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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
November 16, 2006 -- Keeping the Peace
Status: [CLOSED]

I don't get it. How are you playing content on the PSP over wifi?

matonmacs | Nov 16, 2006 | 11:14PM

GPLv2 is the same license that is used by the Linux kernel and many, many other programs. What are you referring to by the "original GPL"?

If Sun requires copyright assignment, then Sun can also license Java under a proprietary license. Linus Torvalds cannot do this with Linux because contributors to Linux keep their own copyrights.

But Sun won't be able to stop forks. If IBM decides to create its own version of Java using Sun's GPL code they can - they just have to release the source to their changes when they distribute their code.

There is a GPLv3 in the works, but that hasn't been finalized yet; moreover, it certainly wouldn't give Sun any additional special powers to prevent forks.

   --Anil

Anil Somayaji | Nov 16, 2006 | 11:40PM

I live in Japan and have a pretty nice setup in my Mazda MPV, with twin TVs hooked up. To get around the pesky DVD player regions (since I'm in Japan but have American DVDs), I made a hookup for my iPod with video, and it works great. I just chunk it down and use the remote control to watch what I want, or rather, what the kids want (of course).

Peter Payne | Nov 16, 2006 | 11:52PM

On the off chance that anyone cares, here's my setup. It was written up in a Mazda magazine in Japan.

http://images.jlist.com/e7/peter_mpv.jpg

Peter Payne | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:04AM

I've heard that some US cities have VOIP available on wireless networks (think I might have read it here actually) - would it eventually be possible for a Zune to connect to one of these networks as a handset? The whole convergent device thing?

Personally I think Apple will rule the day because iPods have a huge style advantage. Perhaps a consequence of the visibility that derives from this is that they get to set the standards for functionality because people simply don't see the other devices - most of the people I have talked to about their iPods didn't seem to have seriously considered the alternatives, despite there being a number that are cheaper and at least as good.
The iPod is successful because of fashion and possibly simplicity, and I don't think MS can do better on that front (there was a great lampoon of what an iPod box would look like if MS designed it a while ago that sums it up nicely).

I also hope (and see the early signs of) Macs becoming fashionable. Now that PCs are coming out of the realm of the arcane and more users are understanding what they can actually use them for, maybe the market will change to perceive and accomodate products with solid quality and style at a ?reasonable? price. Certainly, some of my end-user friends that have bought Macs seem to associate the switch from Windows to OSX with emerging from darkness and confusion as well. Those "I'm a PC" Mac ads could be taken to indicate that somebody at Apple is thinking about the recent changes in how users perceive PCs.
As an aside on the reasonable pricing thing - I find Macs enticing at their price, and I am accustomed to building my own PC using a knowledge derived from CS and tracking the state of the art and benchmarks. From this I'm inferring that an end user would find them fairly attractive too?

Seth | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:25AM

Anil has it right - the version of the GPL used by Sun is the same one as the version used by the Linux kernel.

If you want to modify Java and *distribute it without source*, then you'd need a special license from Sun. If you're happy to distribute the source you can happily distribute your own version (but probably can't call it "Java"). If all you want to do is change it *without* distributing it, you can do so to your hearts content.

There's a FAQ here: (http://www.sun.com/software/opensource/java/faq.jsp).
It covers the other frequent concern, which is that a GPL Java still allows you to distribute closed-source Java software (there's a specific exception to allow this).

As for the movie player in the minivan, that sounds like a great idea. I need to do something like that before my two year old is tall enough to reach the Wiggles DVDs. ;)

John

John Dalton | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:31AM

Hi Bob:

Am I missing something, how did you fit 53 video shows on to a 4.0 GB flash drive? They must be either very highly compressed, or very low resolution, or both. I am not that familiar with the Play Station Portable player and its technical specs.

I agree, I think that there is a huge untapped potential market for computer servers that could be mounted under a seat, or in the trunk of a car. I have been looking into building a Mini-ITX system that runs on 12 VDC to act as an MP3 server for my car stereo system. But the high cost of the small parts has held me back to far.

I have heard of people having success in mounting 2.5" notebook hard drives into mini-ITX systems in cars. The hard drives have to be properly cushioned to handle the road vibrations.

I would appreciate your comments.

Thanks,

Bill W.

Bill Woelk | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:40AM

I am afraid you confuse GPLv2 (June 1991) with GPLv3 (still not final).

"Or, if you'd like to keep those changes to yourself, it requires negotiating a non-GPL license with Sun, which means you'll have to PAY Sun to USE YOUR OWN CODE."

AFAIK, this is false in most cases. It's true only if you want to distribute the modified Java without providing the source. If you use the modified Java only inside your organization, you don't have to do anything.

IANAL. :)

Ervin J | Nov 17, 2006 | 1:23AM

All,
I finally took a stand and threw my kids' wiggles vids out. I don't mind Murray and Greg, and Anthony is a pretty cool guy (I once saw him at a pub.... NOT wearing a blue sweater), but Jeff is a talentless, smirking pratt.
Dorf

Dorfman | Nov 17, 2006 | 2:43AM

Somehow, the nextgen Zunes will interact with the nextgen XBOX360es much like your minivan video server - games , video , texting , content sharing , etc., but Apple will already be there, won't they - nextgen iPods and iTV box, right? The question is, will the consumers be there , too?

Kevin Kunreuther | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:30AM

> Because this isn't your father's GPL,
> that's why. Sun put Java under GPL v.2,
> which gives the original licensor some
> unique rights.

Gnu GPLv2 is now 15 years old and covers substantially _ALL_ software that's under any version of the Gnu GPL (indeed, I had trouble locating a copy of the text of GPLv1). This has been the case since before the term "open source" entered wide use.

(It's possible that you're thinking about GPLv3 but (a) it's still a draft and (b) it's even more hostile to the sort of co-opting that you describe.)

