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Television Media

More Details About HDTV Pact 343

Posted by michael
from the controlling-the-horizontal-and-the-vertical dept.
Masem writes "The NYTimes reports that a pact between the makers of HDTV systems and cable and satelite providers appears to be a consumer-friendly route to pushing HDTV technology. The solution proposed by the two groups will remove the need for a set-top box to receive the programming (save for on-demand or interactive services) in upcoming HDTV sets, and will standardize on the DVI port for these (Existing HDTV's, however, will probably still need some set-top device for compatibility - the deal specifically requires set top boxes to send both analog and digital signals as to support older HDTVs). The proposal must still get FCC approval before it becomes set in stone."
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More Details About HDTV Pact

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  • by Em Emalb (452530) <ememalb&gmail,com> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @01:53PM (#4999602) Homepage Journal
    That's the biggest question.

    The FCC can shovel HDTV down our throats all they want. The technology is still too damned expensive for most people.
    • Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NetJunkie (56134)
      Most people haven't ever even seen a good HDTV demonstration. As soon as they do they love it. It's much clearer with better colors. For a sports fan it is heaven.

      I love my HDTV setup. I'm lucky enough to be in a good place where Time Warner supports HD. I just wish they would add DiscoveryHD.
      • Re:Yes. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by lobsterGun (415085)
        I guess that puts me ni the minority. I saw HDTV and wasn't really al that impressed
        • Re:Yes. (Score:2, Informative)

          by Zathrus (232140)
          Where did you see it? Best Buy? Circuit City? Some other consumer electronics retailer? None of them have it setup right. Heck, they don't even have the standard def TVs setup worth a crap (take a look sometime and ask yourself if those skin tones exist in real life).

          I've seen a lot of deeply unimpressive HD presentations... and I've seen one that just blew me away. The unimpressive ones make me wonder "what's the point?", but all I have to do is remember the good one and I start lusting after a nice HDTV setup again.

          The setup wasn't even all that good really... it was a 34"-ish HDTV (one of the drawbacks of HD is that it doesn't do well on small screens - 36" is the quietly talked about minimum size), displaying a 1080i feed from a Sony HD video camera. The footage wasn't all that impressive either - just a shuttle launch. And I was watching it with about 30 other geeks clustered around at a Unix SIG meeting, so far from "ideal" viewing conditions.

          But... wow. It was so crisp and clear that it looked like a picture window. No grain, no zig zags, no junk at all. It's really not something that can be described... it just has to be seen.

          Setting up HD isn't all that difficult from what I understand (again, I don't have a set yet... I have a ton of money put aside for one, considerably more than is needed nowadays, but don't have the space for it yet), it's just that it doesn't behoove itself to multi-screen displays like they use in most stores. Heck, most places they aren't even showing an HD feed - just a standard feed running into the HDTVs. Which means it just looks somewhat better than a normal TV at best. And in most cases it actually looks worse -- because taking a 4:3 image and stretching it to 16:9 makes everyone look like dwarves. Stocky dwarves. Again, it's not that hard to setup, but they just don't bother (or someone has fooled around with the remote and screwed it up).

          Where can you find a good HD setup? Most mid to high end HiFi stores will have one. If you have a friend who loves HDTV then they'll probably have one. Beyond that, I dunno.
    • Go find yourself a sports bar with an HDTV setup, or a friend with an HDTV. Watch the SuperBowl on ABC in stunning 720p. Come back and ask the question again.

      I bought my HDTV in June, and I can't imagine being happier with it. Everybody who sees it says, "I want one." The only obstacle right now is price, and it's not a big obstacle. If you're in the market for a 19" TV for the kid's room, HD is not for you. But if you can afford a $1,500-$2,500 for a nice living room TV, HD is an option. And the prices just keep dropping.
      • Are you fucking insane?

        $1500 for a nice living room TV? Dude! I got my nice 37 inch TV for maybe $300 if that. If you think I am going to spend more for a TV than I do for a computer, just so I can watch hi-def crap...

        Seriously, I'll hold onto my stupid analog TV for as long as I can. At least I know that my analog VHS tapes will work and I don't have to spend a modest fortune for a television

        If they actually had something on TV that was worth watching, and on a regular basis, you might almost have a point here, but this much money is just too much to ask for. I'd rather donate $1,500 to my local library

        • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @03:11PM (#5000266) Homepage
          $1500 for a nice living room TV? Dude! I got my nice 37 inch TV for maybe $300 if that. If you think I am going to spend more for a TV than I do for a computer, just so I can watch hi-def crap...

          There aren't many people who watch my Sony Wega and don't comment on how good the picture is.

          Compared to the cost of the house renovations the cost of the TV is lost in the noise.

          Of course I am not exactly a price sensistive buyer - I almost bought a plasma TV. But most slashdot readers probably have loptops that cost more and will be lucky to get 24 months use out of them before they deteriorate into a mess of patching tape.

          Of course you only really get the benefit if you have a digital source. For me thats DVD or Satelite.

          HDTV will be big but not I suspect in the way that the FCC has been expecting.

          First off HDTV will fail completely if you can't record the signal for personal use. Equally it will fail if you can't use a PVR. I don't care how great the picture looks, it looks shite as far as I am concerned if I have to watch the commercials.

