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Television Media Hardware

FCC Opens Market for Cable Boxes 222

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the this-changes-everything dept.
fistfullast33l writes "The FCC rendered a decision today against a Comcast appeal that centers on integrated security features in set-top cable boxes. The decision comes at the end of a long standing feud between the FCC and cable companies over the matter. The result is that starting July 1st, cable boxes distributed by cable companies must not be tied directly to a cable provider via internal security features. This rule is viewed as the first step in creating a market for set-top cable boxes. Comcast does have the right to appeal and has said they will do so. From the article: 'Several major consumer electronics manufacturers have argued that if set-top boxes weren't directly linked to the provision of cable service, they could enter the set-top market. Consumers could get a cable card from their service provider that they could insert into a set-top box purchased at a consumer electronics store. The cards would ensure that consumers could only access channels that they paid for.'"
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FCC Opens Market for Cable Boxes

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  • step one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @10:53PM (#17567826) Homepage
    The result is that starting July 1st, cable boxes distributed by cable companies must not be tied directly to a cable provider via internal security features.

    Now if only they could accomplish this same feat for mobile phones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well actually they have. You can legally unlock your cell phone. The big thing that holds phones from transferring from one provider to the next is the network type. This is more or less the design of the phone. Think of it like an 802.11b device and an 802.11b network. This is not to say that it wouldn't be nice to have a unified cellular network, but that's very unlikely.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by ForestGrump (644805)
      In the US, it's mainly a subsidized market where part of your bill goes to paying for the free/discounted phone. In order to keep you from signing up for a phone and immediately dumping the carrier, they lock the phones. (it's also to their benefit if you switch cause then they tell you to buy a new phone). However, it is my understanding that tmobile/cingular will give you unlock codes if you call up after ~3 months on the contract.

      As for me, I've either purchased an unlocked phone (I used to work for a
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        My biggest problem is that even if you buy your phone outright, you still don't get a discount on your bill, so you're paying for that free phone anyway. Granted you can switch providers any time you want, but there's still all the other hassles that go along with it. People won't switch providers every 2 months when a better deal comes along, just because they can. If they offer good services at competitive rates, then they shouldn't worry about people switching providers all the time. So my advice is
        • by Arker (91948)
          The problem is there's no actual competition for customers who own their own phones. The companies are so used to inflated profit margins they draw from those they can talk into long term contracts with all the useless frills, people that just want phone service at a decent price aren't even on their radar.
          • Re:step one... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by KillerCow (213458) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:37PM (#17568240)
            people that just want phone service at a decent price aren't even on their radar.


            I think that Virgin is going after them.
            • by tepples (727027)

              people that just want phone service at a decent price aren't even on their radar.
              I think that Virgin is going after them.
              True, but is anybody going after phone service at a decent price, combined with the ability to run MIDlet games?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by EtherMonkey (705611)
            Just say NO to CDMA and YES to GSM. The things you describe only occur in the CDMA marketplace: Verizon, Sprint, and the VARs that sub-license from them. In the GSM world, a phone is a phone is a phone, and Cingular is just as happy to activate that unlocked Blackjack or RAZR purchased on eBay as is T-Mobile. And neither of these carriers force phone manufacturers to disable features to force customers to use the carrier's own overpriced alternatives. While Verizon has invested billions in marketing the
      • As for me, I've either purchased an unlocked phone (I used to work for a phone mfr), or get a nokia and generate my own unlock code.

        I wish it were that simple. As an example, the phone I want (Motorola Q), is locked to verizon, is not offered in an unlocked version, and is not available for Sprint. (yet)

        Many people are going to have a similar problem when the Apple iPhone is released-- if they want it, they'll be tethered to Cingular service. There will be no Apple iPhone for TMobile, at least not for
        • by azuretek (708981)
          I wouldn't be so sure about that, a quad band phone could technically connect with many different providers. If the phone needed to be unlocked it wouldn't be too hard to do considering it wouldn't require changing the phone in any way.
    • step two... (Score:2, Funny)

      by nullchar (446050)

      step 1) Cut a hole in a box

      step 2) Put your junk in that box

    • Re:step one... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by troll -1 (956834) on Friday January 12, 2007 @12:09AM (#17568542)
      Now if only they could accomplish this same feat for mobile phones.

