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Networking Television Windows Hardware

New Chip Offers Virtual Windows Desktops, On TVs 99

Posted by timothy
from the and-nothin'-on dept.
angry tapir writes "Ncomputing on Friday announced a chip that could turn devices like TVs or set-top boxes into virtual desktops through which users can run Windows applications or access the Internet. The Numo chip contains a dual-core processor based on an ARM design that will allow devices to run Windows multimedia applications when connected to a host machine like a desktop or server. The setup uses the company's Vspace software on host machines to set up remote devices as virtual desktops."
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New Chip Offers Virtual Windows Desktops, On TVs

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  • Interesting Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by errgh (744846) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:54AM (#31564256) Homepage
    Virtual first post. Most newer TVs can already play networked media files, show sport scores, weather and some can even do light browsing - all from either a ethernet or wireless network connection. This seems a bit ad-centric, maybe for light kiosks or informational displays.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by davester666 (731373)

      Um, you really need a dual-core ARM chip to be able to Windows Remote Desktop?

      Cuz that seems to be what the summary says, that the Windows app runs on a real desktop, and this CPU only does the remote job.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by trapnest (1608791)
        I could do "Terminal Services Client" on pocket pc ages ago with a 300MHz ARM cpu. I doubt a dual core is needed for remote desktop.
      • Exactly what I thought. I've been Remote Desktoping from WM Phones and PDAs since about '06, and some even have TV-Out connectors. So the chip is hardly a breakthrough. There could defiantly be better software for this use case, designed for the 10' interface.
        • This is just the usual "breakthrough" that is nothing but old technology applied to X. Like the usual useless patent "doing whatever ON THE INTERNET"

          You can buy cheap devices that have a VGA out plus 4 USB ports that can be used to create thin terminals. This is the same thing except it has a HDMI out instead of VGA.

          And the extra processing power is probably to support bigger resolutions and have short enough latencies to be able to support video.

          • by sjames (1099)

            This is less because it apparently requires "special" software on the PC rather than just using the regular RDP. That in spite of RDP being well understood with a Free client implementation already out there.

      • by Pax681 (1002592)
        i can do very effective RDC on my Nokia N900 and it has a 600MHZ ARM processor [nokia.com]
      • by Kazymyr (190114)

        This just in. Webpal (http://dfcd.net/projects/webpal/webpal.html among other sites) was a 1998-vintage ARM-based set-top box that could run Linux, output on the local TV, get input from a wireless keyboard and/or remote, and connect through a network to a remote computer. Throw in VNC, and you could have "remote desktop" on the TV.

        The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      • by Ant P. (974313)

        I think the main news here is that someone wrote software to allow ARM to emulate a turd.

    • Yay. We've gone full circle. Back in the day, if your POS monitor gave out, you could diddle around with some cords and some adapters, and put your display on your old CRT television. Which, in many cases was an improvement, because you could do higher resolutions.

      Today, we have computers which can remote to your television, so that you can have a 5 foot display at super resolution.

      Technology is so exciting! Once again, we can enjoy Microsoft's BSOD at maximum resolution, in all of it's glory!

      • Today, we have computers which can remote to your television, so that you can have a 5 foot display at super resolution.

        I'm not sure I consider 1920x1080 on a 5 foot display to be "super resolution"... It's lower res than what I've been using on my 24" monitor for years...

    • by dov_0 (1438253)
      Yes! TV's and Windows have finally evolved to the er, terminal. With the capabilities of X forwarding. Except for the TV as the terminal, this is, like sooo early 1990s...
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      This seems a bit ad-centric, maybe for light kiosks or informational displays

      And what they seem to be advertising is Windows. From TFS:

      allow devices to run Windows multimedia applications when connected to a host machine like a desktop or server. The setup uses the company's Vspace software on host machines to set up remote devices as virtual desktops

      Anything that will run Windows will run Linux. Hell, Linux will run on anything from a wristwatch to a supercompuer; one of the ten fastest computers in the wo

      • by tepples (727027)

        Anything that will run Windows will run Linux.

        This is correct for the majority of PCs. But a lot of time, a Windows to Linux switcher runs into problems with drivers for graphics, WLAN, printer, scanner, etc. Linux will run without these; it just won't be too useful for the end user. And not all machines running Windows are desktop or laptop PCs; some devices that run an embedded Windows operating system use code signing to lock out Linux.

    • As the singularity approaches, home appliances like toasters and tvs get smarter and more networked. The last time I had a computer that ran on my tv was 1990, a very used c-64.

