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Encryption Media Television Hardware Entertainment

An End To Unencrypted Digital Cable TV and the HTPC 345

Posted by timothy
from the so-I-can-be-both-ahead-of-and-behind-my-time dept.
Talinom writes "AnandTech has a writeup on how ClearQAM appears to be headed for an early death. From the article — 'At this point there's no reason to believe that cable companies won't deploy Privacy Mode across their networks, so it's a matter of 'when,' not 'if' this will happen. It goes without saying that if you're currently enjoying the use of a ClearQAM tuner to receive EB tier channels, you'll want to enjoy what time you have left, and look in to other solutions for the long-haul. At this pace, it looks like cable TV and computers will soon be divorcing.'" Update: 08/27 23:59 GMT by T : "EB" here stands for "Expanded Basic (cable service)"; Wikipedia as usual has a time-sucking, digressive, fascinating explanation about the tiers of cable TV service in the US.
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An End To Unencrypted Digital Cable TV and the HTPC

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  • by QuesarVII (904243) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:05PM (#29223051)
    DVB-S cards can use smart cards to get premium (encrypted) channels as long as you have a subscription. They don't lock you out like cable does.
    • by sbeckstead (555647) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:38PM (#29223509) Homepage Journal
      Actually there is a way and it is supposed to be provided by your cable provider on request by law if you are a subscriber. Just get a tuner that takes a cable card. What's that you say, your cable provider doesn't have that? well now is the time to start screaming to the FCC. Make the Cable companies follow the existing law.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Iphtashu Fitz (263795)

        I'm sure the cable company will be more than happy to provide you with a cable card if you need it. That'll just be an additional $9.95 per month rental fee for the additional outlet.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Comast at least doesn't charge for the first card (and their wording on fees for additional cards makes it sound like they are limited to charging $2.05/month/card).

          http://www.comcast.com/customers/faq/FaqDetails.ashx?Id=2651

        • by QuesarVII (904243) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:55PM (#29223739)
          CableLABs, the guys that control cable card, refuse to allow pci/pci express cards to be sold to the public that accept cable cards. There is 1 model made by ati, but officially you can only buy it in a premade htpc from someone like Dell. The card even scans the dmi info of the bios to make sure it is an authorized system.
          Also, the card only has Windows drivers.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Curunir_wolf (588405)

            Yep. That's exactly right. They're expensive, too, so in addition to the overpriced vendor-built and CableLab certified PC, you'll be paying an additional ~ $250 for the cable-card capable tuner. Don't forget you'll need 2 of them if you want to record one show while you watch another.

            Which is why my home-built DVR only records HD from the local broadcast channels. SD still works out of the cable box, though.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by GIL_Dude (850471)
              I thought you only needed one m-card (which is apparently the follow on to the cable card but does multiple streams)? I'm new to this, but I thought I could take the m-card out of one of my comcast cable boxes once it was authorized and put it into another device like a TiVo? Now, I haven't tried it because I have an old TiVo and have to use the IR blaster - and there are all kinds of warnings plastered on the back of the comcast box about not removing the m-card, but it looked like it would work. I need to
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Curunir_wolf (588405)

                I thought you only needed one m-card (which is apparently the follow on to the cable card but does multiple streams)? I'm new to this, but I thought I could take the m-card out of one of my comcast cable boxes once it was authorized and put it into another device like a TiVo?

                Yes, the m-card will handle multiple signals, and there are some TiVO boxes that will accept it. But there are no PC-based solutions that work with it yet. The ATI tuners can use them, but you still need 2 tuners. Supposedly, there will be some multi-tuner cards coming soon [cetoncorp.com].

                If you want to look into what's possible, the The Green Button [thegreenbutton.com] forums has a lot of information, at least about using Windows Media Center. But if you plan to bring HD content into your PC, it's the only option, unless you only want

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:05PM (#29224581) Journal

          >>>That'll just be an additional $9.95 per month rental fee

          That pissed me off when Comcast did it to my TCM channel. For years I've had it "free" with my monthly service, and then suddenly they moved it to the digital tier (and without two months notice as required by law). I'm supposed to pay an extra $5/month (times three sets) to watch it. Bullshit.

