My first week of Audio-Visual freedom!

In late December I bought myself a Christmas gift. I am extremely hard to buy for as I am a socially conscious technology geek, which means that the technology I buy often has a bigger context than just another piece of consumer electronics. This year I bought myself a Neuros OSD. I got it last Saturday, brought over by a friend who works at UPS (it arrived in Ottawa on Friday, but I wasn't back from Sudbury yet).

This is a "Personal Video Recorder" (PVR) in a more correct sense of the term than any other PVR I have heard of. While other PVRs will record video so you can time-shift and watch at another time, this PVR is entirely owner controlled and allows the owner to access the video it records, as well as supply it video/audio from alternative sources. It also allows the owner to modify most of its software to meet your own needs.

The device doesn't come with a lot of storage, and is intended to be configured and expanded by its owner. While it is common to add USB storage (like an external hard disk) or memory (CF/Microdrive slot as well as SD/MS/MMC slot), I have instead given it access to the disks on my desktop over my LAN. My plan is to configure one of the computers I'm not using with a number of larger disks to use as a fileserver.

The first thing we saw when we plugged it in was some photographs. We plugged it into the TV, and my friend had bought himself a nice camera. We took the memory card out of the camera, plugged it into the Neuros, and browsed the photos.

The second thing we did was plug it into the LAN and give it access to the Internet. I noticed there was a YouTube browser, so we watched some YouTube videos. While I can watch YouTube videos from my office, it is just far more comfortable to do that on the regular television.

I now record things and can watch it via the Neuros, or in my office on any of the PCs. The native file format is standard MP4 files (with AAC or MP3 audio), but it can view far more file formats. Any format/codec that it doesn't support directly I can use tools on my desktop (ffmpeg, mencoder) to convert to a format/codec that it does support.

Obviously the Neuros doesn't access or generate any DRM-infected files, given this owner controlled device isn't going to be "authorized" by the old-economy content industry to access content. All communications technology is multi-purpose, and the same technology that can be abused to infringe copyright is the identical technology to enable creativity and innovation. I have no sympathy for the views of the entertainment industry in this respect. If they don't want to respect the property rights of home owners and technology owners, then they can simply not offer their content to this market. Their basing new business models on a form of theft is not a legitimate option.

DRM on content is a bit of a joke, and is generally trivial to circumvent to allow access by the devices of our choices. The only impact that DRM on content can really have is to discourage people from purchasing owner controlled communications technology, which is why I focus my anti-DRM efforts on the DRM applied to devices rather than the distraction of DRM applied to content.

The Neuros is great for listening to music. I am an eMusic subscriber (I will not pay for DRM-defective content) and I have a directory on my desktop where I have placed all the audio I have. The Neuros was able to access these and play this content on our stereo quite easily as it was all DRM-free.

I haven't done much programming on the box yet, but expect to. I have telnet and logged into the box, and made a few minor modifications to some of the scripting. One of the programs I was using in the past was Miro (Previously the Democracy Player). What I would like to do is combine the RSS/etc features of Micro running on my PC with a simple interface on the Neuros to browse the videos -- marking the ones I have watched. There are many shows I would like to start watching, but never felt the desire to watch them in the office.

I will also be watching far more DVDs now. I never wanted to purchase an "authorized" DVD player as I don't recognize the claimed "right" of the motion picture industry to "authorize" DVD players in the first place. I do have a DVD drive on my PC and will "Rip" movies from that player and watch them on the Neuros. We didn't watch many DVDs as it is inconvenient to watch movies in our office, but with the Neuros it will be easy to watch in our living room.

Now that we have the Neuros in the living room, we may be itching to get another one. We sometimes watch television in the bedroom as well, and would like to be able to access some of the things we have recorded. It would also be possible to have one Neuros recording from our digital tuner on one floor and watch the video time/space shifted on another floor.

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miro client on the OSD

now that you mentioned miro, something I've thought would be very cool would be a "miro client" on the OSD. This would basically control miro, browse it's content and receive the streams from miro and play them on the TV. Miro would transcode that content that isn't natively playable on the OSD (h.264 for example).

Basically miro would act as a kind of streaming server, but I think it would be a lot easier to develop this kind of simple client than a full blown port of miro on an embedded device like the OSD. The full blown port could be phase II. If you like the idea, perhaps I can rally support for it. I did email the miro folks.

Any thanks for your support of Neuros!