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Media Technology

CableCARD In-Depth 128

Posted by Zonk
from the fun-with-learning dept.
Atvtg writes "Ars Technica has an excellent article on CableCARD, and where it's heading. After discussing the history of the initiative and some of the technical details, they cover how CableCARD may meet its end shortly after the launch of 2.0 (the bi-directional spec) because of DCAS. The real surprise, however, is that CableLabs, which controls the CableCARD spec, has to certify computers to use CableCARDs for DVRs and the like. Ars points out that the upshot of this is that it will not be possible to build your own DVRs using CableCARDs. Will this kill the DIY market?"
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CableCARD In-Depth

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  • Lars Technica (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    wasn't he in metallica? a real jack-of-all-trades, this one.
  • DIY (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:33PM (#14662913)

    Will this kill the DIY market?

    No, but all the DRM restrictions and nonsense about having a guy come to your house to provision the dam thing will probbably kill cableCard. The DIY crowd will just record off the analog out, it's really at the "good enough" state anyway. I read this article earlier today, and I still can't figure out why anyone would want this thing. It sounds like it was mandated by congress, but the cable companies didn't want to do it so they made a device that's so crippled no one will want it.
    • Re:DIY (Score:5, Informative)

      by jmp_nyc (895404) * on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:45PM (#14663032)
      The DIY crowd will just record off the analog out, it's really at the "good enough" state anyway.

      Not for HDTV. The advantage of cablecard is that it allows the device to directly access the compressed digital signal. Analog out is just fine for recording SDTV. If you want to record unencrypted HDTV, you won't get very much bang for your storage buck...
      -JMP
      • A DIY solution may come to pass via the certified PCs allowed to record running Vista. A system won't be able to take a CableCARD unless built-in by the OEM; if it isn't fused to the motherboard it'll be married by encryption somehow to the hardware. The systems look like they'll have to be sold with an authorized OS--apparently Vista--and will have to use Trusted Computing to ensure no other OS will be permitted to control them. And that only trusted programmers can write certified software.

        So if you ca
      • HDTV (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gr8_phk (621180)
        "Not for HDTV. The advantage of cablecard is that it allows the device to directly access the compressed digital signal."

        My HD2000 gets me direct access to the compressed digital signal, but it's over the air. The HD3000 can tune unencrypted digital cable channels too. The only thing all this cablecard crap is really going to accomplish is DRM. Why anyone would want to run out and buy an expensive DRM system that only reduces their options is beyond me. As for protecting premium HD content - who cares. I

        • Re:HDTV (Score:3, Insightful)

          Nobody is going to be passing this stuff around the net, or archiving it, or much of anything, DRM or not, - it's just too darn big.

          Yeah, and 640K is more RAM than anyone will ever need.

          Gotta break it to you - people are already passing this stuff around on the net and have been doing so wide-scale for almost 2 years. Furthermore, that ~35GB mpeg2 of about 4 hours of superbowl can be relatively easily converted to ~8GB or less of h.264 with little perciptible loss of quality. HD movies which tend to run 1
        • The only thing all this cablecard crap is really going to accomplish is DRM. Why anyone would want to run out and buy an expensive DRM system that only reduces their options is beyond me.

          So that they can watch more than their 7 local OTA channels in HD. Pretty simple really. No cable company is going to have the balls to broadcast anything unencrypted, unless they are really forced to do so.

          I just recorded the superbowl in HD for grins and it ate up 35GB (yes that GIGAbytes) of hard drive space. Nobody is

        • Besides, only a few channels are available in HD from the local cableco. They market this stuff with the "future" in mind. But as the article shows, the future will involve something different than you can buy today. If you're going to buy this stuff anyway, I'd make sure it has some immediate value today and not believe a word about what they plan to do next year or even next week. Me? I've got HDTV DVR capability on my PC today, and it's really not that useful. It is fun to show people the picture quality
      • Re:DIY (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        Funny, my rear projection HDTV has the ability to record to a firewire hard drive from it's inputs INCLUDING the hdmi input. and yes it records off the HD pay-per-view channels quite nice.

        Many more older high end HDTV's do this as well. they cant stop me from doing it as that will piss off a large section of the market, the early adopters. and if you piss off that group, you lose the ENTIRE market.
    • Re:DIY (Score:5, Informative)

      by plover (150551) * on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:49PM (#14663067) Homepage Journal
      The DIY crowd will just record off the analog out, it's really at the "good enough" state anyway.