          This is what happens when you have a monopoly, and more importantly a government that is unwilling to regulate it. Perhaps it's time that Comcast got the treatment AT&T received in the 80s (broken-apart) and introduce choice for consumers.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by stry_cat (558859)

            It's not that the government is unwilling to regulate it. It's that government grants them the monopoly. Your local government prohibits other companies from competing with the "authorized" cable franchisee. Get rid of this and allow companies to compete and at least you'll have an option to switch when one of them does something stupid.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by markhb (11721)

              It's not that the government is unwilling to regulate it. It's that government grants them the monopoly. Your local government prohibits other companies from competing with the "authorized" cable franchisee. Get rid of this and allow companies to compete and at least you'll have an option to switch when one of them does something stupid.

              While I haven't read every cable TV franchise in the USA, the portion I bolded is probably wrong in most cases. Every franchise agreement I have read specifies that it is

        • by FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) on Friday August 28, 2009 @01:50AM (#29227419)
          Found an easy way around all this: Don't pay for cable. You're really not missing much but adverts anyways. If no one provides the service the way you want it, then do without the service, it's the only way to make em change.
      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:33PM (#29224215)

        CableCARD is dead. (You can tell because it was supposed to be integrated into TVs so that no set-top box would be required at all, but if you go to Best Buy or somewhere you'll find exactly zero TVs that actually have a CableCard slot.) Comcast and the other cablecos did everything in their power to sabotage it, and succeeded. Not only were there tons of "compatibility problems," but the cablecos constantly whined about how it didn't support bullshit like "On Demand." So now there's a "new" cable card standard called "Tru2Way" that's going to be available Real Soon Now (and if you believe it'll ever see the light of day, I've got a bridge to sell you...)

    • by PitaBred (632671)
      Does that work with DirecTV? I can't seem to find info on some simple googling...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Wesley Felter (138342)

        Classic DirecTV is not DVB compatible, although it looks like they are transitioning to DVB-S2. Also, the DirecTV smart cards are quite different than DVB CI cards.

    • by edwardd (127355) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:56PM (#29223749) Journal

      DVB-S cards can use smart cards to get premium (encrypted) channels as long as you have a subscription. They don't lock you out like cable does.

      Unfortunately for American viewers, there is no legal way to do this. Although DVB-S is an international standard and widely adopted, current laws within the US prohibit using off the shelf hardware to decrypt the video signal. Doing this is considered signal theft.

      Dish Network uses Nagra 3 encryption, as do some other providers in Europe. There are no legal conditional access modules available for this crypto system, so any use of these smart cards in devices other than what the provider supplies is considered theft, as well as a violation of the DMCA.

      DirectTV uses it's own proprietary system and can only be legally used with their hardware.

      It really sucks paying to loose control.

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:06PM (#29223057) Homepage

    If only there were some way to make a computer decrypt an encrypted signal...

    Oh well, I guess that's game over.

    !?!?

    • by Desler (1608317)
      Exactly. Secondly can't a 56-bit DES cipher be broken quite easily these days?
      • by swimin (828756) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:13PM (#29223165)

        But the key changes every 2 minutes or so. You can't watch tv if you can't break it in much less than that.

        • by Desler (1608317)
          Well mine was more just a question of whether it can be done as I wasn't sure. Last I heard a few years back was that someone could break it in 9 days. From what I've now found, apparently a brute force attack is still pretty slow.
        • Correction... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Asmor (775910) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:20PM (#29223267) Homepage

          You can't watch live TV if you can't break it faster than that.

          Unless I'm missing something, it should theoretically be possible to cache the stream and decrypt it on your own schedule. Would largely be invisible to anyone used to time-shifting the shows they watch anyways-- if I'm not planning to watch the new episode of [insert show here] until the next day after it airs, what do I care if it takes hours to decrypt?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            It would depend, I would expect, on what layer they are encrypting. If N channels consist of N encrypted streams, being multiplexed onto the cable, then you could pull out and save a single encrypted string, for offline decryption.

            However, if the encrypted is done after the multiplexing, you might not be able to pull out individual channels. You'd have to grab the whole stream, getting all N channels, decrypt it offline, and then pull out the channel you want. That space requirements for that could be prohi

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

              Its almost certain that the encryption is done prior to multiplexing, done inside the transport stream at the packet level even.
              That's way it works now with full-blown cablecard encryption.

              Plus, space requirements aren't that prohibitive, maximum bandwidth of a single qam channel is 38mbps - that's 2 to 4 HDTV channels depending on how much the cableco over-compresses their channels.

            • Re:Correction... (Score:4, Informative)

              by dr.newton (648217) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:45PM (#29225041) Homepage

              Encrypting after multiplexing would make it difficult for the provider to authorize individual STBs for individual channels.