What Sun's actually done, and what almost no company before them has done, is to bend over backwards to do this right. They've resisted the siren-song of corporate counsel who feel the need to FUD their employer into paying them to invent entirely new legalise, which doesn't interoperate with anyone else's legalise. (My own failure to convince Zawinski that a GPL dual-license was a good thing for Mozilla still smarts; it meant that for the first couple of years of the Mozilla project (until dual-licensing took place, after Zawinski quit), Gnome developers were shut out completely. This experience has perhaps biased me, but to see a major corporate source drop done right is fantastic.)

Further, note that Sun hasn't merely pinned the tail on a politically-correct GPLv2 donkey, they've gone through this in excruciating detail to get it just right. Instead of taking the "obvious" LGPLv2.1 option for the libraries, they've taken note of the existing practice by other open-source Java projects and adopted GPLv2 with "the classpath exception". With respect to the transition period for their own libraries (they hold outright copyrights in the compiler and VM, but the libraries contain encumberances which will take time to remove, so they've not made a library release yet), they've worked with the Software Freedom Law Center to craft a specific exemption that avoids trapping applications atop the standard APIs becoming GPLv2 encumbered when shiped _with_ the open-source Sun VM under GPLv2 and closed Sun libraries.

The legal groundwork that they've done is exemplary; it's really, really impressive. Someone inside Sun has asked some open-source/free-software advocates how it _should_ be done, and then listened very closely to the answer(s).

> Say you extend Java, under GPLv2 the way to
> give your improvements to the world is by
> giving them back to Sun.

No, your obligation is to make the complete source for the modified work available to your own licensees under the terms of the GPLv2. Note that Sun will not accept contributions into their _own_ source tree unless you sign a contribution agreement granting them what amounts to co-ownership. (You lose no rights, other than the right to sue Sun for using your work; Sun gains equal rights.) This is actually a weaker requirement than the FSF itself requires for contributions to the GNU project (they require outright assignment). In Sun's case it allows them to solve the sticky problem of continuing to service their paying customers for whom GPLv2 is a non-option (primarily embedded software developers). I wish I'd known about this variant of dual-licensing in 1998!

(Note also that Sun has the good sense/fortune to own almost the entire JRE+JDK outright; Mozilla had far more encumberances in 1998, so the GPLv2 was never going to work as the only option. They ended up releasing an eviscerated source tree anyway (wouldn't even build), but this is as much about how widespread the encumberances were as about licensing limitations. This takes nothing away from the brilliance of what Sun has actually done.)

> Or, if you'd like to keep those changes to
> yourself, it requires negotiating a non-GPL
> license with Sun, which means you'll have to
> PAY Sun to USE YOUR OWN CODE.

Here copyright and property concepts get a little muddled (and thus Stallman's railing against the term "intellectual property"). If you keep your changes to yourself, or only distribute them within your own organisation, then the GPL does not oblige you to do anything. Indeed it cannot, as a naked license (not a contract/agreement), it cannot impose obligations unless you are performing an act (e.g. distribution) that is controlled by copyright law. Note that "use" is _not_ controlled by copyright law, and therefore not restricted by GPL.

On the other hand, if you want to take Sun's source, create a derivative work and distribute it without GPL obligations then, yes, Sun offers an option which involes money changing hands. Note that the difference with other projects using the GPL (Linux, GNU toolchain, EMACS, ...) is that there is _no_ legal way to distribute your derivate work without GPL obligations (most projects' copyrights are too widespread to get get unanimous consent (not hypothetical; it's actually been tried with the Linux kernel) and the FSF would point-blank refuse), so Sun is providing an additional option (for a fee) not extracting monies for activities that would otherwise be free of charge.

> Under GPLv2 Sun benefits significantly more
> than it would have under the original GPL.

No, GPLv2 was essentially a cleanup of GPLv1.

> Sun controls the code, it controls forking,

No, it doesn't. Anyone is free to fork it tomorrow. Seriously.

> and anyone who wants a special deal has to pay.

True, this option exists. For most projects using GPLv2, anyone who wants a special deal simply can't get one. This plays nicely into the hands of proprietary software developers. Sun's approach avoids this competitive exposure.

> For a product that was generally given away,
> anyway, going with GPLv2 will probably make
> Sun more money -- probably a LOT more money
> -- than the company would have made by
> keeping the source closed.

Perhaps. The JRE+JDK was a loss-leader from the outset; the intent was to get adoption as widespread as possible so that they could sell related products and services. Sadly, they were obsessively focussed on preventing forks, which meant no open-source licensing, which severely curtailed reach amongst their largest natural constituency (developers with horizons wider than "we use it because it comes from Microsoft"). Sun has at last realised this error, realised that trademark law makes it possible to prevent forks from creating confusion, perhaps even realised that the ability to fork is a good thing, not a bad thing (Stallman himself opposed the EGCS changes to gcc, until that group forked gcc, refined the approach and convinced everyone that it was a better approach; Stallman finally relented, so EGCS is now known as gcc version 3).

So, big picture, yes, if opening the most widely used Java implementation (a) releases a lot of pent up demand (there was so much that there are already open-source implementations of most of the JRE+JDK) and, (b) more importantly, leads to the embrace of Java by a lot of open-source developers who have to date carefully avoided it because of Sun's stance, then yes, the platform's presence will enlarge and Sun's related-products-and-services revenue will increase substantially. This is good for Sun, good for the open-source community and good for the free-software movement. In fact it's good for just about everyone except Microsoft.

Roland Turner | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:51AM

Erk! The formatting was lost. A correctly formatted version is here

http://raz.cx/blog/2006/11/sun-java-and-gplv2.html

Roland Turner | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:59AM

Bob,

Take a look at http://www.autumnwave.com/content/view/24/167/ the Autumnwave HD Creator.

