Discuss any specific to the Community/Developer edition of the Zonbu OS: installation, modification, or running within a virtual machine.
The zonbu looks like it might have the makings of a great little basic media center pc for dvd's mp3s, mpeg4,s recording tv surfing the web etc. Its small, quite and I think cheap, I could use a regular PC but they are big, noisy and ugly. I have put my initial thoughts in this post, comments welcome.
I've looked around and I can't find a cheaper way of getting the hardware of the zombu. Alternatives such as http://www.linutop.com/
are more expensive and buying the components from scratch (at least in the uk) looks much more expensive i.e. £200 ($400) for an equivalent motherboard - the price of the zombu itself! The outcome would be much uglier too.
Pricewise it looks like a good option?
The hardware looks ok too but I will need to investigate the MPEG 2 / 4 capabilities of the VIA CX700M2 UniChrome PRO II in more detail. I think the CPU should be good enough for everyday use see:http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Hardware#CPU_3
It should be pretty easy to connect it to a digital tv signal via one of these:http://www.linuxtv.org/wiki/index.php/DVB-T_USB_Devices
provided the driver works.
For all the media files and external network or usb hard drive would work, but an internal drive looks like it might work too by the looks of things.
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Zonbu cannot do half of what you are talking about.See this discussion eariler.
The Zonbu can, and does, play mp3s, mp4s, and other common media types. The Zonbu, however, is not very good at playing these files off of USB drives (which is where they would need to be, since it only has 4 GB of local storage in itself, and most of that is already used. And if you want to watch a movie, you're talking about a very large file - too download and then play from remote storage. In fact, the relatively small media files I tested it with (in the 200 - 300 MG range) were impossibly slow to get from remote storage. As soon as they were downloaded, they were being removed again. And the process took HOURS, (it wasn't my connection - I have 5Mbits/second.) I was told by Zonbu officials that I was "pushing the limits" of the remote storage concept with my 200 MB files. To put that into context, a DVD quality movie is over a GB, and HD movies are, of course, bigger. Add to that stereo surround sound, subtitles, etc. - it gets huge. And that's just one movie.
I personally have had crazy problems with using USB storage. And other people have reported problems trying to play media files off of USB drives. To put that
Also, a pretty essential part of a Media Center PC (Home Theater PC, Set Top PC, etc.) would be a DVD reader - if not a DVD burner. The Zonbu doesn't even have a CD-ROM.
The software that comes with it does not help much either. There's nothing to capture video. There's nothing to record TV. There's nothing to watch TV. And you cannot install *any* software at all. Most of the programs won't even let you install extensions (Firefox is a very welcome exception).
You can't install drivers. You can't upgrade existing software. It's a walled garden. You get what they give you and that's it.
It's not bad, really, it's designed that way on purpose. But just know what you are getting. This is by no means a typical Linux box. This thing is more Apple than Apple.
Now, there are other places to get similiar boxes - usually for less than a non-subsidized Zonbu. If you were wanting to use just the hardware - (which, to do any of what you're talking about, you would) - the Zonbu mini would cost $299. You could get a much more powerful box for that. You could get an AppleTV for that. (And, come January 15, there's probably going to be a 2.0 version, so keep an eye out.) There are plenty of guides online on how to make your AppleTV do what you want it to, (even run full OS X, or Linux). And there are other options, like Fit-pc (fit-pc.com), and others (I've covered this a few times on the forum, so feel free to look up my posts for links.)
But basically - no - in no way is Zonbu a good idea for a Media Center anything. It's too underpowered, has no storage, no optical drive, you can't install your own software, and the unsubsized cost is equal to or greater than devices that were designed for the task.
You might want to check out MythTV, or SageTV, or - hey -you can get a TiVo for $99 with a monthly fee (just like Zonbu). An Xbox 360 hacked to run Linux - or even an old Xbox - they work, too. There are tons of better, cheaper, easier options out there for a Media Center device than the Zonbu.
The small size, silence, and smart appearence of the Zonbu would be ruined by all the crap you'd have to add to it to make it do what you want it do. (An external hard drive, external DVD drive, external TV in, external TV out, no bluetooth - so no completely wireless keyboard, no IR - so no remote, unless you get a USB model, then there's another external thing to add.... See my point?)
I will say this - the case is nice. The case would work great for a set top box. But not the insides - and definitely not the OS.
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stonemonkey: as you may have noticed, Chad flames Zonbu every time he posts on these forums. Please remember that this is the experience of one user. I agree that he encountered some problems but he's a very isolated case.
We have many others customers using Zonbu as a media center and being very happy with it—just search the forums.
Since you appear to have a strong Linux experience, all I have to say is: remember that Zonbu is designed as a closed system, for a hassle-free experience. It's not a toy for hackers. If you like that concept, buy it.
