TV tuner card


M

Metspitzer

Anyone have one they recommend? How about what not to buy?

The cheapest card that is listed with a Google search is this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...E16815306039&gclid=CJ6n79isobgCFWZk7Aod22YAmg
It comes with a remote control, but I can't imagine needing to use it.
It looks like it comes with an external antenna. I don't see me even
plugging that thing up.

It also says it is PCI-Express x1 Interface. While I do have a slot
for PCI-Express x1 Interface, that kind of limits it's use. Why would
it not just use PCI?
 
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M

Metspitzer

Anyone have one they recommend? How about what not to buy?

The cheapest card that is listed with a Google search is this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...E16815306039&gclid=CJ6n79isobgCFWZk7Aod22YAmg
It comes with a remote control, but I can't imagine needing to use it.
It looks like it comes with an external antenna. I don't see me even
plugging that thing up.

It also says it is PCI-Express x1 Interface. While I do have a slot
for PCI-Express x1 Interface, that kind of limits it's use. Why would
it not just use PCI?

Strange.......then link now says Discontinued

Google's new pick is:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...E16815276002&gclid=CNbLkNCYprgCFUVp7AodKncA9w

The reviews say this card is junk
 
J

John Doe

Metspitzer said:
Anyone have one they recommend? How about what not to buy?

This is mostly off topic, but...

I have shopped for TV cards from time to time, but never had one. My
monitor isn't the best, the viewing angle is narrow, you wouldn't
want to use it for graphics publishing, but it does include TV
functionality. Being LCD, the text is ultra crisp (that is something
I've always actively looked for in a monitor). Besides being a
computer monitor it is a complete high definition TV. Has a built in
receiver with a coaxial cable output for the antenna. I use a cable
that goes outside to a 5 foot piece of thin aluminum flat bar. I
pickup all the channels that my neighbor with his rooftop antenna
picks up. High definition rocks (especially on a computer monitor!).
Broadcast TV programming isn't comparable to the Internet, but there
is occasionally stuff on one of the major networks, like the NBA
finals (or whatever other stuff you might like) that beats having to
download or stream it. One thing that I'm sure you can do with a TV
card that you can't do with a multifunction monitor is to record what
you see. Otherwise, it's great. If it continues to last, it will it
been a great investment. I doubted that the remote control would be
useful, but I use the TV more than expected and the remote is of
course necessary.
 
P

Paul

Metspitzer said:
Anyone have one they recommend? How about what not to buy?

The cheapest card that is listed with a Google search is this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...E16815306039&gclid=CJ6n79isobgCFWZk7Aod22YAmg
It comes with a remote control, but I can't imagine needing to use it.
It looks like it comes with an external antenna. I don't see me even
plugging that thing up.

It also says it is PCI-Express x1 Interface. While I do have a slot
for PCI-Express x1 Interface, that kind of limits it's use. Why would
it not just use PCI?

The trouble with TV cards, is the software. Many cards, the hardware
would be fine, but the software is lacking.

In the three reviews for the Diamond (Theater chip based) product, one
person mentions it works with Media Center. Which implies perhaps
that is what it was designed for. ATI stopped doing their own (nice)
software for the Wonder product line, years ago, and instead started
relying on third parties, so that companies like Diamond could build
tuners with ATI (AMD) chips. And in this case, the software might
amount to a Media Center compatible driver, rather than a complete
package. In Windows 8, Media Center is an add-on you pay money for,
so TV recording is not free on Win8. There are plenty of other
TV recording softwares, some of which are payware as well. MythTV
is free, but then you have to check what tuners it can use.

Always check the customer review section, to see what alternatives
exist for software. The bundled software is almost never adequate.
If the reviewers were unable to get it to work with anything, the
purchase would be a waste of money. Even though the hardware
might be perfectly fine.

*******

Make sure the tuner card, covers your local media formats. Here
for example, analog TV (NTSC/PAL/Secam flavored stuff) disappeared
a couple years ago. Maybe some rural location still uses it, but
for the most part, the urban centers are now all digital.

