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Under the Covers

For curiosity's sake, I did a little poking around to see what this device was doing under the covers. A quick tcpdump network sniff turned up a lot of HTTP and UPnP traffic between the Windows server and the WMA100. The HTTP headers showed a php-enabled Apache 1.3.31 server had been installed on the Windows system and it was being used to feed most, if not all, of the user-interface to the WMA100.

Basically, the user-interface on the WMA100 is a web-browser using HTML for rendering the menus and displays. When I picked out the user-agent string of the browser off the LAN, I saw that the browser identified itself as:

uCOS-II v2.05;NOS;KA9Q; 624x416,HiColor;

This little string tells us a lot. The operating system on the box is apparently a variant of Micrium's uCos and Syabas supplies the browser. A view of the Syabas web site shows that they are an OEM for home-network media boxes so they may be the ultimate source of everything for this box.

Based on these discoveries, I was able to fire up a web browser, point it to the Windows server and access pages such as the list of my video files, that were not available through the standard Media Server administration page. Clicking on a video file selection from my browser resulted in a plain-text description of the movie that included a URL reference to a video streaming application with the movie as a parameter.

Going one step further, I fed this URL into VLC and voila, I was viewing the video from the ViewSonic Media Server on my OS X computer. I'd really like to be going the other direction, but this showed me that the WMA100 was using a lot of standards-based pieces and that it probably wouldn't take a whole lot of effort to get it working with iTunes or even one of my Linux-based network storage devices acting as the media server.

As a quick test, I fired up a couple of UPnP-based media servers on my network to see if they were recognized by the WMA100, but found that they weren't. So either there is something other than UPnP involved with serving content to the WMA100, or I don't have something configured properly - which is likely since I don't have any experience with UPnP.

To really see what's going on under the covers, I popped the top off the box and took a look inside (Figure 7).

A look inside.
Figure 7: A look inside
(click image for larger view)

It's a bit hard to see it in the picture, but the heart of the box is a Sigma Design EM8551 Media Processor and the wireless capabilities are provided by a removable 802.11g mini-PCI card with a ViewSonic sticker. A look at the pictures in the FCC filings revealed that the card is based on Conexant's PRISM chipset, although I couldn't tell which one.

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