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Recommendation for FIOS CableCard Setup

Recommendation for FIOS CableCard Setup

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Contributor ccuser
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Posts: 8
Registered: ‎08-05-2009
Message 1 of 8
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I am coming over from Dish VIP722. I know Verison FIOS supports cableCARD. I have personally never tried TIVO but always heard positive reviews. but on other hand:

I love Vista media center with its sleak interface and NO FEE advance DVR functnality and recent developments  (source: engagdet) with CableCard tuner allow to ATI DCT use with any Vista PC. I already have Xbox as extender. so my question is:

1 - What are main cons and pro of going with verizon with Windows Media Center or TIVO? has anyone tried both setup? liked one over another?

2 - Are there any known MAJOR bug issues with cableCARD that I should be aware of before I jump ship?

3 - Where can I buy ATI Digital Cable Tuner? besides eBay and also do I have to have PID in order to make it work?

4 - Is my PC powerful enough? if not, what should I improve?
  • Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+
  • 3GB DDR2
  • ATI HD3450 with 512MB RAM
  • Xbox 360 Hardwired with CAT5
  • WEI rating of 4.1
  • 32 bit Vista Ultimate

5 - How many ATI tuner I need to have dual tuner setup ? 2? is it comaptible with M card?

6 - I read somewhere that M- cablecard is dual tuner card. Is it solution for #5 with Verizon FIOS in DFW, TX market?


Thanks for feedback.

P.S. I hope someone can provide some input. I realize most of conversation here are on advance issues. If I am asking in wrong area please let me know where to go....Thanks
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Copper Contributor JerseyJoe
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Posts: 20
Registered: ‎07-14-2009
Message 2 of 8
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The major con of DIY Windows Vista Media Center PC versus a TiVoHD is that CableLabs has intentionally made it virtually impossible to build one, and impossible to do so legally.  As you seem to understand, you need to get your hands on the ATI TV Wonder CableCARD-ready digital cable tuner (DCT) card, which is primarily being made available by ATI as an OEM part to computer manufacturers large enough and willing to pay CableLabs' fee to certify specific PC configurations as a "OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver" (OCUR).  This includes Dell, HP, and Sony, as well as some smaller manufacturers like Cannon PC. Some of these manufacturers (like Sony) are selling the external ATI TV Wonder separately for use with their own PCs, but the only one I've seen selling the internal card by itself is Cannon PC:

 

http://www.cannonpc.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=235

 

Otherwise, eBay is pretty much your option here, since the most common way one obtains this card is to pull it out of an existing OCUR-certified PC.  Then, you would need a Windows Vista Home Premium Product ID key (PID) that is in CableLabs' database of Vista PIDs assigned for use with OCUR PCs, and you need to install Vista using this PID.  Again, the only practical way to get one of these PIDs would be to get it from the guy you buy the ATI card from, because it will be on a sticker glued to the side of the PC he pulled the card from.  Then, you would need to install Vista with this key (using OEM media, BTW, because an OEM key can't be used with retail media), and at that point, you would have violated Microsoft's end-user license agreement and thus their copyright, thereby breaking the law.

 

Next, you would need to modify the BIOS on your motherboard to load the ACPI "OSFR" table with data that makes the BIOS "OCUR-compliant."  Note that in doing so, you would probably be breaking the law again.

 

Finally, once you'd done all that, you might have a CableCARD-ready do-it-yourself Windows Vista Media Center PC. That is until the PID you used shows up on the stolen list because the guy you bought it from sold it to a thousand other people and it showed up all over the Internet, and Microsoft publishes a Windows Update that invalidates your key when your computer's Automatic Updates service helpfully downloads it from microsoft.com and installs it in the middle of recording the season finale of your favorite TV show.

 

This assumes that you can get to the point of recording at all, because Verizon's customer service department will give you a hard time about ordering it, threaten to charge you $80 to send a technician who has never seen a CableCARD in his life to install it in the back of your computer, which he'll probably refuse to do anyway because it's not something that looks like a VCR.

 

My advice? Go with the TiVoHD or, if you must have a Media Center PC, buy one from Dell or HP (or anyone else that makes an OCUR-certified PC).  You'll still get the CableCARD runaround from Verizon, but you'll be much better rested for it.  Then write a letter to the FCC, your Senators, and your Congressperson telling them what a joke it is that you're not allowed to build your own Media Center PC.

