What brand of HTPC?

MightyGeekMan

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I recently bought my desktop computer from Maingear (my experience is detailed here) so I'm already leaning towards buying from them again for my HTPC needs. However, before I placed my order, I decided to ask all of you if there were any other companies I should put on my shortlist. I'm buying an HTPC sometime in September and would like your thoughts and opinions on which maker would be best. My shortlist so far is very short. Only Maingear and AVA Direct.

Also, I'm NOT interested in building my own HTPC. No matter how easy or inexpensive that might be compared to ordering a pre-built system. I just don't have the time anymore for researching, installing, testing and troubleshooting every component. And no matter how much money I might save it still wouldn't be worth my time and effort. Instead, I'd rather spend that time at the playground with my daughter. :D
 

Adidas4275

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who ever you buy from I would get a cable card....... I know dell does cable cards.... not sure if maingear does or not, but its the only way to get encrypted channels, ie HD discovery and such...
 

w1retap

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Even though I've never owned one, Velocity Micro is another I'd recommend. I've seen their tech support here on the forums, and they seem like a very reputable company that reaches out to their customers. Their pricing is a little high, but fair considering the components they use in their builds.
 

CrimandEvil

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who ever you buy from I would get a cable card....... I know dell does cable cards.... not sure if maingear does or not, but its the only way to get encrypted channels, ie HD discovery and such...

With SDV on the near horizon I would actually hold off on Cablecard... maybe. Considering the problems/limitations of VMC I'm actually moving away from it for SageTV and Media Portal and, for future proofing, I plan on picking up a hauppauge HD PVR for my HD tuning needs (VMC doesn't support it, which was originally part of their TV Pack update bizarrely enough, since all it is is a component input tuner.

Anyways, awesome deal on a CableCard system: http://www.missingremote.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=198&topic=2083.0;topicseen
 

MightyGeekMan

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w1retap:
I had completely forgotten VM, thanks for reminding me about them!

Adidas4275 & CrimandEvil:
What purpose does having a cablecard serve? Would I not be able to tune in to the HD stations from my cable provider using one of their cable boxes? I'm a little confused.

Can anyone point me to a good primer explaining the difference in graphics cards vs. TV tuner cards for HTPCs? I know one's for the TV reception, but which controls playback of movies on a 1080p LCD? Would I have to hook both up to my TV and switch between them if I plan on watching movies or playing games? Is it better to have the A/V out from the computer go into a reciever and then into the TV?

Sorry for all the noob questions, but I'm just beginning to understand how different an HTPC config is from a regular PC and am trying to ramp up my knowledge before my purchase so I don't make a big mistake.
 

w1retap

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The CableCard tuner will allow you to get all the encrypted HD channels and digital channels that your carrier provides, all without the need for a cable box. Plus, you can use the CableCard HTPC as a DVR for those channels, with the ability to record, pause, rewind, etc. With normal tuners or ClearQAM tuners, you won't be able to get most of the digital channels, if not all.
 

CrimandEvil

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Check out the sticky at the top of this subforum, tons of info there.

Anyways, short primer, your video card (clearly) handles all the video rendering related things like that and it's what gets connected to the TV; the tuner only takes in your TV signal and lets you display it on your PC as digital content.

You can't record HD channels like ESPN, HBO, etc without a CableCard system (more on CC in the sticky) or the HD PVR I mentioned. The only way to get HD like that into a PC is with a CC tuner or the HD PVR (which takes component in from a cable box) otherwise all your going to be doing is using the regular Svideo in on a standard NTSC tuner and down converting all that beautiful HD content into 720x480 sized video (it'll look nice but not 1280x720 or 1920x1080 nice).

The kind of HD channels you'll be able to tuner will be ATSC or possibly QAM256 channels; ATSC is over the air digital broadcasts and will need an antenna, QAM is these same channels but delivered via your cable line instead of having to use an antenna.
 

MightyGeekMan

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Thank you for the CC primer! Now I know I definitely want one in my HTPC. Now, back to my original question;

What HTPC maker should I be looking at? Right now I've got a shortlist of the following;
Maingear
AVA Direct
Velocity Micro

Any others?
 