          Secondly the killer apps for HDTV are probably DVD and satelite signals. I very much doubt that the cable industry can upgrade in time to be relevant. Broadcast HDTV is utterly irrelevant, the specifications don't work. The only reason the FTC keeps banging on on the broadcast HDTV is that without broadcast the rationale for such a high degree of FTC involvement goes away. Also the politicians are wondering how they get their ads out if everyone is watching satelite and the Web where the ads are national and not local.

          Thirdly the FTC mandate for large TVs to have HDTV tuners will fail. Those TVs will simply become 'computer monitors', the broadcast tuner will be an optional extra which most consumers don't need or if they do need it it will be possible to turn it on using a secret code which the store assistant will tell you.

          Fourthly convergence between the computer and the TV will drive the large scale adoption of HDTV. This is already being seen, look at a plasma TV and the chances are better than even it is actually hooked up to a computer not a TV. HDTVs will be bought for video games entertainment rather than passive TV watching.

          Finaly until there is a DVD standard that distributes HDTV content the only benefit the average user will get is seeing the films in American widescreen format (16:9) rather than academy ratio (4:3) since the poor user won't have any HD content to view.

          • Other killer apps (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MrChuck (14227)
            Sports.

            People spent stupid amounts of money to watch sports. Most large screen TVs were sold so people could watch their (foot|base|basket)ball at 40+ inches at a ripping ~400 x ~320 res.

            NTSC (never twice same color) was developed in 1925 and standardized by 1927. It allows for around 525 lines vertical res. You're lucky if a GOOD SVideo will put out 400. Enough to trick the eye, but then 24 frames/second tricks the eye pretty well in the theater. The eye is easily fooled and the brain can make pictures out of the most staticy images. Doesn't mean that better won't look lots better to you, it just means that you can see ok with really bad images; like NTSC.

            If you've ever seen the experimental film stuff that ran at > 60 frames/sec rather than the 24 you see in the theater, you'd notice that camera motion doesn't blur the screen radically. Some parts of LOTR were just hard to see because of that. (both CG and real).

            Current TV is "good enough"
            Well yeah. So was 18 frame per second film in 1910 (old old films sometimes look very fast cause they were shot at 18FPS and xfered at 24 by fools).
            We could have, and should have, dumped the current NTSC signal when color came along. But "thousands" of people had bought these expensive TVs so the gubmint decreed that any of this new fangled color stuff must be viewable on the good ol black and white TVs. Nice work.

            I came out of film. I hate movies that lop off around 1/4 of the screen when shown on TV. Most film camera view finders have TV ratios marked on the viewer so directors these days don't have much action on the sides (lame, but most producers and directors know that most of the viewing money comes out of video, in the end), but sports is really an immediate driver.

            When I was in the UK, widescreen was being pushed as "See *all* of the world cup, not just 3/4's of it."

            As I travelled through Asia, bars in the most impoverished nations had widescreen high res showing Football aka Soccer everywhere. With crowds.

            So imagine the NFL pushing that with HD/Wide you get to see it more clearly - so they can use longer shots and you get the same resolution you USED to have, but lots more of the field in the frame. Imagine taking your cheapo 19" and stacking 2x2 of them. Each with the same resolution but continuing the a larger image. That's 1080i.

            Don't believe for a minute that these people who pay $100+/month for sport feeds, who have old huge $2000 dishes in their yards - now worthless and replaced by little dishes, won't drop a year of satellite fees on a HDTV. Or two years. That's beer money, dude. These guys are the ones not buying new computers every two years.

            What if Superbowl/2004 or the world series was shot ONLY in HD? What if movies were shown all there but "squeezed" for you guys watching that 100 year old 4:3 ratio stuff?

            You wanna stick with your mommy's 19" $150 TV past 2006? Fine, someone will come out with a box that drops 3/4 pixels for you. And everything will be letterboxed. And eventually, older HD's will be available on the used market for cheap.

            Now, where can I get a video card that works well on 16:9? The most my computer will dump on my 30" HD wide is 1280x1024. Unreal rules at 30".

      • $1,500! Nope! I bought a perfectly good TV for $150!! Yes, it's a 19" set, but it's just the right size for my living room. I don't even WANT a 64" giant.
    • The FCC has required all broadcasts to be HD in, IIRC 2008, and all TV's sold to be HD. Then the TV stations will sell off their analog bandwidth.
      • by w9wi (162482) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:30PM (#4999907)
        The theoretical deadline is in 2006. Congress has mandated an "out" - IIRC if 15% or more of homes are dependant on off-air analog reception the deadline is extended. A quick review [fcc.gov] of the conversion process is on the FCC website; there are more detailed documents here. [fcc.gov] The conversion is well behind schedule; a large majority of commercial stations missed the deadline last May for beginning digital broadcasts.

        Stations will not be allowed to sell off their analog bandwidth. The current plan calls for stations to be required to choose one channel to keep - either their existing analog channel or their paired digital channel - and return the other one to the government. Of course the government could change its mind & allow stations to keep both, but I see essentially zero inclination on Congress' part to do that.

        Strictly speaking, broadcasts will not be required to be HD in 2006, nor will TV's be required to be HD. The requirement is to be digital. There's a difference. It is possible to broadcast a digital signal with the same 480-line resolution currently used by analog. And many broadcasts will stick to this standard definition digital for some time to come.

