The news that Samsung has acquired Boxee caught me a little by surprise. Boxee is software that I don't use much anymore, but it changed my life. Back in 2009 I first started using Boxee, which was then a fork of XBMC. Initially I was interested in the social aspects of the software, the ability to share and recommend content, but what became increasingly important to me was the presence of web content as a central feature of the user interface.
Since the app that played YouTube videos on my Roku Player became unavailable I had been searching around for a good solution to stream online video content to my TV. I had been looking at newly announced devices like the Asus Qube or the Samsung Homesync and they looked good but seemed to be taking forever getting to market her in the UK. Another alternative was to get a cheap mini-PC with Android on it. Initially I had been reluctant to do this as they are very cheap and had mixed reviews. Would it be a waste of money?
This year's CES was abuzz with announcements about Internet connected TV sets. Much discussion of the technology powering these televisions followed and on this blog I have been exploring some of that technology over the past few years. Alongside these developments a whole new industry of web television is springing up. Last month even saw the first ever International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards that highlighted the achievements of this sector. However as this is a whole new world of television, where do you start? I made a resolution this year to find out much more about web TV. Here are some interesting examples of web TV shows that I've been watching.
I've been experimenting a bit with CouchDB again recently and started thinking more about what it means to see non-relational databases as different from rather than better than traditional relational databases. One idea that I wanted to explore is that these differences mean that we do not have to use these new technologies in the same way as a traditional database layer. A notable feature of CouchDB is that it delivers data over an HTTP connection, so it can deliver data to the web without the need to write a layer of software to go in front of it. It can also store files quite happily. This could hugely simplify the server side of many phone, tablet and Internet TV apps so I thought I would have a go at building an experimental proof-of-concept app for the Samsung Internet@TV platform that gets both its metadata and video files from a CouchDB server.
Google have now announced that they are to move into the Internet TV market with a platform named “Google TV”. This will aim to bring the world of web content to your TV screen in an easy to use way making video podcasts as easy to find and watch as regular TV programmes. It will not be a single product, but will be available in various products from set top boxes to televisions with the functionality built in. The announcement also came with the news that Google is working with big name partners such as Sony, Intel, Logitech and Adobe to make the product a reality. Engadget has a pretty good round up of the news in its article: Google TV: Everything you ever wanted to know. I believe that this is a very significant announcement and here is why.
I did a fresh install of Boxee and the newly released Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on my Acer Aspire Revo today. The process has not changed significantly since I wrote my post How to install Ubuntu 9.10 and the Boxee Beta on an Acer Aspire Revo (including 64 bit option) back in January. You can pretty much follow these instructions to get everything up and running. One minor difference is in alsamixer where the entry formally known as “IEC958 1” now seems to be labelled “S/PDIF” (see below for screenshot) - unmute this as before. I used the recently released Boxee Beta version 0.9.21.11487 which works with Ubuntu 10.04, at the time of writing the Boxee site doesn't state this. It is also possible to integrate Boxee with the new Ubuntu One Music Store.
Back in August last year I wondered aloud whether it was time for a remix of Ubuntu aimed at media centres and set top boxes. I was not the only one thinking along these lines it seems! In April 2009 “Element” was founded by Kevin L. Thompson with the aim of producing an operating system specially designed for media centres. They have just released version 1.0 of Element OS, a new Linux distributon based on Ubuntu designed around the concept of the ten foot user interface (a user interface you can see and operate on your TV from across the room). It was time to make myself comfortable on the sofa and see what this new remix is all about.
At long last after some delays I have finally received my new nettop and can now start properly experimenting with a device so quiet it can be used in the living room without the interruptions of noisy fans and overheating hardware. If you haven't heard of nettops then that might all be about to change. These are the desktop equivalent of netbooks.