TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

Summary: Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, introduces Ubuntu TV, a universal TV operating system, at CES.

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Ubuntu wants to be your universal TV operating system.

Ubuntu wants to be your universal TV operating system.

Ubuntu Linux fans will recognize this story's title as a play on the operating system's slogan: Ubuntu: Linux for human beings. Now, Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, is taking on Apple and Google by trying to make Ubuntu the operating system of choice for all-in-one Internet, cable, and satellite TV: Ubuntu TV.

According to Jane Silber, Canonical's CEO Ubuntu TV is not an attempt to bring a Linux desktop to your TV or just put a browser on your TV. Instead, the idea is to use Ubuntu GNOME-based Unity interface as the universal interface.

I can see this. I've long thought that Unity, while an OK desktop for non-power desktop users had great potential for tablets, smartphones, and, yes, now TVs.

Welcome to Ubuntu 11.10 Unity Interface: Photo Gallery

Silber claims Ubuntu TV is "TV for human beings. It just works." To be more exact, Ubuntu TV will work the same way it does with Unity with a launcher on the left-hand side of your TV's display. Although many people don't know it Linux has long owned the digital video recorder (DVR) business. In fact, I can't think of a single significant DVR that isn't based on Linux. What Canonical has in mind though isn't trying to replace the embedded Linux in your DVRs-although I'm sure they wouldn't turn such a contract down--they want Ubuntu to become the "operating system for your television."

So like Apple with its rumored iTV and Google with Google TV, Canonical wants its technology to actually be in your TV rather than in a set-top box, DVR or a Internet video device like the Apple TV, Roku LT, or many Blu-Ray DVD players.

A quick look at Ubuntu TV (screenshots)

Canonical believes that what users really want is simplicity from their televisions. Users don't want to switch from device to device and interface and interface to move from watching a show over the Internet to one already recorded on their DVR to a football game playing right now. They just want to watch TV and they don't care about the technical details of where the video stream comes from. As Canonical explains it, "Viewers want entertainment, not electronics. They want to relax and enjoy the movie, not juggle remote controls. Beautiful simplicity is the driving force behind Ubuntu TV. It integrates broadcast, time shift, online box office, personal cloud, apps and disk media experiences - all without wires, connectors or more boxes. It really is just the TV."

Canonical also thinks that users want to see music, photos and videos from any supported device without any fuss or muss. So they say Ubuntu TV will play media from wherever users keep their content be that on the cloud, a tablet, or even, yes, a Windows PC or media server. "Ubuntu TV brings it all together in the living room. "

What's it going to take to do this? At this point, Canonical will be demoing their Ubuntu TV software, which is based on Ubuntu 11.10, at CES. Ubuntu TV will run on both ARM and x86 systems. It requires at least 2GBs of storage space-more if a vendor plans on supporting DVR functionality-1GB of RAM and at least 512MBs of video RAM. You'll also need a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) output for audio and video. There are no currently shipping Ubuntu TVs.

While Ubuntu TV is meant for electronics manufacturers you can build your own Ubuntu TV box. Ubuntu TV's source code and build instructions are already available.

I think Ubuntu is on to something here. I've been running video over multiple devices since I was a kid growing up in my dad's TV repair shop. Today, I watch video on my TV from a cable box, a DVR, an Apple TV, a Roku box, and several Internet connected Sony Blu-Ray DVD players. I'm a tech's guy tech guy and even I get sick and tired of juggling all this. I know there's a huge market out there for a true easy-to-use television that will just us watch what we want, when we want it, no matter where it's from, without having to have a degree in electrical engineering (EE).

If you're an OEM, preferably with people with EE degrees on staff, or a content provider, you can contact the Ubuntu TV team via e-mail and start building them for yourself. I'm willing to bet that you'll find some customers.

Related Stories:

Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

Google lures vendors to install Android on TVs

DVR functionality could be built into an Apple TV

Internet TV Shootout: Apple TV, Roku and Sony Blu-Ray DVD Player

LG joins Google TV family, while Samsung, Sony, Vizio promise new Google TV devices for 2012

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Mobility, Open Source

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  • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

    Kudos to Canonical
    daikon
    • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

      "I???m a tech???s guy tech guy and even I get sick and tired of juggling all this."

      Exactly. Me too. This looks pretty similar to Google TV, also linux based.
      bradavon
    • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

      @daikon

      Use MythTV on any linux distribution. It already works and you can access any of the media from any computer device, desktop, laptop, tablet, etc...
      linux for me
    • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

      @daikon Yeah... Now they just need to fix the timeless Linux issue of no Netflix or Hulu and we'll have a contender to XBMC and Boxee?
      thoiness
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @thoiness
        Why you say no hulu? Plays fine on my linux..
        rwwff
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @thoiness
        All you need for Hulu with Linux, in my case Ubuntu, is Flash. So the purists are out of luck.

