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Time Warner Cable Patents Method For Disabling Fast-Forward Function On DVRs

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the no-skip-for-you dept.

Digital 298

antdude writes in with a story about a patent that won't have DVR users skipping for joy. "Time Warner Cable has won a U.S. patent for a method for disabling fast-forward and other trick mode functions on digital video recorders. The patent, which lists Time Warner Cable principal architect Charles Hasek as the inventor, details how the nation's second largest cable MSO may be able prevent viewers from skipping TV commercials contained in programs stored on physical DVRs it deploys in subscriber homes, network-based DVRs and even recording devices subscribers purchase at retail outlets."

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Patent good in this case (5, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#40392271)

At least the damage will be restricted to one company, albeit a major one.

Re:Patent good in this case (5, Insightful)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 years ago | (#40392375)

For those who don't want to read technical details it can be summarized like this: Time Warner patents yet another "Method to create disincentives to honest buyers and drive people into piracy"

I'm sure it will be a great sucess and useful as yet another argument why pirates kill their business.

Re:Patent good in this case (1)

PKFC (580410) | about 2 years ago | (#40392907)

Can't this be a good thing? Because implementing the same system in other TV service would need licensing which would be money which would be skippable then. Time Warner customers are boned, but hey, better for the rest of us

Re:Patent good in this case (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40393013)

Just so nobody patents this idea, here's how I would do it for DVRs running my software--I would encrypt the video, but change the keying after each commercial break. The software would not unlock the key for the subsequent program material from either an online (via 'net) or local (offline storage on the DVR) until the users had viewed the commercials at normal speed... One would use any method to detect the start of the commercial block--or heck, commercials could be unencrypted.. the method of determining when in the program keys change could be used for the commercial start/stop detection too... One could even inject streaming live/updated ads (that allows them to be changed if the user views the program later and get up-to-date ads... there, now they can't patent THAT idea either) and the streaming server could unlock or send key updates which would permit even more data gathering possibiliites... WHeee this idea thing is easy!

Re:Patent good in this case (4, Insightful)

skine (1524819) | about 2 years ago | (#40393163)

Their business is showing advertisements to as many people as possible.

Entertainment is only the method they use.

Re:Patent good in this case (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392553)

In case anyone's allergic to the word "substantially" and can therefore not read the patent, here's the gist: The patented method is to leave out seekable frames ("I-frames") and send sequences completely as frames which depend on previous frames.

This is, of course, completely pointless, since a DVR can simply start with a black frame and apply dependent frame information to that. As soon as the whole picture changes, particuarly at the end of the ads, the differences will encode the full following picture and remove any artifacts (VLC used to seek like that). If any DVR is fooled by the lack of I-frames, I'm sure a solution is just a quick software upgrade away. I suspect that sending overly long sequences of dependent frames is also going to piss off zappers and may be a violation of the compression standard.

Re:Patent good in this case (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#40392665)

Is this just an unbelievably bad idea, or do I not understand it properly?

It would seem that, to function as a video playback device, The cable box/DVR would have to have enough data to reconstruct every frame in the program, at or before the time it needs to be displayed. Whether you only need a few frames in order to compute frame N, because of fairly frequent i-frames, or whether you need every frame before N to compute N, the DVR can still compute each frame, and so skip anywhere it wants(unless, of course, it was physically unplugged/off/not getting a usable signal, I'm sure customers with flaky reception are going to love having minutes of artifacts after every dip...

Re:Patent good in this case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392805)

The patent includes a method for requesting I-frames, which the network will only send if it knows that the receiver hasn't already been receiving this program (or if it allows fast forward, etc., for the current sequence). That at least covers the zappers.

And yes, at worst the decoder just has to decode the entire stream up to the seek point, which doesn't really take that long with current decoders. A recorder could even decode the stream during recording and interject additional I-frames the same way the network removed them. I don't see this going anywhere.

Re:Patent good in this case (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#40392829)

In this case, it's "patent good". You want the money from this idea? Sure, write it all down here please. It's public, by the way. Cheers.