On digital, you have OTA (sent by weak transmitters), or cable digital.
The weakest OTA (digital) transmitter in town, is 3kW, and I can't
receive it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atsc <--- broadcast
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/256-QAM <--- cable info, QAM flavor

The digital TV sends video as packets of already-compressed data.
Some flavor of MPEG is what comes right out of the tuner, after
recovery. On the older analog tuners, the tuner chip needed
ADCs for chroma and luma, the output might be 20-30MB/sec. And
there was an added expense, to compress to MPEG and make the data
rate more reasonable. Some of the USB tuners, had some flavor of MPEG
compression. But with digital tuning, they can skip a step, and
the MPEG could be written to disk as is. Later, when you want to
view it, it needs to be decompressed. You wouldn't really want to
save in uncompressed format, as it uses too much disk (I have some
RGB24 recordings here, which are about 125GB/hour of TV). Video
compression can achieve 100:1 compression or so, so you can reduce
storage requirements quite a bit, if staying in a compressed storage
format. Digital TV needed this, to help fit the data stream, into
the available channel width. (On cable, I think by skimping, they
can put four channels where one channel used to go. On OTA broadcast,
many times they just put a single channel in a slot.)

*******

Intel has officially given up on PCI. Modern Intel chipsets lack PCI.
The motherboard makers, may use a bridge chip, to add PCI slots
back into a motherboard. So the situation is easily remedied. The
motherboard companies do this, until they perceive the demand is
gone. Some day, PCI will disappear just like ISA did.

PCI Express card selection is still limited. There are going to be
some things, that for either cost or function, you might like a
PCI version. One company has been making bridged cards, using old PCI
chips, sticking a PCI to PCI Express bridge on the back of the card,
and that's how they solve the lack of certain functions. But they
don't sell very many, because customers are price sensitive on
add-on cards. And the bridge chips aren't free.

For tuning, if all you needed was RF input, you can get USB
dongles. The PCI Express card format comes in handy, if you need
multiple connectors on the faceplate. If the card has both
analog capture (like composite or S-Video), as well as an RF
input for OTA or cable digital, then the faceplate on the card
has the room for it. The smallest format of USB dongle, there
is only room for one connector, so the function options are
limited (no capture from a VCR perhaps).

They also make set top format USB boxes, with more connectors
on them. But that might be more for capture, than tuning.

In any case, use the reviews, and you'll spot the stuff that
is dog crap. There are some USB dongles, that used to overheat,
and the output quality may suffer in that case. Or, the product
may die before its time. And the reviews will tell you all about
it. Plenty of stuff runs hotter than it should - my set top
broadcast tuner box runs warmer than it should.

*******

That Sabrent card is analog (NTSC). No digital reception on that one.
That card is for connecting to the back of the VCR, picking up
composite plus stereo audio, or S-Video plus stereo audio, and
capturing old VCR tapes. The tuner on the card (depending on your
country), might not get any usage at all. You have to know your
local TV standards pretty well, to make a successful purchase.
(Newegg used to warn on some of the product pages, that the
tuner was unsuited to current US TV standards.)

The Sabrent card is only keyed for one PCI slot voltage, not two.
I expect that's the 5V slot, seen on the card edge. If you had
one of the Macintoshes with 3.3V only slots, that card would
jam when you tried to fit it. I think all my PCs here are 5V keyed,
so the tuner would work.

Many PCI card makers, use an onboard regulator, and cut
both slots, to indicate the card will work in any PCI slot.
And occasionally, you'll see 3.3V only cards too - but usually
the functional description will be indicating it was never
intended for your average desktop PC.

The Sabrent card, is second down on the left.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PCI_Keying.png

*******

Is it hard picking something out ? Yes. You have plenty
of research to do, either that, or deep pockets to pay for
returning stuff that isn't what you need.

