Ubuntu TV discussions hot up

Sunday, November 27th, 2011
Good to see the level of interest in a TV experience for Unity. From a weekly update Friday:

Earlier this week the guys in #ubuntu-tv (on Freenode) generated an Etherpad with their thoughts and then arranged a meeting to discuss priorities.  Alan Bell produced some designs:  http://people.ubuntu.com/~alanbell/unitytelly/

The mailing list has seen some decent traffic as well, with people talking mostly about what the future of the Connected TV might be and features they’d like to see.

Thanks guys. The resulting list looks like this:
– 10′ interface- Watching Media (DVR, Live, Network(TV Guide is part of DVR/other services))- Control via remote controlHigh priority– Plugin support- Cloud and/or server storage (for home grown media)

– Playback of physical media (USB cd/dvd/bluray drive)

– Installable image

– Easy configuration of new devices (eg. installing same plugins, mounting same network shares)

– Ubuntu One Accounts

– Push media to/from other Ubuntu devices / Media syncing capabilities (Pause on one device, resume from same spot on another device)

– Collaborate with other Ubuntu devices (context: https://lists.launchpad.net/ubuntu-phone/msg00006.html )

– Control from portable devices (phones/tablets/web interface/PC) (collaboration with Ubuntu Phone/Tablet?)

Medium priority

– Sharing media with friends (social network connectivity)

– Purchasing media through online stores (Ubuntu one/Amazon/Netflix)


Not a bad list at all. Thanks to tgm4883, MrChrisDruif, imnichol, callumsaunders1, dmj726 and others.

Separately, reports from a team that may have a crack at implementing the TV interface:

… tracked down some bugs in QML itself, fixed them, and are submitting patches upstream.  Next time you read that Qt Mobility now supports hardware accelerated video playback, or how the “ShaderEffectItem” now respects the “clip” property, or simply that the OpenGL video painter renders where it’s supposed to; you know who to thank.  As an added bonus this will benefit Unity-2D.  Awesome work.

25 Responses to “Ubuntu TV discussions hot up”

  1. Alan Bell Says:

    Thanks! The stuff I did was more of a framework for doing design sketches than actual designs. It was using Pencil which is an awesome Firefox extension, and I made a nice Ubuntu themed export filter so we can easily share designs and concept storyboards. The actual stuff I drew on the telly is a bit random really, I am looking forward to seeing what other people think it should look like.

  2. J S Says:

    A reasonable benchmark is to look at the ENNA package (enna.geexbox.org) as they have been working on a 10ft UI for several years. The XBMC package is good too, but more cpu/graphics overhead is required.

    Whatever gets implemented .. please consider low system performance needs. I, and many others I’ve seen, use and want fanless systems in the media room. I’m running a fanless Atom board with Lubuntu running on a 4GB flash drive and pulling media from a NAS. It’s completely silent. (Yes, it does struggle on h264 decoding, so I downgrade the media files before feeding it).

    Is Unity, since it’s targeted at phones, going to have low overhead needs? How will it compare with LXDE?

    [separate comment … will the updated Unity desktop interface be able to replace the top ribbon functionality on the side ribbon (so I can get rid of one of the two)? And smaller side ribbon screen space option? I like to get my screen real estate back..].

  3. ikeahloe Says:

    I feel unity-2d/Qt, while currently lagging behind, is a much more worthwhile endeavor. One hope I have is that in the far future unity-2d will lose the need for gnome/gtk all-together.

  4. ikeahloe Says:

    i meant to preface that my comment was a reaction to the QML bug fixes.optimizations benefiting unity-2d. sounds a bit off topic otherwise. I also meant to say that I think Ubuntu TV is a worthwhile thought too.

  5. Kikl Says:

    I dig the idea, but I just hope that you guys don’t forget the good old desktop. I had actually expected the dash with a new type of lens for searching TV-programs. I use this internet-site: http://www.tvinfo.de/ I think it’s extremely well done and has lots of cool options.

    Good luck and all the best!

  6. Chris Says:

    One area I think is most missed in any of the products out is that of an easy multi user experience. I would like to be able to have adult material easily available for me and my wife to get too, but inaccessible to my children.

    Other than that I like the list.

  7. Brian Says:

    It would be great if there was some kind of API or other way of integrating third party P2P video streaming television services like the BBC player. For instance, a really good service for streaming Chinese tv is called PPStream (also see CNTV, and PPTV), and though they do have clients for Ubuntu and Fedora, it doesn’t integrate with the desktop or any of the functions like remote controls like you are suggesting here. Some way of integrating these kind of services directly into the TV experience would be awesome.

