• Categories

  • Archive of Posts

Cisco Tuning Adapter Firmware Updated

Sometime in the last 24 hours my Cisco STA1520 Tuning Adapter was updated to the latest firmware. We knew the firmware existed and was out in the wild thanks to Ben Drawbaugh over at Engadget HD but there was no specific release date. Well I finally got my update. For those that do not know I live near Charlotte, NC and I have Time Warner Cable.

It definitely was not an elegant notification on the update though. I read that Ceton had updated the InfiniTV-4 firmware and drivers so I did the update. Everything seemed to be working fine until I woke up this morning. I had an SDV issue with one of my recordings. I checked the Ceton diagnostic web page for my tuners and saw that my tuning adapters were not working properly. I then checked the firmware of the SDV adapters through the CETON diagnostic screens and sure enough the tuning adapters had been updated.

New Logitech Harmony 650

Engadget posted a review on the new Harmony 650 from Logitech.  I have been a big fan of the Logitech Harmony series since my Father introduced it to me a few years ago.  If you know my father that last statement probably took you by surprise and you had to read it twice.

I personally have 3 Harmony remotes: 880, 510 and the Xbox 360 version.  It takes some time to tweek it exactly right for you but once you do it’s great.  The 650 seems to continue the trend but at a lower price.  Hopefully this allows more people to get into the Harmony world of remotes.

Read the review HERE.

Testing the ATI 1.19 Firmware with Cox Cable

Note:  This is a guest post by James from the Media Center Blog.

Now this is how the CableCARD tuners should have been working from the start! After having my CableCARD ready PC for over a year and a half I can finally archive most digital and HD content that I record with the tuners. In a joint testing effort with Andres from My Network Project we wanted to test the firmware update with my Cox Communications cable here in Kansas.  I set out to give it a really good test over night. I installed the firmware on both of my tuners and proceeded to record a large variety of programs on various channels to properly test to see if the protection actually was removed.

Pay Channel Content

I was fully expecting pay channel content (HBO, Showtime, etc) to still be protected and I wasn’t wrong about that. While I would love to be able to burn some of my large recorded HD movie collection to a Blu-Ray disk, I can see why they would not allow me to do so. I recorded Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay first and noticed it was protected so I went ahead and recorded a non-movie and as you can see below, it’s still protected.

hbostillprotected

Analog Channel Content

I recorded a couple of programs in the analog channel range (1-70ish) and as expected, they were not protected. This didn’t surprise but as with most people with CableCARD PCs, I rarely record anything on these channels if I also have the HD channel (which I do for most of the channels I watch). Furthermore, I have an analog tuner in my PC in addition to my CableCARD tuners so I hadn’t really had a problem with it in the past.

Digital and HD Content

I was expecting these channels to NOT be protected and lucky for me they are not. Apparently Cox only protects the programming they are required to. I was able to record a number of programs on my upper digital and HD channels and none of them were protected. I decided to go ahead and test some of these files with some other programs that I use frequently.

First, I decided to see if I could easily convert one of the .wtv files to .dvrms so that I could use DVRMSEditor to easily edit commercials and such. Sure enough, it worked flawlessly and I was able to convert a recording of Golf Central to .dvrms and subsequently open it in DVRMSEditor.

golfhddvrms

Next I decided to see if I could open a file in Windows DVD Maker and burn one of the shows to DVD. I was able to open the recording and see menu previews (which I was not able to previously do with digital content) and it started encoding just fine and prior to that the program would crash. So it appears that Windows DVD Maker will finally work with most programs recorded on the CableCARD tuners…FINALLY!

I was also interested to see if I could put any of these recorded programs on my Zune HD and had no luck with either digital content or HD content. I knew HD content would show up but I was hoping at least the upper digital channel recordings would but the only ones showing up were the programs that were recorded on the analog channels.

