[mythtv-users] Thoughts on the upcoming Boxee Box as a possible frontend?

Brian Wood beww at beww.org
Sun Sep 26 00:23:26 UTC 2010

On Saturday, September 25, 2010 08:06:43 am Matt Emmott wrote:

> Why does the CPU matter? If it's an FE only it's not going to be doing any
> commflagging or transcoding or anything intensive, it's just going to be
> playing back videos. And if the GPU can handle what they claim it can
> handle, isn't that enough? Obviously the question of VAAPI support in Myth
> is a factor but I don't see how the CPU matters anymore.
> Some more research turned up all anecdotal evidence but it does appear that
> the box is running Linux, and they have an agreement with Netflix.
> As for the Zotac, the best I could find for a Zotac Zbox dual-core Atom was
> $209 for a barebones kit with no memory or hard drive. Aesthetics aside,
> the Boxee box comes with a running OS (albeit no hard drive that I'm aware
> of) and a really sweet bluetooth remote. I don't disagree that the Zotac
> has more options and may be more powerful, but once you add ram/hdd/remote
> it's going to cost roughly $100 more than the Boxee Box, and if Boxee can
> run a MythTV frontend with a $15 SDHC card, I don't see the advantage of
> the Zotac.

It depends on your philosophy as far as playing back video, hardware or software.

It's a choice between the hardware-based solutions, being the various LSICs from Broadcom, Sigma Designs et al, or a 
general purpose machine.

I agree that the LSIC solutions are locked in to the codecs they were designed for, but for those they have the advantages 
of low power, low heat, low cost and small size. The technical details of such chips are not open, if that's a factor for 

Software decoding requires more power, generates more heat, costs more and generally leads to larger and noisier machines, 
but it can adapt to new codecs and/or containers quickly. They can be run purely Open Source, to the extent that the specs 
are available freely, though often a few compromises (like the nVidia binary blob) have to be made.

VDPAU is a sort of middle ground, allowing many of the core functions of video decoding to be done in hardware, but 
retaining the ability to adapt to new things, to a point.

Both philosophies have a place in the Myth world, at least IMHO, and I own equipment that goes both ways. I use UPnP 
players that incorporate Sigma chips, I have ION-based frontends and also gear that uses pure software decoding, but I am 
a tinkerer by nature, and I want to try everything I can.

There is no "right" answer, you just have to be aware of the options and their pros and cons.

Devices like the Boxee Box want to lock you in, or at least want to lock in the majority of users, this is the same 
philosophy Apple has, in both cases you have a for-profit corporation whose goal is to make money, not make Myth users 
happy, there are too few of us to matter much to large corporations.

You need to learn exactly what the Boxee machine can do for you, then make a decision as to if it fits into your goals for 
a comprehensive system, and of course your budget.

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