        Paul
        pfyearwood
  • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

    I'll have to pass on this TV for several reasons. The biggest reason is that its running linux, not just any linux but one of the more bloated distros. So you will get lag, stutters, and kernel panics on your TV. The second is that TV owners do not want to do daily patching on their TVs. The hassle of having to hook a keyboard up to it and connect it to the internet daily to get the updates makes it a nonstarter. Do you want a new channel? Well guess what, you will have to compile the code to get a new channel. Most people won't know how to do that. Security issues still reside in linux, can't wait to hear of the first TV hack because the telnet port was left open. That's right, you now need to be a network admin just to operate a TV.

    Canonical has no direction. With their CEO quitting and them burning up money and resources, there is no telling where they will be in the future. Linux distros come and go by the week. You buy this TV today your support for it will be gone by the end of the month.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

      @Loverock Davidson-
      We are always enlightened by your mythical theories.
      daikon
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @daikon +1
        Queuecumber
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @daikon +1
        vancevep
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @daikon +1

        and the mythical open Telnet port FTW!
        admiraljkb
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @daikon "enlightened" => amused. FTFY
        james.vandamme
    • NT

      @Loverock Davidson-

      Almost got me there Loverock!! ;)
      kukamonga
    • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

      @Loverock Davidson- <br><br>Good to see you and your buddy toddybottom still have an interest in Linux.
      guzz46
      • But not Ubuntu

        @guzz46
        When Linus calls it bloated, you know you have a big lemon on your hands.
        William Farrel
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @William Farrel

        Bloated as in lines of code compared to when it was first released, not bloated in terms of performance, thats windows... just look at how much resources windows 7 uses.

        But I'm glad to see another windows user interested in Linux, now all you need to do is take the next step and start using it and find out what you have been missing out on.
        guzz46
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @guzz46 We've been missing out on something, guzzy? You mean like Hulu, Netflix, the latest games (DirectX), the most intuitive development IDE, and the latest business standards for *Office* productivity? ....

        ...oh... ha ha! You almost got me there buddy. That's YOU, not US.
        thoiness
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @thoiness<br><br>No I was thinking more along the lines of freedom, choice, multiple different GUI's, no malware worries, a massive repo of free software, a secure well designed free OS that consumes very low resources, won't degrade in performance over time, requires next to no maintenance etc... etc...<br><br>Like I said you don't know what you're missing out on.
        guzz46
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @guzz46 The freedom to miss out on the hottest new items, or having to dig for a hack to get something you take for granted as always being available doesn't seem appealing to me, and smart people don't get suckered into malware. I've been malware free for years? W7 pretty much made most of the arguments against Windows cannon fodder. <br><br>Here's the choice: <br>A. You have to use your head and deduce the incoming attacks if you use Windows. <br>or<br>B. You have to use your head and sift through mountains of forums if you have Linux just to get things to operate properly (and sometimes that just won't happen).<br><br>Linux has its place. It earned its place onto my phone, my router, my big screen TV, my Blu Ray devices, but...<br><br>Saying all that, it still isn't even CLOSE to earning a spot on my PCs (unless I happen to need it for a server, but most of the time that's W2008).<br><br>Call me when OpenGL catches up with DirectX, when Eclipse catches up to Visual Studio, when Open Office catches up with Office, when Flash catches up with the rest of the world, when Gimp is caught up to Photoshop, and when my most basic online entertainment (E.G. Netflix) can run seamlessly on the system. Until then, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything but yet another headache.<br><br>The freedom of choice is not limited to your choice, and your choice makes your freedom of experience more limited (due to this choice). It seems ironic.<br><br>I will concede, however, that if your computer was made mid to early 90s, it might be your best choice. But then again, if your computer is made in the early 90s, you don't have a PC made for today's purposes, regardless of the OS, anyhow.<br><br>The reality of the early 90s comment is that its technically invalid also. If you look at the recommended system requirements for most modern / full featured versions of Linux, they are either as steep (or nearly as steep) as Windows itself.<br><br>As far as multiple choices on GUI, look at shell replacements and StarDock products. The myth that Windows is not customizable is just that: a myth.
        thoiness
      • RE: TV for Human Beings: Ubuntu Linux

        @thoiness

        What hottest new items? what hack to get what things to work properly? I'm guessing you have never used Linux before, at least not in the last 10 years.

        The old smart people don't get suckered into malware argument again? well I guess those millions and millions of dumb people should move to an OS that alows them to be dumb and malware free, and no windows 7 is still windows so it still suffers from windows problems.

        No my freedom of experience isn't more limited, I'm using an OS which gives me options that aren't even possible on windows, I wouldn't even go back to windows if they completely redesigned their OS to eliminate all their problems because it just feels way too limited in what you can do with it, after all you don't even own your copy of windows, you're just agreeing to the terms of use.

        I use Linux and have used windows 7 so I know how much resources each OS uses, and windows 7 on average uses at least twice as much as your typical Gnome distro, you even have the option of using a lightweight desktop environment or a stand alone window manager.

        Can you customise windows? sure, you can put a layer on top of another bloated layer, but it doesn't hold a candle to the customizations options that Linux offers.
        guzz46