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Two AMD TV Wonder DCTs (upper right) give the Velocity Micro CineMagix the first PCs with CableCARD support
The first batch of CableCARD-ready, high-end Media Center PCs is ready

Earlier this week Velocity Micro spread word that the company was approaching the final stages in readying the CableCARD-ready CineMagix Grand Theater and CineMagix Pro Cinema systems. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show last January, AMD took the veil off its Open Cable Unidirectional Receiver -- the TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner.   The TV Wonder DCT is the first of its kind, giving PCs the ability to tune NTSC, ATSC over-the-air, QAM encrypted ATSC and CableCARD support.

Velocity Micro will be the first PC vendor to bring the new TV Wonder DCT to the masses. The company is in the final stages of production and is already taking orders.

Unlike the original batches of ATI TV Wonder 650, Velocity claims the AMD TV Wonder DCT is stable and ready to go.  "The card itself seems to be a really solid product," said Velocity Micro Director of Product Development Chris Morley.  "The drivers are all inside Vista ... You can configure it as an over the air HD tuner; it will do analog, standard def."

Microsoft has already made it abundantly clear that CableCARD support is only for OEMs and system builders -- do not expect AMD OCUR cards to show up on eBay in the near future. Even with the hardware, systems require BIOS-level support and authentication; CableCARD PCs constantly ping CableLabs for authentication.

Drawing support from manufactures, Microsoft and AMD/ATI is no easy task either. Dell and HP demonstrated AMD TV Wonder Digital Cable PCs earlier this year, but corporate representatives from both companies stated these will likely be Q3 2007 products.

"Some of the traditional players in this space are looking to us to OEM these systems for them," said Morley. 

The focal point of the new CineMagix systems is the digital cable tuners, though the systems will also boast features not found on any other systems yet.  Blu-ray support for CineMagix systems is already available, but Velocity Micro is also the first system builder to include support for Vista's MCE plug-in support for PowerDVD.

Velocity's site claims its Intel-based Grand Theater systems will ship before mid-April followed shortly thereafter by the AMD-based Grand Theater systems.  AMD systems start at $1,795 and Intel systems start at $2,195.



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Pricks
By thebrown13 on 3/20/2007 12:54:02 PM , Rating: 5
No DIY HD Media Center = Not buying one. I'll stick with SD until I can build my own, thanks.

%#$@ing cable companies.




RE: Pricks
By Tsuwamono on 3/20/2007 1:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
i know eh? i hate it when they do that to us.


RE: Pricks
By TimTheEnchanter25 on 3/20/2007 1:52:57 PM , Rating: 2
At least they are using a somewhat nice looking HTPC case for their media center pcs. If I'm forced to buy an OEM version of one of these, I don't want it to be in the crappy looking mid tower cases that Dell and HP use.

I'm not sure that I'm willing to give up hope of building my own yet though. I really don't see why a big Mobo company like ASUS, can't make a special mobo with the cable labs stuff for the bios. If they bundled it with the tuner and registered it with cable labs, I don't see how that is a bigger risk for cable labs.

I could buy one of these and put it in a better case. Then I could upgrade it with better ram, a better CPU, a better GPU, and more add more HD space. Is cable labs going to care or even know if I did this? If not, how is anything different if I'm forced to buy an OEM pc?


RE: Pricks
By alifbaa on 3/21/2007 12:38:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing the reason for the OEM only rule has more to do with being able to charge a premium to early adopters than it does DRM. They are well aware of all the points you raised. So long as there is only 1 company producing cablecard tuners, they will do things like this.

Personally, I can't wait until the FCC finally forces all these companies, including the satellite companies, to do away with STBs and cards all together. That was originally supposed to happen in 2008, but I haven't heard a thing about it since they announced it two or three years ago.


RE: Pricks
By KillerNoodle on 3/20/2007 1:38:46 PM , Rating: 4
I'm with you, I'll stick to my HD solution before being forced to build a new PC that pings ServerX every Y seconds for authentication. Then again there will be a fix for that :-X.


RE: Pricks
By CorrND on 3/20/2007 2:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with the sentiment against the cable companies. One thing they do that doesn't make any sense to me given their generally crappy attitude toward customers is that local HD channels are unencrypted. Given that the majority of worthwhile HD content is on the locals, get a QAM tuner (Dvico's FusionHDTV, for example) and you're good to go. In most cases (although some areas get lucky) you can't get ESPNHD, TNTHD, etc, but whatever.


