Vista Media Center CableCARD FAQ

Q: How can I get CableCARD on my current PC?
A: You can’t.  Because of CableLabs regulations you can only get
CableCARD on specially designed and certified PC’s.  There are various
components and steps that are done by OEMs in order to get CableCARD
working.  Obtaining the Digital Cable Tuner (also called an OCUR) and
plugging it in will do nothing to get you a working system.

Q: What’s needed in an OEM system for CableCARD?
A: Various bits are needed including a special BIOS on the motherboard, a
second COA in addition to your Windows Vista COA (eg. two different product
keys), and the Digital Cable Tuner itself (OCUR).  OEMs must meet specific
sales requirements to become a  Microsoft OEM in order to offer CableCARD
PCs.  OEMs also have to sign a number of documents and return them to
CableLabs which puts them under various legal agreements in terms of what they can
and can not do.

Q: Are CableCARD PC’s
certified by CableLabs?

A: No, CableCARD PCs are not certified by CableLabs. 
Instead the PC OEM must sign a legal document and send it to CableLabs saying
that their PC meets the bar that CableLabs has set. 

Q: Who currently offers CableCARD PCs?
A: As of writing, Velocity Micro, Sony, HP, Vidabox, Niveus Media, S1Digital, Okoro Media, Fluid Digital, Cannon PC and
Dell
are currently shipping CableCARD PCs.

Q: What is SDV and how does it affect me?
A: SDV stands for Switched Digital Video.  Various cable companies are
deploying this in order to be able to distribute more HD content over their
existing infrastructure.  What it means to you is that one-way CableCARD
will not be able to interact with a SDV network correctly.  SDV requires
two-way communication, Digital Cable Tuners (OCURs) are one-way
(uni-directional) only.  This means that if your cable provider is
switching to SDV, you will not likely be able to access any new HD content they
plan on adding.  Please check with your cable provider to know if they
plan to switch to SDV or already have.  There is no timeline or guarantee
that CableLabs, ATI, and Microsoft plan to offer upgraded Digital Cable Tuners
to fix this issue.  See BOCR below for more.

Q: Will the TiVo SDV
Adaptor work with CableCARD PCs?

A: While it is not known for sure, CableLabs is not
targeting the adaptor at PCs.  More information here.

Q: Is Two-Way CableCARD Programming Avaiable?
A: No.  Digital Cable Tuners provide one-way communication only.  See
BOCR below for more.

Q: Can I access On-Demand content?
A: No.  CableCARD support in Vista Media Center supports only one-way
communication.  Access to On-Demand programming requires two-way and is
not included with CableCARD in Windows Vista.  See BOCR below for more.

Q: Can I order Pay-Per-View with CableCARD?
A: No.  Pay-Per-View also requires two-way communications, which are not
supported in Windows Vista or by the Digital Cable Tuner (OCUR). 
Depending on your cable provider, you might be able to call in your
order.  I do not know the details on this, but ask your cable provider for
details.  See BOCR below for more.

Q: Since Two-way programming is not supported, do I
get a Program Guide (IPG, EPG)?

A: Yes.  Vista Media Center has it’s own Electronic Program Guide (EPG) so
you don’t need two-way CableCARD communication to get access to it.  You
do need an active Internet connection for EPG downloads.

Q:
What is a BOCR that I keep hearing about? Will it help some of the issues
above?

A:  BCOR stands for Bidirectional OpenCable Receiver, which is the upgrade
to OCUR.  They will feature bidirectional communication, M-Card support,
and OCAP.  More information Here
and Here

Q:
What is the approximate cost of each OCUR/Digital Cable Tuner?

A:  On average the cost per tuner is $300.  Prices are high due to
the large cost of certifying and developing a product alongside
CableLabs.  Dell’s XPS 420 has dual CableCARD options for
~$180/tuner.  They can’t be purcahsed alone through Dell at this point, but if you are
in the market for a inexpensive PC look at Dell.   You can buy them for $300/each at SonyStyle.com.

Q: How many CableCARDs can be used within
Vista Media Center?

A: Windows Vista officially supports recording from two CableCARDs.  Your
OEM must include two Digital Cable Tuners for this to happen.  If your PC
included a single Digital Cable Tuner, only your OEM can sell you an additional
tuner (Sony just started selling them online, see the CableCARD category on the
sidebar for more).  Two additional ATSC (OTA) tuners are also supported at
the same time.

Q: How many total tuners can be recorded
from in Vista Media Center?

A: Vista Media Center supports a total of four tuners.  Two CableCARD
tuners and two ATSC (OTA) tuners.  All four tuners can be recorded from at
the same time.  This differs from a TiVo Series 3 which can only record
from two tuners at any given time.

Q: Can you hack the number of CableCARD tuners like
you do NTSC/ATSC tuners?

A: Yes.  The same methods work for hacking the registry for using more
than two CableCARD tuners as work for adding additional NTSC/ATSC tuners. 
Search The Green Button for more.

