free self installation). To west coast servers that I use a lot, they were much slower and had higher latency than Sympatico. I only ever saw good throughput at 4am. Latency and peer connections with R@H was bad. Bellnexxia (the network used by Sympatico) has very consistent latency and virtually zero packet loss... I can max out my connection 24/7 from a good server (e.g. MSFT's download site), which was only a dream with R@H.

    During the trial that I had with R@H, their DHCP server was down twice (one of those occasions for four days). Technical support was abysmal with up to an hour on hold. Their business office seemed less professional and competent than Sympatico's front line telephone support!

    Sympatico has the added advantage that it can be used concurrently with other ISPs (one of the few benefits of PPPoE).

    My point: these broadband ISPs are patchy. Some people have a really good experience with Rogers, some like myself don't. I personally find Sympatico much better (although I will ditch them when I move to Toronto as I don't need port 25 and 80 interceptions, and I would rather be with a smaller more responsive ISP (e.g. IStop or Magma, or at worst, Bell's Keypack service (only $45 more than I currently pay when you include the dedicated line to my home office).
  • "On a related note, it shouldn't be too hard to tell what services they _are_ scanning for... does anyone have any ipfilter or ipchains logs showing activity from @home?"

    Is that something that could be fixed with /etc/hosts.deny??? Or does it need to be firewall rule?
  • "This is not to say that Sympatico is great or anything... their network rocks, but the crappy 1.5/256 dsl modems they use SUCK! get this, to limit the upstream bandwidth they drop packets in the most annoying way! If you're uploading as hard as you can, and you try to d/l at the same time it drops packets from like half a second!!!! The result is that if you're playing an online game and you max out the upstream bandwidth you start getting 400-1000ms pings!! totally unacceptable. besides, 256Kbit upstream is pathetic. My dead grandmother can read faster than that. "

    Actually, Sympatico is 960/120. Much worse than your claim! If you have an Alcatel or Efficient Networks modem, you probably sync at a marginally higher speed (1020 downstream??).

    The biggest problem with Sympatico is their 120kbs upstream bandwidth. I don't think that it is a matter of packets being dropped on downloads, but rather ACKs for the downstream packets having to contend for upstream bandwidth. It doesn't take much of a delay on those ACKs to start hindering a download. I typically see 3-5K/s upstream when I'm downloading at 100K/s, which is quite high when you have something else using that is trying to use the 15K/s upstream bandwidth. I think that increasing the size of the RWIN does help a little bit.

    As for playing games on Sympatico HSE, I've had no problems with Quake 3. In fact, I can host a server with 2 or 3 players without them getting lagged... I know: 2-3 players isn't much :(
  • "Actually, they used to be 920/120 but they have (maybe are still in the process) or switching everyone to 1.5/256... They have been switching everyone over to Alcatel modems for that purpose. (note, they shipped the alcatels set to 920/120 (max 1.3/320) and boosted them remotely when they were ready I think) I've seen for myself a newly installed sympatico dsl doing almost 30K per second uploads."

    I'll not argue the 1.5/256 point as I'm not an employee and there's no way I can know for sure... besides you're an eye witness! ;) I had heard that the business customers are currently being upgraded to 1.3mbs/320kbs. That speed is of course the top speed of the second generation Nortel modems that were being deployed 1 - 2 years ago.

    Maybe Bell is keeping quiet about the speeds and unofficially giving new subscribers speeds higher than advertised. That would make sense as they don't want to get the attention of customers like me who are stuck at 960/120 with an old Nortel modem.

    The 1.5mbs is also in line with what I'm seeing for the Bell Keypack service. They're not very clear about speeds (or I haven't found it on the web site), and all I've seen is up to 1.5mbs transfer speed... no mention of upstream and I assume it's asymmetric. Anyway seeing as I already have a dedicated line (2nd residential) for my home office, I'm tempted upgrade to the business service ($125 / mo all-inclusive). It'll only cost me an extra $35 / mo and the service + support is much better.
  • I think the point of the comment was to illustrate that even with a C$600 million investment, they're looking at another options besides the one MS wants them to use. It just happens to be Linux, which points out that they must indeed be disappointed with the WebTV system, since if MS has any influence at all, the Linux system is the very last competitor they would want to see Rogers switch to.

    MS feels they can fight other companies reasonably well (like AOLTV, Nokia's set top box, etc.), but they still haven't figured out how to combat the Linux 'market' effectively.
  • Why do I bet these would only be useful with one company's cable service?

    I couldn't disagree more. I can't believe that Ucentric would be so short-sighted as to limit themselves to only one cable system. Perhaps Rogers will try to give Ucentric a bunch of money for an exclusive license, but I think that would be foolish on Ucentric's part.

    This kind of device, if successful, would make the most amount of money if it could be sold to other cable companies, like AT&T, Time Warner, and other cable companies in the US and around the world. If they limit themselves to one cable company, they are severely limiting their revenue potential.
  • "Why do I bet these would only be useful with one company's cable service?"

    This brings up some interesting questions.

    Is it possible to lock down a linux based black box to restrict info/use?

    With source code and multiple layers/components for every function, can the inevitable hacking of the box be stopped?

    If a piece of black box hardware is distruted with GNU derived software (in ROM for example) does the source code have to be supplied (or made avalible) too?

