In January, I promised to write a follow up on my CES blog. You may recall that one of the main themes at CES was the battle for the living room and multimedia convergence. This week, I'd like to expand on how collaborative software development can actually lead innovation trends, using as one example an open source project called “MythTV”. MythTV is a free, open, client-server digital video recorder and multimedia management system. Although today’s blog takes a break from EDA standards, it nonetheless reinforces the blog’s “collaborative advantage” theme.
Building on top of another famous open source effort (Linux), MythTV begins with basic PC hardware. Additions include one or more digital tuner cards, an infrared remote control, a graphics card supporting video decoding, and lots of disk space. My setup records up to five programs simultaneously, automatically skips commercials, automatically records shows based on keywords, manages 8 terabytes of Blu-ray and DVD movies plus full seasons of TV shows, streams the latest 100+ movie trailers, and serves up my entire collection of digital music and photos. All content is bookmarked so it can resume on another client in the house or over the internet. I have four lightweight MythTV client PCs that all share and manage content stored on a single server. MythTV includes a comprehensive web interface to schedule, control, and play live streamed shows / movies / music to your laptop, tablet, or phone (plus several android apps now also available for that, too).
I easily extended my setup to integrate another collaborative project called Miro. With Miro, you browse through pages of RSS feeds containing “channels” of internet video content (such as various tech, space, or sports video feeds.). Metadata and screenshots for every available download are displayed, and any desired number of new shows will be silently downloaded as they arrive, then these shows are played and controlled through MythTV. Of course, a living-room-friendly, remote-controlled web browser is also integrated with MythTV, to explore details on actors or directors, or just to browse the latest news from your couch.
The purpose of summarizing all this is to illustrate the fact that, while many exhibitors at CES are struggling to figure out what “multimedia platform convergence” might look like in the future, hundreds of thousands of users already do it today. This collaboratively-developed software has fully converged cable and internet TV, Blu-ray and DVD movies, TV series, movie trailers, auto-downloaded video feeds, web browsing, music, photos, and weather -- all synchronized across every TV around your home plus streamed to mobile devices. The architecture uses a modular API plug-in structure, and exploits open technologies like XML, MySQL, and python. This has made it easy for me to further extend and customize to suit my particular needs.
Reflecting on this and other collaboratively-developed software projects, one can observe certain characteristics that seem to foster a creative environment and encourage rapid innovation. Those include good top-level leadership / coordination, a clean and flexible architecture, clear documentation, maximum leverage of open and well-understood standards, well-defined technical roadmaps, and collaborative web technologies (git, Wiki, forums, etc.). Simply put, all of these things effectively lower the barrier to trying out new ideas. This approach worked well with OpenAccess and can be helpful with any collaborative project.
Steve Schulz is president and CEO of Si2
More Collaborative Advantage blogs are available for your reading pleasure.
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