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Hardware Hacking Television Hardware

Most Hackable Coupon-Eligible DTV Converter? 479

Posted by timothy
from the least-locked-down dept.
An anonymous reader writes "So I've finally gotten my DTV coupons, now I have to choose a converter before the analog signals go dark. I'd like to get one that is hackable, but haven't had much luck finding information about the internals of the units available. My question is: What chipsets do the different coupon eligible converters use, and which one is the most hackable? It'd be great to be able to send my own MPEG stream and have it displayed, or to grab the raw stream out of the device."
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Most Hackable Coupon-Eligible DTV Converter?

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  • by WarJolt (990309) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:04PM (#26552719)

    BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!!!!

  • HDHomeRun (Score:5, Informative)

    by raw-sewage (679226) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:07PM (#26552749)

    Not quite what you asked for, and I don't know if you can use your coupon (I'm guessing not)... but the HDHomeRun [silicondust.com] allows you two capture MPEG streams. It integrates well [silicondust.com] with MythTV [mythtv.org]. It has an open source library [silicondust.com]. Pretty sweet little device in my opinion.

  • by Flentil (765056) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:08PM (#26552767) Homepage
    That's on cable, not broadcast TV.
  • Re:Um.. WHY? (Score:4, Informative)

    by michrech (468134) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:09PM (#26552771)

    The DTV tuners on a USB stick won't be as nearly free as the converter boxes would be my first guess... ;)

  • HDHomeRun (Score:4, Informative)

    by TypoNAM (695420) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:11PM (#26552813)
    Why bother hacking one when you can get an HDHomeRun [silicondust.com] that has dual-tuners and it is networked across ethernet! Now it won't directly hook up to any TVs or what not, just computers. MythTV and other favorite software suites works with it just fine. It does have a $180 USD price tag though last I checked of which makes it out of your reach if you're having to get a coupon for a DTV converter box...
  • Re:Um.. WHY? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:11PM (#26552819)

    There are DTV tuners on USB sticks that are likely easier to hack than some single-purpose hardware like these converter boxes!

    I have one of those DTV tuners on a USB stick. Where do I plug the TV into it? How can you "send your own MPEG stream and have it displayed" with it?

    By plugging it into your computer's USB port and streaming Media Center to your Xbox of course.

  • Re:Um.. WHY? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:16PM (#26552873)

    Get a newer video card for your computer, THAT'S how! Even the cheap PNY Nvidia-based card I just bought recently has composite, s-video, and component video outputs on the back. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel!

  • Re:just sad (Score:5, Informative)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:20PM (#26552919)

    If you're looking to hack something you should use your own money to buy one and not mine.

    If he has an analog-only TV, he is entitled to a coupon. End of story.

    The poor people who didn't act earlier are also entitled to a coupon, but not his coupon. Any problems that the program is having getting coupons distributed are due to government incompetence, not coupon recipients.

    These coupons are paid for from the proceeds that the government made selling the old TV bandwidth. They compensate TV owners for the diminished value of their property resulting from the government action, so the coupon fund is not your money to begin with.

  • Tivax STB-T9 (Score:5, Informative)

    by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:20PM (#26552927)
    Tivax makes a converter box which is only about $15 with a rebate card and has a serial port [avsforum.com] on the back. I got two of them with my coupons. You can control the unit through the serial port (turn on, change channel, zoom, etc). You don't get access to the digital signal, what you get is a good quality analog picture at standard resolution, which your analog PVR can record. For me this was what I wanted; the HD stream itself is a deluge of data; you really don't want to capture it at full-res if you'll be watching on an SDTV. (In fact my old PVR box isn't fast enough to replay full HD video streams, it requires considerable CPU). I am using wish scripts to send the serial commands. Perhaps somebody has written code for MythTV to use it by now.
  • Valid info (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:25PM (#26552981)

    For the chipsets used, you can check the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_CECB_units .

    But as to hackability, I seriously doubt that ANY of these unit are sophisticated enough to run a real OS with some hacking potential. If you're a hardware wizard, you might be able to do something, but I don't see the value in spending lots of time trying to hardware hack a box which costs $10-$20 out-of-pocket.