 

Oh, and make sure you ask for an M-Card when you order the CableCARD from Verizon; the "M" stands for "multistream" and it can decode up to six channels simultaneously.  Most devices you'd install a CableCARD into only have two, maybe three tuners, but the card itself supports up to six.  The ATI card, incidentally, only has one tuner, so it wouldn't matter if you had an M-Card or an S-Card if you buy a Media Center PC.  But for the TiVoHD, which has two tuners, it does matter, so get the M-Card for that.

Message Edited by JerseyJoe on 08-05-2009 07:45 PM
Silver Contributor II
Silver Contributor II
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Registered: ‎10-22-2008
Message 3 of 8
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@ccuser wrote:

1 - What are main cons and pro of going with verizon with Windows Media Center or TIVO? has anyone tried both setup? liked one over another?

Vista Media Center requires more effort and maintenance to maintain.   Driver faults and other hiccups often occur several times per month, and a reboot is necessary to restore the tuners.   A TiVo is like a toaster; there is no maintenance.

 

Windows Media Center offers a high-resolution, graphics-intensive UI that is visually impressive.  Windows Media Center is far superior in the way it handles photos, music, and compatible computer videos.   Vista has a superior guide interface and it is wicked fast, putting even the Dish Network DVRs to shame.  Vista Media Center can be customized in many ways that TiVo cannot.   Vista Media Center can also be extended with third-party software to add commercial detection and automatic commercial skipping (this is not 100% reliable, of course) on recordings, a killer feature.   Aside from that, actual DVR functionality is comparable, although Vista Media Center can't match the advanced record functionality of TiVo's wishlists.  

 

The TiVo interface is simple / mundane.   Compared to Vista Media Center's high-resolution graphics and animations, it looks outdated.   It won't "wow" you or your friends.  Its program guide interface is lackluster by comparison (actual information is as good or better on TIVo).   That said, I find day-to-day usability of the TiVo --- as a DVR -- is better than Vista Media Center.  I like Tivo's ability to one-click delete (with Deleted Items folder) recordings and other tasks without annoying confirmations.  I like that TiVo always remembers my place in the menus.  I like TiVo's skip-to-tick (i.e. 15min skip), which Vista doesn't have.  I like the option to list series by recorded date (screenshot), which Vista doesn't have.  I like that the TiVo is 3-4 seconds faster to display liveTV and start recordings than the extender.

 

I do watch mostly recorded programming, so some of Vista's advantages -- such as superior guide navigation -- are lost on me.   That said, if both were equally reliable, I would opt for Vista Media Center with a third-party extender (not the Xbox360, because its HD output is not as good as TiVo), primarily because of the ability to automatically skip commercials with a third-party add-on.  Unfortunately, they are not equally reliable.  I consider any missed recordings to be unacceptable; having several missed recordings per month due to a CableCard driver fault and other hiccups in Windows Vista was not acceptable to me.  Windows 7 is said to significantly improve stability in Media Center, so I will take another look at that when it is released.

 

If you watch mostly recorded programming, I do think you'd be satisfied with the TiVo.  For recording and watching recorded programming, TiVo is at least as good as the Dish Network DVR, imo.   If you watch a lot of live TV, or heavily rely on the program guide, then I think you may be disappointed.  Dish Network DVRs have the best / fastest EPG interface currently available on a standalone DVR, with a 16:9 grid and 2.5 hours of program information.  TiVo's EPG is significantly less responsive, and like most cable (and DirecTV) DVRs, their grid guide only shows 90 minutes worth of information.  You can see screenshots and videos of the TiVo in action in the AVS TivoHD thread.

 


@ccuser wrote:
2 - Are there any known MAJOR bug issues with cableCARD that I should be aware of before I jump ship?

FiOS users with the ATI OCUR tuner often have problems with pixelization, which are usually -- but not always -- fixed with  attenuation.  This issue is related to high numbers of signal errors, caused by a FiOS signal spec that differs slightly from other cable companies.

 

TiVo exhibited the same problem until the 11.0d software, which included new tuner firmware/drivers to eliminate the issue.

 

 


@ccuser wrote:
3 - Where can I buy ATI Digital Cable Tuner? besides eBay and also do I have to have PID in order to make it work?