Was looking at the Myth TV project when I found this box. It has become the heart of a PVR that has replaced VHS in my home. And, it does HD so I can time shift all my favorite HD shows and not lose a thing.

Gyro,

Gyro-Gearloose | Nov 17, 2006 | 7:53AM

Ah ha! Using a PSP for a playback device. Nice. I have an old (PIII - Windows XP) laptop in the car (Nice to see I'm not the only one doing in car multimedia on the cheap). No screen though, and I'd been trying to mount a a spare LCD so that it could be moved around the car. The config of the dash including passenger side airbag makes this difficult/illegal. What I'd like to find is an RDP client for the PSP, as I don't want to transcode content (Not that it would probably play well via RDP). It's more a case of using the PSP to control playback of audio content from the laptop (Via USB FM transmitter). I think I feel the coming edge of the media content server (For home and mobile) finally coming soon, as non-techie mates are starting to ask "How do I do this?".

Peter Hamilton | Nov 17, 2006 | 8:54AM

I don't get it. Why not just buy a 4GB memory stick, load it up with content recorded/transcoded from MythTV, and put it directly into the PSP? This would eliminate the PC completely.

Steve | Nov 17, 2006 | 9:30AM

w.r.t. the HD Creator, it only supports 480p, which is "barely" HD. Just FYI. I'll stick to my myth box doing 1080i, thanks. ;) </snarky>

Jordan | Nov 17, 2006 | 9:35AM

I'm not sure why you say that using GLPv2 means that Sun "controls forking." That license reads in part: "You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such modifications or work..." as long as you keep the same license and proper attribution. In short, you can fork the code, and people are not required to pay Sun for that.

Joe H | Nov 17, 2006 | 9:41AM

"Or, if you'd like to keep those changes to yourself, it requires negotiating a non-GPL license with Sun"--Robert, this is nonsense. If you modify *and distribute* any GPL-licensed code, *anyone* can ask you for the source code to your changes. That's what you accept by accepting the GPL license. Note that any improvements Sun makes to the code is now immediately available to me as well--it's a two-way street, it's free software. The upside is that I have a few million lines of code tested over a 10-year period on multiple architectures by a huge group of professional programmers the world over--and I can do anything I want with it. I think that's pretty cool.

There are larger issues, like energizing Java development again, letting people create their own languages (or language variations) that are not called Java but which may lead to improvements for the JVM, there's getting closer to the Linux crowd (and forging an inroad in Linux server and desktop development, alongside Mono), plus the opportunity to share some (but probably few) costs by enlisting help from programmers around the world.


Patrick

Patrick Wright | Nov 17, 2006 | 9:46AM

Consumer Electronics Product Designers, Take Notice!

A little video entertainment the family trip can be a very enjoyable experience. For years friends with vans told me how great it was to have TV's. We resisted the advice. Once we tried it we kicked outselves for not doing it years earlier. Okay we had to listen to "George of the Jungle" four times on one trip. But the drive was peaceful, so we have to count our blessings.

In time however your kids will get older and different problems will pop up on those family trips -- the kids won't agree on what to watch. A kid or two will want to play a video game. Others may want to watch a movie. Crisis Time! To address this problem I put in TWO video screens in my van and connected them to a 2-by-2 switch. It is fed with two audio/video sources which can feed either or both TV's. Now my kids can have their cake and eat it too. Our kids now range in age from 12 to 19 and our marathon vacation drives are still peaceful. Ours is an old fashoned WIRED, implementation. The good thing though is my kids can now set up the system themselves for our vacation trips, saving Dad to do more important stuff -- like figuring out how to pack all of the stuff MOM wants to bring. (Traveling light is not in her DNA.)

I REALLY like Bob's approach. The challenge is to keep the cost and complexity low. I wonder if someone makes a WiFi enabled TV monitor, without the PSP electronics. I wonder if a PS2 or Xbox could be rigged to send its audio/video over WiFi inexpensively. I wonder how hard it would be to handle 2 WiFi signals and switch between sources.

One of the things I'd like to do with this new forum, the Cringely Blog, is create branch discussions where people could collaborately develop and improve upon ideas like this. Mr. Cringely has taken a good idea and improved upon it. I suspect a smart team of his readers could take this to an art form.

John | Nov 17, 2006 | 9:51AM

Consumer Electronics Product Designers, Take Notice!

A little video entertainment the family trip can be a very enjoyable experience. For years friends with vans told me how great it was to have TV's. We resisted the advice. Once we tried it we kicked outselves for not doing it years earlier. Okay we had to listen to "George of the Jungle" four times on one trip. But the drive was peaceful, so we have to count our blessings.

In time however your kids will get older and different problems will pop up on those family trips -- the kids won't agree on what to watch. A kid or two will want to play a video game. Others may want to watch a movie. Crisis Time! To address this problem I put in TWO video screens in my van and connected them to a 2-by-2 switch. It is fed with two audio/video sources which can feed either or both TV's. Now my kids can have their cake and eat it too. Our kids now range in age from 12 to 19 and our marathon vacation drives are still peaceful. Ours is an old fashoned WIRED, implementation. The good thing though is my kids can now set up the system themselves for our vacation trips, saving Dad to do more important stuff -- like figuring out how to pack all of the stuff MOM wants to bring. (Traveling light is not in her DNA.)

I REALLY like Bob's approach. The challenge is to keep the cost and complexity low. I wonder if someone makes a WiFi enabled TV monitor, without the PSP electronics. I wonder if a PS2 or Xbox could be rigged to send its audio/video over WiFi inexpensively. I wonder how hard it would be to handle 2 WiFi signals and switch between sources.

One of the things I'd like to do with this new forum, the Cringely Blog, is create branch discussions where people could collaborately develop and improve upon ideas like this. Mr. Cringely has taken a good idea and improved upon it. I suspect a smart team of his readers could take this to an art form.