  • Re:just sad (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:36PM (#26553143)

    And how, again, is attempting to improve the functionality of the equipment somehow invalidating his claim to the money?

    Are all consumers eligible for the coupon program?

    Yes, but supplies are limited. There are 22.25 million coupons available to all U.S. households. Once those coupons have been used, there are an additional 11.25 million coupons available only to households that solely receive their TV broadcasts over-the-air using an antenna. Households with TVs connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service are not eligible for this second batch of coupons. Consumers can apply for coupons until March 31, 2009, or until the funds are exhausted.

    From the governments website itself.

  • Sold (Score:3, Informative)

    by hax0r_this (1073148) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:36PM (#26553147)
    1. In the US the spectrum is already sold
    2. I highly doubt that we'll be seeing DRM on broadcast television any time soon.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pin0chet (963774) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:40PM (#26553215)

    What are you talking about? There are no "holes" to be patched--MPEG2 transport streams are unencrypted. Though I don't doubt that content owners would surely love to impose DRM on broadcast content, it's simply not provided for in the ATSC specifications [stanford.edu] for MPEG2 over-the-air transport streams.

    The infamous Broadcast Flag--the only element of DRM to have ever loomed over broadcast television--is dead and buried. Besides, none of the DTV converters currently available have any DRM-compliance built in.

    Barring the highly unlikely event that Congress decides to modify the ATSC spec after tens of millions of TVs with DTV tuners are owned by consumers, there is zero chance of DRM becoming an issue with digital television programming.

  • Dish Network (Score:2, Informative)

    by dricci (470949) Works for ThinkGeek on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:41PM (#26553227)

    Check out the Dish Network box. I admit, I haven't had a chance to actually try to use one of these, but the video I've seen of them in use looks really similar to their set top box firmware. Could just be some sort of theme though...

  • Seconded, kind of... (Score:4, Informative)

    by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:48PM (#26553331)

    I'm the happy owner of an HDHomeRun. It's a fantastic device, and I highly recommend it, but it's not a coupon-eligible converter. Normally, I would say to chuck the coupon aside and get it anyway, but the reason why the HDHomeRun isn't coupon-eligible is its lack of an RF output. You have to get the stream off the network, you can't connect it straight to the tv.

    Now, I have a mythtv box connected to my TV, so that's not an issue for me. If you have a computer serving as a media center I most definitely recommend it, but if you just want the streaming as a bonus, and still want RF output, then it's not for you.

    Again, this is not a criticism of the device. I absolutely love mine, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a way to stream unencrypted HD to their computers. Silicon Dust also has excellent forum support to help you set it up if you need it. However, if you want a converter box to hook directly up to your TV, this is not the device for you.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:51PM (#26553355)

    >The infamous Broadcast Flag--the only element of DRM to have ever loomed over broadcast television--is dead and buried. Besides, none of the DTV converters currently available have any DRM-compliance built in.

    You must be using a meaning for 'dead and buried' that I'm not aware of.

    If this were so, then there would be no way to turn it on. And if it were turned on, then nobody would looking at this flag. Neither is true. Otherwise, the Microsoft debacle (is that redundant?) would not have happened.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9946780-7.html [cnet.com]

    And big media are working hard to close the analog hole ASAP. Like their recent application (which was denied) to disable DVR's and analog outputs in exchange for letting people see movies in HD earlier than they have been releasing them to TV now.

    And aren't HD analog outputs going to be turned off in 2010 or 2011?

  • by Ped Xing (28860) <.bruce. .at. .callenish.com.> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:54PM (#26553403) Homepage

    Just make sure you get a converter box with Component Video out (also called YPbPr). Then you can use the Hauppauge HD PVR http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_hdpvr.html to capture the hi-def video to a hard drive.

    This is a solution that works for any HD settop box no matter what copy protection it provides, so long as it outputs component video.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:56PM (#26553437)

    First of all RS170 is black and white. You meant RS170A. Secondly, this myth about S-Video being oh so much better than composite is BS. Let me explain the big whopping difference between the two. S-Video sends the chrominance with associated burst on a separate channel from the luminance, which by the way is pretty close to RS170. On RS170A the sum of the luminance and chrominance signals are on one wire. I will admit that since everyone believes that S-Video is better that some engineers may have put more effort into routing this connection but from an analog perspective there really is no difference.

