The unit has an S-Video, Composite Video, S/PDIF and 2 RCA audio connectors (18
bit stereo) for the audio visual connectivity but from the network perspective
has a 10/100BaseT Ethernet interface for the wired networks and a PCMCIA/Card
bus slot for 802.11a/b/g wireless networks. The power supply was chosen to be an
external 'wall brick' transformer, the unit itself is a 5V device, this will
certainly speed up the introduction to international markets for the Prismiq,
that would be if the device wasn't only a NTSC video format. I don't know
whether this is a software or hardware issue at this stage. This limitation only
opens Prismiq to a limited international market at this stage.
The Prismiq MediaPlayer is a two part tool. On one
side there is the unit itself on the other is some software that exists on any
one of the PCs in the home network, this is the server software. Given that this
unit and others like it rely on the early adopters the Prismiq group have opted
to base the unit on the Linux 2.4 kernel OS which will appeal. In order for the
unit to be usable to the masses the server side software is however designed to
run on the Microsoft Windows platform.
Prismiq tell me they are intending
to expand the platforms which the server side software supports to include the
MAC and the Linux platforms. <STOP
PRESS: July 8th 2003 LINUX VERSION RELEASED> For the hackers and programmers out there they say
that shortly an API will exist on the Prismiq side for users to create custom
software and browser applications.
Server Side Software
If we discuss the server side and
the Prismiq side as two different pieces of software as they are then the
following will make more sense. To start I wanted to talk about the server side
software. The server software currently is designed to work on Windows 98SE, ME,
2000 and XP operating systems. My tests were based on Windows 2000 Professional
and Windows 2000 Server. Unfortunately the software, while appearing to work on
Windows 2000 Server didn't. My tests from that point solely were done on Windows
2000 Professional. The tests were also performed on version 3.1 software.
The software installed very easily
using an installation program, I did however get somewhat confused when it only
offered me the ability to scan only one location for media files but yet is
designed to serve for all network locations. I opted to just scan one location
and come back to this at a later time for the other files, a mechanism for this
I was later to find existed.
In the entire package I believe that
the server software is truly the weakest link to an other wise really great
product. The software installs into three different programs; Media Manager,
Media Server and Media Processing, initially I didn't really understand what
they each were but they soon became apparent.
Fig. 1 (Above):
Manager screen, is where you build your playlists. This is a very useful
tool for adding your video playlists, news reports, web favourites and such
the like. The only critisism I have with it, is with the music files. It can
automatically generate the play lists from your hard discs but it does it in
a manor inconsistent with all CD ripping software available on the market. A
second problem is that the left field box is not resizable, only scrollable
thus crowding the box
Fig. 2 (Below):
|Most CD ripping
software arranges by artist, then by album. In this example 'Bare Naked
Ladies' the group has 5 albums in its directory. I have also added a host of
misc. unsorted songs which are listed on the right..
In fig. 1 you can see the 'Bare Naked Ladies'
entry and the misc. files on the right. Unfortunately in fig. 1 on the left
you can also see and entry called 'Born on a Pirate Ship', you will notice
that this should be a second level entry under 'Bare Naked Ladies' but Media
Manager makes this its own entry. See Fig 1. Given Media Manager is a good
representation of the screen shot offered by the Prismiq you can see the
problem later in Figs 3a and 3b.
Fig. 3a (Above):
Fig. 3b (Above):
||Fig. 4: After creating the
play list was my next confusion. The Media Play wouldn't play! - The list
was there but nothing would play. It seems as though at this stage a
background task runs to create the TOC; Table of Contents. This program is
called the 'Media Processing' program. Once this is complete everything is
good to go...
|Media Server is the tool which
actually provides the streams to all Prismiq's on the network. Multiple
Prismiq's can run from one Media Server, meaning you could put a Prismiq in
all rooms with just one PC supplying the data.
Fig. 5 (Right):
||Prismiq Media Server screen,
as can be seen multiple Prismiq's can be served from this one server. In
this example one client can be seen running on IP address 192.168.1.104.
Unfortunately none of this screen is covered in the documentation, and
frankly I don't know what some of the buttons do?
One of the really cool things about
the Server side software is that it allows Prismiq the company to quickly make
new formats available to the Prismiq unit. The Prismiq device has a NEC µPD61130
32-bit MIPS microprocessor with an integrated MPEG decoder. This device
basically decodes MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats. To do this Prismiq recommends a
300MHz Pentium II for the server platform. If the user has other media such as
MPEG-4 and DivX formats then the Media Server software acts as a media converter
which is why Prismiq then recommend a 700MHz Pentium II for the server platform.
The audio formats such as MP3, MP2
and AC3 all done directly in the Prismiq units hardware, with WMA format
converted by the Media Server software. I have to say however that I was very
impressed by the quality of the audio even if it went through the conversion
processes. In addition, the unit will also support various internet radio sites
directly using the Shoutcast and WMA formats. Radio stations are added into the
Media Manager software allowing users to directly enter the URL information
without any referral websites. It has to also be added that, in print, Prismiq
say the unit is a service charge free device so it is unlikely this will ever
change. Since the unit is designed to 'deliver the full spectrum of networked
entertainment' it not only delivers your music and video on demand it also
offers your photo album; JPEG, GIF and PNG formats are supported. Future
advertised functionality includes a service free PVR (personal video recorder)
and next generation internet services...
Using the Prismiq >>>
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