EzeeCube : An exciting mediacenter and photo organizer

One year ago, I was looking for a capable System On Chip that is properly documented and that provides support for pure Linux and not only for android. Out of this research, I selected the Freescale i.MX6, I bought my first target (a GK802 which would have been a wonderful value for money if it had not exhibited a very annoying overheating issue) and began to work on XBMC porting for this specific soc.
Since that time I have heard about many devices based on this i.MX6 chip. But a few weeks ago, a specific project caught my attention : the EzeeCube.
This EzeeCube project is not yet another raw board but it is a full product which aims at addressing a specific need : Storing, organizing and syncing photos in a very simple way.
The project initiators have already developed a specific plugin for XBMC and dedicated applications for iPhone and android smartphones. They have also worked to design an aesthetic product with an innovative concept to stack additional hard disks or even DVD reader.

At hardware level, aside the energy efficient iMX6 (Dural Core), we can find 1GiB RAM, 1TB HDD, internal eMMC and rich connectivity (Ethernet, Wifi, BT, USB, SDcard, IR receiver…)

At first sight, one could think that the need is already fulfilled by other means.
First, some cloud storage services could enable to organize photos. Yet it is obvious that storing media on his own device can be less prone to safety concern, faster to sync as we don’t have to go through a slow uplink to the internet and especially cheaper as there is no recurrent fee which is quite high when you have a few hundreds of GiB to store.
Then, some NAS have interesting features regarding photos but the ones which have similar capabilities tend to be expensive and being able to turn them into a XBMC capable device is not so frequent while the XBMC nature of the EzeeCube makes it a natural mediacenter…

So at the end, this product has an innovative design, it enables to store a big amount of photos privately and to sync them with smartphones by focusing on simplicity while using XBMC as its main software.
After some exchanges with the project leader, Ashok, I even agreed to provide support to them because I am enthusiast regarding initiatives which aim at building a product with a real concept.
I invite you to discover further this product on its website and its crowdfunding campaign to make your mind about it and share your thoughts with the team…

26 thoughts on “EzeeCube : An exciting mediacenter and photo organizer

  1. Pingback: EzeeCube is a Modular XBMC Media Hub with Up to 9TB Storage (Crowdfunding)

  2. Hi,

    Following a private question, I would like to share with you a few details regarding the ability to install new packages on the ezeecube.
    We will build, heavily test and tune a dedicated distro for the ezeecube product.
    The idea is to provide a guaranteed user friendly experience out of the box.
    This core product will be maintained and automatically updated without hassle (only a popup will ask for reboot permission)
    Opening too much this distro may compromise the core functionality but we also fully understand that some advanced users want to be free to tune their device and install additional tools.
    So we will strive to provide you with the best of two worlds : A linux container (lxc) will be pre-configured and it will allow to install your favorite ARM headless distro (ubuntu, debian, opensuse…). This distro will live side by side with the ezeecube dedicated distro and users will be able to install and run their stuff that way. This container will have full access to the HDD media content. The main limitation will be that audio/video will be reserved for xbmc and the core product and not available to this alternate distro (that’s why I mention “headless” distro)
    At last I want to say that we will obviously provide our u-boot and linux kernel so very advanced users who want to install their own distro from scratch will also be entitled to do it…

    Regards

  3. Will you add Tvheadend PVR backend like OpenELEC does?

    OpenELEC also have many more great to have packages.

    And one more thing OpenELEC adds is network conf addon

    • Hi Harley
      As far as I understand, the main concept of the product is to provide a smooth experience for any user.
      When the stackable tv tuner will be offered, the installation should be totally smooth. The user should not have to worry about what a pvr backend is : As such, vdr will be automatically installed, a dedicated addon will enable to scan channels and the appropriate client will be enabled…

      By the time the tv tuner can be ordered, I guess that tvheadend and vdr packages will already be available (even in the core distro) as they are very popular…

      At last, yes of course a dedicated system configuration addon is also planed afaik : Again the idea is anyone can setup and use the box without hassle..

      Regards

  4. glad you like it felix..go get yours now 🙂

    apart from TV tuner, Blu-ray and 2TB HDD, we would also be developing an accessory for developers that would work with EzeeCube and would have USB port for developers to build their own hardware accessories e.g. additional HDD, game console, camera etc

    • I think I would prefer just a small USB connected DVB-T2 TV tuners instead of a “EzeeStack” just for a the TV tuner, unless you are also fullu integrating the antenna for digital terrestrial broadband into that “EzeeStack” too.

