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The Borg Box and Convergence Fantasies

CmdrTaco posted more than 13 years ago | from the wouldnt-it-be-nice dept.

Technology 239

Gather round kids and let me tell you a story. A story of "Convergence": a nasty buzzword many of us have dreampt of in hot lusty dreams that we wouldn't admit to our mothers. The dream is the borged media box: combining the functionality of your Tivo, your MP3 Box, DVD Player, CD Player, and so much more. It's not here yet despite lots of trying, but its getting closer.

If your closet looks anything like mine, its full of stereo equipment. Some obsolete (VCR?), and some of it is critical to survival (Tivo). But the stack of components are seperate devices which provide flexibility, but are unable to integrate cleanly into each other. What I'm describing here is The Dream. A simple box that can fulfill the tasks of my tuner, reciever, CD Player, and has a ton of new tricks that nobody has done yet.

As always, I'm looking at this through the eyes of an open source hacker. Where possible I mention projects that could provide a framework. And I also make a huge assumption about disk space. Right now 80 gig hard drives are available for only a few hundred dollars. But since it'll be years before this box really exists, we will presumably have hundreds of gigs at our disposal. When we cross 500 gigs, things get interesting... we suddenly can store a few hundred movies... a month of TV... a few months of your favorite radio broadcasts... all in one beautiful box. This project could certainly be done on windows, but ideally it wouldn't matter, since most people would never see the underlying OS, and besides, the massaging of closed source applications to fit within this framework wouldn't be possible.

Devices

The most important devices are those that are already critical in a stereo today. We need to build upon that base before we can really start breaking new ground. That said, first and foremost, we must have a CD Player. But not just any CD Player, this CD Player should automatically rip every CD you insert and store it in Ogg Vorbis, ideally at a high bit trate. While programs like Grip and FreeAmp provide an excellent foundation, the interfaces to each will need work to fit within the Borg Box.

Why stop with a CD? We have to dedicate the physical space to read discs, lets include a DVD Player. VideoLAN has a pretty solid player for Linux now. But why stop there? Like our music, we should automatically rip, catalog, and store our DVDs. This should be optional of course because the disc space required to store DVDs is going to be fairly huge. But imagine if the last 20 DVDs you watched were stored on this box? It might take 50 gigs to store at a good compression rate, but when your buddy comes over you could quickly show him that scene you mentioned the other day without rummaging through that pile of DVDs and CDs that inevitably accumulates on top of every flat surface without 5 feet of your stereo. And in 3 years, that terebyte disc may be real. And since the player is purely a software thing, Dolby Digital, DTS 5.1, and future 6.1, 7.2, and whatever else comes next could be provided with a software upgrade (unlike today where you may need a new DVD Player or Reciever)

The DVD storage leads me into what is the new essential video component: Tivo . Anyone who uses a Personal Video Recorder for more then a few weeks knows that going back is just not an acceptable solution. Tivo simply makes TV tolerable again. But Tivo has its problems. We need bigger hard drives and more storage. The Tivo interface breaks down as the number of programs increase: the 35 Hour DirecTivo model becomes unmanagable when you have 60-70 shows on it. What happens when we can stick a half a TB of disc space on this? But afaik, no open source application duplicates the functionality of the Tivo.

We should include a Tuner as well, but I'd like it to be able to play a few tricks that most can't. I enjoy listening to Howard Stern in the morning. So my mega media box should start recording it at 6am. And the audio it records should be indexed nicely with the other audio we have. Audio compresses extremely well so we could keep a lot of it around. Recording a 5 hour radio show is only going to be a few hundred megs. I've seen bits and pieces of this software in place, but with Tuner cards available for less then a hundred bucks, this should be a negligible addition. The real effort will be the programming, but since we're already doing much of these things already, it shouldn't be that hard: The PVR will need the ability to record time/date, so radio stations could simply be extra channels. And the audio stuff already is encoding CDs, and providing a nice interface for selecting music. It won't be as simple since most radio stations won't have accesible "Guides" for what is on when, but we could make do with simple time/duration/station.

While we're at it, users with high enough bandwidth should be able to stream audio and video from the net. URLs are just channels and stations. A nice internal list of popular sources of content would be a nice start. This won't matter today, but as broadband becomes the norm, web based TV should start not sucking.

We'll also need to provide a few inputs for other devices. The real trick here is that since we're going to want to do things like crossfading and overlaying audio, so these will be hard to do. Honestly, with all the devices that this box has, hopefully we wouldn't need more then 2 spare inputs, but that is a big issue that remains to be seen.

Wishes

I'd love to see a version with an integrated DirecTV reciever (ala the DirecTivo which has some really great features, but no traditional cable tuner which really sucks). But that is a very difficult step and don't see that happening in any sort of open source project, so this may be an unattainable dream for our Borg Box.

A version capable of being a Cable Modem would be awesome. The cable company could make some serious bread selling something like this. They are already leasing Cable Modems and Digital Cable boxes. This would cost far more, but they could also charge a lot more for the huge gain in functionality. But imagine plugging this in to your cable jack, and being done. DHCP handles the net connection. Digital Cable. Its all done. DSL for those folks would be nice too, but you'd still need a cable input for video.

X10 Control would be sweet as well. Then events could be raised to do anything that X10 can do. The doorbell could trigger the front door camera, and change the video source to the camera by the front door (the X10 devices to do this security stuff is only a hundred bucks, so its not cost prohibitive). There are countless nifty things that you could do, and the only cost to the box is a few dollar firecracker to broadcast and recieve X10 signals, plus code to configure simple event handling. And that would be the ahrd part: coding a clean and flexible X10 system would be tricky work.

De-Interlacers are somewhat expensive devices that could probably be reasonably implemented as part of the playback. I'm sure it wouldn't be as top notch as a dedicated processor or high end progressive DVD Player, but it seems like this could be done nicely, and then we could pull one more component out of the chain. I suspect doing a good job with this would quickly become clock cycle consuming. Maybe co-processors could be employed for the job. This would only affect HDTV users, although in 18 months, that might be the majority of users for this device. Lets face it, this thing is going to be high tech, and the mainstream isn't even ready for Tivo yet!

New Tricks

A phone jack will be necessary for a variety of purposes (CD Lookups, TV Guide Information) for users without ethernet access to the world. Why not rig it up to allow notification of phone calls? You're watching a movie and the phone rings. The audio fades, and optionally the video pauses. A window pop's up and tells you who the call is from. Festival could even say it out loud.

Since we'll have a net connection, various reports could easily be generated. Some things could be snarfed automatically. Perl modules exist to get things like weather, stock quotes, and status of your pop mail. I'd love to wake up, press a button, and hear "Its 65 degrees and sunny with 10 mph wind from the northwest. LNUX is trading at 12 cents a share. And you have 1092 messages waiting". Well, I'd like it better if those last 2 numbers were switched, but you get the point. Advanced users could code simply scripts to acquire new information making the options limitless: Traffic reports ("It will take you 12 hours to get to work because you live in California dumbass") and any compliant rss website could give you news headlines. Couple that with X10, and you could make it so a motion sensor triggers your report. Add bounds for time. If the borg box detects motion between 8am and 10am in the living room, give the morning weather report. Suddenly, you have the report as you're getting your keys and wallet, and know without even looking outside if you need your coat.

While we're at it, why not provide an alarm clock? Its easy, but overlooked. Your alarm could be your customized news report I mentioned above, your favorite morning radio show (starting at the beginning, and not at 7:45 during the middle of that annoying commercial for the head shop), or your choice of obnoxiously loud ringing tones guaranteed to raise the dead.

Since all the devices are integrated, we have a variety of controls available that most recievers don't have. We could crossfade one device into another. I know its picky, but hey, it sure would be cool. You could fade the radio volume 50% to get your caller ID spoken to you. Its the little details that would really make this stand out.

Interaction

The real trick is going to be the interface. If I tell my amazing media box that I'm interested in Tenchi, it should be able to provide me with the Tenchi Soundtrack that I ripped. The Tenchi DVDs I watched a few weeks ago (and if its not on the hard drive, it could at least remember what I watched and when). And the episodes that have aired recently on Cartoon Network. And since we have a net connection, why not search Napster, Gnutella, and Google? There's a plethora of solid sources of multi media out there. The real trick is going to be providing a clean interface for picking what it is your want. The UI will provide you with key information. Icons representing local media, media you've already seen, DVDs you have but maybe haven't ripped, things that could be streamed, things that are coming soon. But it can't be overly complicated (by default. There always should be advanced options).

Actually communicating with the device should be available on many levels. A simple remote control for the bulk of normal everyday functions: Play. Pause. Fast Forward. Menu Navigation. "I Like This Thing I am Seeing, so show me more like this in the future". A wireless keyboard should be an option too. With this GUI, more complex features would be available: writing perl scripts, typing in more complex search requests.

Someday voice interaction would be excellent as well, but thats a bit off yet. Today's voice recognition is not up to the task of taking commands from a room full of ambient noise: it simply can't figure out when it is being addressed. But its not far off. "Borg Box, Good Morning" could be the trigger for your morning weather report. "Borg Box, Good Night" changes to a play list containing mellow Brian Eno tracks. Can you imagine? It sounds like the high tech star trek stuff, but the parts are all getting really close.

Hardware Interfaces

Ideally we would provide component video with options for 480i for backwards compatibility, and 480p at the minimum for HDTV. If we could do 780p, we could provide a very crisp video signal, and make a lot of nifty things possible, like fitting sharper smaller fonts on screen. Maybe a VGA adapter too. We could probably do this the same way the Playstation 2 does: a nice little dongle gives us all the options necessary even for older sets, without cluttering the actual device.

Audio should by default come out via optical toslink cable. Admittedly, many recievers don't support that, but backwards compatibility to to channel RCA stereo plugs would be nice. Surround sound would only be available through the optical channels, just as the PS/2 operates today. We won't make the mistake that the DirecTivo does of only sending the principle signal to the optical port, and only mixing in other effects to the RCA ports.

Obviously we will need a phone jack for primitive net access, and for phone functions. But also an ethernet port for the lucky folks with DSL, Cable, or real network connections.

