The Neuros OSD Connects Your TV to the Internet

Play digital video, view photos and listen to audio from memory cards or hard disks, or browse YouTube and record TV shows in MP4 with this small Linux-based box. Oh, and you can hack it too—it's open source.

The Neuros OSD is a very small and energy-efficient box that can play digital video, photos and music from several sources, including the Internet, on any TV or home theater system. It also can do the opposite—convert analog video in real time from RCA or S-Video inputs to MP4 format, save it on memory cards, external USB drives or, thanks to its Ethernet port, remote computers. For a Linux/free-software fan, the OSD also is interesting because it runs customizable, Linux-based firmware (OSD stands for Open-Source Device).

Figure 1. Neuros OSD Box

Main Features

One of the main reasons for buying an OSD is backup and consolidation of video archives. It's one small box, much cheaper than a normal computer, and it's all you need to migrate tens or hundreds of VCR tapes or DVDs onto one hard drive—if you accept the unavoidable degradation that comes from recording from an analog output. The user interface also has specific settings to optimize recording from a PlayStation. Additionally, a timed recording function also makes the OSD into a bare-bones PVR.

Going the opposite direction, the OSD can play anything it finds on memory cards, USB drives or remote devices on its RCA or S-Video ports. Particularly interesting is the presence of a YouTube browser. Besides MP4, the list of supported formats available on the Neuros Web site includes several variants of .avi, .asf, .mov and others. The firmware upgrade procedure described later in this article can add even more features to the OSD.

Figure 2. YouTube in the Living Room, without a Computer

What You Get with the OSD

When I opened the box, I found several accessories: remote control with batteries, two RCA cables, multivoltage power supply, serial cable and an infrared blaster for controlling your TV, cable box or satellite receiver through the OSD. I got the non-US set, which also includes two RCA-to-SCART adapters. As far as I can tell, that and the plug on the power supply are the only differences between the European and US kits.

Figure 3. OSD Accessories

Figure 4. Cables, Adapters and Other Accessories Included in the European Kit

The remote comes with very detailed instructions for controlling most TV sets. There also is a Learning Mode with which it can learn the main functions of your TV or VCR remote by directly “listening” while you use it.

Finally, the OSD has a plastic stand that holds it in a vertical position, which I didn't find particularly robust or useful. All the plug-and-forget cables are on one side: power, RCA in and out, S-Video input, IR blaster, serial and Ethernet interfaces. The “user” ports—two for memory cards and one for USB—are on the opposite side. With this layout, the OSD is more stable, which makes it easier to fit on the shelves of ordinary home theatre furniture, as it is flat on the bottom with the user ports facing the room.

I have tested the Neuros OSD on a standard analog PAL TV with a 16:9 32" screen, a generic 1GB USB MP3 player and a 128MB SD memory card from Dikom. For network-related tests, I connected it to a port of a D-Link 604T ADSL modem/router.

Firmware Upgrade

Because the first thing you see when you open the box is a big, red sheet of paper saying, “Please upgrade firmware immediately”, that's what I did. The procedure is simple, requiring just a bit of attention. Depending on how old the firmware loaded in your own OSD is with respect to the latest upgrade, some steps I cover here may be different, and some upgrading methods may not apply.

Figure 5. Waiting While the Firmware Upgrades, 1980s Style

First, hook up the OSD to your TV, and check which firmware version it currently is running by going to the Settings→Properties menu of the on-screen user interface. In my case, the version was 3.31-1.24. According to the Neuros Web site, this version wasn't new enough to upgrade directly from the Internet, so I had to download the latest one manually. In my case, this was an 11.7MB file called osd-3.33-1.75-02.849.upk.

Next, I copied that .upk file to a USB key, plugged it in to the OSD, selected the package from the file browser and ran the “Upgrade firmware” option. I chose a USB key because it was handy on my desk, even though the Web site warned that my current firmware may not be able to upgrade from such a device. Sure enough, when I tried it, the upgrade failed in less than one minute, with a “Sorry, package error” message.

The OSD, however, safely rebooted, so I got the memory card, plugged it in, copied the .upk file from the key to the card with the OSD file manager and re-issued the upgrade command. Everything went fine, and in about ten minutes I had the firmware that, among other things, can upgrade directly from the Internet or schedule automatic upgrades of stable or test versions at whatever frequency I choose.


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