      Not an option. My cable box doesn't have an analog out for HDTV. It has an HDCP stream coming over the HDMI cable.

      I was perfectly happy with my analog-based ReplayTV, but it was relegated to the "little" TV once I got an HDTV set. I had to pay to lease the Comcast DVR cable box since it's the only game in town for recording HDTV. However, it sucks -- the software is more buggy than the ReplayTV software ever was, and the interface is much less friendly than the ReplayTVs. Plus, with the cable company firmly in control, they don't let me do things like "hide" unwanted channels. Like I'm ever going to watch QVC, or why I'd want to skip over 60 pay-per-view sports slots that I'll never watch?

      Yes, my TV has a CableCard slot, and yes, it's most likely going to sit there unused forever. I want a DVR more than I want "one less component".

      I'm thinking of buying an HDCP decoder so I can build my own DVR using the cable box anyway. But those decoders are still about 400 euros.

      • I'm thinking of buying an HDCP decoder so I can build my own DVR using the cable box anyway. But those decoders are still about 400 euros.

        I wasn't aware that an HDCP decoder was available to the public at any price. Just a few dozen of those running around out in the wild and the entire HDCP infrastructure falls flat on its face because it only takes one person to rip and post a HD torrent and the anyone who wants it can have it.

        I figured some day there would be a DIY project to take an HDCP monitor ap

        • I figured some day there would be a DIY project to take an HDCP monitor apart to the point where you can extract the decrypted signal, but I figured that was still a long ways away.

          Seems it has already been done [seclists.org], but the researcher is not releasing any details due to fear of the DMCA and MPAA.
        • It's even more simple than that: all it takes is ONE of our European or Asian friends to capture a stream and post it on a torrent site. If HDCP does lock down home video recording, I'll drop cable and get all my entertainment via bittorrent. Heck, I use Bittorrent for timeshifting now as it is, because my ATI capture cards don't work in Linux (well, unless I downgrade to really old XFree86 builds).
        • I suspect what will happen is that people will crack HDCP, HD-DVD/Blu-Ray/CableCard/whatever other DRM the companies invent and not tell anyone about it.
          Then they will use their cracks to post stuff on P2P
          It will go through the same channels that "DVD Screeners" leaked from production companies, awards judges and such go through. And the same channels that result in the latest games being available on p2p days after release, fully cracked and working. And, just like the DVD screeners and games, the people b
      • I'm thinking of buying an HDCP decoder so I can build my own DVR using the cable box anyway. But those decoders are still about 400 euros.

        Got a link? I haven't been able to find such a thing at any price.
        • by plover (150551) *
          Sorry. I saw one on the web back in December, but I'll be damned if I can find the link now. I *knew* I should have bought it when I saw it!
      • Not an option. My cable box doesn't have an analog out for HDTV. It has an HDCP stream coming over the HDMI cable.

        I think what the PP was trying to get across is that you'll still be able to record in SD off the analog ports. It's not HD, but it's better than nothing at all. It's becoming increasing clear to everyone that the HDTV "analog hole" is going to be made extinct.
      • Supposedly, the HD boxes from Comcast and others have an optional firewire out where they send the decrypted streams...specifically for people that use Tivos and other boxen. I'm not clear on the details as to what cable boxes do this or the specific model numbers, but generally speaking, if you tell your cable company you want to use your Tivo with your digital box/hdtv box, they'll give you a special one with firewire out.
      • by Casca (4032)
        Damn, I was all geared up to post something, but then I read yours. Its like you read my mind and wrote it for me. I have a first generation replay TV that is leaps and bounds ahead of the piece of crap scientific atlanta HD PVR my local cable company leases. Of course its just SD quality...
      • This is easy for me to say, but you should consider sending the Comcast DVR back, and living with standard definition.

        Capitalism at work: if the product sucks, send it back. Don't reward them with money per month for a bad product.

        Of course, if the difference between SD and HD is great enough, then you may be willing to put up with paying them more money for poorer software.

        But if Comcast is refusing to let you hide the stupid channels, it doesn't bode well for the future. I'd let them know that the mone

        • You're right, that is easy to say until you plunk down many moneys on a large plasma HDTV. The difference between SD and HD is almost one of magnitude, not degrees. Their idea, (which does not surprise me in the least) is that if you're willing to spend $xxxx on a TV you're both willing and able to spend an additional $10/month for a digital output cable box with DVR. (it's $5/month extra for the digital box with no DVR.) And so I am.