SC385

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Out of those three I think that only Velocity Micro can do cable card tuners.
 

MightyGeekMan

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I've been looking over the VM choices and no matter how I configure the machine it's almost always about $700 more than AVA or Maingear. I can't seem to reconcile in my head that a cablecard is worth $700. I wonder if Maingear or AVA would be able to install a cablecard if I call and request it? Anyone have any ideas?
 

CrimandEvil

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I've been looking over the VM choices and no matter how I configure the machine it's almost always about $700 more than AVA or Maingear. I can't seem to reconcile in my head that a cablecard is worth $700. I wonder if Maingear or AVA would be able to install a cablecard if I call and request it? Anyone have any ideas?
Dude, I told you check out the sticky for links on this.

Cablecard is strictly regulated to certain OEM only machines; you can't buy a CableCard tuner off of ebay or some dark alley and install it in a system. The system has to have a special BIOS containing flags that enable this support in Vista. They're regular mobos but the manufactures have to do a slightly custom job on it to insert these flags.

Unless Maingear or AVADirect are OEM partners who are certified to build CableCard systems (and if they were they'd be on the website I would hope so) then it would be possible to get a custom system running with one. Since they're not you can't.

I'd just go with the HP model, CableCard is going to be outdated in the next couple of years anyways.
 

MightyGeekMan

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CrimandEvil:
I did read those links and they were greatly appreciated. Helped me understand that I actually needed a cablecard enabled HTPC because I only watch HD programming if I watch TV at all. However, the HTPC will need to sit in an A/V rack in a (well ventilated) closet with my other components or the wife would kill me, so a standard pc case like the HP won't work. That's why I'm looking at the VM, MG and AVA systems. Unfortunately, you are correct in that I can't just get a cablecard and stick it into whatever HTPC I might buy. If there's some other way to view HD content from my cable company via my HTPC please tell me, because I'd rather not spend the money if I don't have to.

But, since I don't know of any other way to view the HD cable channels, I guess my original question must now be slightly modified to include only those builders who supply cablecards in their rigs AND whose case form factor is similar to that of a standard A/V component. So far, I've only found two;

Velocity Micro
S1 Digital

Anyone know of any others?
 

CrimandEvil

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I mentioned the HD PVR, it takes component in from a cable box letting you watch HD programming. It was in my first post.
 

MightyGeekMan

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I mentioned the HD PVR, it takes component in from a cable box letting you watch HD programming. It was in my first post.

I apologize for my thickheadedness. I did see the HD PVR from your first post but I disregarded it because it doesn't take digital signals. If I were willing to take the component signal to my flatscreen TV I could certainly see using it, but since I'm paying buku bucks for a 50"+ HDTV I want the full resolution digital signal displayed and not the analogue, downgraded component signal. Which is why I'm pulling my hair out now as I realize just what a cluster**** this is! :)

All I want is my Geek Nirvana of a purely digital world! Why is that so hard?! :D

And, to add to my shortlist of cablecard HTPC makers, I've also found these guys:
CannonPC
 

CrimandEvil

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Do you even realise the difference between 1080i component and 1080p DVI/HDMI? Hint: there isn't much of one that most people aren't going to notice.
 

SC385

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Do you even realise the difference between 1080i component and 1080p DVI/HDMI? Hint: there isn't much of one that most people aren't going to notice.

Besides this, there is nothing on tv being broadcast in 1080p and sometimes not anymore than 720p.
 

Javabri

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It all depends on how much you want to spend. Here is a list of folks that do HTPCs well and offer cable card support as an option in their systems.

Exceptional Innovations ( aka Life-Ware)
Niveus Media
Aspen Media Products
Maingear
S1 Digital
Velocity Micro
Cannon PC
Moneual Labs
Ace Computing
Home Automation Inc
Okoro Systems

There are many, many others out there as well, but that would get you started. I would suggest you wait a month or so before investing. CEDIA (Custom Electronic Dealers and Installers Association) is right around the corner, and that is when many of these guys announce their Fall Line Up of products.

