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Review: ATI 1.19 firmware and SDV support – UPDATED

I have been using the update firmware for a week now and SDV tuning adapters for five days.  My quick impressions: DRM is better.  The jury is still out on the tuning adapters and SDV support.

The update brings relaxed DRM to Media Center in both Windows Vista and Windows 7 and SDV Tuning adapter support in Windows 7.  So what does this mean?  Basically it means that more of the content you record via the Cable Card tuners will be without copy protection.  It also means that the SDV tuning adapters will give you access to all the content you may have lost as your cable provider started to implement Switch Digital Video channel delivery.  Some may have not been hit by SDV much but for me it has killed my HD lineup of channels (HERE, HERE).

1.19 Firmware:  If you have updated the firmware on the ATI tuners before you will find once again that the update is easy and seamless.  It does not require a reboot of the tuners (as that happens during the update) or your PC but old habits die hard and rebooted anyway.

The first thing you want to do is check your tuners diagnostic website.  To do that open up Windows Explorer and click on Network on the left hand side.

Network Icon

Under Media Devices you will see your ATI tuner(s).

media devices Double-click the tuner and it’s diagnostic website will load in your default browser.  In the right hand corner you will see the firmware version of the tuner which should read 1.19.

Relaxed DRM: The first feature of the new firmware I tested was the relaxed DRM.  It works just fine but your mileage will vary depending on your cable provider. 

Your cable provider sends content with a copy protection flag.  Before the 1.19 firmware update the tuner just ignored the flag that was sent and always applied the “Copy Once” flag.  Now the tuners apply the flag that is sent which is one of three values: Copy Freely, Copy Once, or Copy Never.

Early reports have Verizon FIOS sending everything with a “Copy Freely” flag while Time Warner is a different story.  So far in my tests almost all of the lower channels (70 and below) are sent with the Copy Freely flag while everything in the upper digital tier is sent with the Copy Once flag still.

I tested this first by just recording random shows on random channels but I wanted a more systematic approach to it.  I looked in the stack trace for the tuners and found a consistent pattern.  If a channel is being sent a Copy Freely flag you will see the following: New CCI: tuner: 0, CCI: 0x0. If a channel is being sent with a Copy Once flag you will see this: New CCI: tuner: 0, CCI: 0x2”.  If you tune a channel that has the same copy flag as the one before it you will not see anything new.

If you are lucky most of your content will now be recorded without copy protection.  The relaxed DRM update works in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

SDV Support:  The biggest update for me is the ability to support Switched Digital Video (SDV) Tuning Adapters.  SDV has been rolled out in various levels across the country ranging from very heavy (Time Warner) to non-existent (Verizon FIOS).

Tuning Adapter Install: Installing the Tuning Adapter (TA) is very easy.  There is a new driver that should be available after you upgrade to the 1.19 firmware.  The Tuning Adapter needs a coax cable line connected to the “Cable In” jack and needs to be connected to a Windows 7 PC via USB.  That’s all you need.  Once you plug it all up and turn it on it will pair itself to a ATI DCT.  The pairing is not permanent so if you have multiple DCT’s and ever unplug and move things around the DCT may or may not pair to the same Tuning Adapter.

TA in Device Manager

After doing the easy initial setup the hard part came.  For some people out there it has just worked the first time out of the gate.  For me that was not the case.  The tuning adapters reported that they were operational but they actually were not authorized to work (DAVIC: Unauthorized below). 

TA Operational

TA DAVIC

The status of “Tuner Resolver operational” is a misnomer as it just means that the Tuning Adapters are connected properly to the ATI DCT’s.  It does not mean that it is connected properly to your cable provider.

As of this posting I still do not have Tuning Adapters that are operational but I am working with Microsoft and Time Warner to resolve the issue and provide that resolution here on the blog.

In the meantime I can tune in SDV channels but the tuning is inconsistent.  Some channels work all the time (USA HD, SyFy HD) while some are intermittent (Disney HD, CNN HD) and probably are only coming in if my neighbors are watching those channels.

When it does work it works very well.  The channels tune in fairly quickly and do not stand out as SDV channels.  The non-SDV channels do tune faster but not by a huge margin.

