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Television Media Software Technology

HDTV Onto a PC Through FireWire? 49

Posted by Cliff
from the no-television-required dept.
William George asks: "As of April 1st, 2004 it has been required that all cable companies in the United States be able to provide customers, upon request, with a High Definition set-top box with IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connectivity (e-CFR Part 76.640 Section 4 Subsection i). This was designed to allow easier connections between modern TVs, set-top boxes, and digital PVRs. However, it should also allow for a connection to a computer... at least in theory. Well, I am out to test that theory. After extended communication with my local cable company (CableONE) they have arranged to send out a pair of techs to help me try this out. The arrangement is for them to come out on September 22, and with phone support from their corporate offices and Motorola (the company that provides their set-top boxes) we are going to see if it will work."
"I have a Windows XP-based PC, and I recently added a 3-port FireWire card specifically to test this out. There is only one problem: software. Macs apparently have software built in for this, but I am having trouble finding a solution for Windows (Linux would be worth trying too, but I have not had any experience with it before). Does anyone out there know of any software for Windows that allows viewing and/or recording of an MPEG-2 transport stream over a FireWire connection? I found one website with a trial version of some software available for download, and I think it might have even been mentioned in a previous Slashdot post. However, their software crashed during installation even though my hardware meets their stated requirements and my FireWire card is based on a TI (Texas Instruments) chipset as they specify. Contact to their tech support resulted in instructions to try again, which I did with no luck. From reading their software description, however, it looks like it is only designed to store the video recording on a computer and then display it back to a TV - which is not what I need anyway. I want to get rid of the TV completely and allow for viewing and recording of pure, digital HDTV directly on a PC. Any ideas or help would be greatly appreciated, and if this works I will set up a website with instructions on how to do it yourself!"
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HDTV Onto a PC Through FireWire?

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  • by mind21_98 (18647) on Monday September 20, 2004 @05:35PM (#10301851) Homepage Journal
    What about a solution such as this [digitalconnection.com]? This will let you get rid of the cable box entirely. :)
    • by mknewman (557587) * on Monday September 20, 2004 @05:40PM (#10301915)
      Notice in the "Key Buying Points: S-video, Composite and audio inputs, Dual RF Inputs both HDTV compatible " There is no digital inputs. The beauty of the Firewire/USB2.0 approach is that it's 100% digital. Marc
    • by Jherico (39763) <bdavis&saintandreas,org> on Monday September 20, 2004 @05:48PM (#10302013) Homepage
      That almost certainly won't work. Cable carried HDTV content is not in the same format as airwave carried HDTV content. The coaxial inputs on the card you suggest will probably not be able to interpret the cable signal and convert it to HDTV data. In many areas the HD content available over a cable box is going to be more extensive that what you will get over an antenna. On the other hand most cable companies will encrypt all the channels except the over the air ones (which they are prevented by law from encrypting) meaning the firewire data is worthless anyway.

      I haven't found a solution yet for capturing the HDTV data over the firewire port yet, though I have a mac for this purpose. The mac is unable to render the HD content because its an old G4 400Mhz, but it can stream it to disk just fine and I'm able to use a cross platform tool [videolan.org] to render the saves streams on my PC. In practice this ends up being more trouble than I'm usually willing to go through, since I can't actually do this for movies (because of the encryption as stated above) but its what I've got. This does at least let you play the MPEG-2 streams on a PC.

    • or he gets the cable box for dirt cheap and the firewire card for $15 at wal mart and gets more flexibility ;)
  • HDTV over firewire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mknewman (557587) * on Monday September 20, 2004 @05:36PM (#10301868)
    I wonder if this ruling applies to DirecTV, Dish and VOOOM also? I know the Tivo HDTV unit has USB 2.0 but no firewire. Marc
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2004 @05:54PM (#10302086)
    You should probably head on over to the avsforum.com and spend a few days searching and reading there. You'll find out almost all you need to know if you learn how to navigate (and learn how to protect your eyes from the wicked garish color scheme). The avsforum is large and noisy, but has tons and tons of gems for hdtv geeks.

