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Television Media Hardware Entertainment

Roku To Go Open Source 140

ruphus13 writes "Time-shifting via Tivo changed the way we consume television programming. Now, Open Source enters the fray. Roku, the streaming-media set-top box has decided to Open Source its software. Roku had received praise for its streaming solution, and was in the press recently for its deal with Netflix, allowing users to stream Netflix movies directly to the box. From the article, 'Roku will release an open source version of its software by the end of the year. The CEO says he's looking for deals with content providers to stream their products through his device, and hopes to sell a bunch of them as a result.'"
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Roku To Go Open Source

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  • by gladbach ( 527602 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @01:24PM (#25206723)
    I dream of the day that I don't need to pay for cable, and can go strictly on demand for a reasonable price point.
    • iTunes is sooooooo... close. Even at $2/episode, that's like 30 episodes of TV for the cost of a $60 cable bill. Movie rentals are in the ballpark with Blockbuster or on-demand. They need more selection, the quality is not yet up to broadcast, and the price needs to drift down so that you wouldn't consider cable.

      Me, personally... I'd use it a lot more if they'd drop the DRM. I don't want an Apple TV, thank you very much - and my DVD player can do mpeg4 just fine. It even has a usb port.

      • You think $60 for ~10 hours (15 hrs, sans ads) of TV is a good deal? That 2-3 days of TV for the average person.
        • Actually, I said it was "close". I think it's too pricey. The average cable bill is still like $45, so they'd need to undercut that - at least for casual TV watchers.

    • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @01:45PM (#25207003)

      That's exactly what they're trying to prevent, with things like the 250GB cap. They'll let you get all the internets you want, but when it infringes on their space (content), they don't want any of that kind of competition.

      Otherwise people could just download all the HD movies and shows they want through a subscription service like Netflix (or hopefully through a cheaper, bittorrent backed solution), and get rid of the cable TV.

      • by fm6 ( 162816 )

        Do some math. A DVD holds 8GB, which is actually a lot more than the movie itself needs (hence all those extras). That means that even with a 250GB cap, you can watch a DVD-quality movie every day of the month without going over. And most online video streams are not DVD quality.

        • My Roku box, streaming at maximum quality Netflix provides for a standard def. movie, uses about 6Mb/sec. Just throwing the stat out there.

          • by fm6 ( 162816 )

            If I could get a 6Mb connection at a reasonable price (mine's less than 2Mb, and it's the best available) I'd consider a 250GB cap a cheap tradeoff.

          • It appears I was mistaken. Maximum quality via Netflix movie streaming is at 2.2Mb/s.

        • Most online streams TODAY are not HD. The only possible reason they wouldn't be in the future would be if ISPs imposed bandwidth caps. Coincidentally, these ISPS are rolling out their own video on demand services at the same time they are capping the amount of content you can download from other providers.
          • by fm6 ( 162816 )

            In case you hadn't noticed, nobody gives a heck about HD. The number of folks willing and able to spend the bucks for the necessary hardware is pretty small. For most of us, the problem is getting access to content of any quality. And there the problem isn't some strange conspiracy to impose bandwidth caps. It's the unwillingness of the content hoarders to release it, except as part of overpriced bundles.

    • What are you watching? I haven't had cable for 3 months now and am doing okay. You can watch a lot on Hulu (Colbert Report, Daily Show, Battlestar Galactica) and (Heroes, The Office). Netflix has some shows, too, as part of their instant view. Hulu and NBC have ads, but are free. Netflix has no ads and starts at ~$8 a month.
      There is a lot out there and am not referring to torrents.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by edmicman ( 830206 )
        In my experience trying to get web-based video like Hulu and the respective network sites hooked up to a TV for a true TV-like experience is a PITA. Sure, you can s-video out, or have something like Media Center or MythTV....but ultimately I've found you still have a computer hooked up to a TV, with the same interface pitfalls.

        Watching your shows on a computer monitor may work in the dorms, but for relaxing on the couch with the wife, it doesn't cut it.
        • I'm watching it from my couch on my (SD) TV. When you click full screen with Netflix, it is not apparent that you are watching via a computer. All the other ones are the same, better or worse. The point of my post is that there is a lot of free and easily accessible content out there. This is pretty important if you are hoping to be able to ditch paying for cable.
        • While they aren't all the way down to cheap yet, the one big perk(for somebody like me, who is fairly indifferent about TV) of the contemporary push for HD this, digital that, is that TVs are starting to feature the same connectors as monitors.