              Each channel typically has a different key, thus allowing the provider to ensure that you can only watch the channels you have paid for, with a high level of granularity. If you call and order another channel, they simply authorize your STB for the new channel on their back-office system, and then whatever entity distributes these keys puts another key in the list it sends to your STB.

        • by lattyware (934246)
          So, someone sets up a distributed computing project that decrypts them, and broadcasts working results online, everyone grabs them and watches TV.
    • yeah it probably won't be a technical problem for long but I'm guessing that someone will use the DMCA to try to stop it all.

    • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:19PM (#29223247) Homepage Journal

      You don't seem to understand the percentages, and how the big picture works.

      Let me try to help: .0001% of your hardcore customers find a way around your DRM and you lose a few cents at most.. While the actual paying customers are locked in to their changes and continue to feed the beast that makes it harder to get around and buys more laws.

      They really don't care if a few hardcore tech types get around it. Really they don't, since you end up viewing ads in the process anyway and STILL make them money..

      In the end, they win. Hell they already have.

      • by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan @ g m ail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:29PM (#29223385)
        On the other hand, I canceled my $120 since I couldn't get all the channels I wanted on my PVR (HBO, for instance). Now, I watch TV from Hulu and OTA. I switched to DSL as well. I hope others do as well.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Haxzaw (1502841)
          Yep, have to agree. I haven't had cable in over eight years. I also use OTA, Hulu, and DSL. It just doesn't make sense to pay so much for cable to have a lot of channels I couldn't care less about just to have the very few I do care for.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PitaBred (632671)
          I'm about to do the same. They just started blocking some of the OTA stations for me, so off goes cable.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jebrew (1101907)
          On board with you...been without the cable for nearly a year now. Netflix, Hulu, OTA, and Google supply me with all the entertainment I should bother with anyway. If I can't find what I want in less than a minute, I shouldn't be sitting on my fat ass anyway, so I go outside. I think it's a really good paradigm shift. I've lost loads of weight since I got rid of cable.
        • by Telephone Sanitizer (989116) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:33PM (#29224217)

          I canceled cable a couple of months ago because Comcast moved a bunch of basic channels to the scrambled digital lineup. Thanks to the digital tuner on my tv, I had previously received the expanded basic package with digital broadcasts and no cable box.

          They offered me 6 months of discounted service when I called to cancel, but thereafter it would be $100+/month for the upgraded subscription and $14.95/month for the box to receive those previously very-very-basic cable channels. Comcast is offering free converter boxes in other markets so there may be more options for some people.

          OTA digital is superb. It was a bit of a PITA to run an amplified antenna to my window for decent reception, but I'm getting almost 40 channels where OTA analog could barely pull in 2 before, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

          Hulu and various other sites are filling in the gap very nicely.

          I wonder, tho, how those cable channels are dealing with the loss of viewers. I'm not going to kid myself and pretend that all of us who cancel cable because of this are more than a drop in the bucket, but there's got to be an impact from the channels disappearing from basic cable lineups. Cartoon Network, History Channel, etc. are now on a scrambled digital tier that fewer people can watch. What's their response to that? And how are advertisers reacting to the drop in viewers on those channels? 'Anybody know?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It might not be game over, but it is end game. Because if I can't watch paid-for TV the way I want when I want, which is the fundamental principle the cable companies are messing with and for which there is good legal precedent that I am allowed to do (i.e. time-shifting), then what's the damn point of paying the exorbitant monthly fee when A) most of what is on TV is stupid reality shows anyway, and B) there are other legal options?

        Putting it another way, no, I won't waste my time and/or money trying to c

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I doubt it'll have much direct effect on the pirates of the world(as it looks like the gimped the hell out off the crypto to make it run on super-cheap devices, rather than using the actually fairly tricky stuff that ordinary higher-end cable boxes use); but it is still bad news.

      With computer hardware, cost is overwhelmingly a function of production volume(there is a floor somewhere, of course, you can't make free stuff through infinite volume; but the difference between mass market and niche gear is con
  • by Bob9113 (14996)

    you'll want to enjoy what time you have left, and look in to other solutions for the long-haul.

    I highly recommend podcasts, vidcasts, and similar. I am in the process of transitioning away from all mass media and switching entirely to user generated content. I have to say, once you get over the initial withdrawal, it is better. The stuff being produced by the indies is grittier and more real.