    For example, you'll find out that you won't get your cable company's on screen display through the firewire port of the motorola box, which may be a serious problem for you*. You'll also find a big community of PC users hashing out the same firewire-to-PC issues you are.

    *They may have updated the box to fix this, and this may be a comcast-only problem.
  • by man_ls (248470)
    Is this HDMI?

    I have a Wega television with an HDML receptical. It'd be very cool to get an all-digital connection with that.
    • Re:HDMI (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jahf (21968)
      No, 1394 and HDMI are not compatible. HDMI is essentially the next rev of DVI and you can connect DVI HDMI for video. 1394 uses a different signal altogether from DVI and HDMI.
  • Possible softwares? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Goyuix (698012) on Monday September 20, 2004 @06:09PM (#10302235) Homepage

    Check out http://www.webtc.com/DVHS/default.htm [webtc.com] - they have some examples of how to setup your PC and record/play using DirectShow filters. Not the absolute brain dead click one button approach you might like, but it could get you started.

    I would also like to cast my vote that avsforums is the place to look. You will likely spend many hours searching and reading, but you will likely find a tons of useful info from people who are already doing more or less what you are trying to pull off.

  • I know you don't have Linux installed, but you might still want to look at knoppix based mythtv [mysettopbox.tv]

    I've not used it myself, but it's comparable to WIndows Media center edition without the Digital Rights management issues. if Linux sees firewire video feeds like it would a TV tuner card, MythTV would be like usig a TIVO for your HDTV.
  • by __david__ (45671) * on Monday September 20, 2004 @06:44PM (#10302550) Homepage
    Next year, when manufacturers are required to implement the broadcast flag, you will not be able to use your computer to view programs that are protected (channel 7 in LA (ABC) now sets the broadcast flag for almost all content). This is because protected content is required to be transmitted accross 1394 encrypted by DTCP (an encryption/key management standard). The DTCP license explicitly disallows the use of the standard on a computer. Specifically, it does not allow unencrpyted data to go across a PCI bus which rules out all firewire interfaces to your computer.

    You can only get the details of DTCP if you sign a contract that says you owe them $8,000,000 if you leak any details of the standard.

    So you will be SOL as more and more programs get the broadcast flag.

    -David
    • The DTCP license explicitly disallows the use of the standard on a computer. Specifically, it does not allow unencrpyted data to go across a PCI bus which rules out all firewire interfaces to your computer.

      Thank god for PCI Express [tomshardware.com].

    • I doubt DTCP will last any longer than the DVD encryption standard did. All this does is delay the software PC pirates will use by a couple of months and completely disallow any legitimate market for HD on PC's via firewire.
      • I doubt DTCP will last any longer than the DVD encryption standard did.

        As much as I wish this would be true, the DTCP is much more secure than the DVD copy protection scheme. It uses Diffie-Hellman and eliptic curve stuff for the key negotiation and though it uses an encryption method comparable to DES for the data (ie, weak by todays standards), it rotates the key often enough to make it really difficult to break.

        If it is broken it will likely be confined to specific devices, not a global hack like the DV

        • the DTCP is much more secure than the DVD copy protection scheme

          Perhaps in an ideal world. In the real world you'll end up with things like cable boxes that have an undocumented sequence of commands to disable encryption, company's choosing laughably simple keys to guess, and so on. I still think that tactics like these will never stop dedicated pirates, only hurt potential markets.

        • Only if the HDTV recieving device chooses to actually honor the 'broadcast flag' though.

          Forget cracking the encryption, just find a simple hardware mod to let the machine think there's no flag.

          Ie; Who cares how cryptographically secure MS-Signed Xbox games are, we'll just replace the BIOS with one that runs unsigned code.
          • Yes, but my original point was that hacking a TV or set top box to send out cleartext video that was supposed to be encrypted is going to be difficult. And it is going to be near/completely impossible to do this directly from a computer with no hack on any of the other equipment.