Have fun,
Paul
 
F

Flasherly

The trouble with TV cards, is the software. Many cards, the hardware
would be fine, but the software is lacking.

That can fixed, past capturing streams, and hitting the encoding sites
for alternative software. The software can actually be an unholy
nightmare;- the trick to that is finding just the hardware interface
drivers and deleting all else with extreme prejudice. Then on, it is
actually hardware, although I haven't run any lately on six-core
processors, for sure. Imagine it's a bit like multitracking audio,
realtime track recording aside on prior tracks, and dealing with PC
latency issues, bandwidth applied to bus and system interrupts.
Realtime chipped encoders are basically prohibitive, far between, and
pro. Software covers 99% the rest, though marginally adequate -at
least on the class of machine I was running while encoding- required
essentially that the PC be dedicated to the capture/encode process.
Didn't take much else added to CPU processing stack to throw off
either key-identifier video frames, audio synch, whereupon encodes
may, or not, be correctable within player abilities at marginal
results if that. I still watch a couple cable box programmes recorded
ages ago, though most have been replaced with better quality. Not so
hot when ending up randomly most anywhere in a presentment if
attempting to time-skip/jump, which is one quick way to try to correct
audio synch drifts. May also be a bit of a learning curve, unless
things have changed, in alternative sourcing encode software from a
broadcast engineering-type site. AVI wasn't as established as it is
when I was dabbling with MPG industry standards.
 
M

Metspitzer

The trouble with TV cards, is the software. Many cards, the hardware
would be fine, but the software is lacking.

In the three reviews for the Diamond (Theater chip based) product, one
person mentions it works with Media Center. Which implies perhaps
that is what it was designed for. ATI stopped doing their own (nice)
software for the Wonder product line, years ago, and instead started
relying on third parties, so that companies like Diamond could build
tuners with ATI (AMD) chips. And in this case, the software might
amount to a Media Center compatible driver, rather than a complete
package. In Windows 8, Media Center is an add-on you pay money for,
so TV recording is not free on Win8. There are plenty of other
TV recording softwares, some of which are payware as well. MythTV
is free, but then you have to check what tuners it can use.

Always check the customer review section, to see what alternatives
exist for software. The bundled software is almost never adequate.
If the reviewers were unable to get it to work with anything, the
purchase would be a waste of money. Even though the hardware
might be perfectly fine.

*******

Make sure the tuner card, covers your local media formats. Here
for example, analog TV (NTSC/PAL/Secam flavored stuff) disappeared
a couple years ago. Maybe some rural location still uses it, but
for the most part, the urban centers are now all digital.

On digital, you have OTA (sent by weak transmitters), or cable digital.
The weakest OTA (digital) transmitter in town, is 3kW, and I can't
receive it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atsc <--- broadcast
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/256-QAM <--- cable info, QAM flavor

The digital TV sends video as packets of already-compressed data.
Some flavor of MPEG is what comes right out of the tuner, after
recovery. On the older analog tuners, the tuner chip needed
ADCs for chroma and luma, the output might be 20-30MB/sec. And
there was an added expense, to compress to MPEG and make the data
rate more reasonable. Some of the USB tuners, had some flavor of MPEG
compression. But with digital tuning, they can skip a step, and
the MPEG could be written to disk as is. Later, when you want to
view it, it needs to be decompressed. You wouldn't really want to
save in uncompressed format, as it uses too much disk (I have some
RGB24 recordings here, which are about 125GB/hour of TV). Video
compression can achieve 100:1 compression or so, so you can reduce
storage requirements quite a bit, if staying in a compressed storage
format. Digital TV needed this, to help fit the data stream, into
the available channel width. (On cable, I think by skimping, they
can put four channels where one channel used to go. On OTA broadcast,
many times they just put a single channel in a slot.)

*******

Intel has officially given up on PCI. Modern Intel chipsets lack PCI.
The motherboard makers, may use a bridge chip, to add PCI slots
back into a motherboard. So the situation is easily remedied. The
motherboard companies do this, until they perceive the demand is
gone. Some day, PCI will disappear just like ISA did.