Re:Patent good in this case (3, Insightful)

Zuriel (1760072) | about 2 years ago | (#40392547)

You're overlooking the other major upside to this patent: technical details will be available to MythTV's developers and added to the commercial skipper.

Re:Patent good in this case (2)

Denogh (2024280) | about 2 years ago | (#40392875)

At least the damage will be restricted to one company, albeit a major one.

No, this just means one company will make bank licensing the method to other companies.

Re:Patent good in this case (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#40392967)

You really think so? You are sadly mistaken, as others will license it too. Its not like it comes out of their pocket, they just pass the cost along down to your bill.

This is a great patent... (4, Insightful)

__Paul__ (1570) | about 2 years ago | (#40392291)

...and I'll make sure to avoid any device that lists it in its manual.

Re:This is a great patent... (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#40392541)

Unless you are buying cable headend equipment, don't expect to see it listed in anything you buy.

Re:This is a great patent... (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40392803)

Side note: My Antenna TV is free. :-)

Buying devices w/o TW's feature won't help to defeat it. If the patent works as well as it claims, it operates similar to Macrovision by deliberately introducing video errors. With Macrovision the errors prevented analog copying, and with TW's new patent the errors prevent playback at any speed faster than 1.

Of course these digital errors won't harm my Super VHS at all.
Being analog it ignores all digital trickery/flags.

Waiiiiit a minute... Huh? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392301)

Disabling the fast-forward function on a DVR would likely spark a backlash from subscribers, and make it more difficult for Time Warner Cable to compete with DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and other multichannel providers that distribute DVRs that allow subscribers to skip commercials.

So... You're ROCKSTAR PR department lets THIS part slip but... I'm lost.

Re:Waiiiiit a minute... Huh? (2, Insightful)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#40392329)

the only appropriate response to time warner cable is FUCK YOU. some of us will be saying it with our money, but it would be nice to see someone get this point across in some tangible way.

Re:Waiiiiit a minute... Huh? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#40392997)

If enough people got on-board, tweeting about it might help. Time Warner pays attention to it and, frankly, they do NOT want to be a trend.

Re:Waiiiiit a minute... Huh? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392377)

My thinking was "Time Warner Patents Method Of Quickly Losing Cable Subscribers."

But I think we're on the same idea

Re:Waiiiiit a minute... Huh? (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#40392557)

Yeah, this is one DVR patent I can't imagine Dish Network won't be shamelessly stealing, given they are currently being sued for *adding* a smart commercial skip feature to their DVRs...

Re:Waiiiiit a minute... Huh? (2)

GIL_Dude (850471) | about 2 years ago | (#40392947)

But then again, maybe they will steal it - or license it. Can you just imagine a cable ad sales rep talking to a marketing person who is looking to place advertising? We can give you the standard service for $x. But, customers can skip those - and our studies show that your target market mostly skips them. For $2x, we can give you an unskippable ad that your target market will be forced to show. No skipping on those premium ads.

Whatever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392309)

Try stopping me from peeing during the ad break - which means moving away from those dipshit advertisements that sell shit - and they're all shit.

If it's advertised on TV it's shit - no exceptions.

IT works great.

Really. YOu save A LOT of money when yo ignore those ads..

Next (5, Funny)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#40392313)

Next they'll be patenting eye clamps so you can't shut your eyes and a tongue strap so you can't go "la la la la la" during the commercials.


Find another way to make money, you morons.

Re:Next (1)

PNutts (199112) | about 2 years ago | (#40392411)

Find another way to make money, you morons.

OK. They just doubled your rate and moved everything except goverment / religious to premium tiers.

Re:Next (2)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#40392443)

Find another way to make money, you morons.

OK. They just doubled your rate and moved everything except goverment / religious to premium tiers.

Good! Advertising is a disgusting, sleazy thing in all forms.

Re:Next (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40392603)

Advertising is the only thing that makes TV affordable. The BBC provides 3 channels of newly produced ad-free content, but also charge ~$250 per year. Multiply that by a 70 channel basic package, minus the 20 noncable broadcast channels, and you have a bill of $4250/year for your ad free CATV. (Almost 6 times the current ad-supported cost.)