            People compare this with DVD cracking, but that was a walk in the park compared to this. There will be no 3 line perl script to unencrypt HDTV.

            The X-Box is almost an apt comparison. Yes, it's hackable now, but it took a while and
    • Of course, that all depends on no one being able to get 1394 chips that have this encryption. Fact is, there are already plenty of them on the market. and they have serial interfaces just like D/A convertors (how do you think those 169 folks add 1394 interfaces to set top boxes?).

      this is the giant hole I wrote about a year ago, and thus far I see no one addressing it. I suppose the industry expects no one will offer PCI cards for sale that have, say, a TI 1394 interface chip on it - but given the NWO and t

      • It doesn't matter if you have a chip that supports the 5C and M6 encryption. Unless you have a key signed with the DTLA's private key, no other device will talk to you. And, say you get a key, they protect against that too. Every device is required to implement a viral SRM list--a black list of sorts. Once a key makes it onto the black list no other device will talk to it again...

        Changing the firmware is probably the only option. But some chip makers have made that difficult.

        Replacing the chip with a pin
        • they are going to get away with using the blacklist? There are already thousands (if not millions) of units in the field (Pioneer, for one, uses that TI chip) and "blacklisting" either Pioneer or TI will result, in effect, the DTLA functionally destroying those devices.

          I specifically mentioned source devices for a reason. But since you did mention it I really don't believe that "blacklist" is going to survive past the class action suit that will arise from the first time they use it.

          • Well, I hear there are already devices on the blacklist, though I haven't seen it first-hand.

            And they couldn't blacklist TI, since the TI chip doesn't have any built in keys or or identifying info (from the 5c/1394 side). They can (as far as I know) only blacklist individual devices. They can blacklist *your* Pioneer VCR, and not mine, for instance.

            -David
    • channel 7 in LA (ABC) now sets the broadcast flag for almost all content

      That's to be expected of The Walt Disney Company. Boycott Disney [losingnemo.com] by watching other channels instead, and your problems go away.

    • to clarify... The manufacturers will be required to implement devices that honor the broadcast flag after July 2005 (i think). BUT any card/etc manufactured BEFORE then is grandfathered in.

      We can only hope there's a stockpile of broadcast flag-less devices somewhere next to the atari 2600 ET cartridges. =)

      hopefully the ruling will be twarted/revoked by then... (one can hope)

      e.
  • I am specing out a HTPC, and am amazed that there is only one option, the just released Fusion 3 (not sure of the company name), for PCI or AGP cards that can decode HDTV from a cable source (QAM).

    From user feedback, it doesn't even seem to work that well. I know the new All In Wonder HD is out, but it only works with OTA (Over the air) signals, bleh...

    There goes my dream of a HD PVR....
  • Mac OS X vs HDTV... (Score:3, Informative)

    by beerits (87148) on Monday September 20, 2004 @07:18PM (#10302894)
    This doesn't answer the poster's question but Mac users can checkout this [macosxhints.com] article at macosxhints.com [macosxhints.com]. The software is not built into Mac OS X but it is a free download from ADC.
  • The firewire ports on cable boxes mandated by the FCC do deliver you an MPEG2-TS data; unfortunately, in most markets, the stream is encrypted on most if not all of the channels. There are several encryptoin methods; the most common algorithm is 5C. The EFF made an appeal to the FCC to require any HDTV content that is broadcast OTA in the same market be transport unencrypted on the cable network, but the appeal was denied.

    Even if you get something working now, all they have to do is begin to encrypt the HDTV stream(s) that you can get from the firewire port and then you are fucked again. If you have a really nice cable company, you might be lucky enough to get a decrypted stream; however, the broadcast flag mandate will ensure that this stream either be envrypted or downsampled to no more than 480p if output via some "insecure" medium such as firewire or DVI-D.

