A new media server from Harman Kardon allows users to store,
transfer, watch and listen to content from DVDs, CDs, cell phones and video
cameras without locking up, thanks to the use of a specialized embedded
Media Center 1000 (DMC 1000), the new media server is said to be the first
of its kind to offer such a broad range of capabilities, which initially raised
concerns among design engineers over the unit's ability to do so much without getting
hung up in the process. "There are two things we didn't want," says Mike
Heiss, senior technology strategist with the Harmon Kardon Consumer Group. "We
didn't want a 'blue screen of death' and we didn't want an hourglass. Users
will tolerate that in a computer, but they won't tolerate it in an electronic
deal with that challenge, Harman Kardon linked up with QNX Software Systems, a maker of real-time embedded
operating systems (RTOS) and middleware for luxury automotive applications and
high-end network routers. Using the 6.3.2 version of the QNX Neutrino RTOS,
engineers from both companies worked on enabling the complex DMC 1000 box to
work more reliably than a PC.
say the key to the box's performance is a modular architecture, along with an
event-driven and time-triggered architecture. The event-driven architecture,
they say, is responsible for handling the user interface, while the
time-triggered part enables the system to pump out audio and video data
"One of the
keys is having a real-time operating system that allows you to build an
architecture that can prioritize events appropriately," says Sebastien
Marineua-Mes, vice president of research and development at QNX. "When you're
pumping out video, you still need the ability to reserve part of your CPU to
handle the user interface, so that the box is still responsive."
engineers say software modularity is equally important. Modularity, they
say, enables the software to expose bugs early in the development cycle,
enabling engineers to catch them and fix them at run-time or at deployment.
have a driver for a CD-ROM, for example, the bugs get exposed at run time,"
Marineua-Mes says. "So the system essentially heals itself. If the driver is
buggy, instead of having the entire system crash, as it would with a Windows
PC, this software has the ability to recover and repair itself without any
visible service interruption to the user."
Kardon engineers say the end result is a system that operates more like an
audio/video system than a PC. "It's not meant to be a computer," says
Heiss of Harman Kardon. "We went out of our way to make sure it wasn't one."