Because what started as a Linux-based personal video recorder and media player is getting new capabilities every passing month. Searching and playing Youtube videos from your favourite comfy couch is the latest.
One of the beauties of a "truly open" device it's that it's not restricted by its maker on what you -or other third party developers- can do with it. In fact, the OSD mailing list is full of advocates trying new bold ideas that push the envelope on the hardware of this affordable Linux-powered PVR and Media Player.
The tiny little OSD device and its remote control
Recently, Neuros announced its latest software addition to the OSD: the Youtube player. What this means is that Youtube content is now viewable from the comfort of your favourite couch, and you can search for videos or browse around the available content just using your OSD remote control. It takes a while to learn to type English words with the numeric remote but the On-Screen-Display makes things simple, specially for anyone who has entered SMS messages on a mobile phone.
On-Screen menus as seen in the latest firmware
Here, how to get to the Youtube player
But first I should mention something about firmware. Neuros Technology offers three levels of firmware: "release" versions, "beta" versions where new features are tried and which are generally more stable than developer builds, and "developer" releases which contain the "bleeding edge" features and on which some new features might stop working from one release to the next. In my case, I tested the "Youtube browser" as present in the "dev" firmware 3.33-x.7d build, which can be downloaded from here.
Just plug the OSD to your home network with a broadband connection...
Wired RJ45 Ethernet is included, USB based Wi-Fi connectivity is in the works..
Let's try a search... our favourite exec, Carly Fiorina...
The OSD firmware is delivered as a single ".upk" binary file, and the update procedure couldn't be simpler: just copy the downloaded file to a SD card, insert it into the OSD's SD socket, then using the remote control select "Browse", manoeuvre until you highlight the ".upk" file in the SD card, and press [Enter] on the remote, and select "update firmware".
The latest release has added an option in the configuration screen which allows the OSD device to check automagically over the Net if there's a new firmware version available. You can even select what kind of firmware you want to install: release versions, beta versions, or the "developer" releases.
Youtube search results!. Thumbnails will be added in the next firmware update...
Always remember this is a work in progress
Youtube from the couch
After viewing Youtube videos from the comfort of my comfy couch on a 29" CRT TV, I have yet another productivity reducer. The videos looks surprisingly sharp, and the few examples I tried didn't look pixelated at all. In fact Youtube videos on a TV look much, much better than grainy mpg and .avi videos downloaded from the web, burned to CD-r and played on the Philips DVP642 DVD player.
Surprise: Youtube videos played nicely on the 29" CRT
(Artifacts in pics caused by the thick glass on the flat-screen CRT affecting the digicam, and not seen by humans :)
The icing on the cake was typing "Carly Fiorina" and watching the "HP Garage" parody on the big screen. Very good indeed. Just make sure your broadband connection is 512 Kbps or faster, otherwise you will get occasional pauses, just as it happens on PC web browsers when playing Youtube content as well. Next on the developers' to-do list is adding thumbnails/pictures to the Youtube search results, instead of just displaying the video titles as is the case with the firmware build I tested.
Auto-update of the firmware has been added to the latest "dev" experimental release
Users afraid of encountering bugs should stick to "release" or "beta" builds
There are other digital video recorders and a "media centre" players, but very few are as affordable, expandable and can save and play video from SD cards, CF, Microdrives, external USB 2.0 hard drives, even shared volumes across your home network, AND stream and play Youtube videos from the web effortlessly. The OSD now does all this, and at $225 the OSD is a bargain. Watching Youtube content on the big screen will surely be of interest not only for your individual amusement, but also has the side effect of keeping relatives away from your PC, as it allows you to show off your own -or others'- on-line videos without "sticky chocolate fingers" from kids, aunts or friends messing up your computer. Oh, did I mention that it supports both PAL and NTSC?.
A full review of Neuros Technology's Open Source Device (OSD) media centre will be posted here soon. But I should warn you that it will surely be incomplete and obsolete as soon as it goes live. Neuros' programmers and the active community of users, coders and advocates will surely keep "moving the goalposts" and continue extending this tiny marvel to do more and more every passing week. Suffice to say that some are hard at work to create unit-to-unit video streaming -say of live TV feeds- as I write this. Stay tuned, -or streamed.µ
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