CableCard card tuners on the way

cablecard

We were momentarily excited when we heard that CableCARD compatible tuners will be available for purchase by the end of the year. A card like this would allow you to hook up your digital cable to your computer and record programs natively. This has been possible for a long time with analog cable and PVR software such as MythTV. Up to this point, recording digital cable has required a dedicated cable box and workarounds to allow the computer to change channels.

Wait a minute though, the announcement was made by Microsoft? Indeed. Microsoft has been making a big push into the home theater PC market with Media Center. Redmond’s PVR offering is also limited to recording analog television;opening up digital would expand the marketplace for them. But here’s where it gets hairy: if you read the Microsoft announcement, TV shows flagged as CF (copy freely) are the only ones that can be recorded.

So, if we have this right:  you shell out money for a new tuner then you pay more for the rental of the CableCARD. Both of these expenditures are on top of a digital cable subscription. And yet you can only record shows marked with a “Copy Freely” flag. Who makes the decision on which shows we can pay to record?

Comments

  1. MrX says:

    Any hardware or protocol that comes from Microsoft is naively crippled.
    I didn’t read TFA nor I have cable TV, but this really sounds like reinventing the wheel for more profit.

  2. HRpuffnstuff says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. After working with Cablecards for famous fiber optic tv company, I wouldn’t touch them with a 1000 mile pole. Just too flaky losing channels and telling users to upgrade the TV firmware to make them work.

  3. ReKlipz says:

    ATI’s OCUR has been around for quite a while, however un-open source friendly it has been. CableCARDS are nothing new, nearly all HDTVs ought to have support for them, it’s just the damn cable companies don’t explicitly offer CableCARDs.

  4. Edward says:

    who cares, online entertainment is so much better, I go when I want to watch and then watch only what I want to see, no schedule conflicts, no ooops I forgot to record it so I can’t watch it, just what I want when I want, and if I can’t find it free then I use my netflix, no thanks Microsoft I don’t need you for my entertainment, but thanks for all the shotty products cuz I get paid to fix them..

  5. agent smith says:

    If there’s a way to watch it, there’s a way to record it…you just need to be a little more clever about it.

  6. Dan says:

    Actually, any program can be recorded. Only those marked CF and be viewed on on computers other than the computer that recorded it. But any show can be recorded and viewed on that computer or an extender. And the products have been around for a few years, they are just relaxing the DRM now and dropping the OEM only requirement. Still not where we want it to be, but a much better option than any other PVR programs out there.

  7. Matthew says:

    As soon as it is recorded, and can be viewed, on a computer under your control, it can be viewed on any. In order to view the video, it must be stored in the clear at some point in memory; therefore, with root access, and proper kernel facilities, the plain video can be extracted. It may be tricky, yes, but possible.

    DRM is fundamentally flawed, both technically and morally. However, despite this, it is no less of a nuisance.

  8. andrew says:

    Aren’t CardBus cards (pictured) going the way of the dinosaur?

  9. fenwick says:

    Wait, this is going to be lossless, right? It won’t just have a d/a converter?

  10. Ben Ryves says:

    Haven’t we been able to watch digital telly on PCs for, well, ages? I’ve got a USB DVB-T tuner attached to my PC (under £15 from Amazon), and it uses Microsoft’s standard BDA drivers so works in a wide number of free and commercial apps (including Microsoft’s own Media Center). USB DVB-C tuners are also available. Admittedly we’re a little technologically backwards in the UK still, only doing SD MPEG-2 over DVB-T (the Aussies offer HD MPEG-4 over DVB-T).

  11. The Steven says:

    “Who makes the decision on which shows we can pay to record?”

    The company who owns the program, of course.

    Your technical skill may vary, and if you can find a way to bypass/over-ride the copy protection flags and get away with it, well then more power to you.

    If you get caught however… You might have to pay a fine, spend some time, or get a job offer.

    You’ll have to let me know how that works out for you.

  12. nave.notnilc says:

    wait, there are actually real channels that will have the CF flag? /me is skeptical

  13. AMediumPace says:

    @ Ben Ryves I think you’re missing the point that this is how bass-ackwards we do things here in the states. We’d love to have portable DVB viewing devices like Europe has, but we are just barely getting our broadcast digital TV conversion mess sorted out.

  14. FreeTheLoader says:

    Why are comments closed on the iPod Nano iLoader article?

    Among other things, the files disappeared…

  15. OrderZero says:

    @FreeTheLoader
    Read all the links.

    “NOTICE: Anyone who has landed here thinking that Linux is already running on the new Nanos, this is not yet the case! Some ignorant Hackaday author has started this rumor.”

  16. bill hates says:

    cable cards are easy. I have a string to put cable card units in “test mode” (comcast). To receive any and all channels …. Let me know if your intrested

  17. Paul says:

    “Aren’t CardBus cards (pictured) going the way of the dinosaur?”

    The single stream cards sort of boot as pcmcia cards then switch into a non standard mode (the video stream passes thru them on non standard wires, only control and meta data goes over the vaguely pcmcia compatible bus).

    The multi stream cards can act as single stream cards but really like to boot in their own separate world that looks nothing like any normal pcmcia card and when doing multi stream stuff are completely incompatible – they do use the same connectors though ….

  18. fartface says:

    If you are in a market that analong will be switching to DTA on comcast you are in luck. You get yourself a Mythtv box and a good QAM tuner. because the little DTA boxes cant descramble, all the QAM’s have to be in the clear and there is a data stream that Myth can read to map the 109.2 channel to 23.. works great and you get everything but the useless HBO,Skinemax, and pay per view. as well as you dont get the garbage upper digital tier. (Oh boy, 37 home shopping networks!)