Zonbu Engineering Team
Please don't send me private messages for support requests.
Post to the adequate forum OR write to email@example.com
- Zonbu Engineering
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I resent you saying I "flame" the forums. I merely answer honestly.
Zonbu is not designed to be a media center. Zonbu employees have told me as much. Zonbu is what Zonbu is. Use it for what it was used. I believe it was you, who told me that my 200MB media files were "pushing the limits". So, if quoting Zonbu representatives is considered "flaming" - then I'm guilty.
I'm trying to be realistic here. The Zonbu is a cool device - but its strength is not the hardware - or even the OS. The strength is the service. It's the "hassle-free experience," as you put it. It's the automatic updates, automatic backups, customer support - which up until I was just called a flamer of the forums, was great - and the warranty. You can't be beat on any of those. Well, the automatic updates can be handled better, I think - the whole buggy Firefox 18.104.22.168 thing still floors me. But the concept of maintance free computing is incredible.
That's what Zonbu is. It's a maintance-free, worry-free, completely supported device. It's not a Media Center. It's not even close. Do some people use it to watch videos? Apparently so. Can any computer built in the last 12 years play music? Absolutely. That doesn't make it a media center. A media center PC can play, pause, and record live TV. A Media Center PC has a remote - and not just for controlling the TV part - the remote can control the TV shows, DVD movies, ripped movies, Internet Radio, FM radio, mp3s, etc. A Media Center PC can play, rip, and burn DVDs. A Media Center PC has a TV tuner and possibly even an FM tuner. A Media Center PC can plug into your TV. A Media Center PC has stereo surround sound. A Zonbu can't do any of those things. And, yes, I know - not every Media Center PC does all of those things. My point is, they do *some* of those things.
Now, could you buy a Zonbu, install a different OS, plug in a bunch of external devices, and get it to do some, maybe even all of those things? In theory, I'm sure it could be done. My point is - that's not what it was designed for - and there are tons of other devices that are designed for that stuff that already exist, on the market, in one box, and they are usually cheaper - especially when you consider the added cost of all the extra do-dads you'll have to buy to get the Zonbu to do any of those things.
It's not an attack on the Zonbu. Maybe it comes across that way, if so, I am sorry. It's no more of an attack on Zonbu than saying that a MacBook sucks as a game console is an attack on Apple. A MacBook isn't designed to be a game console. The installed OS (Mac OS X) doesn't have a large number of games for it. The hardware does not have a lot of graphics power (shared video RAM). It doesn't have TV out. It does come with controllers. It doesn't come with emulators (although you can download them free). It isn't as portable as a DS Lite or PSP. It doesn't do BluRay or HD-DVD. I could go on and on. It sucks as a game console. But it's not designed to be a game console. Could you hack it to be one? Could you install emulators? Could you buy controllers? Could you buy a Mini-DVI-to-HDMI adapter? Could you install Windows XP or Vista? sure - you could do all those things. But it would be cheaper, easier, a more productive to buy a freaking Wii, 360, or PS3 than it would to buy a MacBook plus all that stuff. Doesn't make a MacBook a bad thing to own - just a bad Game System.
Zonbu isn't a bad thing to own - it's just a bad Media Center.
As fas me flaming the forums - based on some of the answers I've gotten about how to improve the software on Zonbu - it seems pretty clear to me that you have no interest in making Zonbu a Media Center PC. Any suggestions I have about adding multimedia functionality are met with "what we have is good enough" or "that's too complex for the end user" or "that's not what we're trying to do here." And yet, when it comes to making a sale - Oh, heck yeah, the Zonbu is a GREAT media center PC!
Maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe I'm misreading what is being said to me or to people who want to buy one. --- Maybe you are misreading me.
I'm glad you added Inkscape - that was almost an afterthought of a suggestion, but you took it, and I'm grateful. I'm glad you finally upgraded Firefox to a stable release. I'm glad you turned off the Firefox preload thing. Thank you.
However, refusing to add Miro - which would go leaps and bounds towards making the Zonbu a more media-centered computer - makes me think it's not what you want to do. Refusing to use VLC instead of media player makes me think being able to play literally anything isn't a goal of yours. Not adding Audacity right away makes me think that being able to edit audio on a professional level isn't a big deal for Zonbu right now. Refusing to use Flock instead of Firefox, (Flock has all kinds of "hooks" for media - it ties into Flickr, YouTube, and other user-generated content media) again makes me think media isn't big on Zonbu's "To-Do".