  • Re:just sad (Score:5, Informative)

    by nsayer (86181) * <nsayer@NosPaM.kfu.com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:57PM (#26553451) Homepage

    But the coupons aren't coming out of tax money, they're coming out of the license fees paid by Verizon for the 100 MHz of spectrum being taken away from the UHF TV band.

    You could argue, I suppose, that it all comes from the US treasury and so it offsets taxes, but the linkage is quite strong, since the conversion to digital has enabled the extra spectrum to be leased, which brought in the funds to pay for the coupons to subsidize the converter boxes.

    And yes, the conversion to digital really has enabled the band to be compressed. ATSC is more generous with adjacent channel allocation rules which allows the broadcasters to be packed in together tighter than was the case with analog. In particular, adjacent channels are allowed to be used by broadcasters transmitting from the same site. This is why channels 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44 and 45 will all be coming from Sutro tower post-2/17. You weren't allowed to do that with NTSC.

  • Re:Um.. WHY? (Score:2, Informative)

    by teknosapien (1012209) <teknosapien@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:58PM (#26553465) Journal

    Do you have the source code and schematics to your TV and included cpu/roms? Or your microwave or washer/dryer? Car?

    well yea I actually do have these schematics, most manufactures include them in the cabinet of the appliance. So if you would just poke around those mysterious machines you'll find them

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:58PM (#26553479)

    At least part of the reason to switch to the artefact-ridden compression-fest that digital TV is, is simply that it offers more chance to get some kind of DRM into the stream. And for this your chances to a hackable box decrease over time, when they find and patch more and more holes.

    Europe != the United States.

    Listen. The word "switchover" is kind of a misnomer. We're not switching "over", we're just switching "off". We've already got digital signals and have had them for years. That's how people get OTA HDTV. The standards are defined, the signals are being broadcast. All we're talking about doing here is turning *off* the analog broadcast. The digital feed is a known quantity.

    Digital broadcasts in the United States are much, much better than their analog equivalents. You won't be getting HDTV with one of these converter boxes, but you'll be getting the SD sub-channel, which has the advantage over analog of zero static. There is nowhere that anyone who watches analog TV can claim that. Personally, I don't see any compression artifacts at all on OTA digital broadcasts, HD or SD, although obviously the SD channels are lower in resolution than the HD ones. Over the air digital broadcasts, which is what these converter boxes are for, are actually the only way to get a full-bandwidth signal currently. (All of the cable and satellite companies molest the signal in various ways to maximize bandwidth.)

    And there's absolutely no DRM on OTA digital broadcasts. The industry tried to add some by asking the FCC to mandate a "broadcast flag", but that went nowhere. OTA signals are DRM-free - some *may* have the flag in a vain hope that the receiving hardware will respect it, but no currently-produced receiving hardware that I know of does. And I doubt any of the stations bother even inserting the flag anymore.

    Older, hackable, boxes, i.e. the ones you buy now, might be grandfathered because they don't want this rollout nightmare to happen again.

    They're not "rolling out" digital. It's already here. All this program is supposed to do is help people who haven't already upgraded, even though they've had about ten years to do so already.

  • by kopo (890010) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:09PM (#26553621)
    Some people have been mentioning DTV tuners with Firewire other outputs. Under the law that enabled the coupons, only RF, composite, and possibly S-Video output is allowed on subsidized converters. See #54 here [doc.gov].
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr@bhtooef[ ]rg ['r.o' in gap]> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:13PM (#26553667) Homepage Journal

    Except static on OTA analog lets the signal still be somewhat watchable.

    Poor reception on OTA digital = no signal at all.

  • Re:Valid info (Score:4, Informative)

    by russotto (537200) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:14PM (#26553679) Journal

    As a rule of thumb in hardware design, you make it as step-by-step debuggable as possible - Which in this case means planning for a tap after the decoding stage but before the downsampling stage.

    I would fully expect nearly all of these units to require nothing more complex than finding the right place to attach a connector or three to pull the fully-featured DTV signal from it, at a cost less than dedicated units that do just that, and you get to stick Uncle Sam for a portion of the bill.