          Yes, it blows, and it blows hard. But they're pretty much a monopol

      • I have the same complaints as you mention, the ability to customize the listings is very annoying and high on my list also. The unit is so bad (cablevision + Scientific Atlanta/Cisco) I wont even mention them, there is a cablevision-digital forum on Yahoo Groups for those that care. Missed recordings and absurd schedule functioning are described in detail there..

        Well good news is on the way, a Tivo (different from ReplayTV, but with similar high goodness count) with 2 CabeCARD slots is expected after mid

      • It may be pricier than 400 euros to build your own HD mythTv box, but you may be interested in this (Comcast in my area issues Moto DCT 62xx boxes):

        Feature of MythTV:
        http://www.mythtv.org/ [mythtv.org]
        -firewire capture method, for those with cable boxes capable of firewire output (Motorola DCT-6200 + cousins, SA 3250, etc).
        -Internal channel-change over firewire support for DCT-6200 series cable boxes.

        HOWTO on interfacing to the DCT 6214:
        http://replayguide.sourceforge.net/dct6412/ [sourceforge.net]
    • I was under the impression that ATI had recently announced a CableCard 2.0 USB device for PCs [engadget.com] and was looking forward to getting digital HDTV with it in the near future. Did something change?
    • Re:DIY (Score:3, Informative)

      by object88 (568048)
      The DIY crowd will just record off the analog out,...

      What makes you think there will be an analog out? They're going to digitally encode the signal going from the converter into the television, or whatever other device, to prevent exactly that. Are you sure you read the article? Let's quote said article:

      So far, so good, right? Now we have a clear MPEG-2 stream ready for viewing--which is why the CableCARD re-encrypts the signal using the keys that it has already exchanged with the host device. This is to
  • The reality is... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bullfish (858648) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:34PM (#14662924)
    They would love to do away the DIY market, not just for the mark-up they can hit people who want PVRs with, but because in the DIY market it is much harder if not impossible to enforce DRM. Having failed for the nonce with the broadcast flag, there are going to be other attempts to bring the hobbyist to heel. Cable card wars will be one of them.
    • I havent really heard anyone that is against the DIY market. mainly because it is such a small market... the biggest concern right now is those that record, encode and bittorrent. that is a losing battle, but the DIY market is not the focus of htis type of crap
      • Re:The reality is... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:44PM (#14663026) Homepage
        The DIY market IS the market recording, ripping, and sharing. Are the torrents that are available 10-15 minutes after a show finishes airing the work of someone with their TiVo hooked up via coax to a 27" TV, or the guy with a DVB card in his PC, hacking a satellite stream, and dumping shows directly to his networked RAID?
        • Um no it is not.. the DIY market is the freevo/mythtv/windows media center equiv boxes... they are not uploading anything.
        • And it's a killer or their international reselling; eg, in New Zealand, Battlestar Galactica is just starting its first season airing. Everyone who cares has watched the US torrents already. 10 - 15 years ago, fans just had to take what they were given, when they were given, and like it.

          This sort of thing is breaking a lot of profitable distribution models.
          • eg, in New Zealand, Battlestar Galactica is just starting its first season airing.

            Then its their fault for not getting it there earlier. And who knows, with that kind of lag time you could have bought the Galactica DVD set and MAILED it to New Zealand. Yes, yes you would of course need a evil region free DVD player, but I think true fans of the show might be able to find one somewhere ;-)

            While this is breaking a lot of profitable distribution models, it is opening up even more, if any of these insdustries
    • the DIY market it is much harder if not impossible to enforce DRM.
      To a degree, sure, but I still don't think they need to certify the entire PC. They ought to be able to certify, say, just an All-in-Wonder card.
  • by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:35PM (#14662928) Homepage Journal
    So, the industry has been working on these cards since 1997 or so. The biggest hurdle seems to be how to encrypt the video stream umpteen times because they're dead paranoid about hackers. As a result, 8 years later, the technology is ready but is already outdated because consumers started demanding more from their cable provider (thank you TiVo) and the 1997 designed cards couldn't handle it.

    Oh, the industry says, lets fix that in the 2.0 release. So they begin work on it. Unfortunatly, that's still vapor and it looks like the 2.0 release might be ready just about the time it's getting killed off by yet another technology.

