Thursday, 21 March 2013

Digital TV Summit Day Three...

The summit ended today with a market analysis on the opportunities for PayTV in Africa, covering most of aspects of the end-to-end value chain, from content procurement to delivery and consumption. I found today's session especially interesting and refreshing, a great complement to the book I am currently reading, The Business of Media Distribution: Monetizing Film, TV and Video Content in an Online World, providing an overview into what the business of PayTV actually entails. We learnt from past experiences of people who've worked in several countries in launching PayTV operations in-country, had an overview of a core component of the system (i.e. Content Management System), touched on Next-Generation platforms, and culminated in a demo on a low-cost (sub $100), but advanced Set-Top-Box, exploring the opportunities that await the African market.

My notes cover the following:

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Digital TV Summit Day Two...

Here's my write up from Day 2 of the SA Digital TV Summit held in Bryanston, Johannesburg. The second day's Agenda went much deeper that the first day, although there was a no-show from the SABC on expanding the topic of Digital Migration. Nevertheless, I learnt quite a bit today as well as refreshing some other topics I don't get to focus on in my day-to-day work. We covered the following areas:

Monday, 18 March 2013

Digital TV Summit Day One...

The inaugural Digital TV Summit of South Africa takes place this week in Bryanston, Johannesburg. I registered almost immediately on receiving the invite back in 2012, since one of the key speakers was to be Collins Khumalo, CEO of Multichoice South Africa. I was looking forward to seeing Collins in action, as my way of assessing how Multichoice contributes to the wider cause of Digital TV in South Africa. Unfortunately, the agenda was changed last minute, some key speakers, including Collins couldn't make it. I was also interested in networking to get an idea of the landscape of this market in South Africa/Africa...

Anyway, I am still attending the conference and will share what I've learnt from the presentations, on this blog - starting with Day One, which gently introduced the conference as being biased towards the topic of Digital Migration / DTT (Digital Terrestrial Transmission) as being one of the biggest event, if not, the biggest event to happen to the TV Broadcast Industry since its inception back in 1974...

Day One covered the following (Click on the links to jump to the topic):

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Overview of Open Source Software Governance in Projects

In an earlier post, I introduced the topic of the increasing use of Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) in Digital TV projects. This post provides a brief overview of the various areas to consider as part of managing open source software in projects.

I am pleased to share this as my first guest blog post, by Steven Comfort. Steve works as a Software Compliance Analyst, we crossed paths when I started searching for support & consultancy on implementing an end-to-end FOSS governance program. This is still a work in progress, but we'd like to share with you our take of our experience / learning to date - in the hope it would help others who might be thinking of doing the same...

Open Source Compliance
With the partial exception of mobile phones, the embedded device operating system wars can realistically be said to be over, with Linux in its various flavours emerging as the clear winner. Coupled to the proliferation of open source software stacks and applications, it is highly unlikely that any device you purchase will be devoid of open source software.

When Free and Open Source Software first started penetrating traditionally proprietary software solutions, many people were sceptical and the cliche "There is no such thing as a free lunch" were commonly heard. Hopefully this short piece will assuage those suspicions, because there is in fact a cost associated with using open source software. Put simply, this cost is associated with fulfilling the license obligations concomitant on that usage.

Using Open Source in Set Top Box Software Stacks

Set-Top-Box (STB) software stacks have come a long way since its inception back in the early 1990s, with custom & bespoke software vendors providing proprietary components for most of the STB software-stack. Still today, most of the higher level STB components are still indeed proprietary - for example, the likes of Middleware providers (NDS, OpenTV, Irdeto, DirecTV, EchoStar, etc.) are still pretty much closed, but the game-changer was really the advent of the Linux Kernel, and especially its foray into the embedded space, when it really started to take off and start gaining critical mass from early 2003 in Set-Top-Box stacks (if I recall correctly). And more recently, and this is something that I'd forewarned my previous company (NDS) about, was the advent of the Android stack, way back in 2007 when I first downloaded the Beta Android Core SDK and saw immediately the similarities of this stack vis-a-vis set-top-box middleware software stacks, and lo and behold, Android STBs were seen in early 2009/2010; and are already becoming the mainstream choice for quick-and-easy, low-cost-to-market projects.

I am not sure how many STBs (apart from legacy) are still using the likes of uCos, vxWorks, Nucleus, ST OS/20, etc.(I had at a previous life worked on all these OSes), but nowadays, the OS of choice is definitely a variant of the Linux Kernel, available for free! A Linux system opens up the world to so much more: in terms of utilities, components & application engines, almost any type of functionality that exists on the PC/Systems world, is just a port away from the embedded device world.

PayTV Operators and Middleware System vendors alike, would spend months to years, re-inventing the wheel for functionality & features that are readily available in the PC world. Before Linux, these vendors would literally re-create software components from scratch: Compression engines, Point-to-Point Protocol, TCP/IP stack, HTML engines, UPnP stack, etc, etc. Time-to-market is much shorter than before, proof-of-concepts can be also be done in record time. In past projects I've seen teams use free, off-the-shelf components, to name a few: libupnp, pppd, httpd, dhcp, libcurl, xbmc, ffmpeg, webkit, directFB & gstreamer to do some impressive demos. I myself, have personally used other open source software like the Festival Speech Engine to bring real-time Text-To-Speech to set-top-boxes.

I attended a session recently where Broadcom's (BCM) STB team presented their chipset roadmap & demonstrated their Trellis Software Framework, built on open source. It's really interesting to see that BCM is quite well established in the Open Source community, using as well as reciprocating. Their proposals on using an open interface really defies the old ways of traditional Middleware stacks is really an interesting (most likely disruptive) thread worth keeping an eye on...