John | Nov 17, 2006 | 9:51AM

Bob, Ill have the ask the same question as a previous poster. if all the JR PC is doing is acting as a hard drive Why not just put all your content on that portable flash drive and connect to the PSP?

How do Browse the PC from PSP to select your movie?

G | Nov 17, 2006 | 10:32AM

What I like about Bob's using a Wifi enabled portable is that with one portable per kid, each one can play a game, or watch a show of their choice (as long as the file server can keep up). I also like that there doesn't need to be any visable evidence that the system is installed! I'll have to explore this, oh, wait, I don't have kids yet!

Bill | Nov 17, 2006 | 10:43AM

In my opinion, three criteria are essential:
1. Low price
2. Low complexity
3. ANYONE can do it. The key!

Meeting these made Microsoft rich, and failure to meet them keeps Linux a niche player in the consumer market. A simple, cookbook version of Linux and Mythtv would be wonderful. WIBNI I could find a set of hardware/software and instructions that I could reasonably expect to make work? I had no trouble migrating a PC from Win 95 -> OS2 -> Win NT -> Win2K Pro -> Win XP Pro; I am very hesitant to try a migration to Linux. Perhaps I am just insufficiently adventurous.

John B | Nov 17, 2006 | 10:56AM

couple this device with slingbox and verizon, and you will have movies and tv content.

Scott | Nov 17, 2006 | 11:09AM

OK Cringely, you gotta give us more details.


Where are the install instructions for Myth that you used, what tweaks do you do to the install, what wifi adapter are you using for the PSP (because as best I can tell, it doesn't come built-in), what tweaks did you do to puppy linux, and where did you buy your server components?


Your project sounds awesome, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who is intrigued by your design. (I have 2 kids of my own, after all)

Dan | Nov 17, 2006 | 11:14AM
Originally Posted by Jordan
w.r.t. the HD Creator, it only supports 480p, which is "barely" HD. Just FYI. I'll stick to my myth box doing 1080i, thanks. ;)

In response to Jordan, the OnAir Creator can handle all 18 ATSC formats, including 1080i. It displays on your PC or laptop's monitor. The OnAir GT is also a portable, USB-powered version with the 5th gen LG tuner/demodulator.

I am AutumnWave's Technology Manager, and you can feel free to direct any questions regarding the OnAir products to me. We'd even be happy to send Robert Cringely a review unit, if interested.

Thanks!
- Ryan Pertusio

Autumnwave Technical Support
OnAir Solution North America
AutumnWave.com
Ryan Pertusio | Nov 17, 2006 | 11:28AM

Yeah, Bob, you goofed on the GPL comments. GPLv2 is the only GPL anyone has ever used, since the days when Linus Torvalds was still in college.

Sun GPL'ing Java is the real deal. Anyone can download, modify, and redistribute the HotSpot JVM today, and anyone will be able to do the same thing with the full OpenJDK when Sun assembles the pieces for it next quarter.

What they won't be able to do is to make and distribute changes that run afoul of the Technical Compatibility Test Kit while still calling the result 'Java'. Sun is keeping hold of the trademark and the tests that one has to pass to earn the label 'Java'.. and not much else.

Three cheers for Sun on this. Java will finally be able to play the role it deserves in the free Linux environment.

Jonathan Abbey | Nov 17, 2006 | 11:41AM

Hi Bob,

That Norhtec MicroClient Jr. is a really fascinating gadget. Hadn't heard of it before.

Doesn't this more-or-less moot the One Laptop per Child project? Considering that it already exists, and that it can run off DC power, couldn't you load it up with Ubuntu or PuppyLinux, bolt a barebones monitor (and possibly a handcrank charger) to it and call it the sub-$250 One Mini-PC Per Child? Why reinvent the wheel?

Thanks!

Mark S.

Mark | Nov 17, 2006 | 11:57AM

That was fascinating. But why not just drop $250 on a video iPod (or Zune) and send those vids via video out to monitors? All the same benefits, plus you can take the iPod out and use it for portable music anytime you want. An iPod "server" with 80 mb of video would be plenty with your kid DVDs ripped via Handbrake.

Although I know it must have been a fun process of creating a server setup. I get that. Plus you had the WiFi thing going, which gets rid of the cables and makes the monitors into PSP handhelds which also play games. Okay, your way is way better than mine.

Thanks for the article.

Johnny Ringo | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:08PM

Another fast comment, this time about the whole idea of video-in-the-car.

Some recent medical studies have raised questions about possible negative health effects of video screens on children under the age of 3. This isn't the old debate about violence on TV, etc., this is about the potential neurological effects of watching colourful, moving two-dimensional images on still-developing brains.

I'm always a little leery of scare stories like this, but a recent study at Cornell does show some links between (too) early TV-watching and autism:

Here are two links:

Article at Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/id/2151538/

The actual Cornell study:
http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/profiles/waldman/autpaper.html

Mark | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:11PM

Another fast comment, this time about the whole idea of video-in-the-car.

Some recent medical studies have raised questions about possible negative health effects of video screens on children under the age of 3. This isn't the old debate about violence on TV, etc., this is about the potential neurological effects of watching colourful, moving two-dimensional images on still-developing brains.

I'm always a little leery of scare stories like this, but a recent study at Cornell does show some links between (too) early TV-watching and autism:

Here are two links:

Article at Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/id/2151538/

The actual Cornell study:
http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/profiles/waldman/autpaper.html

Mark | Nov 17, 2006 | 12:12PM

Nice article about the MicroClient PSP hookup, but please remove the part about Sun and the GPL because you obviously haven't got a clue what you're talking about. Sorry for sounding harsh but that's some serious FUD you wrote and there will be lots that won't read the comments section and will be left with a very undeserved negative impression.