    The best thing you can do now is to buy an OTA HDTV tuner for your PC. In the future (and to a lesser extent now), you will probably be able to buy some grey-market sort of modifications to cable boxes to enable full-resolution firewire output. In a way, because of this, I'm at least glad the firewire mandate exists - at least it will be a little easier to hack.
  • This is a real requirement right, and not a stale April Fools gag that someone still doesn't get?

    (Disclaimer: I'm not in the US and therefore don't really care.)
  • Here is a good discussion on recording Firewire to Windows XP: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&t hreadid=403695
  • Here you go (Score:4, Informative)

    by LiNT_ (65569) on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:39PM (#10304235)
    Read here [avsforum.com] and here [avsforum.com]. The second link is mainly for Mac's but also has a bunch of relevant information.

    I also suggest you ask further questions on this topic over at the AVS forum. Slashdot is great but for this type of thing, you'll get better info over there.

  • It says they will REPLACE, not give at will: (4) Cable operators shall: (i) Effective April 1, 2004, upon request of a customer, replace any leased high definition set-top box, which does not include a functional IEEE 1394 interface, with one that includes a functional IEEE 1394 interface or upgrade the customer's set-top box by download or other means to ensure that the IEEE 1394 interface is functional.
  • ...for DVD authoring will capture from a digital camcorder over firewire. It is just a DVI interface as I recall.

    Whether this translates to your cable box interface or not I don't know...

    Good luck and keep us informed.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm a little far from a Microsoft advocate (and I run Linux myself) but I was pleasantly surprised when I tried to do some Firewire video work on my wife's PC last weekend. In the latest version of Windows XP she has something called Movie Maker and this did the trick without much fanfare. It's not too sophisticated - you couldn't schedule recordings or similar - but for getting video data from a Firewire feed, at least as a proof of concept, it should do the trick.

    It was better than the software that cam

  • by 3waygeek (58990) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:54AM (#10306857)
    I've had a Motorola DCT-6200 box for about 6 months now, and spent quite a bit of time over at AVSforum checking out the various threads related to HD recording. One thing to be aware of is that you need proper firmware on the Moto box; you need at least version 7.10 for proper 1394 support. I bring this up because I was stuck with version 7.07 until about a month ago, when I was upgraded to 7.15; the upgrade is downloaded off the cable, so it has to be instigated by the provider (something to keep in mind when the techs visit you on Wednesday).

    Bummer about the VividLogic software -- I've been considering it for some time, and have almost bought it on several occasions. However, given your experiences and those of AVSforum members that have had similar outcomes, I'll probably give it a miss.

    In my spare time, I've been working (very slowly) on an XP driver for the DCT-6200 boxes; it's going slowly because there's not much doc for streaming video drivers, even less doc for MS's AV/C and 1394 drivers, and none at all for the DCT-6200's AV/C capabilities (i.e. what commands the box recognizes, etc.).

    I've been recording HD content to a Mac OS X box for some time using the free VirtualDVHS app that's part of the Apple Firewire SDK mentioned in another post [slashdot.org]. You can pick up an old blue & white G3 Mac (the oldest/cheapest Mac that can handle the job) for a few hundred off eBay; that's what I did. Note that the Mac solution works even with the old 7.07 firmware.

    You mentioned Linux -- you might want to check out the lib1394 project. Some people over at AVSforum have reported success using it with the Moto boxes.
  • A little app that might be worth a shot is DVTS [wide.ad.jp]. The purpose of this suite is to encapsulate DV streams into IP packets. (I've used it before with a SD camera, it's actually pretty cool. Firewire in one computer, out the Ethernet to another, and out of that computer's Firewire.) It has a tool called dvsave that basically dumps the DV stream to your hard drive. Whether or not this app would work with HDTV, I really have no idea since I've never really looked in to HDTV or how it works.
  • I suppose you were looking for a software only solution and what I'm describing really is software only but the software is written to only work if you have the board installed. The board is any one of the HDTV receiver boards from DVico. The one I purchased well over a year ago is their original board and I purchased it for less than $150 as a new product from Digital Connection.

    The software that comes with this product is not without any problems but it has at least two very nice features. If your graphi

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