        (Standard-definition digital is still a big improvement over analog. Especially because some of the dirty tricks necessary to stuff color onto the old black-and-white signal are no longer necessary with digital. I have a standard-definition digital TV tuner card [hauppauge.com], and the resulting pictures & sound are pretty incredible.)
      • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:33PM (#4999946)
        Sorry, but you have many facts wrong. The FCC hasn't mandated anything about HD. Rather, they've mandated that all analog TV broadcasts cease on December 31, 2006. So if all you have is an analog TV on January 1, 2007, you will receive nothing but snow.

        TV stations can do whatever they want with their allotted segment of the digital spectrum. All the nets except Fox and UPN (is UPN a net now?) are broadcasting HD content at least part time, but SD programs are going to be with us for a long, long time as well. Old programs that get run in syndication, for example, will be broadcast in SD, over a digital transmission.

        Interestingly, though, Mark Cuban of HDNet (and the founder of Broadcast.com, and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks) has secure the rights to go back to the original film prints of some very old shows, like Mission: Impossible and Hogan's Heroes and do new HD transfers for broadcast in 1080i. Most television programming-- except for sports and news and anything broadcast live-- has been shot on film and then transferred to video. Re-transferring those old shows in 1080i makes for some amazing looking reruns.

        Sorry, I wandered off the topic there. The point is, all TV will soon be digital, and digital TV may or may not be in HD. Your existing TV will continue to work after 2006, but you'll have to have a set-top box to convert the digital signals from your antenna to analog signals for your TV, just like your cable or satellite box does now. Because the demand for these boxes will be huge, the price on them is certain to be very low, probably on the order of $50 or less.
        • Because the demand for these boxes will be huge, the price on them is certain to be very low, probably on the order of $50 or less.

          I think you misunderstood a very key part in the Supply/Demand lecture in Econ.
          • Heh. Actually, it seems that you are the one who misunderstood it. See, if everybody wants a product that many suppliers can make, then the various suppliers will compete on price, driving the average price way, way down.

            Since everybody in America is going to need either a new TV or a new set-top box, and practically anybody can sell these set-top boxes, they're practically going to be giving them away.
        • Because the demand for these boxes will be huge, the price on them is certain to be very low, probably on the order of $50 or less.

          But at the moment, it seems that they cost 10x this much. The cheapest I could find was $570 at some Yahoo store [yahoo.com].

          The must-drop-analog date has been pushed back at least once due to the fact that people can't yet receive the digital signals. The networks are perfectly happy to extend the transition period as long as possible, since they get vast quantities of free bandwidth out of it.

          I hope you're right. Cable has gotten very expensive, and right now I'd happily pay $50 to get over-the-air digital TV.
    • Define "too damned expensive".

      Please.

      You know that large (40"+) widescreen HDTV sets are now less expensive than equivalently sized non-HD sets were 3 years ago? Yes, the economy was different 3 years ago, but large (36"+) sets are still one of the hottest selling consumer electronics items out there.

      The newer technology sets (plasma, DLP, various other digital display methods like D-ILA) are all becoming less and less expensive, although I'll happily admit that most are still in the stratosphere.

      And, know what? When color TV came out in the 50s it was "too damned expensive for most people". That was different within a decade. And since, by any reasonable estimate, you still have a decade to upgrade to DTV, the continual whining about cost is nothing but a red herring.
    • Adjusting for inflation the switch to HDTV is way cheaper than upgrading to color was. And that cost is only going to shrink as acceptance grows.

      The main problem I see is that consumer awareness is really low. During Christmas I visited one big electronics store and of tens of HDTV sets on display there was just one displaying a picture that made high definition justice. Displaying a football or baseball game in 1080i glory would make the sets sell themselves.

      On another note it surprises me how hostile the Slashdot crowd is towards HDTV. It's just the coolest consumer electronics stuff to come out in the last decade (ok, the dvd too).

  • Wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gannoc (210256) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @01:55PM (#4999632)
    a consumer-friendly route to pushing HDTV technology. ... upcoming HDTV sets [will] standardize on the DVI port

    Yes, a consumer-friendly way of introducing copy protection (digitally encrypted DVI port), and then lowering the quality on the non-encrypted version. Don't be fooled.

    • Re:Wrong. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xenocyst (618913)
      I agree, it doesn't look as if this is really consumer freindly at all, it seems to me that it is more MPAA/industry freindly, because it will allow the "evil corporations" to restrict how and when we can record/view the programming we are buying from them.
      The only thing I can see that is consumer freindly is the standardization, but that's a double edged sword. Somehow, i doubt it's an open standard, because if it were, the copy protection/encryption would be broken within a few hours of it's release.
      • by wiredog (43288)
        Not if it's properly implemented. A hallmark of a good encryption algorithm is that it is unbreakable (except, possibly, through brute force) even if is completely known.
    • Did you notice the part where the STB's will be outputting the same signal on both the DVI ports and the component analog ports? If you want to record something, just record the analog signal. Yes, you lose a little fidelity when you do that, but the resolution you lose is beyond what your set can resolve anyway.

      Yeah, that's the dirty little secret of HDTV. Unless you buy a really expensive set, like I did back when I was a dot-com gazillionaire, you won't be seeing but half the resolution of the HD picture anyway. The HD picture format is far beyond what a consumer-grade picture tube can resolve.
      • Re:Wrong. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gannoc (210256)
        If you want to record something, just record the analog signal. Yes, you lose a little fidelity when you do that, but the resolution you lose is beyond what your set can resolve anyway.

        The original plan, which this article does not contradict, is to only output 640p resolution on the analog ports. I can currently receive 1080i HDTV via comcast cable box.