      Be thankful cell phone companies aren't running the Internet. If they were you'd buy your computer from your ISP and it wouldn't work with any other ISP. Your equipment would come with Internet access but no email, that would be extra. If you wanted an email sound alert, you could always 'shop for sounds'. Access to overseas sites would be charged at a higher rate and your ISP bill would list every site you visited that month. Cell phone providers pay billions in license fees to the FCC for the privilege of being able to nickel and dime you for every trivial service they can think of.
      • Re:step one... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by duranaki (776224) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:32AM (#17569648)
        i heart you.

        i worked for nokia for nearly 10 years in r&d for cell phones (cdma) and grew to loathe operators. in the u.s. they completely control the distribution because of subsidies and refusal to activate other phones claiming, "they don't work on our network." they ignore usability and force handset makers to jump through hoops designing phones essential on spec (if you put in these features, remove your name from the device, and pretend we invented all the technology maybe, just maybe, we'll put some in our stores.) ugh i hate them! it's all coming back! damn you operators!!

        p.s. i also blame the fcc, because hell they do everything wrong. i love those billion $ license fees which guarantee that only big monopoly companies can enter the market place.
  • comcast (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nikros (1037028)
    Good for Tivo. Bad for Comast.
  • Don't higher end TVs have "integrated digital cable tuners" where you put a card in and be able to receive the digital channels? From my understanding, the only thing you'd be missing is the "special" services from your cable provider, mainly guide information.

    Like this tv:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sony-KDFE42A10-Rear-Projecti on-Television/dp/B000A2K3XW [amazon.com]

    Grump.
    • From TFA:

      The deadline has already been extended twice; companies were initially supposed to have been compliant by July 1, 2005.

      If the initial deadline was 2005, the rule must be at least a year or two older than that. So obviously consumer electronics companies had plenty of time to get their hardware ready in anticipation. Plus, I noticed that your link is out of stock on Amazon, so it can't be too widely available yet.
      • by Steve B (42864)
        If the initial deadline was 2005, the rule must be at least a year or two older than that. So obviously consumer electronics companies had plenty of time to get their hardware ready in anticipation.

        Yes, but how much effort would they put into it until they had good reason to believe that the cable companies wouldn't succeed in lining up enough coin-operated politicians to stop it altogether?
    • Actually, the guide information is transmitted in the stream. Because part of the ATSC (digital TV) standard was a system for broadcasting a guide, the QAM (digital TV over cable) systems allow it as well. The actual rendering of the guide info is up to the TV, so it can be as pretty or hideous as they design it. Every one I've seen has looked pretty primitive compared to the standard digital cable/satellite boxes, but it is cool that you don't need another box in the media cabinet.

      The big downside to th
    • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:15PM (#17568028)
      Don't higher end TVs have "integrated digital cable tuners" where you put a card in and be able to receive the digital channels? From my understanding, the only thing you'd be missing is the "special" services from your cable provider, mainly guide information.

      Current CableCard technology is one-way only. So you can't order PPV or control VOD programming. CableCard 2.0 is supposed to support two way communication, but it isn't out yet. It also will be a different card interface. So if you bought a TV that includes a CableCard slot, guess what, you have to buy a new TV to use the 2.0 cards.

      Also, cablecos are not yet required to offer CableCards yet. The FCC's plug and play rule that covered it does not take effect until July. So if your cableco currently does not want to offer CableCards, you're SOL.

      I'm not sure what the ownership rules are for CableCards, but from what I've seen it appears they are still the property of the cableco and you still pay a monthly fee for them (you just don't have a big, hot running box to keep around).

      If this rule is allowed to take effect (translation: a bunch of cableco lobbists don't pop up and stop it) soon hooking up digital cable will be as easy as hooking up analog cable. The converter box can be built into the TV the same way we transitioned from having to get a box from the cable company twenty years ago to having "cable ready" TV's. It would help clear the way for people to not have to pay "per box" for their service. DVR recorders can be built that can tune all the channels themselves.

      I think this is fabulous, it's a step to reversing the nickel and diming cablecos and the entertainment industry as a whole have been doing the past ten years.
      • by NineNine (235196)
        You know, until I read this post, I had no idea what this thread was about. I haven't had cable/satellite/rabbit ear TV since the time when the "analog" cable boxes started dying out, and being replaced by "cable ready" TV's, when you plugged the coax straight into the TV (SO much better than those ugly boxes). I had no idea that this new "digital" cable went back to requiring those boxes. The idea that people would tolerate that was so absurd, that I didn't even think that it was a possiblity.

