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teeveed icon

natural language daemon for the media center.

This was my winter break project winter from 12/28/13 - 1/10/14, and now development has ceased. See the writeup on

The original README and notes are preserved below.

What it does

teeveed is a media center daemon you control with your voice. Right now, you talk to it with your smartphone's web browser. You tell teeveed to play a movie or an episode of a show you want to see that you have on your share, and it opens VLC for you.

Behind the scenes, teeveed runs an indexer to keep finding files fast. It runs a webserver so you can communicate with it, and it has a nice pleasent heads-up display, so you can see what it's doing.

screenshot of the HUD


Current Tasks

  1. Switching from DataMapper to Sequel for our ruby-hipster ORM. DataMapper does too much work that keeps us from raw SQL, which we need to implement trigram-based text matching

  2. Use the JavaFX entry point. Right now teeveed boots from jar-bootstrap.rb via JRuby's org.jruby.JarBootstrapMain. We need to use a JavaFX main to use JavaFX bundling tools and eliminate dependence on mvn com.zenjava:javafx-maven-plugin:2.0:fix-classpath for deployment

  3. Switch from JRuby-based JIT compiling to AOT compiling. teeveed boots really, really slowley, and that's because there's a lot of JIT happening when the jar is loaded. Maybe things would go faster if we pre-compiled teeveed (and its gems).


  • Java JDK 1.7
  • Maven 2+
  • JRuby 1.7.x
  • PostgreSQL 9.1+ with the pg_trgm extension! pg_trgm is one of the ways we find similar-text matches

teeveed uses gem-maven-plugin instead of Bundler to manage requirements. See pom.xml for more information.

Get Hacking

  1. git clone or similar to get the source
  2. cd teeveed, mvn initialize will download and install the required rubygems in teeveed/target/rubygems
  3. source will correct your $GEM_HOME and $RUBY_LIB environment variables to point to the gems installed in teeveed/target/rubygems and the teeveed sources.
  4. Hack away. run teeveed (alias provided by to start the daemon, or cli to start the Pry command line.

If things feel too slow, You should get drip in your ~/bin, and then source before launching any of this ruby junk. Drip'll put the spring back in your step!



  • Java JDK 1.7
  • Maven 2+ (for HUD)
  • a Postgres database

The only reason we need Maven and the JDK is because (right now) teeveed isn't packaged as a JavaFX runtime app. Because the JavaFX runtime does some interesting native loading things, the simplest way is just to move the JavaFX libraries into the implicit system classpath.

I will get around to fixing this, but it's low priority for my own machines.


  1. (sudo) mvn com.zenjava:javafx-maven-plugin:2.0:fix-classpath

    This moves JavaFX onto the classpath so the JavaFX libraries are always loaded. THIS STEP IS ONLY REQUIRED ON USER-INTERFACE MACHINES

  2. make a directory for all of the teeveed resources. I like ~/teeveed.

  3. copy teeveed-0.2.2.jar and example.teeveed.conf.rb into your teeveed folder.

  4. copy into your ~/bin or somewhere else on your path, and modify $TEEVEED_HOME in it to point to your teeveed folder.

  5. Create a Postgres database and user for teeveed. Make sure your postgres instance is accessable over TCP (unencrypted)

  6. Change example.teeveed.conf.rb so that it matches your setup. Important things to change:

    • database command to match the setup of your Postgres database
    • library command's path should be '/path/to/your/media'
    • You'll need to insert your token for the teeveed instance



  • Keep a fast index of all the media on a share for quick search (DONE)
  • index needs to respond to natural-language searches (DONE)
    • few spelling mistakes, mostly word transpositions (TODO: switch to trigram)
  • deleted items should be pruned regularly (DONE)
  • delegte music indexing and search to Spotify (TODO)

The index is stored in a PostgeSQL database, which gets us nice full-text-search for free. Indexing is performed by crawling each library section on a specified schedule, and adding new items, and removing old items based on a last_seen timestamp.

At some point we should use the following algorithm when returning search results, so that we never return a file that doesn't exist:

# Array<Media> returned in ranked order from best to worst match
results = => "the good the bad the ugly", :sense => :watch)
results.each do |hit|
    path = + hit.relative_path
    if not path.exist?

    path = path.realpath.to_s
    return, path)

Natural Language Interface

  • User story: you sit down on the couch and say, "Ok tv. do we have the new Game of Thrones?"

  • User story: you want to quickly start music playing while in the kitchen. "Ok tv. Play songs by Royksopp"

We use to interpret user intents from plain text. Intent behavior is defined in lib/teevee/daemon/intent_controller.rb, which performs dispatch based on intent type.

Visual indicators (DONE)

teeveed uses a simple JavaFX window to display user intents and matched entities on-screen. All intents are automatically displayed before they are handled, and the results of the handler (anything with a :friendly_name) function are displayed when the handler completes.