  • Welcome back, WebTV! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustNilt (984644) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:55AM (#31564262) Homepage

    Actually, it looks to be potentially more useful than WebTV ever was but only time will tell. There are quite a few of my home user clients that would probably prefer something like this to a full blown system.

    Wonder how long it'l take to actually see in a live product and how much it'll really cost. The numbers in the article appear to be a manufacturer's cost.

    • by maugle (1369813)

      There are quite a few of my home user clients that would probably prefer something like this to a full blown system.

      It still needs a full-blown system around to connect with.

    • by specific (963862)
      You have clients who would prefer a crippled solution with no upgrade path to a full blown, cheap, low-powered, atom system? This thing requires a server to be useful. A custom system built on a low powered processor can be the media center and server at the same time.
      • by RulerOf (975607)

        A custom system built on a low powered processor can be the media center and server at the same time.

        Thinking about what you said there, I think it would be pretty cool if, instead of hooking an HTPC up to my television, I could, using the latest RDP tech where 3D acceleration and HD video can be played back on the client, remote into a virtual machine instead or into a second login session on my desktop or laptop, eliminating the need for the HTPC altogether.

        Something to think about I suppose.

    • by RulerOf (975607)

      Wonder how long it'l take to actually see in a live product and how much it'll really cost.

      A company called Teradici [teradici.com] has been doing this for a while with the PCoIP tech. They partnered with VMWare a while back as part of VMWare's VDI initiative.

      Difference is, I suppose, that the Teradici solution is completely hardware based, but on the flip side I think you can do a single remote system for a few hundred bucks.

      There's a neat video on youtube of someone playing Crysis over 802.11n on an HDTV with their hardware.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:58AM (#31564272)

    Ncomputing on Friday announced a chip that could turn devices like TVs or set-top boxes into virtual desktops through which users can run Windows applications

    I guess TVs have been reliable for so long someone got bored and asked "how can we totally through a wrench in this?", and the answer was "I know -- let's bring the misery of windows to the TV!". Losers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061)

      It probably supports VNC, so you can probably connect to any kind of host OS. Again, it's better to just build a cheap Atom based microitx pc next to the TV.

      • by MikeFM (12491)
        You can build a micro-itx pc for $30 now?
        • No; but the micro-ITX doesn't need to connect to a computer to do its computing...

          Unless Microsoft changes the licensing on home versions of Windows to allow multiple concurrent terminal sessions(currently, even Pro versions are only 1 session at a time, if somebody logs in via RDP, the local desktop locks, and if somebody logs in locally, the RDP session dies. You have to step up to Server to get concurrent access, and deal with CALs), and allows joe and jane sixpack to use devices like this on the comp
          • by MikeFM (12491)
            If you ran a one-to-one configuration it'd make little sense to use virtualization. Most people have a lot more than one computer these days though. And you don't need any Microsoft server products at all. You'd have to pay for your normal license for your OS at the most. Nobody in their right mind would run off a cloud service over home broadband. Gaming would be just fine I think as all the data that need be transferred is pure inputs and video/audio back - very easy to do over a LAN. Something like wirel
            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Gaming would be just fine I think as all the data that need be transferred is pure inputs and video/audio back - very easy to do over a LAN.

              It can be done, but there are issues. Many if not most full screen games have problems or outright fail on RDC or whatever it is called these days. The situation on Linux is distressingly similar. OpenGL is supposed to work over XDMCP and often it does. Sometimes, it fails spectacularly. One of the first things I do with any new system is set DontZap to false :/

      • vSpace is not VNC; NComputing claim their communication protocol UXB can handle USB as well (presumably devices you connect to the thin client) and they mention multimedia also. And the other piece of it is their Windows tinkering so that the TV desktop can be running a different account than the PC desktop, which is useful if the kids want to play Sims from the TV while you're doing taxes.

        This is software NComputing claims to have developed for 12 years. It's a nice adjunct to their $20 ARM set-top chip.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      That's the thing, I wish for these devices to become simpler, not more capable. If I wanted capabilities, I would rather have a central hub that has the smarts, and keep the TV as a dumb terminal.

      WTF is with every device getting smarter and at the same time adding complexity in operating it? Just a few years back, I wondered why the damn TV couldn't be made so it automatically picks up the live input and runs with it, instead I still have to select the input source everytime I play a game or DVD, inevitab

      • Just a few years back, I wondered why the damn TV couldn't be made so it automatically picks up the live input and runs with it, instead I still have to select the input source everytime I play a game or DVD, inevitably flipping through 8 things, 5 of them with no actual inputs in them just because the TV can't even detect connections automagically.

