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Wireless

After I checked out all the features, I wanted to see how well the box worked wirelessly. Setting up for wireless was fairly painless. A "site-survey" found my access point; a setup screen (Figure 12) let me enter my encryption info.

Wireless Setup

Figure 12: Wireless Setup

Key entry was a bit of a pain with a remote, but once everything was set up, the box rebooted and I was running wirelessly. My access point is directly underneath my entertainment center, one floor down, so I should have had pretty good signal strength, but there was no screen to measure it.

In operation, everything worked the same, although my high-definition MPEG-2 stress-test video broke up much earlier than on my wired network. Other videos seemed to work fine, but in general, I would recommend a wired network when you plan on using this box for video. To see how well it worked further away from my access point, I moved the box to the far corners of my house where I typically have a lower signal. I couldn't tell any difference in these locations, but I would expect to occasionally see some break-up issues when viewing video.

Under the Covers

Figure 13 shows the main board of the EVA8000 with the mini PCI wireless card pulled back.

Main Board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 13: Main Board

Like the EVA700, the board only takes up a small portion of the case. Unfortunately, the main CPU and several support chips are hidden under large heat sinks, so I couldn't identify them. But this post in the Netgear forums identifies the Sigma Designs EML8623—the non-Macrovision version of the EM8622L Digital Media Processor as one of the mystery chips. Wired network support is provided by a Realtek RTL8100C and wireless by an Atheros AR5005G chip on the mini PCI card. USB 2.0 support is by a VIA VT6212 Chip.

As far as software, like most of these types of devices, the box runs Linux internally. Specifically, the kernel is identified as: 2.4.22-uc0-sigma-20051018-nm. NETGEAR provides a download site where interested parties can download the GPL-licensed software used on the box to review and rebuild it. NETGEAR even includes the complete tool-chain for doing cross-compilations, although you'll be on your own if you try to build and install custom firmware. NETGEAR does provide a pretty-good support forum where knowledgeable support personnel answer questions.

On the Windows side, I noticed that the YouTube playback capability is provided by FFmpeg. Digging a bit into the receiver.exe executable that provides the rest of the functionality shows a couple of interesting tidbits. When an iTunes protected song was played back, a whole slew of Quicktime DLLs are loaded, presumably to perform the decryption hack. Looking at strings embedded in the executable turns up a "SkipJam" copyright. This probably explains the difference in architecture and new features between the EVA700 and the EVA8000. NETGEAR recently acquired SkipJam, who made their own network multimedia box, so the 8000 is likely bringing in the new SkipJam functionality.

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