We'll need a cable jack. Ideally it could handle Cable Modem input, Digital Cable Input, and just plain old cable. But for starters, just cable is enough. If cable companies participate, a lof of magic is possible.

An IR port could provide input for a remote control and a full blown wireless keyboard. The keyboard could be sold seperate to keep costs down if necessary, but wireless input is cheap, as are remotes.

We probably also should have power too, although a future version should also include a cold fusion module so that this box can power your house as well. Hey, we're dreaming, why not go all out ;)

Costs

Expensive. We're talking thousands of dollars for this hardware. And who knows how many hours for the software. Much of the functionality I've described already exists in various forms, but writing a consistant, well designed UI requires rare skills in the open source world. And a device like this is almost entirely about the UI. Many Slashdot readers could build this box, but its going to take special people to actually make the UI friendly enough to gain mass acceptance.

Costs could potentially be taken on a bit by Cable companies leasing these an alternative to cable boxes/cable modems. Since they already lease those for 5 bucks a month each, customers are used to it. And this provides the functionality of a thousand dollars worth of hardware.

Adversiting is also a huge potential revenue stream. Yes its annoying, but if it meant you could get this box for $1000, would it be worth it? Personally I'm all for highly targetted advertising. If I search for Tenchi, my ad should be about anime. While the banner ad market is poop, this kind of targetting could be hugely valuable. Cartoon Network runs hundreds of ads a week for anime, but they are preaching to the converted: you're already watching their network when you see this ad. This method could get anime fans who maybe didn't realize that Big O is running on Cartoon Network, and is a really excellent show worth watching. You may have a lot of anime DVDs, and not know Cartoon Network's lineup changed. And nothing irritates me more then mismarketing. If I am alone in my basement, I should never ever ever see an add for feminine hygiene products. I will never purchase them. They wasted their advertising dollar and my time. Its one step away from telemarketers interupting me and my pizza.

Ideally you can build the box yourself, choosing the functionality you want and need (Don't want a tuner? click a checkbox during install, save $100 on the tuner card). The most expensive part would probably be the hard drives. Right now, 2 80 gig hard drives would be the best place to start, and thats going to run $500. The PC might only run another 500, but we'll need things like a Tuner, an mpeg encoder and decoder, a DVD Player. Ideally sources exist for getting a pre-fabbed box. I don't think my dad wants to build his own, but he sure loves his tivo.

Conclusion

People talk so much about the inevitable convergence of all media. But it sure is taking a long time. The device I describe is an undertaking on the scale of a project like the kernel or GNOME. So many bits and pieces of the puzzle are available: we have IR reading software, rippers, mpeg encoders and decoders. Its just a matter of time before someone puts the parts together. It could be built using GPLd parts, but if nobody does it, it won't be. Many companies have started down this road: Indrema bottomed out, Tivo sales continue to be lackluster, ZapStation will most likely never ship anything more then a press release. But none of them have truly addressed the big picture... I only have time to talk about it. Does anyone have the time to actually do it?

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Suggestions (2)

Have Blue (616) | more than 13 years ago | (#265916)

  • Is ripping DVDs really necessary? I mean, is it really that much of a pain in the ass to find a DVD if you're properly organized? I'd much rather cut $300 off the price by dropping the 200-gig HD and buying a $20 DVD rack.
  • What about the ability to burn DVDs? Apple already has a cheap DVD burner, it can't be too long before the technology (which was developed by another company, I forget which) appears in other devices, or on the parts market. A DVD-based box with the functionality of a VCR would sell like hotcakes.
  • Built-in networkable user interface. Let me access the MP3 library from any computer in the house or anywhere, or order it to tape a show I forgot about from work.
  • iMovie-style camcorder interface and DVD authoring. Something simple like that. This would also require a FireWire port to be added.
  • The device is way overfeatured for its job. We've seen this sort of thing before, it was called WebTV. The geeks you are targeting it at could build the equivalent for half the price, put it together themselves, get something better, have more fun doing it, and already have a real computer anyway. The consumers, who are, conservatively, 100 times more numerous, would have no use for most of these options and no inclination to spend huge amounts of time tinkering with it to customize it properly. If it doesn't work as well or as fast as the devices it replaces (VCR, DVD, TiVo, radio) it won't be popular.


Re:Um, it's called a PC (1)

tzanger (1575) | more than 13 years ago | (#265921)

ATI TV-Wonder PCI Tuner (Linux compatible, even) TV out video card - ATI, or a TNT2.. cheap.. Geforce2MX, cheap.

I was under the impression that the various ATI cards had next to nil for Decent Linux support. I know my bro's ATI All-in-wonder has shit for support.

Re:All this crap (2)

tzanger (1575) | more than 13 years ago | (#265922)

Things like this are the reason I don't buy those all-in-one scanner/fax/copier office doodads - what if it breaks?

I envision a chassis system: Bare chassis gives you RCA A/V and the good ole' modulated out. Then you buy modules: DVD module. CPU module. RF remote module. VCR module. Optical audio module. Dolby 5.1 module. Component Video module. Satellite module. Storage modules. Networking (100bT, 100bF, 1G, etc.) The list goes on and on.

Now if something breaks the chassis powers down the section and the rest works. No need for hot-swap although that'd be cool. I'd love to design something like this a module at a time but some big company would eat me for lunch and have it out earlier simply because they have far more resources.

What I want is wired components and MPEG data. (2)

Thag (8436) | more than 13 years ago | (#265932)

My ideal convergence system has individual a/v components, each with a single data/control port in the back. These go into either a router or the back of the Borg Box. The analog sources all go into the components, not the Borg Box.

The borg box then becomes all about issuing commands and manipulating data streams, something that Linux should be well suited for, and not about tons of specialized hardware doing endless conversions between analog signals. It also lets me swap out and upgrade a/v components, and choose the ones that fit my needs and price range.

Then, only the Borg Box gets to talk to the screen, the keyboard, the mouse and the speaker amps.

I don't have a lot of hope for consumer-grade components with FireWire ports in them any time soon, though.

Jon Acheson

Every Silver Lining Comes With A Cloud! (2)

The Dodger (10689) | more than 13 years ago | (#265933)


Personally I'm all for highly targetted advertising.

Of course, the problem with targetted advertising is that, in order to be able to target you, the advertiser has to know something about you. Presumably, this info will be gathered automatically - e.g. the system will keep track of what films you watch on DVD/cable and if, for example, you watched Clerks, Mallrats and Chasking Amy, it would advertise Dogma to you.

So, where does it end? Supermarkets already use loyalty cards to track what we buy. The credit card companies can look at our accounts to see what we buy and where. Our mobile phones betray our position to the mobile phone companies and their records details who we speak to and when.

You might wonder 'So what if my supermarket, credit card issuer or mobile phone company has this information?' Or whether DoubleClick has data on all my watching, listening, browsing and online shopping habits. Well, to be perfectly honest, the possibility that someone, like a Government, or a cracker, could access this information and use it to profile me, isn't a very alluring prospect.

In Robert A Heinlein's novel, Friday, one of the characters suggests that every individual has a duty to do what they can to disrupt the governments' data-gathering efforts - using cash, paying a little bit too much tax if you can't get away with paying less - anything to disrupt the system.

Otherwise, you're guilty of complicity in violation of individuals' privacy on a massive scale. Worse than that, you're a sheep. And, in the end, sheep get slaughtered.

Patrick McGoohan said it best - I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.

Be seeing you.


D.

Compressed DVD's? (1)

Dusty (10872) | more than 13 years ago | (#265934)

It might take 50 gigs to store at a good compression rate

I hate to tell you this, but the video and audio stored on a DVD is already compressed. While its possible another step of compression will make it smaller, its also possible the data added by the compression will make it larger. Its a bit like zipping jpeg's.

nice dream/nighmare (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 13 years ago | (#265938)

If it comes from thew Open source community it will be a dream come true. If it comes from Microsoft or other gestapo members of the closed source mafia (colorful words added to invoke emotions.) then it will be a nightmare.

Microsoft hates mp3, and it will hate ogg/vorbis even more. (in fact it hates any format that doesnt have content control or is under thier ownership (html is forced upon them and they dont like it, they'd love htMSml (compiled of course!))

The record industry and movie conglomerates OWN the hardware and software megaliths. If anything comes out of phillips or sony it should be looked at as if it was looking back at you.

now... what you dream of can exist now. you could build it now. linux can do all of that, including control of devices that are not "compliant"...

Problems arise when you start wanting things more specific... like super high fedility. I assume you want your audio to be un-frigging-believeable.. foundation cracking bass, mid's clearer than the actual instrument plugged into your head, and high's that shatter all the glass in clairity and strength. Start integrating things and you lose quality. Would you like a nice example?

The AVID video production studio. instead of having the encoder and decoder as combined/integrated units, they are seperate, the TBC is seperate, the audio mixer and processing boxes are seperate... why? for quality. Then the software is seperate also.

Why? you ask... well, what is better... a film produced by an expert that uses all those discreet tools or a moron that pushes the "make movie button". if spielberg did things the easy way then he would have been forever unknown.

now granted we are talking home entertainment. and if you buy a real home automation system then the ease of using all these items and your dreams would be mostly complete. ( I can have my tuner tune to howard stern and have the dat recorder start and record from that source with a simple function from my home's central computer.. and changing that to mp3 storage would be trivial) but does anyone really want this? home automation installs are rare, resale of a connected home with a HA system is the same as a normal house (no value for the HA system) therefore the public doesn't want it, otherwise I'd be selling a helluva lot more of these and not just to the disgustingly rich. (anyone can afford some level of home automation) and I wouldn't be asked to rip out systems for people moving because people wont pay an extra dime for an automated home.

it's a nice dream that is a reality for some of us, but it will never become a standard.

Hmmm (1)

Compuser (14899) | more than 13 years ago | (#265943)

>>I only have time to talk about it. Does anyone
>>have the time to actually do it?