        Most European TVs have been able to do this since the early 80s. Devices connected by SCART can assert pin 16 to tell the TV to automatically switch to that input. So you'd stick a DVD in the DVD player and the TV will automatically switch to showing the DVD player's signal. Devices can also be daisy-chained together so you don't need many inputs on the TV.

        And god forbid my parents change the channel on their actual TV instead of on the Set-Top Box one day, they'll be out of TV for however long until I come to visit.

        That's really an artefact of the trend in TVs to become dumb monitors instead of actually using the built in tuner. My TV isn't plugged into an anten

        • dedicated computer to run the desktop - if you've got one of them, WTF would you want to surf the web from your TV instead of using the actual computer itself?

          My couch in the living room with my 42" TV, or my home entertainment theatre in the basement with a 7'8" diagonal screen and many recliners is a lot more comfortable for watching Hulu or playing games. I'm slowly transferring my entire DVD collection onto my 1TB external drive which is connected to the same computer, so my wife can watch anime on the TV or surf youtube in the living room with friends - kinda difficult to do that in a small office with a 21" monitor and only 2 chairs. Honestly, the compute

          • My couch in the living room with my 42" TV, or my home entertainment theatre in the basement with a 7'8" diagonal screen and many recliners is a lot more comfortable for watching Hulu or playing games. I'm slowly transferring my entire DVD collection onto my 1TB external drive which is connected to the same computer, so my wife can watch anime on the TV or surf youtube in the living room with friends - kinda difficult to do that in a small office with a 21" monitor and only 2 chairs. Honestly, the computer in the office only has a monitor for doing business related activities like spreadsheets and web development.

            And you think you're going to be able to watch HDTV and play games over an RDP session?

            I have an Atom/Ion connected directly to my TV and that works well, but I can't think that having a low power ARM streaming raw graphics over the network is going to be sensible at all. It'll be fine for web surfing, but trying to do HDTV and games just isn't going to work.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You can buy that kind of stuff but unfortunately it costs more and not less. You can get the monitor version of the television, and you can buy the expensive autoswitcher, and you plug it in and it all just works. But only professional gear comes this way. If you can get a PC monitor large enough to be your television display then... usually it's heinously expensive. The HDMI/component/etc autoswitcher/converters are amazingly, astoundingly expensive. HDMI at least promises an eventual end to this nightmare

    • "how can we totally through a wrench in this?"

      I think AC is a Microsoft programmer, which explains all the bugs in Windows.

    • by KraZy-KaT (248613)

      Ncomputing on Friday announced a chip that could turn devices like TVs or set-top boxes into virtual desktops through which users can run Windows applications

      someone got bored and asked "how can we totally through a wrench in this?", and the answer was "I know -- let's bring the misery of windows to the TV!"

      And forgot to install the spellchecker.

  • Forget TVs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:07AM (#31564308)

    The real killer application for a chip like this would be in a tablet. If you can drive the cost of a tablet down by making it little more than display+battery+wifi, a whole new market could be opened up.

    Think about that scene in Avatar when the technician was monitoring Sully's brain scan. He dragged the live scan image from his desktop machine onto a tablet, so he could watch it while he walked around the lab. I think there's a market for a tablet that acts as a portable display (+touchscreen) for a bigger machine nearby, as long as the price was low enough.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061)

      That chip has probably the same processing power the iPad has.

    • Ah you mean the cool ones in Avatar? The ones that look and act exactly like the ones in Minority Report?

    • by crazybit (918023)

      I think there's a market for a tablet that acts as a portable display (+touchscreen) for a bigger machine nearby.

      Bookmark you post in case we need prior-art later.

    • Like the ipad? :p Seriously, thats the only useful thing I can think of for the giant phone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wgoodman (1109297)

      I remember a product of this sort (I think by Viewsonic) several years back.

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        The Viewsonic product [viewsonic.com] mercifully perished some time ago, so silently I can't find any useful references to its failure. No references to success either.

        It was intended to be a remote desktop to a Windows desktop, wandering around on WiFi, delivering you a 10" screen and touted as giving you a 'multimedia experience' as well. All this on that 10" screen at 800x600 resolution, with a stupid pointer and useless speaker.