    Why does it take so long to develop these things? Well, a big reason is that they have to figure out new and exciting places to encrypt the datastream again. Also, there is a requirement to make it as annoying to the end user as possible by denying them the use of their DVRs and making it so you have to buy your computer from an OEM if you want to watch TV on it. At the end of the day, if the technology actually takes off, it will probably be hacked anyway (probably with mod chips/special remote codes for TVs and DVRs that enable the output regardless of state of the no-copy flag).

    Basically, this is a technology that the cable companies didn't want to implement in the first place (Congress forced them to), and they've done everything in their power to make it unappealing to the end user to discourage adoption and let them extend the deadline passed by Congress and the FCC for as long as possible. It's also an example of DRM concerns basically killing what would otherwise be a pretty decent product.
    • Not so simple.

      OCAP defines a set of APIs, but it is not dependent on CableCard or on DCAS. There is some independence from the underlying security implementation.

      CableCard is technically difficult, which has led to delays. However, the main reason DCAS will supplant CableCard is that it's cheaper, and it probably will be more secure. Cheaper is better for everyone.

      Like most other DRM security schemes, DCAS is being designed in secret without open peer review. Some of those other schemes are known to b

  • Short Answer, no (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tweekster (949766)
    it wont kill DIY because the cable card will be certified to the capture device, aka the WinTV card or whatever other card you would purchase.
    • Re:Short Answer, no (Score:3, Informative)

      by spacefrog (313816)
      RTFA before posting. I know it's against the slashdot creedo, but read the damned article, man!

      "That's right--only new PCs from certified vendors will accept a CableCARD. You can forget about buying a copy of Vista and an OCUR to roll your own solution--as ATI told us, their product will only be available in OEM systems, no doubt because of the certification issue."
      • Re:Short Answer, no (Score:3, Informative)

        by Otto (17870)
        "as ATI told us, their product will only be available in OEM systems, no doubt because of the certification issue."

        Which means that somebody buys the OEM parts in bulk and sells them individually. Licensing be damned, people find a way around silly restrictions like this.

        If there's no actual technological problem, then the DIYers will make it happen.
        • Re:Short Answer, no (Score:3, Informative)

          by InsaneGeek (175763)
          Microsoft Vista received certification but it requires a "Trusted Computing" compliant PC. i.e. a PC that is hardened to basically an appliance level. Anything going in or out must conform to certain specifications anything modified and the system will no longer. You will not be able to just buy an OEM system and modify it to your own will. Some things will be allowed: install your own apps, etc but any incoming encrypted content saved has to be encrypted on disk using physical on board chips to decrypt
          • There's nothing special about a Vista PC versus a "DIY" one -- the certified machines from HP etc will be basically identical to those you can buy from the local clone store. It's all the same motherboards and video hardware -- Joe hacker can't build a HD capture device, and he can't build a PC motherboard either.

            The question is if CableCARD will try to limit the market by insist only certifying major OEM machines, or will they do the rational thing by granting a blanket certification to popular motherboard
      • sure sure, because we all know that is how this will play out.... oh wait, OEM mfgs will sell the stuff. That is, in another 10 years when cable card actually exists.
    • Re:Short Answer, no (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ottothecow (600101)
      And if they refuse to certify the capture cards, the capture card manufacturers can sue them for denying a perfectly valid product entry to the market.
      • under what body of laws?

        a video card maker is under no legal requirement to make sure their product is compatible with another third party product...

        the MARKET might punish them, but the law can't
  • by crabpeople (720852) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:42PM (#14663001) Journal
    "Ars points out that the upshot of this is that it will not be possible to build your own DVRs using CableCARDs."

    How is not being able to do something an "upshot" of owning hardware?

    less is more?

    • How is not being able to do something an "upshot" of owning hardware?

      less is more?


      Perhaps this [reference.com] will help. Note the distinct lack of value judgements in the definition.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      less is more?

      alias less='more'

  • No, this will not kill the DIY market, but it will cripple it by ensuring only analog recording. However, this wont be as big a problem as you think. Why? Because when the dust finally settles and the DRM is in place, the consumer box you get from your cable company will have about the same capability as your standard HTPC due to the control content companies will have.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:45PM (#14663031) Homepage Journal
    How BeyondTV looks like they may get around it is by having Haupage create a capture card computer with a USB 2.0 interface- thus they'll only need to certify the periphereal.....
    • By saying "Haupage" did you actually mean Hauppauge [hauppauge.com]? I'm asking because when I did a google search for "Haupage" google asked did you mean "Hauppauge".

