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Additional Services

I won't have room in this review to cover all the features, but the ioBox has a number of what it calls "Web Services". These are basically references to web sites on the Internet that you can display via the unit. Syabas has included a collection of services for nice display on the ioBox with pages for various video sites such as YouTube, MediaFly, and Blip.tv, as well as Internet radio stations and photo web sites such as photobucket and Picassa (Figure 9).

Web Services

Figure 9: Web Services

And if you can't find what you want in the list, there's a way to add your own links. Bear in mind that the web "browser" that is used isn't quite up to the standards you'll find on the desktop, so some pages may not display properly.

Under the Covers

Figure 10 shows the main board of the ioBox.

Main Board
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Figure 10: Main Board

You can see the big heat sink that keeps the box from having to use a fan. This obscures most chips on the board, but fortunately, the main CPU is documented to be a MIPS-based Sigma Designs SMP8635. You can take a look at all of the GPL software included by downloading the files from here. There are a number of documented ways to get a root command-line, so I installed a Telnet daemon by following the instructions here that worked fine. Once in, I could see a fairly typical embedded Linux distribution with busybox used for utilities, Samba used for Windows file-serving support and Apache for a web server. I could also see that the Linux kernel was version 2.6.15.

Closing Thoughts

So, will this box be replacing my hacked AppleTV as my family's media-player of choice? Not for now. I don't have enough HD content yet to worry about, and the ioBox user interface pales in comparison to my AppleTV. As for a price comparison, the ioBox can be had for about $220 without a drive, and an 18 month warranty, while the AppleTV starts at $220 with a 40GB drive and one year warranty. But you'd have to hack your AppleTV to get anywhere near the level of file-format support that the ioBox has, and even then you'll never get 1080p playback.

The bugs that cropped up now and then in the ioBox were a bit annoying, but obviously the box does have a lot going for it. Its ability to play a wide variety of content including DVD rips and 1080p movies was very nice. I liked being able to get content from UPnP AV servers, local disks or standard file shares. And its developer friendliness means that we may see a lot more interesting plug-ins and user interfaces cropping up. I'll really keep an eye on the Movie Jukebox server since it comes closest to what I'm getting out of my AppleTV as far as movie artwork and metadata. But as mentioned, the downside to this model is that the Movie Jukebox has to be on the server-side, which means running a separate computer just to serve content to the ioBox.

Regardless, I enjoyed using the ioBox, and I'll be keeping an eye on the NMT platform as it evolves and gets more functionality from its active developer community. Is the ioBox right for you? As usual, that depends on your needs. But if you have a lot of varied content to play and aren't into hacking, you might give the ioBox a try!

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