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Under The Covers

Figure 15 shows the motherboard of the MediaMVP. The main processor of the device is an IBM STB02500, which contains a PowerPC core. An SMSC LAN91C113 chip provides Ethernet support. The box contains 16 MB of RAM.

MediaMVP Motherboard -Select image for full-size picture

MediaMVP Motherboard -Select image for full-size picture

As far as software running on the box, it's no secret that the MediaMVP runs Linux internally since Hauppauge advertises the fact on its Website. Various versions of the MediaMVP have been on the market for awhile and there has been quite a bit of active development among open source developers to extend its capabilities. Both replacement servers and alternative firmwares have been developed.

Extensions have been added to make the device interact with other media devices such as Myth TV and ReplayTV. The alternative firmwares can even work without a media server at all by just mounting network drives containing multimedia content. One thing that has made the device easy for developers to experiment with is the fact that it boots across the network. The operating system and all functionality is obtained across the network using the tftp protocol. Many consumer-level embedded boxes hold their software in flash, so making modifications can be a risky operation. One bad flash could render the box inoperable. But with the MediaMVP, a buggy software install can be flushed by just power-cycling the box. At least that's the theory.

In this section of the review, I intended to check out the alternative firmwares to see what they offered. There are a lot of people out there who have successfully modified their boxes, and the screen shots look a lot more interesting than the screens of the stock firmware. So to check the new software out, I downloaded various components and went through a fairly complicated configuration process to set up a specific DHCP configuration, and a tftp server. But when I fired everything up, the MediaMVP would never contact the tftp server running on my Linux box.

I debugged this problem for a while with different computers, configurations, network sniffers, etc. but got nowhere. Eventually I came across some info that indicated the newer versions of the MediaMVP (like mine) had a little bit of a different architecture and handled booting a new way. So I experimented with a completely different way to load an alternate firmware, and it got me a little bit further.

I could see the "Loading Application" message during boot, but then the box would reset and hang up. But even worse, a power-cycle to restore the default firmware didn't appear to bring it back to life. I thought I'd killed it. Oops. Only after I left it unplugged for several minutes did it revive when I plugged it back in. So it looks like support for the newer version is still a bit premature, but I suspect that with time, these newer boxes will be supported just like the older ones.

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