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Hardware Hacking Television Build Hardware

Most Hackable Coupon-Eligible DTV Converter? 479

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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  • Republicans? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:10PM (#26552805) Journal

    Why is this tagged republicans? Did I miss something?

  • by sillivalley ( 411349 ) <sillivalley@NOspam.comcast.net> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:34PM (#26553109)
    The little Apex 502 is one of the few coupon eligible converters with S-video out.
    If you have a TV or monitor with S-Video inputs, you'll get a better picture than using RS170 composite video (and much better than CH3/4 RF)
  • Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @06:38PM (#26553175)

    As far as using the output, there are ATSC converter boxes that can interface with the TiVo Series 2. Likewise, they could interface with anything that can accept composite or S-video and output IR signals.

    Blonder Tongue makes ATSC demodulators that can work via Web or RS-232, but I doubt they're coupon-eligible, and like any professional AV equipment, the stuff is heavy, rack-mountable, heats up like a kiln, and will cost a li'l bit.

    Your best bet is probably an ATSC capture device that works with MythTV. I won't begin to name any, since there are plenty out there. :-)

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by emeb2 ( 536129 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:47PM (#26554063) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Is this really true? I've been reading the AVR Forums for the last few months and apparently there are a lot of situations where the Broadcast Flag is being set. You wouldn't think that this is a problem, except that a lot of the DVD recorders on the market today do honor the flag and will only record programs that have it set onto DVD-RAM media (since that's the only media which supports recordable content rights managment). This has caused a lot of DVD recorder owners heartburn when they try to use DVD+/-R/W media and the recorders refuse to write to it when they spot the broadcast flag set.

    In fact one of the most annoying situations is when the main program _doesn't_ have the flag set, but one of the commercials _does_. Then the recorders will bail out partway through the session when they see the flag set on the commercial.

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

    by CyberNigma ( 878283 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:57PM (#26554179)

    yeah I tend to agree. I live in an apartment where my analog channels weren't perfect but were watchable (and audible), even with static. I get quite a bit of interference on and off and it's rather annoying when a digital signal cuts or has problems and the sound goes out entirely (even if the picture is just blocking)until it picks back up (sometimes the picture as well). It's quite a bit different than getting a bit of static (or even a big burst of static) in the picture and sound on an analog channel where it may be annoying but I don't miss anything (less it goes completely out).

    To me the sound is the most annoying aspect and almost seems like there is less tolerance there. Then again, digital cable isn't much better either, in fact its worse because of the higher compression and more outages I have gotten with it. In the cable arena I preferred analog over digital by far. As far as over the air, the quality of the picture and sound is so much better when it comes in, but there really does seem to be less tolerance for when it doesn't. Video and sound with some static in them is much more followable to me (maybe just me) than blocking video or sound that cuts out entirely.

    Again, I live in fairly old apartments. Another thing to consider is that with the frequencies that analog used, many were more resilient than what digital uses. Basically the VHF channels are probably what most people use to compare analog to digital. Since digital is closer to your UHF channels (which could be non-existent due to interference in some places) the only real comparison is with them. Basically the digital signals will only be as good as the weaker set of the analog signals. Going by that, digital (based on frequencies used as opposed to method used) is probably going to be worse in many cases than people used to watching VHF channels alone.

    In other words, NBC/CBS/ABC, given a user with weak UHF before and similar power output by the stations, is going to be worse than before as far as interference because it's no longer in the VHF spectrum. I consider it worse when I cannot follow the show (sound cutting off or the screen blocking where I cannot see the picture compared to sound with static and a picture with static - since I can follow a scene with quite a bit of static) So saying that over-the-air HDTV is better than over-the-analog (or vice versa) is really just BS since it's apples and oranges (unless you leave out VHF, which was the meat of analog). That's also why DTV antennas are so similar to UHF antennas.

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

    by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @08:55PM (#26554695)

    Not quite "dead and buried" - turns out that some broadcasters are using it anyway and some tuners are obeying it anyway. In fact, our buddy Microsoft is lead[ing] the charge [cnet.com].

    Not just Microsoft. The last time I tried to record a college football game from KLKN-DT, it was flagged "Copy Once". I could get neither VLC nor MPEG Streamclip on my Macintosh to play the resulting recording. I could however play recordings from the same game broadcast on KETV-DT that were marked "Copy Freely". Recording application was AVC Video Cap (which requires recompilation with patches to do delayed timed recording as of 2009, left as an exercise for the reader).

  • by nuxx ( 10153 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @11:18PM (#26555873) Homepage

    In case any of you are interested, I took photos of my teardown of the Zenith DTT900 [nuxx.net], one of the first available DTV converters, available here: http://nuxx.net/gallery/v/acquired_stuff/zenith_dtt900/ [nuxx.net].

  • Re:Sold (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:28AM (#26559995)
    HDCP dummies *do* exist. A mate bought one 2 years back after he discovered that HDCP wouldn't let him send HD content to his 12k UKP SIM2 rear projection HD TV, as it was an early model that didn't have HDMI. We suspect they spoof the encryption key of common HDCP devices by other major manufacturers, so it would be difficult for the keys to get blacklisted. Works great, was quite hard to buy...!
  • by stonefoz ( 901011 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:58PM (#26563531)
    Magnavox tb100mw9. Quick run down, now has voided warranty, power supply contains painted traces, no good. analog tv side is surprisingly well labeled, agc, sub-chan, aud-in, aud-out, agnd, vmute, etc etc. rf is standard sealed unit, well labeled, all pins. digital board is disappointing, unknown chips, strange "firmware load cable", an assumption and really small traces, wizard soldering skill only need apply. Possible to attache 30g wire to every other pin, does have unmarked breakout's though. All and all the analog side is quite hackable, I think I'll add an s-vid and spdif jack to mine. One of our local channels was at least attempting to broadcast music on a sub-channel (is that the new term for it?). Hope this is helpful.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's