As for cable card, this is important if you get your content from Cable. If you get your content from Satellite (like Dish or DirecTV), then cable card is a non starter. You will also need to check with your cable provider to make sure they will support you with a cable card. Most cable companies will provide it reluctantly, you usually have to twist a few arms to get one. They are mandated by law to provide it, but they really don't like the cable card model because it is a little more challenging to implement and support and it really messes with their revenue stream (VOD, etc.) and no one like their revenue stream messed with.

If you only get basic cable (no premium channels), then a standard ATSC/QAM tuner will be sufficient to replace your basic cable box.

If you get premium content channels (most HD and HBO, etc.), then a box with cable card would allow you to view, record, etc. all the content without the need for the cable box. In essence, your HTPC becomes your cable box.

Just some thoughts.

Regards,
Java
 

Javabri

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I apologize for my thickheadedness. I did see the HD PVR from your first post but I disregarded it because it doesn't take digital signals. If I were willing to take the component signal to my flatscreen TV I could certainly see using it, but since I'm paying buku bucks for a 50"+ HDTV I want the full resolution digital signal displayed and not the analogue, downgraded component signal. Which is why I'm pulling my hair out now as I realize just what a cluster**** this is! :)

All I want is my Geek Nirvana of a purely digital world! Why is that so hard?! :D

And, to add to my shortlist of cablecard HTPC makers, I've also found these guys:
CannonPC


If you have a stand alone PVR, then you cannot output that in HD to another box so the point is moot.

As for component video, it does support HD resolutions, however it cannot display protected content. This is not a question of whether component can do the resolution, it is about what can legally be displayed on each output type. To do prodtect content, you need DVI + HDCP or HDMI (with HDCP).
 

MightyGeekMan

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It all depends on how much you want to spend. Here is a list of folks that do HTPCs well and offer cable card support as an option in their systems.

Exceptional Innovations ( aka Life-Ware)
Niveus Media
Aspen Media Products
Maingear
S1 Digital
Velocity Micro
Cannon PC
Moneual Labs
Ace Computing
Home Automation Inc
Okoro Systems

There are many, many others out there as well, but that would get you started. I would suggest you wait a month or so before investing. CEDIA (Custom Electronic Dealers and Installers Association) is right around the corner, and that is when many of these guys announce their Fall Line Up of products.

As for cable card, this is important if you get your content from Cable. If you get your content from Satellite (like Dish or DirecTV), then cable card is a non starter. You will also need to check with your cable provider to make sure they will support you with a cable card. Most cable companies will provide it reluctantly, you usually have to twist a few arms to get one. They are mandated by law to provide it, but they really don't like the cable card model because it is a little more challenging to implement and support and it really messes with their revenue stream (VOD, etc.) and no one like their revenue stream messed with.

If you only get basic cable (no premium channels), then a standard ATSC/QAM tuner will be sufficient to replace your basic cable box.

If you get premium content channels (most HD and HBO, etc.), then a box with cable card would allow you to view, record, etc. all the content without the need for the cable box. In essence, your HTPC becomes your cable box.

Just some thoughts.

Regards,
Java

Thank you for the list of HTPC makers who can do cablecard, that will really help me out! Thanks for the heads up about CEDIA. I think I can wait until after CEDIA to get the HTPC, if only so I know what might be coming down the line. I have Time Warner digital cable, so I do need the cablecard so I can see the HD channels I actually watch like ESPN HD, Discovery HD, Disney HD, HBO HD, etc. Everything I'm reading online states that I can't see or record those channels through an HTPC without a cablecard and my cable provider's blessings.

Again, I apologize to CrimandEvil for my thickheadedness. I failed to mention that I won't have a cable box anywhere near this computer. The cable box is actually in my downstairs rack attached to my home theater (the main movie watching area of my home) and I'd rather not get another cable box just for this upstairs TV. This upstairs unit is mostly for my wife and kids so they can watch and record the stuff they want and also so we can all surf the web as a family and keep an eye on what the kids are doing online.
 