    I'm not infering anything about Rogers cable, but talking about the "let's buy the loss leader Xbox and make it a webserver" or CueCat type reuse in general. I'd hate to see a contigant of Microsoft backed, "hardware with an angle" makers badmouthing Linux as a full time job.

  • Looks Like slashdot crapped out on me...

    Not to mention I definatly did not submit this 5 times double doh...

    sorry bout that

  • Actually, Sympatico tells you how to use multiple computers on their service on their own website! All you need is a hub and run the connection client (available for Linux) on each machine.

    With Rogers, you usually need to setup a machine to do NAT or IP-Masq.
  • by ian stevens (5465) on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @12:07PM (#137186) Homepage
    OTOH I've heard that @home will hassle you if you run your own servers; is that true?

    Sort of. A few months ago, I received an e-mail from the Rogers@Home security department informing me that they did a scan of port 25 on their networks and found that my mailer had mail relaying enabled. I had thought Debian would have had this turned off by default, but I felt like an idiot when I found out it was true. The same e-mail told me the next time they would be doing a scan and if the problem wasn't fixed by then, they would shut down my service. Five minutes after reading the notice, the problem was fixed but this was after the specified date as I had been on holiday during that time. So I sent off a brief email to the Rogers@Home security department to let them know it was now fixed and welcomed them to test it for themselves. The reply I received was rather curt, saying that servers were not allowed as part of the user agreement and that I would have to shut it down or risk losing my service.

    WTF? Their notice seemed to indicate that they had no problems with servers so long as they were secure. Needless to say, I didn't pursue the matter any further and just shut my trap. I still have service, by the way.

    ian.

  • Which, unfortunately, consists mostly of pictures of multi-cultural kids at an iMac [ucentric.com] having a good time.

    I mean, there's not even a picture of a product! I take it, then, the product is nothing more than software solution with a hardware reference platform. Bleh...

  • I'm surprised no one's pointed out the interesting side of this equation: Ucentric's [ucentric.com] hardware and software combo.

    Basically, it's YALinux-based settop box: integrated DSL modem, ethernet, a little expansion capability for 802.11b and USB; the usual suite of firewall/NAT/NFS/Samba, and some nifty front end software, including TV/web integration.

    Nothing revolutionary; all evolutionary.

  • I bow before your superior math ability.
  • Microsoft's investment in Rogers was almost two years ago [idg.net] so I really don't see what part if any that plays in the fact that Rogers just came out with a Linux box. Just a point of clarification because the implication seems to be that Microsoft just bought in to thwart this Linux initiative, when in reality that is old news.

    This does look fascinating, although really it was inevitable. Right now I have a @Home feed and a digital feed to my settop box (not WebTV but rather just digital TV) so making a more intelligent box makes sense. However I think there's a huge overemphasis on the Linux aspect of this: It's a tool that facilitates a means, and many different tools could achieve the same thing.

  • ...WinCE (vs. Palm)...

    I agree with the rest, however as of late the iPaq has been seriously stomping into Palm territory (indeed I believe I read that the iPaq now is commanding new sales). Of course the iPaq runs PocketPC (which is Windows CE 3).

  • ROTFL... FUD doesn't work on people with competitive pressure. Its delivered goods that count.

    M$ takes three tries to get anything right and takes too long to do it. That may work with IT wanks but if you wanna sell something that somebody wants to watch something TONIGHT, you can't afford to wait a year or more as M$ tries to scare off the competition while stealing all their ideas.

    A Linux box just trumped M$ where it hurts. In the real world market place.

    Kick 'em in the balls.
  • A couple of good answers to this one:

    (1) There are going to be millions of these things; if they can be attacked successfully, they will be, no matter what the platform.

    And, more importantly,

    (2) If it were a question of Rogers making its own box, I'd agree with you (subject to argument (1) above). But as it happens, it's looking like a choice between Linux and Microsoft.

    (2) If this is so, Linux is a great deal simpler than MS stuff, and is likely to be harder to attack. Looks at the MS web server attacks being posted almost daily - they are all ancilliary functions of the server that are left open by default. Because MS stuff is almost infinitely complex, it's nearly infinitely vunerable.

    By going with Linux, which starts simple and builds itself up in layers (i.e. X, etc), you can (at least on paper) stay with minimal complexity, and that's going to mean minimal support expense and minimal vunerability.

    Not that people won't try to get in, and not that they won't get in. But it should be easier to fix and deal with in general than the equivalent Windows product.

    Hope that helps.

    D

    ----
  • by SteveM (11242) on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @11:55AM (#137194)

    The point is that MS bought into these cable companies to ensure a market for their products.

    Thus by Rogers going to a Linux based system it sends the message that MS's products don't cut it.

    MS made a big push into TV by buying into a number of cable companies, buying WebTV, and starting up MSNBC. With Rogers ditching WebTV for a non-MS product it hints that MS's investments in TV may not be panning out. This is news because it shows that MS dominance in desktop OS's and software doesn't directly translate into dominance in other areas.

    This contiues a trend seen with MSN (vs. AOL) and WinCE (vs. Palm) and thus may bode well for Linux, at least in the server market [usatoday.com], and poorly for the Xbox.

    Thus the bigger point is that its desktop monopoly and its bulging bank accounts don't guarantee MS dominace in every market it enters.

