By Robert Menta- 11/28/01
We spend a considerable amount of ink on MP3 audio players, so it certainly gets our attention when something unique comes our way. In this case it is the reminder that the MP in MP3 stands for motion picture and that this digital format we listen to is just the audio extract of a video compression scheme.
But then those who regularly trade movies over services like Morpheus and Gnutella are fully aware of that. They are also aware that the movies they download are not as easy to liberate from their system as the tunes they trade. That is until now.
Enter Bokks, a Linux-powered movie and music portable developed in Sweeden by Blokks AB. Connecting directly to your broadband service via Ethernet, the Bokks hooks up to your TV set where you can view those movies beyond the confines of your computer screen.
Measuring a compact 10.2" x 6.3" x 1.2" (260 x 160 x 30 mm) the unit has a 20GB hard drive for storing files. Once a collection of movies are downloaded, the player can easily be disconnected and carried anywhere there is a television for convenient viewing. The company bills the Bokks as a personal video recorder, but the unit is actually a bit closer to a specific-function laptop that uses a TV for its display.
After the unit is set up and configured, the user can surf the Net direct from their television using either the player's remote or optional wireless keyboard. The first step is to download and install your favorite P2P program that offers a Linux version. Once you have that, you can begin trading movies direct from the box.
Television screen shot of the Bokks
The Bokks will also connect to your PC via USB to transfer files you have already collected. Since the Bokks appears as a shared directory on your system, you can download through the PC direct into the units hard drive. For those without a broadband connection at home, the Bokks can utilize the T1 connection at work this way where movies and music can be saved and watched at home later.
The convenience of the Bokks certainly won't make the folks over at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) very happy. They watched portable MP3 products fuel music file trading and now comes a product that can do the same for video. Still, there is no reason for the MPAA to panic yet.
Let's face it, the computer is not the most comfortable place to watch flicks from, and they look small on a 17" screen. This along with long download times has limited the appeal of trading movie files for many. A product like the Bokks is a step to improve that experience, but the quality of the movies available on the Net are still quite limited due to bandwidth considerations. The unit's 20GB hard drive is ample for permanently storing music files, but movies take up a lot more space. This means most users will tend to watch and delete movies after they fill the player with a collection of favorites, something that is less a threat to the movie industry.
Versions of the Bokks with larger storage capacity will eventually appear, but with the average movie running over 300MB, even something as large as a 125GB drive will only hold a couple hundred movies. Hard drives are also not a permanent medium, so until DVD burners become much cheaper the files on those drives are subject to crashes and loss.
These fact probably won't make the MPAA feel any better, especially since the Bokks has VOB compatability meaning it is feasible to rip DVDs right into the box. The specs do not mention DivX compatibility, but when asked the company said a converter will be available for the product by the time of its release.
The player will start shipping February of 2002. Technical Specifications for the player are below:
- CPU: x86, 266 MHz
- MPEG Decoder: Hardware decoder, MPEG 1 & 2
- Operating System: Linux 2.4
- Filesharing: Windows FS, Unix/Linux NFS, FTP
- Video output: SCART, S-Video output, TV Composite (PAL)
- Audio output: RCA analogue stereo - Network connectivity: Ethernet 10/100, DHCP
- Other features: USB port
- Video streams: Supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2 Program & Transport streams
- Audio streams: Supports MP3 audio streams
- Media formats (from hard disk): *.vob, *.mpg, *.mpeg, *.mp3, *.sid
- Housing: 260 x 160 x 30 mm, sheet metal & rubber
- Storage: 20 gigabyte hard disk (up to 320 hours of music, 10 hours DVD-quality film or 20 hours of VHS-quality film)
- Power supply: External (110-230 V) 10W
- Control Device: IR remote control, wireless keyboard (optional)
- Accessories: carrying bag, docking station
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