Re:Next (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 years ago | (#40392819)

That's also because they force a whole three channel's worth of programming down your throat, when all I want is a couple of shows. Say I want to watch two hours of television per week; that's 1/36 of the programming the BBC offers ( 3 channels x 24 hours), so that's ~$7/year. Yeah, I could live with that. Maybe they shouldn't go with an antiquated model where they need to fill up every hour of every day with unique content, most of which is rubbish and unwatched, and just let people watch what they want, when they want. There is no longer any compelling technological reason for time-slot television.

Re:Next (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40393047)

>>> ~$7/year

$7 for 104 hours? That's equivalent to eight seasons of Doctor Who..... which costs about 3 million dollars to produce just one episode. The Season Set DVDs would be $400 alone...... WAY higher than your unrealistic $7 estimate.

Re:Next (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40393193)

I actually subscribe to your ideal TV service for about $25 a month. Commercial free and in HD. No time slots. I watch what I want, when I want.

$15 Netflix
$10 Usenet
$0 PirateBay

$50 uncapped 18 Mbps internet is multipurpose, so I don't include it.

Re:Next (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40393185)

OK. They just doubled your rate and moved everything except goverment / religious to premium tiers.

Awesome. That's all I watch anyway.

Re:Next (4, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#40392489)

already they have doubled rates (at some point, they were half, right?) and yet we still have crap on the networks.

so, your theory is BS. no matter how much we'd pay, they would STILL want to dip further into ad money. movies were once ad-free and pay-tv was once ad-free. none of that is, anymore.

I have zero hope in people Doing The Right Thing(tm) when it comes to us paying and getting ad-free services. so, I pirate, you pirate we all pirate. its what they have forced us to do. their fault. fully their fault for the war on eyeballs and eardrums.

they want war? they'll have it. and they'll lose.

btw, someone said there was a DEC logo here. I didn't see it, as it turned out I had many images blocked. I went to an 'unblocked' browser and was amazed at how BAD slash was when unfiltered. running firefox with noscript and adlock and a hefty filter list, I had totally forgotton how BAD the raw internet had become. and so, there is yet another proof that if there is an opp. the farking bastards will seize any free space and try to put an ad up there.

no more commercial tv, no more dvd's that have not been ripped and edited, no more unfiltered ad-laden internet. they WILL NOT GET MY EYEBALLS. fuckers!

Re:Next (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40392675)

>>>already they have doubled rates (at some point, they were half, right?) and yet we still have crap on the networks.

In the 90s cable was cheap (25-to-30 dollars) because channels were just airing reruns of broadcast television. Once they started producing original shows like Sliders, Stargate, Haven, Deadliest Catch, La Femme Nikita, The Closer (et cetera), they needed more money, and so the channels increased their per-home subscriber fee.

The average used to be 30 cents and now it's about 70 cents. Naturally those costs were passed to the customer by raising rates to 65-70 dollars. The subscriber fees doubled, and so too did the monthly fee. All to produce new shows.

put sports / ESPN it is own pack / theme (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40393083)

put sports / ESPN it is own pack / theme pack.

The sports channels added to all to get cost at round the HBO level. Also you should be able to get a Sports only pack with out all of the general entertainment channels (ok some like WGN, TBS, TNT, and (NBC does use it's news channels for NHL playoffs and olympics but that is a limited time and not year round)

also on a other note lots channels that few people watch like VH1 Classic, Centric, Cloo, Current TV, WE tv, and so on.

I say have a sports pack (local rsn, espn, nbc sports, big ten (in market) , a main general entertainment pack, a news channel pack, maybe a out of market sports pack or higher level sport pack that can have big ten (out of market) out of market RSN's (no live PRO games read on), Yes (out of market feed), fox college sports.

also have a soccer pack with Fox soccer, Fox soccer plus and GolTV.

other packs as needed.

For out of market pro game you do have NBA LP, MLB EI NHL CI and NFL ST.