    Steve M

  • yeah...I'm in ottawa and I get scanned by the same machine. I don't have many ports open (just smtp, dns, ssh) though.... I was tempted to turn off all response to *.security.home.net but they have never said boo to me either so I didn't bother. *shrug*

    *sing* I'm a karma whore and I'm okay....
    I work all night and I post all day
  • you could just put an ipchains rule in front of your input chain along the lines of 'ipchains -A input -s *.security.rogers.net -j DENY' (or something like that) Then they won't even be able to ping you....
    *sing* I'm a karma whore and I'm okay....
    I work all night and I post all day
  • oops.... *.security.home.net doesn't work. I did an nslookup of authorized-scan1.security.home.net and got 24.0.0.203. Probably could use something like 24.0.0.0/24 to cut them off....
    *sing* I'm a karma whore and I'm okay....
    I work all night and I post all day
  • I had a similar experience with them couple of months ago when they started messing around with DHCP servers - I couldn't get a new lease no matter what I tried, and my old address was taken by somebody else.
    It also didn't help that I had one of those blue LinkSys 4-port hubs/routers and no Windows anywhere in sight. The way to milk your static IP from them is to play *really* dumb Windows user("Ummm, where is the Start button?" dumb), and then they'll guide you through step by step. First time around they'll still try to set up your IP settings to use DHCP. Of course, you tell them it's still not working, then they'll have to tell you your new static IP/subnet/gateway/etc. You thank them to the stars, they fell happy, you feel happy. The whole process doesn't take longer than 10-15 minutes (factor in two imaginary Windows reboots). Worked like a charm!
    Now I hear they started distributing new version of their client software (Win/Mac only) that also comes with "diagnostic tools" to help you reestablish your connection in case something goes wrong....Hope my little social engineering skit will still work....:)
  • Speaking from experience, cable companies and set-top boxes just don't mix. Guarantee they get stuff in this wrong, and leave stuff out that will make you say "How could they make a set-top box that hooks up to your stereo, without any streaming audio?" or something like that.

    I just got digital cable from AT&T Broadband, and it came with a Motorola set-top box that is - no joke - wider than my TV. The thing freakin sucks! The manual calls it "Interactive Television." There is absolutely nothing interactive about my piece of crap cable box. It is a step backwards - channel surfing is impossible, because it takes 2-3 seconds to tune in each channel, and you can't go to the next channel until the last one is done loading. My grandparents' 3 year old WebTV changes channels about 50 times quicker than my new box. And the on-screen guide is crap, too. No matter what channel you're on, it starts out on channel 2. The guide can only show a half hour at a time, and there's no way to skip forward by more than a half hour, so if it's 7 AM and I want to find out what's on TV tonight, I have to hold the button down for like a minute! This box sucks!

    The thing doesn't even have digital audio outputs or s-video out! Who in the world would make a digital cable box without any kind of hi-fi outputs? Who are they trying to sell this to, anyway?

    --

  • "Why do I bet these would only be useful with one company's cable service?"

    Well, Rogers is often the only choice is some neighbourhoods: we used to have a choice between Rogers, Shaw and MacLean-Hunter. IIRC, Rogers simply bought M-H's service areas, and bought out Shaw's @home service. Some area get COGECO, a Quebec-based company, but I'm not sure of their reach.

    Metro Toronto seems to be Rogers-only country.

  • I'm using Sympatico DSL, which, I have 3 boxes running at the same time, using 3 IP, without paying additional cost. The nice thing is, I just need a hub to share the connection.

    I have seen people move from Rogers@Home to Bell Sympatico HSE because of the instability of Rogers@Home (down whenever you have to do real work). Sympatico HSE is not much better, but it really is reliable (though it's slower.)
  • From the GPL (I have highlighted the relevant section):

    3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

    a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give _ANY_ _THIRD_ _PARTY_, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    I contacted them and requested source code to any kernel changes they have made. If they say haven't made any then cool. If it later turns out they have then I will forward the matter to the EFF.

    I have ABOSOLUTELY NO problem with a company using linux and selling it. I do have a problem with them breaking the GPL.

    MS FUD or no we have to be diligent about this, linux offers companies many advantages, like no licensing fees, but their are caveats.

    -Shieldwolf
  • The Ucentric Home Networking Platform consists of a Linux-based operating system, hardware reference design, application server and a host of home networking applications.

    I couldn't find source references anywhere on their site.

    -ShieldWolf

  • $ crontab -e

    don't forget export EDITOR=vi before the crontab -e or else on most *NIX systems you would end up launching ed [gnu.org].

    If grandma has problems with vi, you'd hate to see ed! :)

  • I personally know two people who ran servers on Linux boxes with Rogers@Home. One got one warning, then they pulled the plug. The other person just had the plug pulled on them directly.


  • I wonder what would happen if a group of Linux/BeOS/alt.os users filed civil lawsuits against Roadrunner, @home, etc? The foundation would be "perpetuation of a monopoly" based on Judge jackson's finding on the Microsoft case. By denying alternative operating systems such as Linux and BeOS access to the network (whether real or just "in the contract"), they pretty much insist the user use an operating system from a company, found by law (whether I agree with it or not), to be a monopoly. Maybe this would be a good Ask Slashdot question.