        What are T
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kadin2048 (468275)
          I had no idea that this new "digital" cable went back to requiring those boxes. The idea that people would tolerate that was so absurd, that I didn't even think that it was a possiblity.

          It's quite true. In fact, not only do people put up with boxes (and far bigger boxes than before; they're the size of VCR and put out heat like the bastard stepchild of a Pentium IV and a coffeepot), they pay extra for the pleasure. The reason is that these boxes are currently the only way to get "digital cable" (which is no
          • The reason is that these boxes are currently the only way to get "digital cable" (which is not to be confused with digital television, since the picture is still NTSC, not highdef, in most cases).

            Actually, digital cable IS to be confused with digital television, as they are the same thing.

            Digital cable/TV signals are ATSC, just like HDTV signals, only they're transmitted at resolutions comparable to that of analog NTSC video (512x480, for example).

            Yes, I do think it is problematic and confusing that all at
        • by lgw (121541)
          It amazes me as well. Whenever I travel I flip through whatever channels are on the hotel cable. It still seems to be a vast wasteland. I'm sure that there's a good TV series or two somewhere in any given season, but the simple effort required to find it/them seems way beyond the brief entertainment, from my perspective.

          I used to watch TV with the rabbit ears from time to time, but I recently moved to a place where nothing comes in clearly, so it's not worth the bother. I watch TV entirely through NetFl
        • by SeaFox (739806)

          I had no idea that this new "digital" cable went back to requiring those boxes. The idea that people would tolerate that was so absurd, that I didn't even think that it was a possiblity.

          Requiring a box also has the effect of rolling back fair use right. Lets say you went on vacation and set up your VCR to record four different shows on four different channels. Because your cable is analog (and the VCR has a "cable-ready" tuner) you can leave it off and it will turn on and change channels as it needs to to r

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mousit (646085)
        > Also, cablecos are not yet required to offer CableCards yet. The FCC's plug and play rule that covered it does not take effect until July. So if your cableco currently does not want to offer CableCards, you're SOL.

        > I'm not sure what the ownership rules are for CableCards, but from what I've seen it appears they are still the property of the cableco and you still pay a monthly fee for them (you just don't have a big, hot running box to keep around).


        Actually, just FYI. The FCC has required ca
        • by SeaFox (739806)
          Actually, just FYI. The FCC has required cable companies to offer CableCards since July of 2005; they must provide them and cannot deny you them. This new ruling today affects set-top boxes, wholly separate thing.


          Well, they might have come up with that ruling back then, but they actually are not required to yet. The deadline is this July. Not July 2005.
        • Capped at $2/month? Do you have a source for that? I've heard of people being charged as much as $15/month per card.
  • Good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by QueePWNzor (1044224)
    Cable companies are right now huge monstrosities, leaving no space for creativity because of their market shares. If other companies could produce boxes that could have new features, like maybe a TiVo in the box, consumers would have better options. And, with every company advertising the pluses to their services, you could have a firmer grip on deciding what to chose, and they could have fairer competition from external companies. I hate monopolies.
    • My cable box is a DVR. Infact I don't know of a cable company that doesn't offer some kind of DVR/cable box. That said, I would like to be able to get a 3rd party, easily modifiable one with all sorts of nifty features that you would get if the people making the hardware weren't also pushing the content.
  • So, I can use the same cable box with a built-in DVR that I have now, or I can go out, spend a couple hundred for one (or for a TiVO), and plug in a cablecard for which I will probably pay the same monthly rate I am paying for the existing setup. Net result: I'm out of pocket the cost of a box which does the same thing the one I already have does. So long as the cable company doesn't decide to stop providing the existing boxes, I can ignore this whole thing.
    • by aesiamun (862627)
      Cable cards are quite a bit cheaper than Time Warner HD DVRs. I pay $10 or $12 a month for the HD DVR, but the cable card only costs $3 a month.

      The real issue is that Cable Card v1 sucks. Its only one way which means you don't get anything that you benefit from Digital Cable but HD. You can't get onDemand, "start over", or any other interactive feature that the SciAt box offers. Some may belive that it's a benefit, but I do enjoy watching some movies onDemand when I get board of my DVD collection and no
    • So, I can use the same cable box with a built-in DVR that I have now, or I can go out, spend a couple hundred for one (or for a TiVO), and plug in a cablecard for which I will probably pay the same monthly rate I am paying for the existing setup. Net result: I'm out of pocket the cost of a box which does the same thing the one I already have does. So long as the cable company doesn't decide to stop providing the existing boxes, I can ignore this whole thing.