Adidas4275

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i really wish i could get HD content like discovery and such with out all this hassle..... /rant
 

CrimandEvil

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Again, I apologize to CrimandEvil for my thickheadedness. I failed to mention that I won't have a cable box anywhere near this computer. The cable box is actually in my downstairs rack attached to my home theater (the main movie watching area of my home) and I'd rather not get another cable box just for this upstairs TV. This upstairs unit is mostly for my wife and kids so they can watch and record the stuff they want and also so we can all surf the web as a family and keep an eye on what the kids are doing online.
Then get an extender for the upstairs and just run the HD PVR to the HTPC in the downstairs. The HTPC will record all your content and then it can stream it to the extender in the upstairs. No mess, no fuss.

The only problem is is that if you're running VMC then you're totally screwed since it doesn't support the HD PVR and most VMC extenders are poorly done (the best of them is the 360 and those have a ton of issues still).

I highly suggest checking out SageTV for your PVR needs. Light years ahead of Vista Media Center and will most likely stay that way since VMC development is now tied to Windows releases (meaning the next real update to VMC comes with Win7).
 

CrimandEvil

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If you have a stand alone PVR, then you cannot output that in HD to another box so the point is moot.
What are you talking about? Many are outputting HD from their STBs into their HTPCs already. What they can't do is a purely digital output unless they go with a VMC CableCard system.
As for component video, it does support HD resolutions, however it cannot display protected content. This is not a question of whether component can do the resolution, it is about what can legally be displayed on each output type. To do prodtect content, you need DVI + HDCP or HDMI (with HDCP).
Which only really matters when (potentially) you're talking about Blu Ray playback. I say potentially because no one has been stupid enough to turn on the ICT so the until that happens your whole point is moot; compounding the "mootness" is that fact that we're talking tuner cards here and not blu ray playback.
 

Javabri

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Given that most HD channels are setting the broadcast flag, the abiltiy to output that over an uprotected bus is rapidly drying up.

Sure, you can output unprotected content, but that remains questionable as to how long this will continue.

Therfore, I stand by my assertion that outputting HD over a STB is not really an option without downsampling.

I agree that you can still display protected content over Component because they have not turned on content protection. However, I would not recommend anyone to buy a system based upon component connections and then have it not work in a year or so when content protection is enabled. Therefore, I suggest future proofing and get a known working set up based upon HDMI where you know things work now and will keep working later.

Both my points jump straight to the point and instead of tyring to say, gee, you can do this now, but in 6 months or a year, this probably won't work so you will need to do this instead.

Avoid the hassle all together and accept that the insdustry is moving in a DRM and protected content direction. You can't change it no matter how much you might disagree. Accept the innevitable and find a workable solution.
 

antecuser

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However, a settop box may have to be used for pay-per-view and other bi-directional services as well. A cablecard only allows 1-direction service, so special features such as on-demand and pay-per-view cannot be used even if it is part of your subscription service.

Please also remember that cable cards sometimes do not work as advertised. There have been numerous reports by CNet and other reviewers that said cablecard systems are still not yet ready for primetime.

I do not think that all the price premiums and the headaches of actually making the system work are worth it. You could rent the settop box for $5/mo and use an IR blaster through the computer to control the settop box. This way you get all your channels, pay-per-view, on-demand, and did not have to spend an extra $1000 to get it all.
 

CrimandEvil

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Given that most HD channels are setting the broadcast flag, the abiltiy to output that over an uprotected bus is rapidly drying up.
Last time I checked no one has set the broadcast flag and clearly you have no idea what the broadcast flag is.

The BF only applies to ATSC broadcasts which are the free, over the air HD broadcasts. So unless he's tuning all of this HD channels through OTA (ATSC) or QAM then he has to worry about possible Braodcast flag issues later on. If he's using an HD analog tuner like the HD PVR then what he needs is to worry about something that is actually being used: CGMS-A protection.

What you're alluding to ("Given that most HD channels are setting the broadcast flag...") is CGMS-A protection kicking in and NBC has said it was accidental. I don't believe them but CGMS-A protection has been around for a long time now so it's not like it's anything new.
Both my points jump straight to the point and instead of tyring to say, gee, you can do this now, but in 6 months or a year, this probably won't work so you will need to do this instead.