UPDATE:  I replaced the first two tuning adapters with new units and now everything is working fine.  I have a DAVIC status of “Connected” and the tuning adapters are in a status of “Ready” instead of “Bd’cast Only”.  The SDV channels tune in at an acceptable pace and would be hard to distinguish from the other channels.  The non-SDV channels do tune in faster and I actually think they tune faster than before the 1.19 firmware upgrade.

The tuning adapters have added back about 60 channels into my line-up with more to come by the end of the year.  It was one thing to explain to the family that we were losing on-demand but it was another to explain why channels stopped working and why we did not have any of the new HD channels.  Now the lineup is whole and everything is all good.

Conclusion: Your mileage will vary on the relaxed DRM (depending on your cable provider) and the SDV tuning adapters remind me of trying to get cable card setup for the first time.  It’s a one time struggle and battle that at the end of the day is worth it.

I will update my review once I have everything work as it should.

clubhouse, media center, windows media center, how-to, Tip

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16 Responses

  1. Oct 22 and still no sign of the firmware from ATI nor MS via WindowsUpdate. : (

  2. yep.. still running 1.17 and verizon fios DCT – every show that is recorded has the copy flag on (even non HD Oprah!), can only watch stuff from local media center or extenders.

  3. same boat/ship… when will it be available?

  4. how was this firmware update delivered to you? if by file, please upload somewhere and link. they're dragging their heels

  5. The firmware was provided for review purposes only. I am not allowed to distribute it. If I could I definitely would.

  6. We're not looking to distribute it either, we'd like to review the update too! : )

  7. Finally! Still working/researching so no advice right now (please). Still have a lot of ideas and things to work through.

    After applying the "Windows Update", the OS recognized the Cisco Tuning Adapter, however, the firmware was *NOT* updated. Had to end up extracting the firmware out of the cab file (http://catalog.update.microsoft.com/v7/site/Search.aspx?q=ati%20tuner%20windows%207) and use the 1.17 utility to apply the firmware.

    Only factor that I can think that may have posed an issue is that I had already activated digital cable using my Vista Digital Cable product key. Anyways, the SDV channels aren't working (yet)! I do have them physically hooked up differently so will try to wire it exactly like Andres' article. But in my understanding that shouldn't be a major factor. Just hate to use so many splitters to weaken the signal. Everytime TWC visits they're always removing them.

    Anyways… work in progress and wanted to post in case others run into the issue so they know they're not alone.

  8. its out now, do some windows update action.

  9. When you update the driver for your ATI tuners it should apply the firmware update. That's how mine worked with the only exception being that I did not get the driver via Windows Update.

  10. Ok, need help – in your screenshot where it says Tuner Resolver Operational and DAVIC: Connected, I get "Tuner Resolver is not ready – using SI", yet DAVIC is Connected – Have talked to TWC support twice and they have been no help – I'd appreciate any suggestions.

  11. @Justin – I have actually just started to see this with on of my tuning adapters that up until yesterday has been working fine.

    Look on the diagnostic screen for the tuning adapter that has the DAVIC status. Do you see:

    Level: -1 dBmV
    OR
    Level: 0 dBmV

  12. @Andres – On both of my TAs, neither of which seem to be doing anything, the Level is the same: -17dBmV

  13. @Justin – In the Tuning Adapter diagnostic screen, go to the second page and click on the "Tuning Resolver" link.

    Does it look like this:
    TUNING ADAPTER
    Authorized: No
    OpStatus: Initializing

    or like this:
    TUNING ADAPTER
    Authorized: Yes
    OpStatus: Ready

    It needs to be the second one. I will be calling about mine tomorrow.

  14. @Andres –
    It is the 2nd one, on both TAs.

  15. Did you ever fix that "Tuner Resolver is not ready, using SI" error? Was it a problem at the cable co level or was it hardware related? (Both of my adapters are showing this)Rich

  16. Richard,I actually added this in the update at the end of the post. I replaced both tuning adapters and they worked.Sometimes it could take a few reboots of the adapter. The key is to look at the diagnostics on the ATI tuner website and make sure you have the appropriate status under the DAVIC code like I added to the post.These things should work or not work. As long as you have the right codes then it may just need a few reboots. Sounds like I need to write another post on this and probably add some video.

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