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Encryption Media Television Hardware Entertainment

An End To Unencrypted Digital Cable TV and the HTPC 345

Talinom writes "AnandTech has a writeup on how ClearQAM appears to be headed for an early death. From the article — 'At this point there's no reason to believe that cable companies won't deploy Privacy Mode across their networks, so it's a matter of 'when,' not 'if' this will happen. It goes without saying that if you're currently enjoying the use of a ClearQAM tuner to receive EB tier channels, you'll want to enjoy what time you have left, and look in to other solutions for the long-haul. At this pace, it looks like cable TV and computers will soon be divorcing.'" Update: 08/27 23:59 GMT by T : "EB" here stands for "Expanded Basic (cable service)"; Wikipedia as usual has a time-sucking, digressive, fascinating explanation about the tiers of cable TV service in the US.
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An End To Unencrypted Digital Cable TV and the HTPC

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  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:09PM (#29223103) Homepage

    you'll want to enjoy what time you have left, and look in to other solutions for the long-haul.

    I highly recommend podcasts, vidcasts, and similar. I am in the process of transitioning away from all mass media and switching entirely to user generated content. I have to say, once you get over the initial withdrawal, it is better. The stuff being produced by the indies is grittier and more real.

    It is somewhat lacking in the pure entertainment aspect -- the writing isn't as tight, and the production values are clearly less polished. But it makes up for that, at least for me, in the... texture? I don't know the right word -- somebody more versed in media would be able to say it better. As an added bonus, there are a ton of podcasts focused on hobbies and how-to. As a hacker, me likey a lot.

    JM2C -- as one who is making the transition, I have to say -- it is not that hard to dump big media.

  • Not happening (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sax Maniac ( 88550 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:10PM (#29223117) Homepage Journal

    I told my wife years ago that I wanted to cancel extended-basic cable ("EB") but she balked at missing Stargate. So, the deal was, I'd get her any Stargate series on DVD rather than pay $60 a month for digital cable.

    It turns out it was never necessary since I get EB over QAM with my analog basic cable. I'm sure they want to kill people like me off. But if it comes to pass, I simply will let it slide and buy the shows on DVD. I hate to be one of those "I don't have a TV" snobs, but I don't want to pay $60 per month, which goes up $10 every few years. And I most certainly do not want to rent any equipment.

  • Correction... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Asmor ( 775910 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:20PM (#29223267) Homepage

    You can't watch live TV if you can't break it faster than that.

    Unless I'm missing something, it should theoretically be possible to cache the stream and decrypt it on your own schedule. Would largely be invisible to anyone used to time-shifting the shows they watch anyways-- if I'm not planning to watch the new episode of [insert show here] until the next day after it airs, what do I care if it takes hours to decrypt?

  • bah (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:22PM (#29223305)

    I gave up my satellite TV subscription about a year ago, and I gotta tell you guys, I don't miss it.

    Sure, UFC is nice...but $10 at my local watering hole is a pittance.

    I was pirating sat TV for years, but to tell the truth, it's just too much work!

    So last year I transitioned to a DNS-323 with a custom BT client and scripted RSS feeds. Easy as pie. This setup, with a couple soft-modded Xbox's around the house, make for easy, cheap, and commercial-free TV on-demand.

    Who needs cable TV ? There are other choices now.

  • by vivek7006 ( 585218 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:24PM (#29223339) Homepage

    "Hauppauge's HD PVR that can redigitize the output of STBs for importing into a computer."

    Widows7, sagetv, beyondtv and mythtv support HD-PVR. So either I will switch to HD-PVR, or install an antenna and pull the OTA signal. In anycase, I will not be paying compact for their crappy DVR

    (right now, I use XP-MCE with HDHomerun)

  • by andymadigan ( 792996 ) <amadigan@gmail.MENCKENcom minus author> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:29PM (#29223385)
    On the other hand, I canceled my $120 since I couldn't get all the channels I wanted on my PVR (HBO, for instance). Now, I watch TV from Hulu and OTA. I switched to DSL as well. I hope others do as well.
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:43PM (#29223583)

    I have another suggestion: just get a Netflix membership. The cheapest level, which I have, is only like $7/month, and lets you watch all the online content you can handle. Unfortunately, it does require Windoze/Silverlight (anyone know how to run it on Linux?), but other than that, it's quite handy, and certainly much, much cheaper than your typical cable TV package.

    It's pretty cool being able to call up any episode of Star Trek I want to see at the moment.