        My TV is a Toshiba 50H82 [toshiba.com], which I picked up for $1800, so its a nice HDTV, but not exactly top of the line.

        I can CLEARLY see an improvement at 1080i vs the 640p of a DVD. I'm certainly not going to be happy when the next generation of cable boxes will only output at 640p. A TV isn't a computer, I shouldn't have to "upgrade" my TV after 2-3 years.

        • Re:Wrong. WRONG! (Score:2, Informative)

          by Hepkat (78639)
          I can CLEARLY see an improvement at 1080i vs the 640p of a DVD The funny part about this? 1080i is LOWER resolution than 640p And there is no HDTV standard of 640p. There is 480p, which is what DVD's can output. Some Toshiba(I think... Samsung? something...) DVD players tho, can output 540p, but that has nothing to do with the source, it is just scaled up. Why do they do this? Because 540p is the same as 1080i. So saying 640p is better than 1080i is like saying 640p is better than 540p. I think what you mean to say, tho is that 540p is better... but there is, in reality, no difference. One thing, however, that the "i" could give you, is better motion blur effects. However, I own a Toshiba too, and they use the same display mode, no matter the source format.
          • And one wonders why the consumer is so freakin confused by this new tech. I can't even begin to tell which one of you is talking out of their ass.
    • Yes, a consumer-friendly way of introducing copy protection (digitally encrypted DVI port), and then lowering the quality on the non-encrypted version. Don't be fooled.

      Do you have any proof to back this up, or are you just worried?

      What would cable/satellite and HDTV providers have to gain by crippling these systems? They want to sell you cable/sat service and HDTV devices. Sure, TimeWarner is a huge cable company owned by a media giant, but TW isn't the only one involved.

      If this agreement were made with the media companies involved, I would be more suspicious.
  • The Last Word (Score:4, Interesting)

    by agentZ (210674) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @01:56PM (#4999641)
    The last sentence from the article confused me.
    While the agreement allows program providers to prevent any recording of pay-per-view or video-on-demand programs, users of hard-disk-based recorders like TiVo would be allowed to record and then watch such a program up to 90 minutes later.

    Huh? Why only 90 minutes? Is that limited by the size of the Tivo's hard drive, or is this a new arbitary limit on time shifting?
    • Re:The Last Word (Score:5, Informative)

      by dschuetz (10924) <slash@david . d asnet.org> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:01PM (#4999688) Homepage
      The last sentence from the article confused me.
      While the agreement allows program providers to prevent any recording of pay-per-view or video-on-demand programs, users of hard-disk-based recorders like TiVo would be allowed to record and then watch such a program up to 90 minutes later.
      Huh? Why only 90 minutes? Is that limited by the size of the Tivo's hard drive, or is this a new arbitary limit on time shifting?

      My guess is this is a way to allow people to shift a pay-per-view event to a more convenient start time, with the 90-minute limit in place because most PPV shows repeat at least once, on a different satellite or cable channel, within that timeframe.

      That is, if the next showing of Signs begins at 8:30, but your friends are coming over at 9, you can wait until 9 to watch it.

      The alternative is to disallow all HD taping of ppv programs, which was (IIRC) the original plan.

      david.
    • Re:The Last Word (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nogami_Saeko (466595) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:01PM (#4999689)
      It's a limit on time-shifting.

      Because hollywood knows that the world revolves around them, and that people couldn't, for example, just get out of their house and do something else besides being planted infront of the set.

      N.
    • by w.p.richardson (218394) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:04PM (#4999724) Homepage
      That f*ing sucks!

      I am currently "allowed" to record whatever the hell I want to and watch it whenever I wish. Well, maybe not allowed, but I do it. I doubt mass consumers will be pleased with such a giant step backward.

      • by Zathrus (232140) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @03:27PM (#5000388) Homepage
        How does this suck?

        You order a PPV program and then don't watch it for a couple days? Uh... and why the hell did you order it then instead of two days from now?

        Did you miss the bit that said "PPV/VOD only"? This does not apply to standard material. Not even to shows on HBO and other premium channels.

        The only case I can see there being an issue is when it's the last showing of a PPV movie, and you just don't have time to watch it right now... but may tomorrow, or next week, or whenever. Then, yes, you're SOL.

        There can be something of a case made for "but I wanted to watch it multiple times", but frankly, you can still dump it to tape or other recordable media (e.g. - HD). Yes, there are D-VCRs available that capture the full digital stream. Yeah, you'll have to have a cable box for one, but you're going to need a cable box to get PPV/VOD anyway, just like the article says.

        So, again, what's the issue?
  • So I can hook my computer up to it. I could care less about TV...I want 3d graphics on a 50" screen.

    /me Big Evil Grin
  • Hmm? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:01PM (#4999686)
    Confusius say "No such thing as a 'consumer-friendly' pact."
  • Good news?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gpinzone (531794) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:04PM (#4999722) Homepage Journal
    "The digital FireWire connection will allow program providers to restrict the number of times that a program can be recorded. Under the agreement, HDTV programs from network broadcasters sent through cable or satellite companies will be completely unrestricted and recordable. Subscribers to pay services like HBO could be restricted from making more than one copy of programs from those services."

    Yeah, REAL consumer friendly.
    • Yes, well, the first copy will be to my computer's hard disk.
    • Isn't once sufficient?