      Get a wired USB dongle that is similar to Geniatech U2320 USB donger that supports DVB-T and DVB-C, and analog TV channels of different standards and FM-radio stations, but wired USB instead of molded USB connected directly on the dongle.

      • Hi Harley,

        This is an interesting suggestion even if from a purely aesthetic aspect it may not be perfectly in line…
        Out of curiosity, would it make a difference for you if the ezeecube would be able to handle properly such a USB wired tuner dongle for its initial release ?
        I ask this because I think the ezeecube team would be interested by such a feedback to arbitrate priorities …

        Stephan

        • The reason why I think you should offer a TV tuner in the first place is that you would then also be able to attract potential “cable-cutters” too, people who are ready to resign their cable or satellite TV contracts if they can find a good set-top box that offers great free-to-view TV channels over terrestrial broadcast television.

          And the reason why I suggest a wired USB dongle as a TV tuner solution instead of your “EzeeStack” stackable module is mostly esthetic, as a wired USB dongle will be hidden with the cables on the back of the box just like a external power-brick, and it would also mean that the USB dongle would be sold separate and used in other boxes than EzeeCube or reused later if you ever release an release a next-generation EzeeCube version 2 with a different stackable module design or format.

          • Hi Harley,
            It makes perfect sense to me and I have just exchanged with ezeecube team to check if we could provide such a configuration with external USB tuner ready for the first batch.
            So You may see an update in the campaign if we find a way to make it happen…
            Stephan

            • Great to hear! Again please make sure that the USB dongel do not connect directly into the box, as it should either have a short USB cable or they can provide an USB cable extension cable for it. That way it can be connected by wire a little away from the box with the other cables and the power-brick.

                • Note though that I would highly recommend that you use Tvheadend as the PVR backend (TV tuner server software) for XBMC rather than VDR, as Tvheadend have lower CPU and memory overhead so it is better optimized to run on an emebdded system.

                  And with using Tvheadend as the PVR backend software you can also borrow a lot of the integration code for it from the OpenELEC project, and you might even be able to share their packages and collaborate with them around Tvheadend for upstream.

                  OpenELEC have since long included Tvheadend as part of their Linux distribution which is also designed to be used as an digital appliance, just as you yourself are planning on doing for EzeeCube.

  5. Mele F10 Air Mouse Remote would have made a much nicer remote control for EzeeCube and better value-add for customers, maybe you could check with Mele if you can OEM it for cheap? Either Deluxe http://www.cnx-software.com/2014/06/10/mele-f10-deluxe-air-mouse-with-improved-gyroscope-ir-learning-function-sells-for-29-99/ or Pro http://www.cnx-software.com/2013/06/13/mele-f10-pro-fly-mouse-comes-with-microphone-and-speaker/ as Pro version can be used as wireless headset and microphone receiver too!

    • Hi
      As a end user I also understand you like this kind of remote but the biggest drawback I can see (I speak only for me and maybe ezeecube team does not share my view) is : Even with a OEM price, it would be about +10% of the total price…
      So it would make sense only if most potential users are ready to pay +10% for it…

    • Hi Harley,
      At first sight, no use of docker is planed at this stage because our use case which is basically Lets get a “kind of cheap virtual machine ” (by cheap I mean with almost no overhead) to run a generic distro side by side with the core product is not the domain where docker will bring a lot of added value compared to core lxc.
      If I understand properly, docker really shines when it comes to deploy/update applications in a well known env (and the use of lxc to achieve this goal to fine)
      What we want on our side is to allow installation of one other well known distrib (chosen by user) that will have access to the media content so that users will be able to run the own favorites (mainly server oriented I guess) services on their own.
      We may think that docker would bring granularity and that having a container for each service could be good but we also have to find the correct tradeoff for resources of this embedded platform…
      Yet, if you think about a specific docker feature that would be a real asset please tell us : Such campaign is typically useful to listen to final users ideas and to tweak the product so that it is as close as possible from the perfect one for them 😉

  6. Harley’s idea is really super cool.. some features like headphone and mic you already suggested, something that can do more than just IR? (one use on the campaign suggested to do some crossing marketing or OEM with someone who can build stack like http://www.imsoap.com, another backer suggested to let people develop a retro game player and would it make sense if a remote could actually be thought out to at least foresee some of these utilities and could be accessory instead of part of EzeeCube bundle?

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