In conclusion, the new firmware is working as I had hoped and expected. I had a feeling the pay channels would be copy protected since they always had before and I was hoping all the other digital and HD channels would be unprotected and they were. I was also expecting to have issues transferring videos over to my Zune but that’s a problem that needs to be fixed with the Zune. Hopefully that will get taken care of soon. As it stands now, I’m pretty pleased with the firmware upgrade.

clubhouse,how-to, media center, media center-windows 7, dvr

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

JBOD++

The 5-Bay SATA drive enclosure is up and running with a new 1.5TB hard drive.  The storage pool (aka JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks)) now looks like this:

homeserver2

The setup was very much plug and play except for one small snag.  The eSATA port on the back of my HP Media Smart WHS only supports 4-Bay SATA drive enclosures and not 5-Bays.  So the top bay on this puppy is going to go to waste in the near term.  I decided to keep it because the restocking fee and shipping cost would really offset the savings of buying a new 4-bay.  Also I am impatient and don’t want to wait for that whole return/replace process to play out.

My WHS has a new friend

I have an HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server that has become the cornerstone of my family’s home network and my Windows Media Center setup.  The home server has four drive bays which I have filled with the following drives: 500GB (included/system), 500GB (taken from Media Center PC), 1TB, 1.5TB for a total of 3.5TB’s.  Just an FYI, just because a drive is listed as 500GB or 1TB you do not actually get that amount of space in reality.  So my 3.5TB’s is actually realized as 3.18 TB’s.

Amazingly 3.5TB’s of space is quickly being used up.  My home server is reporting that I have 442.65 GB worth of space left. 

homeserver

So based on the dwindling amount of space and the lack of hard drive bays in my home server I just bought a 5-Bay SATA drive enclosure to expand my WHS by five drives.  Meet Metroplex’s new friend:

IMG_1864

So over the next few months the plan is to keep an eye on Newegg for drive deals and fill this bad boy up with at least 5 more TB’s.  I just have the case right now and the first drive shipped separate and will arrive tomorrow.  I’ll post on the setup and how that experience goes tomorrow.

UPDATE:  I had my drive capacity reported incorrectly.  Thanks to Matt for pointing that out in the comments.  I thought my WHS was wrong at first and then I remembered the “Great Drive Swap” of ‘08.  That was fun when my main system drive was reporting as G: instead of C: but Google helped me fix that.

More Home Server Storage

The large drive is a 5.25

Image via Wikipedia

About two weeks ago I added another hard drive to my Windows Home Server (WHS).  I bought a Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB drive.  So now my WHS has 3 drives: the 500GB main drive that came preinstalled, a 1TB Western Digital drive and the new 1.5TB Seagate drive for a total of 3TB (or 2.73TB realized storage).

The HP Media Smart WHS that I have makes it so easy to add a drive it’s ridiculous.  I was up and running with my new storage space in about 10 minutes, if that.  If you are looking at adding a WHS to your setup take a long hard look at the HP Media Smart servers.  Great value and easy to use.  I probably could have built a home server from a spare PC but at the end of the day my time was more valuable and I got a better WHS for buying a pre-built system.

The extra space allowed me to really clean up and organize my drives.  This is what things look like now:  (VectorSigma is my Media Center PC and Metroplex is my WHS)

VectorSigma – 3 Drives

  • 500 GB (OS, Program Files and temp download location)
  • 750 GB (Overflow recorded TV drive)
  • 1 TB (recorded TV only drive)

Metroplex – 3 Drives (WHS creates 1 pooled storage space out of the 3 drives)

  • Movies
  • Archived TV
  • Music
  • Photos
  • Personal Folders (me and my wife)
  • Public Folder (misc dump and share folder)
  • Software Folder (all my media center utilities, plugins and regular software installs live here)
  • Videos (family home videos, viral videos, etc)

I have one more open slot in my WHS and I would like to get another 1.5TB Seagate drive.  Maybe Santa will leave one under the tree for me.