      "Muhahaha! I have recorded Return to Farpoint not once, but TWICE! Now pay me ONE BILLION DOLLARS Paramount or I'll do it A THIRD TIME!"
      • IMHO I would think that three would be the magic number of serial copies. One would be to Tivo, the second would be Tivo->DVD recordable, and the third might be DVD-R->Computer or something.

        Now this is pretty restrictive, but based upon how I actually live my life and record TV, I wouldn't have a huge problem with it, especially if it meant direct digital copying at 4x or something instead of real-time analog copying.

        I'd be happier with unlimited copies, even if I was forced to accept a low-end (like Tivo basic quality) encoding with some artifacting.
    • Re:Good news?! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alen (225700)
      What is the big deal? Isn't that the limit of fair use? To make a personal copy only for yourself? Contrary to other's belief fair use isn't making a copy and "sharing" it to millions of people you have never met.
      • by ChaosDiscord (4913) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @04:03PM (#5000734) Homepage Journal
        What is the big deal? Isn't that the limit of fair use? To make a personal copy only for yourself? Contrary to other's belief fair use isn't making a copy and "sharing" it to millions of people you have never met.

        The big deal is that fair use is not defined as "one copy for personal use." Fair use includes making a number of copies of a very small portion of a work for commentary purposes (say, showing sixty or so seconds of footage from a movie for a webcast movie review program I create). Fair use includes making multiple copies for personal use (perhaps keeping a "master" copy of the latest Disney movie safe somewhere and then occasionally making a "play" copy to replace the last one the kids destroyed). Fair use includes making multiple copies as I format shift my copy from format to format as technology advances. Fair use includes transferring a recording from one digital video recorder I own to another. On top of that, as the copyright on works expire, these technical limitations will continue to restrict my access to public domain works. Contrary to widespread belief, there are legal, ethical reasons to make multiple copies of a work protected by copyright. Fair use is more complex than the simplistic "one copy is fair use, two or more is not" that they want to enforce on us.

        • On top of that, as the copyright on works expire, these technical limitations will continue to restrict my access to public domain works.
          Corporate copyrights last 95 years now, and personal copyrights last for a lifetime plus 75 years. I don't think any of us will be alive to access public domain hdtv no matter what.
  • This actually seems like they're doing something right. And this is in the US? Actually adopting technology STANDARDS in the US? My mind has officially been blown.

    Maybe I've just been dealing with cell phones for too long.
    • Cell phones, eh? [slashdot.org] Seems the USA had the right idea all along...
      • I'll get this back on topic again, read on:

        That's from Den Beste, someone who still thinks that Qualcomm's "CDMA" standard is lightyears ahead of GSM - despite constantly having to explain (Google News for him) how it would be illegal for them to modify the CDMAone standard in the US to support features like personal mobility. I'm not kidding, Qualcomm made the decision to tie a phone's ESN to a user's account, and have essentially crippled the standard so that the ability for a user to swap phones (or providers) at will is all but impossible.

        He's wrong. He's still wrong. Focussing on one tiny part of a mobile phone standard and claiming that the entire standard is better and better for consumers on the basis that that component a little bit better in some instances is a bad thing. He's even wrong (and always has been) about the regulatory environment outside of the US - Orange and one2one, for instance, the two UK PCN operators, both voluntarily chose GSM, they weren't forced to.

        iDEN and GSM both kick CDMAone's rear (indeed, even CDMA2000's) when it comes to flexibility, network features, interoperability and standardization, and general usefulness to an end user. Qualcomm needs to buck up and stop believing it's own propaganda, and Beste needs to be willing to criticise his former employer otherwise Qualcomm will become an irrelevence. Which, ironically, is why Qualcomm has such a shill and lobbying organisation going on - but if they were willing to improve on their insanely crippled standards rather than spewing pseudo-libertarian propaganda incessantly while, with a straight face, buying politicians from Washington DC to Beijing, they'd actually stand a greater chance of dominating mobile communications.

        Like mobile communications, the US has been faring badly with television standards because the FCC has refused to force providers to agree on a common standard. Just as GSM is the result of the European mobile phone industry coming together to create a common standard, and has been - without question - an overwhelming success, the only way a decent television system is going to develop is if manufacturers and content providers work together. This is why suddenly we're seeing HDTV looking like it might come together, because that's exactly what's happened. This, ironically, may even break competition laws, but it's thanks to pressure from every side - with the finger pointing at the US's fouled up mobile networks - that has made the difference.

        Cooperation is often necessary. As long as providers are not locked into proprietry standards, cooperation works well. Verizon and Sprint PCS will learn this in time, providing locked expensive doorstops as a method to access the Internet on the move and facing the inevitable lack of interest this will result in; companies involved in TV have seen what could happen and been willing to draw away from the brink. It's a lesson that needed to be learnt, and we're learning from it.

  • by L. VeGas (580015) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:08PM (#4999751) Homepage Journal
    Here's how to set it. Keep pushing the resolution higher and higher until you can see the breast-enlargement scars. Then shift back one.
  • by Xeger (20906) <slashdot@trac[ ] ... t ['ker' in gap]> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:10PM (#4999771) Homepage
    OK, let's see if I got this right. The pact promises to:
    1) Standardize digital cable TV reception in TV sets so as to eliminate set-top boxes -- meaning that your TV will, after 30 years of cable TV imprisonment, finally regain the ability to CHANGE THE DAMNED CHANNEL. Thanks, guys, but I would rather've seen you do this in 1980, when you first forced me to use your stupid boxes.