RE: Pricks
By Mitch101 on 3/20/2007 3:09:37 PM , Rating: 2
For real everyone should just try an ANTENNA. I know it sound barbarian but I get all the local channels in HD as well as 2 other cities in HD. Some as far away as 180 miles comes in on a clear day.

When it rains really hard I can only get my local city HD channels. No biggie.

The funny part is my local cable company wants to charge something like $15.00 for HD and rent me a HD Cable Box and to top it off they dont carry all the locals in HD. Yet I can get them with an antenna. Crooks.

My Antenna is in my Attic so there is no ugly antenna sticking out and it cost me around $60.00. I live 23-28 miles from most of the HD broadcasts in my area. My signals are in the upper 90's and low 80's on a rainy day.

Go to www.AntennaWeb.org and anything within 20 miles is easily picked up with an indoor antenna. 30+ miles I recommend something a little better. Preferably a Wineguard DO NOT BUY ANYTHING FROM TERK ITS JUST PRETTY JUNK.

You can always return the Antenna but just try it. Be sure to have a DIGITAL TUNER its not like that analog tin foil hat days with snowy pictures. You either get a PERFECT PICTURE or Nothing.


RE: Pricks
By walk2k on 3/20/2007 7:08:24 PM , Rating: 2
Besides the fact that many people don't get crap for ATSC reception... You can't get ESPN, TNT, HBO, etc..etc.. all the cable channels which is the whole point of CableCard.


RE: Pricks
By Bootstrap on 3/20/2007 5:52:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
One thing they do that doesn't make any sense to me given their generally crappy attitude toward customers is that local HD channels are unencrypted.

I believe that the FCC requires them to leave channels that are available for free over the air in the clear.

We pay for basic cable ($15 a month) and with the tuner I can get ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the local PBS station in HD. This covers 95% of what I watch anyway, so I'm very happy with the situation (I also get some additional digital content that we don't get over analog, mostly weather stations and such). I do wish Windows media center would support clear QAM, as the DVICO software is pretty bad (although the most recent version is a huge improvement), but all things considered, I have no incentive to switch to an expensive pre-built solution that will barely get me any more content than I already have.


RE: Pricks
By Bootstrap on 3/20/2007 5:56:34 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, I meant to say that I have a DVICO FusionHDTV 5 USB tuner.


RE: Pricks
By Anonymous Freak on 3/20/2007 6:48:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, they have to put all over the air channels in the clear, but they can still take technical measures that require you to have an HD cable box to receive it. (That's true of Comcast in my area. I pay for the $12.95/month 'limited basic' cable, and if I want to also get the HD channels, I need to rent a $9.95/month box. I can't get HD without that box.)


RE: Pricks
By Bootstrap on 3/20/2007 7:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting -- you've tried a QAM tuner and weren't able to get any channels? If Comcast is truly broadcasting clear QAM signals, then there shouldn't be anything preventing you from tuning them. I was pretty sure that any "technical measures" they take to prevent you from tuning clear OTA stations violates FCC regulations (how could they possibly prevent you from tuning it without encrypting the signal? either it's encrypted or it's not), but I'm admittedly not as up-to-date on this mess as others are. :)


RE: Pricks
By The Boston Dangler on 3/20/2007 8:31:38 PM , Rating: 2
All NTSC broadcasters in your area are available in-the-clear analog on all cable companies, the only equipment needed is a cable-ready TV. It's called "Must Carry". This law does not apply to digital SD or HD versions of those broadcasters. My (unnamed) company derives the analog version from the digital source, not OTA analog, in order to provide the best service possible.

As for all the extras, I charge extra for them. Sorry, I've got to make a living. By the way, WTF do I get for free from anyone?

I'm going to use the best cable boxes possible to:
1) Bring advanced products and services to market
2) Ensure high quality of those products and services
3) Prevent theft


RE: Pricks
By walk2k on 3/20/2007 6:43:50 PM , Rating: 1
You'll be waiting forever then as only OEMs can build CableCard tuners.


RE: Pricks
By Magnus Dredd on 3/20/2007 7:11:14 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.pchdtv.com/

Screw em, go Linux. This also ignores the crappy (you may not record this, you can only watch this X hours after it was on, you can only watch this X number of times) boradcast flag BS.