PCI Express card selection is still limited. There are going to be
some things, that for either cost or function, you might like a
PCI version. One company has been making bridged cards, using old PCI
chips, sticking a PCI to PCI Express bridge on the back of the card,
and that's how they solve the lack of certain functions. But they
don't sell very many, because customers are price sensitive on
add-on cards. And the bridge chips aren't free.

For tuning, if all you needed was RF input, you can get USB
dongles. The PCI Express card format comes in handy, if you need
multiple connectors on the faceplate. If the card has both
analog capture (like composite or S-Video), as well as an RF
input for OTA or cable digital, then the faceplate on the card
has the room for it. The smallest format of USB dongle, there
is only room for one connector, so the function options are
limited (no capture from a VCR perhaps).

They also make set top format USB boxes, with more connectors
on them. But that might be more for capture, than tuning.

In any case, use the reviews, and you'll spot the stuff that
is dog crap. There are some USB dongles, that used to overheat,
and the output quality may suffer in that case. Or, the product
may die before its time. And the reviews will tell you all about
it. Plenty of stuff runs hotter than it should - my set top
broadcast tuner box runs warmer than it should.

*******

That Sabrent card is analog (NTSC). No digital reception on that one.
That card is for connecting to the back of the VCR, picking up
composite plus stereo audio, or S-Video plus stereo audio, and
capturing old VCR tapes. The tuner on the card (depending on your
country), might not get any usage at all. You have to know your
local TV standards pretty well, to make a successful purchase.
(Newegg used to warn on some of the product pages, that the
tuner was unsuited to current US TV standards.)

The Sabrent card is only keyed for one PCI slot voltage, not two.
I expect that's the 5V slot, seen on the card edge. If you had
one of the Macintoshes with 3.3V only slots, that card would
jam when you tried to fit it. I think all my PCs here are 5V keyed,
so the tuner would work.

Many PCI card makers, use an onboard regulator, and cut
both slots, to indicate the card will work in any PCI slot.
And occasionally, you'll see 3.3V only cards too - but usually
the functional description will be indicating it was never
intended for your average desktop PC.

The Sabrent card, is second down on the left.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PCI_Keying.png

*******

Is it hard picking something out ? Yes. You have plenty
of research to do, either that, or deep pockets to pay for
returning stuff that isn't what you need.

Have fun,
Paul

I know you think you are explaining this to me, but you really are
not. :) I know I also asked about PCI, but it is pretty easy to tell
me more than I wanted to know about it in a couple of sentences. :)

Thanks for your really detailed explanations, but it is usually wasted
on me. I hope one day to learn more about computers, but it won't be
today.

If it helps matters any, the only thing I plan on using the card for
is to watch TV in a window on my dual monitors. I do not plan on
doing any recording.

I currently have 42 inch LCD in the room. It is just the way the
furniture is, the TV is behind me when I am web surfing. I do have a
mirror where I can see the TV behind me, but that makes any words on
the screen reversed.
 
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P

Paul

Metspitzer said:
I know you think you are explaining this to me, but you really are
not. :) I know I also asked about PCI, but it is pretty easy to tell
me more than I wanted to know about it in a couple of sentences. :)

Thanks for your really detailed explanations, but it is usually wasted
on me. I hope one day to learn more about computers, but it won't be
today.

If it helps matters any, the only thing I plan on using the card for
is to watch TV in a window on my dual monitors. I do not plan on
doing any recording.

I currently have 42 inch LCD in the room. It is just the way the
furniture is, the TV is behind me when I am web surfing. I do have a
mirror where I can see the TV behind me, but that makes any words on
the screen reversed.

Here's a USB one. Runs hot. I know how I solve problems like that.
I'm not going to recommend any "modifications", because I don't
want to ruin your purchase.

"Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q USB TV Tuner Stick/Hybrid Video Recorder
with Remote Control $70"

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116034

I picked that one, because it probably comes with a copy of WinTV.
Don't lose the CD! You'll need it in future (as proof of purchase).

Unit comes with a cheesy rubber duck antenna. You might need to hold
this near a Window. It probably isn't going to be picking up an OTA
signal from a 3kW transmitter.

http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/15-116-034-Z06?$S640W$

Your local RadioShack has some of the flat plate antennas for OTA.
This would be for urban usage. For rural, you'd need more antenna gain
(and then the antenna becomes directional and you need to turn it).

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=16307966

If you used to have a UHF antenna on the roof of the house,
you can reuse that. There's nothing special about digital TV,
just that the channel numbers don't go as high for OTA digital.

I'm not an expert on cable, and if you have digital cable,
I don't know if that's the one for you or not. You could talk
to the cable company about that. Some cable products, use
a "card" of some sort, that plugs into the box they use. The
card authorizes things like pay channels.

*******

This PCI Express card appears to be mostly for Media Center.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116037

One reviewer says:

"using wintv (required me to install a cd drive temporarily
and use an old wintv disk to 'authenticate') allowed me to
fully check out every feature of the card before I turned up
BTV [BeyondTV recorder]."

And the disc pictured with the product, says WinTV V7, so I hope
that's the stand alone (no Media Center) software needed.

http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/15-116-037-S05?$S640W$

You'll notice also, that's a "white box" version, a.k.a OEM,
which is why its a few dollars cheaper than the retail boxed one.
As long as it comes with CDs, you can't lose. It's only white
box with no CDs, that you get screwed. You *need* the CD with
Hauppauge, to be able to update the software from their server.
Don't lose the CD!

No antenna included. Use the RadioShack flat plate.

The "newer version" Newegg refers to, is a low profile, dual slot
version, with an extender plate you only plug in if you need to
capture from the back of the VCR (composite etc).

*******

There is a PCI card version as well. Comes with WinTV V6 (not the
V7 the other one had). The "Clear QAM" means if connected to a
cable system, it can receive any channel which is not encrypted.
If you want *everything* from cable, there is probably a box the
cable company provides for that purpose, with the plug-in card to
authorize it etc. Talk to your cable company.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA0AJ0UM5646

HTH,
Paul
 
M

Metspitzer

Anyone have one they recommend? How about what not to buy?

The cheapest card that is listed with a Google search is this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...E16815306039&gclid=CJ6n79isobgCFWZk7Aod22YAmg
It comes with a remote control, but I can't imagine needing to use it.
It looks like it comes with an external antenna. I don't see me even
plugging that thing up.

It also says it is PCI-Express x1 Interface. While I do have a slot
for PCI-Express x1 Interface, that kind of limits it's use. Why would
it not just use PCI?

After searching for tuner cards, now every web site I go to shows an
ad for a tuner card. This is not necessarily a bad thing. This card
from Amazon was almost too cheap to pass up.
http://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-SBT-T..._cr_acr_pop_hist_all?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

This card says.....analog. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't that
make it useless?

The only reason I wanted a tuner card was to hook it to Charter cable
using a splitter from my TV to the card. Isn't all TV digital now?
 
P

Paul

Metspitzer said:
After searching for tuner cards, now every web site I go to shows an
ad for a tuner card. This is not necessarily a bad thing. This card
from Amazon was almost too cheap to pass up.
http://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-SBT-T..._cr_acr_pop_hist_all?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

This card says.....analog. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't that
make it useless?

The only reason I wanted a tuner card was to hook it to Charter cable
using a splitter from my TV to the card. Isn't all TV digital now?

Quite possibly all digital.

http://www.myaccount.charter.com/customers/Support.aspx?SupportArticleID=24#WhatisaDigitalReceiver

"Customer Owned DVR

You can hookup your own purchased DVR equipment.

