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Neuros Link: Tuning In HDTV, Using Ubuntu

The VAR Guy

April 21, 2009

3 Min Read
Neuros Link: Tuning In HDTV, Using Ubuntu

I recently came across an Ubuntu-based device that is designed for viewing streaming and local video content on an HDTV. The majority of content providers stream content with proprietary codecs using DRM (Digital Rights Management) that are only compatible with Windows. So, the manufacturer of this Ubuntu device could provide the necessary commercial pressure to make content providers rethink their use of DRM.

The device in question is the Neuros Link. It is essentially just a PC with an HDMI output that connects to your HDTV at full 1080p resolution, running a custom Ubuntu 8.10. It connects wirelessly to your broadband internet connection to allow you to watch video content (either streamed through Firefox or played through the included Mplayer, VLC or Totem players).

A nice feature is the accompanying neuros.tv site that catalogs online content from providers such as Hulu and Amazon Video On Demand in a clear searchable format and is available to anyone, not just Neuros Link owners.

Unlike some other embedded proprietary devices, the Neuros Link is based on standard components and you are free to do as you wish with it, it is based on Ubuntu after all, so if the company goes bust you aren’t left with a useless device.

DRM Free

The company that make this device, Neuros Technology, have clearly positioned themselves as anti-DRM – they created an ‘Unlocked Media’ trademark and logo to market their devices as being open and DRM free. They are also supporters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation‘s ongoing ‘Defective By Design‘ campaign that aims to ‘identify defective DRM enabled products and target them for elimination’.

The issue I see is that there is still a lot of online content that uses DRM enabled codecs that are only available in Windows. The only reason I still have a Windows XP partition on my machine is for the purpose of watching this content. If Ubuntu (and Linux in general) gains more use as a video playback platform it will be the commercial interest from companies such as Neuros putting pressure on content providers that will be the driver to them providing their content in open formats not a stream of ‘it won’t work’ emails from end users.

It is in the commercial interests of Neuros to have as much content as possible available for their platform. After all, the more attractive they can make their product, the more units they will sell and outside of the tech community it’ll be the content that sells the product.

At the end of the day if someone goes to the content providers and can gives them a tangible (and substantial) value that represents the number of extra viewers they could get from making their content available in an open format they are going to be interested and I think Neuros could be the company to do that.

Contributing blogger Guy Thouret is a software engineer for a wireless energy management system company. He has used various GNU/Linux distributions since 2002.

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