Ahh, the spirit of open source...

convergence is not UNIX (1)

krb (15012) | more than 13 years ago | (#265947)

I find it hilarious that a site like this which is notably linux (and thus unix) oriented is so fucking obsessed with this convergence thing... it's a concept totally at odds with the unix philosophy. I read the Unix in a nutshell book many years agao (edition 2 maybe) and I recall being totally drawn to the design philosophy of many small programs that do just one thing well but and interact in an intelligent way so they can be joined simply to do complex things. That's the beauty of the system... I don't need one program to do everything... i just run this file through this filter or that and pipe it over here and it does what i want.

I look for hardware to be the same way, which is why i like the visor and it's springboard system so much (not that i own one, i'm speaking conceptually)... by itself it doesn't do terribly much more than any old leather bound DayRunner, but if i want it to be gps, i pop in a little card (via an intelligent interface) and i have a gps. cell phone? same deal, different card. mp3 player? no problem... why would i want one device which does everything and if one part breaks i'm fucked. and i can't upgrade any parts if say, somone beats mp3, i have to replace the whole device instead of just the mp3 module...

1 general device with a well known interface. many little addons which do One thing adn do it well. this is the way it should be and I'm surprised more unix types don't say so more often.

my $3.50 or whatever...

-k

Why restrict it to just one TV? (1)

Smitty (15702) | more than 13 years ago | (#265948)

With a wired or wireless Ethernet adapter, you could send compressed video and audio streams to any TV or computer in the house that has the appropriate playback hardware and software.

Also, add a web site to the box so you can schedule recordings from work or on the road.

Why use Vorbis if you have a 500GB drive? (2)

raygundan (16760) | more than 13 years ago | (#265949)

The author predicts 500GB hard drives in the future, which will most likely come to pass in some form or another-- and then goes on to suggest auto-ripping CDs to Ogg Vorbis files. Vorbis is great, but what the heck for? 500GB is about five times more than enough to store my entire music collection completely uncompressed. Add in a lossless compressor of some sort (musiczip? I don't know what else is available) to chop it in half if you like, but it's not really necessary at that sort of drive size.

Also... why is the VCR obsolete? Until my Tivo will spit out a VCD or DVD with a recorded show on it, it can't completely replace my VCR. In fact, the Tivo actually *uses* the VCR as its only method of producing a portable copy of a recorded show.

Rob, most of your software is already done, man (1)

Asim (20552) | more than 13 years ago | (#265951)

Hop over to the main web site at http://misterhouse.net [misterhouse.net] or the sourceforge web site at http://sourceforge.net/projects/misterhouse/ [sourceforge.net] -- this guy's been working on this for years. It's all done in Perl, works on *inx and Win32 platforms, with open-sourced code. Misterhouse does all the X10 stuff, can be voice driven and speaks itself, play mp3s, etc., etc.

He has a number of interfaces, including a Tk and a HTML version. This is an important point, because a lot of folks commenting mention most of this can be done, but I think Rob's point is that such a box should be accessable to the average consumer. A home-built brew isn't that, and the confluence of tech needed to make it happen is way out of the reach of the average consumer as well. Projects like Misterhouse aren't perfect, but make it a lot closer.

NOTE: Try the SourceForge site if the first one, misterhouse.net, doesn't respond, like it isn't for me.

why not to own a 300 disc cd changer (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 13 years ago | (#265952)

I will not but one, because although 300 cds weigh a little bit, if someone steals you stereo they have all your music.

in a few years discs will become obsolete (2)

jilles (20976) | more than 13 years ago | (#265953)

The mistake in this article is all to common it assumes more of the same. However, my dsl connection (512 kbps) is already capable of streaming very high quality audio and vhs quality video. The only reason I don't use this capability is because there's not much content to stream right now. However, it is only a matter of time before somebody figures out that streaming audio/video content is something worthwhile. My guess is this will happen somewhere in the next few years as storage, networking and processor capacity keep growing. Once it happens, what am I going to do with those discs? We'll no longer need them. The whole concept of a backup/local storage of data is going to go away. I'd rather rent/buy a few terabytes on a fast server and use my ultra fast network connection (wireless? why not?) to access it from anywhere on this planet than keep fiddling with faulty discs, failing hard drives and so on.

Meanwhile, I'll keep saving money to buy me a dvdr :-).

Modularity is often overlooked, but is KEY. (5)

drenehtsral (29789) | more than 13 years ago | (#265963)

I think in this debate, the biggest setback is that everybody is trying to design the be all and end all home automation/entertainment/information center, and that is just not going to happen. The design cycle is too long, and people to make a device that does it all is going to cost an arm and a leg.
If there were some published open standard for modules that could perform some set of defined functions through a published interface, we would be a lot closer. I'm working under the assuption that an industry standard would develop for say video devices that would deal with thigs like seeking, playing, recording (if it's an rw device), and any other cleverness like naming tracks, etc... and each device could opt in with each of it's capabilities, publishing them to the "hub" device that would handle communication between devices.
This is important for several reasons, first, if a technology gets phased out, you can swap parts (or just add a new module) to keep up with things, rather than having to replace your entire system to deal with one standards revision or new media type.
The other reason off the top of my head is that a modular system would allow competition between manufacturers to produce the best module of a certain type, therefore raising the bar for quality, and also allowing users who need a less spiffy module of one type to buy a lower-spec'd but inexpensive one (for instance users on a budget could get the ntsc tv set instead of s-video for their home system, and be able to upgrade later).
As new device types are added, new control API's will probably be needed (i.e. MakeCoffee() ), to keep this from killing users, each device should also publish a default api->ui wrapper, so when they plug in their coffee maker they can use it right off the bat without any software installs, and then later when they want to install a module that automatically make coffee whenever there is a twilight zone marathon scheduled on the sci-fi channel they can do so.

Now i recognize that for the most part i'm just pissing in the wind here, because to get this started you'd need a non-profit organization willing to be the guardian of the standard (something like the w3c, but with teeth, so that incompatible systems could not be marketed as compatible (to keep bastards like microsoft and netscape running one-up wars of proprietary extensions developed for the sole reason of shitting on the other guy's picnic..))

The trick is the following:

Any company (or even an end user with the tools) should be able to produce a compatible device without paying expensive licencing fees. The fees should be on a volume scaled per-unit-shipped basis, so that the small players aren't killed by huge up-front licencing fees.

Every device should include the data necesary for no-frills full-functionality operation so that even the densest of users can plug the connector into their hub and all the right menus or icons will just be there when they next use the system.

remote interface (1)

jgilbert (29889) | more than 13 years ago | (#265964)

the remote control interface should be a palm pilot or an ipaq with 802.11b wireless lan connection to access the device. You could have the option of having the wireless LAN built into the device or have hook the device over gigabit ethernet (maybe just 10bt;^)) into you local home network. The whole thing should definitely be configurable over the network with any webbrowser.

jason

Re:Two issues you may not have considered (1)

plsander (30907) | more than 13 years ago | (#265966)

Or add a dvd/cd changer -- tied to the system with a database. Why store the data on spinning iron oxide when you could just tell the changer to mount the right disk?

Hmm (1)

PovRayMan (31900) | more than 13 years ago | (#265969)

I always called that Mac G4 cube computer "the borg box" because it reminded me of the Borg Cubes.

shrug.

----------

People will WANT component systems for a reason (2)

hardaker (32597) | more than 13 years ago | (#265971)

Much of what you're talking about is a mere extension of the simple boombox type systems. Cheap stereo equipment has been available for ages now that have combined receivers, amps, turn tables, cd players, tape decks, etc for a long time.

However, go to anyone's house with a good sound system and you'll find that individual components still provide better sound. The reasons are simple:

  1. Producing one box that does everything is not cheap, so companies will try to make it cheap by sacrificing quality.
  2. Producing one box that does everything requires a whole slew of specilization and it's unlikely that a box that does everything will have the quality with respect to design than a box who's sole purpose is to implement that single functionality will have.

Will they be popular and useful? Certainly.

Will I buy one? Doubtful.

As long as we're fantasizing... (2)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 13 years ago | (#265973)

  • No Macrovision
  • Macrovision immunity
  • No region code checking
  • Universal Broadcast Standard (PAL,NTSC,SECAM,HDTV)

---

Re:As long as we're fantasizing... (2)

rudiger (35571) | more than 13 years ago | (#265974)

since it will probably be a pc-dvd drive in there, bios hacks already exist to ignore region codes. check http://www.inmatrix.com/

Re:SDMI crack. (1)

Zurk (37028) | more than 13 years ago | (#265977)

ok. slightly offtopic here. but for those who missed it -- the SDMI crack is here : http://www.theregister.co.uk/extra/sdmi-attack.htm
..now all those CDs/DVDs can easily be ripped again.

So why isn't this stuff available on a PC yet? (5)

brianvan (42539) | more than 13 years ago | (#265982)

As far as I know, with any operating system or application, there is NO software that:

* Automatically catalogues media clips (BeOS does this to an extent, I've heard)
* Replicates TiVO functionality to an acceptable degree
* Does a decent job at being a convenient radio tuner
* Does a decent job at being an alarm clock
* Streams decent-quality (visual and production) video from the Net on a channel-lookup system
* Plays HDTV signals
* Does a decent job of being a voicemail/phone answering/notification system for incoming calls - or for that matter, does any decent voice functionality over voice lines at all
* Triggers events via anything other than timers, keyboard taps, and mouse clicks
* Displays information services in an acceptable format on a TV screen
* Crossfades or partitions anything via automatic windowing (yea I know you can drag titlebars and window boundaries to your heart's content, but your good old "tile windows" command is usually not good enough for practical usage)
* Decently controls events on a PC via a remote control

... and so on.

There is a great need for this stuff, no doubt... I'm sure many of us spend countless hours performing manual tasks related to entertainment that represent work more than entertainment... an irony if I've ever seen one. And I believe much of it exists... albeit in primitive, obscure, or component form. There are a lot of the things on Taco's list that are here today - the CD/DVD player, the remote controls and IR ports, the X10 systems, good file compression, TiVO and its consumer electronics counterparts, and so on.

The task is wrapping it all up. And it's much harder to construct a consumer electronic system that works on TV technology, that has a simple user interface, and that meets the processing/hardware requirements of all this functionality. This is why the PS2 doesn't do all of this... it's too much to build in at once without driving the price through the roof. PCs can do it much easier, though - they're expandable, they're versatile, and they're not as expensive as consumer electronics.