Quintesse | Nov 17, 2006 | 1:01PM

Interesting little system... However, I had a question... How do you download the content (wirelessly) from the server to the PSP? Are you using RSS? BTW, Sony puts out another gadget called LocationFree which does something similar to what you accomplished at a fraction. The added benefit of LocationFree is that if you have your PSP in a Wifi hotspot, you can access content from your PC.

Shady | Nov 17, 2006 | 1:33PM

The GPLv2 is the standard version of the GPL; _nobody_ uses GPLv1 since around 1991.

Also, nothing in the GPL requires you to pay money to Sun to use your own code, and indeed nothing requires you to give back your changes to GPL software. The only requirement is that if you distribute a modified version of Java, for example, you just provide along with it the source code for any changes you made.

The idea that you'd have to pay Sun for anything, much less to use your own code, is simply absurd and has no basis in reality. I can't even imagine where that came from.

Rob Adams | Nov 17, 2006 | 1:38PM

This is exactly the carputer I wanted to make when the PSP came out! But I couldn't find anyone on the Internet who was even thinking about it, so I figured it must not be (economically, practically, or physically) feasible. Leave it to Bob to find a solution.

Rob Roy | Nov 17, 2006 | 1:51PM

The GPL FAQ at:

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html

is clear. You do _not_ have give your changes to a GPL'ed program back to the original author. You _MUST_ give your source code (including your changes) to any user of your program who asks for it. If nobody uses your modified program except you, you don't have give your modified source to anyone. It's that simple.

Francis Litterio | Nov 17, 2006 | 2:20PM

Love your idea, I would like to make something similar. what I dont get from your article is how you actually stream your videos to psp. you have web server with some add on and you connect to it trough a web browser on PSP? can you publish some more documentation about it?

romanca | Nov 17, 2006 | 3:03PM

GPL v2 is your father's GPL; that version was published in 1991, and it's the same license version used by Linux.

Anyone who wants to extend Java can do so without Sun's permission under GPLv2; though if they distribute their changes, they must (a) release the source code, as required by the GPL (any version), and (b) call it something other than "Java", since Sun owns that trademark.

The real motivation for using the GPL may have to do with attempts by IBM and the Apache Foundation to produce open-source clones of Java. Since the licenses that Sun and Apache use are not compatible with the GPL, they can't borrow code from Sun's implementation to incorporate into their own. (More details here: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html)

Kevin Shaum | Nov 17, 2006 | 3:59PM

Sounds like a job for flash memory! Considering the source material (stuff that would be fine on VHS) you should be able to get a ton of videos on a few USB keys. And they'd be very easy to swap out for new content, or just add a wifi interface and have it sync with your house...

otis | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:11PM

Thanks for the article Bob, and the reference to this mini-ITX gem. Been looking for an efficient and rugged 12 V DC machine... I just wish that little guy came with a DVI port instead of VGA.

Regarding Sun and the GPL, even more interesting to me than this most excellent news about them GPLv2'ing Java (way to go Sun!), is that (A) Sun doesn't seem averse to what's shaping up to be the GPLv3, (B) GNU software (like GCC, glibc, gdb, bash, the coreutils, emacs, etc., etc.) will very likely all go GPLv3 after the license is ready, (C) Linux will very likely *not* go GPLv3, and (D) Sun seems to be at least considering the GPL for Solaris.

If Solaris went GPLv3, we could have a major coup on our hands, namely: GNU/Solaris. With that license, even the mighty FSF would likely recommend Solaris as the currently preferred kernel for GNU (*cough* until HURD is ready *cough*). I bet we'd see a Debian GNU/Solaris in very short order.

I've always heard good things about Solaris (I'm not talking about CDE here), and would love to see Sun go for the brass ring here.

John | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:22PM

I don't read any other comments before I post mine. Did you know that GPLv2 is the same one used by Linux?

I like telling people they are wrong without bothering to see if anyone else has already told them. I hope many more people point out this mistake as well so you can see just how wrong you are.

dead horse | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:30PM

Cring, You got to tell us how you did this. Stream video to PSP. I thought the only way to do this was using Sony's LocationFree box. Spill the beans please.

marc | Nov 17, 2006 | 4:49PM

This misreading of the GPL2 is common, but unfortunate. In short, Sun cannot control forks (you or I or anyone else can fork the whole project tomorrow); but no downstream fork can be un-GPL2-ed (is that a word?) without Sun's consent.

Second, you will never have to pay Sun, nor anyone else, to USE your own code. You'd have to negotiate something with them to DISTRIBUTE the code (of your derived project) without distributing the source.

So, you can freely make all the Java-derived languages you want, and use them all you want, without paying Sun any mind. But if you distribute that binary, and more importantly if you sell it, you must make available the source, also under the GPL2 (hence the 'viral' moniker), or else you will be in violation of Sun's rights under the GPL2 on the original body of code.

In short, you can do anything whatever that you want with it, but without making special arrangement with Sun to allow you additional rights, any of your clever modifications that you distribute must themselves be GPL2ed.

Swampfox | Nov 17, 2006 | 5:47PM

mark "Doesn't this more-or-less moot the One Laptop per Child project? Considering that it already exists, and that it can run off DC power, couldn't you load it up with Ubuntu or PuppyLinux, bolt a barebones monitor (and possibly a handcrank charger) to it and call it the sub-$250 One Mini-PC Per Child? Why reinvent the wheel?"

The MicroClient Jr lacks a battery, the OLPC is designed for very low power usage, including a special display, it has an e-book mode, also mesh networking, a speaker, microphone, video camera and it is all in one rugged, child-friendly unit. All for $140 to start, with the price dropping as volume ramps up.

Eduardo | Nov 17, 2006 | 8:02PM

I think that the MPAA will hate the idea. Totally hate the idea.

As to Java, Sun just dropped a time delayed nuclear weapon on Redmond. Can't wait to see when it goes off!

