Has anyone tried hooking up TTL serial on one of these yet to see what kind of console is available and to watch the boot messages, etc.?
I have seen some discussion on the mediasonic forum about making requests for U-Boot because it is GPL'd and getting no response, even having the thread deleted! Someone said something about GPL violations, and also about how mediasonic wouldn't release source because of a license agreement with MSTAR. Someone else mentioned a possibility to install Linux on these boxes.
I would be EXTREMELY shocked if this entire box is not running on a linux kernel, developed with GNU tools, and distributed in binary only closed source format. I mean everything from the menu system to the device drivers. I bet the whole firmware is one big GIANT GPL violation!
I mean think about it. You're in China, freaking patent, logo, and copyright infringement is totally rampant and unenforceable. Why would they bother taking the time and spending money to develop their own kernel, filesystem, etc. when it's already freely available? I mean come on the processor is even an open design, but still must be licensed for commercial use(although mips 34Kf is highly customizable and the processor design is likely highly specific and proprietary). But basically GPL is also totally unenforceable there.
I can understand the reluctance on their part to release source because it would reveal proprietary information about the specific nature of their processor (pipeline size, cache config, number of concurrent thread, etc.). Also in the new boxes (ch 3/4 switch) about their demodulator. In a market like china, if another semiconductor manufacturer got hold of this information they would be stamping out clones next week and selling them as authentic.
Still, if any of it was linked to a GPL'd library file, or even compiled with GNU tools then all of those parts are required by GPL license to be available as source. I would be willing to bet money that nearly all of it was created using GNU assemblers and compilers, but I seriously doubt that we will ever see that source code.
I bet all of these manufacturers are buying licensing from MSTAR for the base system kernel, menus, etc and probably have very little access to source themselves. Possibly only that which relates to the PVR software itself(if even that). But if the source was available, why license it from MSTAR when you can just compile it yourself, right? Here again there would be 20 manufacturers jumping out to make clones and MSTAR wouldn't generate any revenue from it, so I can understand their logic, but I also think that they shouldn't be breaking licensing agreements in GPL. If they want closed source, they should have to pony up for a non-GNU compiler that someone wrote in assembly and that they must pay for, but I bet they didn't! Why? Because it's china...need I say more? No offense to the Chinese, I like the people, but this kind of thing is so commonplace.
Worldwide, GPL violations are so common it's unbelievable. I don't think ANYONE could compute the number of products available which are closed source and include Linux and/or lots of other GPL or BSD style licensed code. It goes all the way from TV's, to cars, from embedded devices, to mp3 players, satellite recivers, and video gamess and everything in between, and we will probably not see source for 95% of that(or more). Even really large manufacturers are doing this...
In spite of all of that I would LOVE to see MSTAR release this source to us. We could do some pretty awesome stuff with this hardware if we had it. Imagine if we could add networking on the USB via a hub? We could stream the raw source to a computer or other device, download useful guide information for QAM, make the clock synchronized, etc.. With source we could improve the menu system, possibly add something like XBMC for streaming video playback, the limitations would be based on RAM a lot, but the ROM size isn't much of an issue if it's only used to boot up a basic system and then load the rest from an external drive, or even a network share.
This box could do so much, but likely it will remain as it is. Don't get me wrong, I just got this device as a christmas gift and I am really enjoying it. I would love to see it become a community development, though.