Now, you must think I'm on crack for saying "not as expensive as consumer electronics". But honestly, PCs are component systems that don't have to be bought all at once. The initial shell-out is high, and the overall cost can be staggering on a small budget... but over time, it's not a bad thing at all. I've never had $3000 to spend on a computer at once, yet that's easily what my computer cost altogether (the SCSI subsystem alone breaks $1000). Stereo systems are like this as well - but you can easily spend $1500 the first time out on one of those as well. Most consumer electronics are either too dumb to cooperate in the manner suggested here, or can be a royal pain in the ass when they're integrated - TV/VCR combos come to mind.

Before this gets way too long, I think the correct approach is to:

1. Use existing PC hardware and write flexible, well-interfaced software packages for separate media functions. Not just your typical poorly-written driver software to watch TV, use a remote, or capture video - but software that does these things good and with greater power. The ideas are out there, typically the functionality is not.

2. Encourage new PC hardware to fill in the functionality gaps (HDTV tuners, USB plug-n-play IR receivers, radio tuners, big ass hard drives) and write quality software packages for those as well. Not to forget, the hardware needs OPEN STANDARD INTERFACES... not a separate programming interface or application for each brand of tuner, media player, etc., but something like the way all sound cards are SoundBlaster compatible or 3D cards have DirectX/OpenGL functionality.

3. Finally, someone builds a system with existing, well established hardware and software, that accomplishes the task of integrating all these components seamlessly, with an easy to use interface, that just plugs into the TV and the phone/cable line, and does all this stuff for you in your living room.

So... improve what we have, create what we need, and bring it all together when it's ready. But as it is now, it's not ready yet.

What is the point of living... (2)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 13 years ago | (#265985)

... if you don't eat your meat "medium-rare".

(Besides, you get a worse cut/quality of meat because they know that you could never tell with well done.)

Re:Um, it's called a PC (2)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 13 years ago | (#265986)

I have to agree with you, as I was reading the article I was thinking the exact same thing.

>Hardware DVD card if you want quality++
>ATI TV-Wonder PCI Tuner (Linux compatible, even)

Get the recent ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder.

Excellent hardware-assisted DVD quality with TV-in.

I'm ready... (1)

Leghorn (44886) | more than 13 years ago | (#265987)

Just let me know where I can buy one!

Um, it's called a PC (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 13 years ago | (#265990)

Go buy a cheapass PC like a duron. Add the following:

  • 128M RAM
  • DVD-ROM Drive (Plays CD's, too)
  • Hardware DVD card if you want quality++
  • ATI TV-Wonder PCI Tuner (Linux compatible, even)
  • TV out video card - ATI, or a TNT2.. cheap.. Geforce2MX, cheap.
  • Sound card. I use a cheap ass soundblaster.
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse (logitech)
  • A huge-ass HD (Nx80gb+, $300xN). Or NFS mount your linux server.
  • Think lusty thoughts about a wireless USB hub

Now, mix in the following software:

  • MAME. Enough said.
  • DVD software (Creative DXR kit works in linux)
  • Some TV recording software (lots out there)
  • Game-of-the-week (NFS looks nice on a quality TV)
  • What computer DOESN'T pay MP3s or CDs..

Now put it by your TV.

There you go, more convergence than you can shake a bloody stick at. Perhaps you meant a nice, unitied, all in one interface? Well, there's a great project for the open source community to pick up on, heavens knows I'd use it, don't have time to write it now. I work all day with Motorola set-top boxes, and one of those would also make a great platform for this, although the tools aren't free (IIRC). A PC works fine, and it's CHEAP.

Hell, one of the nifty things I've done is time-shift DVD rentals - rip it uncompressed and then play it back on the weekend (when you KNOW it won't be there .. heh). It doesn't look pretty, but it definately works, and IMHO smokes the hell out of anything available now. A hacked Xbox might change that though.

No dropped frames here.. (2)

xtal (49134) | more than 13 years ago | (#265991)

I always record to mpeg-1 with the ATI TV-Wonder, have never dropped a frame, and always get stellar quality. Your definition of crap quality might be the reason though - I'll be happy with "looks good in a window" and "good enough on my TV". Fwiw, that's on a $80cdn duron 600 running at 900mhz.

Once I record the stuff, I post-process to mpeg4 for archiving.

Mmm! (2)

xtal (49134) | more than 13 years ago | (#265992)

*drool* thanks for the links.. next bonus I get I'll be doing some shopping, looks like!

Um, it's called a PC (4)

xtal (49134) | more than 13 years ago | (#265996)

Go buy a cheapass PC like a duron. Add the following:

  • 128M RAM
  • DVD-ROM Drive (Plays CD's, too)
  • Hardware DVD card if you want quality++
  • ATI TV-Wonder PCI Tuner (Linux compatible, even)
  • TV out video card - ATI, or a TNT2.. cheap.. Geforce2MX, cheap.
  • Sound card. I use a cheap ass soundblaster.
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse (logitech)
  • A huge-ass HD (Nx80gb+, $300xN). Or NFS mount your linux server.
  • Think lusty thoughts about a wireless USB hub

Now, mix in the following software:

  • MAME. Enough said.
  • DVD software (Creative DXR kit works in linux)
  • Some TV recording software (lots out there)
  • Game-of-the-week (NFS looks nice on a quality TV)
  • What computer DOESN'T pay MP3s or CDs..

Now put it by your TV.

There you go, more convergence than you can shake a bloody stick at. Perhaps you meant a nice, unitied, all in one interface? Well, there's a great project for the open source community to pick up on, heavens knows I'd use it, don't have time to write it now. I work all day with Motorola set-top boxes, and one of those would also make a great platform for this, although the tools aren't free (IIRC). A PC works fine, and it's CHEAP.

Hell, one of the nifty things I've done is time-shift DVD rentals - rip it uncompressed and then play it back on the weekend (when you KNOW it won't be there .. heh). It doesn't look pretty, but it definately works, and IMHO smokes the hell out of anything available now. A hacked Xbox might change that though.

Re:All this crap (1)

xy (49954) | more than 13 years ago | (#265997)

You could make it safe, though...of course, this would raise the cost:

Build it on a telecomm-industry type passive PCI backplane -- 10 PCI slots, 1 CPU slot -- that sort of thing.

Use redundant power supplies.

And use RAID 5 for your storage.

run all your a/v wiring into a closet with a rack with this beast in it, and control it from your living room with a wireless keyboard and mouse...

Re:Um, it's called a PC (2)

klund (53347) | more than 13 years ago | (#265999)

  • Some TV recording software (lots out there)


Can you point to one that works? The ATI card that you mention can only record AVI files without dropping frames. Same with the Hauppauge cards. And if you make the resolution anything better than "crap" then you bump up against the 2G file size limit on AVI files. ("A 32-bit pointer ought to be enough for anyone..." Thank you, Microsoft).

To have useful TV recording software, you need something that will record a bunch of 1.99G files for you and stitch them together during playback, or you need an MPEG encorder card, which costs $500.

You can't build a cheap TiVo yet.

--

Re:Suggestions (2)

klund (53347) | more than 13 years ago | (#266000)

  • What about the ability to burn DVDs? Apple already has a cheap DVD burner, it can't be too long before the technology (which was developed by another company, I forget which) appears in other devices, or on the parts market. A DVD-based box with the functionality of a VCR would sell like hotcakes.
  • iMovie-style camcorder interface and DVD authoring.


Please note that Apple's DVD burner, and the concept of "DVD authoring" are mutually exclusive. From John Gilmore's What Wrong with Copy Protection: [toad.com]


Apple's recent happy-happy web pages on their new DVD-writing drive, announced this month (http://www.apple.com/idvd/). It's full of glowing info about how you can write DVDs based on your own DV movie recordings, etc. What it quietly neglects to say is that you can't use it to copy or time-shift or record any audio or video copyrighted by major companies. Even if you have the legal right to do so, the technology will prevent you. They don't say that you can't use it to mix and match video tracks from various artists, the way your CD burner will. It doesn't say that you can't copy-protect your own disks that it burns; that's a right the big manufacturers have reserved to themselves. They're not selling you a DVD-Authoring drive, which is for "professional use only". They're selling you a DVD-General drive, which cannot record the key-blocks needed to copy-protect your own recordings, nor can a DVD-General disc be used as a master to press your own DVDs in quantity. These distinctions are not even glossed over; they are simply ignored, not mentioned, invisible until after you buy the product.

--

my wish list (1)

fgb (62123) | more than 13 years ago | (#266004)

I think something a bit less ambitious would be extremely useful.

If the "borg box" simply had
- a cable and/or satellite receiver
- a DVD player/recorder
- a fast processor & video card
- a big hard disk (around 100GB)
- an ethernet connection

Then it could be a tivo box, play and
record DVDs and be a gaming console.
The ethernet hookup would let it download schedules & software upgrades. I wouldn't care
which OS ran on it either, as long as it boots
up quickly and has a hardware reset button
on the remote!

This would meet all my home entertainment needs.
I can hit the mute button myself when the phone rings.

Problems... (2)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 13 years ago | (#266008)

Uhh, Rob, why do you care what the weather is like outside? Do you even go outside? ;^)

However, the biggest problem with this sort of dream is that it means the manufacturers must surrender control: the video manufacturers must surrender control to you of their content, the various hardware manufacturers must surrender control to you of their hardware. They no longer can lock you into their hardware (You must have a Sony TV and Sony VCR and Sony DirectTivo and Sony Stereo and Sony....).

Furthur, what happens when a bunch of people set up a system whereby you can distribute when the commercials start and stop in a program. Then, skipping commercials becomes automatic.

Unless the sheeple demand these features (like that will happen: "What's perl?"), it won't happen.