RE: Pricks
By Magnus Dredd on 3/20/2007 7:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
BTW, there is no way in hell I'll buy one of those proprietary fscking crippled OEM boxes. And unlike some people who post here, I'm a homeowner who can more than afford such toys.

I likewise decided to stick with Linux for my home server when I found the M$ home server was OEM only. What is it with Microsoft these days and trying to out-Apple Apple....

The only reason that Apple gets away with it is that they make the _whole widget_ and are very good at UIs. Microsoft has only ever been good at providing something mediocre that just happens to support every odd homebrewed gadget/system in existance. Once you take away the ability to make a home-built box, the only thing M$ has is that Windows has managed to become the major PC game platform.


RE: Pricks
By Houdani on 3/21/2007 9:49:32 AM , Rating: 2
I'm of the opinion that Microsoft and AMD/ATI aren't the jerks in this situation. They're hamstrung by CableLabs (ptooey) just like everybody else. The OEM thing is a concession made to the cable companies in order to be a third-party provider of these "goodies."


RE: Pricks
By tronsr71 on 3/20/2007 8:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps these kind of sales will spawn a new market for computer vendors.

Maybe they could offer a certain amount of money off the total by leaving the system unassembled. They could bundle all the components in shipping safe containers/boxes and then allow you the buyer, to build the computer and install the supplied OS.


RE: Pricks
By Samus on 3/20/2007 10:57:00 PM , Rating: 2
Unbelievable, the cable companies are forcing ATI to sell this card through approved vendors? That's gatta be illegal or something.


RE: Pricks
By TheDoc9 on 3/21/2007 10:56:36 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm sure they'll sell, but I'm not buying either. Honestly, there's so much control and loss of privacy with something like this that I'm more likely to give up cable and buy the tv shows on disc. The other thing is that all this control just pushes people further underground to get their content in privacy and drm free.

I'm reminded of a favorite quote; People can be likened to play dough in your hand - The tighter you squeeze the more they slip through your fingers.


Whats the diff?
By Alphafox78 on 3/20/2007 1:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
What is the difference between me buying the cheapest one they make and totally rearranging it with a new case, hard drive etc. vs. building my own (aside from cost)? I wonder how cheap you can get one, all you really need is the mobo and the cable card. you could get it with a celeron and 40gb hd and just upgrade all the stuff yourself. if we cant get the cablecards themselves, then this might be the only option.




RE: Whats the diff?
By rtrski on 3/20/2007 2:22:05 PM , Rating: 4
Reportedly (I hang out on a lot of Home Theater PC focused websites and forums) there are several protections:

1) there are special BIOS switches to enable the CableCard decryption...the version of the BIOS with it will likely not be given to consumer mobo purchasers. Doesn't mean it won't leak out eventually... that BIOS handshaking might also cry foul if too much other hardware changes, preventing you from just moving the mobo and card to an otherwise new system.

2) there will also be extra Vista keys to release the protected media path functionality for the CableCard, said keys presumably only available to the licensed OEMs. Again, presumably, moving the OS to a system with a lot of the hardware updated (including processor) might trigger the registration hash to not match. I bet they lock this one down even tighter than the usual installation/registration hash for Vista itself, which at least has to assume a user might upgrade processor and all peripherals outside of the mobo (and despite that, I've still had to call for permission on plain old XP more than a few times as I upgraded or replaced various hardware over the years...).

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on either of the above...would love to see a ray of hope for a homebuilt...but not counting on it right now. :(


RE: Whats the diff?
By Alphafox78 on 3/20/2007 2:59:18 PM , Rating: 2
thanks for the info.
also, they dont seem to make a 'cheap' version, they are all pricey!


RE: Whats the diff?
By JCheng on 3/20/2007 5:28:25 PM , Rating: 2
I can tell you from experience that a budget machine won't render fullscreen HD content in Vista Media Center without dropping frames. To have a good experience you really need a fast processor and at least midrange graphics card. Plus HD content fills up your hard drive pretty fast.


RE: Whats the diff?
By rtrski on 3/21/2007 9:39:10 AM , Rating: 2
JCheng: The AMD R6xx series GPUs (I know, not released yet, so I'm basing this entirely on "PR") reportedly has a 'universal video decoder' dedicated core on the chip to do hardware accelerated decoding of all standard media file types (e.g. MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, etc.)...perhaps a drop-in of the decoder engine from some of their multimedia products e.g. the Theaterpro 650?. Supposedly this drastically reduces CPU involvement for simply watching media as compared to other GPUs. I read this at:

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2007/03/16/r600_famil...