Re:Next (1)

cluedweasel (832743) | about 2 years ago | (#40392531)

That's pretty much how our local cable operator works. Basic is pretty much the 4 networks, religious and shopping channels. That's it for $20 per month. Want anything more and it's $48.99 per month for ESPN, HGTV, USA, A&E, TNT, etc. Of course, boxes, DVR's and the like are extra on top, to the tune of $15 or so each per month for a DVR. Personally, I'd love to have channels delivered a la carte. I don't need, or want, ESPN which apparently costs $4.69 per month per subscriber according to various sources. Looking though my $48.99 per month list of channels, I probably watch 8 or 9 of them at best. There's another 5 I''d watch if I could pay for them individually, but buggered if I'm going to pay $14.99 for an "entertainment" package, $14.99 for a "sports" package and $16.99 for an HBO package in order to watch Fox Soccer, BBC America and HBO. As for ads, they suck. I record to an HTPC and auto removed the things.

Re:Next (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40392739)

>>>[Basic is] $20 per month. Want anything more and it's $48.99 per month for ESPN, HGTV, USA, A&E, TNT, etc.

I wish cable operated more like Dish. They have multiple tiers, rather than suddenly jump a huge amount in price. (BTW $49 is cheap. Comcast charges my area $60 for just one TV! nuts.)

$15 - basic
$25 - family
$35 - America's Top100 (150 if you include both East and West feeds)
and so on.
You get to decide how much you want to spend, and save some money.

we should be able to buy the box like canada (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40393105)

we should be able to buy the box like canada with no outlet or mirroring fees no forced to rent a cable card.

Also cable card is a nice idea but the cable co really messed it up and some things just work better with there own boxes then with your own box with a cable card.

Re:Next (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#40392435)


While that's mostly true (with the possible exception of the Superbowl commercials), some people consider watching ads to be preferable to the alternatives, such as paying for premium channels, or spending money on a DVR, or getting off the couch and walking out of the room when an ad comes on, or simply not watching television at all. If people disliked ads so much that they never watched them, then ad-supported television would quickly cease to exist.

So "people do not want to watch ads" doesn't tell the complete story.

Re:Next (3, Interesting)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#40392611)

None of those reasons you give add up to people wanting to watch ads. They add up to people being too lazy or whatever to NOT watch ads. That's different.

If ads were creative and amusing, even occasionally, they might be worth watching, but I am sick of being shouted at for the ten millionth time to go to the perpetual sale at the nearest furniture and electronics good emporium. Give it a rest.

I would actually prefer to pay-per-view at a rate that reflected the true cost or value of the delivered content as long as it were ad free. I recognise that it costs money to make programming and that the companies involved in its production and delivery have a right to make a reasonable profit. I just despise the way they do it by being subsidised by advertising. It's intrusive and aggressive, and frankly, I do not want it force-fed into my own home where otherwise a little bit of relief from the relentless commercialism of our age can be found.

Once apps come to Apple TV and similar devices, channels will be just another app, and this whole model will come tumbling down.

Re:Next (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392525)

Is there an industry that treats their customers with greater contempt?

Even the hangman (Pierrepoint) treated his clients with more compassion and respect.

Re:Next (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392729)

Why don't YOU tell them a better way to advertise new products? Hm? Not everyone reads the interwebs for purchasing advice on window cleaner, shampoo, etc....

Right now, ads on tv are the most effective way to spread news about new products.

Re:Next (1)

cruff (171569) | about 2 years ago | (#40392795)

Next they'll be patenting eye clamps so you can't shut your eyes and a tongue strap so you can't go "la la la la la" during the commercials.

Sounds like the aversion therapy used in Clockwork Orange to me.

Re:Next (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#40392903)

Sounds like the aversion therapy used in Clockwork Orange to me.

Yes. Thank god there's "prior art" so that they can't patent it.

So build your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392315)

if they start doing this. It's really not that hard, especially for the average person reading slashdot.

they missed a patent (5, Insightful)

fish waffle (179067) | about 2 years ago | (#40392319)

They forgot to patent "driving legitimate users to bittorrent through adding techniques designed to irritate paying customers".

