Netflix Player Source Code Released

The Netflix Player continues to gain in popularity. Roku has finally released the GPL code for their Netflix Player. Just today Forbes published that Roku would roll out a software update allowing it to stream from other online services. The diminutive device has no internal storage and just enough RAM to buffer the stream. Many have wondered how a Linux box is handling the DRM; this is purely a feature of the NXP PNX8935 processor being used. While waiting for the code, hackers have already popped the box open to see what’s inside. We found [hokiokie7]’s photos of the internals on Roku’s forum. The only really interesting thing we’ve seen so far is that the WiFi is on a daughter card that plugs into the USB. That should make it much easier to support other devices, if users ever manage to get into the system.

UPDATE: [mbailey] points out in the comments that he was able to telnet to the device.

15 thoughts on “Netflix Player Source Code Released

  1. Two words, still…

    Closed Captioning.


    Some of us really do use captioning to be able to understand the shows we like to watch. That’s been my number one complaint about Netflix’s streaming thing since we first started using it. Same goes for catching missed episodes of whatever (okay, fine, Grey’s Anatomy) on ABC, they’re not captioned.

    Whatever law requires TV’s to have captioning decoders, it has for years now. The shows are encoded with the information already. What’s the problem I wonder? Web users aren’t deaf enough? I’m tired of emailing ABC, Netflix, Universal (different issue re captioning on many DVDs) and getting canned or no answer. And I’m not even completely deaf yet, only about 30% loss at age 32.

    Sorry, done ranting now.

  2. About the cc thing – I worked in cable tv for a few years, and one of the major problems with the highly compressed bitrates we used to encode analog video to the servers was that the lossy compression would not preserve the closed captioning in the video signal (where it is encoded). Now that everything, including closed captioning is going digital, I can’t be sure if that has anything to do with it, but it’s a safe bet. until they’re streaming with 5 or 6 megabits of data, cc probably won’t be likely. this could be worked around with any number of other data transmission methods, but they are probably more focused on fixing the fact that this thing can’t do high def…

  3. is the published code the complete code? or is roku and netflix holding back some code to make it proprietary ?

    if the published code is the complete code then hackers could theoretically remove any drm and allow the entire movie to be relayed to a computer for vlc capture or saved to an external hard drive so it can be copied to a computer.

  4. @5: What would it use USB for? It does exactly one thing (right now): stream media from a fixed web site to your TV. That’s it. It’s half a step above one of those wireless music-receiver dongles. Granted, it has a UI like a VCR/DVR, but that’s it.

    Also, looking at the OP, there’s mention that the wifi daughterboard plugs into the onboard USB jumpers, but there’s no *external* USB (and as I said no need for it).

  5. Odd … my Roku is on a green PCB …

    @ ejonesss
    Why bother? Netflix uses so-so quality on their encodes and its VC-1. It would be far more interesting to reflash the unit as a Myth frontend than to steal content from Netflix.

  6. From the look of the released code, this will be largely useless for any sort of content-based hacking, either stealing from the box, or turning other boxes into streaming devices. They have packages for the kernel and a bunch of fairly standard userland stuff. The actual media streaming and UI stuff is presumably a completely proprietary in-house deal.

    Fine by me, really. The netflix player looks like a really fun little piece of hardware. I’d love to see it running third party linux builds, and myth frontends and so forth. Breaking in to grab low quality video feeds(that can already be obtained on any windows system, not exactly known as a bulletproof embedded platform) is very much an inferior objective by comparison. It would be nice to have Roku and friends see hackers as a way of moving more units, not a threat to their precious little content.

    Roku is the latest instance; but it applies generally. It would be really nice to see devices of this type shipping with an “opt out of ecosystem” option buried somewhere. I’m not really interested in stealing whatever “premium content” is being pushed this week; but I am quite interested in poking at my gadgets. A little switch that nukes all the DRM magic and leaves the system in a user accessable state(ie JTAG works if it exists, bootloader is accessable via serial, usb, or network and will do the necessary stuff, and so forth). It just sucks to think that the next WRT54G phenomenon might never get off the ground; because the hardware was locked down in order to “protect” something the hackers were never really after.

  7. Too bad,

    I found this thread in a search to create a Netflix player for my Nokia N810. I think the N810 even has a DRM capable processor. I’m not trying to steal anything, I just think it would be cool to be able to play Netflix movies on this thing.

    The funny thing is that the lack of this player actually encourages me to break the law and steal non-DRMed movies from other sources that can be played on my N810!

  8. @Big R

    Closed captioning for digital streams is sent as raw text with timing codes. Look up, for example, the SRT file format. Or look to the fact that DTVs/HDTVs allow you to change the size, font, and position of the closed caption text. There’s no reason netflix couldn’t provide the same. Shit, I can illegally download movies on PirateBay and with 10 minutes of Googling find an SRT file to load with my AVI file into Mplayer.

  9. to all those nay-sayers out there, look at how CSS, AACS, WMP DRM, and many, many more supposed “unbreakable” schemes were cracked. All it takes is a smart hacker to “wiggle” into it a bit and then there will be thousands of hackers in line to fill in the missing gaps.

  10. Has anyone hacked this thing enough to be able to add buffer memory? I asked about it being able to buffer a movie before I bought it, and they said it could. Now I have this thing and with my internet connection it is about 50% watch, 50% wait. If I could add a couple of gigs of RAM, maybe by USB, I could start and pause a movie, then come back later and watch the whole thing. It doesn’t seem like it should be too hard with USB memory keys being a dime a dozen and the thing having active USB. Anyone?

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