If true, then a lower-level CPU just might do the job fine. You'd still require at least a mid-range card for 1080p output resolutions, of course.


So HD or no?
By FITCamaro on 3/20/2007 3:15:45 PM , Rating: 2
So can this do HD cable or no? Personally, why not just build a PC with an HDTV tuner card in it, and plug your cable box into that? Or get just basic cable(no box) and a high def antenna. Sure you won't get the premium channels or espn and whatnot but still. Is there an issue with having a media center PC and a cable box under your TV?




RE: So HD or no?
By Alphafox78 on 3/20/2007 3:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
There arent any tuners available for HD unless your talking about over the air HD. you cant get a HD tuner for cable, unless you get this cable card thing. there are no 'video in HD' ports you can get either. you can jerry rig a firewire port, but to my knowledge it is kind of a pain.

You can have the media pc controll the cable box, but again its just SD TV.


RE: So HD or no?
By jkresh on 3/20/2007 5:01:23 PM , Rating: 2
actually there are a bunch of hd QAM cards which can deal with non encrypted hd (ie most local channels and occasionally more depending on your cable provider). Also setting up through firewire is int that bad (but you don't get encrypted channels). Having run both a QAM card (dvico fusion 3) and running firewire from my motorolla dct6412 dvr I can say the quality is about the same and since there are ways to get firewire to run through media center (and QAM is not supported in media center (or at least was not last time I tried the fusion) i prefer firewire). The only major problem I see with firewire is at least with Optimum (and I believe comcast) the only cable box's they have with firewire are dvr's so you have to pay for the dvr service to use it with your pc (though the pc still gives the benefit of archival and significantly more storage).


RE: So HD or no?
By JCheng on 3/20/2007 5:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
The best way to do this is with HDHomeRun, I know a lot of people who use this and have been very happy with the results (relative to the other solutions, like using OTA or the firewire hack).


Doesn't sound very open to me...
By theaerokid on 3/20/2007 1:11:23 PM , Rating: 2
Somewhat off the topic of the article, but...

quote:
At the Consumer Electronics Show last January, AMD took the veil off its Open Cable Unidirectional Receiver -- the TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner...

Microsoft has already made it abundantly clear that CableCARD support is only for OEMs and system builders -- do not expect AMD OCUR cards to show up on eBay in the near future. Even with the hardware, systems require BIOS-level support and authentication; CableCARD PCs constantly ping CableLabs for authentication.


Is OCUR open to MS and OEM's only? Not really all that "Open" if I can't build a system with it.




By KillerNoodle on 3/20/2007 1:34:04 PM , Rating: 3
They aren't talking about open in the sense of consumers....

They are talking about open in the sense of cable providers. Notice how it doesn't say "Available for Comcast, Cox, Starband, CableCompanyX".


TV Wonder?
By therealnickdanger on 3/20/2007 12:46:38 PM , Rating: 2
Very cool news, it sounds promising, but I think they might be taking a risk by naming it after the ATI/AMD product line of the same name.




RE: TV Wonder?
By JCheng on 3/20/2007 5:31:36 PM , Rating: 2
TV Wonder is indeed referring to said ATI/AMD product line. The OCUR tuner that they are using is an ATI/AMD product.


Stop gap
By Frazzle on 3/21/2007 11:57:52 AM , Rating: 2
This is all interim anyway. A lot of cable providers are moving to switched cable broadcasting in the next few years so this technology as it stands now will eventually be obsolete for a lot of consumers, at least until cablecard 2.0 comes out, which wil require new hardware and probably implement an updated protection scheme.

btw, as far as Cable Labs, keep in mind that their customers are not us, the consumer, but the cable companies and content providers. CL is taking their needs and desires into consideration and those needs are protecting their content and delivery systems. I don't blame CL or the cable companies for this crap. I blame the yahoos that illegally torrent HD programming. If Fair Use was actually being used fairly by all consumers then we wouldn't be burdened by all this DRM garbage in the first place. Sure, I understand it's only a small percentage who pirate, but that small percentage is royally screwing the rest of us over. The cable companies and content providers aren't spending these boatloads of money on DRM protection schemes purely for their health or to get their jollies.




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