      For those of you who don't know how to pronounce it here as a copy from their site FAQ [hauppauge.com].

      "How do you pronounce Hauppauge?
      Hauppauge is pronounced HOP-HOG."


      Also why use USB, as from my experience IEEE 1394 is better for transfering data of this size or using the PCI push technology (IIRC that is what they called it back then) that my ancient TV Tuner
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:45PM (#14663036)
    Despite all the DRM technology being built into our TVs, PCs, and DVRs, copying and fair use will still be allowed so long as the content providers do not flag their material with the most draconian copy-control settings.
    Welcome to the future of digital television--it has never looked so good, and never looked more locked down.


    If this is the future of television, it looks pretty bleak.
    I guess we MIGHT be able to use our DVRs, but not if the content providers say no.

    • the future of television, it looks pretty bleak
      'nuff said.

      Or was this the time for a "you must be new here" comment?

    • Everyone is so wrong it's not funny.

      The "future of television" is not cable tv or sattelite tv. it's ala-carte tv shows from a provider like itunes.

      Imagine subscribing to the shows you want to watch. then your set-box get's them off your broadband connection and you watch when you like.

      Every person I have talked to dreams of this instead of the crap that is current television model. they would even tolerate AD's if they could get shows this way.

      the only use for cabletv and sattelite would be for news and
  • by CyberLord Seven (525173) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @04:46PM (#14663044)
    ...like the uneducated people on the encryption newsgroups who don't understand that you cannot secure something by piling weak encryption upon other weak encryption until you've built a MOUNTAIN no one can climb.
    Computers are getting faster -- I have a ...to hell with what I have...MY WIFE has a 1.4GHz box I built for her two years ago. I can now build her a 64 bit box with dual cores today.
    This will not remain safe for one very good reason: It is more fun to show these people how STOOPID they are by breaking their multi-level encryption than it is to sit and watch the latest crap spewing out of televisions.
    Entertainment, though not the kind the cable and satellite companies envisioned, has taken a GREAT step forward. :)
    • Umm, it's not layer upon layer. It's the same encryption with different keys at different times. One set of keys for the cable transmission. One set of keys from the cable-card to the host decoder. One set of keys from the decoder to the display device (if the decoder is not in the display device). None of them are weak encryption. The HDCP system used from the decoder to the display device has been in use for about 3 years, no one has cracked it yet.

      Having said all that, I'm not really looking forward to our digital future. :(
      • It's been cracked, by someone in the Netherlands I think, but they refuse to release their findings due to the DCMA. I'd link it, but I don't know the link offhand, and I believe a comment earlier on had a link to the same page.
      • Re-encrypting the same message multiple times with different keys is the WORST kind of security problem. This is one of the clues the allies used to break enigma. By providing the same signal encrypted with different keys you will reduce the cracking time by many orders of magnitude.
        • That's true, but a reasonably well-designed crypto system (well-tested by smart math guys) isn't easily "puzzled-out", and that's what you'd need to do.

          What I mean is, supplying a static message enrypted with a ton of different keys will help you break the entire encryption system, but there's no "easier" way to decode one specific message other than figuring out the whole system. And what are the chances of someone "solving" AES? Once someone figures out P=NP I guess...
        • Not necessarily true. Check out 3DES for an algorithm that rotates different keys through the same algorithm to effectively increase the strength of the encryption. Note that distributed.net has sucessfully brute-forced a single DES encryption, but never 3DES. It's far more important that an encryption algortihm have a sound basis for being secure. No one has ever come up with an attack on DES that's better than brute force. That's pretty much as good as it gets! Well, except for the key length issue.
    • Breaking encryption has almost nothing to do with how much computing resources you have available. Most modern crypto system are designed so that, using the best known attack, it would take every computer on earth working together the current age of the universe worth of time on average to find a key.

      Your wife's dual core amd system is worthless.

      Crypto is broken by circumventing the crypto entirely, by stealing (not cracking) the key, or by finding fundamental design flaws in the cryptosystem itself.
  • by monkeyserver.com (311067) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @05:03PM (#14663200) Homepage Journal
    You can't kill the DIY market, because they will always be there. They create demand, and where there's demand, there's supply. It's what commerce is built on. Yes, the end game that those fat cats want is to control everything from lens to living room, but people outside that system will find a way. It may be illegal at first, it may be bread boards for a while. It might be something you have to import, but in the end, DIY will still be there.