    Unfortunately, no. Most of them are system-on-chip, with the demodulation, decoding, and downsampling all done within a single chip.

    The Channel Master 7000 and the DTVPal (based on a separate demodulator and decoder) have more options for hacking; the Channel Master box in particular was designed to have a digital audio output, which was scotched due to coupon box requirements. A few passive components restore the output, but it's muted; there's a JTAG port if you want to try your hand at firmware hacking.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:16PM (#26553703) Journal

    And the odds of him finding something "tweakable" with that coupon is pretty much zip, so the whole article is a wash. But if he really wants something to play with that involves his coupon here is what he should do IMHO-

    1. buy converter box with coupon. 2. Now that analog is being phased out you can get analog capture cards REALLY really cheap, $5-15 depending on where you get it from, so 3. Get a really cheap analog capture card and connect it to the output of the converter and then 4. Have fun streaming video, capturing shows, or making a DVR.

    Because from what I've seen of these boxes there really isn't enough guts in them TO hack, they are just primitive D/A converters. But I've been picking up analog capture cards really cheap and my customers are having a lot more fun with those than with anything you can do with those boxes. Those old Brooktree and Philips chipsets used in capture cards have been around for so long there are thousands of freeware and FOSS out there that can interact with it, and pretty much anything over 1GHz can run them just fine(in fact have a customer with a 900MHz Athlon that uses one to listen to radio and watch the news in his SOHO) so I'm sure this guy has SOMETHING with a PCI slot lying around. So if he really wants something to play with cheap a $5-15 capture card wired into the converter will give him more than all the specs in the world on those converter boxes would. Because there just isn't enough guts in them to hack one of those things.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pin0chet (963774) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:16PM (#26553705)
    You're mixing up Blu-Ray DRM with ATSC digital broadcasting. The "analog hole" with respect to unprotected outputs won't ever be disabled by broadcasters because the broadcast flag has been ruled enforceable. The article you link to specifies that MS merely chose to voluntarily comply with the flag, but there is no penalty for circumventing it and nearly every converter out there ignores it.
  • by BUL2294 (1081735) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:17PM (#26553719)
    You obviously don't know what you're talking about. NO converter boxes with component video are coupon-eligible. The only valid outputs are RF coax (ch3/4), composite (RCA yellow jack), and S-Video. A "coupon-eligible converter box" ("CECB") is limited by law to no more than 480i resolution.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:25PM (#26553795) Homepage Journal

    Sigh. Not your fault, but yours is the first post I've seen that actually tries to answer the question. To find your post I had to skim past 100 posts that say things like:

    • Stop watching TV
    • Device X is really great (never mind that Device X isn't coupon eligible)
    • Why do you want a hackable device? You can get this functionality off the shelf.

    I swear, Slashdot conversations get more and more solipsistic every day.

  • by xyzzy42 (740215) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:30PM (#26553845)
    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CECB#Limitations [wikipedia.org]

    Specifically excluded from coupon eligibility are High-definition video output and DVR functionality, as well as digital cable and satellite set-top boxes. These output features are prohibited: Component video, VGA, RGB, DVI, HDMI, USB video, IEEE-1394/iLink/Firewire video, Ethernet video, and IEEE-802.11/Wifi video outputs.

  • by gnu-sucks (561404) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:37PM (#26553949) Journal

    He's right. Unless the S-video source contains some extremely high-quality components and filters, you're better off with composite.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:39PM (#26553969) Homepage Journal
    Somebody mod parent informative. When the DVD recorder I bought a few years ago died, I decided it would be more cost-effective to replace it with a new one. I made several trips to electronics stores looking for one that would not just display a "You cannot record that" message when I tried to record some shows.

    At the time, I was recording from Comcast. They make extensive use of the broadcast flag, and ever DVD player I tried out obediently did exactly what it was told and refused to record when asked not to.

    So, yea, the broadcast flag is alive and well, and used pretty much by all the service broadcasters (Comcast, Verizon FIOS, Time Warner, Dish, etc.).

    But for for over-the-air TV, not only is there no broadcast flag, but re-broadcasters of local stations are banned from scrambling them.