Avoid the hassle all together and accept that the insdustry is moving in a DRM and protected content direction. You can't change it no matter how much you might disagree. Accept the innevitable and find a workable solution.
Please, stop posting your ridicules FUD. Your "point" is wrong and I don't care if you disagree cause clearly you don't even understand wth your talking about. Shit. The fact that the PVR software has to have support written in for the BF in order to support it means that right now and the forseeable future the only PVR app that supports the BF is VMC which is something I've already told the OP to just stay away from since it's so far behind in the PVR landscape when compared feature to feature with other PVR apps. :rolleyes::rolleyes:

OP:
http://msmvps.com/blogs/chrisl/archive/2008/05/31/1629786.aspx
http://msmvps.com/blogs/chrisl/archive/2008/06/04/1631499.aspx
http://msmvps.com/blogs/chrisl/archive/2008/06/10/1633445.aspx
 

Javabri

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Actually, I work in this industry and I know exactly what the broadcast flag is and is not. I work for a major h/w vendor that designs and builds platforms for consumer devices. I work directly with Cable Labs as well as DirecTV, Microsoft and others. I know a lot more about this market and what is coming than the average Joe reading stuff on some internet site. I cannot quote or source any of the docuementation I have access to without violating NDAs. However, I can speak with authority on this topic all day long.

This is just not ATSC OTA broadcast material. This isn't just NBC. The powers driving this are the CONTENT CREATORS, MAJOR STUDIOS, and just about everyone else that generates HD CONTENT. Just about all of them are demanding some form of content protection to prevent piracy. One of the easiest methods to secure content is the broadcast flag.

Now, I did not attack you and see no reason to sling insults back and forth. However, if that is your maturity level, so be it.

Now, here is a Wikipedia Source that covers this very topic. Granted, this is an FCC ruling on Broadcast content does not cover all content distribution methods. The industry as a whole, driven by the studios and content creators is moving to similar methods to protect their content. A likely method of control is the broadcast flag and guess what, the infrastructure is already being put in place. You think vendors are going to stop implementing it? Not a chance.

Officially called "Digital Broadcast Television Redistribution Control," the FCC's rule is in 47 CFR 73.9002(b) and the following sections, stating in part: "No party shall sell or distribute in interstate commerce a Covered Demodulator Product that does not comply with the Demodulator Compliance Requirements and Demodulator Robustness Requirements." According to the rule, hardware must "actively thwart" piracy.

The rule's Demodulator Compliance Requirements insists that all HDTV demodulators must "listen" for the flag (or assume it to be present in all signals). Flagged content must be output only to "protected outputs" (such as DVI and HDMI ports with HDCP encryption), or in degraded form through analog outputs or digital outputs with visual resolution of 720x480 pixels (EDTV) or less. Flagged content may be recorded only by "authorized" methods, which may include tethering of recordings to a single device.

Since broadcast flags could be activated at any time, a viewer who often records a program might suddenly find that it is no longer possible to save their favorite show. This and other reasons lead many to see the flags as a direct affront to consumer rights.

Particularly troubling to open source developers are the Demodulator Robustness Requirements. Devices must be "robust" against user access or modifications so that someone could not easily alter it to ignore the broadcast flags that permit access to the full digital stream. Since open-source device drivers are by design user-modifiable, a PC TV tuner card with open-source drivers would not be "robust". It is unclear whether binary-only drivers would qualify. Projects could also be affected at the application level. In theory it would likely be illegal for open-source projects such as the MythTV project, which creates personal video recorder (PVR) software, to interface with digital television demodulators.

Some companies currently manufacturing devices, such as the pcHDTV devices intended for the Linux market, would likely be forced to halt production. This portion of the rule also effectively prevents individuals from building their own high-definition television sets and receiving devices. (It may seem far-fetched to a layman, but there have been many instances in the past where engineers have built their own analog TVs, and it follows that some people would wish to continue such pursuits in the digital age. The technologies used will most likely be centered around software-defined radio, fast ADCs and FPGA chips - tools with so generic use their availability can not be effectively restricted.)

Since April 15, 2008, pay-per-view movies on cable and satellite television have been flagged so that recordings cannot stay on a digital video recorder or other related device for more than 24 hours after the movie begins. The change was a result of negotiations between the major movie studios and the PPV providers. Movies recorded before April 15 are still available from the device.[1]

This is not about whether you or I agree or disagree with the methods being used by Hollywood to control content...if it purely a fact of life. DRM and limiting content distribution to secure methods is real. Just because it is not fully implemented today, does not mean it is going away. The infrastructure is being put in place day by day. I see it every day in my dealings with MSO's

The cable compaines, satellite, even IPTV is going to be hit by this before it is all said and done.