You said it yourself, Zonbu isn't a toy for hackers. It's not meant for the "roll-your-own" crowd. When one such minded person comes here asking for advice, as an outsider (I don't work for Zonbu or any of their competitors - I don't make a dime no matter what anyone buys or doesn't buy) I can offer a 3rd party voice to the discussion. I know of other Linux-based, and non-Linux-based solutions out there that people might be interested in. That's part of the appeal of web 2.0 shopping - user reviews. That's what makes Amazon so great. It's not just incredible selection and low prices - it's the fact that if I buy something there and it sucks, I can tell people that it sucks, and recommend an alternative. And if I buy something there and it's great, I can try to talk them into buying it. Not because it benefits *me* for them to buy it - but because I believe it will benefit them.
Zonbu is a great device for what it's for - basically a second computer. One for the kids to do homework on, and surf facebook and watch YouTube (again, why I wish you'd add Flock). One for the downstairs (if your main PC is upstairs - or upstairs if your other is down). A terminal PC for guests, or something like that. Just a way to jump online, do some light office work, and maybe play a few games of solitaire or something. It's great for people who know very little about computers, because you can't break it. It's a great gift for n00b relatives that need to get online - but don't need to be calling you 12 times a week. I could go on and on. It's not a workhorse. It's not a media center. It's not a game console. It is what it is. And it is great at what it is.
Ever watched the original "Miracle on 34th Street"? When the real/Macy's Santa Claus told the lady that the competitor had the toy she was looking for in stock - and it was cheaper there - she told the manager. The manager got upset and started to apologize - when the lady stopped him and said "Are you kidding? He is amazing! I'm shopping at Macy's from now on!"
It was the honesty about what they had, what they offered, and what *other people* offered that won that customer's loyality. It wasn't price - the other store had the toy cheaper. It wasn't selection - Macy's was sold out. It was the fact that the store (seemed to - it was really Santa Claus - not the store) cared more about getting the customer what they really wanted for the best price - even if that meant sending them down the street. The store cared more for the *customer* than for its bottom line. That worked. (at least in the movie.) And it works for Amazon. And it works for Buy.com. And it works for dozens of other sites that allow sincere users reviews - and links to competitors for price/feature comparison.
I had a professor that said "The truth doesn't fear a challenge." And if the product you offer - the Zonbu and all it entails - is a good product (and I believe that it is) - then you shouldn't worry about me saying "If you want a Media Center PC - buy a Media Center PC, not a Zonbu." In fact, you should agree with me. Actually - you should say it *first*. You're not selling a media center. You're not selling a hacker's toy box. You're selling a hassle-free, environmentally friendly, no-worries PC that just works. Sell that. Don't sell it as something its not. If you think I'm a troll - you haven't seen what some people will do when they think a company has lied to them or talked them into getting something that won't do what they want it do it.
You want a DVR - buy a Tivo. You want a media-center extender - buy a Xbox 360. Want one for Mac - buy an AppleTV. Want something without a subscription that's a stand-alone? Buy a Windows Media Center - or a MythTV box. If you want a quiet, hassle-free, tiny computer for basic computer stuff? Get a Zonbu. Order now. Operators are standing by. Call today!
It that makes a me a flamer of the forums - then, as Johnny Blaze would say - "Flame on!"
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So, I think the conclusion from all the above should be that the Zonbu is not an All-in-one, do everything device. It solves a specific problem of 'hassle-free' end user everyday computing very well in my experience so far.
Realistically then, your media PC should be another computer:
1) It is a server, meaning it is always on and providing sharing services to workstations. Because it is always on, it should be low power like the Zonbu.
2) It connects to other devices like a TV, stereo, speakers, a printer, or USB storage. Therefore it needs to be conveniently situated in your living space and so, like the Zonbu, must be quiet and preferably small too.
3) Unlike the Zonbu, this is not the computer your kids or parents are using so it doesn't need the pretty interface or to be locked down in terms of the application selection. You do want a lot of flexibility to experiment, so this should be running a distro you feel confident in delving into. I use Debian.
For example, and definitely in the roll-your-own department, this kit for building a tiny, quiet, Via C7 system will be released in January:http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/embed ... dex.jsp#a9http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS4473724652.html
You could buy your media player software from these guys:http://www.imedialinux.com/
If one doesn't want to get into installing and administering a Linux computer, this solid-state Linux-based media capture/player device might fit the bill:http://www.neurostechnology.com/
I don't own this but know someone who does. He showed me a neat feature: you can browse and play media files on SMB (Windows) shares. You operate it from a remote that controls a screen on your TV. It can capture to various non-DRM formats.
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Chad, I want to thank you for your informative posts to this forum. You seem to have a solid grasp of the Zonbu ecosystem. Your even-tempered response was well-said. Zonbu should cherish having the support of users like you, but I can understand how such negatively-phrased verbiage might rub the Zonbu staff the wrong way. Personally, I enjoy your frank honesty.
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