“Contents on Demand” Architecture and Technologies of Lui

“Contents on Demand” Architecture and Technologies of Lui
Explanation of Technologies
“Contents on Demand” Architecture and
Technologies of Lui
ISOZUMI Atsunori, KAMIMURA Tomohiko, KUROIWA Minoru, SAKAMOTO Susumu, CHIBA Taneaki
Abstract
NEC Personal Products, Ltd. has developed Home Server PC “Lui SX”, which is a PC incorporating a large-capacity HDD and capable of unified management of digital contents and distribution of them to PCs in a home network or to
network (DLNA)-capable TV sets. This paper introduces the technologies supporting the Home Server PC “Lui SX”,
including “high-reliability design” for 24-hour stable operation and “Multi Record Casting Technology” for recording/
distribution of two digital broadcast programs simultaneously as well as the usability of these technologies.
Keywords
digital broadcast, DLNA, DTCP-IP, file system, cooling/noise reduction, user interface
1. Introduction
Recent PCs feature improved digital content handling capabilities, such as digital broadcast recording/viewing functions
and the content distribution function based on the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standard. However, they are still
insufficient for use as a server implementing “Contents on Demand”, because (1) the digital broadcast recording is interrupted when the OS is restarted, and (2) the user interface gets
sometimes unsmooth due to the CPU load imposed by content distribution processing in the background.
This paper will introduce the technologies for implementing “Contents on Demand”, including “high-reliability design” for 24-hour stable operation and “Multi Record Casting
Technology” for recording/distribution of two digital broadcast programs simultaneously as well as the usability of these
technologies.
2. High-Reliability Design
2.1 PC/Recorder Independent Architecture and Monitoring
Mechanism
To ensure stable recording that is not affected by PC applications and power saving during the period PC functions are
not used, we adopted hardware (HW) architecture separating
the PC system implementing PC functions and the recorder
system recording digital broadcasts, as shown in Fig. 1 .
The PC system can run applications on Windows Vista
Fig. 1 PC/Recorder Independent Architecture and monitoring
mechanism.
Home Premium at the same level as other NEC PCs, and supports HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connection and remote control input, assuming installation in a living
room. Its power is supplied independently from the recorder
system for a power saving structure, with which only the PC
system can be powered off when PC functions are not required. On the other hand, the recorder system is a system in
which two digital broadcast tuners and recording HDD(s), with
max. 1TB capacity, are implemented. The two systems are
connected in a LAN through the gigabit hub, so that the recorder system can function independently even when the PC
system is powered off. To ensure communications without dependence on the network environment, we adopted IPv6, which
is capable of automatic IP address setting even when a DHCP
server is not present in the home network environment.
For the system monitoring mechanism to support 24-hour
continuous operation, we provided (1) a watchdog timer function enabling auto-recovery from stalling due to software
faults, etc., and (2) a monitoring microcomputer capable of
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Explanation of Technologies
“Contents on Demand” Architecture and Technologies of Lui
automatic shutdown based on detection of fan troubles or abnormal temperature.
2.2 Cooling/Noise Reduction Technology
Since the home server PC is connected to a large-screen TV
in the living room, it is necessary to reduce acrostic noise to a
level that will not disturb users. However, the acrostic noise
reduction measures must be very powerful when the PC is
provided with versatile functions and large recording capacity that can meet user needs. Therefore, in collaboration with
the System Jisso Research Labs, NEC Corporation adopted an
air cooling system featuring easy size reduction, and established a technology for providing both cooling and acrostic noise
reduction through the following four steps:
(1)Study of Element Technologies
To reduce noise in the limited unit size, we evaluated the
effect and tuning method of each element technology (see
Table ) and adopted low-noise fans, fan speed control, separated location of the air intake hole and noise sources,
placement of devices with low heat resistance in upwind locations, etc.
Table
Element technologies for noise reduction and their effects.