        I further predict here that the tablet revolution will fail and die away. Tablets don't m

    • Re:Forget TVs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:35AM (#31565006)

      The real killer app for this is Google's settop box. Android linux providing: TV recording, TV guides, internet-streamed video, internet-streamed games/apps, video jukebox (hopefully from local or LAN storage), plus connectivity to remote services too.

      Add a keyboard and a trackpad and most people would not need a PC at all - and that means they wouldn't need Windows at all. Hmmmm.

      • by Rob Y. (110975)

        I agree, except for the odd choice of an Intel Atom processor. I suppose a settop box doesn't need to be super power-efficient, but isn't ARM where this market's going? My current Motorola DVR/cable box runs so hot, I can't close the door on the cabinet it sits in. Why (other than Intel's marketing clout) is Google opting for X86 here - especially when Android is on ARM everywhere else? Are they leaving the door open to virtualizing Windows on the thing?

      • by H0D_G (894033)

        Wow, the Privacy concerns there are HUGE. Google, who already read some of my emails, and look at where I browse, now could look at what I watch. That's the best Viewer Survey ever.

  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zmollusc (763634)

    Most computers have tv-out, newer tvs have vga or dvi or hdmi inputs, why do i need another gadget to go between the two? And what about the starving hollywood executives? This looks like a way of intercepting the precious bluray pixels and selling them to support terrorism!! OMG!!!

    • I like having one computer do everything, it saves me money. Problem is, I have need of the output from that computer in 4 rooms (bedroom, living room, basement, and the actual office where the computer resides), and rarely need access to that computer from more than one or two of those locations at any given time. This looks like it might solve that problem nicely for me.
      • by zmollusc (763634)

        Heh, I think I save money by dividing tasks across many old ( other people's cast-off ) computers hanging off a lan ( cast-off 100/10 switch, second-hand cat5 cable ). I can do mail and web stuff from all, only needing to go to a particular machine for high performance cutting edge stuff like doom 3. I find that any old heap >600MHz plugged into my tv suffices for video playback of divx or mpeg2 at the 800x600 the crt supports. Maybe this new thing is not for old dinosaurs :-)

  • Windows on TV? (Score:1, Insightful)

    I don't need Windows on TV. I've already got gnu/linux there doing everything I want. What I need is a wireless keyboard with a built in touchpad and good range <$100.

    Looking at ncomputing's site, I have hard time believing they can run 30 computers with XP, playing video, etc. from one HP slimline.
  • This is more of a thinclient for running as a VM client. Much more interesting than simply running Windows I think. The real question is if the CPU costs $20 and $10 more in parts are needed then how much extra would it cost to make this into a stand-alone thinclient that can run as a VM client? $100 per seat would be a pretty good price for businesses.

    Better yet, I'd love to see it built into monitors so you could plug network, keyboard, and mouse into the monitor with the actual computer being optional.
    • by McGiraf (196030)

      "$100 per seat"

      yeah plus all the CALs $$$.

      • by MikeFM (12491)
        Less than you'd pay for a physical box running the same software. At least you're not paying for licenses for machines that sit idle most of the time.
  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:46AM (#31564458)

    So now my personal microcomputer is becoming a time-shared minicomputer again...? Should I dig out my corduroy bell-bottom pants, too?

    • by MikeFM (12491)
      PCs are expensive and not reliable. It's much easier for there to be a server that runs all your (business or even home) desktops and centralize management and make the clients a lot cheaper. With a simple OS like Android, ChromeOS, or iPhone OS offering basic features directly and access to a hosted desktop when you need more you can make things cheaper, more flexible, and more reliable.

      We use virtualization for our servers already and a few desktops and have been considering all desktops if we can find a
      • by macraig (621737)

        I'm not a stranger to virtualization and the like. I was just observing yet another "old" thing that has one again become new in a different set of clothes.

      • by zmollusc (763634)

        If PCs are expensive and unreliable, how can a server be about the same price? Wouldn't it be easier to solve the problem by ordering a server but using it as a desktop?

        • by MikeFM (12491)
          If you only needed one desktop. Even the non-geek people I know tend to have four or five PCs in their house these days not even counting all the other computing devices floating around.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        PCs are expensive and not reliable.

        PCs are practically fucking free. You can get refurbs capable of doing fullscreen flash for under $100 with a monitor. You can build a machine with perhaps half the processing power of the fastest uniprocessor (but not unicore) shit on the streets for $400, that's a lump of change but compare it to what PCs cost "back in the day"... a Tandy 386SX16 for what, four grand? They were competing for walletshare with cars, now they compare with a bicycle at K-Mart. And an Acer Aspire Revo with 1GB RAM, 160GB disk

  • And ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sgunhouse (1050564) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:55AM (#31564476)

    I see no mention of why anyone would want to run Windows remotely on their HDTV ... then again I'm not sure why they'd want to run it on a PC either.