Typically, you would also have two separate pieces of equipment
in this situation:

your Charter TV digital receiver <--- could use a CableCard...
and your third-party DVR"

That tells me, that Charter wants your digital receiver to be of a
type that can get unencrypted and encrypted channels from the cable.
It may or may not include things like Pay TV channels (some kind of
premium channel).

Some of those boxes, have some kind of cable card, which authorizes
reception of channels.

I think I saw a posting recently from someone in the States, who
claimed there was nothing unencrypted left on their cable.

In terms of add-on cards for the computer, you've got:

1) Analog tuner cards (receiving NTSC analog - old fashioned stuff)
Sabrent makes those. Totally useless in US or Canada, except in
very remote areas where digital upgrades weren't done. My ancient
WinTV card is one of these.

2) Digital tuner cards - these typically support ClearQAM. That's QAM,
where the content is not encrypted.

3) Charter set top box with cable card - probably supports any QAM,
clear or not.
4) Capture card - this is a card that captures a signal from a VCR,
like composite or S-Video mini-DIN (4 pin). There is no tuner.
It just captures a signal, like baseband, YPbPr, even HDMI
in some cases.

To receive any ole cable signal on the computer, you would combine
(4) with (3). You make sure the set top box has a VCR-like baseband
signal, suitable for connecting to the capture card.

In fact, I use (4)+(3) here. I receive OTA broadcasts (unencrypted)
sent with 8VSB encoding, and the set top box has a composite (yellow)
RCA baseband jack, plus a red & white pair of stereo sound jacks.
I connect those to my capture card. I don't do any channel changing
on the capture card. I use a remote control, to change the channels
on (3), and (4) just converts the baseband signal into something
that plays on my computer LCD screen.

If you knew for a fact, that the Charter cable had nothing but ClearQAM
on it, then you could use a digital tuner card with ClearQAM. But
as far as I know, tuner cards don't have provision for decryption.

Now, this is an example of a computer-friendly set top box (of sorts).

"SiliconDust HDHomeRun PRIME - Three Digital Tuners, Anywhere on Your
Network HDHR3-CC Ethernet Interface - M-Card CableCARD interface $149"

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815345006

There should be a number of different models of those. With different prices.

There is a picture of a cable card here. You'd get this from Comcast
(for a price). If you were renting or buying a DVR from them, it
would probably be bundled. They would assume you're setting up
your own DVR (not one bought from them), and charge you accordingly
for the CableCard.

Remember, I'm a theory guy. I know little bits of this and that.
Your Comcast tech support person, knows all the real details, such
as whether their digital cable is completely encrypted, or certain
OTA broadcast channels in your neighborhood, are mirrored on cable
and carried unencrypted.

That splits the channels into three or more groups. If you're lucky,
some unencrypted ones. You get those with a tuner card with ClearQAM.
If the channels are encrypted, the receiving equipment will need
a slot for a CableCard. I'm not aware of any tech, that makes it possible
to do this with just a digital tuner card alone. The SiliconDust has
a hole in the front for that card.

If you have video on demand or pay channels, there would be further
hoops to jump through. And I have no idea what they might be.

OK, here is another CableCard box. I see a comment...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116072

"The only on going fees are your monthly cable service fees plus
the cost of the CableCARD (which costs around $5 per month from
your cable TV provider)."

So the bastards make you rent the CableCard. How convenient. You're not
renting their DVR, so they still make money off you.

I presume a cable-ready TV set already has some provision for handling
everything on the cable. It's just the computer add-on digital tuner
cards, that don't cover all bases.

*******

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_video_recorder#PC-based_digital_video_recorders

"Digital cable and satellite television

Recording satellite or digital cable signals on a digital video recorder
can be more complex than recording analog signals or broadcast digital signals.

There are several different transmission schemes, and the video streams
may be encrypted to restrict access to subscribers only.

A satellite or cable set-top box both decrypts the signal if encrypted,
and decodes the MPEG stream into an analog signal for viewing on the
television. In order to record cable or satellite digital signals the
signal must be captured after it has been decrypted but before it is
decoded; this is how DVRs built into set-top boxes work.

