I just found out that my DVD/HDD recorder is probably a UNIX box. No way of finding out for sure as there is no network connection but it seems so. It’s a Pansonic I believe. Toshiba makes a more geeked out version that I might buy at a future date with full networking and even file transfers to other network connected computers. I guess it’ll depend on whether I’ll watch that much TV on the commuter train or not.
I found out all this while researching ways to get TV programs onto the iPod Touch, yet another UNIX machine. I also hear that there are a few smart phones essentially running UNIX too. You wouldn’t know it from the number of devices with the fabulously ghetto Windows Mobile sticker on it but UNIX is really the unsung hero. Too bad these Japanese appliance manufacturers and all other vendors like TiVO can’t do more to coordinate their efforts. Of course, that would mean choosing a single or family of a UNIX distribution and setting up a means of contributing back improvements that would help the competitor.
Such fragmentation will probably reduce the risk of keeping UNIX alive and viable by spreading it out across various manufacturers. It might go against the values of some open source hippies to see corporations making a pretty penny off of community-driven projects. Still I would say it’s much better than having Microsoft or Apple dominating appliance operating systems. Plus, it might open the door for standard UNIX systems to connect with such appliances.
One thing that sucks is that these companies try to play down how much UNIX is in their system and what they’re doing to push back some contributions. I would say that there is a culture of fear preventing companies from owning up and acknowledging how much open source they use since it opens up a Pandora’s box of potential legal issues ranging from blanket lawsuits emanating from Microsoft’s blanket legal attack on supposed UNIX infringement to GNU and other open source (I use this term loosely) “promoters” launching attacks on enterprises eating a free lunch.
Other than that UNIX is a good match for appliances because it’s light-weight, infinitely hackable (since the source is all there), and compatible with any platform (as stuff written in C compiles to most processors). I’d love to see a trinity of UNIX, Apple, and Microsoft with M$ slipping into the sewer dominating IT. We really need to think of the future.
As much as I like Apple, if there was an equally attractive open source alternative, I would gladly switch. At the very least we need some good competition from a closer cousin. Of course, I doubt I’ll ever be SSHing into my toaster to execute a command but who knows…