    It is somewhat lacking in the pure entertainment aspect -- the writing isn't as tight, and the production values are

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is one advantage of broadcast media -- ability to get information to a lot of people without burning up large amounts of Internet bandwidth. It takes up a lot less bandwidth to do one 1024p HD channel on a dedicated line than streaming the same content to millions of viewers.

      However, by end running around the Audio Home Recording Act with DRM, it only means technical viewers will find other sources for viewing, a market will be created for decoder boxes, or more people will end up hitting the P2P sys

      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        There is one advantage of broadcast media -- ability to get information to a lot of people without burning up large amounts of Internet bandwidth. It takes up a lot less bandwidth to do one 1024p HD channel on a dedicated line than streaming the same content to millions of viewers.

        I like leaf caching, wi-fi mesh, and autonomous intelligent content retrieval as the solution to this. It'll take some time to build it up, but a neighborhood shouldn't be downloading one copy of The Wood Whisperer for each woodwo

      • by Thinboy00 (1190815) <thinboy00@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:00PM (#29223809) Journal

        [big snip]

        Best of all worlds -- have broadcasters have a standard, well documented, streaming interface to a PC that requires nothing more than a cable, so people can use their PC as a TV or a DVR to their heart's content.

        Advertisers: "Eww, people can timeshift with that!!"
        MAFIAA: "No DRM?! How will we protect helpless copyrights from dangerous pirates?!"
        Broadcasters: "So if we sell a cable box/service package to John Smith and he decides to switch to [competitor], then he keeps the box and uses it with them?!"
        Lobbyists^H^H^H^H Congress: "Ain't gonna happen. Not via a new law, anyway."

        Mods and other speed readers, please be sure to notice the presence of the quotation marks -- these are not my opinions.

    • That does little for sports nuts, like myself.

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:43PM (#29223583)

      I have another suggestion: just get a Netflix membership. The cheapest level, which I have, is only like $7/month, and lets you watch all the online content you can handle. Unfortunately, it does require Windoze/Silverlight (anyone know how to run it on Linux?), but other than that, it's quite handy, and certainly much, much cheaper than your typical cable TV package.

      It's pretty cool being able to call up any episode of Star Trek I want to see at the moment.

      Personally, I just don't see the point in cable TV. There's so many movies I've never seen (Netflix has a large selection of foreign movies, which are really fun to watch) that I can easily spend all my entertainment time watching those, without ever going to a theater or watching live TV. The only thing worthwhile (barely) on live TV is local news, and that's free with rabbit ears. Wait, there's also some good stuff on PBS, which again is free with rabbit ears. And sometimes there's a decent show on network TV, like Lost, which again is free with rabbit ears. For other things, there's always BitTorrent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bryan1945 (301828)

        Netflix also streams to Macs now. Or as the other guy said pick up the $100 Roku box. The number of streamed content on Netflix seems to be going up exponentially; at first it was just a few movies. A couple of nights ago I added the first 10 seasons of South Park to my list just to watch 1 or 2 episodes per season (spooky vision!). Very good value.

    • by Hatta (162192) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:15PM (#29224003) Journal

      How much time do you spend sifting through the crap? I watch about an hour of TV a night before bed. Stewart, Colbert, and the first half of Conan. By that time of night, I just want to veg. Trying to decide whether something is going to suck or not is way too much work for 11pm.

    • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:26PM (#29224121) Homepage Journal

      It is somewhat lacking in the pure entertainment aspect -- the writing isn't as tight, and the production values are clearly less polished. But it makes up for that, at least for me, in the... texture?

      The phrase you're looking for is "snobishness." There are a few less-harsh synonyms you could use, but it's the same general feeling of "my choice is better than yours" that folk who watch community theater over a TV broadcast of the same play have.

  • Not happening (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sax Maniac (88550) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:10PM (#29223117) Homepage Journal

    I told my wife years ago that I wanted to cancel extended-basic cable ("EB") but she balked at missing Stargate. So, the deal was, I'd get her any Stargate series on DVD rather than pay $60 a month for digital cable.

    It turns out it was never necessary since I get EB over QAM with my analog basic cable. I'm sure they want to kill people like me off. But if it comes to pass, I simply will let it slide and buy the shows on DVD. I hate to be one of those "I don't have a TV" snobs, but I don't want to pay $60 per month, which goes up $10 every few years. And I most certainly do not want to rent any equipment.

    • by kalirion (728907)

      In any case, there are plenty of good shows streamed legally online by most of the major networks. When I move into my new condo, I think I'll be fine with just the internet and maybe a broadcast tv tuner.