  • This kind of idea comes along every once and a while and promises to "revolutionize the way you interact with everything in your home."

    Problem is, if there aren't any stereos, vcrs, dvd players with this technology installed in them, then what are the chances there will be? Slim probably.

    Furthermore, don't count out MS yet as WebTV is old tech now and still manages to post reasonable sales, the XBox will be the new hardware platform for these types of initiatives from Microsoft, and I have alot more confidence in MS being able to convince Hitachi to put a chip in their stereo than Rogers.
  • While you did make me laugh, I'd have to point out that your argument makes as much sense as saying:

    A standard for Internet-based content! Grandma can now access information simply by typing:

    telnet www.yahoo.com 80
    ...
    GET /index.html
    ...

    and so on and so forth.

    Making a low-level standard allows many different high-level interfaces to act similarly, allowing greater choice in interface and the ability to make your own, guaranteed that it will all happily work together.
  • Did you buy it?

    Did they give the binaries to you?

    If you said no to both questions, they don't have to give a single line of source.

    Besides, who said they changed the kernel? Any software they developed without GPL code is theirs to distribute in whatever way they damn well please.

    These attitudes of "hey you used Linux! You gotta give it away for free!" are the ones Microsoft are using against Linux.

    Here we are trying to debunk that FUD and people like you are yelling and screaming, supporting Microsoft's imposed view, without even a basic understanding of the GPL.
  • Now Bill is gonna want to Borg my Frigidaire!

    "All I want is an ice cube! What's this BSOD shit?"
  • You know it would be bitchin-shit to be able to sit down at your terminal and type:

    $ telnet jvc_vcr
    $ set channel 64
    $ set record 11:00pm
    $ exit


    I can do something like this now with the Replay PVR... go to myreplaytv.com, log in, tell it what to record and the next time my Replay phones home it'll update accordingly. Sweet!

  • A TV-VCR combo is a good idea.

    Until one of the two breaks, and you realize it'd be cheaper to by a new one (TV or VCR) than to fix the evil siamese-twin appliance you've got. Then you're stuck with dead tech taking up room.

    A TV-Stereo combo is a very bad idea.

    Back in the day, when stuff was (a) made to last and (b) made to be repairable instead of replaceable, TV/Stero combos were quite popular... in the 50s and 60s IIRC. Great big tree-killing wood consoles with giant speakers, a TV screen (remember when you had a tuner and it went "clunk-clunk-clunk" to change channels?) and a radio reciever and record player. It was furniture, baby!
  • 600 Million American is equal to 600 Canadian

    ...mistakes.
  • As a previous employer doing nearly the same thing found out, using Linux in your project will not save you if your management sucks the dot-com dong. Linux will do you very little good if your programmers all came from Windows and the first thing they try to do is implement the MFC API on top of GDK. Linux will not save your ass if the people you contract hardware out to can't hit a deadline to save their company. Linux will help you very little if your programmers never check code into your windows-based version control software. No, Linux is not a silver bullet any more than anything else in this industry.
  • It's what you Americans refer to as "a penny"

    -rt-
  • consists mostly of pictures of multi-cultural kids at an iMac

    Actually, they use rotating banner images. I got a grandpa and grandkid on the porch watching an LCD screen. Go to http://www.ucentric.com/images/ and look at the various choices for hrz_[foo].jpg

  • by Pennywise (92193) on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @10:37AM (#137217)
    MS ivensted $600 in Rogers??? I hope they don't spend it all in one place :)

    I think it's supposed to be $600 million dollars.
  • ...then you can improve it. You could download what you need and install it yourself. If this cable company is really smart, they'll take suggestions from customers and use them to enhance the base package.

    Now that would give them an even bigger advantage over anything MS could provide.

  • Yes, but if those commands worked on all VCRs, and the had an ethernet, 232 plug or even standard IR port, then I could write a C+ program like Cisco config maker. Grandma double-clicks VCR Icon. Grandma clicks record button. Grandma types in time to start record Grandma chooses 1 hour from drop down box. Grandma Checks box to record every week. Grandma checks boxes of days to record. Grandma hits GO, Program sends standardized commands to VCR to record when grandma wanted, Use a small webpad with a 6" touchpanel screen and IR serial and you have the perfect universal remote.
  • Hey, maybe I have to write a system like this to start/stop a bunch of betacam VCRs!
    I hope to find a decent documentation on protocols.
  • After an insult like that, no wonder they're going with Linux.

    I'd think OpenBSD, but not on a Sony box.

  • The company that makes the box will be happy to do that, but it's hard to imagine direct economic competitors helping each other out directly.
  • Er, Linux is just the OS. The client apps they would need could be proprietary, but the OS doesn't have to be. If they don't want it hacked, they just don't install unneeded services that could cause problems. Hell, they could avoid even putting a shell on there, so if someone did manage to overflow (for example) thier proprietary app, they still couldn't get a shell do do anything useful.
  • My question is why would you put a web server on your Toaster or Refridgerator anyways

    So you can remotely control them through a web browser. And no proprietary-one-OS-only programs to install. (ok, toaster and fridge arer far fetched, but for a VCR-like device this is a must have).

