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Readers sound off on Linux in the living room

Feb 01, 20062 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Do you care whether it's Linux in your home theater?

Last week’s newsletter on Linux moving to a cable/digital set top box near you drew more reader response than I expected.

The newsletter reported on recent developments at Motorola and Cisco, the two leaders in the set-top box market for cable TV and next-generation IPTV devices. (Yes, Cisco in your living room; it bought Scientific-Atlanta in November 2005 for almost $7 billion).

Linux already runs the ultra-popular TiVO DVR product, and both Cisco and Motorola appear to be counting on Linux as the platform for building set top boxes. Here’s what readers had to say about it:

“While I think it’s cool that TiVO runs Linux, the operating system is not what’s important in this case,” wrote one reader. “TiVO is to the DVR what iPod is to the MP3 player because they create an elegantly simple user experience. While their interface has limitations, TiVO made sure that anyone could set up and use their product. Experience with Comcast’s poor attempt at providing similar features as TiVO highlights how much a well-designed interface matters. So while being Linux-based makes practical sense, and geeks like me love that TiVO is Windows-free, it was the user experience that hooked me on TiVO.”

Another reader agreed with this line of thinking: “If home electronics equipment were to remain, as they have in the past, discrete, single-purpose devices, it wouldn’t really matter. But that isn’t likely to be the case. Devices will [become] networked and interface with each other; so open standards are essential to ensure reasonable compatibility … Furthermore, interoperability will help reduce the cost to the consumer for equipment since components and software can be used broadly across the market.”

Finally, another reader voiced the opinion of the true hacker, and home electronics consumer: “Even as a geek, I only care if I can get into [the operating system of a set top box] and either automate or modify its user interface. If I can’t do anything with it, then by definition, I am only a consumer and all I care about is: does it work? Can I use it? How much does it cost?”