          I have... unpleasant memories of trying to get some dodgy composite-out working, only slightly less unpleasant memories of getting s-video out working(Hi Overscan, please dieinafire, thanks). DVI or HDMI are much less painful(until one gets into the wonderful world
      • You can watch Heroes the day after it airs on Netflix Watch It Now, even with your Roku box. That's how we do it, since we don't have cable or an outside antenna.

    • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @02:05PM (#25207271) Homepage

      TV is already becoming an anachronism when almost everyone has broadband internet access through which they can receive on-demand content uncontrolled by the major television networks. now all that needs to be done is for a legal and user-friendly solutions to be developed.

      Miro (formerly known as Democracy Player) is one service that directly connects content-producers with end users without going through traditional distribution channels. thus television networks are no longer the gatekeepers of media distribution.

      • But the "major television networks" also produce many of the good shows on TV. (They produce a lot of crap too, but that's just Sturgeon's Law.) I will include some of the cable channels nowadays too, since they are making more content too (but e.g. even things like "Monk" are under the NBC umbrella and are showing up on NBC itself).

        Basically, we also need a way for the *production* of shows to happen without the networks (or a way for shows to continue when the network is no longer interested, via PPV.)

        • But the "major television networks" also produce many of the good shows on TV

          Actually, they produce very little. They fund a lot, however. As ad revenue drops off from people not watching broadcast TV, use , it will be harder for studios to sell high-cost programs to networks (we're starting to see this already - why do you think reality TV consumes so much air time?). The studios will then have a much bigger incentive to try other distribution options. A few have experimented with direct-to-DVD shows already, and these have sold better than I'd have expected.

          The model I expe

          • Actually, they produce very little. They fund a lot, however

            I thought that in recent years, the amount of stuff they produced was _growing_ because the networks were requiring that their production companies were involved. (Which also gets you strange situations like NBC produced shows showing up on CBS, etc..)

        • well, i don't know much about TV show production, but i know that with music, the biggest obstacle for indie artists is finding distribution. it doesn't matter how good your music is if you can't reach an audience and no one hears it. traditionally, the major labels, radio stations, and local promoters formed an industry-wide cartel that controlled which artists would succeed and which would fail. despite the public scandal surrounding it in the 1960's, payola is alive and well today. (Dexter Holland of the

    • tvrss [] + pytvshows [] + rtorrent [] = Tivo for me.

      I work second so it's not like I notice anyway, everything is done by time I get home. All over the waves stuff anyway. I just count it as someone else does the recording and encoding for me.

      • tvrss [] + pytvshows [] + rtorrent [] = Tivo for me. I work second so it's not like I notice anyway, everything is done by time I get home. All over the waves stuff anyway. I just count it as someone else does the recording and encoding for me.

        I already do the same thing combining utorrent/rss/and my original buffalo linktheater for a few years now. However, its not "legal" and I've honestly had my cable turned off for downloading an ep of House. I'm looking for a

  • Is their software significantly better than MythTV?

    If so, how?

    If not, why don't they just sell a MythTV box?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      MythTV resides in an entirely different market from this.

      Myth's featureset has always been built around DVR features; your Myth box sits downstream from a cable box or tuner. The Roku box, on the other hand, is the content source.

      Right now, it's being sold as a Netflix streaming device. In the future, though, any company could theoretically provide client software for it to stream other proprietary or open content.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Not quite.

        I can use MythTV as a jukebox and get a lot of the same
        niftiness that people get out of the roku or the AppleTV.

        If the picture on the Roku sucks then MythTV has a clear
        advantage. Although the "target market" might not care.
        Then again, that might drive them to AppleTV.

        When looking at their demo units (atv), I see a lot
        of stuff for sale there that's already on my mythvideo

        • Who said the picture on the Roku sucks? I've been quite pleased with mine.

        • Using it as a jukebox, not considering it as a dvr, then yeah, the roku could certainly be far better. At that point, you'd be better off buying a popcornhour or other such media set top than wasting your time on a mythtv, having it sit by your TV making noise etc. Toss a few Hard drives into your existing computers, open them up on various network share types, and let a set top box like the roku (once opened) or a popcornhour, or any of the many devices to the heavy lifting. So yeah, not considering t
          • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

            This is the 21st century.