  • In that case I'd just build a stripped down server to do what I needed. Would have limited accepted inputs and outputs and definitely would not support the entire HTTP protocol.
  • My question is why would you put a web server on your Toaster or Refridgerator anyways. I found it funny that you broght up those specific security holes.

    The stuff you really need to worry about on a client machine is still a problem under linux or any other OS. Buffer overruns happen in linux and open source won't help against them because updating the firmware in a toaster won't be as easy as on a computer, might even be impossible.

    In this particular case I think you would be best off grabbing one of the embedded OS's in the world and go with that. If you want to talk simple then it might even be better to run the applications on the bare metal. Not like a houshold appliance needs much in the way of a filesystem or changable hardware drivers.

    As far as SetTop boxes go for i-net and such the key to making that work is either work exactly like what the person uses on thier PC (which would be windows in 75% of the cases) or make it so blatently easy that noone needs to work to learn it. For the former you might as well just use a flavor of windows, for the latter you might as well program bare to the metal and not have an OS per se.

  • by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @11:27AM (#137227)
    I can say that they are one company that does not suck.

    Their internet cable access rocks! Granted, I've had my share of problems in the past. I was I think the second or third customer in my area, and as more people signed up, things got slooow. But now, about 2 almost 3 years later, it's fast. They upgraded their cables since then. And their reliability wrt to the tv and internet access is really good. And it's been this way for most part. The worst experience was a 3 day down-time due to some idiot cutting the cable while digging in front of his house.

    Not to mention the fact that they support static IPs. They don't bother you about IP masquarading, so I can run my four boxes off the same IP (it would be an extra CA$10/month for each additional IP) I know of other providers cough-Sympatico DSL-cough who won't let you do that. They even let you use Linux w/o a problem and I believe that they have tech support for it too.

    And they're really cheap. It costs about CA$50/month for the internet (which includes the modem rental) plus CA$30/month for the TV. Which is about US$50. I know people are paying more than that for DSL alone in the US.

    The point I'm trying to make, a Linux box replacing the WebTV is great news. And even if it isn't compatible with other providers, it's still ok. I couldn't care less.

  • Wow, I'm sure Rogers wouldn't do anything to piss of Microsoft after a C$600 investment. That's almost $400 US dollars! Probably almost 10 whole shares of stock!

    -b
  • Actually, I know quite a few people who DO use Sympatico's High Speed Service for several computers. It's just as easy to do with Sympatico as with Rogers.

    Larsal
  • Why do I bet these would only be useful with one company's cable service?

    As surely as you can bet they'll code it to only with their services, folks like Ken "Codeman" Segler [linux-hacker.net] will get one and start reverse engineering (if the hardware is worthwhile and can run linux). He's the guy who reverse engineering the iOpener. Rumor has it he works full-time reverse engineering products, sometimes for fun and sometimes on contract basis for surplus shops.

  • Why is a TV-Stereo combo a very bad idea? In a modern networked environment, "appliances" can be formed out of aggregates of functionality. Seperating things into a "TV" and "stereo" sounds kind of retro to me. Lesse, there's an amp, some speakers, a display, a data source/network connection, now route your media accordingly.
  • Boy, that sounds like EyeOpener and other network appliances. They just use the TV sceen instead of a LCD.

    It might be a good thing until somebody hacks into your TV and plays gay porn when your wife walks by the TV...But honey...it wasn't me. :)

  • What they really need to do is implement standards (like 802.11)! Perhaps something like "X10" for appliances rather than just jumping in.

    You know it would be bitchin-shit to be able to sit down at your terminal and type:

    $ telnet jvc_vcr
    $ set channel 64
    $ set record 11:00pm
    $ exit

    --

  • According to the Oanda online currency converter [oanda.com]:

    600 Canadian Dollar = 457.995 Euro

    600 Canadian Dollar = 391.139 US Dollar

    After an insult like that, no wonder they're going with Linux.

  • ($10 says I'll get modded down for flamebait as this is a potentially Linux bashing comment.)

    Exactly why would using Linux make it "perfect." Aside from the fact that Linux is freely available, what makes it that much better than using Windoze? Or for that matter, why not create a proprietary OS to run the software at home? I just really don't see why "using Linux would make it perfect."

    I think that were I to build something like this, instead of putting time and effort into modifying Linux, I would just create my own software to run my little boxes. That way I could be more sure that these boxes would only work on my cable network. Think about it. Proprietary software = harder/longer to hack. There'd have to be some kind of learning curve before people managed to get the box to run on another cable network.

    (Disclaimer: I am still a novice when it comes to programming skills. So, maybe the cost savings of using Linux would far out way the ability to better protect your propietary product.)


    --------------------------------------

  • I work at a Sympatico High-Speed (DSL) dealership, and Sasktel encourages us to set businesses up with NAT. And Linux is no problem either. I've been running Linux here on DSL for 2 years, and our webserver / natbox at work runs Linux. Standard DSL is $45Canadian / month. Although, here, the most you can generally pull off of DSL is 180KB/S, and off of cable, we pulled 612KB/S ;). Downloaded the kernel (20MB) in 34 seconds...

    Either way, Saskatchewan has kick ass bandwidth for those who want it. Plus, check out CommunityNet [communitynet.ca] to see what we have coming to us soon!


  • Ditto here in Seattle.

    I got annoyed at the probing, and my system continuously emailing me security alerts, so I blackholed them with ipfw.