    2) Mandate that any set-top box with two output connectors (analog and digital), support output to both connectors. Because there are dozens of manufacturers out there just begging to sell boxes with connectors that don't do anything. Thank you, cable TV industry, for protecting us from these monsters!

    3) Place severe restrictions on the programming you can record, after putting the cable 'box' inside the TV, giving you no chance to intercept the video signal. Of course, I'm sure that cable HDTV hardware built into the TV will obey the same copying restrictions as the set-tops. Voila! Uncopyable television. It's a DRM wet dream -- total control of your viewing experience!

    Thank you, oh benevolent HDTV overlords, for blessing us with thy loving oversight!
    • by devnullkac (223246) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:56PM (#5000136) Homepage

      I'm not sure that you do have this right...

      1) TV imprisonment ended at least 15 years ago; cable-ready TV freed us for non-pay NTSC programming and cable-ready HDTV will free us for non-pay HDTV programming.

      2) Failing to send output through the analog connection for selected materials was a possible way to close the "analog hole." This ensures that hole remains open for non-pay HDTV.

      3) My read is that this standard will make it possible for any manufacturer to construct cable-ready HDTV equipment, including Tivo and the like. The inclusion of Firewire connectors permits those digital recorders of digital signals to digitally transfer them to your digital display.

      Of course, this is all concerning only "non-pay HDTV." Currently this would definitely include broadcast HDTV. Whether A&E, MTV, QVC and the rest of the "Expanded Basic Cable Service" cadre will be labeled "pay programming" when they make HDTV signals available is still up for grabs.

      • TV imprisonment ended at least 15 years ago; cable-ready TV freed us for non-pay NTSC programming and cable-ready HDTV will free us for non-pay HDTV programming.

        Until a few years ago, my cable company scrambled all of its channels, forcing everyone to use their POS set-top box to watch TV. It didn't matter if your television set was cable-ready. Your television set was going to be permanently tuned to channel 3, the RF output of the set-top box. Even today, you have to use the set-top box to watch any of the premium channels like HBO.

    • A crucial part of the agreement guarantees that if a set-top box has both the older analog and newer digital connectors, the signal must be sent through both
    So what in this agreement says the set-top producer has to have an analog out in the first place. This agreement only states that if the box has digital and analog outs they both have to work. So they just sell the box with digital only, insta copy protection.

    Another thing I wish they would do is make the communication with the set-top boxes two way so the that the TV could tell the box which channel to use. What I hate most about set-top boxes today is the need use their remote and not being able to program multiple channels to record on my VCR when when I'm away. Bi-directional communication would make the use of set-top boxes moot since everthing could be controlled by the TV or VCR. The viewer would never have to see the box. Maybe the firewire port hinted to in this article will provide this capability
  • by tps12 (105590) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:18PM (#4999820) Homepage Journal
    While it's nice to see some standardization in what has to this point been somewhat of a doggy dog industry, I'm a little worried about letting the corporations themselves work out such standards on their own.

    I suspect that whatever standards are agreed upon will favor the big players over the little ones, and be harmful to consumers and investors. Just look at the RIAA or Enron if you need proof.

    It's somewhat reassuring that whatever they come up with will have to be approved by the FCC, but I somehow feel that the FCC should be the one designing the standard to begin with, to insure that everything is fair and impartial.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      It's somewhat reassuring that whatever they come up with will have to be approved by the FCC, but I somehow feel that the FCC should be the one designing the standard to begin with, to insure that everything is fair and impartial.

      Yes, it's a good thing we've got an administration that will safeguard citizens' rights over the predations of big nasty corpor -- oh, wait...
  • Think this is a done deal? Think again. It's Congress who controls everything..and they're firmly in the back pocket of the MPAA..who (by the way) reported another record year at the box office (2002 was up over 12% from 2001's record year!). Hmmm...I guess that piracy is ruining the industry, huh? That's why they only earned over 9 BILLION last year!
  • I am in no way a fan of the DMCA and other copyright-protection acts, but I do think that Hollywood has a right to put reasonable limits on my ability to record *and distribute* copywritten works. I do not think they have a right to ultimately decide what I can and cannot record.

    I think that the ideal solution would be for the population to be able to record, in High Definition, an original copy. However, I think that Hollywood could say that I cannot make a digital copy of that copy. If I wanted to down-convert (to a normal VCR), of course I would be able to.

    I want that one digital copy, though.

    Yes, I realize that would break this limit to allow for other distribution. Right now sharing High Definition programming in an uncompressed format (or even a lossless compression format) is simply not possible given today's bandwidth concerns. So most people are going to have to record, compress, and then share. While Hollywood would fight this, they can always use the argument "Anyone who wants to be able to record can right now, legally, using digtal recording hardware available at Best Buy!" (assuming, of course, that things capable of recording High Definition in its native format to allow that first copy). Also, there would be less incentive to share, since I could always record off air (or cable, or satellite) in a better format than I could download.

    Yes, I also realize that the bandwidth issue is not to be assumed forever. In the forseeable future, though, I think that Hollywood could use it to its advantage.
    • Sorry, but I must disagree here.

      I don't think anyone should be able to limit what I can do with my own equipment. If someone chooses to break the law by copying and distributing copyrighted material, they should be the ones to receive punishment, not the rest of us who just want to archive our favorite television show.