    Personally, I just don't see the point in cable TV. There's so many movies I've never seen (Netflix has a large selection of foreign movies, which are really fun to watch) that I can easily spend all my entertainment time watching those, without ever going to a theater or watching live TV. The only thing worthwhile (barely) on live TV is local news, and that's free with rabbit ears. Wait, there's also some good stuff on PBS, which again is free with rabbit ears. And sometimes there's a decent show on network TV, like Lost, which again is free with rabbit ears. For other things, there's always BitTorrent.

  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot@NosPam.pitabred.dyndns.org> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:44PM (#29223585) Homepage
    I'm about to do the same. They just started blocking some of the OTA stations for me, so off goes cable.
  • by Roogna ( 9643 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:46PM (#29223621)

    How does this effect the FCC requirement for 1394 ports to be made available?

    http://www.1394ta.org/consumers/FCC_complaint.html [1394ta.org]

    While I don't know how useful the 1394 port is for building home based DVRs, it's still a legal requirement (from what I understand, I'm not a lawyer) for the cable companies to provide. And you CAN complain to the FCC if they won't provide a box with a working port. And by all means, if they won't provide it, complain! The cable companies (and phone companies) really don't like people complaining to the FCC, and the FCC in my experience from days gone by where I worked for a cable company, takes complaints seriously. Assert your rights!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:58PM (#29223795)

    It might not be game over, but it is end game. Because if I can't watch paid-for TV the way I want when I want, which is the fundamental principle the cable companies are messing with and for which there is good legal precedent that I am allowed to do (i.e. time-shifting), then what's the damn point of paying the exorbitant monthly fee when A) most of what is on TV is stupid reality shows anyway, and B) there are other legal options?

    Putting it another way, no, I won't waste my time and/or money trying to circumvent the DRM if they engage it. I'll just cancel the service, because by including that DRM they will make cable worth less to me. I'm not paying the same price for lesser service and greater inconvenience. I'll buy selected content legally from some other source, and the cable companies can pound sand. Sure, maybe 99% of their customers won't care, but if the quality on TV keeps dropping (seems inevitable), the hassle to enjoy it keeps increasing (DRM restrictions), and the price keeps going up, their customer base is going to peak and start to decline eventually. Advertising dollars will follow.

    What's worse is, everybody knows that what they're doing won't stop broadcast shows from appearing somewhere on the Internet within an hour of release anyway (that 0.0001% of your customers that will bother decrypting). Why are these companies wasting their time and money with this nonsense?

  • by jebrew ( 1101907 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:07PM (#29223903)
    On board with you...been without the cable for nearly a year now. Netflix, Hulu, OTA, and Google supply me with all the entertainment I should bother with anyway. If I can't find what I want in less than a minute, I shouldn't be sitting on my fat ass anyway, so I go outside. I think it's a really good paradigm shift. I've lost loads of weight since I got rid of cable.
  • Re:Correction... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:11PM (#29223949) Homepage

    It would depend, I would expect, on what layer they are encrypting. If N channels consist of N encrypted streams, being multiplexed onto the cable, then you could pull out and save a single encrypted string, for offline decryption.

    However, if the encrypted is done after the multiplexing, you might not be able to pull out individual channels. You'd have to grab the whole stream, getting all N channels, decrypt it offline, and then pull out the channel you want. That space requirements for that could be prohibitive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:28PM (#29224149)

    "The fact is that the FCC doesn't allow operators to encrypt HD locals, which is not going to change."

    Time-Warner cable operators regularly encrypt the stations that are local to their customers. If it were not allowed they would not be doing it because the FCC fines would be fairly large.

    Right now, in some markets, Comcast is sending local stations 'in-the-clear' but that will change in the very near future. In some other Comcast markets, they're already encrypting the local stations.

    Simply put, the FCC has very limited power of control in regards to the cable television providers. Cable providers could distribute hardcore pornography if they wanted to and the FCC could not do one thing about it, with the possible exception of issuing a Rule that requires some method of restricting access so that children can't stumble across it accidentally.

    Congress has passed no law requiring cable providers to send local stations 'in-the-clear'. Such a law might actually be unconstitutional. The FCC may or may not have made a Rule about it. If they did make a Rule about it, enforcement of that Rule is obviously lax. If it were merely a Recommendation, then there is no enforcement.

    Welcome to America.
    Bend over, please.
    Thank you.

  • by Telephone Sanitizer ( 989116 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:33PM (#29224217)

    I canceled cable a couple of months ago because Comcast moved a bunch of basic channels to the scrambled digital lineup. Thanks to the digital tuner on my tv, I had previously received the expanded basic package with digital broadcasts and no cable box.