But I suppose there's lots of prior art there.

Re:they missed a patent (5, Insightful)

Phrogman (80473) | about 2 years ago | (#40392403)

Yeah, every move they make in this industry just seems to point out that a bittorrented version of whatever it is you are watching is preferable to the commercial product.
When the industry gets it right - say with Netflix (or the new BBC app my wife is using on her iPad), people are perfectly willing to pay for the service. When they get it wrong with crap like this, people will not be willing to just bend over and take it.

Great idea douchebags! (1)

vivek7006 (585218) | about 2 years ago | (#40392321)

Another reason why either HTPC based DVR or Bittorrent is the way to go. FU

Re:Great idea douchebags! (3, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40392535)

QUOTE: "By utilizing, for example, digital embedded cue-tones for advertisement insertion, a device in the network ⦠could use these points (i.e., the cue-tones) to selectively remove I-Frames/IDR-Frames to prevent trick modes during ads (or other portions) but not from the program being watched. Thus, consumers can be substantially prevented from skipping, fast forwarding and rewinding through video that the provider would like the consumer to view, such as advertisements, specific carriage agreement requirements, etc.," Time Warner Cable wrote in the patent.

Sounds like it would prevent ANY digital device from fast-forwarding, due to the deliverate introduction of errors.
If that's accurate the only device which would not be bothered by MPEG Iframe errors is on analog Super VHS VCR. (Not HD but neither's my tv, so I don't really care.)

Re:Great idea douchebags! (2)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40392685)

Any transcoder can put them back. If you can display a complete frame to the user, you can encode it into an I frame.

Re:Great idea douchebags! (1)

rsun (653397) | about 2 years ago | (#40393137)

What's humorous is that this would probably also enable a super advanced commerical skip. Most of the time, in order to support random channel access, there are i-frames every couple of seconds at most. With i-frames removed to prevent skipping, commercial skip just has to look for periods of really long iframe gaps and dump all that content (e.g., 2 seconds after last iframe to next iframe gets dropped). Won't work on clear-QAM (e.g., locals), but would work anywhere they implemented this "feature"

Isn't that the whole point of a DVR? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392323)

Half the time I forget I'm watching recorded TV and forget to fast forward through the commercials anyhow. This is one more reason to cut the cable and look at alternative entertainment solutions.

Correct me if I am wrong (3, Interesting)

DesertBlade (741219) | about 2 years ago | (#40392341)

Doesn't Time Warner control the software on their DVRs? Can't they just disable that feature? It seems impossible to disable FF feature on all the different types of DVRs out there (like MythTV) through some magical embedded code. It must be some feature of the codec.

Nobody needs a stinking DVR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392359)

Get yourself a TV card for your computer. Use MS Media Center. Done.

Re:Nobody needs a stinking DVR (3, Informative)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 2 years ago | (#40392571)

I already own an HTPC. But I still have to buy/rent two STBs so it can record channels not available on analog cable (mostly all the interesting ones), and am stuck in SD as my provider won't rent/sell cable cards. Even then , about half the channels carry the do not record or do not copy flag (meaning can't record, or watch on another computer. If the motherboard dies, I'm unable to watch what's recorded or even archived on DVD).

Even if I buy two new HD STBs and remove their cable cards and put them in cablecard tuners, they won't allow the tuner's serial numbers to be added in their DB, Meaning some channels won't work at all (such as those using SDV).

By getting my content on torrent sites, I can do whatever the fuck I want with it (and it's in HD too)

Re:Nobody needs a stinking DVR (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 2 years ago | (#40392917)

To post to which you're responding was mine. I guess I wasn't logged in.


I don't know what an HTPC or STB is but I built my main PC and included a Hauppauge tuner card (readily available at Fry's or anywhere else that sells internal hardware) and Media Center records whatever I want. Never had a problem.

