Archives For CableCARD


Since EngadgetHD has yet to post a round up of their CEDIA coverage (the show floor is still open), I wanted to highlight some of the Media Center news. I can’t say it’s lived up to Ben Drawbaugh’s predictions or my lofty expectations. As I tweeted after Microsoft’s off-site event earlier this week, “The news was good, but there wasn’t much of it.” Bottom line: Build your own CableCARD computers, SDV support on the way, less DRM for more portable recordings, multi-stream CableCARD tuner coming, and the DISH Network tuner initiative isn’t entirely dead. Also notable is what’s missing… Where the heck are the new Windows 7 media extenders, is AMD/ATI out of the CableCARD tuner business, and how about some more substantial Windows Home Server MC integration?

Media Center CableCARDs freed from OEM requirement
The OEM requirement on CableCARDs has been officially lifted, freeing Joe Six Packs all over from having to buy whole systems.

Hands-on with the Ceton CableCARD tuner
The Ceton CableCARD tuner is a single PCI-E card that uses one multi-stream CableCARD and offers the ability to record four HD channels at once.

Dish Network Media Center tuner hands-on
We’re happy to say that Dish was proudly displaying a Dish Tuner for Media Center 7 at its booth. The bad news however is that it was just a “proof of concept.”

Windows 7 to get a better version of Netflix than Vista
The Windows 7 version of the Netflix Watch Instantly still isn’t going to work on Extenders for Media Center, but it will include a more seamless experience than the Vista version does


According to Windows Media Center blogger Chris Lanier, a new OCUR CableCARD firmware update is coming soon that will enable support for cable company switched digital video broadcasts via tuning adapter hardware. There will also be an additional change that allows for “less DRM on non-flagged CableCard recordings.” So expect this to be one of the positives for MediaCenter fans coming out next week at CEDIA. Kudos to Ben Drawbaugh of EngadgetHD for calling this one early on.

Catch more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media over at Geek Tonic.


Beginning in 2010, cable provider RCN will deploy TiVo as their primary DVR. While RCN has a smaller footprint than say a Comcast or Time Warner, this is pretty significant as the cable plant engineering requirements should be minimal… I believe they’re just re-purposing retail TiVo hardware with some RCN UI branding tweaks and charging a typical monthly rental fee. Additionally, cable VOD services will be powered via TiVo’s recent partnership with SeaChange. As in: This ain’t a tru2way play.


While I dig pay television content and broadband, I can’t say I always dig the cable company. Historically, I haven’t had the greatest experiences with things like billing or installs. Those installs, in particular, have been a recurring pain point. With a 25% no-show rate, the possibly high contractor who had to be escorted out after getting aggressive, his replacement drilling through the wall as intended and continuing on into our dresser as not intended, having to call the franchising authority to encourage Comcast to locate CableCARDs, etc.

So, upon making the move from DC’s Maryland suburbs to the Virginia equivalent I flirted with the idea of giving up cable. Well, most cable. Since dissembling the home theater and selling my place in 2005, we’ve lived like gypsys… and our new rental community bundles basic cable into our monthly fees (for $45). I figured SD CNN would satisfy Melissa and I’d get my fix of HD video over-the-air and via Netflix. Unfortunately, given the construction of our building or our location, I haven’t been able to tune a single major network OTA (WJLA and WUSA haven’t helped the situation) using several indoor antennas and tuning devices. Combined with Verizon raising their FiOS Internet fees, I pretty much had to re-up with cable (we face east and north – no satellite options available).


As if CableCARDs weren’t complex enough to implement with Comcast, Cox Communications here in Virginia utilizes SDV – so TiVo owners also require fugly “tuning adapters” mated to their units via coax and USB to handle switched programming. (Some of my thoughts on the industry cluster here.) At least they’re provided free, although commentary on the TiVo Community indicates reboots are periodically required to keep everything synced up and that they may unintentionally inject copy protection flags – limiting the usefulness of multi-room viewing and TiVoToGo.

Bottom line, after an 8 hour ordeal yesterday, I’m up and running on 3 CableCARDs, 2 tuning adapters, and a cable modem. Cox HD looks great and we may receive even more channels than Comcast. Plus, broadband speeds are very good (see pic below) on the mid-tier package which runs $38ish/mo. All I need now is some sort of stand or entertainment center to house the living room plasma.

For the complete blow by blow of how the install process played out, here’s a capture of my Twitter feed:

  • 3 CableCARDs, 2 tuning adapters, and 1 modem scheduled for install tomorrow, 10-12. I’ll surely tweet Cox’s performance.
  • Why is QVC selling Christmas lights this morning? And why am I even channel surfing QVC?
  • I have no idea where my new cable operator puts channels? Waiting for the installer with CableCARDs this AM. We shall see…
  • Yep, Cox installers suck as bad as Comcast. Received a voicemail on my work line that no one’s home, call to reschedule. BS.
  • After 30 minutes with three phone reps, they’ll try again after 1PM.
  • I just turned off Google Voice’s requirement to announce your name to prevent further confusion of/by the cable guy. *shakes head*
  • Oh, and I offered to pick up the three CableCARDs. But apparently installing them is highly technical and requires a home visit. Uh-huh.
  • With a $30 per television CableCARD “installation” fee, I’d rather sit on hold to activate them myself.
  • I hooked up the cable modem while installer wrestles CableCARDs and tuning adapters. Going on 2+ hrs.
  • There’s gotta be a better way.
  • Success. Finally. I need a beer.
  • Glorious, glorious HD. How I missed you. Cox’s Internet speeds are solid, too. Getting 25+ down on the $38/mo plan. Why’d FiOS raise rates?