      Consumer choice will benefit you whether you switc
    • This week the hard disk died in my cable company supplied DVR for the third time. The last failure was less than a year ago. It's only because the Scientific Atlanta boxes that Time Warner was renting me had the crappiest Maxtor drives in them that were probably the cheapest at the time.

      I would gladly buy my own DVR box if it also meant I could install a QUALITY hard disk in the damn thing, and not have to lug it to the cable office, get a replacement, and then re-program all my favorites MANUALLY (The th
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Odds are you've either already bought a box or you're paying a monthly rental fee for the box. I know my cable provider charges me a monthly rate for renting my cable modem and my digital cable box. I can have the fee waived if I buy my own cable box or cable router. Right now I don't find it's worth it to buy the box, but if I found a nice cable box that had a Dual Tuner PVR with a DVD burner with no restrictions on what I could record, with an option to record only audio (For the music stations) I woul
      • Are you sure you're getting charged for the Cable Modem? I have TWC and they aren't charging me, or at least they don't itemize it.
    • The benefits lie not in what's available now; the benefits lie in what will become available later once the cable companies are forced to stop stifling innovation!

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:04PM (#17567930) Homepage
    They don't provide two-way communication. This is VERY IMPORTANT as two-way communication is REQUIRED for cable networks that use switched video broadcasting technology. Time Warner in Austin, TX is one such network. I would expect most of not all the digital channels will move to swiched video by the end of 2007. This isn't a problem as a digital box already is required for the digital feed.

    Second problem. You won't be able to order PPV or view any on-demand content with cable cards.

    Until Cable Cards move to a new spec that support two-way, they're rather worthless these days...and a total scam by themselves anyway.
    • by aesiamun (862627)
      oops...

      This was meant for this thread...
      http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=21646 6&cid=17568042 [slashdot.org]
    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday January 12, 2007 @01:47AM (#17569410) Homepage Journal
      They don't provide two-way communication.

      CableCard doesn't, CableCard 2.0 will. It's been stalled forever precisely because the vendors like their lock-in. This should be the shove the market needed.

      Probably not coincidentally the FCC published a document [fcc.gov] on this a few weeks ago.
      This document explains the technology by which cable providers could allow competitive
      devices to access "basic" interactive services (i.e., switched digital ("SD"), video on demand
      ("VOD"), and impulse pay per view ("IPPV") content) without requiring that such devices include
      the OpenCable Application Platform ("OCAP") middleware. It also describes the technology by
      which the proprietary metadata or navigation data, delivered by the cable provider in conjunction
      with its video content, could be translated into a common format that could be understood and used
      by the competitive device.

      We propose that the method described herein be implemented for all current separable
      security technologies prescribed by FCC regulations and any subsequent replacement technologies.1
      In addition, to ensure the consumer benefits of common reliance, cable providers should be required
      to use this same schema and interface in a substantial proportion of any devices they lease or
      otherwise provide to subscribers.
      The cable industry is already not a free market, so I don't have a problem with the regulation - at least it will ensure a free market in receiving devices, and maybe one day I'll be able to get a pure digital signal from my satellite dish into MythTV...
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        That document decribes why you don't even need CableCARD 2.0. It calls the cable companies out on their false need for their own software to run the VOD services. Set-top-boxes need two way communication. CableCARDs don't.
    • Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wesley Felter (138342)
      By forcing cable companies to use CableCards themselves, the FCC will also force the cable industry to make CableCards actually work correctly. If the industry is given a choice between no VOD and making CableCard VOD work, they will find a way to make it work.
    • I use a cable card on Cablevison's network. Works fine, cheaper too. Plus I get better reception because the built in QAM tuner in my TV is better quality than the crappy cablebox, and there isn't any signal degradation from an external connection, plus I don't have a remote for the TV and a remote for the cable box. And yes there is one less box.

      Yes, I don't get interactive features, but I never used them in the first place.