            A PC is not necessarily large, ugly and noisy anymore.

            If you've got a setup that you can plug a popcorn hour into
            then there's no reason you can't use any random media server

            • You are absolutely correct. However I did mention cost points. 99$ for a roku, or 200 for a popcornhour vs significantly more for a PC version that isn't large, ugly and noisy.
        • Can you stream Netflix video on your MythTV box?
      • In other words, the difference is that MythTV can pull from cable, whereas this is designed to pull from the Internet.

        In other words, they went and implemented their own, completely separate system, to avoid writing the equivalent of a YouTube client for MythTV. (And hey, I bet MythTV already supports YouTube.)

    • by sacherjj ( 7595 )

      You can have multiple heads for only $99 a piece and the head is smaller than a large paper back book. THAT is how it is significantly better than MythTV. I would have a MythTV backend that can stream to multiple Roku front ends. This would make me very happy.

      • You can have multiple heads for only $99 a piece and the head is smaller than a large paper back book. THAT is how it is significantly better than MythTV. I would have a MythTV backend that can stream to multiple Roku front ends. This would make me very happy.

        Parser error... are you suggesting these won't sell like hotcakes as Myth front ends? I'll take three, thank you.

      • Except, doesn't MythTV already have a frontend client?

        Given that, I ask again, why did they bother?

    • by cmacb ( 547347 )

      It runs on a fairly low-end box. I don't own one nor have I tried Myth TV so I can't compare.

      But I've got three of the older Roku audio players and I suspect there is a lot of common code.

      These never crash, hang, or act-up like PC devices often do (at least in my experience) and behave more like you would associate with an appliance.

      • These never crash, hang, or act-up like PC devices often do (at least in my experience) and behave more like you would associate with an appliance.

        In my experience, Linux boxes do not crash, hang, or act-up, with the possible exception of weird hardware and/or drivers. If you're building a box for the express purpose of being a Linux media center, and possibly writing your own drivers, this isn't an issue for you.

        Can anyone comment on MythTV's stability?

    • If not, why don't they just sell a MythTV box?

      The Roku Netflix player is a very different product. The Roku is not a DVR. Roku doesn't want to compete with the DVR market, which is dominated by a few large players.

      My Roku box cost $100. The streaming videos are included with my regular NetFlix subscription ($15/month). It took me 5 minutes to set up the Roku for my encrypted wireless home network. The box is silent and simple to use. It takes about 1 minutes to start a new video.

      These are all features which

      • If not, why don't they just sell a MythTV box?

        The Roku Netflix player is a very different product.

        And this is different how, software-wise?

        These are all features which are hard to find on a MythTV box.

        Since they are presumably building custom hardware, is there a particular reason MythTV wouldn't work on the box they built? If not, I say again, why did they bother?

        I don't mean that they shouldn't have bothered releasing the hardware. I mean, why did they bother writing their own code, instead of using/forking/improving MythTV?

    • by batkiwi ( 137781 )

      THis does not record at all, it is only a viewer. The roku box will make a PERFECT slim HD-capable mythtv frontend box, though, if they do this right.

  • The core Roku software will be open source, but applications such as the streaming service from Netflix will still have proprietary DRM code. You won't be able to build your own Roku equivalent box, or stream Netflix movies onto your Linux watch.

    I believe the point of this is to make it easier for other video providers to work with the Roku player, which seems like a wise move for Roku.

    Hopefully we'll move towards the point where any service (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) works with any box (Roku, PS3, Xbox, etc.) T

  • Is there a way to run anything other than tivo's software on my series 3 tivo? I'd like to give this a shot, because I'm tired of paying tivo monthly, and no way I'm buying the lifetime deal when I'm expecting tivo to go under any day now.

    Also, is it possible to get cablecard decoders from Time Warner that don't cut out 10% of the time on certain channels?

  • So, from reading the reviews, it sounds like the video quality isn't that great. To me, this indicates that it's something you'd want to watch on at most a PC-sized screen anyway. But yet this is exclusively a TV display device.