JerseyJoe has researched this topic, as is obvious from his post.  I'd note that you can avoid the need to modify your bios with the purchase of a new motherboard that features the necessary "OSFR" table.  Very few motherboards offer this feature, but there are some, including retail Asus P45 motherboards like the P5Q.  So it is possible to build a new computer that meets the hardware requirements of the OCUR spec.  Meeting the software requirements is very difficult without a hack.

 

Microsoft doesn't sell Windows Vista with the PID key necessary to enable OCUR (CableCard support) --- shown below -- and it is very difficult to obtain such a license.  The number of people who purchased these OCUR tuners far exceeds the number of Vista OEM licenses with PID keys (only sold with CableCard PCs from the likes of Dell), so demand is ridiculous.  If you found one for sale, chances are it'd cost you a few hundred dollars.

 

 

 

 

It is still possible to use CableCard tuners on your computer without a Windows license and PID key, but it requires one to use the hack with the leaked PID key.  Many people are doing this, but Microsoft could disable it at any time.  So you run a risk by investing $$$ in CableCard tuners and relying on this method.  If you are serious about Vista Media Center, I would buy a dedicated PC for that purpose.

 

 


@ccuser wrote:
5 - How many ATI tuner I need to have dual tuner setup ? 2? is it comaptible with M card?

For a dual-tuner setup, you would need two.  Each ATI OCUR tuner would require a separate CableCard.

 

The ATI OCUR will work with M-CARDs, but it treats them just like the older S-CARDs.

 

 


ccuser wrote:

6 - I read somewhere that M- cablecard is dual tuner card. Is it solution for #5 with Verizon FIOS in DFW, TX market?

The CableCard (M-CARD is a type of Cablecard) is not a tuner.  It's an access card that authorizes the channels you pay for.

 

On a multi-tuner device, a M-CARD can authorize multiple tuners with a single card.  One M-CARD authorizes both tuners on the TivoHD.   The ATI OCUR tuners are single-tuner devices, so they require one CableCard each.

 


ccuser wrote:

P.S. I hope someone can provide some input. I realize most of conversation here are on advance issues. If I am asking in wrong area please let me know where to go....Thanks

One issue I didn't address above was cost.  Cost was not a major concern in my case, but it is for many.

 

A TivoHD costs $250 at Amazon.  The supported 1TB external drive is $169, but it is cheaper to upgrade the internal drive to 1TB for $90.   You don't need to pay any STB or DVR fees to Verizon, but you do need a TiVo@ subscription at a cost of $12.99/mo, $129/yr, or $399 lifetime ($330 lifetime on ebay). If you don't want any monthly or yearly fees, then you're up to about $670 for a 1TB upgraded TivoHD with no future fees.  You'll also need Verizon M-CARD (access card) @ $3.99/mo to support both tuners.  In Texas, running the TiVo 24/7 costs about $3/mo in electricity.

 

With a pre-built CableCard PC with a valid Windows license and two ATI OCUR tuners, you're looking at around $1200 plus the cost of any extenders you need.   Let's assume you are willing to take the risk and use your existing computer with the hack.  In that case, you could buy d two ATI OCUR tuners on ebay for $400 ($200 each).  For dedicated DVR storage, you'll probably want to add a 1TB drive for $90.   With the two OCUR tuners and 1TB drive, you're up to $490. You don't need a subscription, since Microsoft includes that with the Vista license, but you do need one one CableCard for each ATI OCUR tuner (i.e. $7.98/mo for two tuners).  In Texas, running the PC you've described with the OCUR tuners, would cost about $20/mo in electricity to run 24/7.

Message Edited by KenAF on 08-06-2009 04:56 AM
If you are the original poster (OP) and your issue is solved, please remember to click the "Solution?" button so that others can more easily find it.
Contributor ccuser
Contributor
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎08-05-2009
Message 4 of 8
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Dear KenAF, thank you for your detail response: Your reply is definitely helpful.

 

 1 - Again very helpful response. From that, I have come to conclusion that TIVO is for simplicity with very useful features, on other hand Media Center is good for flexibilty and advance featured UI packed with WOW factors, but it comes with flaws such as missing recordings and other technical huddles

 

2 - One thing I would like ask you to clearify ,

is picture quality downgraded/pixelated  in Media Center VS FIOS STB ? is it  because of CableCARD? if so how degraded is i, lets say scale 1-10; 10 would be best quality offered by FIOS. It is kinda concerned to me because Dish compresses and pixelate their HD feed to HD-lite....and some channels look pretty treble.

