Using #webm and The Nokia #N900 Mobile Television and a Mobile Set Top Box

Last year for Christmas, there were two technology toys I was most interested in. One was the Nokia N900 and the other was Roku. The N900 costs much more than Roku, but can do much more as well. In fact, I wondered, would it be possible to recreate something like Roku as an application for the Nokia N900?

Roku players are small set top boxes that stream videos from the Internet and make them available on a traditional television. You can get Netflix videos off of Roku as well Amazon video and other sources.

I tried a few simple tests, and it seemed like the N900 just didn’t have the power to stream and render a video nicely to my television set, so I set this project on the back burner.

Then, this weekend, I heard that my in-laws had just gotten a Wii. My wife commented that you can use a Wii to stream Netflix, so I started thinking about streaming on the N900 again.

An important change since then was been Google’s announcement of the WebM project. Essentially, this project makes a powerful video codec available as open source and encourages people to start using it. This is the ‘vp8’ codec which is already available on the Nokia N900. With the extras-development repository enabled, I executed the command

apt-get install gstreamer0.10-vp8

Reading N900 and Maemo5 playing vp8/webm live stream, I found a way to launch a video stream provided by Flumotion.

I entered the command

gst-launch playbin2 uri=

and SkyNews started streaming.

The next step was to plug it into my television to see what it looked like, and it seemed fine. The final step was to add this to my desktop. First, I created a shell script called /home/user/bin/skynews with the gst-launch command in it. Then, I created /usr/share/applications/hildon/skynews.desktop. This file contained the following lines.

[Desktop Entry]

I have a simple icon file named chartreuse that I use for testing. Ideally, a nicer icon could be created. To see how this all looks, I created a video showing me launching the application and then connecting it to my television.

I also tried using a stream from a Cherokee server but ran into a lot of buffers are being dropped and a timestamping problem. I started testing YouTube’s HTML5 capabilities in hopes of finding a way of testing webm streams from YouTube, but didn’t get far enough to find any streams I could use.

So now, I’m looking for other interesting streams to experiment with. I could easily see Netflix, Amazon, or others, setting up streaming videos using this, as well as adding on controls to select channels, pause, etc.

Anyone else doing any interesting video streaming on the N900?

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