    Sadly, Microsoft in their infinite stupidity does NOT have this capability. Typically because they think anyone tuning in and recording QAM are dirty thieves.

  19. fartface says:

    @dan. only if you use a crippled System like windows media center. MythTv will record anything no matter what flag is set. It ignores all flags because the programmers for it said, “obey the flags? that’s stupid.” I believe SageTV on windows also IGNORES any flags.

  20. fartface says:

    @reklipz. almost NO tv’s support cablecard. Cablecard in essence is a bigger clusterfart than any other thing done by cable companies.

    go to best buy and look, only 1 tv supports cablecard, the rest dont. Most major brands like Panasonic refuse to support cablecard as well.

  21. Ben Ryves says:

    @AMediumPace: Fair enough, it was the “Redmond’s PVR offering is also limited to recording analog television; opening up digital would expand the marketplace for them” comment that threw me! (FWIW, we’re still running analogue broadcasts alongside digital in the UK, so you win that one). ;-)

  22. Andy says:

    This post is wrong from several factual points.

    1) MS has had cablecards for years, the problem was they could only be used with certain OEM PCs and the OCUR tuners couldn’t be installed (until a very recent bios hack) on other PCs, so it was a very limited market.
    2) You can record anything you have rights to on your cable box, including HBO etc. The Copy Freely flag being opened up just means that you can also use those recordings on other media center PCs or have the ability to transcode (for Zune for instance). In the past those DRMd files would only play on the recording PC or an extender like the Xbox 360. No transcoding, no portability.

    3) Even outside of the CabelCard environmnet, media center has had HD digital recording back to XP days with ATSC over the air tuners. With Win 7 (and with the OEM only Vista TV Pack), you can actually record the handful of clear QAM digital channels that aren’t encrypted by the cable systems (mostly local networks).

    IMO, this original post needs a lot of edits, because the facts are pretty misunderstood as is.

  23. andrew says:

    @Paul: Ok, but pretty much all new pc’s come with ExpressCard slots and not CardBus slots, so users with new computers won’t be able to use it.

  24. @andrew: Well my thinkpad/lenovo came with the combo express/cb as did many of Lenovos/IBMs ThinkPads. I know it’s not just a strange trend that a ton of us tech junkies use ThinkPads.

  25. Regardless of that reply, I do see these cards being full of fail and constant firmware updates. I’ll stick to DSS pirating with my simple coax tuner card. <3

  26. GrizzlyAdams says:

    @andrew: These *DONT* fit into a pcmcia slot on your laptop. CableCards are designed for a custom bus that just happens to use the same connector as pcmcia. Its no different than the Cybiko reusing the pcmcia connector for a completely incompatible bus. CableCards slot into a *TUNER* thats OCUR capable. This means Tivo Series 3, ATI DigitalCableTuners, some set top boxes, and the occasional TV. The card is just a decoder, it contains no RF circuitry. Just because the SBLive card uses a 40 pin ribbon cable for its front panel audio jack doesn’t mean that you can hook up an IDE drive to it. (But this doesn’t stop people from trying and then bringing it in for service when their computer doesn’t boot anymore)

  27. andrew says:

    @GrizzlyAdams: that makes much more sense, thanks for the clarification.

  28. cornelius785 says:

    @fartface: uh… looks like you missed the BIG announcement that allowed comcast to get a waiver for the seperable encrytpion of cable boxes. this allows comcast to ENCRYPT (privacy mode operation) anything and everything that isn’t an OTA transmission. comcast has already sent out notices informing people that they need to have a DTA or STB on every TV connected to cable.

    I’m sure hoping linux gets some form of cablecard support sometime soon. Centon’s website made a mention of linux drivers for one of their tuners (4 tuner model??). The other option is a costly buy of the HD-PVR to record from component video or even the HD-PVR + HDfury to record from hdmi. It’s sad that DRM like restrictions is hurting legitimate customers and making mythtv installation more expensive to reach comparable levels of tuner functionality.

  29. merc says:

    I have a Sony HD-DVR with cablecard and since I lost my job and most of my savings, I had to cancel everything but basic cable. Now, when I try to use the Sony cablecard unit, I get NOTHING but either no signal or no programming messages when I try to receive any channels at all via my owned Sony cablecard HDDVR.

    I still receive basic channels on my non-HD TVs using just the old analog cable hookups without cable boxes, so I must be getting some signal?

    The junction box is in my backyard and it has the dial set to 17, if that means anything?

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    Can I get this thing up and working by myself?

  30. joj0mcjoj0 says:

    m$ bought the ip/patents to open cable capture cards back in ’99… I believe more to suppress proliferation of the tek. Here in the states we tend to have half mangled mandates regarding digital ip which regard corporate endeavor over progress, e.g. managability, kind of like the official responses to the drug “problem”. DVB t/c/s are by all means much more accessible than the open cable spec, but that is the problem in the man’s eyes, at least here.

  31. joj0mcjoj0 says:

    oh and to hell with all manner of broadcast flagging!

  32. Stivo says:

    You can record HD Video and sound from HDMI if you can bypass the HDCP DRM out of the cable STB using a DVI repeater like MUX-HD. But that is not really the biggest problem. To process, compress and write to a hard drive array 6 to 10 GB per hour of HD programs requires an expensive, quad core CPU and HD capture card. Current solutions to that problem are flakey at best! The Hauppauge PVR is OK with a dedicated encoding CPU of it’s own that compresses HD streams in real time and works OK. It’s a lot of work to capture HD content and have TIVO like functions. The rest of the world doesn’t seem to have the level of lawyers and corporate greed that we have here. They just laugh at all the DRM stuff!

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