  • Re:Sold (Score:2, Informative)

    by codemachine (245871) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:44PM (#26554011)

    Already exists in the form of the 'Broadcast Flag'. Hasn't been used much though, as the broadcasters know it'd cause backlash. Coupled with the fact it'd be ineffective, it does make it unlikely that the broadcast flag will see a lot of usage.

  • by cashman73 (855518) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:45PM (#26554029) Journal
    BSG is on Hulu.com [hulu.com]. No need for cable or broadcast TV. Just get an HDMI or S-Video cable and connect your PC up to your television.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nabsltd (1313397) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:48PM (#26554065)

    Though I don't doubt that content owners would surely love to impose DRM on broadcast content, it's simply not provided for in the ATSC specifications [stanford.edu] for MPEG2 over-the-air transport streams.

    Actually, the ATSC spec does allow any abitrary types of packets to be inserted into the stream. These could be used for DRM authorization, etc. The ATSC spec as adopted by the FCC [atsc.org] is a more relevant link, as is the conditional access specification [atsc.org], which specifically deals with this sort of thing.

    But, the FCC requires that the OTA broadcast be unencrypted, so normal MPEG-2 that is receivable by all will be there as long as the FCC controls the station license.

    The upshot of this is that nothing prevents a station from sending a 480i MPEG-2 stream as the unencrypted one, and adding an encrypted MPEG-4 1080/60p stream for paying customers. At this point, only market forces (in particular, network affiliations) will keep this sort of thing from being the standard for OTA TV in the US.

  • by Craig Davison (37723) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @08:23PM (#26554443)

    It's not a myth. The myth I see is people spending big $$$ on a quality gold-plated monster composite video cable. Even the cheapest (shielded) S-video cable will produce a better picture. Just look at the setup menu text on any cheap DVD player. Text with fine vertical lines would look blurry and have bleeding colour with composite video, but be crisp with S-video. Hook up your computer to a TV via composite and S-video and tell me which picture is more readable.

    I could see your point if we were talking about VHS. Regular VCRs (not S-VHS) only had composite out because that's as good as the signal on the tape is going to get. But DVD players, computers, and ATSC TV signals will all show improvement with S-video.

    I guess you posted anonymously because you're full of shit.

  • Re:Sold (Score:5, Informative)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @08:50PM (#26554651)

    Use of the broadcast flag or any other kind of DRM has been declared illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court, based upon their previous ruling that consumers have a right to use DVRs, VCRs, or similar devices to record & timeshift the programs.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by tonsofpcs (687961) <slashback@LIONtonsofpcs.com minus cat> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:06PM (#26554817) Homepage Journal
    Actually, Digital has a wider reach with the same power output which is why most stations have had power greatly reduced from their analog to their digital transmitters. Unfortunately, DTV is very susceptible to multipath (you see this as "ghosting" in analog, with a low-grade digital receiver, you see this as "no signal") and in many places, with the lower power required for interference prevention with neighbors, the coverage becomes reduced.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:08PM (#26554831)

    >>>At the time, I was recording from Comcast.......So, yea, the broadcast flag is alive and well, an

    Comcast is not broadcast you twit. It's narrowcasting via a cable, and has nothing to do with what we're discussing (over the air broadcast).

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:08PM (#26554841)
    analog has a far wider reach,
    This is, of course, bullshit, at least in my experience.

    But not in my experience.

    We are in a valley with no line of sight to TV transmitters. Out analog TV signal is marginal. Digital TV works most of the time, but depending on the weather it can break up or just go dead. So then we switch back to analog, fuzzy but still watchable.

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:13PM (#26554889)

    Still, the best target for a hackable box would be one from a company that produces a more powerful box, especially if there's very little if anything to distinguish them from the outside other than open holes in the backplate. To reduce cost of production, they might just have parts and not the ports, or the parts may be installable by a technically skilled end-user.

    A case in point was a TV with a remote that had no digit buttons. The traces were on the board inside, it would send the signals if a button would make the connection, and the TV would respond, but the remote just didn't provide the buttons and the holes were covered over. I also discovered an old 2-13 monaural VCR that would respond to the digit buttons of a more modern VCR's remote (button 1 was channel 2, 2 was channel 3, etc., and 0 was channel 11, but nothing would get 12 or 13).