My advice to the original poster is to implement a method so that he can get access to HD content both now and in the future.

This is not FUD, it is reality. I am personally not thrilled with the content control and DRM techniques being used, but it damn sure well is coming whether you, I or anyone else likes it or not.
 

CrimandEvil

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Since April 15, 2008, pay-per-view movies on cable and satellite television have been flagged so that recordings cannot stay on a digital video recorder or other related device for more than 24 hours after the movie begins. The change was a result of negotiations between the major movie studios and the PPV providers. Movies recorded before April 15 are still available from the device.[1]

Next time, perhaps you should do your own homework before speaking up.
LOL Thats a ton of hot air. Like I said, BF needs to be supported in software on the PC which is what we're all talking about. We're not talking about anything like building our own STB or even HDTV. :rolleyes:

Anyways, you say the BF is being used and yet you show no examples of it. I show examples of BF like behavior but it's actually CGMS-A kicking in on CableCard systems.

Oh, BTW. The whole PPV "issue" doesn't matter since you can't even get that with a CableCard system and that uses CGMS-A for it's flags anyways (there have been plenty of instances of certain premium channels like HBO "accidently" turning on CGMS-A for their recordings so this is nothing new).

Like I said, a ton of hot air. Your just spreading FUD.
This is not about whether you or I agree or disagree with the methods being used by Hollywood to control content...if it purely a fact of life. DRM and limiting content distribution to secure methods is real. Just because it is not fully implemented today, does not mean it is going away. The infrastructure is being put in place day by day. I see it every day in my dealings with MSO's

The cable compaines, satellite, even IPTV is going to be hit by this before it is all said and done.

My advice to the original poster is to implement a method so that he can get access to HD content both now and in the future.

This is not FUD, it is reality. I am personally not thrilled with the content control and DRM techniques being used, but it damn sure well is coming whether you, I or anyone else likes it or not.
Oh, please. This is just getting fucking retarded. Of course DRM is going to be more commonplace, it already is. You don't need to be a fucking retard to see that. You're suggesting to the OP to buy into CableCards when SDV is right around the corner (and you say you work in the industry! Ha! Anyone that did would know this and why CC is a dead end) and saying that "it's the future" when it's already being replaced by something completely different. CableCards are not compatible with SDV. If he buys a CC system now and his Cable Co fully moves to SDV next year then I'd call that a fucking waste of money. Clearly, you seem to think it would still have been a "smart" investment for the future.

Thats the point. Not the BS you keep spilling about DRM and "future access" to his media. If you really work in the industry you wouldn't be suggesting it either (I on the other hand know plenty of people who actually work in TV stations, studios, etc who don't have to resort to Wiki articles in order to explain something. They also suggest skipping CableCard system for the reason I am.)
 

Javabri

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And you think MS is just standing by doing nothing in the realm of content protection for the PC?

The PC platform is going to be held to similar content protection methods. It has already started to happen with Vista. There will be even more in Win 7.
 

CrimandEvil

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And you think MS is just standing by doing nothing in the realm of content protection for the PC?

The PC platform is going to be held to similar content protection methods. It has already started to happen with Vista. There will be even more in Win 7.

Jesus-fucking-christ! VMC supports BF! They've said it, I've said it and even posted links to them saying it. :rolleyes:

They also support HDCP and other protective path methods. That doesn't mean other PVR apps support BF since it's not hard coded into Vista yet for every day use (unlike HDCP).

My god, this is the worst strawman I've ever seen (outside of politics).
 

Javabri

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I just re-read one of your last posts and realized I missed some of your points, but more importantly believe there is some mis-understanding here of my points.

In the context of driving HD over Component Video into an HTPC from a STB, I suggested this was not an ideal solution because of content protection schemes that are being implemented. Output of HD content is going to be limited over unprotected outputs. This can be turned on any time so it could work one day and not the next.