Wrong approach (3, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#40393123)

If people would just get an ANTENNA and drop cable TV we'd have:
1) TV would cost nothing
2) All TV would be HD - there haven't been analog broadcasts for years now.
3) With limited channels there would be competition among shows and mostly good stuff would be on all channels
There is more local programming than you think with sub-channels on DTV. We only need to take this approach in the city to have a positive effect - that's where most the viewers are.

in lay terms (5, Interesting)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#40392369)

this munges up the keyframes (I frames) in a stream when it detects a cue embedded by the network (ADS START HERE!!1!). therefore, if a device is designed to fast-forward by skipping over the predicted (P and B) frames, it cannot do this as it can't find the I frames needed to display anything at all.

this will fail on sane devices because fast-forward is usually implemented as skipping just the B-frames (that are predicted off both I and P frames), while decoding the I frames and P frames.

this will further fail because MPEG-2 decoders are fast enough that they can decode the stream in it's entirety fast enough for a practical fast-forward (my 5 yo computer can do it on CPU only, 1 core only at about 200fps).

this will fail even further because a trivial firmware hack could detect this "cue tone" and skip the ads _entirely_. they're basically implanting a trivially readable signal that usefully tells us what are the ads and what is the show.

Re:in lay terms (1)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#40392385)

oh, also, prior art out the whazoo. DVDs have PUOs, standardized before 1998. VHS tapes had index marks. all pro tape formats had all manner of cue formats.

Re:in lay terms (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#40392601)

Prior art just means those methods of signalling the trickplay restricted region aren't patentable - but that's not really the patent, it's about a NDVR protocol design and dynamically reprocessing I frames (in two fairly separate sections, which I find bizarre... seems like this should have been 2 patents since it's achieving a similar goal in two *completely* different implementations...)

If you strike me down I shall become more powerful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392451)

Weren't those ad insertion cue tones part of how ReplayTV DVRs detected when to perform their auto commercial skip magic?

While Time Warner's technique may munge things up for the current generation of retail DVRs it sounds like all they are really doing is making the next generation even more powerful. (cue up classic Obi-Wan quote from Star Wars)

Unintended consiquences (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about 2 years ago | (#40392633)

Doesn't this provide a nice easy signal to detect the start and end of commercial breaks also? Hello automated, accurate commercial skipping.

Re:in lay terms (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#40392889)

this will further fail because MPEG-2 decoders are fast enough that they can decode the stream in it's entirety fast enough for a practical fast-forward (my 5 yo computer can do it on CPU only, 1 core only at about 200fps).

But most DVRs out there (which is the way the vast majority watches TV, not on a computer) use SoC's with dedicated HW decoders that only have to be fast enough to do what they were designed to do. I have been able to get a (relatively high end) BRCM SoC to about 2-3x FF using all frames with HD, and even smooth 1x RW for SD (which is a cool thing when you realize what it takes to do, and is kinda fun to watch as well :) And most services have converted to H.264 for all of their HD, anyway.

this will fail even further because a trivial firmware hack could detect this "cue tone" and skip the ads _entirely_. they're basically implanting a trivially readable signal that usefully tells us what are the ads and what is the show.

I'm sure the same headend hardware that messes with the I frames can remove the cue.

What I'm not clean on about the patent, though is:

1) how does this prevent 30 second skip-type function? Skip past the commercials, rewind to the first I frame of the content. The only thing I can think of is that they leave out I frames for the first X seconds of the content, which means you miss that bit if you skip, which would be annoying...

2) why wouldn't a DVR just skip to the first full I frame after the commercials directly (on FF or skip). DVRs all parse the stream and generate an index file of I frames as they record the content off the air - that's how they know where to seek/skip in the first place. As long as that parsing/index generation can tell the I frames are incomplete, it should be able to trivially work around this (effectively would be the same result as your suggestion...) So that goes back to the prevention in #1 I guess - don't provide a full I frame until well into the content after it resumes, and just annoy the hell out of everyone if they do something as seemingly innocuous as skipping back 10 seconds too close to the commercial boundary...