OT: Rant from a self-styled gourmet (1)

Nexx (75873) | more than 13 years ago | (#266010)

What's up with most restaurants giving you a medium to medium-well when you order medium-rare? What's up with their unwillingness/inability to distinguish between "raw" and "rare"? *grumble*, and my fiancée wonders why we don't go to steak places anymore.
--

And this solves problems how...? (1)

travail_jgd (80602) | more than 13 years ago | (#266014)

CmdrTaco said he wants a flexible, easy-to-use media convergence box that's not a PC. Let's look at what he asks for:

User scripting: It's a nice idea, but how does a person key a script using a Universal TV remote? You either need a keyboard/USB port or a PC to work on. Let's not forget that user scripting creates a big security hole for non-technical users -- a trojan horse might not be able to upload data to the net or delete your checking account, but it could ruin the work you've done with your system. Ripped CD's, TV listings, preferences... all deleted.

Networking: There are three primary means of connecting a network for home users: phone-line, Ethernet, and wireless. Rather than builing a box with three different kinds of adapters, it would be easier (and cheaper!) for the manufacturer to just have some kind of generic connector (like USB). Since there's a large hard drive and CD/DVD player, installing drivers would be simple even for non-technical users.

Expansion: For the unit to be "future-proof", it would need the ability to use new hardware and software. Firewire, USB, Serial ATA, etc would solve the hardware side of things, and standardized drivers and open specifications would assist on the software side.

What we've got is a media box with open hardware expansion (Firewire and USB, or some other standard), networking capability, high-resolution display, high-end audio, large amounts of processing power and massive storage capabilities. I'm not seeing how this is different from a PC -- just with a friendly, unified interface and a nifty remote.

crApple. (2)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 13 years ago | (#266015)

I think Taco just described what an iMac will be in two years.

Re:MPEG4 (1)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 13 years ago | (#266021)

I would also think it best to wait till we have non-volatile no-moving parts storage. The current harddisk is really only safe for transient data.

The only problem is that every time SSD (solid state disk) technology gets within spitting distance of hard-drive technology, the hard-drive double or triple their capacity and keep ahead.

I would not want to have to reload all the stuff I load into this because some brat knocked it over and crashed the heads on the drive.

That's why they make RAID controllers. :-)

Re:Suggestions (1)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 13 years ago | (#266022)

Is ripping DVDs really necessary?

Like xtal suggested. Time-shift DVD rentals, rent a DVD movie during the week, rip it to disk, and watch it on the weekend. :-)

The device is way overfeatured for its job. We've seen this sort of thing before, it was called WebTV.

Ummm, WebTV had about 1/100 of these features. And the principle feature of WebTV (surfing the web), isn't even mentioned in CmdrTaco's fantasy.

Re:Um, it's called a PC (1)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 13 years ago | (#266023)

Go buy a cheapass PC like a duron.

It's not duron but... like this? [directron.com]

ATI TV-Wonder PCI Tuner

and this? [atitech.com]

Think lusty thoughts about a wireless USB hub

and this [linksys.com] and this? [linksys.com]

It's called the big blue room (1)

GreyyGuy (91753) | more than 13 years ago | (#266027)

Now I'm certainly not the proper person to say this, since my own social life is coming closer to being fantasy then reality, but who needs terabytes of movies/tv/radio for storage? If you need that much space when do you get caught up watching/listening to it? I was afraid that once I got cable I would become even more of a couch potatoe, but the truth is that I'm watching less tv then ever. It all sucks, and there are many more far more interesting things to do (games, programming, actually talking with people). I have three video tapes full of recored shows sitting next to my VCR from January and I have no real desire to sit down for the 15 hours it would take to wath the them.

In my mind, the real value of convergence is not having to have a dozen remotes, or have to worry about arcane wiring between devices, or especially having to talk my dad through turing on the vcr, setting it to this station, then the DVD player, blah, blah, blah. Or not having to worry if I have enough time on the tape left to catch a show. It is making life easier.

That said, it does sound cool :)

Brainchild of the PS2 (1)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 13 years ago | (#266028)

The PS2 has got us all wanting to make something better, take the next step, make that gargantuous leap into the unknown and incorporate the microwave, dishwasher, tv, vcr, and phone into the vcr somehow.

Well I for one prefer to buy those things seperately, not at all unlike the way I like to buy my computer parts separately, or at least specifically itemized -- none of that bundle crap. Once you start to do that you get people paying money for low quality shit they didn't even need or want in the first place!

All this crap (1)

sudotcsh (95997) | more than 13 years ago | (#266029)

Things like this are the reason I don't buy those all-in-one scanner/fax/copier office doodads - what if it breaks?

I mean, seriously, what good is having all this wonderful componentry all in one box when if one thing breaks it takes the whole system down with it? Sure, it's not a printer, so there are few moving parts like rollers to get screwed up and gum the whole works, but still...

I prefer to keep all my pieces seperate, thank you very much. That way I can fix, upgrade, or toss them at will instead of having to worry about getting a whole new box.

Re:Suggestions (1)

_Upsilon_ (97438) | more than 13 years ago | (#266030)

Another suggestion/addition would be to add the reciever to this "Borg Box". Why not have a reciever that does Dolby Digital, DTS, etc. build right in and have speaker/subwoofer outputs on it?

Re:Um, it's called a PC (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#266031)

The trick is to now build a nice easy to use interface for all that. One that your mom or grandmother could use.


--

Re:Um, it's called a PC (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#266032)

I always thought it would be cool to record the stuff in the res of VideoCDs (rather low, but still okay quality) then if you want to keep it you burn it to a VideoCD, that way you can give it to friends and whatnot and they can watch it on their DVD players. Plus no lame copy protection.
--

this shouldn't be one box. (2)

random735 (102808) | more than 13 years ago | (#266034)

Taco was right on when he said "Framework", because that's what this needs to be. A bunch of devices with a common interface. A central cpu which delegates tasks. "oops, time to record tenchi...better notify the Tivo". I don't want to spend $2000 on a box that does it all. Because now i'm going to have to decide if i want the one from Company A with really good audio output, or the one from company B with really good video output. I want to pick my Tivo-unit from one company, my Audio unit from another, and have them work together with my main CPU from Company C that makes a really great interface. I want to be able to replace my Tivo with the next great version without spending another $2000 to replace my entire Borg-unit. This has to be componentized, it just needs a better framework/communication backend.

What about.... (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 13 years ago | (#266035)

When the CD player in this box goes out, or the hard drive. You will end up with a pretty useless box. Sure we geeks could probably fix it with ease. But what about everyone else? If one component dies then the entire box has to be shipped out for repair, taking everything else with it. One good lightning strike and every piece of your entertainment system is one smoking hulk. I don't want everything to be built into one unit. I like modularity, I like having cables that I can run from one box to another, controlling the way things talk to each other.
=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\

Re:I'm ready... (1)

Ashran (107876) | more than 13 years ago | (#266038)

just go to asia, there you can get dvd players that play also divx movies ;)
you dont need more

Of course no one has time (2)

Logic Bomb (122875) | more than 13 years ago | (#266041)

Part of the idea of "convergence" is that the magical box won't need to do so many different things. We shouldn't need equipment to handle 5 different types of or sources for video. DVDs (or something similar representing physical distribution) and streamed MPEG5 ;-) (something for wire or satellite distribution) should be all that's needed. Similar principles apply for audio. "Convergence" will only be worthwhile if the sources for media are consolidated too (I mean, of course, through common formats, not AOL-TimeWarner-CNN-Disney-Etc). Otherwise we just end up with, as Taco discusses, the need for a "do everything" box of nightmarish complexity.

slashdot (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#266045)

This is News for Nerds. Thanks for going back to your roots, if only briefly :)

Peace,
Amit
ICQ 77863057

It's Already Here ... (4)

StoryMan (130421) | more than 13 years ago | (#266047)

The ideal "converged" box is already here. I have it, and I'm sure others do, too.

It's the home-built PC, spec'd out to whatever needs doing at the present time -- TV tuner, MP3 jukebox, audio server (or satellite client), whatever.

I'm surprised that people -- especially slashdot folks -- keep seeking this so-called "elusive" grail. It seems that people are looking for a "formally converged" box. Something like TIVO + ZapStation with a little bit of the late Indrema's attitude thrown in for good measure.

But my question is -- and continues to be -- WHY? Why are folks seeking a formally converged box?

The answer is this: anyone who complains about the lack of a converged box has yet to grasp the simple fact that "convergence" -- at least in its "formal" sense -- is a synonym for "corporate control."

Why on earth -- and I mean this sincerely -- why on earth do we want to cede any more of our "entertainment enablement" to corporations?

Convergence is a dangerous thing. It's not something we should look forward to, nor is it something we should theoretically support. (I say theoretically because, in practice, I do love my TIVO and I *do* lust after the ZapStation [if only because it's got a pretty cool case and would fit in my stereo rack nicely].)

All the formally converged box will offer -- above and beyond our individually spec'd out home-built boxes -- is another way for corporations to impose their will (via their unending capital) upon consumers. The "will" is always masked as "choice" or "enablement." This is really a crucial point, and it's one I wish Katz would write about.

The problem is that corporate will is *always* -- always, always, always -- at the expense (literally and metaphorically) of consumers. Consumers will pay good money to have their rights curtailed. I don't understand this, and while, yes, I admit that I, too, do this, I force myself to become aware that even the most reasoned and savvy consumer is liable to be hypnotized by the siren-song of the corporations.

I'm still trying to understand how democracy is so easily usurped by capitalism -- and trying hard to see both sides of the globalization battles -- but what I see more and more is capitalism being used to undermine and eradicate the rights of citizens in democracies where the corporations are allowed to function. The problem area (for me, at least) is the role of corporations. (Take, for example, the doctrine of copyright and fair-use. Tell me -- seriously -- why so few politicians vocal about the concept of fair-use? Yeah, Hatch is worried about this -- but he remains cautious and will probably cede his concerns once the RIAA and MPAA convince him that in a digital age, there is no fair use.)

Anyway, I could go on. I won't.

But, please, don't worry about convergence. It's simply a pretty buzzword for a thing we don't want (but think we do -- this is the genius of democratic corporatization).

If you want the grail -- the ideal box -- go out, for godsakes, and build it yourself. Use Linux, Windows, BE -- whatever floats your boat.

Snag the hardware wherever you can find it cheapest.

Paint your informally converged box to match your stereo.

Whatever.