    Over the past 2 years of FreeBSD nirvana I have come to be totally dependent on the web/email/ftp server I run at home off my cable modem. If the cable providers ever get serious about shutting down hobbyist servers I am going to be up a creek!

    They (ATT@Home Seattle) keep threatening to switch me to DHCP, too... I negotiated a static IP when I first signed up 6 months ago, and every time I call tech support (about once per 2 weeks to bitch about an outage) they hassle me about my static IP address and how it's probably the problem.

    Actually I have been wondering... what are the home-server-friendly broadband options? Are you stuck going to "business" DSL if you want to run servers without violating the TOS?
  • Yah, the CRTC!

    What an easy way for them to generate statistics on which networks are following the rules and what % of the population is actually paying attention to french shit.
  • Look at the post now clearly it should have been SSH but aside from that he was programming the VCR. I for one would really like to be able to do that. For those nights when I find myself at the office when The Simpsons comes on to be able to SSH into my VCR and turn it on. :)Or being lazy to be able to SSH from downstairs to the VCR when I don't want to get up just then. So that just answers your first question. I do agree though that I would rather have everything be ethernet and just support standards and let me do what I want from there.
  • You can move to the states, the land of 100kbit capped upstreams :(

    The slashdot 2 minute between postings limit:
    Pissing off coffee drinking /.'ers since Spring 2001.

  • Come on, even though win98 is disgustingly open by default, Linux is nothing to write home about either. A common thread between all os's is that the administrator has to know what their doing. Though I doubt that windows will be running on it.

    The slashdot 2 minute between postings limit:
    Pissing off coffee drinking /.'ers since Spring 2001.

  • What will this device do that my current Linux servers can't? One is my @Home gateway/ipmasq box, the other is a file server. (My browser runs on another machine, but it wouldn't be hard to add)
  • I get scanned regularily by @Home, I use Shaw Cable in Calgary. My logs report scans 5-6 times a day on TCP port 119 (NNTP) from 24.0.0.203 (authorized-scan1.security.home.net). This has been going on for quite a while now, in all that time they have never said a word to me about my email, web or DNS server.
  • I use Fast.net [fast.net] for DSL. They gave me a static IP address and their policy basically said "We don't give a shit what you do with your service, as long as it's not illegal". Of course, this was ~1 year ago, and things may have changed since. I'm not sure they serve the Seattle area.

  • Seriously. Everyone wants this to be something other than a PC, but I agree that they will all fail...
  • Seriously.

    Convergence of (TV and everything else) makes very little sense! I don't want my CABLE OPERATOR to have control over anything else in my home, even if it does mean I can't watch Star Wars on my alarm clock.

  • ya, there's an interesting feature in Sympatico's networks... I'm not sure how intentional it is. You see, you can log on to any of their services with a valid userid/password as many times as you want... so... you can use your dsl userid/pass to log on to their modem dial-up pool, and their dsl service several times simultaneously.
    Or, you can get a $20 dial up account and a used dsl modem, and use their dsl service... I suspect that's not what they intended though...

    But officer! it said access granted so i figured they were ok with it!
  • really? that's nasty, I put an http and an smtp server on my rogers connection for about a month when i was having trouble with my DSL line, they didn't notice that time.

    Now i'm back to my regular setup with http/smtp servers on my fast DSL, and mail is delivered to my rogers@home box via FreeSWAN ipsec.
  • You're right, Sympatico's tech support is certainly better than R@H. However, they're not without problems. First of all, just don't ever tell the front line tech support that you're running linux, just make something up instead or you'll get hassled.
    Second, if you ever have a real network problem it can be a little annoying getting past the tech support yobboes to talk to a network admin. The reason being that the network admins are Bellnexxia or something, not sympatico, and they don't take calls from customers.
  • Actually, Sympatico is 960/120. Much worse than your claim! If you have an Alcatel or Efficient Networks modem, you probably sync at a marginally higher speed (1020 downstream??).

    Actually, they used to be 920/120 but they have (maybe are still in the process) or switching everyone to 1.5/256... They have been switching everyone over to Alcatel modems for that purpose. (note, they shipped the alcatels set to 920/120 and boosted them remotely when they were ready I think) I've seen for myself a newly installed sympatico dsl doing almost 30K per second uploads.

    As for online games, you're quite right. One or two players is fine (great in fact) but three players (linux+nat) and you "hit the wall" and your latency goes to hell.

    I don't think that it is a matter of packets being dropped on downloads, but rather ACKs for the downstream packets having to contend for upstream bandwidth. It doesn't take much of a delay on those ACKs to start hindering a download. I typically see 3-5K/s upstream when I'm downloading at 100K/s, which is quite high when you have something else using that is trying to use the 15K/s upstream bandwidth. I think that increasing the size of the RWIN does help a little bit.

    Makes sense. Somebody mod this guy Informative.
  • You're exactly right about the failings of the rogers network here. Their peering sucks, particularly with bellnexxia's networks.
    For instance, here in Ottawa Ontario the rogers@home network runs out to NewYork before it peers. Any connections to other local ISPs take the really scenic route. This sucks, because there are really nice fat pipes here in ottawa, but rogers just isn't friendly with bell i guess... (note, i'm not a roger tech, this is just what I tried to figure out by myself)
    Same thing with bandwidth.