    They offered me 6 months of discounted service when I called to cancel, but thereafter it would be $100+/month for the upgraded subscription and $14.95/month for the box to receive those previously very-very-basic cable channels. Comcast is offering free converter boxes in other markets so there may be more options for some people.

    OTA digital is superb. It was a bit of a PITA to run an amplified antenna to my window for decent reception, but I'm getting almost 40 channels where OTA analog could barely pull in 2 before, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

    Hulu and various other sites are filling in the gap very nicely.

    I wonder, tho, how those cable channels are dealing with the loss of viewers. I'm not going to kid myself and pretend that all of us who cancel cable because of this are more than a drop in the bucket, but there's got to be an impact from the channels disappearing from basic cable lineups. Cartoon Network, History Channel, etc. are now on a scrambled digital tier that fewer people can watch. What's their response to that? And how are advertisers reacting to the drop in viewers on those channels? 'Anybody know?

  • Re:Correction... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:03PM (#29224549)

    Its almost certain that the encryption is done prior to multiplexing, done inside the transport stream at the packet level even.
    That's way it works now with full-blown cablecard encryption.

    Plus, space requirements aren't that prohibitive, maximum bandwidth of a single qam channel is 38mbps - that's 2 to 4 HDTV channels depending on how much the cableco over-compresses their channels.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:05PM (#29224581) Journal

    >>>That'll just be an additional $9.95 per month rental fee

    That pissed me off when Comcast did it to my TCM channel. For years I've had it "free" with my monthly service, and then suddenly they moved it to the digital tier (and without two months notice as required by law). I'm supposed to pay an extra $5/month (times three sets) to watch it. Bullshit.

    This is what happens when you have a monopoly, and more importantly a government that is unwilling to regulate it. Perhaps it's time that Comcast got the treatment AT&T received in the 80s (broken-apart) and introduce choice for consumers.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:16PM (#29224709)

    The Firewire requirement only applies to HD set-top boxes, which (of course) Comcast charges even more for. So those of us (such as myself) who want to be left alone to watch analog and/or standard-definition digital TV in peace using our perfectly good [digital]-cable-ready TV without a shitty box would not only have to get a box, but get the most expensive one ($10-$15 per box, per month)! Far from being a solution, it merely adds insult to injury!

  • Re:Not happening (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:18PM (#29224745) Homepage Journal

    I hate to be one of those "I don't have a TV" snobs, but I don't want to pay $60 per month, which goes up $10 every few years. And I most certainly do not want to rent any equipment.

    I believe we have reached a point, where it is no longer "snobbery" to not want to be assraped.

    Really, I am not "too cool for TV." I am not weaned from the glass tit. I'm not too smart to look down on that drivel. My time isn't worth too much to veg out in front of a TV watching mindless crap. (Does this sound like a snob?) And yet: fuck you, Comcast. You're not getting my money unless you stop sucking.


    Huh, yet another /. post in the form of "fuck you, $COMPANY." I guess that's all there really is to talk about anymore.

  • Re:Kill your cable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by photomonkey ( 987563 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:24PM (#29224813)

    I did the same thing in February. We had a $180/month cable bill (including TV, Internet and telephone). Dropped the land line and the TV, and we're paying $45/month for the Internet.

    We don't watch much TV beyond the odd PBS show, and the OTA HD actually looks better than the stuff I was getting through Cox. And even if it didn't, the near $1600 we're saving every year lets us get out and have more fun. Not at home. Watching fat and desperate people sing for a shot at fame and supper.

    So yeah. 46" 1080p TV with rabbit ears, an Xbox360 (games and some streaming Netflix) and a bookshelf full of books.

    I miss cable like I miss chlamydia.

  • Re:Let me help you (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:36PM (#29224937)

    witopia.net I search long enough for a cheap and reliable proxy....

  • by FrankieBaby1986 ( 1035596 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @01:54AM (#29227439)

    Doing this is considered signal theft.

    This world is so absurd. I'm sorry, but if YOUR signal hits MY antenna, it's now my signal too. If your throw your ball into my yard, you better believe I'll keep it if I so desire, as you were the one who intentionally put it in my possession, so It must be ok. Encryption is irrelevant, if I can figure out how to read it, tough shit.

  • by stry_cat ( 558859 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @09:57AM (#29230241) Journal

    It's not that the government is unwilling to regulate it. It's that government grants them the monopoly. Your local government prohibits other companies from competing with the "authorized" cable franchisee. Get rid of this and allow companies to compete and at least you'll have an option to switch when one of them does something stupid.

Happiness is twin floppies.