If he has cable and wants to drive HD content into the HTPC then getting an OCUR system was a good solution for now and the foreseeable future. You seemed to take this that I was proposing OCUR as the asnwer for the future. I never proposed that nor would I. OCUR is a pain in the ass and not really liked by anyone. As I stated in my original post...

As for cable card, this is important if you get your content from Cable. If you get your content from Satellite (like Dish or DirecTV), then cable card is a non starter. You will also need to check with your cable provider to make sure they will support you with a cable card. Most cable companies will provide it reluctantly, you usually have to twist a few arms to get one. They are mandated by law to provide it, but they really don't like the cable card model because it is a little more challenging to implement and support and it really messes with their revenue stream (VOD, etc.) and no one like their revenue stream messed with.

I routinely have problems developing clean implementation solutions involving OCUR. However, we continue to develop around it because it is what we have today and is a way to support HD content on PC platforms. If you are going to "buy" an HTPC, then buying one that supports OCUR can be a good solution in solving both a cable box quesition and HD content on the PC. It would solve the question posed by the OP.

I myself would not implement OCUR only becuase I would not implement cable. However, if I were a cable user, I would absolutely consider an OCUR solution becuase I could implement it with an HTPC. As a Satellite user, don't have an easy way to implement HD content on my HTPC with this set up. I was waiting for the DirecTV solution that was due to be supported by MS with the MCTV Pack that just came out. However, as everyone knows, MS pulled support at the last minute.

I fully agree that OCUR and Cable Card are not ideal solutions, it is just what is available today that will remain in existense for some time. No one really likes OCUR. The cable MSO's are reluctatnt to support it because it is difficult to implement and it cuts into their revenue stream (ie VOD, etc.). However, they are federally mandated to support it. Again, it is what we have to work with today.

BOCR and Cable Card 2.0 is a better solution and will likely be more embraced by the MSO because it it bi directional provided it ever gets implemented. However, Cablelabs takes their time to approve solutions, they may just lose out. Last dates I saw were working h/w sometime in late 09. In the meantime, vendors are scrambling to figure out how to deliver the content, save bandwidth and drive new revenue and business models as technology changes. In comes SDV as you pointed out.

Switched Video, is a content delivery mechanism designed to save bandwidth, not a content proteciton method that was being discussed. Once the content reaches the home, we are back to the same discussion of protecting the content. I agree that SDV does have potential, but it is going to take some time to get everyone on board. Once you get there with SDV, how do you propose to get this to the HTPC as this was part of the OP original goal?

The infrstucture for SDV is not fully in place yet and will likely take some time. Yes, some people are doing it (ATT U-Verse) is one of them offering this today, however, last time I checked, their subscriber base was about 300K. Not that many people considering. Limiting factor here is the installed infrastructure. They just can't service all the communities yet. Time Warner and others are trying to deploy it, but it has not gone all that smoothly and is taking some time and they are having similar issues.

MS wants to be in the living room so they are going to find a way to play there in some form/fashion. Currently, they are there with ATT UVerse as it is running the MS Mediaroom s/w. But they want PCs to play a role in the LR as well and therefore things like PICA and OCAP and Cablecard 2.0 will all factor into the discussions.

We can debate all day long the virtues and vices of implementation schemes. There will always be a new mehtod just aroudn the corner. Technology changes fairly quickly in this space. We can say, "wait for x to be implemented next year", but then something new will come out that is a better way of doing it.

If you are buying a HTPC today and have cable, then OCUR is an acceptable solution and will work for the next few years. After that, it is anybody's guess as to where things will go. Perhaps the best solutiion is to buy an external OCUR box for now and then switch it later when the dust settles on moving content from a STB to HTPC. Of course, there may never be an ideal solution to this, but I am hopeful this market will open up and embrace HTPCs as a viable box for content playback.

I hope this helps clarify what I was saying and why.
 

CJRP

Limp Gawd
Joined
Oct 31, 2007
Messages
491
I just read this thread, having no idea what it is about, and am now even more confused about things I don't know about.
 

Javabri

Weaksauce
Joined
Mar 14, 2008
Messages
106
Well, it started out about buying a Home Theater PC and quickly morphed into a debate on several topics, inclding DRM/Content Protection, Content Distirbution and other things. Both CrimandEvil and I are passionate about our own views which clearly differed on the topic and so it got somewhat heated.

