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Tux on the Telly: An Open DVR Product - page 3

Better Than Just Getting the Remote Control

  • July 31, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

How open? Besides the hardware swap examples mentioned earlier, the software for this system is pretty open, too, according to Fuhrman. The whole platform was designed with upgradability in mind, he explained, and almost all of the software inside the Telly will be open on at least some level.

"We designed the software for the future decreases in price and the increase in component availablilty," Fuhrman said. With those upgrades will come a stronger need to alter the software to support those devices.

For instance, the Telly needs immediate work to support the "continued addition of SDL interface components," Fuhrman indicated, as well as new support for the upcoming DVD recording features, and the never-ending work on software codecs. To help facilitate this work, Interact-TV hopes to work closely with the open-source community to develop the tools the device needs in the future--tools that will be contributed back to the community.

To that end, Fuhrman explained, "we are starting to formalize our interaction with the open source software communuity.

"We're going to make it easier for developers to access the box," he said, "We're also going to have access to the Interact-TV developers' site."

Some of the software the Telly uses will necessarily be closed, since some device drivers will have licenses that don't allow open access. But, Fuhrman said, "at some level, at least at the APIs, we'll have open programming."

Interact-TV hopes to make a smooth transition to the world of open-source programming, having recruited DejaGNU and Cygnus programmer Rob Savoye to help paln the company's entrance to open source.

Savoye is using his 15 years of free sopftware experience to set up Interact-TV's development "the same way I would any other Open Source project," he wrote in an online interview. "The first part of this was using the right tools, so other developers would find working on the Telly software a normal process," Savoye explained. "In addition to that, we'll be setting up a site on either SourceForge or Savannah. Savannah is the FSF's clone of SourceForge, and it's where I have several existing GNU projects hosted. The infrastructure of these hosts for a project is very useful for developing a community of developers around a project."

Savoye hopes to help spread the word about the Telly project at Linux and open source conferences, and plans to educate Interact-TV about maintaining positive relations with the open source community.

The tools Savoye introduced to the company's developers were important for a good start.

"ITV has used Automake and Autoconf for starters, so that other folks working on this code base in the future will find it a familiar environment for development," Savoye said. "ITV also uses CVS, Kdevelop, and many other Open Source tools. Plus everyone runs Linux of course." Getting Interact-TV over the open source hurdle was not a difficult process, either.

"In ITV's case, the decision was mostly easy, as they have intended to use Linux and Open Source from the beginning. Back when I worked at Cygnus, the biggest problem was convincing customers that using GPL'd software would't create future legal problems. That seems to be a moot point these days," Savoye stated.

"In the case of Open Sourcing one's own software, the biggest obstacle is convincing people of the business case of releasing the source code. Luckily over the years I've seen many cases where donated code to a project by non-employees has been the critical piece at the right time," he added. "Plus as a small startup, there is a limit to how many developers ITV can hire, so utilizing the resources of other developers in exchange for really cool Audio/Video jukebox software seems like a good trade. Personally, I prefer a Telly to a Replay or a Tivo set-top box, and their software isn't Open Source, either."

The open nature of the Telly device, its stock features, and the upgradability of the unit could make a lot of people agree with Savoye's assessment of the product.

Users who might be interested in seeing the device for themselves can see a demo at the Interact-TV booth, co-located in the VIA Technologies booth at next week's LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco.

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