    • by grahamwest (30174)

      I ditched TV reception years ago and have never looked back. $600+/yr is a bunch of DVD boxsets and there's no additional DVR costs in order to be watching them on my feast/famine viewing schedule instead of the once per week dripfeed.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      One word:

      BitTorrent.

    • Let me help you (Score:3, Informative)

      by Orion Blastar (457579)

      Hulu Stargate SG 1 [hulu.com].

      Hulu Stargate Atlantis [hulu.com].

      You can also rent the Stargate DVDs and save money, unless you want to keep a copy you can watch over and over again. I discourage P2P episode downloading.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sloppy (14984)

      I hate to be one of those "I don't have a TV" snobs, but I don't want to pay $60 per month, which goes up $10 every few years. And I most certainly do not want to rent any equipment.

      I believe we have reached a point, where it is no longer "snobbery" to not want to be assraped.

      Really, I am not "too cool for TV." I am not weaned from the glass tit. I'm not too smart to look down on that drivel. My time isn't worth too much to veg out in front of a TV watching mindless crap. (Does this sound like a snob?)

  • NewSpeak ++Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:13PM (#29223163) Journal
    Anybody else struck by the fact that a broadcast DRM system, used by the notoriously grasping and controlling cable cartels, is referred to as "privacy mode"?
  • TV sucks anyway (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695)

    Make it too hard to view the garbage they put out these days and they will just lose more customers.

  • Not Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:18PM (#29223235)

    At this pace, it looks like cable TV and computers will soon be divorcing.

    As part of the divorce proceeding, I and my computer have been separated from cable for some time. We've been hanging out with a new mistress, Online Video. I can tell you that the divorce is only a formal proceeding and we will be much happier once it has taken place.

    • Re:Not Sad (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:13PM (#29224673)

      Hey, it's me, Cable. Remember me, you lying sack of shit? You still with that Youtube skank? You owe me $300, that's $60 a month for the past 5 months, and you'd better pay up, asshole. I don't care that you say you sent me a cancellation notice! I never got the papers, so you never sent them. Pay up or your credit rating gets it.

      Hey. I'm sorry, honey. I'm sorry I said those bad things. Look, I've been thinking... could we give it another try? I can offer you two months of free HBO? In HD? Come on, wasn't it good when we were together? Please. You're really important to me. I just want you back. I need you.

      Fine. Fuck you then. You owe me $300 plus $60 for HBO. Cash will do nicely, if you ever want to borrow money ever again. I hope you get AIDS from Bittorrent.

  • by rrp (537287)
    I've got TimeWarner Cable in the Los Angeles area. As it stands I only get 3 EB channels and 2 Digital only channels in ClearQAM. And they keep moving analog EB channels to Digital only tiers and not offering them in ClearQAM either. Overall the number of channels you can get without their box has been reduced by at least 10 channels in the past 5 years.
    • Re: Comcast is there (Score:3, Informative)

      by jackb_guppy (204733)

      Not only that, I am still analog on TV scene. Comcast is removing channels that are NTSC, to digital encrypted, but still calling it EB. Blaming the station for change. We just lost MSNBC.

      Top it off, they are still showing in the NTSC listing that MSNBC is there at channel 81. But it is now digital and encrypted.

      To me that is false advertising.

           

  • I'm assuming this is something to do with ClearQAM from the cable box to the television/computer, because I do believe they're required to send ClearQAM signals of broadcast stations? I don't see anything over ClearQAM other than those, where I am, but we also don't have digital cable.

    • by PitaBred (632671)
      I've got digital cable with Comcast in Denver, and the fuckers have just recently started screwing up the signal for certain local channels. I can't get a lock on them any more, but I used to be able to.
    • by wagnerrp (1305589)

      There is no such thing as ClearQAM from the cable box to the television/computer. There is only digital video (DVI/HDMI), analog video (component, svideo, composite), or analog RF (modulated over coax). This is about plugging your tuner card right into the cable line. As you mention, they ARE required by law to provide unencrypted feeds of the broadcast stations, but some cable companies offer more channels.

      The big issue here is that you formerly could receive all your extended basic cable channels over

    • Re:badtitle (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:54PM (#29223719)

      I have Comcast digital cable in Atlanta. Currently, Comcast sends SD (480i) extended basic cable stations (e.g. Discovery) in ClearQAM, albeit on weird frequencies (e.g. channel 103.5 for the afore-mentioned Discovery). The set-top box is allegedly "required" not in order to do any decrypting, but rather merely to translate the channels to their "official" frequencies (e.g. channel 40 instead of 103.5). Now, what they're planning to do is to start encrypting those channels for no good reason.