In the end, I think we just agree to disagree and let it go.

As for confusion, if you really want to know about a topic, best just to start a thread and let people chime in with their opinions. However, being a relatively open forum you will get a lot of different views where nuggets of truth may or may not exist and you just have to filter it and try to discern fact from fiction.

We each have our own opinions, that does not make the us right, just opinionated. Take anything you read on the net with a grain of salt.
 

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
OK, so I've done some more research and I believe that CrimandEvil is correct in his recommendation that I get my HTPC without cablecard and just get a second STB and the HD PVR. I truly hate this solution because of it's all-around clunkiness and the fact that the cable providers can disable the analogue output of their STB at any time, but it does seem to be the "best" of what's available at the moment. I guess I can also include a tuner card that will allow me to record "free" OTA or QAM HD content, but it's the premium channels I really care about.
Here's my next question; when using the HD PVR and SageTV per CrimandEvil's recommendation, will I be able to record content to a network attached storage device like my ReadyNAS NV+ and play back from it instead of from the local hard drive? Also, will SageTV allow me to view ripped movies and photos and listen to music stored on my NAS?
 

Javabri

Weaksauce
Joined
Mar 14, 2008
Messages
106
I have seen the sage TV product working in conjunction with Window's Home Server so I think the answer may be yes, but I don't have any experience the Sage product to say for sure.
 

CrimandEvil

Dick with a heart of gold
Joined
Oct 22, 2003
Messages
19,670
SageTV will record to a networked share as well as play it back. Hell, you can even setup a WHS system, put all your tuners in it and place SageTV systems throughout your home without tuners in them and they'll all pull their TV (even live TV) from the server as long as you have enough tuners in the WHS for each system.

Anyways, another reason why CableCards are a stupid suggestion: http://www.missingremote.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2984&Itemid=1
 

Javabri

Weaksauce
Joined
Mar 14, 2008
Messages
106
I would agree that the fee structure for cable card is rather stupid. You might save on renting the box, but the cable companies will stick it to you for the cards. So the net savings is not all that good. It's all part of the cable companies way to disuade users from adopting it.

However, I do believe it is still a viable solution for some people, it all really depends on your situation and what you are trying to accomplish. I know plenty of people that have implemented it successfully. Had to jump through some hoops to make it happen, but once functional, it works great for them.

I am still hopeful for some of the upcoming technologies will better marry HTPC to entertainment content without the need for big, bulky provider h/w. MS continued push into the livingroom might make this happen, but I am not holding my breath for it.
 

geiger

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jun 23, 2005
Messages
413
Here is my view on the whole subject:

My current setup

XPS-420 with dual ATI tuners, and 2 xbox 360s as extenders.

OCUR is the current cc standard. You lose on-demand/PPV functionality, but can DVR/view content on extenders. My VMC setup blows away the DVR/channel guide functionality of my STB DVRs. It is amazing to have a centralized DVR "server" that can be viewed at multiple viewing locations.

TVpack 08 is on the horizon, OEMs are beginning to state their stance. Vmicro and others are offering media replacements, while Dell is leaving XPS owners out in the cold. The official announcement of "Fiji" is waiting for CEDIA though.

On the record flag topic. MS has received some flack regarding this, but they are following the standard. The STB's are a closed loop configuration that does not have the possibility for content "reproduction". The DRM on the HD DVRMS files should be enough, but they are going the extra step.

There have been rumblings that BICUR is looming with a more relaxed standards from cablelabs.
 

CrimandEvil

Dick with a heart of gold
Joined
Oct 22, 2003
Messages
19,670
TVpack 08 is on the horizon, OEMs are beginning to state their stance. Vmicro and others are offering media replacements, while Dell is leaving XPS owners out in the cold. The official announcement of "Fiji" is waiting for CEDIA though.
TV Pack is already announced and "in the wild." It's OEM only though so torrent is pretty much the only place us DIYers can get it (if you want it, I don't see much point to it other then QAM but MS is the only PVR app out there that didn't support QAM for the last year).
 
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