(2)Cooling Capacity Evaluation and Simulation-based
Packaging Design
Based on the power consumption and tolerable temperature
of each device built into the unit, we calculated the cooling
capacity required at maximum load using a special designed tool and obtained the approximate amount of necessary air volume. Then, based on it, we fabricated a thermal
fluid digital mockup using 3D CAD, and simulated the air
paths inside the cabinet, and the temperature rise of each
device ( Fig. 2 ), for eventually designing the optimum packaging that can meet the cooling condition requirements.
(3)Prototype Evaluation
Concurrently with the simulation, we also measured the
unit’s internal temperature and noise level at maximum load
using a prototype. We fed the results back into the simulation in (2) above and finally decided on the use of two 60mm
square fans for each of the internal cooling and external exhaust systems.
(4)System Control Adjustments
We installed temperature sensors in proximity to key devices such as the CPU and HDD, and control fan speeds in
multiple steps to further reduce noise during low load conditions.
As a result of the above, we succeeded in achieving library-level quietness of about 30dB(A) (25°C environment),
even under maximum load, using air cooling system alone.
3. Multi Record Casting Technology
To execute PC applications smoothly while processing the
recording/distribution of two digital broadcast programs, reducing the CPU load for distribution, and securing the performance of the recording HDD(s), where four write and read
streams are concentrated, become important issues. In this section, we will describe the architecture providing digital broadcast recording/playback functions by focusing on the technologies used for solving the above issues.
3.1 Digital Broadcast Recording/Playback Architecture
Fig. 2 Thermal fluid simulation of the interior of home server PC.
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Fig. 3 shows the architecture used for the recording and
playback of digital broadcasts.
The recording function is processed by the digital broadcast recording components running on the recorder system, and
the video streams extracted from the two digital broadcast tuners are installed in the video HDD using an original
Special Issue: Home Server and Home Client Solution “Lui”
Fig. 4 Relationship between buffer size and throughput.
Fig. 3 Recording/playback architecture.
encryption format. The recorder system has two HDDs (with
the upper model), and data is written alternately by switching
the HDDs every 12 hours, to distribute HDD access load and
ensure durability.
On the other hand, the playback function is implemented by
the video distribution function from the DLNA server running on the PC system. The video streams stored in the recorder system using the original encryption format are converted
into the DTCP-IP (Digital Transmission Content Protection
over Internet Protocol)-compliant encryption format by the
newly developed Video Format Convert LSI. Implementation
of this encryption conversion processing, which imposes an
especially heavy load on distribution processing, in the hardware has made it possible to reduce the CPU load for distribution of two HDTV signals to 20% to 30%, thereby enabling the
simultaneous operation of distribution processing and PC application execution.
The video distribution from the DLNA server can be received and viewed with the digital broadcast recording/viewing application “LuiStation”, with built-in DLNA client
function, or with any network (DLNA)-capable TV. When
LuiStation is used, the standard program information provided by the DLNA, as well as the information under unified
management of the digital broadcast recording component, can
be used to implement (1) the recording reservation function,
which is unavailable with ordinary DLNA clients, and (2) the
program management function unique to the Home Server PC.
For example, using the “continued playback function” makes
it possible to resume playback from the last played program or
the last playback stop position, managed by the digital broadcast recording component. This makes it possible to continue
viewing with a simple operation even when the user moves
from the living room to a bedroom in the middle of viewing.
3.2 Video-dedicated File System
To implement the function of recording/distribution of two
digital broadcast programs, we developed a video-dedicated
file system based on an original buffer management method,
and incorporated it into the recording HDDs of the recorder
system.
With a general-purpose file system that handles files of various sizes, the capacity can be used more efficiently by decreasing the size of the file read/write buffers. In this case,
however, large files tend to be placed physically discontinuously, so the resulting increase in the head seek degrade the
read/write rate ( Fig. 4 ). Meanwhile, since the recording-dedicated file system handles only digital broadcast files of a few
gigabytes, it does not degrade the HDD utilization efficiency
even when the buffer size is increased, so it allows read/write
performance to be improved by setting a large buffer size.
