NeTV2 Open Video Development Board Works with Encrypted and Unencrypted Video Streams (Crowdfunding)

Chumby NeTV was an open source hardware Linux IPTV media player based on a Xilinx Spartan FPGA and a Marvell Armada 166 processor, and unveiled in 2011. Many years have passed since then, and now Bunnie Huang has come up with a new version.

The NeTV2 development board is also optimized for open digital video application, but based on a more powerful Xilinx Artik-7  FPGA, and a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ can be added for things like seamless JTAG configuration and overlay video generation.

NeTV2 + Raspberry Pi 3

Key features and specifications:

  • FPGA – Xilinx Artik-7 XC7A35T-2FGG484 (available with XC7A50T option during campaign only)
  • System Memory – 512 MB RAM, 32-bit wide DDR3-800
  • Storage – micro SD card, 8 MB SPI  flash
  • Video Ports
    • 2x HDMI type A inputs
    • 1 x HDMI type A output
    • 1 x HDMI type D output.
    • One input/output pair configured for in-line ‘NeTV mode’ video filtering.
  • Max Video Bandwidth –  1920 x 1080 @ 60 Hz
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • Expansion
    • PCI-express 2.0 x4 with “hax” GPIO extensions on optional/unused pins
    • Optional Raspberry Pi 3B+
  • Debugging – JTAG
  • Power Supply – 12 VDC via barrel jack, or 12 VDC via PCI-express; 10 W max operating power
  • Dimensions – 160 mm x 120 mm x 51 mm (for optional plastic case)

The system is optimized for use with migen/LiteX, an open source Python-based hardware description language that works with Xilinx’s tools for synthesis, placement, and routing.

The NetTV2 works has two modes of operation selected by jumpers:

  • NeTV Classic Mode (default) where the bitstream allows the addition of encrypted pixels to an encrypted video stream, without decrypting the video stream (due to legal reasons).
  • The Libre Mode – geared more toward developers – works only with unencrypted video feeds, but has full access to the entire video stream.
Comparison of NeTV2 against other video platforms such as Numato Opsis

If you are based in the US, the capabilities of the platform are however limited for legal reasons, namely section 1201 of the DMCA that make it illegal to circumvent the protection on encrypted video feeds, even for your own private use. So for example, while using NeTV classic mode described above, while it’s possible to overlay opaque text on the video, it’s not feasible to add text with a transparent background which would require decryption the video to apply alpha blending. The EFF, Bunny Huang and others have however filled a lawsuit to change the situation, so we’ll have to see how it goes. Bunnie goes into more details about it in NeTV2 announcement blog post.

NeTV2 has been launched on Crowdsupply with a $15,000 funding goal. Rewards start at $200 for NeTV2 board only with XC7A35T FPGA, but so far the most popular perk is the $320 “NeTV2 Quickstart Package” which adds a Raspberry Pi 3 B+, an 8 GB microSD card with pre-loaded base firmware package, a power supply, a custom HDMI Flex Jumper, with everything  assembled into the red and black case shown above. Shipping is free to the US, and adds $30 to the rest of the world. You’ll have to be patient, as the solution is only expected to ship by the end of May 2019.

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7 Replies to “NeTV2 Open Video Development Board Works with Encrypted and Unencrypted Video Streams (Crowdfunding)”

  1. So this is (obviously) perfect for HDMI/HDCP spoofing/stripping/cracking? If yes then Bunny Huang, by just selling this device openly, is going to be breaking lots of laws in lots of places no matter what he claims in the Terms of Sale. So unless he lives in China, Russia, N. Korea, etc., he might find himself in a courtroom. Even if he does live in say, China, he better not travel outside that country any more.

    Anyway, relatively cheap PC software HDCP strippers already exist. (You just have to search for them, be prepared to pay in crypto-currency, make sure you have a safe way to take delivery, and then safely scan what you get for malware before doing anything else with it.) As for key cracking, that’s a dark art AFAIK and is rarely (if ever) needed – but I hear it too is being primarily done in PC software.

    So if Bunny Huang gets slapped with warrants and or law suits for selling this thing, what is his defense going to be? That the device’s potential to abet cracking and/or stripping HDCP is moot because it can be done cheaper by existing software? Yeah, good luck with that Bunny. (Lawyer: Looks like Rabbit is on the menu tonight. Yum!)

    But look on the (twisted) bright side: If the HDMI Forum thugs take Mr. Huang down for selling this device, all those poor abandoned Chumby’s out there might feel a sense of redemption for their never ending loneliness .

    1. I don’t really understand all legal implications, but as I understand it, the idea is that with the current “NeTV classic mode”, the firmware never actually decrypt the stream, so it stays legal. If they can change the law, they’d be able to decrypt the stream, and open more applications.

      1. AFAIK you don’t have to actually decrypt to be illegal. Just aiding (abetting) illegal decryption by a physical device for sale is enough. Even if you disagree, many (if not most) laws written in this area are vague enough to allow a competent deep-pockets Law Firm to either convict an average person in a criminal court, or (at-least) sue him or her into bankruptcy in a civil court.

        If the HDMI Forum goes after Mr. Huang (a big IF), this isn’t going to be like the MPAA trying to sue millions of pirate MP3 downloaders. This is going to be the very wealthy HDMI Forum (90+ companies) going after ONE MAN working alone just to make an example out of him.

        But if the HDMI Forum does go after Bunny Huang, they may discover it will hurt them more in the long term. The Community will rally behind Mr. Huang and make him a hero (which may be what he wants in the first place), and the deep hatred that already exists for HDMI/HDCP amongst consumers will only get worse. In the end, the HDMI Forum fixes nothing (their copy protection is already cracked), their reputation suffers, and Bunny Huang becomes the new Robin Hood (even though he did nothing new to deserve it).

        So in-reality, if the HDMI Forum uses Common Sense instead of listening to Greedy Lawyers, they will do NOTHING about this and let it die a quiet death all on its own due to the high cost of the product. (The thing is too expensive for casual community hackers to take a chance on it, and without an open yet anonymous community to develop code and bitstreams, this will never take off as a viable HDCP solution.)

        1. Someone ought to let Xilinx know they’re in violation of the law. All that thing happens to be is a straight-up HDMI support Artix 7 eval board from one of the vendors, stacked in on top of a Pi3+

          $200-300 gets you an eval board not much different from that one and with the right fabric.

          It’s bullshit and there’s quite a bit of question about the Constitutionality of the law in this case, hence the EFF’s involvement.

          In fact, I consider myself at risk since I work with FPGAs and I had other aspirations to HDMI in the form of GPU support for RISC-V. I find this a big, big problem.

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