      I'm tired of seeing all this "Rights Management" bullshit on consumer electronics. Why are the recording industry's rights more important than the consumers'? The people who REALLY hurt the entertainment industry by pirating are the ones that mass-produce bootleg DVD's and sell them on the black market, and those people aren't affected by any of these restrictions on consumer equipment anyway.
    • I think that the ideal solution would be for the population to be able to record, in High Definition, an original copy. However, I think that Hollywood could say that I cannot make a digital copy of that copy. If I wanted to down-convert (to a normal VCR), of course I would be able to. I want that one digital copy, though.

      They tried that with DAT, requiring recorders to implement a serial copy prevention system that refuses to make a digital copy of a digital copy. Recording artists found that they couldn't circumvent the system even for recordings that they made legitimately.

      Implementing a serial copy prevention system on a digital video format will only make that format unsuitable for use by families making home movies. "What? I can't make copies of this wedding tape for the family? That's bullshit. I'm not buying Sony again."

      • I definitely agree that the system should be more advanced than "no digital copies of a digital copy" for the exact reasons you state.

        The "copying bit" idea is probably the best idea. Breakable, in the end, but once again, Hollywood simply needs to go after the people that break it. Have a bit set in each broadcast that says "recordable, not copyable". Anything you make has that same bit set to "recordable, copyable."
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:25PM (#4999868) Journal
    From the article...

    While the agreement allows program providers to prevent any recording of pay-per-view or video-on-demand programs, users of hard-disk-based recorders like TiVo would be allowed to record and then watch such a program up to 90 minutes later.

    So much for fair use. Unless they agree to allow people access to the signals for whatever purpose they want, then it's NOT consumer friendly.

    With the signal that comes out of my DirecTV box (which, for the sake of argument, is no different than a cable box), I can...

    - Record it on a TiVo-like device

    - Record it on a VCR

    - Split it and re-direct it to other parts of my house

    - Send it via analog wireless a receiver elsewhere in the house

    - Record it on a PC

    If I can't do those things, all of which I do regularly (except for the VCR), then this is NOT a consumer friendly solution.

    A digital connection is fine... as long as there's absolutely NO restrictions on what I can do with that data. There are already laws against me saving a copy and sharing it with the world over the internet. They really need to just leave it at that.

    -S

    • by Alizarin Erythrosin (457981) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:33PM (#4999937)
      I was kind of disappointed by your response to the 90 minute rule thing, but I guess you didn't think of it as I did.

      90 minutes is too short of a time to be forced to watch a program. I know that when I record a show or block of shows I probably will be watching them the next day, or why would I be recording them in the first place? (the only stuff I usually watch could be considered "late-night" shows) Or sometimes I record for 4 days in a row (in the case of rally racing on the Speed channel) to watch it all at once when my schedule allows.

      They are touting a "consumer friendly" standard, but only allowing 90 minutes to view a recorded "restricted" show is not very friendly.

      Now before you flame me, I realize that a pay-per-view or on-demand movie is supposed to work around your schedule but my chief concern is once they see how well it (may) work they might extend it to classify other programs as "restricted viewing" and impose the same 90 minute rule.

      But heck, at least they didn't totally say "No recording pay-per-view or on-demand programs"
      • His point is that the restrictions themselves,, regardless of the rules applied, are bad. I agree. If they don't want to send it in unrestricted format, then we should just stick to analog TV, which works just fine, and either auction off or make unlicensed the HD spectrum.
      • They are touting a "consumer friendly" standard, but only allowing 90 minutes to view a recorded "restricted" show is not very friendly.

        I think a lot of people are confused by this limitation. My interpretation is that this kind of restriction is only placed on pay-per-view materials which are rebroadcast every hour anyway; if you wanted to watch it later, you'd record it later.

    • PPV is a moneymaker for the cable companies and isn't meant for people to make a permanent recording. It's a way to compete against blockbuster and other video rental places.

      If you can't legally make a copy of a movie you rent, then what is the big deal about not making a recording of a movie you order on PPV. They start every 30-60 minutes and play for a while. Or you can just go out and rent it thru blockbuster or netflix.
    • Maybe I'm the only one here who is OK with distinguishing pay and non-pay programming, but my interpretation is that the fair use limitations apply only to pay-per-view/video-on-demand. This pact doesn't even cement those limitations; it simply defers its resolution while giving us fair use for non-pay programming.

  • by honold (152273) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:29PM (#4999903)
    here's the license pdf from the makers of hdcp [digital-cp.com]

    sections 3.3/3.4 clearly state that it's not legal to have a dvi/hdcp receiver with any analog outputs (save 16/48 audio).

    not having dvi on your set (or not having a mitsubishi 'promise') is nigh a death knell for future hdtv compliance.

    here [hometheaterhifi.com] is an excellent writeup on the present situation
    • by nosilA (8112) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @04:30PM (#5000966)
      It is in violation of this license to have analog outputs on a display device. That is, a device which has the capability of recieving, decrypting, and visually displaying HDCP content. This is not a requirement on a source device. The cable box would be a source device, as it recieves its content through a means other than HDCP and transmits them via HDCP.

      You would not be able to pass the signal through the TV to make it analog (except with a camcorder or some soldering), but you can certainly make a device that has both an HDCP output and an analog output.

      -Alison
  • When I got Digital cable, I had to buy all of these Motorola cable boxes for my TVs (I only got two, so I have 2 TVs still on regular cable - I wonder how long before they think of a way to charge me for these as well).

