GeeXboX Progress Report

It’s been more than a year that we’ve released GeeXboX 1.1. At this time, as usual, I’ve stated that “So, just stay tuned, most of these features are already available, and 1.2 won’t take a year to come this time“. Yeah, that was already 14 months ago. What happened since then ? That’s a recurrent question indeed as I receive a lot of mails from people asking me whether or not the project’s dead. That’s for sure no good advertising. This situation is also one of the reason I wanted to start this blog, that may act as an official GeeXboX homepage.

So, people often wonder what has changed since then. GeeXboX internals have changed quite a bit in development tree, even if it’s not completely visible to end user. As expected, HDTV support has been brought up and that’s probably the killing feature of next release. To be accurate, previous versions were already able to decode HD streams (depending on your hardware configuration) and the upcoming release won’t help much in this area. What I mean by HDTV support is that we now fully support HDTV screens (TFT and Plasma TVs). For last 4 years, the trend is to have widescreens (16:9 or 16:10) monitors, resulting in the slow death of their 4:3 ancestors. The problem is that GeeXboX was running in pure console mode, using the 20 years old VESA standard, which only provide 4:3 resolutions. Hence, when using GeeXboX on a widescreen, all you had was a distorted picture. The thing was to add X.Org server to GeeXboX. It was quite a hell of a job as X.Org is a monsterpiece. As a result, ISO size grew up a lot but we now have much more video cards that are supported, with much better performances and GeeXboX should normally automatically find and fit the native resolution of your brand new screen.

We also improved a lot our toolchain and ported the distribution against various CPU architectures. Using latest development tree, you should now be able to build GeeXboX for:

  • regular 32bit x86 PCs and MacIntel.
  • 64bit x86 PCS and MacIntel (decoding speeed boost of 15% towards 32bit version)
  • 32bit PowerPC Macintosh G3 and G4 (no Pegasos and other embedded boards are not supported)
  • 64bit PowerPC Macintosh G5.

Interestingly, it seems that the 32bit PPC never has been so popular since someone tried (successfully) to port it to Nintendo Wii. It seems to work not that bad (from videos I’ve seen, I do not have a Wii) but still requires a lot of work. Also, at current stage, please consider it as a completely unofficial hack that is absolutely not supported. We receive a lot of mails about it but can’t help much out there.

The 64bit PPC port is more interesting to me. With the recent GCC 4.3 toolchain upgrade, it should now be able to port GeeXboX to Sony PS3. We are however still facing difficulties booting the kernel out there (a.k.a. the black screen effect, damn easy to debug …). I’ll keep you informed of progress later on, as this is pretty experimental right now.

So, why’s GeeXboX 1.2 not released ? To be fair, I’d say it’s 95% complete but the problem is that it’s so for the last 4 months. We’re are still facing a major bug with installator and it’d be pretty much ok afterwards. Though, no one seems to be willing to fix it and really too few people out there actually test development releases that are posted on forum. Every developer (including me) seems to be much more interested by other aspects than fixing this nasty thing. In the mean time, we continue adding new features and do not waste enough time on fixing the existing ones. So 1.2 might come out, that’s for sure, but I still have no timeline for that …

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