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Reviewing CableCARD™ Recorded TV in Windows Media Center on a Friday night

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This has been my first full week with my new CableCARD ATI Digital Cable Tuner and I will explain how the unit is working with Windows Media Center 7. In addition, I will attempt to briefly explain how Copy Protection works and my next step in addressing Switched Digital Video.

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Background

Now that Windows 7 has the Digital Cable Advisor, anyone who passes the test can get a CableCARD and Digital Cable Tuner for their PC and start watching and recording HD TV. You of course need a cable provider that supports CableCARD but most of you have that anyway. This is not as complicated as I make it sound. I promise looking back 4 months from now that you will see we were heading in the right direction!

Last week I walked through the installation process of an ATI Digital Cable Tuner (DCT) in Windows Media Center 7. My cable company (Charter) installed the CableCARD and I was up and running. The article can be found at:

https://moviesgamesandtech.com/2009/11/09/installing-a-cablecard-digital-cable-tuner-with-the-new-digital-cable-advisor-on-a-friday-night/

The set up and installation of the CableCARD is actually quite easy. The challenge of the system is in understanding what you get with a CableCARD and the DCT.

Equipment

  • Windows Media Center 7 PC
  • Windows Home Server with Power Pack 3
  • DCT on a qualified WMC7 system
  • Two Beers (Optional as always)

Recorded TV

I am still going to use screen shots in other articles but it seems only fitting that I start using videos for Windows Media Center articles. This short video shows how the Copy Protected feature was shown on CableCARD recorded TV shows through WMC. With the Windows Update for the ATI DCT the Copy Protected feature is removed from programming classified as Copy Freely.

Copy Freely versus Copy Protected (Once)

So what is going on with this Copy Protected issue? Well I figured it all out thanks to an engadgetHD article. Let me explain and summarize what is going on with the DCT and WMC. After I installed the ATI DCT last week, and got the system working, the shows that recorded were locked as Copy Protected. I was not sure why they were Copy Protected but assumed it was due to the CableCARD. Then, as of Thursday night, all of a sudden the shows that recorded were NOT Copy Protected? What the hell? I could not figure it out until writing this article. It was on Thursday afternoon that I installed some Windows Updates. One of the updates was an update for the ATI DCT. This update changed the DCT to release the Copy Protected lock on any show that is listed as Copy Freely.

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I cannot explain it as well as engadgetHD so more information can be found at:

http://www.engadgethd.com/2009/09/24/a-first-hand-look-at-sdv-and-copy-freely-support-in-windows-7-me/

Once the ATI DCT update was installed, the Copy Freely shows recorded after the update were then able to be viewed by other WMC PCs on the network. WHS and the TV Archive process loads the recorded TV programs to the WHS. Very cool.

Switched Digital Video – SDV

Although I get all of the basic cable channels on the DCT, and all of the local HD channels, there are still some channels I am missing. On the ATI DCT I do not get channels like Discovery HD, HDNet and Universal HD among others. Charter recently changed to switched digital video (SDV) and I need an additional component called a tuning adapter to get these special channels.

What the hell am I talking about? Ok, here is SDV in basic terms. It used to be that cable companies transmitted all of the channels through your RF cable. You and all of your neighbors received ALL of the channels all the time. This process takes up a lot of bandwidth so some cable companies decided to start switching to SDV. With SDV only channels that people are watching need to be sent. The basic channels (usually 02-99) are “always on”, or sent, but the rest of the channels are only sent when requested. This is basically what SDV is. Your cable box, DVR or DCT needs to “send a request” for the SDV channels. This is where the tuner adapter comes in to play. These are layman terms so Wiki it if you need detailed information!

Tuning Adapter

Gilbert, my technician from Charter, said during his visit this Saturday that the Charter tuning adapter is only currently supported for TIVO systems. He said he talked with his supervisor and that Charter in my area only installs tuner adapters under those circumstances. He did however say he would help me and would talk to his supervisor this week to see what we can do. Microsoft says that WMC supports SDV with a USB connection so I should be good to go. Since I have to convince his supervisor I took screenshots of the CableCARD data screens in WMC and printed them for him. In addition, I gave him some shots of WMC version screens and channel data. He said he was looking forward to helping me with this installation. Thank you Gilbert!

Follow Up for Next Week

I will call Gilbert and Charter on Monday to set up a third appointment for next Friday. I am excited to be the first one in my area to set up this type of system. I hope in the coming months with the release of the Ceton equipment that I will be laying the ground work for some clear and defined processes. I would suggest to anyone reading this that you run the Digital Cable Advisor on your system ahead of time to verify your eligibility for future DCTs!