      The real problem with Cable Card 2.0 is that it is unlikely to be compatible with t
    • Two way cable cards are not required for any DRM feature. All the cable card needs to do is decrypt incoming feeds. It only ever needs to be a one way device. All of the other protocol and switching negotiations can be done by a processor/transmitter outside the cable card. This, of course, would require open service APIs to the Cable Co.'s network, so it may never happen. The only reason we need two-way cable cards is to put the entirety of existing cable boxes inside the cable card, thus preserving the ex
  • Better cable box UIs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Workaphobia (931620)
    Does this mean we'll have a choice of boxes with better UIs? I hate having to go through several button presses in the menu to access the one and only feature I ever use (listings, sometimes filtering movies only). Worse, the remote has a rather slow repeat rate and a very cheap feel to the button presses. That alone makes me feel like I have to fight the box to watch TV.
    • by aesiamun (862627)
      The fact that cable cards are 1way mean little when it comes to switched digital video. That happens on the backend or at least at the switch hub for your location.

      You're right that you won't get some features, but digital cable is the least of your worries, especially if you like onDemand.
  • This could be great because you have a competitive market where companies will try and add space and features, but...

    First of all, couldn't this render a company's DVR useless? I mean the DVR could be completely controlled by the cable box at that point, so... the service would be obsolete. Second, does this mean that on July 1st, a Comcast guy is going to come to my house, take back his cable box, and hand me a card, expecting me to go out and buy one? I seriously hope the company still intends to supply
    • by Sunburnt (890890)
      Why would they do that? You're already paying for the box in your cable bill; indeed, if you went out and bought a cable box, then called Comcast to pick up theirs, you'd still be paying for it.
      • Try and downgrade from digital to analog cable. Comcast will make you return the box, and not just to your nearest comcast location, it seems they arbitrarily pick one a long way off.

        I'm remarkably happy with my $11/month basic cable from them. Even figuring in Tivo, i'm running about a third of what their cheapest digital service would cost me.
      • You're already paying for the box in your cable bill; indeed, if you went out and bought a cable box, then called Comcast to pick up theirs, you'd still be paying for it.

        Read your cable bill. Most cable providers itemize service and hardware rental separately (maybe all do; maybe it is an FCC requirement; I don't know).

        If you don't need to use the company's rented cable box, you should not be compelled to rent that hardware from them, and the hardware rental charge should be removed from your bill.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      No, Comcast won't just take your cable box away.
      This sort of thing happened with telephones a while back; when they broke up the original AT&T, they also allowed anyone with the means and desire to make and sell phones. Customers no longer had to rent the phone from the phone company--but many people still did rent phones. I think it's possible to rent phones from phone companies even today; some of them seem to encourage it.
      As it was with phones back then, so it will be with cable boxes if this rul
  • man (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trelane (16124) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:14PM (#17568022) Journal
    now, if only we could get a MythTV (i.e. abiltiy to create a Free DVR) clause in there, we'd be golden....
  • by Constantin (765902) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:28PM (#17568158)
    ... many years ago, it was illegal per AT&T to attach anything but AT&T-approved equipment at home or in a business alike to their network. Eventually, the anti-trust folk, PBX equipment vendors, etc. broke up that racket, IIRC. At the time, AT&T made dire predictions about network reliability, etc. if "non-approved" devices were attached to it. In the end, it was clearly a rear-guard action designed to maximize the lease-money that AT&T was deriving from equipment rentals. This Comcast rethoric is no different, they want to lease a $30 cable box for $4 month ad infinitum.

    So, I would very much welcome a requirement to open up the the consumer choices with regard to cable boxes. Ideally, someone at the FCC will have the foresight to look to the EU or other places that have already gone through the trouble of designing a secure option and require an "open" standard instead of allowing content providers to reinvent the wheel yet again to create a NA-only product. While cable-boxes are definitely not as portable as let's say cell-phones (and hence will not derive as much value from being interoperable), economies of scale definitely apply in this business and the more competition, the better for the consumer.

    Plus, interoperable product ensures that if cable content providers ever get competition, that cable boxes don't get discarded simply because provider X has a different encryption scheme than vendor Y. Besides the unnecessary lock-in at the set-box level, I would also like to see a requirement by the Feds to allow consumers and content providers to chose their packages à la carte (i.e. disallow bundling requirements). This is the only means of breaking the oligopoly of the content providers and to restore some semblance of consumer choice to the market.
    • by dosius (230542)
      Only $4? Shit, Time Warner gyps me outta $5.50 a month for the box.