  8. genool.ueuo.com» Blog Archive » Ubuntu Smart TV Discussions Begin to ‘Warm Up’ Says:

    […] media through online stores (Ubuntu one/Amazon/Netflix) The full list can be read on Shuttleworth’s blog, where he also mentions that a team has begun to assemble around the project with a view to […]

  9. b-real Says:

    If a TV-solution is needed you HAVE to make a out of the box working SAMBA solution. Take how samba is working today with 11.10, it is a mess and if you are going to stream things, you a easy setup that even your parents can set up.

    Integration with streaming-play on mobile and phone/tablets would be nice.

  10. Chris Lees Says:

    You’ll probably find you could easily stick with something very close to normal Unity.

    Press the Unity button on the remote and you’ll bring up the dash and launcher. The launcher will have bookmarked media files or websites, possibly even automatically put in the files that you’ve started to watch on one of your Ubuntu devices but not finished watching.

    The Dash will contain sub-tasks such as “Watch live TV”, “Watch a recorded programme”, “Stream media”, “Videocasts”. Clicking on any of these will show the EPG, the list of recorded programmes, the media shares, and the podcatcher respectively. This would be very very similar to the existing Lenses and scopes.

    The top of the screen would contain controls that relate directly to the current task. For example, the play/pause buttons would be in the top bar. You’d be able to see the network status, Ubuntu One sync status, volume settings, clock and remote battery status, all in indicators.

    If this doesn’t sound very remote-friendly, just start with a Wii Remote. You point with the remote at the thing you want to click. Press A to select, and B to go back. Press the big button at the top of the screen once to turn on the TV or to hide/show the Dash, or hold it down to turn the TV off.

    Add a few buttons where the speaker grille is for channel numbers and volume control, plus play/pause buttons.

    Mandate that these buttons and the remote-as-pointer (light gun) be a part of the design for all Ubuntu TV-compliant hardware.

    It would be a great way to leverage the current code by continuing to have the panel, Indicators, notifications, Launcher, and Dash. Just the contents of these would be different. You could even have a “halo effect” – someone who has an Ubuntu TV might buy an Ubuntu computer because they wouldn’t have to learn a new user interface 🙂

  11. Jose Says:

    The first thing you need in a TV is hardware decoding of video, and that(license it) cost money.

    This makes it possible for the computer to spend hundreds or thousands times less power(and be silent and fanless) as it uses parallel circuits that are more efficient than CPUs for decompressing video.

    Are you serious about this? or it is just another attempt on making a substandard offering compared with commercial offerings.

    My opinion is that Ubuntu needs a “Nexus one” like Google made. Something that acts as a reference for what Ubuntu could do better. All computers I see don’t work with Ubuntu well, sometimes is the suspend/resume, on other computers are the graphic drivers, on another the network,wifi on others Unity does not work because of the weather. People look at that and say: “Ubuntu is crap” because there is not at least one device that really shines(guaranteed by Ubuntu) and people can buy.

    Look at this:

    $227.000 and 19 days to go, this speaks by itself that people their selves can fund a good initiative when they see it. People need Linux laptops or tablets or TVs that “just works”.

    Having to constantly suffer with inferior products because you love openness takes you only so far.

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  14. Hepi Says:

    The project yaVDR might be interesting in this context: It is a HDTV capable PVR software based on Ubuntu + VDR + XBMC that can be installed on HTPCs and recording servers. Just my 2 cents.

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  18. Chris Says:

    I use Mythbuntu and it works a treat. Perhaps this could be folded into Ubuntu core and be a checkbox during installation?

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  20. Nelson Huygen Says:

    Unity might actually work quite well on a television. Now will you please take it off of computers, where it doesn’t?

  21. adicahya Says:

    Hi Mark..

    Please pardon me, but..have you had a plan how this product would fly?
    Is it going to be embedded in the TV, or using using small form factor box like boxee,apple tv or using regular pc attached to the TV?

    Who is the potential carrier?

    and many other things..I read Ubuntu is moving into many new territory, but i haven’t seen the strategy how it would end up in consumers hands.

    This new territory is different from the PC realm. normally we dont change our phone or tablet OS into another one (okay, there is HP touchpad, but thats another story). Well..normally 🙂
    So, the game is different..

    For UI perspective,
    i think Unity can be tweaked for use in television and give a good technology ground based to work with.

  22. Rodrigo Balero Says:

    Very nice ideia, is a new market to explore… But i think that is better use the XBMC and make updates than create a new. I say this because the XBMC is so very good developed and is open source… so why create a new?

  23. manny Says:

    apart from smart tvs , many enjoy today external pre-build media centers/htpc like Boxee or Ruku HD.

    here are some interesting reviews and more info:


  24. Bob Says:

    I suggest a recatch feature to watch TV programs after they are aired. I also suggest an updatable database to remove ads from recordings (ex. remove frames between frame 10 to frame 20, the frame being identified by a checksum of the picture, and the image being searched within a 5 second range). This database could be maintained by the community. This would be a truely great feature!

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