    Many early cable boxes would have had Firewire out if they'd just installed the ports, a couple standard chips to the board, and applied a patch to the firmware, and if it wasn't a felony to open and modify them people would have.

  • Re:Sold (Score:4, Informative)

    by UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:15PM (#26554903)

    Something new, called Selective Output Control has been approved. This seems to be related to the HDCP (presumably HD Content Protection) already used with HDMI devices and displays. As I understand it, it can be used to restrict what quality of signal is available to any given display or other device.

    Of course, remains to be seen how the courts will treat this.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:18PM (#26554927) Homepage

    To add to the anecdotes, I plugged in the converter box I bought today, and I'm missing several digital channels that I get perfectly over analog.

    Oh, and the 4:3 signal output by the converter box has black bars on all four sides for almost every channel on my TV. I'll be conservative and blame the TV, though, since it's fairly ancient (relatively speaking).

  • Re:Sold (Score:5, Informative)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @10:10PM (#26555333)

    http://www.videohelp.com/forum/archive/selectable-output-control-mpaa-s-new-control-tactic-t354786.html [videohelp.com]

    -- the idea that a TV show should be able to disable parts of your home theater (for example, if MTV is worried that your Dolby sound outputs might be used to record the audio portion of music videos, they could shut down those outputs and only allow you to hear sound via the speakers in your TV).

    The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to engage in "selective output control" (SOC). If the FCC agrees, the MPAA and the movie studios it represents (Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers) would be able to "turn off" any output plug they choose,

    If I am unable to use my expensive surround sound speakers, and I'm stuck with the cheap speakers in my TV, I'm going to be very pissed.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @10:30PM (#26555483) Homepage

    mencoder will gladly strip that flag. run it through mencoder with no processing. it by default removed the evil bits.

    I do this all the time with lots of streams I snag from Comcast QAM feeds. windows apps will obey the evil flags, I prefer to violate them.

  • Re:Valid info (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eil (82413) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @11:14PM (#26555835) Homepage Journal

    Parent is scored +5, and rightly so since it's the only useful comment so far.

    To add, I also wondered the same thing. I bought the Zenith DT-901 (reported to be the highest-quality low-end DTV converter) and it's pretty darn spartan inside. Basically the only chip on the device is a SoC that handles everything, from the digital tuner to the analog output. I think there might have been some unpopulated JTAG headers, but other than that, there was nothing on the board to indicate that it is hackable. Even if it was, I doubt the firmware is anything close to publicly-available.

    In order to get the features you want, you'd probably have to splurge for a beefier tuner. One that can't be bought with the coupon and has features like shuffling off the digital stream over firewire.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @11:40PM (#26556065) Journal

    Here [newegg.com] or here [pricegrabber.com] or here [pricegrabber.com] if you want an older All-In-Wonder with S video. There are plenty of choices right now in the $15-$20 range and most have nice features like remotes and MP4 capture so you can take your time and get the features that interest you. I just checked and I'm afraid the place where I picked up a couple for $5 each has sold out, but the Sabrent and Kworld cards I have placed into customers computers in the past and they are quite happy with them. I myself picked up an "Easy TV FM" for $15 which I watch cable and listen to the radio with.

    they are quite fun to play with and you can add Media Portal [team-mediaportal.com] if you have XP to make a really cheap media center. Some prefer Xbox Media Center for Windows [xbmc.org] but I've had better luck with Media Portal. Anyway I hope this helps, and have fun!

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:38AM (#26559341) Homepage

    The broadcast flag only applies to OVER-THE-AIR ATSC broadcasts.

    Cable systems are an entirely different story. Unlike the ATSC standards where the limit of DRM is the broadcast flag (which IS dead and buried), cable systems DO encrypt their signals and DO use DRM on 95%+ of their content, and most cable boxes force 5C encryption on their Firewire outputs and I'm guessing HDCP encryption on HDMI outputs (although most cable boxes currently available have component and not HDMI - this will probably change soon). About the only exception to the encryption on everything is that cable providers are legally forbidden from encrypting OTA broadcast feeds that they carry on their cable system. Cable (and satellite) DRM has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the ATSC broadcast flag.

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