But don't look to corporate interests for the answer. They'll give you an answer -- and will do it with a smile on their faces -- but it will cost you. (Windows XP, I suspect, will be the proof of this -- as if it needs proof.)

I do NOT want a borg box. (2)

DonFreenut (130669) | more than 13 years ago | (#266048)


I have a PC. I can make it do all these things, plus whatever the hell else I want. I fear the idea of do-it-all appliances; they spell the death of the all-purpose PC.

Everything you wanted in a computer, but without the freedom!

Patience...Apple is blazing this trail for us (2)

tylerh (137246) | more than 13 years ago | (#266051)

Taco, not too worry.

Steve Jobs has the identical vision and is working hard to make it come true. Although a colossal failure, this is what the Cube was trying to be. Remember the Lisa? Steve will be back.

Mind you, I'm not saying "buy Apple." Apple is mostly closed and Steve is an arse. But this large company with a proven record rolling out (consumer) innovations is working hard on your dream -- all built up from BSD

Just as Open Source has coopted so much from UNIX and Windows, so Open Source will coopt "convergence" from Apple -- with little of the corporate control other posters (rightly) fear so much.

All good things come to those who wait

More HDTV (1)

-tji (139690) | more than 13 years ago | (#266052)

Obviously, this device is in the future.. Hopefully in the near future broadcast digital TV will be the norm. So, the box needs to be able to output 720p and 1080i via component video or RGB outputs. Also, the recording of video MUST be able to handle HDTV sources. The Telemann DTV-200 [telemann.com] already does this.

There are almost no HDTV stories on /.
Maybe because in West Michigan, only one channel has gone digital, WOOD-8 (NBC). Rob: beg/borrow/steal an HDTV decoder & check out the tonight show (the ONLY thing NBC shows in HD.. CBS is much better) using a cheap UHF antenna. This free, off the air broadcast, is amazing in quality.

The hardware exists (1)

richardbowers (143034) | more than 13 years ago | (#266056)

Here is something [directron.com] I keep considering. A friend of mine used one of their lower-end models to build a car-mounted mp3 player.

For the link-challenged, their product costs under $300, and includes a PC meant to be mounted in a home-theater environment, with wireless keyboard, optical sound in/out, a DVD player, sound card, and various provided drivers for using it as a DVD player/MP3 player. You need to supply the hard drives, processor, and memory, but that's all fairly cheap right now if you don't try to make it a game machine.

Two things stop you from having the "borg box" today - software, and the .us service-based economy. One is fixable by hackers, the other is a bigger problem.

The software isn't there yet to fulfill the vision, but even if it was, you couldn't do the full Tivo thing without cooperating with cable and satellite box providers. The latter means challenging their revenue stream - remember, they don't view time-shifting as legal for pay channels, so they aren't likely to cooperate with your visions.

You might be able to make the cable/satellite box irrelevant by doing it in software, but that gets into illegal territory real quick. The satellite people know what the DVDCCA never figured out, that doing things in software means an end to security, so I imagine they would shout DMCA. The computer illiterate masses would be treated to more pictures of hackers "stealing" programming, and all that software would have to be traded on Gnutella.

Unless someone can tackle the related problem - service-based industries with legislative protection - I don't see us having converged boxes in everyone's home entertainment center.

The Network Is The TV (2)

Drone-X (148724) | more than 13 years ago | (#266057)

Nice idea but it disappoints me that there's almost no mentioning of a network (except for the cable modem that is).

After all, people having multiple TVs wouldn't want to buy a box for every TV they have. A sollution would be to make all interaction with the box go via the network. If I want to program the box to do something I point my browser at it and have a nice interface, unlike what I would espect from an application running on a TV screen. If I want to copy files to/from the machine I could use FTP, if I want to hack the software I could use SSH :-).

But of course it's not desirable to go to your computer every time you want to do something with the box. The perfect solution would be to have a network connection from the box to all TVs, and from all TVs to your PDA [1] (bluetooth anyone?). You could then do simple things like selecting a file to play or setting your alarm clock. If the PDA's screen would be to limitted then the TV screen could be used.

If bluetooth or something simallar doesn't get integrated into TVs and/or PDA's by that time then small stations could be placed near all TVs. They would be connected via the cable to the box and would be able to tell the box to send a certain peace of audio on a certain frequention which they would then send to the TV via SCART. Simple remote controls could then be used to communicate with the stations.


[1] Heck, all remote controls should be replaced by something like this [thinkgeek.com] .

Just a note taco...... (1)

slashdoter (151641) | more than 13 years ago | (#266060)

I have only read some of the story (still working on it)but you need to keep something in prospective, A hundred here and there for this and that adds up, you should start worring about this too, just look at Va's stock price, ;p


________

Re:If you want it.... build it. (1)

slashdoter (151641) | more than 13 years ago | (#266061)

This AC has a good point, Taco has capital, an idea and a market. This type of thing IMHO will only happen with geek leadership, most Big corps want dumb downed mass marketed shit. GO FOR IT! Just my $0.02


________

Re:OT: Rant from a self-styled gourmet (1)

UncleFluffy (164860) | more than 13 years ago | (#266065)

I find it best to be explicit. Asking for "black on the outside, still bleeding in the middle" usually gets me a steak just how I like it.

Amen! (1)

PopeAlien (164869) | more than 13 years ago | (#266066)

..Not to mention that as the databases grow and merge we're dealing with a fairly complete profile of what you like, what forms of advertising you'll respond to, where you go on vacation, how much you make, etc. etc.. Sounds a bit like me like we're headed towards the ideal consumer set into feed troughs and kept fat and slow.

And then there's identity theft - So count me out - I try to add a bit to a database every day. Anita Prawduct, Don T. Botherme, Joe Shopper, etc. etc. etc. Let them track and market to the figments of my imagination!

As far as a convergence device goes, my PC works great, and I'm in control of the individual components thank you very much.

Come on Taco, what about the Emulators! (1)

zTTTz (176815) | more than 13 years ago | (#266069)

If you've got a box with the power to rip DVD's and store them on it's massive hard-disk, we must remember the emulators! My almost complete collection of ROMS for the NES, SNES, Gameboy, and Genisis fits on two CDR's. With a 200 GB drive, no problem! PC-based we can throw Bleem! and store the ISO's of the game as well. You just put down the Keyboard and pick up your wireless SNES joystick and let it rip!!! The only thing I have EVER soldiered in my life was my SNES controller I use for my Web Surfer Pro. You gotta add this to the box Taco!!!

Be as a solution (2)

firewort (180062) | more than 13 years ago | (#266072)

Be in the form of the HARP device, gets close to being able to do these things.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/15912.htm l

It hasn't got the tuner or tivo functionality, but as Taco notes, there's nothing stopping anyone from adding that functionality. Adding the tuner and tivo functionality should be relatively easy for most hackers...

And, the interface work has been done.

The only thing it lacks are the magic slashdot words, GPL and Linux.

A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close

Be as a solution (2)

firewort (180062) | more than 13 years ago | (#266073)

Be in the form of the HARP device, gets close to being able to do these things.

Look HERE [begroovy.com] for a picture of just such a device.

A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close

Single point of failure? (1)

cnkeller (181482) | more than 13 years ago | (#266075)

So when it fails, the entire uber-device goes into the repair shop. It's like your living in the stone age again.

It's a neat idea, but no thanks, I'll keep everything in separate components....

You forgot... (1)

junklight (183583) | more than 13 years ago | (#266078)

The DMCA chip so that none of the bits will talk to each other (not without issuing a law suit anyway). Naturally it will also need your credit card so that it can empty your bank account into the coffers of the huge media companies.... cynical? me

Mod that sucker up. (1)

mbourgon (186257) | more than 13 years ago | (#266079)

From the Register article:

HARP shows that Be, for one, is thinking beyond that very tight concept of what a Net appliance is. The code, essentially a sub-set of BeIA, will allow hi-fi vendors to build components and all-in-one systems that can access the Internet, pull down audio or video content, play it back to the listener and maybe even archive it for future use.

Kit vendors are going to like it is as much as users will. HARP hooks into Be's BeIA Management and Administration Platform (MAP), which allows them to remotely manage users' equipment, transparently updating codecs and OS components, adding support for new data formats, and so on.

Of course, on that last part, they could always change the codec so that you couldn't do certain things, and we'd all be screaming if M$ tried that.

Pretty cool, though.

It's called a "Multimedia PC" (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 13 years ago | (#266080)

The PC I use everyday has most of the hardware of this mythical "convergence machine" already -- video card with a TV tuner and A/V in and out connectors, hardware MPEG encoding/decoding solution, DVD-ROM drive, an ethernet card that I can plug into a cable modem, IR reciever hanging off the serial port that lets me use a universal remote to perform any computer function, soundcard with digital output. I bought most of the hardware a couple years ago, you could probably assemble a similar machine for about $1500 these days.

As C.Taco mentions, the tricky part is going to be the software that drives all the functionality, and in regards to mass consumer acceptance, the UI through which all the functionality is made available to the user.

They'll never let you get away with it (1)

jchristopher (198929) | more than 13 years ago | (#266085)

Like our music, we should automatically rip, catalog, and store our DVDs.

The MPAA will never let you get away with that. They'll get ISP's to block access to the website where you hype your Box. You'll be sued under the DCMA for providing a "circumvention device", and you'll lose your job when your employer finds out you're a "pirate" in your spare time.

When you call the local news to try to get your story on the air, they will laugh, because they are owned by AOL/TimeWarner/ABC/Disney, Inc.

You'll start a campaign to write your congressman, but will get cut off at the knees, because everytime you try to use the internet to gain interest in your cause, your ISP account is cancelled.

When you get smart and try to run your own website and mail server, your connectivity (cable, DSL, T1, etc. get cancelled because your upstream provider gets a threatening letter and buckles.)

I think people are finally starting to get it - it's all over. America is owned by megacorps, and they aren't letting go.

Because of this, your "box" will never happen.

Microsoft's on it (1)

hobbes17r (199196) | more than 13 years ago | (#266086)

Interesting that Microsoft has specifically stated that it is avoiding this kind of functionality in the XBox, but I'll bet what's described here isn't too far off the mark from their ultimate strategy.