    Still a cool device, and I suspect they'll now sell a bunch to the torrent-download crowd too. The big partnerships with the networks probably won't have been affected by the existence of an open source tree. So really I think they're doing it to win over the hacker crowd (and I

    • by sacherjj ( 7595 )

      If you have a fast internet connection, the level 4 (highest level) video is indistinguishable from a DVD. This is playing on a 32in 720p LCD. If they use the MPEG4 Roku is capable of, it will look even better than the WMV that Netflix requires.

  • by Spatial ( 1235392 )

    Roku, the streaming-media set-top box has decided

    The AI is coming along fantastically, too.

  • It's a good little device. When friends bring their kids over (we don't have kids), I'll queue up some kids' videos on the Roku. When family come over, like to flip through the queue on our TV and spend a lot of time just commenting on what's in the queue, as if that's entertainment enough. :) One funny thing though...I'm not sure if Netflix just realized they have an african-american audience or what, but last night about 30 movies made for that demographic suddenly appeared in the "new additions" RSS feed
    • Yep, I agree that I love my roku. I have played it on both my 42in plasma (through component), and my 32in lcd through hdmi. The picture on both was perfect. No, it wasn't a blue ray, but who cares. Blue ray is pretty over rated short of block buster action flicks in my opinion. The 4 quality setting is great in my experience. I've even had friends make that comment, subsequently had them over, and had them walk away wondering what people were complaining about.
  • I'm not saying they won't get around to it this time, but on the Photobridge we were (unofficially?) promised that they would open source it, and they never did. []

    Having been burned before, I'll believe it when I see it.

  • VCRs introduced time shifting and advert skipping a helluvalongtimeago already. Tivo may have made it a little more convenient, that's all.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      ...oranges and orangutans.

      VCRs were legendary for being too user hostile to use.

      Set a recording rule once and forget about it....

      The machine will find shows as they move around, even
      from channel to channel if necessary.

      How is a VCR even remotely like that.

      It's like trying to compare a VAX to a Jacqard loom.

      • Set a recording rule once and forget about it....

        That is a HUGE exaggeration. I am a very big fan of Tivo, and have several of them.

        However, there are times when you can miss shows. Usually it's due to the networks changing the schedules within a day-ish of airtime. Tivos contact the service a bit less than once a day.

        I check my To Do list very often (though less so now that I have more tuners and can manually put specific show on specific Tivos, e.g. some networks on one Tivo, some on another, to deal w

  • Open Source? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fnord666 ( 889225 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2008 @02:32PM (#25207633) Journal
    I wouldn't get too excited just yet. I have not only read the linked article (which is a real dog's breakfast in both organization and apparently facts), but the articles that it links to and the ones that they link to. I didn't find anything that said Roku will be going open source. The nearest thing I can find is commentary with the word open in it that indicates that they are opening up the box to other content providers.

    Roku, the maker of a set-top box used to stream online video on a traditional TV, will open its platform to any content provider over the next few months, says Roku CEO Anthony Wood, speaking at Streaming Media West. "We're opening up the platform to anyone who wants to put their video service on this box," says Wood. "We're going to release the software developer kit, so anyone can publish any channel, and users can access web content on their TVs."

    Jennifer Guevin over at cnet has a decent article [] that talks about where Roku is really going with this. Keep an eye on Roku's press releases [] for the real deal if and when it's announced.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by peterw ( 88369 )

      That's my read, too. TFA doesn't say anything about even releasing source code, let alone using an OSI-approved open source license. All it promises is an SDK. You know, like the iPhone has.

      In fact, one of the articles linked to from an article linked to by TFA suggests that Roku is considering charging for software upgrades that provide HD playback capabilities ( I know that's a "Gratis"

  • for me, the increase in advertising time and decrease in programme quality were the things that changed my viewing habits.

    Also, i need to regularly check my lawn for intruding children.

  • by Thornae ( 53316 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @12:44AM (#25214401)

    They fully endorse [] the open source Firefly Media Server [] for use with their nifty Soundbridge devices [].

    Runs on FreeBSD/Linux. Integrates with iTunes (if you must). What more do you want?

    • Is Firefly Media Server still being develop? It looks like they haven't made a new nightly in almost 1 year (should it be called a yearly instead?) I loved using Firefly to stream audiobooks and music to our school's computer labs.

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