    • When almost every device one owns communicates with your computer than this would be a great time and money safer. I can see one's clothes dryer flashing a message when the clothes are dry. The microwave, oven, and range could send messages when it thinks some food is cooked. Microphones could be placed in every room and they could send audio to the television when there is unexpected noise in that room. Smoke detectors with built in camera could send an alarm with a picture when it detects smoke. This
    • by Seb C. (5555)

      Actually, i possess a dlna-enabled tv, and half my video library won't play for codec reasons. Now, if i could get a full screen vlc in this...
       

  • Open source software (VNC) pioneers this and then it gets progressively turned into ever more proprietary protocols.

    • Having used remoting software from back in the days of Carbon Copy, PC Anywhere then on to VNC and RDP I'll take that propriety RDP protocol any day. It's the only one that's remotely (haha!) fast enough to make it bearable to do anything more than log in, admin for a bit, then log out.

      I use VNC to remote to my Mac Powerbook G4 these days, which is spending it's retirement as a DVR. The interface is so sluggish it's infuriating. By contrast, I know if I remoted to another Windows machine using RDP that it w

      • by Locklin (1074657)

        NX (nxmachine or FreeNX). Very fast, cross platform, uses SSH for encryption, has a Free version. I used to use it to connect to work from home over a laggy "light" DSL account.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by redhog (15207)
        Ok, it only works for Linux/UNIX, but.. It's called X. I was doing this using a physical X station (X 11R5, from DEC) connecting to my Linux desktop, sometime around 1998, and it was _old_ tech by then - I had been given the X station by the local uni computer club, which had gotten it from some institution way earlier...
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          Ok, it only works for Linux/UNIX, but.. It's called X.

          I believe you may have missed several occurrences of the word "fast" in the comment you were replying to.

          • by jedidiah (1196)

            X was plenty fast enough in the 80s.

            What X never really had is wire protocol efficiency to handle being sent across the internet.

            Compared to latter day attempts to replicate it, it is infact plenty fast and more robust too.

            X also benefits from the fact that it doesn't force you to replicate an entire desktop. This helps makes up for it's relative inefficiency compared to competitors.

  • I remember in the late 90's as the internet exploded into the mainstream, there was constant hype about "internet enabled" televisions - televisions that would allow you to "surf the net" via your remote control.

    While this discussion centers more on the use of a specific OS on a TV, I think that market forces have already shown that people are willing to have their televisions and computers SEPARATE. Especially in the era of $500 laptops and, well, $1000+ televisions (if you want them). I don't think that "

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      While this discussion centers more on the use of a specific OS on a TV, I think that market forces have already shown that people are willing to have their televisions and computers SEPARATE.

      Market forces? What market forces? When a thing's not for sale, there is no market. Where there's no market, there's no market force. The only "internet on TV" I know of was Microsoft's WebTV set top box, and I knew a couple who had it. It was garbage; mostly not because of Microsoft, but because standard definition TVs

  • I'd be impressed if it did window overlay instead.

    TV in background, browsing window (able to be resized / moved around screen) overlayed. Windows 7 does it with XP Mode (VM runs as a background to the app window, essentially having the whole VM invisible behind the one app window). That would be impressive.
  • ....in El Dorado Hills, CA. That technology got sold to Philips, and became "Ambi" before the rest got sold to Cirrus Logic. It was the beginning of the dot com bust, from my reality. The product got buried but the idea was to use the home PC as a wireless server to a standard TV which had its own windows desktop in low res, and which could be used for standard windows games and apps. It worked pretty good for 1998 too!
  • read the subject line
  • by IBABad1 (1705968)

    I actually read the article. The key difference between this chip and traditional thin clients or terminals is that the chip will allow multimedia playback locally on the TV. RemotFX allows for a better multimedia experience through a Terminal server desktop or application by re-directing the video/audio to the TV or device that initiates the remote session without requiring the application locally. With a regular RDP connection the Video/Audio plays in the remote session on the remote host and the output i

  • by HTH NE1 (675604)

    Wasn't "numo" also the name air rifles were called on the original Battlestar Galactica? One could kill a lupus within ten metrons if you hit it just right.

    Cylon Centurion: I cannot be destroyed by a numo. Many have tried.

Entropy isn't what it used to be.

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