Re:in lay terms (5, Insightful)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 2 years ago | (#40393003)

As obvious it seems to be able to work around this, it still irks me that somehow this method was considered non-obvious and novel by the patent office and granted patent protection.

The point of patents is theoretically to advance the state of the art. This type of patent is in no way clever, or anything that couldn't have been thought up by anyone working in that field (and by quite a few people not skilled in the field of video compression and transport). Yes, I agree that in detail it may not "have been done before" and thus not subject to prior art, but the "obviousness" clause is meant to protect the patent pool from accumulating with patents that do nothing but hinder progress. ie. If a patent doesn't provide useful non-obvious information (or information that wouldn't naturally be derived with a trivial amount of calculation or tinkering), then allowing it to be used to extort others that come up with a similar or the same concepts can only harm an industry as a whole.

That being said, I'm pretty sure there isn't a single person on Slashdot who wouldn't celebrate any injunctory action taken by the holder of this particular patent. But, IMO, the patent should have never been granted in the first place. (Which is also true for far too many patents that are granted these days.)

Re:in lay terms (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 2 years ago | (#40393153)

At which point they will declare such hacks violations of terms of service, and upon detection take further action (banning, service charges, etc). Yay arms race!

This is good news... (1)

adageable (972913) | about 2 years ago | (#40392371)

Since we know patents stifle true innovation when applied to trivial hardware and software "inventions", this means that this should just slow down the pace of "improvement" by these companies. More power to patents!

obvious next step (1)

ffflala (793437) | about 2 years ago | (#40392373)

Once again an article from The Onion accurately predicts the future, because this is clearly going to be the next development after Time/Warner successfully eliminates fast-forward: http://www.theonion.com/articles/advertising-firm-unveils-new-muteresistant-commerc,6667/ [theonion.com]

Re:obvious next step (1)

trancemission (823050) | about 2 years ago | (#40392449)

Many a true word said in jest.....

Very rarely pay attention to the glowing thing in the corner now, when I lived with a few mates there was a rule if the TV was on and adverts came on - the person nearest the remote/TV had to mute it..........

On topic: As many have mentioned - this could be a good thing, the big media companies business plans tipped a long time ago. The bigger they are - the longer and harder they fall.

This is pretty desperate....all in good time.

That's not what 'digital' is for... (4, Interesting)

identity0 (77976) | about 2 years ago | (#40392379)

At first I was surprised that there was a new posting with the DEC logo [wikipedia.org] , but then it turns out it's a newbie who doesn't know what the symbol means.

It's summer, it's endless summer...

Let us start a discussion of VAX and Alpha to compensate.

Re:That's not what 'digital' is for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392873)

VAX iz da shit computah bitches use to make numbas into code

Re:That's not what 'digital' is for... (4, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40392881)

I thought slashdot inserted those logos automatically when you typed digital" as a keyword? And speaking of newbies:

>>>It's summer, it's endless summer...

It's called Endless September not summer. The term "september" refers to the point when a bunch of college kids got internet accounts, and started spamming a bunch of messages to Usenet forums w/o regard to polite netiquette. The summertime used to be a haven from all the college kids (since they were home w/o a connection).

The "eternal" refers to when people started getting internet at home. Then it was as if September never ended... a continuous supply of clueless newbies.

Re:That's not what 'digital' is for... (1)

identity0 (77976) | about 2 years ago | (#40393039)

True enough, that's what the original old-timer lament was when the university was the main source of new internet users.

The 'endless summer' comes from newer generations of net users and forums where the influx is in summer from all the kids on vacation spending their time online instead of school.

They must be paying a license... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392383)

...to whoever owns the patent on the "shoot in the foot" method for reducing subscribers and pushing developments in alternative media content access & distribution.

I've been testing this feature for years.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392391)

... on my employer's video server offerings.

We were asked to implement it by our customers, who include TWC.

It is intended for cable companies developing "network DVR", recording programs on the cable head ends and playing back on request.

Making it work on remote devices is interesting.

I wonder if my MythTV box will be inconvenienced.