Wayne | Nov 17, 2006 | 11:08PM

You should have used a Gameboy SP with a movie player adapter (purchased from eBay for about $20). it uses CF cards.

I have a Snapstream box that records to MPEG2, the the movie adapter software comes with conversion software that compresses it down. the system works flawlessly, is much cheaper, and costs a lot less than the PSP, and is much more game friendly for kids. My kids have been using this setup for over a year.

oh yeah, you can rip and convert DVDs too.

Dave | Nov 18, 2006 | 11:08AM

I've only read the first paragraph so far and so this comment is more about parenting than technology. My wife and I made the decision early to NOT have televisions in the car, the kids' rooms, or some separate room for the kids. So far, the kids like to ride in the car (they read books, play games, and sing at outrageously loud volume), have no need for anything other than their toys and books in their rooms, and, in general, are surviving without constant video interaction.

Bob's right here about one thing: don't start down the video in the car path. There is likely no escape. As was said on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, "That remote in your hand is a crack pipe."

And now I think I had better read the article.

Brian | Nov 18, 2006 | 1:10PM

I've taken it one step further than Brian. My kid was behind in reading skills for her age, so I ditched the TV at home. Reading problem solved in 2 months, and no real complaints from the kids.

Rebecca | Nov 18, 2006 | 2:21PM

1) There's a difference between having a TV in a car for a long trip and everyday use. I'd agree watching TV during a quick trip to the store is probably overkill. But on a long trip, it can keep everyone happy during those hours in the car.

2) Sadly there are households where the TV becomes the baby sitter and parent. However in many homes you'll find a normal, well adjusted family where the TV is just a small part of a bigger learning experience.

3) "What" one's kid watches on TV is important too. Some of the childrens programming, especially PBS's is quite good. I've never thought for a moment Sesame Street or Mr Rogers was anything but exceptional.

4) Its important to have these debates. But it more important to keep thing in perspect and to understand the true role of the TV in a given young child's life. When we make too many assumptions or too many generalizations, we can jump to the wrong conclusions. A lot of problems can be traced to a dysfunctional family life and the TV is just one of the symptoms.

5) I noticed a couple very interesting things about Bob's column this week. First, the programming he's recorded for his kids is of high quality. Second, he knows what his kids like and watch on TV. He and Mrs. Cringely are obviously involved in and an important part of their kids lives. Kids ARE going to watch TV. Given this, you can't ask for a much better situation.

John | Nov 18, 2006 | 5:06PM
Because this isn't your father's GPL, that's why. Sun put Java under GPL v.2,

Um. GPL version 2 is what's been in use since 1991. It's the only GPL most people have ever talked about. The only thing Sun added was an exemption allowing use of the Java libraries with non-GPL programs. There's no special stipulation in the license about sending your changes to Sun. It's the same deal as any GPL program—anyone you give changed binaries to must get your source.

Sun did retain trademark control. So you can't call your changed binary "Java" unless it passes their compat tests. There are no other restrictions on keeping your changes or giving them to whoever you want.

name | Nov 18, 2006 | 5:22PM

Ok so you've built the wireless server, pretty cool. But how do you access the content from the PSP? The PSP as far as I know of has no way to access a network location to get the file, how are you accomplishing this?

scott | Nov 18, 2006 | 9:52PM

No hard drive? So, you're stuck with just 4Gb of storage.

You're right about hard drives having to handle the heat, cold, and potholes, but would a USB drive handle a car sitting in the summer sun any better?

What about an iPod? Although it contains a hard drive, it seems pretty sturdy. I've taken mine jogging and driving, and my iPod's hard drive is still going fine. The only real problem is the temperature extreme, but since an iPod is a portable device, simply take it out of the car when you leave.

The best part is that the iPod can be used as a hard disk without any modifications -- just set the option in iTunes. Run the iPod cable from the USB port of the server to the center console. When you connect your iPod, it will automatically mount as a USB hard drive on your Linux server.

Now you'll have 60Gb of storage which should be enough for every episode of every single Nicktoon, Author, Sesame Street, and more importantly, all episodes of the original Star Trek series.

If you're going ot raise geeks, you might as well do it right.

David | Nov 18, 2006 | 9:58PM

Actually, we've found (100s of people on mp3car.com) that hard drives handle the conditions in a car remarkably well. The only problem I ever had was extreme cold in the winter prevented fluid-bearing drives from spinning up in the winter. This could be solved by not living in Minnesota, or not using a fluid dynamic bearing drive.

David | Nov 18, 2006 | 10:15PM

There may be another reason Sun found it advantageous to release the source code for Java. Perhaps they didn't want to expend the resources necessary to fix it. The internal memo in the link below is fairly old, and I have no clue whether any changes at Sun were spawned as a result, but if not, it could be part of their logic.

http://www.internalmemos.com/memos/memodetails.php?memo_id=1321

Dan Henderson | Nov 19, 2006 | 1:44AM

Hey Bob,

I always enjoy your columns, but this one left me wanting more details. I'm working on a similar 'carputer' project (for music, movies, GPS, etc.) and would find a 'How To' of your project useful.

Thanks.

Rand | Nov 19, 2006 | 2:25AM

Thank you very much for mentioning NorhTec and our product. Perhaps I can clarify some details.

There are three USB ports on the product -- one in the front and two in the back.

The WIFI option is $50.00.

The MicroClient Jr runs from 5 volts but we can provide a 12 to five volt switcher if the MicroClient Jr or other device is to be installed in a vehicle.

I would very much like to see photos of your installation.

Sincerley,

Michael C. Barnes
President
NorhTec

Michael C. Barnes | Nov 19, 2006 | 9:39AM

Hello Bob

I'm intrigued by your home $300 Linux Myth-TV PVR setup, can you give us some details of what you put together ?