Microsoft wants out of the dark corner of your apartment and into the living room. It will spend uberbucks to prevent Sony from taking the home integration spotlight.

Look at what Microsoft's investing in... You've obviously got Xbox and UltimateTV now, each of which are being marketed to very specific audiences. But then you've got this talk about MS negotiating with movie studios to create on-demand, Internet-based music services... MS has big plans in the entertainment industry, and an intergrated do-it-all entertainment box would be a spiffy way to break in. Right now, they're targeting specific crowds to build up their name in home entertainment, but maybe when broadband connectivity improves in years ahead, they'll move to lump it all together and set up us the bomb.

Wonder if the XBox will offer a hardware expansion to incorporate UltimateTV...

Voice is closer than you think (1)

dropdead (201019) | more than 13 years ago | (#266087)

Voice recognition in medical informatics has reached a point where they need standards for voice reporting. The newer systems out now can handle most accent's with no real problem. And the standard for accuracy in medical devices far exceeds any consumer product.

Convergence = being stuck with specific tech (3)

micromoog (206608) | more than 13 years ago | (#266094)

I like the idea of having separate components to do everything. True, they could integrate better, but I like the idea of replacing just my VCR with the next big thing, then a year later, replacing just my CD player.

Having it all integrated would be convenient, but would imply that all the technology would age at the same rate. Not so . . . my stereo receiver could be 15 years old and still kickin' fine, but my cable modem needs to be replaced every couple of years at least (as bandwidth improves).

Maybe a "magic box" that has component cards that can be swapped in and out, much like a mainframe's architecture . . . but you'd still be stuck with one vendor.

Overall, screw the magic box, and give me my closet full of gear.

Razor... (1)

MoobY (207480) | more than 13 years ago | (#266095)

Please include a shaving device into my mobile phone too! Or something that spreads perfume for the ladies (those who don't need to shave) is also a possibility...

Conflict of interest? (1)

vslashg (209560) | more than 13 years ago | (#266096)

The DVD storage leads me into what is the new essential video component: Tivo. Anyone who uses a Personal Video Recorder for more then a few weeks knows that going back is just not an acceptable solution.
While I personally agree with this statement, is anyone else bothered by editorial comments like this while TiVo is advertising on /.?

How about a switching network of devices? (1)

Kisai (213879) | more than 13 years ago | (#266098)

Why don't we take a few concepts we already have, and apply it to the Home Entertainment System?

Take your standard gigabit ethernet or firewire, give it a switch(as opposed to a Hub), and connect all the A/V devices to it, or if you run out of plugs on the switch, buy a bigger one, or just buy another one.

This way anyone who buys a A/V device, can hook it up anywhere there is a A/V plug, and magically all it's services are available to the A/V network, and all the A/V services already on the network are available to that device.

So take something simple: An A/V network listening station (headphones and a "remote") is plugged in or activated by wireless. There is a "Audio Center" located on the A/V network, which contains months worth of audio in Ogg Vorbis format, so now the listener can just play that audio. Now if say a DVD drive was plugged into the network, now that listener can also listen to DVD-Audio,CD-Audio, DVD-Movies, and anything else audio related on that. Now add a Digital Cable Tuner, now that listener can listen to audio from any of the channels, plus now can access cable-internet and listen to any streaming audio broadcasts.

Make sense?

Now if any one of those devices kill themselves somehow, you just replace that one part, instead of having to replace everything.

Convergence is a big mistake, look at those junky i810 systems with integrated video, audio network and modem. Any one of those componets die, you junk the entire machine.

Back to the story...

Now say we have a "watching" station, that features a monitor and surround speakers, now it can access any of the A/V network devices and watch video from any video source, and listen to audio from any audio source. So say a Digital Sattelite reciever was added, now you have the ability to watch movies from any of the channels on the sattelite dish, or listen to audio from any channel, etc.

The idea here, is that to include only the minimum functionaliy in any one device, no duplication. This would keep costs down, since a "DVD" device only needs to have a DVD-ROM and a interface to the A/V network, no controls, maybe an eject button, but that's it. That DVD-ROM would be able to play anything(CD-Audio,VCD,CD-Data,DVD-Audio,DVD-Video, DVD-data) since the actual mpeg decompression would take place on the recieving end in software. There could be a "processor" black box that does nothing but process data like mpeg1/mpeg-2/ogg-vorbis/mpeg-4/descrabling. Hell, you should even be able to play games on the A/V network, just plug a game controller in and off you go.(Providing there was either a processor box or "game box")

You lower the cost by only putting in the functionality you want, and nothing you get would include additional bells and whistles.

So if you want to make a "CD Player", you just plug a listening station and a cd-unit together and that's it.

One of the PITA's found with existing home entertainment units is the duplication of features. A DVD player can completely replace a CD-player. But a Digital Cable Box and a DVD player have decompression circuits and analog to digital converters that increased the price of both of them. If you only use one or the other at the same time, you don't need the duplication.

Now look at the bigger picture... say you have listening stations everywhere in your house and outside... say you wanted to listen to the same thing in every room. Now you can, you just take your remote and set each listening station to the same "data broadcast", and that's it, every room has the same data going to it.

Now to make things as simple as possible for consumers, you only have one cable(wired) or no cable (wireless), so you just plug into any switch and that's it. Any legacy interfaces would have their own connectors for the legacy interface in addition to the single a/v network interface.

Say you want to plug your computer into the a/v network, now you have access to everything on the a/v network, plus the ability to utilize any "black boxes" to expand your processing capability. Why stop there? If you have two computers on the A/V network, and one is just sitting idle, the other computer can make use of that computers processing power too. Forget having to upgrade your "computer", just buy a faster one and leave the old one on the network. You wouldn't have to buy any new drives because they would already be on the a/v network.

Speaking of drives, why even have large hard drives in your computer? you can have nice big external drives anywhere on the A/V network, and they can store anything. Your computer could get away with any size drive, and if it needs more space it just queries the a/v network for place to put things.

Am I being way to optimistic or what? I've love to see something like that happen, but I bet you it wouldn't happen (especially if Microsoft had anything to do with it, they'd want to integrate as many bells and whistles into every box that they can, and duplicate functionality so they can wring more money out of you)

Summarize: Take the existing switching network concept, and stick single-purpose devices on it, each device has only one real pupose (DVD-ROM's read discs, they don't do any mpeg decompression, they don't have any analog outputs,etc) and any device can talk to any other device.

Yes I'm aware that firewire could theoretically do this, but I bet you the bandwidth is not wide enough to do this kind of thing.

And best of all... no drivers, everything just works. Maybe if you had an internet device, you could peridocially look for firmware updates or something.

Dont know if anyone outside the UK has seen this.. (1)

rob.sharp (215152) | more than 13 years ago | (#266099)

http://www.tinytakami.com/

A commericial "digital media convergence" PC.

Interesting!

Re:It exists. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 13 years ago | (#266101)

It's called Windows 2000.

It was called Windows 95, then Windows NT, then Windows 98, then Windows ME, then Windows 2000, then Windows XP, etc.

The closer you get to total convergience, the more there is to converge, you never get there, it's just a marketing driven illusion.

I don't want convergience, I don't expect it, and if it ever comes about (in my lifetime), I'll just hit the History Eraser Button.

--

Stuff takes time. (2)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 13 years ago | (#266104)

People talk so much about the inevitable convergence of all media. But it sure is taking a long time.

Rob, not to sound old-fashioned or anything, but you've got a wicked skewed sense of 'long time'. Useable portable MP3 players have only been around for a few years [slashdot.org] ; the Tivo is even younger [slashdot.org] . These things are developing at breakneck speeds; the odds that within five years your coveted "Borg Box" won't exist as you imagine it today are pretty low.

Five years from now, when you're holding the "Ultimate" (by today's standards) Borg Box in your hands, you're going to be wondering, "Yeah, but why haven't they developed one of these that integrates <insert hottest technology here> yet? And how come it only holds 12,000 hours of video? My computer can do six times that!"

Technology takes time to mature, and quite frankly, I'd call the pace at which this stuff is developing at nothing short of blazing. Bear in mind that only a decade ago, having anything over 256 colors for your PC was something to brag about, and that a decent SGI workstation from five years ago would be hard-pressed to handle a game of Tribes 2, and that just two years ago you would've had to have used an old-fashined VCR to record the N'Sync Marathon.

Give it some time.

MPEG4 (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 13 years ago | (#266105)

I am pretty sure you can reduce your DVD storage requirements significantly.

I would also think it best to wait till we have non-volatile no-moving parts storage. The current harddisk is really only safe for transient data.

I would not want to have to reload all the stuff I load into this because some brat knocked it over and crashed the heads on the drive.

Mag Ram if it can be made super cheap, which may come if we buy enough, or maybe finally some form of holographic or biological storage would make this dream machine better.

Re:Compressed DVD's? (2)

shyster (245228) | more than 13 years ago | (#266107)

I hate to tell you this, but the video and audio stored on a DVD is already compressed. While its possible another step of compression will make it smaller, its also possible the data added by the compression will make it larger. Its a bit like zipping jpeg's.

Fortunately, we don't have to aim for lossless compression. MPEG4 works wonders....

A few thoughts.... (2)

shyster (245228) | more than 13 years ago | (#266108)

Really, this could all be implemented as a PC right now. The only thing missing is a UI design, which with some decent programming skills and a lot of time, should be able to be hacked together. Of course, this Borg box is only part of my household fantasy.

You'd need it to be able to independently run 2 or more television monitors, or sets of speakers in seperate rooms, with an IR port for control.

It should be able to be programmed to record something or control household X10 devices via HTTP, and have FTP transferring capabilities.

Instead of an IR remote, how about a RF or, even better, 802.11b or Bluetooth, remote?

While we're at it, and I'm envisioning this as the hub of a household's technology, it should handle your voice mail and email communications (including options to page/call you when an important message is rec'd), as well as be your DHCP/DNS/File/Print server for a small home LAN.

Don't forget AMPLIFIED Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1 outputs and inputs.

Dual tuner inputs would make the magic of Picture in Picture possible. Take it one step further, and have web/headlines/menu/etc. as one of the pictures.