Cable and satellite providers often offer their own digital video recorders
along with a service plan. These DVRs have access to the encrypted video
stream, and generally enforce the provider's restrictions on copying of
material even after recording."

So before going further, talk to Comcast, see if the CableCard is $5 a month,
and get all the details of what is needed for hookup. If the box used was
just a set-top box (digital tuner with CableCard), then it might put out an
analog baseband signal (suitable for capture with a simple capture card like
my WinTV card). If the box was like that SiliconDust one, that connects to
your LAN, and some kind of MPEG stream gets sent to your computer when you
want it. The SiliconDust wouldn't need a capture card (since the TV content
is streamed over Ethernet). The Hauppauge box above, has USB on the back
and connects to a single PC USB port (so the PC could do the recording).
The SiliconDust is the most flexible, but costs a bit more.

And all this hassle, for TV... :)

Paul
 
M

Metspitzer

Quite possibly all digital.

http://www.myaccount.charter.com/customers/Support.aspx?SupportArticleID=24#WhatisaDigitalReceiver

"Customer Owned DVR

You can hookup your own purchased DVR equipment.

Typically, you would also have two separate pieces of equipment
in this situation:

your Charter TV digital receiver <--- could use a CableCard...
and your third-party DVR"

That tells me, that Charter wants your digital receiver to be of a
type that can get unencrypted and encrypted channels from the cable.
It may or may not include things like Pay TV channels (some kind of
premium channel).

Some of those boxes, have some kind of cable card, which authorizes
reception of channels.

I think I saw a posting recently from someone in the States, who
claimed there was nothing unencrypted left on their cable.

In terms of add-on cards for the computer, you've got:

1) Analog tuner cards (receiving NTSC analog - old fashioned stuff)
Sabrent makes those. Totally useless in US or Canada, except in
very remote areas where digital upgrades weren't done. My ancient
WinTV card is one of these.

2) Digital tuner cards - these typically support ClearQAM. That's QAM,
where the content is not encrypted.

3) Charter set top box with cable card - probably supports any QAM,
clear or not.
4) Capture card - this is a card that captures a signal from a VCR,
like composite or S-Video mini-DIN (4 pin). There is no tuner.
It just captures a signal, like baseband, YPbPr, even HDMI
in some cases.

To receive any ole cable signal on the computer, you would combine
(4) with (3). You make sure the set top box has a VCR-like baseband
signal, suitable for connecting to the capture card.

In fact, I use (4)+(3) here. I receive OTA broadcasts (unencrypted)
sent with 8VSB encoding, and the set top box has a composite (yellow)
RCA baseband jack, plus a red & white pair of stereo sound jacks.
I connect those to my capture card. I don't do any channel changing
on the capture card. I use a remote control, to change the channels
on (3), and (4) just converts the baseband signal into something
that plays on my computer LCD screen.

If you knew for a fact, that the Charter cable had nothing but ClearQAM
on it, then you could use a digital tuner card with ClearQAM. But
as far as I know, tuner cards don't have provision for decryption.

Now, this is an example of a computer-friendly set top box (of sorts).

"SiliconDust HDHomeRun PRIME - Three Digital Tuners, Anywhere on Your
Network HDHR3-CC Ethernet Interface - M-Card CableCARD interface $149"

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815345006

There should be a number of different models of those. With different prices.

There is a picture of a cable card here. You'd get this from Comcast
(for a price). If you were renting or buying a DVR from them, it
would probably be bundled. They would assume you're setting up
your own DVR (not one bought from them), and charge you accordingly
for the CableCard.

Remember, I'm a theory guy. I know little bits of this and that.
Your Comcast tech support person, knows all the real details, such
as whether their digital cable is completely encrypted, or certain
OTA broadcast channels in your neighborhood, are mirrored on cable
and carried unencrypted.