Thanks - Tony

Tony | Nov 19, 2006 | 9:42AM

>I ditched the TV at home.

TV/Video is optional. For all of us, adults and children alike.

We have a 20-month old at home that has no access to television. We entertain him in other ways. Although I'm not surprised at all by the current research that shows TV/Video is unhealthy for kids of certain ages, I made the decision with my wife based on other reasons.

Growing up my own parents relegated the TV to the basement. We never had a TV in our general living space. We also spent our summers in Wisconsin, where TVs were flat out banned from the cottage. That's three months a year sans TV, but we never missed it. We also didn't miss a TV in the car during the two or three days we spent going to and from the cottage from Colorado. I'm carrying this forward.

Ironically, the most noise we get, my wife and I, regarding our choice to exclude TV from our child's diet comes from friends and relatives. Not surprisingly, these objections come from those that watch TV on a daily basis.

Matthew | Nov 19, 2006 | 10:50AM

You must be very carefull with a product like this. I have been researching this and own a company building media center PC's based on ubuntu linux and MythTV. There are very few legal codecs for linux out there to play DVD's.

Copyright law states that if you decode a DVD without using legal codecs, its a felony. Even more disgusting, if you tell someone or point someone in the right direction to decode DeCSS encrypted DVD's, its also a felony. I wish you good luck on your venture, but you must be using legal codecs to decod the DVD's or you put all your customers and your company at risk. The MPAA is pretty much suing at will these days.

Lon | Nov 19, 2006 | 11:26AM

I don't get it. You are using the PSP to play videos transcoded into H.264 or MPEG-4, right? So why do you need a PC in the van at all? Couldn't you just transcode the videos at home using "PSP Video 9" or some such program that automagically converts any video into a PSP-friendly version, and stick a 4GB Memory Stick Pro Duo into the PSP and play the videos off of that? That PC must be taking up some sorely needed space and battery power when a simple PSP would suffice...

Toasty | Nov 20, 2006 | 2:58AM

OK... but what software do you use to stream the videos on to the psp??.... Id like to try it at home before spending the money on a car video server

Nacho | Nov 20, 2006 | 7:08AM

Actually, you are incorrect about the GPL.

GPL V2 is, bascially, the GPL that almost every project uses when it uses GPL.

It allows one to choose who they are going to send their binary code to but requires them to include all the source code with the binaries.

What this means is that SUN have essentially lost all control of the code because the programmer, in fact, can choose to make changes and distribute the code only to his friends and not even back to SUN. (As long as he doesn't send SUN the binaries.)

SUN, however, may be using the same business plan that the Troll Tech guys do which I think is very clever. They allow anyone to use their project for free (as in libre) but any code that uses their code becomes GPL itself as per GPL v2. If you are not happy about that then they can make a deal with you and make some money that way.

So, its really up to you. If you want to embrace open source and release your code/changes to java under GPL then you can do it for free. If you don't - pay up.

aldebaran | Nov 20, 2006 | 9:06AM

I am guessing Mr. Cringely has a nice MythTV system at home. He's probably recording programs from his local TV stations as they are broadcasted. If you do this for several months, its not hard to build up a nice library of childrens programming.

In this column it sounds like he has built a second MythTV system and copied some of his video library from one system to another. Since Bob mentioned he needed the USB port, I'm guessing he has an external USB disk drive. He probably connected it to his home MythTV box, copied the library, then connected to his van's MythTV box.

If one used a normal TV monitor to in their van, the van's MythTV system would need a TV video card and a lot of CPU power. In this set up it sounds like the MythTV system is just a file server. The video "file" is transmitted by WiFi to the PSP. The PSP electronics changes the bits to a viewable programming.

Since Bob is taping programs broadcasted over the airways (or cable?), he is doing the digital encoding on his MythTV box. There are no copy protection codes for him to circumvent. I'm guessing he has a 100% legal setup and fully meets the "fair use copying" rights...

Our kids are older now, but when they were younger we'd put in a (temporary) video system in the van for vacation trips and play lots of VHS tapes. Kids and cars and hot parking lots are rough on tapes. On one trip we destroyed our copy of Little Mermaid. It was out of distribution and Disney very graciously offered to replace it for $300, an offer I didn't accept. After four kids and several years, I have a box full of damaged tapes in the basement.

I understand the need for the entertainment industry to protect their copyright property. However there are legitimate needs for "fair use" copying within a household. Those cute little, inquisitive, peanut butter covered fingers can do a lot of accidental (and very expensive) damage to tapes and dvd's. If I still had young kids I'd probably have a setup similar to Bob's.

Today my kids play a lot of video games. Their CD's and DVD's do get damaged. However some of the game makers will replace damaged media at a reasonable price.

In actual, real world use we've found DVD's don't work as well in a car as did VHS tapes. It would be nice to be able to make a tape copy, but that is forbidden. It would be nice to load up a DVR with programming, but that is discouraged. I am amazed the entertainment industry has become to consumer, family hostile. But that is another story....

John | Nov 20, 2006 | 12:49PM

very awesome idea to say the least! how did you connect the psp to the server? wifi, but what program to get the psp to show the video, thanks if poss.-shawn

shawn | Nov 20, 2006 | 2:55PM

Hate to sound repetitive, but I, too, am really curious about how the PSP accessed, selected and received the WiFi-sent audio and video from the server?

adam | Nov 20, 2006 | 4:00PM

As usual, Bob is a better man than I. Not only for thinking of putting it in the car (I only beam within the house), but for getting puppy linux to work with Wi-Fi, a feat which I have yet to accomplish.

Sam Moshe | Nov 20, 2006 | 5:31PM

there is currently no way to stream video to the psp

Chris First | Nov 20, 2006 | 5:47PM

there is currently no way to stream video to the psp

pimpstreamer ;-00

scott | Nov 20, 2006 | 6:38PM

> I bet we'd see a Debian GNU/Solaris in very short order.