    The real question is, Will DIY really mean DIY, instead of buying a computer, adding a capture card, and installing a ready-to-go program. DIY moves in cycles, it starts as a real nitty gritty DIY where people are building stuff from spare parts, creating solutions that didn't exist. Doing it cause they just want to make it happen. then others get infected with the idea, ideas are shared, innovations fly, people collaborate. Eventually some one else wants to make a profit... blah blah blah ... I'm rambling here. But the point I'm making (somewhere) is that there is a lot of motivation here, and potential profit. So it will find a way.

    I hope.
  • Saving Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by akac (571059) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @05:07PM (#14663246) Homepage
    I guess if this happens I can go to using my HDTV for watching movies and just saving lots of money from not using cable or DVRs.
    • >I guess if this happens I can go to using my HDTV for watching movies and just saving lots of money from not using cable or DVRs.

      You hit the nail on the head.

      The day they succeed in locking down the incoming cable stream so I can't record things and watch them whenever I want to as many times as I want to is the day I no longer need the cable stream.

      Already the only reason we have cable TV is because it was cheaper to order broadband internet access /with/ the cable TV than without it. Otherwise we wou
      • I haven't had cable for the past year and a half. This was after sharing a house with people in college and having every pay channel imaginable and our Time Warner DVR.

        Once I graduated and was out on my own I was not able to afford cable anymore. I survived by just buying the DVDs of the shows I like, downloading them (legally or illegally), and *GASP* spending my time doing something more productive.

        The majority of what is on TV these days is complete crap. I also remember when a 30 minute block of TV us
      • The day they succeed in locking down the incoming cable stream so I can't record things and watch them whenever I want to as many times as I want to is the day I no longer need the cable stream.

        Yes, but until then you're still giving them $60/Mo...

        Why not stop now?

        What you're doing is more like an abusive/dysfunctional relationship than anything else - you know you're going to be smacked hard and beaten to a pulp in the future, but until that actually happens you'll stick with it because, damn it, you're

  • i'm a 'less is more' kind of guy, so when buying a small (27") LCD with integrated DVD for my bedroom I wanted no cables other than the power & data cable running to it. Cablecard provided that because I didn't want DVR function in my TV in that room.

    It only took Time Warner 5 tries for it to work. They also had to visit the house each time and refused to trouble shoot the problem over the phone. It was rather aggravating and troubleshooting 101 seemed to be to swap out the card with another one and
  • by gordona (121157) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @05:18PM (#14663380) Homepage
    The article gets most things right, except the part regarding OCAP--the middleware layer that permits interoperability. OCAP was developed long before DCAS and its purpose was not to enable DCAS but to enable retail interoperability. The CableCard enabled set top boxes or TVs to operate on any network, because SA networks, used primarily by Time Warner Cable, are not compatible with Motorola networks (used primarily by Comcast). The CableCard removes the network dependencies from the receiver. Along with a variety of other features, OCAP enables the network independent receiver to actually be able to tune to programs on specific network, because the electronic program guide data is proprietary to the network. Thus, the cable operator will write a specific application that will run on top of the OCAP middleware on any receiver on its network that will decode the proprietary guide data to enable an interactive program guide for program selection.

       
  • Why all of the end-to-end encryption? Is having people record TV shows to their computer, and even sharing them with the world, really that bad? I mean, I get cable even though I could realistically download all of the shows I want to watch from P2P networks and I suspect that the vast majority of TV-watchers do likewise. Why cause so many problems for your customers and raise prices so much for a something that really isn't a threat to marketshare?
  • I work as a contractor for a company that is implementing an OCAP stack for some major MSOs. The dates that the article gives for the release of the DCAS technology are a bit off. One of the cable companies plans on doing field trials this summer, followed by a full deployment of the OCAP stack probably early next year. As for the ones who think that all encryption here is evil, some of it does serve a good purpose. Most of the conditional access is to restrict people from getting pay-per-view when they
  • and do whatever I like with it, then I simply WON'T buy whatever they are selling.

    It's time manufacturers got the message; They don't control what gets made, sold and bought, WE do.

    Vote with your money. And I don't mean that ironically.
    • Its not the manufacturers that want this, its the media corps.
      I am sure that if the manufacturers could make it possible to record anything and send the resulting video file to any other device you like, they would do that.