    Rogers also has an annoying system to discourage the use of servers. If there is no traffic from your PC for a period of time, the modem will start blocking incoming connections! So, if you don't have anything running that makes noise regularly (dns or something) and you want to run a server, you have to run a keepalive ping or something so people will be able to get at your server when you're asleep/away.

    This is not to say that Sympatico is great or anything... their network rocks, but the crappy 1.5/256 dsl modems they use SUCK! get this, to limit the upstream bandwidth they drop packets in the most annoying way! If you're uploading as hard as you can, and you try to d/l at the same time it drops packets from like half a second!!!! The result is that if you're playing an online game and you max out the upstream bandwidth you start getting 400-1000ms pings!! totally unacceptable. besides, 256Kbit upstream is pathetic. My dead grandmother can read faster than that.

    Rogers@Home network designers strike again!
    ip route add to bellnexxia_server.ca lookup scenic_route
  • As for non-competition, I could see it within their own market backyard, but if it works well, why not market it to any other small cable service which would like to buy units, consulting, etc. Sometimes people just can't see beyond the box, eh?

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • Or type it in as a shell script. But why bother with a VCR, when you can do this [slashdot.org]?

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • I don't want to my washing machine [pcworld.com] to be connected to the internet. What I want is to press three buttons and have it do the wash. Why should I have to pay extra for features that are neither needed or wanted for my major appliances???
  • On the flipside, when you turn on the gay porn and your wife comes bye, you've got someone to scapegoat. Not that I would. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    -----

  • 600 Million American is equal to 600 Canadian.


    Murphy's Law of Copiers

  • Is that something that could be fixed with /etc/hosts.deny??? Or does it need to be firewall rule?

    I believe that /etc/hosts.deny only protects those services which are running through tcp_wrappers.

    If you can get your web server (or other service) to run under tcpd, then that should work. Of course, you will also have to know the domain names and/or IP addresses of all of the machines that @home uses for port scans. That list might be hard to come by.

  • Actually I have been wondering... what are the home-server-friendly broadband options? Are you stuck going to "business" DSL if you want to run servers without violating the TOS?

    I'm not sure about Seattle; in Vancouver there are a few options, depending on your provider. Internet Gateway (now Uniserve?) provides up to 2 static IPs for C$5/month each, while Telus offers a "High Speed Server Package" for C$80/month (about twice the price of 'basic' DSL). Other providers probably have similar offers; I haven't checked recently.

    Business DSL still runs several hundred dollars a month... as far as I can tell, there's no difference in service, it's just that they won't install residential DSL in a commercial building.

    (Today's exchange rate: C$1 = US$0.6533)

  • Probably could use something like 24.0.0.0/24 to cut them off....

    I just read this as 24.0.0.0/8 and thought you were suggesting cutting off the entire @Home network :)

    It's obviously time for me to get some sleep...

  • I received an e-mail from the Rogers@Home security department informing me that they did a scan of port 25 on their networks and found that my mailer had mail relaying enabled.

    That's interesting... I had always assumed that they would only be looking for servers on port 80 (to keep everyone using members.home.net?) The fact that they're scanning for open SMTP relays may mean that they're more concerned about a domain under .rogers.home.com becoming a spam gateway, and Rogers being blacklisted on ORBS and the like.

    On a related note, it shouldn't be too hard to tell what services they _are_ scanning for... does anyone have any ipfilter or ipchains logs showing activity from @home?

  • by baptiste (256004) <mike&baptiste,us> on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @11:17AM (#137261) Homepage Journal
    Yeah or have a web front end to just select it. But WTF (w being why not what!) would you want to sit down at your computer to change the channel on your TV? :)

    I've been in home automation foy quite a few years and I chuckle at how everyone wants to converge everythign together into one box. Screw that - give me a decent open protocol standard that I can connect all my stuff to so it can be controlle dcentrally. That's nivarna.

    Have you ever noticed how you STILL cannot get A/V equipment to talk to each other? Every manufacturer has their own control linkup setup - so the result? Universal remotes for everyone. Can you imagine having RS-232 ports on all yoru A/V gear with simple control commands? Now whats stopping them from tossing in USB? Set your Tivo recorded via your PC using a web browser 1000 miles away.

    But there isn't money to be made doing it so nobody wants to do it. SO we're stuck with stopgap measures at best. Hell in the home automation market, most serious setups use RS-485 to connect various control devices located hundreds of feet from teh controller and there STILL isn't an agreed upon standard. CEBus is still a joke - its so expensive and complicated only the super expensive setups have it.

    Its a tough call - but I'll take multi-vendor boxen connected together via a standard vs an all in one solution ANY day.

  • Really, thats only one NT/2000 license.
  • I knew that people would put them down.

    Why do I bet these would only be useful with one company's cable service?

    I would hope so, that way they don't loose money on the hardware, and keep the idea going.

    If they release the code (which as I understand it they have to). Then my local cable company (which brings me RoadRunner also) will make some of these boxes too. Maybe with updates!

    One thing I've just realized (and never read, even here on /.) is that by using Linux they will be some competition between these companies.

    X cable company makes a box, releases the code, then Y company changes this and that, and then Z company changes their changes and then they code till all hell breaks lose.