There is Nexenta - OpenSolaris Kernel, Debian/Ubuntu packaging. Check it out at http://gnusolaris.org/

mattm | Nov 20, 2006 | 6:40PM

I was going to comment on your misunderstanding of the whole GPL thing but several people did it better than I would be able to.
I can't wait for your next column to see how you're going to explain this goof. :-)

I'm still your fan.

Gutavo Chaves | Nov 20, 2006 | 8:57PM

The "single USB port" excuse for spending 70$ on the WiFi isn't quite convincing - you could get el-chipo USB splitter to get the same effect, couldn't you?

Amos Shapira | Nov 20, 2006 | 10:49PM

> > I bet we'd see a Debian GNU/Solaris in very short order.
>
> There is Nexenta - OpenSolaris Kernel, Debian/Ubuntu packaging.
> Check it out at http://gnusolaris.org/

Thanks for the link. From the Nexenta front page:

'At the moment, Nexenta is not part of the [WWW] Debian Project. Our packages are not present in the Debian database. We are hoping that in the future this will change and our packages will get their "upstream acceptance".'

So, it sounds like Nexenta would make a great start for Debian GNU/(Open)?Solaris. Currently, I don't see it there in the "Non-Linux ports" section of http://www.debian.org/ports/ .

John | Nov 21, 2006 | 12:33AM

It's pretty simple. Bob is using PSP homebrew, most likely pimpstreamer to stream the videos to his PSPs.

Stock PSP firmware has Video RSS, but that just downloads the whole movie to your memory stick first, which I doubt is what he is doing. Believe me, aside from buying a LocationFree TV box, you can't stream video to your PSP right now on stock firmware (at least nothing that I could find).

shaz | Nov 21, 2006 | 8:32AM

Um, Bob, you have the GPL wrong.

"Under GPLv2 Sun benefits significantly more than it would have under the original GPL. Sun controls the code, it controls forking, and anyone who wants a special deal has to pay. For a product that was generally given away, anyway, going with GPLv2 will probably make Sun more money -- probably a LOT more money -- than the company would have made by keeping the source closed."

"The original GPL" only lasted two years. Anything GPL licensed since 1991 is GPL2. Mentioning the original GPL is irrelevant to this argument, because anyone mentioning GPL licensed code in any relevant sense means the current version of the GPL. GPL3 is still in development, and is not a usable license at this point in time.

Under the GPL, Sun does not control forking. Once a GPL code release has been made, anyone has all four freedoms with respect to the code that has been released. The essential safety of the GPL, for the user, is that any GPL release can be forked anytime, for any reason. It is impossible to pay Sun for a "special deal" to proprietarily restrict GPL code. Sun has, in fact, surrendered a degree of control over their code.

While Sun "gave away" its JRE binaries to end users, they were not free in any meaningful sense under the GPL. They were available for end-use, provided you accepted Sun's terms on what you could do with the binary. Free software is not about giving away software, and I would have thought that Bob Cringely would have more clue. Please get one, they are readily available. Google "free beer speech".

The GPL is not about money in any meaningful sense. It is not a business method, but a code license. The GPL licensing of Java means one thing with respect to Sun: they cannot use the secrecy of their code as an exclusionary force with which to make money. They must find some other value with which to convince customers to pay them money.

iceman | Nov 21, 2006 | 11:04AM

Hard drives designed for use in automobiles; check out the specks on these:
Seagate EE25
Hitachi Travelstar A4K20

I found these looking for hard drives that could be used in traffic control / toll monitoring systems that will be located in harsh environments without any heat and air conditioning. I found out while talking to them that these drives are intended for use in automobile applications, and that unless we planned on ordering a minimum of 10,000 per month, the could not suggest a distributor that could sell to us.

I found on PriceWatch the Industrial specs version of the hitachi drive (A4J20 only went down to 0 degrees instead of -20) being sold by one distributor for about $600.

Anyway, we did not use these drives, we chose to do the system diskless, with connectivity to a backend server that could be air conditioned.

Exothermicus | Nov 21, 2006 | 8:54PM

Bob, you must turn this into a complete walkthrough guide, the entire PSP scene is now reading your site and asking for it.

Warmaster | Nov 21, 2006 | 10:15PM

Open-sourcing Java was less about hurting Microsoft and more about slowing down IBM. IBM has been dominating the JCP of late; between Jikes and Eclipse, IBM was well on its way to hijacking Java.

Adopting the GPL for Java was the equivalent of a scorched-earth retreat. Whether Sun can monetize Java services is another story.

Rob Menke | Nov 22, 2006 | 1:00AM

MS Zune is a mediocre product at best. But as Mr. Cringely pointed out, MS's goals involve market entry at this point. Only after several version will we be able to see what kind of clout the Zune receives from the buying public. But my guess is MS is working on a portable gaming system that will include video AND music capabilities. The Zune is just their first "prototype" into the hand held arena.

zak | Nov 22, 2006 | 10:40AM

I am mystified as to why Cringely presents GPL v2 as something new and/or revolutionary. "Not your father's GPL?" GPL v2 was released in 1991, two years after GPL v1, and I doubt that anything meaningful has been released under v1 in the past decade.

d p | Nov 29, 2006 | 7:54PM

The GPL v2 does not require negotiating a separate licence for adding your own code. You only need to negotiate a new licence if you can't/don't want to comply with the GPL's terms. As far as modifications go - the GPL requires you to share your changes if you are distributing a modified product. In other words - you either ship the modified product (your code + Sun's) under the same GPL licence, or you don't distribute it (i.e. - and in-house version), or you negotiate a different license. Note this only applies if you're working on the Java JVM code itself - not on Java programs running on top.

Doug | Nov 30, 2006 | 1:29PM