      There are several major problems with what Comcast is doing:

      1. Comcast's boxes are the shittiest piles of garbage on the face of the Earth. When Comcast shut off the analog History Channel I tried them, but after going through three that would work for a while and then flake out I gave up and just did without until I figured out how to tune to History Channel via QAM (channel 82.7, by the way).
      2. It's a blatant money grab: by turning on the encryption, Comcast is instantly forcing everyone to fork over an extra $5 or so per month, per TV (give or take the single "free" box Comcast "generously" "offers" with certain types of accounts).
      3. It's a blatant power grab: with unencrypted QAM, there can be a free market for digital TV tuners (and "digital cable ready" TVs) -- a situation which is intolerable to the fascists running Comcast. This way, they control the only supply of devices that can decode the signals, which means that they can hold features hostage, lock out competitors, etc.
      4. It's fucking absurd to begin with, because there's no legitimate reason whatsoever why I should have to have an extra stupid box with an extra stupid remote (that isn't compatible with my TV, by the way) when my "digital cable-ready" TV is perfectly capable, sans Comcast's meddling, of tuning the damn channels itself!

      In other words, the situation that's developing now is exactly like how AT&T used to control telephone equipment 30(?) years ago: it's monopolistic, murderous to technological process, and should not be allowed!

      And that brings me to my final point: I really want to do everything I can to stop and/or punish Comcast for this. Is anybody planning to sue over it, and/or do you know of a class-action I can join?

      • And that brings me to my final point: I really want to do everything I can to stop and/or punish Comcast for this.

        That's easy: Cancel all Comcast services. Find other source of entertainment or other ways to access the shows you want to watch that do not involve paying Comcast. Tell you friends to do the same.

  • Kill your cable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by szquirrel (140575) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:20PM (#29223275) Homepage

    I finally got tired of the $75/month, the cable box meltdowns every three months (Scientific Atlanta FTL), and the generally craptastic quality of over-compressed video from Brighthouse. Six months ago I told them where to shove it and never looked back. Now I get TV series on DVD from Netflix, occasionally catch a new show on Hulu, and use some good ol' rabbit ears to get my local channels (which look great in over-the-air digital, better than they ever did through the cable).

    Screw cable. I'm done with paying for a raft of crap I don't need to subsidize their other businesses. And I'm certainly done with their obsessive consumer lock-in.

    • by rm999 (775449)

      Some of us like to watch shows as they come out, instead of waiting one or more years for them to come out on DVD or praying Hulu will play them. A lot of TV shows never even comes out on DVD. I personally think cable is worth it just for the half dozen high-quality shows HBO puts out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mr2001 (90979)

        Some of us like to watch shows as they come out, instead of waiting one or more years for them to come out on DVD or praying Hulu will play them.

        For most shows with any sort of following, a torrent is usually available within a couple hours after the live broadcast.

    • by C3ntaur (642283)
      Amen to that. I've been running MythTV and receiving OTA broadcasts for years, and I always have at least 100 hours of yet-to-be-watched backlog. It's only gotten better since the final digital cutover, and I use my Netflix subscription to fill any gaps. I figure the money I've saved in cable bills has paid for my MythTV hardware several times over by now.
    • Funny story. I'm in the same boat. Netflix and Hulu streaming to everything with PlayOn and a PS3 and Popcorn Hour box. Comcast begged me to sign up for television. They're giving me a year free (I was already paying $60/month for high speed internet). I consider it a nice thing to have to watch stuff like the Food Network until more stuff moves to Hulu-like broadcast methods. Once my free year is up, back to internet only and getting all my content for free online (and my $16/month Netflix subscription).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by photomonkey (987563)

      I did the same thing in February. We had a $180/month cable bill (including TV, Internet and telephone). Dropped the land line and the TV, and we're paying $45/month for the Internet.

      We don't watch much TV beyond the odd PBS show, and the OTA HD actually looks better than the stuff I was getting through Cox. And even if it didn't, the near $1600 we're saving every year lets us get out and have more fun. Not at home. Watching fat and desperate people sing for a shot at fame and supper.

      So yeah. 46" 1080

  • by vivek7006 (585218) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:24PM (#29223339) Homepage

    "Hauppauge's HD PVR that can redigitize the output of STBs for importing into a computer."

