As at Friday 27 February 2004
- Remote-operated menu system to access functions
- Put in a DVD (any region) or DivX movie CD (with a special index file on it) and it will play when you select Disc from the menu
- Plays DVDs with 5.1 channel sound (requires manual setup)
- Displays on the TV without a monitor connected
- Watch TV or other video sources
- Play MP3s with pretty visualisation
- Can control the players and switch off the PC from a handheld remote
- Capture video / record TV at 640x480, 25 frames per second (MPEG-1, I-frames only, ~3.6GB/hour)
- Tune in FM radio
- Connect to it from any Windows PC on the network and and copy files on
What doesn't work / needs work
- I would like to get avirec (video capture application that is part of Avifile) working properly - currently it seems to
be dropping huge numbers of frames at 640x480, and dropping chunks of audio at lower rates, so it's pretty much unusable for me.
- libdvdread/libdvdcss take ages to crack the DVD encryption, which means it takes a long time to start playing some DVDs. I haven't figured out how to either make it save the CSS keys to the hard drive for the next time you play the DVD or speed up the decryption process, but there must be a way. I now suspect this may be fixed if I patch the drive's firmware, which I have not done yet.
- 5.1 channel sound works, but needs to be set up manually every time. I would like a way to switch between the TV speakers and the 5.1 channel digital output from the menus.
Todo & Ideas
- Video capture: Capture is now working, but I need to be able to schedule and control it. I want to be able to set up captures to occur at specific times and also just start recording at the press of a button. Initially I won't be too worried if I can't watch things while capture is in progress.
- GUI: the menu is up and running (powered by eboxy) but the skin needs work and more plugins need to be written.
- Smarter MP3 playing: Playlist building now works but could be a little smarter/easier to use.
- Power saving: it would be nice to be able to reduce the power consumption when the unit isn't being used. Possibly use tcron or a similar system.
- Screensaver: TVs are more susceptible to burn-in than monitors, and so I need to set up Xscreensaver.
- Hardware monitoring: lm-sensors is set up on the eBox, and I will be setting up smartmontools to monitor the hard drive, but both of those tools just provide console output.
I need to write a plugin for eboxy to pull this information in and display it in the menus. Update: there is a plugin in CVS (in the
eboxy-plugins module) that will allow you to get information from lm_sensors. It currently crashes if you ask for a chip that doesn't exist, however, so more work needs to be done.
- FM tuning: the TV card I have has a built-in FM tuner. It works, and there are various apps to control it, but I need a large usable GUI to control it on the TV. Another eboxy plugin to be written.
- Phone control: it might be useful to be able to dial in by phone and set up recording. This could be accomplished using a voice-capable modem and VOCP. I'll look into this later.
- Games: I thought about setting up games, particularly old DOS and Windows ones, to run on this machine. For that I'd need a mouse or joystick and maybe a keyboard. As a quick experiment I got Day of the Tentacle going using SCUMMVM - works perfectly. I don't think this is a
big priority, but it might be nice. DOSEMU, DOSBox and Wine could be helpful here.
Hardware Todo & Ideas
- Switch to ST62K: I have a Shuttle ST62K all ready and waiting to become the "eBox II". Physically it's almost perfect (quiet, compact, has front panel connectors) but there are some serious gaps in the Linux support of its components.
- Noise reduction: The DVD drive is still a little noisy. The new CyberDrive DM-168D I purchased on recommendation from a reader is a vast improvement over the previous drive, but it's still not perfect.
- LCD display: I have purchased a few LCD displays, one of which I would like to build into the front of the machine to display the playing title, time index and other information. I will have to hack up the players to support this. The backlight will have to be set up so it isn't always on during movie playing.
- LED dimming: the hard drive/power LEDs on the front are too bright. They are in full, shining, flashing view when playing a movie, so they need to be dimmed or switched off, perhaps automatically.
- Front USB and A/V connections: I'll have to build this myself unless I want to shell out NZ$100+ for a drive bay type thing. I don't want a FrontX because I have one of these on my main PC, and when it's open it looks ugly because the plastic colours don't match, and the logos aren't easy to see. However there doesn't seem to be anything better available at this time.
- Built-in A/V switching unit: I'd like to be able to switch between various inputs and outputs using the remote. This shouldn't be too tough, I just need to build a circuit to do it and then control it with the I/O card I also built.
- Wireless keyboard/mouse: I doubt if this is worth the money (web browsing or in fact anything text-intensive on a TV is a joke), but maybe later I'll think about it.