      But the big media corps are worried about people spreading HD-TV content online (never mind that any digitally copied HD-TV content stored with enough quality to preserve any advantage that HD-TV content has over content recorded through existing analog channels like S-Video and Composite
      • But nothing prevents the equipment makers from supporting the open codecs, and being to play content encoded with that.

        As for the actual content they publish with the DRM, it'll get cracked, transcoded and reposted on p2p systems.

        After a while, more and more content will be available in open formats, and DRM will get die from being ignored, cumbersome and troublesome, but we all need to vote with our dollars and support open content and hardware.
  • by tji (74570) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @05:27PM (#14663482)

    My MythTV box does a great job recording / timeshifting / removing commercials / transcoding broadcast HDTV stations. So, I think the DIY PVR boxes have a life left for the immediate future.. I can still record Lost, and The West Wing, along with many sporting events.

    The biggest hurdle I have seen developing is with more sporting events. Events that would have been on broadcast TV in the past are often on ESPN ( e.g. next year Monday Night Football is on ESPN-HD, not ABC). If that trend continues, I have to decide whether to stop watching that program/event, or to go to a commercial PVR. Most shows I can easily live without.. the exception being ESPN-HD... when my MSU Spartans are playing basketball in HD, I am very tempted to go to the cable companies crappy PVR.
  • The word "upshot" means "benifit" Why do people use words when they don't understand what they mean?
    • Hello, kettle? This is the pot calling.

      upshot != upside

      Look up "upshot" in the dictionary and you will find that the upshot of your post is that you looked stupid. The upside is that you learned something.

    • Ah... you mean benefit. Ben-e-fit. Why do people use words when they can't even spell them? ;)
  • Hrm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @05:32PM (#14663543)
    FTA:
    But what about a DVR?" you ask, and with good reason. The cable company did not build all this encryption into the product only to see it thwarted by a digital video recorder that outputs an unencrypted HDTV signal to the television. Therefore, if the host device is not a display device, it is required to encrypt the video stream yet again for transmission to another device. This last type of encryption is "link encryption" such as HDCP, which Vista will also require between the PC and the monitor in order to display protected content in its full high resolution glory. It is likely that other operating systems (e.g., Mac OS X) as well as consumer electronics will use HDCP too.
    Someone is obviously spending a lot of research time and money that won't really improve their product.

    I mean seriously, if your company is spending money (and lots of it) on technology just to restrict what a customer can do by removing features, then you might as well be shoveling money into a gaping fire pit of doom.

    For an anology as think it as if a Microsoft Office project manager showed up at a meeting and said "Hey guys! I'm going to get us a million dollar budget so we can find out how to remove the Save feature for Word and Excel! Our customers will be so pleased they'll buy two copies of Office for every computer they own!"

    They have put a great deal of effort into something that won't earn them a cent of profit. The majority of people who were going to use DVR aren't going to pay twice for things and if you try to force them to then they'll probaly go elsewhere for their movies (DVD, satellite, or iTunes Video).

    On the flip side, I'm sure it keeps techy engineers employed helping them spend all this money on HDCP.
  • ... it will kill my Cable subscription. I'm paying $40 a month, but they'll never see a dime from me again. They can throw all the worthless DRM they want at me, I'll take my money elsewhere (or nowhere, if others want to play this game). The insanity of all this is that even if HDCP somehow survives despite its obvious flaws, somebody can still rip a master. It's digital, IT ONLY TAKES ONE! How can they not understand this?!

    I don't care anymore, I was mad when I first heard this news, but now it's just amu
    • by tgd (2822) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @05:40PM (#14663653)
      The beauty of that is they don't care. Not in the slightest.

      The cable companies are not making these calls, its the media companies forcing it on them. If the cable companies lose 1% of people in order to be able to continue to provide content for the 99% who don't care, if you think they spent even a millisecond worrying about you as a customer, you're horribly mistaken.

      If you want to see the mainstream media, you play by their rules. You can try going anywhere you want, but the same restrictions are coming for satellite. Via the broadcast flag, they will eventually come for OTA as well.

      • As the OP said, its digital. It only requires one copy to be ripped then its broken for all time.