That splits the channels into three or more groups. If you're lucky,
some unencrypted ones. You get those with a tuner card with ClearQAM.
If the channels are encrypted, the receiving equipment will need
a slot for a CableCard. I'm not aware of any tech, that makes it possible
to do this with just a digital tuner card alone. The SiliconDust has
a hole in the front for that card.

If you have video on demand or pay channels, there would be further
hoops to jump through. And I have no idea what they might be.

OK, here is another CableCard box. I see a comment...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116072

"The only on going fees are your monthly cable service fees plus
the cost of the CableCARD (which costs around $5 per month from
your cable TV provider)."

So the bastards make you rent the CableCard. How convenient. You're not
renting their DVR, so they still make money off you.

I presume a cable-ready TV set already has some provision for handling
everything on the cable. It's just the computer add-on digital tuner
cards, that don't cover all bases.

*******

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_video_recorder#PC-based_digital_video_recorders

"Digital cable and satellite television

Recording satellite or digital cable signals on a digital video recorder
can be more complex than recording analog signals or broadcast digital signals.

There are several different transmission schemes, and the video streams
may be encrypted to restrict access to subscribers only.

A satellite or cable set-top box both decrypts the signal if encrypted,
and decodes the MPEG stream into an analog signal for viewing on the
television. In order to record cable or satellite digital signals the
signal must be captured after it has been decrypted but before it is
decoded; this is how DVRs built into set-top boxes work.

Cable and satellite providers often offer their own digital video recorders
along with a service plan. These DVRs have access to the encrypted video
stream, and generally enforce the provider's restrictions on copying of
material even after recording."

So before going further, talk to Comcast, see if the CableCard is $5 a month,
and get all the details of what is needed for hookup. If the box used was
just a set-top box (digital tuner with CableCard), then it might put out an
analog baseband signal (suitable for capture with a simple capture card like
my WinTV card). If the box was like that SiliconDust one, that connects to
your LAN, and some kind of MPEG stream gets sent to your computer when you
want it. The SiliconDust wouldn't need a capture card (since the TV content
is streamed over Ethernet). The Hauppauge box above, has USB on the back
and connects to a single PC USB port (so the PC could do the recording).
The SiliconDust is the most flexible, but costs a bit more.

And all this hassle, for TV... :)

Paul

I will call Charter tech support. I have had to do that many times.
Thanks
 
M

Metspitzer

Anyone have one they recommend? How about what not to buy?

The cheapest card that is listed with a Google search is this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...E16815306039&gclid=CJ6n79isobgCFWZk7Aod22YAmg
It comes with a remote control, but I can't imagine needing to use it.
It looks like it comes with an external antenna. I don't see me even
plugging that thing up.

It also says it is PCI-Express x1 Interface. While I do have a slot
for PCI-Express x1 Interface, that kind of limits it's use. Why would
it not just use PCI?

20 bucks after a 15$ rebate.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...s+++TV+Tuners-_-Diamond+Multimedia-_-15306023
 
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P

Paul

Metspitzer said:
I ordered this card, but I canceled it because it looks like the
connector for the antenna is not a standard CATV.

A side view of the top connector, makes me think it is an RCA (Cinch)
connector. You need an adapter to get F-series on the other end. I
have some odds and ends like that.

I call these "bullets", or at least one in a series of bullet-like
adapters.

"Gold Series "F" Connector to Phono Plug Adapter"

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2103580

So you can still order your card, assuming it's going to get
something unencrypted from the cable (like local broadcast
stations - some cable systems, mirror the local broadcast
stations, and the card you've selected should be able to get
those ones).

Paul
 
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P

Paul

Metspitzer said:
This card still seems to be working fine. I just discovered that you
can use it with Media Player and that seems to even make the card
better. The biggest advantage of Media Player over the included
software is that Media Player will let you keep it on top of other
windows. All programs should give you that option.

The silicon on that thing, should be pretty good.

The Theater chip family used to have a pretty good rating.

And the price has come down a lot on those. At one time,
that card might have been $100 or so.

Paul
 

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