2014-06-13

My SMART TV - Linux For The Win

I love my "smart" TV - it got Linux inside which is the base for a whole range of nice hacks.

TV Router

The most important one is that the TV is actually a wireless router that provides Internet via Ethernet to my TV rack. Usually the Ethernet connection is used by the Playstation or a Raspberry Pi.
The original reason for this hack was simple: The Playstation 3 has a really really bad Wifi reception which made watching Netflix nearly impossible and the unavoidable PS3 updates painfully long. The USB Wifi adapter connected to the TV has a much better reception, sharing it with the PS3 solved all the performance problems.

Samsung Linux TV

And here comes the good part. The TV (Samsung LE32C650) runs Linux inside and there is an Open Source project (SamyGO) that "opens up" the TV firmware and extends this Linux with useful tools.

In my case I only had to enable IP forwarding, configure a static IP on the Ethernet interface (eth0) and start a DHCP server on it. The Samsung kernel already included IP forwarding (thanks!) and the DHCP server is part of Busybox that comes with SamyGO.

NFS

Another benefit from rooting the TV is the option to add NFS support. The TV has a great media player that plays almost all file formats, even with subtitles and multiple audio tracks. The player can fast forward/rewind and even remembers the last playback position for each video. But all of these nice features only work when playing videos from USB storage, not over DLNA.

Thanks to SamyGO it is possible to mount a NFS share onto a directory on a USB stick. The TV thinks that the NFS share is on the USB stick and happily plays all the videos with all the fancy features.

Wife Acceptance Factor

Back in 2010, when I bought the TV, this was a really cool solution with a high WAF because both watching TV and videos from our collection work with the same remote control. Nowadays I would probably just attach a Raspberry Pi (with OpenELEC) to the TV and enjoy the seamless integration thanks to HDMI CEC. But is is still nice to know that I can extend my TV to better serve our needs.

I can only hope that the next TV will be equally hack friendly.