Using the XBox 360 as an HTPC with uShare

Posted on October 16, 2007
Author: Sean Potter
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5
Tags: HTPC, uPnP

The Future

We had the opportunity to interview Benjamin Zores, the developer of uShare. We got inside his head and found out where uShare started and where it was going in the near future. BIOS_LEVEL: First off, we'd like to thank for uShare's XBox 360 compatibility. Ben Zores: Thanks, although XboX360 compatibility isn't uShare's strongest point. BL: To start off, can you tell us a little more about yourself and your involvement with GeeXboX? BZ: I'm one of the GeeXboX original authors (2 were involved) and I'm leading the distribution for over 4 years now. I can be seen as main developer and team manager. I'm also involved in a few other OSS that GeeXboX makes use of, such as MPlayer and FFMpeg, and of course, other OSS i've created, uShare being one of them. BL: Were there any reasons aside from GeeXboX that prompted the development of uShare? Was XBox 360 or Playstation 3 compatibility planned from conception? BZ: Actually, uShare was designed (and released) way before XboX 360 and PS3 came out iirc. For the little story, I used to work on UPnP A/V protocol for some job in the past. Although I don't like much the protocol itself, it became some kinda industrial reference and was pretty easy to set up. I've then decided to create an open-source media server based on my own experience and, once done, added ways to GeeXboX to play contents served by uShare. I have no idea how XboX 360 support works actually Wink I never had access to one (nor did I even see one in person, even remotely. I just did some hacks around the protocol based on various info I was able to retrieve and a few contributions and bug fixes I received. To be honnest I don't even have access to any [hardware] UPnP player to test uShare with. These days, I'm much more interested in PS3 support as I own one but also as it's the first devices with DLNA support and I wanted uShare to be compliant with it. BL: How much feedback do you get about uShare? Is it mostly positive? BZ: Since a few months I get a lot of feedback on uShare and it's mostly positive. I also receive a lot of feature requests (transcoding capabilities, better support ...) but I'm mostly lacking of time and manpower to have them all implemented. I was however in touch with CELF (Consummer Embedded Linux Forum) members and some companies that would like uShare to be extended. As you can see, the feeling is pretty good for a software a did so quickly (and that never meant to be that famous). BL: What were the challenges of designing a upnp server and working to make it DLNA-compliant? BZ: Doing a UPnP A/V compliant Media Server is not that difficult. One probably comes from the UPnP protocol itself. It's way too open and flexible. As a result, many device manufacturers implement their own services extensions (thank you again Microsoft for your useless registration service) and it's quickly become a mess to have a compliant product. DLNA can be seen as a professionnal, restricted, UPnP A/V design. It fully relies on the same protocols than UPnP A/V but avoids all this annoying flexibility, forcing devices to stick to some norm, which is a good idea. The DLNA consortium members however did make a certain amount of choices that I personally find ridiculous, such as restraining to some specific audio/video profiles for codecs and containers, but that's how the protocol is. The biggest problem is that DLNA specifications aren't free (5000$ or so iirc). Thanks to CELF however, I've been granted them and I'm now working on having a much better DLNA support in uShare than the dirty hack that comes with 1.0 version. BL: Now that uShare has reached the 1.0 milestone, what are future plans for the project? BZ: Complete DLNA support through libdlna, a side project of mine, with DLNA guidelines implementation, that uShare (and hopefully other media servers) will make use of. Once done, I'd like to have uShare officially DLNA certified. I'd also like to see transcoding capabilities, more runtime file discovery and stuff like that. BL: Will we ever see a GUI, or, more importantly, some form a media adapter with transcoding? We know this would probably require a fairly powerful server to transcode and serve up the stream at the same time, but it would still be a great feature. BZ: Transcoding will probably be implemented within libdlna. I'm not dropping the GUI idea either. Currently uShare features a WebUI (that can be extended) but I wouldn't object to having some GUI (but using a client/server approach). I unfortunately haven't time for that, but contributions are welcomed. BL: How much outside support do you get in terms of patches or even new features? BZ: That's one of the biggest problems. I receive a lot of mails and a lot of feature requests but really few patches. I've mostly implemented all major features by myself. I have however received many very valuable contributions from various people that help me fix a lot fo bugs, enhance memory footprint, make XboX360 support actually work or gave me first DLNA overview. BL: Are there any projects working to extend uShare that you're aware of? BZ: No directly, but libdna (http://libdlna.geexbox.org/) is what I'm working on right now. Once I'll have completed all DLNA A/V profiles, I'll make some 0.1 release and uShare 1.1 will come out, with a much better support for DLNA as a result. For the record, libdlna makes use of FFMpeg to determine input files profiles so I intend to use it to be able to transcode too. BL: Thanks for your time, and more importantly, thank you for uShare. Is there anything else you want readers to know about uShare? BZ: Yeah, send me patches =D Your opinion (being good or not) is always welcomed and if you're motivated in helping me extend uShare, just join the development.

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