    Widows7, sagetv, beyondtv and mythtv support HD-PVR. So either I will switch to HD-PVR, or install an antenna and pull the OTA signal. In anycase, I will not be paying compact for their crappy DVR

    (right now, I use XP-MCE with HDHomerun)

  • I put together a Mac-Mini based HTPC using an EyeTV in February. The EB channels were broadcast in Clear QAM (I had already been able to receive them live with the QAM tuner in my TV for a couple of years). Three months later, shortly after turning off the analog feed for all EB channels, Comcast encrypted the digital EB channels. Now only the most basic of channels come over Clear QAM. Fortunately, Hulu picks up a lot of the slack. I think this move will simply erode cable market share in favor of di

  • In fairness, the FCC requires the equivalent of the channels that you would receive over-the-air to be unencrypted (so-called "must-carry" channels). So in reality, you should expect pretty much everything other than those to be encrypted (so channels like TBS, TNT, USA, etc will be encrypted but channels like NBC, CBS, Fox will continue to be unencrypted).

  • by nyargh (98865) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:30PM (#29223401)
  • by blhack (921171) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:31PM (#29223419)

    All this means is that the same techniques that HTPC users currently use for satellite will need to be used for cable as well.

    You clip an IR transmitter to the front of your cable-box, and it changes the channels for you. The analog out on the cable box goes into the mythbox, and the mythbox goes out to the TV.

    This is a pain in the ass, but not THAT much of a pain in the ass.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by vivek7006 (585218)

      What you are suggesting is good enough for SD content, but for HD you will need a new capture card that can digitize HD signal coming via component video cables (analog hole). Hauppauge HD-PVR does the job, but its expensive.

    • by PitaBred (632671)
      It's a bigger pain in the ass than just connecting the cable to my machine. And I'd have to get another capture card, which is a non trivial expense. Fuck that. I'm canceling cable, going Netflix + OTA.
    • by CSMatt (1175471)

      It's still a problem because now your recordings will suffer from generation loss due to the conversion to analog and back again.

      Not to mention that fact that it will now become impossible to watch any channels from cable the way people have been doing so for the last 2 decades: plug the cable straight into the set. "Cable-ready" TV sets started coming into existence precisely so that people could avoid the stupid box and watch the channels right on the set. It appears that cable companies are poised to t

  • When I read stuff like this it makes me feel reasonably glad that I live in the UK, pay a TV license and get all the channels I need on Freeview or Freesat. I've tended to find that I don't need any paid cable or Sky TV because it's generally full of adverts, full of repeats and all I watch on there is the sport.

    I feel for you guys over the pond. TV seems to be dead.
  • by Roogna (9643) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:46PM (#29223621)

    How does this effect the FCC requirement for 1394 ports to be made available?

    http://www.1394ta.org/consumers/FCC_complaint.html [1394ta.org]

    While I don't know how useful the 1394 port is for building home based DVRs, it's still a legal requirement (from what I understand, I'm not a lawyer) for the cable companies to provide. And you CAN complain to the FCC if they won't provide a box with a working port. And by all means, if they won't provide it, complain! The cable companies (and phone companies) really don't like people complaining to the FCC, and the FCC in my experience from days gone by where I worked for a cable company, takes complaints seriously. Assert your rights!

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:16PM (#29224709)

      The Firewire requirement only applies to HD set-top boxes, which (of course) Comcast charges even more for. So those of us (such as myself) who want to be left alone to watch analog and/or standard-definition digital TV in peace using our perfectly good [digital]-cable-ready TV without a shitty box would not only have to get a box, but get the most expensive one ($10-$15 per box, per month)! Far from being a solution, it merely adds insult to injury!

  • the end of clearQAM? bad news ladies, from now on it's always the stickier kind...
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@kc . r r . c om> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:52PM (#29223693) Homepage

    Is this really a shock? Did people think that cable companies have any interest in user rights, hell if they could get away with just making you pay $50 to broadcast nothing but commercials they would do it in a heartbeat. People fell for the "oh look its shiny" HDMI push early on even though component was and is fully capable of 1080p. People fell for bluray even though it has much stricter content restrictions. Now we get to welcome our broadcast flag overlords. Hope everyone is happy...

    On another note...Time Warner and Comcast announced plans to start trials of their TV Everywhere product which is basically an slingbox type service that will stream video on demand for a "nominal" fee. Of course some may see this as a way to get the sheep to accept bandwidth caps and show the govt they are "promoting" streaming video to cover their ass for the few brave enough to complain.