Photo by Zandir

After finding a few minutes to scan TiVo’s quarterly call transcript what stands out, other than hoarding $200+ million in cash, is what appears to be a slippage in the delivery of a new DirecTV TiVo DVR. 2009 has become 2010. CEO Tom Rogers, via Seeking Alpha:

DIRECTV not likely to rollout until early next year

We’ve pointed to that timeframe in early next year

our expectation is early next year that the DIRECTV new product will be available

I can’t say I’m surprised. And have been suggesting for some time that it’s unlikely we’d see the renewed DirecTV+TiVo relationship bear fruit this year. Continue Reading…

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  May 14, 2009 — 6 Comments

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…

Twitterrific Comes Roaring Back Into The iPhone Twitter App Wars
As someone who paid $10 for the original, I’m glad the upgrade was free. But they may have introduced extra complexity and reduced usability in how they implemented the expanded feature set. I’m a bit torn between it and Tweetie. Wish I could pick and choose features (and performance) from the two to design the perfect client for me. I’ll continue to play with it a few more days, see if it grows on me and as I get more familiar with the UI.

MiFi is a mobile broadband game changer
Two questions: 1. ) Does Verizon show you your data usage in your online account? Since they’re charging overages, I’d want to keep tabs on bits transferred. 2.) Can you recharge this via USB? 2a.) Does it come with a car charger? Seriously considering swapping my Sprint aircard and Cradlepoint router for just one device. Could be overkill most of the time, but less overall clutter when on the road. Keeping it charged is my only concern.

More about TiVoToGo & Multi-Room Viewing Copy Protection (CCI byte Explained)
Except all the Series2 units don’t use CableCARDs and are not subject to Cable Labs. I think I recall Pony mentioning some sort of Macrovision flagging as well. Of course, the rational was a bit odd. I believe the context was since they provide Series2 units with DVD drives they were bound by Macrovision regulations. But it seems to me they didn’t have to adopt it across the board. I think it’s just as likely they did it that way to keep the content industry at bay. Who knows!

CableCARDs: Cause for Joy, and Pain
Some factual errors and omissions here… CableCARDs are NOT tuners, they are separable security devices. Multristream cards (M-Cards) support dual (or more) hardware tuners/tuning. Also the fees are all over the board. My 3 CableCARDs were installed free and some franchises don’t require truck rolls, though many (most?) do. Additionally, card rate varies. I think Comcast’s official policy in my area is the first card is free and additional cards are $1.50/mo which may or may not come with an ‘additional outlet’ (AO) fee. However, all three of my cards are free ‘rentals’ and I’m not charged outlet fees.

In addition to consumer confusion or ignorance, CableCARDs used in current retail boxes do not provide two-way services like video on demand (VOD) or handling switched digital video (SDV). However, the future (perhaps) lies in tru2way – a common platform to enable that. However it may also require you get stuck with the crappy cableco UI on your third party device, like HDTV. And you mention things dying out, yet tru2way is just getting rolling… and all the major cable-cos and many CE vendors have signed on.

Lastly, there was a move afoot to meet the FCC’s separable security mandate via software, rather than hardware pairing/authentication. Not sure where that stands.

Continue Reading…


I’m still getting familiar with my loaner retail Moxi HD DVR ($800, no fees). The Moxi UI is high def lusciousness and it offers some compelling features beyond requisite DVR functionality – such as the ticker, media streaming, and web browsing (!). And not an ad in sight. However… The interface does take a bit of getting used to. Plus, like Engadget, it feels like just about everything requires one too many clicks and, like Gizmodo, remote control operation is often a mystery.

However, I’ve been perfectly willing to give it a little time. Melissa isn’t quite as patient. While I’m responsible for nearly all our tech decisions/purchases, she often ends up living with them. Perhaps a family DVR shouldn’t involve a learning curve. Her thoughts, with only minor stylistic and grammatical editing (hypertext links, too) by me:


Among the many benefits of being Dave’s other half, is getting cool gadgets shipped to our home. While I may not be a true geek, I appreciate user-friendly devices that aren’t meant solely for tech gurus. We all know about Dave’s love-hate relationship with TiVo. True to himself, Dave has always provided an honest critique of the TiVo product. But, I have come to love our TiVo(s) simply because “My TiVo gets me“. Which is why I am not loving the Moxi unit we currently have hooked up in our bedroom.

Maybe I am a creature of habit and don’t do well with change. So, the burden is on Moxi to help me make a smooth transition if they want me to fall in love with their product. The interface is busy and distracts me from seeing what I am looking for. Way too colorful. Plus, it makes me work too hard. Moxi simply takes too long to find recorded programming. There seems to be too many steps to get me to the shows it recorded. I’m also somewhat frustrated with lag time when flipping channels.

I miss my simple-to-use TiVo that I have come to depend on. Not only because she gets me, but because I get her!