Q: Can Vista Media Center record
unencrypted QAM (Clear QAM)?

A: Yes.  If you have a CableCARD PC you can record unencrypted QAM (Clear
QAM) by setting up your Digital Cable Tuners without the CableCARD in the
slot.  Anything recorded from a Digital Cable Tuner without a CableCARD
will be unprotected.  The only other way to get unencrypted QAM support in
Vista Media Center is to use the HDHomeRun tuner.  No other tuners
(Fusion, HDTV Wonder, HVR-1600, etc) will allow for unencrypted QAM within
Media Center.

Q: Is the content recorded in Vista Media Center
protected?

A: Depends.  If you are recording from a CableCARD then everything you
record will be protected.  Protected content can not be editing using
third party programs, burned to DVD Video, or played back on another PC. 
The protected content can be played back on Media Center Extenders.  If
you record from a Digital Cable tuner without the CableCARD (unencrypted QAM)
then all the content will be unprotected.  You will be able to edit it,
burn to DVD Video, playback on another PC, etc.  Content recorded from
ATSC (OTA) HD tuner is not protected.   Content recorded from
NTSC/analog tuners can be CGMS-A protected.  This generally is applied to
HBO, Starz, and other premium channels.

Q: Can CableCARD content be played back on an Xbox 360?
A: Yes.  You can use the Media Center Extender blade on the Xbox 360 to
connect to your Windows Vista PC and have access to Live and Recorded
content.  You can also use the music, video, online, and Guide features of
Media Center just as you would on your PC.

Q: Are there any other devices that CableCARD content can be played on?
A: Yes.  Various v2 Media Center Extenders are starting to ship. 
Linksys has their DMA2100 and DMA2200, D-Link has their DSM-750,
and Niveus Media will have their EDGE Extender.  HP currently offers a free software
upgrade for their MediaSmart HDTV line.  All of these can play CableCARD
content, a max of five (5) can be connected to a PC at once.

Q: Can CableCARD content be transferred to portable devices (iPod, Zune)?
A: No.  Because of CableLabs restrictions and Microsoft’s DRM content can
not be transferred to portable devices or any kind.  It can only be played
back on Media Center Extenders and the PC it was recorded on.

Q: Can I record CableCARD content
directly to a NAS or network share?

A: No.  Vista Media Center doesn’t support recording directly to a
NAS/Network Share/Windows Home Server, and more over CableLabs does not permit
this situation either.

Q: Can I move CableCARD content to a NAS or network
share and have it work?

A: Yes.  According to various reports I have heard this should work
fine.  It also should include moving it to Windows Home Server. 
However, you can not directly record to a NAS/Network Share/Windows Home
Server.  Please note that while content can reside on a NAS/Network
Share/Windows Home Server it can still only be accessed by the Vista PC it can
recorded on and by Media Center Extenders.

Q: Is CableCARD available in Canada or outside the US?
A: No.  CableCARD is only supported within the United States.

Q: Does DIRECTV or Dish have a similar
tuner?

A: Currently, no.  However, DIRECTV is planning a Media Center tuner and
it is rumored that Dish is doing the same.  More information here.

Q: Who installs the CableCARD in my PC?
A: Depends.  Your cable provider will either provide you with the
CableCARDs to install yourself, or they will send out a tech to do it. 
You will then need to call your cable provider to complete or process.  If
a tech installs the CableCARD, he/she should take care of everything.

Q: I hear CableCARDs themselves have a large failure rate, is that true?
A: Yes.  CableCARD is a great idea, but a pretty flawed technology in
terms of quality control.  There is a good chance that one of the
CableCARDs you will get might be bad.  If so, contact your cable provider
to obtain a new cable.  In addition, there have been a few cases of the
Digital Cable Tuner failing.  If this happens to you, please contact your
OEM.

Q: Can I run one Digital Cable Tuner with a CableCARD
and another without?

A: No.  Both Digital Cable Tuners must be configured with the exact same
source and options.

Q: How much do CableCARD cost to get from
my cable provider?

A: Costs vary based on provider, but the average is from $1.50 to $4. 
Some cable providers will even lease them to you free of charge. 

Q: Can anti-virus or firewalls interfere
with CableCARDs in Windows Vista?

A: Yes.  Windows Live OneCare, Norton Internet Security, McAfee Internet
Security Suite, and many other firewalls can prevent Windows Vista access to
your Digital Cable Tuner and cause errors like “Tuner not
found.”  To fix this, see the “Activating a CableCARD” at Microsoft’s
website.

Q:
Have a specific question about the Dell XPS 420?

A: Check out me Dell XPS
420 CableCARD Q&A

Q:
I have a question not answer here, any other sources of information?

A: Yes.  S1Digital’s
CableCARD FAQ
, Microsoft
CableCARD and Digital Cable FAQ
, and Comcast’s
Digital Cable Tuner FAQ
.  Don Dumitru also has some great information
about troubleshooting, Digital
Cable Tuners – What Can Go Wrong
.

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