 

3 - It may sound cheap but one reason I am leaning toward MCE is because of subcription fee + $400-500 hardware cost.

 of TIVO. I have already made some improvement in DELL desktop PC (insparion NOT XPS) over time, i.e ATSC tuner, Microsoft MCE remote with IR blaster, RAM, HDMI video card, Vista Ultimate, Xbox + HD etc.THe only thing I am missing is ATI DCT for additional $200. am I right about it ?

 

Can you tell me if PC is storng enough to be used as HTPC; following are specs:

 

  • Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+
  • 3GB DDR2
  • ATI HD3450 with 512MB RAM
  • Xbox 360 Hardwired with CAT5
  • WEI rating of 4.1
  • 32 bit Vista Ultimate

 

With your and JJ's input regarding limitation and future obstacle in regards to Media center OCUR/ DCT setup, I want to try it with available hack from TGB and engadget of OCUR fix for now.  If I find final product much superior to dish VIP722 (whichis as mentioned very equalent to TIVO), I may make further investment by getting DELL XPS line up

 

May I ask one more question

Is Dell XPS 410 OCUR certified with DCT liscensed windows or is it only XPS 420 that fits this description?

 

5 - thanks again for clearifying it ; after further reseach it looks like we all have to wait for Ceton Corp to release to OEM. Hopefully it becomes available soon since we are already in Q3 of 2009.

Silver Contributor II
Silver Contributor II
Posts: 585
Registered: ‎10-22-2008
Message 5 of 8
(27,709 Views)

ccuser wrote:

 

2 - One thing I would like ask you to clearify ,

is picture quality downgraded/pixelated  in Media Center VS FIOS STB ? is it  because of CableCARD? if so how degraded is i, lets say scale 1-10; 10 would be best quality offered by FIOS. It is kinda concerned to me because Dish compresses and pixelate their HD feed to HD-lite....and some channels look pretty treble.


There's two potential issues here.

 

The first is pixelization due to signal errors that occur when the ATI tuner cannot handle a FiOS signal that confirms to a slightly different spec. Some people experience this issue and others do not.  If you experience this issue, some channels are unwatchable with constant breakup and sound dropouts.  I would try to buy your ATI tuner from a vendor with a return policy (Dell?), if possible, in case you experience this problem.

 

ATI CableCard tuner for $209 @ Dell.com

 

The second issue is the output quality on the Xbox360.  The Xbox360 is a gaming console and its graphics processor was designed to handle RGB.  Processing YPrPb content like high-definition video [from cable] in RGB results in quality loss.   This quality loss is minor, but it's still quality loss.   Other [now discontinued] Vista Media Center extenders do not exhibit this problem; this issue is specific to the Xbox360.

 

Even with the quality loss on the Xbox360's output, I suspect the FiOS output will still look significantly better than what you got with Dish Network.  This assumes you are not one of the FiOS users that experiences the signal compatibility issue mentioned above.

 

 


ccuser wrote:

 

3 - It may sound cheap but one reason I am leaning toward MCE is because of subcription fee + $400-500 hardware cost.

 of TIVO. I have already made some improvement in DELL desktop PC (insparion NOT XPS) over time, i.e ATSC tuner, Microsoft MCE remote with IR blaster, RAM, HDMI video card, Vista Ultimate, Xbox + HD etc.THe only thing I am missing is ATI DCT for additional $200. am I right about it ?


I updated my previous post to address costs (see bottom of previous post).

 

Provided you use the "hack," all you need is the ATI OCUR tuner plus one CableCard at $3.99/mo.

 


ccuser wrote:

 

Can you tell me if PC is storng enough to be used as HTPC; following are specs:

 

  • Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+
  • 3GB DDR2
  • ATI HD3450 with 512MB RAM
  • Xbox 360 Hardwired with CAT5
  • WEI rating of 4.1
  • 32 bit Vista Ultimate

 


Your PC configuration will do just fine.

 

 


ccuser wrote:

5 - thanks again for clearifying it ; after further reseach it looks like we all have to wait for Ceton Corp to release to OEM. Hopefully it becomes available soon since we are already in Q3 of 2009.


Ceton is now saying late 2009, although they haven't updated their web site.