      -uso.
    • by ffejie (779512)
      To be fair, Cablevision (Time Warner as well) only charges me $6.95 + $5 (I think) for box + DVR and my HD DVR is closer to a $600 box. Sure they buy them en masse from Scientific Atlanta (Cisco) and get them cheaper, but I'll be happy to let them do the buying at discount and lease it to me. Last week, it broke and you know what? I got a new one THAT DAY! Hot damn, for free!

      Based on my calculations of going through 2 boxes, it would take 100 months of this agreement for me to start losing money. Also, t
    • by Cyno01 (573917)

      This Comcast rethoric is no different, they want to lease a $30 cable box for $4 month ad infinitum.

      Uh, i pay $15 a month for my HD-DVR/Digital Cable Box (a motorola Moxi, nice piece of kit, dual HD tuners, etc, although the charter version doesnt have the upscaling DVD player or network media functions built in, so i had to buy an Avel LinkPlayer, best damn purchase i've ever made though), IIRC, buying the box direct is something like $800, so that works out to more than four years of service before i'v

  • Rest of the world? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Plutonite (999141)
    From what I have seen, people in the middle east and north africa have had this for ages. And, on a related note: mobile service providers like Vodafone have nothing to do with the actual handsets people buy from various vendors. You simply insert standard SIM cards and can swap them between phones.

    These people can never understand restrictions like the one that has just been removed, and for a good reason: they don't make sense. Is there some sort of survey of the countries that have a standard de-linking
  • by jbarr (2233) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:34PM (#17568208) Homepage
    When we had Digeo's MOXI HD DVR through Charter, my biggest beef was that its feature set was completely dictated by the cable company. One example is the "skip" button on the remote. Many DVR's have a 30 or so second skip button. MOXI has the capability of having a 30-second skip button on the remote (actually, the box could be configured to pretty much any skip value) but the value is specified by the cable company, not the consumer. The bottom line was that Charter felt that it was in their best interest to make it a 15 minute (yes, minute) skip instead of a 30-second skip.

    By opening this up, it could provide consumers with more choice on features.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by /dev/trash (182850)
      15 minutes sounds pretty reasonable to me. I mean unless you LIKED Borat.
      • What you mean mean you no like Borat?

        Borat is your friend. I am sixth most famous man from Kazikstan.
        How come you no like him? I am come to Amerika to find friend and prostitutes to take home with me. You are not friend then you be prostitute?

        Borat am still your friend. Come to Kazikstan and you get good welcome party, no?

    • like this? [digeo.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Good. This should pave the way for mobile phones to be operator agnostic.
  • by ChangeOnInstall (589099) on Friday January 12, 2007 @12:18AM (#17568622)
    I mean, the Comcast one I have works great! It only took ten minutes to program it to record "The Office" this evening. It showed it as a season pass, but didn't indicate it was going to record tonight's until I set a manual recoding. There were no scheduling conflicts....it apparently just didn't like tonight's episode.

    To make matters worse, the *reason* I'm programming the DVR right now is because it deleted all of its content and scheduled recordings last week.

    And the formerly fast user interface is now running quite slow. Unplugging/having Comcast reset it does not improve the situation.

    It'll be going straight back to Comcast once I get my MythTV set up.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dillenger69 (84599)
      I found out an interesting thing on the slow response times from a comcast tech.
      It seems that the only remote button that is locally processed is the power button.
      All other clicks get relayed to a central server and are then directed back to your box.
      This really explain why, after not responding for 30 seconds, my cable box goes nuts and spams through every command I've been pumping in while it was locked up.
      Whoever approved the design ... and whoever designed it ... are really lacking in the smarts dep
    • by jbarr (2233)
      In some cases, the Cable company [charter.net] determines the specific features and functions available to its consumers on its DVR [moxi.com]. While I have no problem with a cable company wanting to restrict access to premium content, I do have a problem when it comes to them restricting features that are otherwise user-definable on other competing platforms.
  • In Australia, if you want the PVR function, you have to pay Foxtel A$500 for a box you don't even own.

  • by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff.gindulis@net> on Friday January 12, 2007 @12:23AM (#17568658)
    I'm old enough to remember when cable came out in Omaha, Nebraska. You had to lease a special cable box with pushbuttons on it that tuned the channels. Eventually everyone got standardized and the various CECs (Consumer Electronics Companies) started building support for the 70 odd "standard" cable channels right into the Televisions and VCRs of the day allowing you to tune pretty much anything without leasing a box from the cable company.