Don't forget the CD burner to make a CD from those OV files, as well as MPEG4 compressed DVD movies on CD.

And, of course, what about the games?!? We wanna play games, don't we? On the big screen TV? Of course we do. So, it should be able to play computer games, but also have video inputs for console systems, which it would do video switching for.

Oh yeah, and it should be available on an easy monthly payment plan! =)

Obviously, this sort of thing can be implemented in a PC, minus an elegant UI. But it's just too much damn work! I want one of these things so I can be lazy...not so I can hack around with it! This is a lazy man's device...it's gotta come preassembled. =)

integration good? (1)

HaiLHaiL (250648) | more than 13 years ago | (#266110)

do we really want one piece of hardware that could do all this? you're basically talking about something with the complexity of a PC that you're dependant on for a large number of resources in your household... what if its power supply blows? or some other essential component. you've lost all those services in one punch.

it seems to me that a better solution would be a Jini-type structure.... each device provides a service, and knows how to use the services provided by other devices... granted, you'd still be pretty fuX0red if your storage device goes out, but you'd still be able to enjoy your CDs/DVDs from disc...

What's hard about this (1)

Phredward (254393) | more than 13 years ago | (#266112)

The problem is, you don't want one box that does everything, you want a bunch of things that play nice with each other.

Take your stereo for instance. Good stereos don't have integrated speakers, because then you can't upgrade one without the other. But all stereos know how to talk to speakers (for the most part).

Same with your cd player. It sends audio data to your stereo.

The problem is, what you really want is a standard that a/v equipment uses to communicate with each other, and a really REALLY good UI around the whole thing. Everything should be modular, but your cd player should tell your 'main unit' that a new cd has been inserted, and it should instruct the cd player to rip it, and send the data to it (maybe while simultaniously playing it). But the interface will need to be standardized, so that components can talk to each other, but ALSO flexable enough to handle new types of recording, indexing, and playback technology. Did I mention it needs to be simple enough for your grandmother to use, and not invade your privacy?

And When Someone Breaks Into Your House? (1)

daveym (258550) | more than 13 years ago | (#266113)

And steals this baby....

You're fucked!

Re:this shouldn't be one box. (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 13 years ago | (#266115)

Exactly...and this is the exact thing that could be sparked by short-range high-bandwidth networking systems like (if they ever get it interoperating correctly) Bluetooth. Furthermore, some of the problems with having all of this melded together into one box (someone comes up with a good idea, but TOO BAD, because the box already exists, too hard to add things...sorry!) would go away.

On top of that, conceivably, with enough improvement in wireless networking (hey, we're talking about portable terabyte drives...I can dream) some of the functions of the system could remain at home. What if you didn't need the TiVo part to follow you around, just the ability to connect to it and see what you want?

One last thing...could someone snag the source code behind the Speech-To-Text translation in Echelon for inclusion into this? I'd really dig being able to index all that radio/movie/tv stuff with a localized search engine, so I can easily find that scene from "The Ref" where Dennis Leary is commenting on why Gus should be so upset :)

computer? (1)

ironfroggy (262096) | more than 13 years ago | (#266116)

a little work and money and what you described is really just a computer with alot of multimedia thought put into it.

Indrema would have done a lot of this (1)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 13 years ago | (#266122)

Indrema was supposed to do DVD playback, CD playback, Tivo-type recording, and internet browsing, plus games. Of course, that's dead now. Possibly some of what they have developed may make its way to the open-source TuxBox, but that remains to be seen.

Apple has mentioned having the PC as a digital hub for various appliances - and they usually follow through on those sorts of pronouncements. They already have their own CD-ripping and DVD-making software and hardware too. (I wouldn't count on DVD ripping software from any company just yet though). It's not out of the question that we could see, at the very least, digital recievers/tuners/recorder/player combos that allow PC control and data exchange.

cryptochrome

Two things. (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 13 years ago | (#266123)

1. Wouldn't a PC with the right peripherals and SW do what is being proposed?

2. The handheld industry is borging up a storm, combining cell-phone, PDA, personal music player, personal voice recorder, still camera, video camera, wireless web, PC, radio, tv, etc. [yahoo.com] functions in all 2^N-1 combinations into spaces smaller than the Apple Newton.

--Blair

P.S. The 2^Nth combo is just you and your imagination, sunshine.

One part goes.... (1)

BIGstan (308841) | more than 13 years ago | (#266127)

The only problem with this piece of equipment that I can tell, is one part breaks, you lose them all while you fix it - or get it fixed. I learned my lesson when i got one of the first TV-VCR combos that came out. The VCR died - and suddenly i was left without either for that period of time it took to get a replacement. Gimme a good ol' frankensteiner machine - modular, easy to deal with, and while cantankerous at times, customizable to what I need - not what the manufacturer says I should have. BIGstan threws uup hiz hends it hes lowsey tyipng skilllz,.

Sounds like what the Indrema was aiming for (1)

BIGJIMSLATE (314762) | more than 13 years ago | (#266129)

This sounds (somewhat) like what the Indrema was aiming for, but then again, something would have to actually be RELEASED, not swept under the rug due to high development costs. Vaporware doesn't exactly fit under the category of "convergence".

Re:It's Already Here ... (1)

philthechill (316949) | more than 13 years ago | (#266130)

I'm still trying to understand how democracy is so easily usurped by capitalism

Which part of campaign contribution don't you understand? Democracy is easily usurped because it costs money to get votes, and the capitalists have all the money. So the would-be policy-maker has to pander to the capitalists' twisted desires in order to win.

Simple as that.

Phil

Two issues you may not have considered (2)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 13 years ago | (#266132)

Is ripping DVDs really necessary? I mean, is it really that much of a pain in the ass to find a DVD if you're properly organized? I'd much rather cut $300 off the price by dropping the 200-gig HD and buying a $20 DVD rack.
Suppose you have small children. Do you really want to:
  1. Have to keep track of DVDs in a household where everything is being continuously scrambled by noisy agents of entropy, and
  2. Have to depend on them still being in playable condition when you can find them?
Ripping to disk would be a godsend for parents. The originals go on a high shelf, the copies can't be lost (they're inside the machine), and the kidlets might even be able to play their own movies by pointing at icons on the screen instead of having to ask mommy and daddy to do it for them.
--
spam spam spam spam spam spam
No one expects the Spammish Repetition!

Tivo + a dvd burner (1)

bokmann (323771) | more than 13 years ago | (#266133)

The only convergence I want is a DVD/RW Drive and an ethernet port on my Tivo.

If my Tivo had the ability to play CDs and DVDs, as well as let me take my episodes of Buffy and burn them onto DVD for safe-keeping, I'd never leave my house (uh, except to buy blank DVDs)

I want the ethernet port so I can stream video to the TV built on linux that slashdot featured about a month ago.d

-db

Everything in one box.... (1)

no names left!!! (323949) | more than 13 years ago | (#266134)

Well, it gets worse and worse - the amount of logging that goes on, logging which urls you go to, scanning your emails - how long before there is a 'need' to scan for consumer habbits instead of just threats to national and international security - scanning your phone calls, logging your downloads from the internet, applying all this information together with the info of your interests from the mailing list you had to sign up to to get your email from bigsite.com, all of this - well now, with a box full of neat tricks - they could even know what you watch, what you order, what you listen to (although my guess is that this is logged too), who you talk to, what time you get up , what time you go out, what time your house is empty, what time your heating comes on (???) - and much more - and what happens WHEN this infomation is sold to other companies - imagine the junk mail - but worse - instead of junk mail that you just arent interested in - it will be junk mail that you are interested in!!! imagine actually wanting to read all the spam that you get every day!!!! because you couldnt help but be genuinly interested in it!!!!! nightmare!!! you'd never get anything done!! just a thought "The world is made for people who do not think"

Re:People will WANT component systems for a reason (1)

AvatarADV (411445) | more than 13 years ago | (#266135)

Not to mention the biggest reason - component failure!

When my VCR goes out, I can swap another one in and keep going. Same with a TV or a DVD player or a stereo or whatever. With a nifty all-in-one box, however, if my "super entertainment confluence" is at Sony or JVC awaiting desperately needed repairs due to the forced introduction of a peanut butter sandwich into the heads or something... then what am I doing in the meantime?

Other posters have spoken to the problems with vertical integration (i.e., that the manufacturer gains all sorts of abilities to discourage you from using standardized components, as they can make their main box compatible only with proprietary hardware).

Convergence... (2)

sllort (442574) | more than 13 years ago | (#266145)

...may it never reach my house.

Convergence usually implies [playstation.com] corporate [mpaa.org] control [microsoft.com]

No thanks. Keep my meat well cooked and my hardware open and free.

Cool, therefore it won't work (1)

Dstrct0 (442821) | more than 13 years ago | (#266146)

Sounds like a pretty wild box, I'm sure most people on here would love to have one. I'm also sure something like this constitues thoughtcrime in the evil watching eyes of the RIAA and their friends, and it seems that them and the gas companies own the world lately... One question: What about games??

Re:crApple. (1)

Dstrct0 (442821) | more than 13 years ago | (#266147)

I sincerely hope that someone besides Apple releases this though (not that I doubt Apple will bring it out, if not another large company). I'm a big supporter of the DIY concept on this one, I'd rather configure and build it myself than allow the companies to dictate what it's capable of. IMO highly documented and broadly supported Open Source is the solution for this one.

Convergence is irrelevant (1)

Fred O. Rue (446430) | more than 13 years ago | (#266149)

If you're simply talking about taking the elements of mass media and bringing them together in a single unit, you haven't progressed at all. Watching television with more vigor is an extremely morally bankrupt activity anyway, and shouldn't be encouraged.

Americans' shocking attitude towards defining their own culture with products is alarming, racist, and xenophobic. It creates a general lack of spiritual awareness with a cultural "dumbing down". Deconstructionism couldn't have done the job more thoroughly.

We should look at how the tribes of western africa are dealing with convergence, and take our cue from them. CmdrTaco is talking about toys and promoting a consumerist attitude, when toys such as this have led to bigger and faster wars than any other single aspect of civilization.

--
1492 - Never remember: SMTP.

UID< 446430? Bugger.

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