        The question I have is, does implementing all this DRM (more specifically, restrictions on what cable boxes and cablecards can do with the output once its decrypted, the DRM on the actual cable signals does serve a valid purpose) achieve the stated goal of making people pay for their content instead of downloading it off BT?
  • The really annoying thing about cablecards is that they were supposed to break the cable company's monopoly on set-top boxes. But as the article says, the existing 1.0 cablecard spec sucks so badly it makes the cable company's STB the only viable option for almost all users. With a cablecard inserted in your TV, you must live with these limitations:

    1) No interactive menu.
    2) No pay-per-view.
    3) No DVR. (No HD DVR at all, and even SD recording requires that you route the TV outputs into your recording devic
  • A minor hurdle... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:38PM (#14664716) Journal
    Are any Linux users playing DVDs on their systems? Are you watching MPEG videos and MP3s? Did you pay the required license fees to do so? Then why do you care that a DIY HDTV PVR will now be (borderline) illegal as well? People want freedom, but they aren't willing to make any sacrifice to get it. So here we are.

    If you want to see a change, people need to cancel their monthly subscriptions en masse, and stick to OTA out of spite. Or, just don't pay the additional charge to upgrade the equipment and subscription to HD.

    The only thing worse to the entertainment industry than theoretical money lost due to copying, is real money lost, due to lots of people refusing to accept their restrictions...
  • Less FUD, more truth (Score:3, Informative)

    by teebob21 (947095) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:43PM (#14664788) Journal
    Finally! A topic on /. that I have some experience with!! As a cable technician, I deal with this particular headache at lease 10 times a week.

    Cablecards are an example of what happens when Congress decrees that a certain service provider must provide the service Congress's way, instead of letting the service provider do it in a way that is guaranteed to work. CableLabs created the cards with a specific set of requirements for the firmware for correct operation. Some companies (LG for example) wrote their TV firmware along the direct specification. Other companies, such as Sony, Sharp and Mitsubshi took the liberty to write their firmware however they damn well pleased. In fact, we have an entire binder full of TV makes and models with known firmware issues.

    I've never seen a problem using a Cablecard in an LG TV; it's pretty much plug it in, wait for the authorization numbers to display on screen and call them into the office for initialization. If I had the cash for a flat panel plasma to hang in my living room, it would be an LG, and I would get a Cablecard for it. Other brands, however, present a wide variety of issues. For example, any channel in our lineup that uses a 64 QAM data stream will no properly display on a Mitsubishi TV.

    Another problem is in the specifications: Cablecards are one-way devices. They do not operate along the return path, which means no Video-on-Demand, no interactive pay-per-view, and so on. You're also stuck with the interactive guide that your TV firmware came with. Troubleshooting these ALWAYS requires a truck roll, because since they are one-way only, we can't hit them from the office to return an error message like we can with our DCTs. (We use the exact same boxes shown in TFA).

    In response to some of the comments made about a MSO-issued settop box, we don't charge the monthly equipment fee for our digital equipment to milk more money out of customers; we do it to attempt to break even. A typical MSO loses anywhere between $75 to $100 per average digital subscriber due to failure to use common sense. Last week, I replaced a $500 DVR for a woman (at no cost to her) who had started putting her old newspapers on top of the box. It eventually overheated and died. I asked her why she had put them there, and she said, "Because my computer monitor got too hot with them on top of it, and I didnt want that to burn up." And just today, I replaced $700 of equipment for a family that had moved. They put their equipment in a box in the kitchen, and proceeded to improperly attach a dishwasher hose and flooded their own house.

    Anyhow, back on topic, cable companies will try to steer you away from the Cablecards to their equipment because they know it will work. If our equipment isnt working, we replace it and make it work. With Cablecards, we are stuck trying to make third-party firmware play nice with someone's TV.
    • If it's true that these other electronics companies' products aren't fully conforming to the spec, then it should be simple to objectively prove their non-conformance and get them to change it. Someone like CableLabs ought to be certifying each company's implementation before allowing them to slap on a "CableCard compatible" logo on their products and literature. The fact that you're seeing compatibility problems means either the spec is broken, or the certification process is broken. The basic idea, freein
      • You agree then that the cable companies should monopolize digital cable, forcing second rate digital boxes on the masses, forcing them to pay more for something that should work better, instead of buying potentially excellent 3rd party options.

        You also agree that I am forced to use some poorly implemented interface to navigate digital cable content instead of allowing 3rd party developers to create more rich and robust interfaces allowing for quicker searching and selecting of digital cable content.

        I don't

If you had better tools, you could more effectively demonstrate your total incompetence.

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