Re:Yes your MythTV box will be affected (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392597)

The way this works is by removing the I frames (full picture/video frames) that most players use to seek. There are three types of video frame types which are I B and P, which except for I frames only include the data that has changed since the last frame (think XDamage).

Time Warner - paving the way to the future. (1)

Lohrno (670867) | about 2 years ago | (#40392457)

By making disincentives to use DVR and/or Cable/Satellite and use the internet instead.

Wait ... what? (1)

SuseLover (996311) | about 2 years ago | (#40392463)

Comcast on-demand has been doing to this us for some time (almost a year) now. I know they are describing a DVR here, but how much different is it from disabling commercials on-demand?

It is really annoying and will drive me away from them if it continues. Guess it's back to OTA and DVD's. Oh, wait there's OTH ATSC that can have the broadcast bit set so I can't record and and skip on my own there either. :-(

But, but, but piracy!!!! (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 2 years ago | (#40392479)

1- no fast-forwarding ads, check
2- no ability to watch recorded stuff on a different terminal, check
3- obnoxious ads *during* the program, check
4- unability to watch the *free* stuff if you're not in the US, check

Half of those I could do with a VCR, and *keep* the shows for repeat viewings.

Next, they'll be wondering why people pirate stuff.

Correct Article Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392491)

Time Warner Cable Patents Method For Driving Away Even More Customers

Along the same theme... (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | about 2 years ago | (#40392599)

They were also able to patent "Blindly administering ass sex to customers who pay over $150 per month and use their 'DVR', which they have renamed DARI (Digital Ass Rape Interface)". Man I used to hate Comcast, but after having Time Warner for a few years, I would gladly re-consent to the good ole' Comcast fingerbang.

There is nothing on TV you need, keep your money. (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#40392625)

Don't like their business practices? Stop giving them money.

Re:There is nothing on TV you need, keep your mone (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#40393111)

Don't like their business practices? Stop giving them money.

Yeah, that's way better than raising holy hell about it now to discourage them from even trying it.

Go for it Time Warner limit the uptake!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392651)

The Light finally fried your brains, you the superior of all the betters???! Fine with me, lock it down make it hard to watch and expensive to obtain, all youre doing is limiting uptake.

I solved the commercial problem last year. (2)

The RoboNerd (551256) | about 2 years ago | (#40392925)

I dropped my AT&T Uverse TV subscription and I have not looked back. I don't have to worry about dropped I frames because I don't have a DVR anymore. I don't have to worry about if I can fast forward through commercials or not because there isn't any to fast forward through.

Doesn't matter or does it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392937)

Doesn't matter because commercials as we know them are a dying breed. Big ugly animated banners flying across the screen will become the norm. Some networks are already starting to use these. Combine that with product placement and the 30 second traditional commercial is obsolete.

Or does it matter? I would venture to predict the days of scheduled shows and even pvrs are numbered. Eventually we will be able to access and stream any show whenever we want after its initial air time with technology directly built into your "smart tv". Maybe then this patent could then be utilized to prevent you from fast forwarding through the ads when a show is being streamed to you.

Seeking patent.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392951)

Seeking patent to circumvent payment for lack of service rendered.

No see you guys are thinking about it all wrong.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40393019)

Time Warner's real plan is to start offering Tiered advertising. Depending on the Tier, advertisers can choose what type of commercial they want shown-
1) Non-skippable Live broadcast
2)Skippable- Live broadcast
3)Non-skip DVR programs
4)Skippable DVR programs
Then Time Warner can sell upgraded DVRs to their customers on a similar tiered plan- For an extra $20/month the customer can choose to skip any commerical at any time. Im telling you, this is pure genius.

subject (1)

Legion303 (97901) | about 2 years ago | (#40393157)

Funny, my .avi files still fast forward perfectly. Of course, I have no commercials to worry about, but the option's still there.

Go for it (2)

ichthus (72442) | about 2 years ago | (#40393241)

Assuming this is a signal that's embedded in the content during commercials, monitoring this will make it even easier for software to remove the commercials during/after recording. Thanks guys!
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