This file system is implemented as middleware working in
the user space because it implements a unique buffer control
method, and the one of OS-standard buffer mechanism is used
as the bypassing-capable low-level HDD access API. We set
the read/write buffer size to 4MB to implement high-speed access that is not affected by the head seek operation as well as
to attenuate the performance due to file segmentation that results from repeated recording and erasure.
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Explanation of Technologies
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4. Usability
4.1 User Interface Suitable for Living Room
(1)Improved Visibility from Distant Locations
To improve visibility at a distance of 10 feet from the TV
screen, we adopted larger icons than normal PC applications, which are usually viewed from a distance of 2 feet, for
LuiStation ( Fig. 5 (a)). We also placed LEDs indicating unit
operation status in a circular shape with angles, so that
identification of lighting LED(s) is easier than with a layout in which LEDs are placed side by side (Fig. 5(b)).
(2)Improved Remote Control Operability
We developed a new remote control unit that gathers the
double cursor keys and major buttons in the center, so that
the remote can be operated without changing hand posture.
We also designed a GUI display matching the usage of the
remote control unit ( Fig. 6 ). For example, with the EPG
(Electrical Programming Guide) listing, the broadcast type
(terrestrial digital, broadcast satellite and communications
satellite) and date are selected using the outer cursor keys,
while the channel and broadcast time are selected using the
inner cursor keys. The inner cursor keys are laid out in a bowl
shape, and the centers of the outer cursor keys are raised, as
shown in Fig. 7 , to enable identification of the inner and
outer keys of the double cursor keys without looking at the
remote.
4.2 Improvement of Content Search Efficiency
Fig. 5 Visibility improvement measures for living room use.
Fig. 6 GUI operation using double cursor keys.
To facilitate the finding of a desired program from a large
number of digital broadcast programs, the following search
functions are supported, in addition to the ordinary EPG list
and the per-channel/per-genre/per-folder program lists/recorded program lists.
● Auto-selected program list: This function searches for
and displays programs that match the keywords and genres
registered by the user, and it is also capable of automatically recording the selected programs. Since the program search
takes time, the search processing is performed at the same
time the EPG list is updated, in the middle of the night, to
ensure quick response when the user actually operates this
function.
● Recommended program list: This function picks up the
programs recommendable for the user according to the user’s
viewing history (programs, genres and broadcast time zone)
and the program information. As this function does not need
previous setup, it allows the user to find programs easily and
efficiently when the user does not have a specific desired
program in mind.
5. Conclusion
Fig. 7 Design of double cursor keys.
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This paper explained the architecture and implementation
technology of the digital broadcast recording/playback function of Home Server PC “Lui SX” and its usability. In the
Special Issue: Home Server and Home Client Solution “Lui”
future, we will enable multichannel simultaneous recording,
and enhance the linkage with home video recorders, to promote the concept of “Contents on Demand” further.
*Windows Vista Home Premium is a trademark or registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries.
Authors' Profiles
ISOZUMI Atsunori
Assistant Manager,
Ubiquitous Business Development Division,
NEC Personal Products, Ltd.
KAMIMURA Tomohiko
Assistant Manager,
Ubiquitous Business Development Division,
NEC Personal Products, Ltd.
KUROIWA Minoru
Expert,
Ubiquitous Business Development Division,
NEC Personal Products, Ltd.
Member of IPSJ (Information Processing Society of Japan).
SAKAMOTO Susumu
Expert,
Ubiquitous Business Development Division,
NEC Personal Products, Ltd.
CHIBA Taneaki
Manager,
Ubiquitous Business Development Division,
NEC Personal Products, Ltd.
NEC TECHNICAL JOURNAL Vol.3 No.4/2008 ------- 91
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