    With digital cable the cable companies recreated the same situation they had in the late seventies and early eighties. You have to have the digital box in order to get the digital channels. Which not coincidentally is where they hide most of the "good" channels. Why did they do this? Well, a lot of reasons but trust me when I tell you that the charge for leasing the cable box you need to tune your channels isn't making them feel bad.

    With this decision the CECs of the world can get busy putting standardized digital receivers back into Televisions and the DVR. It's about damned time too.
  • I really can't figure out why the cable companies are so against this. Most people who use DVR functions don't like the DVRs from the cable companies (or the dish companies for that matter), there is a lot of equipment that has to be warehoused and maintained, and there's no indication that there will be rampant theft of service if boxes are sold at Best Buy (there is not much evidence of people stealing Internet service, for example, and the one big example was due to a security hole that should have been
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Friday January 12, 2007 @01:01AM (#17569002)
    I've had to endure the worst version ever for these damned Scientific Atlanta cable boxes. I use them with standalone TiVo boxes, but I've had to disable Suggestions and pad all recordings by a minute before and after just to get them to work with the latest update forced upon me by Time Warner Cable.

    It's all about their new guide data system. Now, if you try to change the channel at the hour or half hour when the channel you're leaving has another show coming on, the data update can throw out some or all of the digits your TiVo sent to the box so you are left on the same channel or tuned to the wrong channel, both cases recording the wrong show.

    But that's not the worst of it! Another failure mode is the cable box crashing, restarting, and staying off until you physically press the power button again. *Every* *single* *Wednesday* *morning* the box crashes as a result of TiVo recording their Teleworld Paid Program without any padding and I have to make sure to turn them back on again before I go to work.

    Further, I've had it crash twice on HBO without an attempt to change channels, both right after the last two episodes of Real Time, so even if I could find a way to bias the TiVo by 5-10 seconds to avoid the critical window, spontaneous crashes will still occur!

    Time Warner Cable is completely unsympathetic and doesn't give a damn about my complaints, not even to roll back my boxes to a functioning revision. I'd go buy a Series3 and get two unidirectional cable cards if I could afford it now and had assurance that the same glitch won't follow me to those cards. (I don't give a damn about PPV or other OnDemand programming and have thought about putting a unidirectional trap on the line to keep my boxes from requesting their guide data.)

    I'm even considering switching to DirecTV, even though I've seen how much they compress the hell out of animated programming to practical unwatchability.

    I'm not sure I can even last until July when I can (theoretically) get my own cable box and return their buggy units.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CheSera (176903)
      Oddly enough, none of your described symptoms have much to do with the code. The current approved code is 1.4.2 for Sara (SciAtl) boxes. The idea of the box crashing every single wednesday, due to a recording, really can't have much to do with it. I assume you've swapped your cable box out? The one real advantage you have here is the ability to get a new one for free, so if you haven't yet, do so. The Tivo can't really cause the SA box to crash, since its just going to communicate via an IR transmitter
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)
        I've been through four recently, both 3100 and 3250 models, HD and not. All problems came from the latest software update. And before this I had had a terrible time with overheating boxes shutting down Friday afternoons.

        You're right, the TiVo can't be the cause of the problem; it is a race condition between the data stream of guide data coming into the box and trying to change channels. If I was as reliable as the TiVo at changing near the hour and half-hour, I could make it happen every time myself. Bu
  • So great. You can get a box from vendor X and put it on network Y. You wont see anything on it though. Apart from the differing protocols used in the US on digital cable (unlike DVB in Europe). They have different encryption standards too. You can put your card in but you wont decrypt anything because the box wont support that network. And I can really see the cable companies ditching all their legacy equipment to standardise on one system. It's cheaper just to pay fines.

    You *could* have a box that s
  • Same for FIOS? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amigabill (146897)
    Does this ruling apply to FIOS as well? Verizon is digging my neighborhood right now... But I'd like hte same possibility of box choice if I get FIOS TV as this would allow with Comcast.

    Will this allow TV tuner cards for computers that take cable cards? Which are usable with Linux and MythTV?

    I've got a MythTV box with two of the pcHDTV 3000 cards. Is there any way to make use of this with FIOS to record HD programming? Will there be such a thing as a FIOS "tuner card" for computers?

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