A couple of months back a friend of mine, Pete Oliver mentioned a Linux event called LugRadio Live that he was helping to co-ordinate at the Light House in Wolverhampton. It sounded like it might be interesting for a few hours so I went up on the Sunday.
I’d been meaning to try out Ubuntu on my HP laptop for a while as XP Professional and the crap that HP bundled with it, had slowed it down to a crawl and all I needed it for was web browsing and IM (more on that in another blog). Point being while I hadn’t actually done much with Linux I was interested in seeing some demonstrations etc.
I sat through one presentation called the $100 embedded media device given by Joe Born of Neuros Technologies promoting an Open Source Multimedia Device – the Neuros OSD. The first half of the presentation was very much focused on the technical side of things whereas I was more interested in the – ‘but what does it do…?’ aspect.
The basic idea of the OSD is that you can ‘free your media’. It has a lot of different inputs on it, including a USB port, and two digital camera card slots which will support MMC, SD, MS, CF Card and Microdrive.
There are a lot of possibilities, but here is what I have done with it – right now I have all of videos, all of my music away from the PC, and stored onto a LaCie 500 gigabyte Ethernet Hard Drive. The Neuros OSD is connected to my router and can access the drive and play most of the media on it (more and more file types are being supported with each new firmware update).
So right now I can use the OSD as a kind of… multimedia jukebox. I now no longer have to bog down my PC with a massive winamp playlist while I surf the web (and incidentally stutter every time Yahoo Mail loads up – I suspect thats a combination of Ad-Block in Firefox with Yahoo Mail). Plus I can rip a DVD which I own but would like to access quickly without having to wait and sit through an endless amount of trailers of films that I don’t want to see when all I want is to see one episode of the Adam and Joe Show or Family Guy or Clerks Animated etc as I’m getting ready to go out.
The OSD can record from virtually any source and one of the things I have done is gather up my last remaining VHS tapes that I wanted to digitise, connected a VHS player to the Neuros OSD with a Scart to composite lead (Neuros OSD uses composite leads for input and output) and recorded the tape to an external hard drive as an MP4 file.
Tapes have included:
- The Wonder Stuff – Finally Live – Phoenix Festival 1994
- Mark Kermode – Scream and Scream Again (History of the slasher film)
- Mark Kermode – Interview with John Carpenter
- Wolves vs Newcastle Utd – FA Cup 2003
So yes, not stuff you are likely to find released on DVD any time soon 🙁
Recording was incredibly easy, theres a record option on the main menu, select the quality, the device you intend to play it back on, choose a filename, press record. Playback showed that it gives very good quality recording.
As the Neuros is open source, anybody is allowed to look at how the device works and alter it, program for it etc. So there are quite a few programmers out there, looking at porting a few Linux programs to it, and adding extra functionality. For example when I bought the OSD, the music player was pretty poor, but now some clever peeps have ported XMMS2 (a winamp style player for Linux) and added a Youtube browser – yes thats right – you too can view all the pointless shit you watch when you think your boss isn’t looking on your TV set at home. At the time of writing Windows Media Audio is not quite supported yet, although I have a development version of the firmware where it seems the support is almost ready.
But other ideas that I personally would like to see implemented in the OSD:
- Support for subscribing to podcasts – I love listening to Mark Kermode’s Five Live film reviews and it would be super excellent if the OSD would allow you to subscribe to different podcasts and download them when they are ready (in fact at the moment this particular podcast just won’t play at all and I have no idea why, I am sure they’ll fix that though).
- Streaming Internet Radio – I’m a big fan of BBC 6Music, and it would be excellent if I could stream that on the OSD.
- Emulation – This one is pure wishful thinking, but it would be bloody cool if you could play MAME on the Neuros OSD as there is a USB port allowing a joypad to be plugged into it.
Its certainly come very far in a short space of time so its a very encouraging device which doesn’t cost much at all. I bought mine for £130 (that included postage and customs charges) and the LaCie ethernet Mini Disk cost £133.
I took these very poor photos with my mobile phone but it gives you a quick overview of what the OSD looks like, the interface design and the size of it.