See you next Friday night,

Timothy Daleo

Timothy Daleohttp://usingwindowshomeserver.com
Timothy Daleo is a Project Resource Analyst and Oracle Applications Trainer in Pasadena, California. In addition to financial analysis, Tim has been developing training materials since 2003 and supporting direct projects through various auxiliary databases since 2005.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I am very interested in your progress with the Tuning adapter. I have a customer with a Windows 7 Media Center and 4 ATI TV Wonder Digital tuners. Charter, the cable provider in Worcester MA, is telling me they can't (won't) install the CableCard because "the PC doesn't support SDV". Hearing that Charter in your location is being cooperative is giving me hope.

    Thanks for your post. You are going on my Favorites.

    Bob Ekstrom

  2. Tim,

    Made solid progress yesterday. Charter sent their real tech people (not subs) and they were great to work with. Real can do attitude. We were able to get one of the cablecards working (out of four). They are coming back this afternoon. Their goal is to get all the cards working and install the tuning adapters.

    Bob

    • I think we are on our way. I have Charter coming out tomorrow morning. The phone rep said all of the notes about the Tuning Adapter were in my record so I have a good feeling about it. Lets hope WMC behaves with the TA.

      Are they going to get the cards working first and then the TAs or did they get the first TA installed with your card?

      I really think you and I might be the first ones to get these TAs working with Charter. Sweet.

  3. Tim,

    We decided to get all the cards working first, then move on to the tuning adapters.

    I am not at the client now, but one/both of the diagnostics tools (in Media Center and in the ATI screens) has information about the tuning adapter. I am really hopeful.

    I do think we are ahead of the curve.

    On another note, I would like to work with you on posting my implementation with this client. It includes Media Center feeding 4 hi-def LCDs/LEDs, WHS is automating (via mControl) lighting, cameras, security, heating/cooling and feeding (via CasaTunes) a 12 zone Russound audio system. WHS is running a PPTP VPN giving the client secure access to the system from anywhere. Also have a Hava platinum for TV over the internet.

    Bob

  4. Tim,

    Eureka . . . .

    All four CableCards are now working.

    Yesterday (19th) I left the client at 6PM and only one was up and running. All were authorized, initialized, but only one had downloaded the channel map. By 2AM this morning (according to the ATI traces) the other three had downloaded their maps. In no time I had two extenders streaming two different channels, recorded a third, and watched a forth. Sweet.

    This afternoon the Charter returned with 4 Tuning Adapters (ATI refers to them as "Tuning Resolvers"). The install was extremely easy.

    With the PC running,

    rewire the Coax,

    plug in the USB cord,

    Windows loads the driver (the device shows up in the Devices control screen)

    the Cable headend sends an authorization

    One of the Tuning Adapters would not finish initialization. They are bringing a replacement next week. Charter says the fault rate on Tuning Adapters is about the same as CableCards.

    So, three out of four tuners are 100%

    I therefore declare conditional victory.

    Hope all goes well with you.

    Bob

  5. The Charter tech just left. The light is solid green on the STA1520 but I have yet to get any SDV channels. The Supervisor said it is working and I used the Tuning Resolver screen in WMC to verify. I will let it sit overnight and hopefully be running by tommorrow.

    Glad this is working for both of us. We will have to do this all over again when the Ceton cards come out!

    Tim

  6. Any update on your progress, Tim? Did the SDV ever work for you?

    Anybody have any experience with these things and Comcast?

  7. So what if the Digital Cable Advisor doesn't show up in your MC? I am running 7 Ultimate.

  8. Go to Settings>General>Automatic Download Options and click on Download Now.

    Give it a little bit and then check the Extras Gallery.

    Tim

  9. Tim, I'm curious, is there any reason I shouldn't go out and by the ATI cablecard tuner? I'm with comcast, I contacted them about the cablecard, the Tech recommended I get the tuner and contact them when I'm ready to schedule the install.

    Would you recommend getting the ATI cablecard tuner or would you recommend waiting on a better tuner at this time?

  10. I would totally recommend the ATI CableCARD tuner as long as you can get a multi-stream CableCARD from your provider.

    Only wait for the new tuner if you have to have more than one tuner. I also heard that Homerun has a CableCARD tuner coming out soon.

    I love my ATI card! I love WHS. Seriously.

    Tim

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