    • Yeah, way to mix stuff up all crazy like. What does HDMI have to do with anything? Personally I think you're retarded if you want an extra D/A and A/D conversion in your video loop, and further retarded if you don't want audio and video in one cable.

      More importantly, name one thing that HDMI has prevented you from doing compared to, say, DVI which has none of your hated "teh DRMz!" in it. Do you have a DVI video input device in your computer? If so, you must be loaded.

      HDMI is sweet, and nothing wrong wi

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mr2001 (90979)

        More importantly, name one thing that HDMI has prevented you from doing compared to, say, DVI which has none of your hated "teh DRMz!" in it.

        Actually, it does. HDCP (the DRM part) works over DVI as well as HDMI.

  • by SeePage87 (923251) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:55PM (#29223725)
    Most of us probably download most all our shows anyway, and with RSS it really doesn't take much effort to get everything you want. It'll help send a message to the cable companies, you'll save money, etc. The only catch is you're less likely to run across new shows by accident, but a little effort on the internet will give plenty of suggestions (e.g. look at number of seeds on a torrent). Cable is obsolete (sorta).
  • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:12PM (#29223959) Homepage Journal

    I loved analog cable, because it worked. Plug it into any tuner, and you can watch, record, etc. As a result of this, they got my money, month after month, for 8 years.

    Encrypted cable is the reason they don't have me as a customer anymore. If I could be assured that stuff would just work, I would sign up, plug the cable into a HDHomeRun, and that would be the end of it. Or rather, that would be the end of it, except for the money that I would be paying them every single goddamn month.

    Instead of that monthly money that they choose to not collect, I'm bittorrenting over Qwest.

    Brilliant business model, Comcast. It just goes to show American business ingenuity: if you really don't want customers and are willing to do what it takes to prevent yourself from collecting revenue, there's always a way. Losing money might not be easy and the the best way to lose the most money and really stick it to your damned stockholders might not be obvious, but if you persevere, it's possible to do. Encrypted cable is the best solution -- the solution -- to the problem of excess cable TV revenue. Good job, boys.

  • It's called the internet. The rest I see over the air on bunny ears in crystal clarity (much better than the compressed stream from comcast). I just wait 1 hour to 1 day from original broadcast and I can get any tv show I want to watch from online. $7/mo extra to rent a box (that I can't buy like my modem) to do what my hdtv does natively, yeah good luck with that.

  • Cable companies are going to switch over to a card format that can be placed in any device--this is called "tru2way". You should be able to plug your cable card into your TV or even, I suppose, your computer.

    I'm guessing this is a precursor, once they can put a card in an arbitrary DVR, TV or computer they have no reason to broadcast unencrypted signals.

    This will also involve displaying extra applications, tools, and other "enhanced TV programs".

    Until they can actually deliver with this, however, I assume t

  • Overly alarmist... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:57PM (#29224495)

    The guy is somewhat confused.

    The FCC mandates that if a cableco carries a channel that is broadcast over the air (OTA), then they can not encrypt their copy of it.
    The waiver is for the deployment of a couple of models of ultra-simple cable boxes (which, by the way, can't tune the full-blown cablecard encrypted channels) that just happen to have this DES privacy mode. Other cablecos, like comcast have been deploying similar boxes that do not have "privacy mode." But as far as I can tell, the waiver does not permit anyone to start encrypting the copies of OTA channels.

    Seems to me that the result may be the reverse of what he predicts - that non-premium channels which are currently encrypted with the full-blown cablecard encryption like the digital versions of CNN, MTV, etc may get reduced to "privacy mode" encryption so that they can be more easily sold to more customers without as big a capital investment.

    Then, there is also the whole thing about exactly what privacy mode is for. Are these boxes simply just cable boxes or are they boxes that support switched video - where you only have one or two video streams coming into your home at any one time and the box is responsible for requesting what channel the head-end should send you. In that case, the "privacy" mode may be a way to keep your neighbors from seeing what you are watching - as they can do now with most on-demand shows which are transmitted totally in the clear via special semi-hidden channels that anyone can tune to if they know the channel number in use.

  • Cutting the Cord (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:23PM (#29224793)

    What the cable companies are most afraid of right now is people "Cutting the Cord" (i.e., people leaving the walled garden and getting their TV purely over the Internet). This will happen whether or not privacy mode is instituted. These companies are fighting the last war, which is generally not good for your long-term survival.

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