    And there will be no unsafe business practices - cause it'll all be in the open right?

    Is someone going to check all the code on one of these boxes to make sure they aren't sending my data back to home base?

  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @10:44AM (#137264) Journal
    Convergence is one of those things that just doesn't work out in the ways people predict. Stuffing all the functionality of your TV, VCR, DVD, stereo into one easy-to-use package may sound like a great idea, but things like this never pan out.

    Convergence in other areas does, though. Witness:

    The Pepper Ball with built-in salt shaker. Now you don't have to have a separate salt and pepper shaker!

    The pencil now comes equipped with a handy-dandy eraser located conveniently at the opposite end. Make a mistake, don't go looking for that Art Gum, just flip the pencil and rub!

    It comes down to pairing things that are similar enough into one easy to use item. A TV-VCR combo is a good idea. A TV-Stereo combo is a very bad idea.

    Dancin Santa
  • Rogers doesn't hassle me about anything... probably because I call up and scream at them whenever there's a problem with the email server, or DNS server, or router, or whatever the breakdown of the week is.
    They probably have a note attached to my account that says, "Don't piss this guy off or he WILL scream at you."

    I run ftp, http, blah blah blah.
    I just tell them I haven't used DHCP since I rebooted one day and the DHCP server was down.

    As a customer, I am SUCH an asshole :)

  • Oh, absolutely! It was just a joke.

    Interesting thing though, I wrote the (crappy) win 3.1 software for N.E.C.'s PC-VCR, 10 years ago. It was a really neat SVHS VCR with a RS-232 port, and almost frame accurate proprietary time code. The example unix commands in my previous comment would have been easier to manage than the very cryptic and buggy RS-232 command set that NEC provided in the PC-VCR.

    The concept of ethernet accessible appliances IS usually a good one and I am impressed that Rogers is trying to go down this road. As long as they don't forget about security!

    --jeff
  • by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @11:31AM (#137267) Homepage Journal
    yes! And now there will be no excuse for gramma and grampa to have the continuous flashing 12:00 on their VCR! All they would have to do is know the following:

    $ telnet jvc_vcr
    $ date -s "Wed Jun 20 13:20:41 PDT 2001"

    And then if they wanted to auto record a tv show tonight at 9:00 pm, instead of all the confusing menus, all they have to do is:

    $ telnet jvc_vcr
    $ at 21:00
    at> set channel=9
    at> set mode=record

    warning: commands will be executed using /bin/sh
    job 8 at 2001-06-20 21:00

    $ at 22:00
    at> set mode=stop

    warning: commands will be executed using /bin/sh
    job 9 at 2001-06-20 22:00

    AND, if they wanted to record their faourite show every week they could very easily do:

    $ crontab -e

    0 21 * * 3 viewer /usr/bin/vcrrecord 3
    0 22 * * 3 viewer /usr/bin/vcrstoprecord 3

    Hey, I think I'm on to something! (crack maybe?)

    --jeff
  • As a matter of fact, just because the box runs a linux kernel doesn't mean it's _your_ box and you can immediately run whatever you want on it. Most of the set top boxes I have played around with can be reflashed via an RS232 or even an Ethernet interface.. only whatever image you want to flash has to have a valid cryptographic signature.

    And even though it uses the Linux kernel, that doesn't mean that they have to publish source to the drivers for the specific hardware of the box. Not if they put that into kernel modules which are compiled and linked separately.

    I find it kind of odd that people will embrace a certain device just because it runs the linux kernel. A device is cool in my book if it's totally documented so I could potentially do with it what I want.
  • "They even let you use Linux w/o a problem and I believe that they have tech support for it too"
    - Actually, I've tried calling tech support, and boy did they ever *hassle* me when I said I used linux, also they hassled me when win2000 first came out and it wasn't officially 'supported' by them. I had to argue then just for them to tell me my static IP, dns #'s etc.
  • by powerlinekid (442532) on Wednesday June 20, 2001 @11:20AM (#137271)
    I don't see what the big deal is... I've had one of these convergence boxes for quite awhile, its called a "computer".
    With it I can
    1)Watch DVD and VHS
    2)Play any game I wish (through emulators or directly from any system itself)
    3)Full stereo with CD support and also this really neat thing that allows you to get music from other people
    4)Watch cable and network television
    5)Like tivo, choose what shows I want to see when i want to see them by using some special software to "download" them
    6)get pay-per-view movies... without paying or renting them
    7)dolby digital sound on everything
    8)back-up all media formats I want to (including DVDS and CDs)
    9)use as a telephone
    10)send "email" which is like sending a letter only it gets there quicker and only gets lost 1% of the time
    11)Listen to the radio...
    12)make my own cds
    13)full sound studio
    14)full movie studio
    15)camera built in, saving the pictures that can be "emailed" later or viewed whenever i want without risk of being damaged
    16)using the internet, i can have access to all the information my head can hold if i'm willing to look
    17)has a phone book build in
    18)a map of the world with direction generators built in
    I could go on forever about all the features of this box... but I just recommend you get one...
  • I am curious as to how the CRTC will enforce some sort of Canadian content rules onto this box.

    Has this precedent been set yet? I know that CRTC rules certain channels to be mandatory. What about mandatory websites? Canadian music? Canadian movies?

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