 

Many expect this product to slip into early 2010.  CableCard certification takes time.

 

If you are the original poster (OP) and your issue is solved, please remember to click the "Solution?" button so that others can more easily find it.
Contributor ccuser
Contributor
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎08-05-2009
Message 6 of 8
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This is followup message on my adventure to have Media center working with FIOS cablecard for HD integration.

 

First I want to personally thank engadget, KenAF & JerseyJoe for their support which enabled me to manuover through obstacles with process.

 

I purchased ATI internal card using provided link. FYI I previosly recieved 10% off coupon on  accesories from dell. Altough coupoon was not working with this item. But by using Callback feature Dell rep tooks care of it. 

 

when Installer showed up, I asked if he doesn't mind sharing his experience of installing Cable Card. Bascially he said he has installed it in TIVO but not in PCs and as far as he knows only high end media PC works with cablecard. which I replied, "I took care of it". He was skeptical of this to work.

 

Using information from article, I completed pre-installtion setup. I walked him through activating process and respectfully recommended what he needs to do. At that time mr. jacob (installer) thanked and started inqurying how I knew all the info...

 

Later he started sharing his knowledge and mentioned that he himself has home automation and running MEDIAPORTAL with direct TV. 

 

After having card activated on verizon end, We tried to enable CableCard in VMC. However we got stuck in VMC with following message:

""The upgrade of your security components was incomplete. Youwill not be able to watch or record premium or high definition content until upgrade is succesful. Do you want to try again..."

 

He mentioned that in ATI setting tab, he was not getting "carriar lock". which might have been contributing to issue.

 

However after googling this message, some were complaining norton as root of problem, so I completely removed Mcafee from system. guess what?....cablecard started working with Media center after restart...

 

after that I attempted to have it working on Xbox. Since router was replaced by installer, it had to be re-configured again.

 

In meantime installer started getting calls from dispatch asking what's taking him so long, He told em that he is "learning calbecard verizon TV installation on xbox and PC. He ended up staying for extra hour and half just to see what I am doing and he was curious to see it working. I kinda felt proud of teaching sharing something new. Before he left I gave copy of article , PID and dell URL for ordering DCT. He said he is going to set it up on his place too, I hope he is not gonna rat me out. He sounded sincere and was very helpful with other stuff and shared alot info with on how FIOS works on backend

 

while we were monkeying around with media center and xbox he mentioned that VERIZON HD STB has HOT firewire port and since video content are IP delivered, it can be captured using firewire and also by captureing IP feed to STB and save it in computer....

 

does anyone knows what is he talking about. It sounds interesting. 

 

I hope my followup will be helpful to those who are looking to have similar setup. 

Silver Contributor II
Silver Contributor II
Posts: 585
Registered: ‎10-22-2008
Message 7 of 8
(27,162 Views)

@ccuser wrote:

 

while we were monkeying around with media center and xbox he mentioned that VERIZON HD STB has HOT firewire port and since video content are IP delivered, it can be captured using firewire and also by captureing IP feed to STB and save it in computer....

 

does anyone knows what is he talking about. It sounds interesting. 


It is possible to record unencrypted local channels via Firewire with a computer.  Verizon encrypts Firewire output for all SD and HD cable channels, so those cannot be recorded with a PC.   Most people are not satisfied with locals, so that isn't a practical setup.

If you are the original poster (OP) and your issue is solved, please remember to click the "Solution?" button so that others can more easily find it.
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Nickel Contributor
Nickel Contributor
Posts: 50
Registered: ‎07-14-2009
Message 8 of 8
(27,149 Views)

@KenAF wrote:

"FiOS users with the ATI OCUR tuner often have problems with pixelization, which are usually -- but not always -- fixed with  attenuation.  This issue is related to high numbers of signal errors, caused by a FiOS signal spec that differs slightly from other cable companies.

 

TiVo exhibited the same problem until the 11.0d software, which included new tuner firmware/drivers to eliminate the issue."

 

 

 Do you know of any tuners that don't have this issue with Fios just for recording clearqam channels? I have the Tivo HD for encrypted channels but I had been using the Win 7 HTPC for recording local channels. I am currently using the Avermedia Duet but I am getting pixelated recordings along with recordings that are only 20 minutes long when they should be a hour. The signal is 100% and Fios showed everything was fine when they installed another cable card in another Tivo HD.

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