    I was delighted to see the Dolby Digital logo on the front of the box. Finally I can watch Band of Brothers in 5.1... wrong. AT&T (well, now their cable TV is owned by ComCast) craftily has put metal slots over the coaxial out (not the cable, but the digital audio connection, just not TOSLINK) and S-video outs on the back of the box. A friend and I opened the thing up and noticed the ports aren't there at all.

    I called AT&T to see what was going on and they said I had to special order a box with digital connections. And it would cost me an extra $10/month.
  • heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob Bos (3399) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @02:49PM (#5000076) Homepage
    No group of professionals meets except to conspire against the public at large.
    -- Mark Twain
    • Re:heh. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cyberkine (246079)
      The exact quote, with the proper attribution, is:

      "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public."

      -Adam Smith
  • by GeorgeH (5469)
    While the agreement allows program providers to prevent any recording of pay-per-view or video-on-demand programs, users of hard-disk-based recorders like TiVo would be allowed to record and then watch such a program up to 90 minutes later.
    The only time I used my Tivo's "rewind live TV" functions was to make the ball go back up the pole and bring me back to 2002. Is this how they plan to kill Tivo, by getting rid of timeshifting? Doesn't this fly in the face of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. [ttu.edu] or can ?

    Why are hard-disk-based recorders singled out? If I make a PVR out lots and lots of flash memory that's OK?
  • Will you be able to buy boxes that output 1080i analog only. I don't have a DVI port on my HDTV so that would be an acceptable solution for me and many other early adopters.
  • by trcooper (18794) <`coop' `at' `redout.org'> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @03:18PM (#5000312) Homepage
    What?

    It is not consumer friendly to integrate the STB with the monitor. It will make it easier to sell though.

    HDTV's are monitors, and why that is seen as a problem I don't really understand. So the STB is integrated into the set, what does this mean? Only thing it means to me is you don't have a separate box. You'll still have to pay for the components, they're just inside the TV instead of next to it.

    I'd rather have a monitor capable of 1080i and 540p or 720p that simply has component video in along with a STB that handles the conversions and outputs to a resolution my monitor can display. This way I can feed my component video to any device that supports it and display or record it if I wish.

    It does not benifit me to have a TV that traps the signal, and provides no output or limitted output. It may seem easier if I just need to plug one cable into the TV, but it certainly doesn't benifit consumers beyond initial setup ease.

    What would be consumer friendly is a recording device that could take a 1080i, 540p, or 720p signal and record it and replay it in the same format.

    Don't let them fool you, this is retailer and provider friendly. It will help cable providers keep their "you don't need and extra box" advertising fodder, the networks by preventing you from recording programming, and retailers, not consumers.
  • HDTV tuner PCI card? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by redelm (54142) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @03:20PM (#5000324) Homepage
    Where is a PCI card that will receive HDTV signals?

    HDTV tuners for the "HDTV capable" sets are 'way expensive.

    I don't see HDTV making serious inroads until the price differential with NTSC gets ~$100. Until HDTV becomes very popular, there's no way the FCC can reallocate [autction] the spectrum.

    • Here's one : http://www.digitalconnection.com/Products/Video/my hd.asp

      STB's right now run in the $500 range. By '06 they'll be in the $75 range. You just won't be able to use that portable 2.5" TV anymore.
  • HDCP is lame (Score:3, Informative)

    by logicvice (150948) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @03:21PM (#5000337)
    It will be cracked in short order and be about as usefull as CSS is for the DVD format.
    Check out Niels Ferguson's Censorship in action: why I don't publish my HDCP results [macfergus.com]
  • When I read the original agreement last week (or maybe the week before), the connector agreed upon was Firewire, not DVI. Let's all hope that the article mentioned here is wrong, since DVI is definitely the lowest common denominator connectivity for HD.
  • by Arkham (10779) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @05:16PM (#5001391)
    In what way does encrypting the video prevent you from recording it?

    Why can't you simply record the video on your HD-TiVo of the future in encrypted form, then play it back in encrypted form, which the TV can then decrypt?

    Most of us are interested in making copies for timeshifting or backup or whatever. If every TV on earth can decrypt the file, just save it encrypted and you can still timeshift it.

    What's wrong with this idea?
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Friday January 03, 2003 @12:07AM (#5004072)
    After reading all of these posts, the question that remains in my mind is simply: Who gives a flying fouque about TV anyway?

    Yes, I know that there are millions and millions of zombies out there who spend their lives in front of "Survivor" or whatever crap they are being told to watch by the network marketing droids. This only proves my point: TV is what people do who are too dumb to use a computer.

    Seriously. What is there to watch? News? Get your news off of the Internet (Fellow Americans: Try the BBC [bbc.co.uk] for a serious eye-opener about what CNN, Fox, and Time Warner don't think you should be interested in). Sitcoms? The only thing that even comes close to being entertaining for people with an IQ over 60 is "Buffy", and you're better off waiting for the DVD version anyway, unless you're into watching ads every five minutes. Information? Yeah, the "Discovery Channel" is nice, but it can't compete with this cool technology call "books". Films? Get the DVD, they don't have the commercials and they don't have half of the stuff hacked out to make the censorship people happy. With the money you've been paying those cable people, you could have had surround sound years ago.

    Anybody who is willing to pay a company to let themselves be bombarded with commercials is getting what he or she deserves. Screw TV in analog or digital: You have a computer, or else you wouldn't be reading this; all you need now is a DVD player and a bookshop. If you are a TV zombie, you shouldn't be on Slashdot anyway.

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