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Why Can't I Buy A CableCARD Ready Set-Top Box?

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the companies-don't-want-your-money dept.

Television 240

Al E Usse writes "Ars Technica does a write up of the problems that were not solved by the July 1, 2007 integration ban on integrated security in your cable box. The goal was to get everyone on the same page by requiring standardized technology. Just the same, the cable companies aren't really playing ball. 'The companies who make the boxes don't seem interested in selling to consumers [and] cable companies still push their own branded devices.' The article covers some deep background on the whole CableCARD mess, and concludes with the current state of the market: 'Based on June 2007 figures from the cable industry, 271,000 CableCARDs have been deployed. That's an astonishingly low number. 58 percent of all US households with a TV subscribe to cable, according to the NCTA, which means that 65 million households have at least basic cable.'"

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hackable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028251)

Are these cards hackable? If so, no wonder the cable companies don't want to send them out... Much easier to have a bunch of different proprietary solutions that each are hacked differently, rather than one that just needs to be hacked once.

Re:hackable? (3, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | about 7 years ago | (#21029007)

You lease the cards from your cable company, so hacking the card itself is probably out. It's just a reencrypter anyway. The boxes themselves could very well be hackable though, and without the cable company giving you the scare tactic of "if this screw ON OUR EQUIPMENT is touched when you return the box we will fine your ass off." Theoretically the umpteen encryptions that happen through a cablecard box should render it unhackable, but my guess is all of the complexity from all of the different encryption steps the cable companies insisted on will leave holes open that hackers can exploit.

I think the more fundimental concern the companies have is the lack of control they would have over the whole system if they don't own it. People could set up services for free that would work better than the ones the cable company would try to sell (because they always halfass features like that).

Re:hackable? (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | about 7 years ago | (#21029027)

of course its not hackable, just like the Xbox, PS2, Xbox360, iPod, iPhone, TiVo, OSX, Vista, XP, and DRM.

This message has been brought to you by people with more confidence than groundings in reality.

Re:hackable? (4, Informative)

oni (41625) | about 7 years ago | (#21029949)

Each card has a public and private key. The cable company's signal is also encrypted, but there's a public band somewhere where the cable company can communicate will any cablecard that happens to be listening. So you plug the cable card into the TV (or tivo or whatever) and then go to the setup menu and read off a string of numbers. That string represents the card's public key.

The cable company takes its encryption key and encrypts it with the card's public key, then transmits that over the public band. Every cable card device sees this, but only the target card (your card) is able to read it, and use the card's private key to decrypt it.

So now the card has been given the cable company's encryption key, and can decrypt the signal and let you watch all the sweet sweet porn.^H^H^H^H^H discovery HD. The cable company periodically changes its key, and it keeps a list of all the cable cards that are authorized and sends the new key to all those cards.

IF you had all of this working in software, then you could copy the cable company's key into as many other devices as you want. That way, you could pay for one TV, but have other TVs authorized. But, you would have to keep copying the key to all the other devices. You absolutely could not get perpetual free cable. The best you can do is pay for one but actually have many. Hardly even seems worth it.

Part of the 42% (0, Troll)

jforest1 (966315) | about 7 years ago | (#21028259)

Anybody else think cable TV is for suckers? --josh

Re:Part of the 42% (1, Troll)

mi (197448) | about 7 years ago | (#21028301)

Anybody else think cable TV is for suckers? --josh

TV is for suckers, period. I would not have said it, if you had not asked, though...

Re:Part of the 42% (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028345)

So I take it you're not going to help us Save the Cheerleader then?

Re:Part of the 42% (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | about 7 years ago | (#21029371)

This is why NBC rewind is so nice. I don't need TV for Heroes, just broadband.

Re:Part of the 42% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028387)

Anybody else think cable TV is for suckers? --josh

Yes. I prefer to steal satellite signals.

Re:Part of the 42% (1)

Pope (17780) | about 7 years ago | (#21028395)

Ah, so you have satellite!

Re:Part of the 42% (1, Redundant)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about 7 years ago | (#21028535)

[raising hand] 65" of HD goodness, but over-the-air is good by me.

Re:Part of the 42% (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 years ago | (#21028813)

I won't say that it's for suckers, but it's certainly for people who don't have better things to spend $800-1200 per year on! I, sadly, have not yet reached that point in my life and would still rather see 120 movies in the theater or have 12 really nice dinners out with my wife.

Or, you know, diapers for the kid...

Yup. (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | about 7 years ago | (#21029125)

Anybody else think cable TV is for suckers? --josh

Yup. I ditched cable TV about 5 years ago when I realized that I was paying my hard-earned money to get bombarded by commercials. After sitting down in front of the History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Comedy Central, and other popular cable channels, I noticed that they always only played 5 minutes of program material, followed by 5 to 8 minutes of commercials, followed by 5 minutes of program, followed by 5 to 8 minutes of commercials, etc. Greater than 50% of the "airtime" was nothing but freakin' commercials. I then realized how stupid I was for paying for this rubbish and promptly canceled my cable and have never looked back.

Re:Yup. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 7 years ago | (#21029539)

I noticed that they always only played 5 minutes of program material, followed by 5 to 8 minutes of commercials, followed by 5 minutes of program, followed by 5 to 8 minutes of commercials

Too bad that's just flat out wrong. I would know, I have a Myth system that automatically skips the commercials, and it tells me how long the skip period is. On the worst networks, I'm seeing 4-4.5 minute breaks, and that's every 10-12 minutes, I'd guess. The only time it gets as bad as you describe is during sports, or toward the end of movies (of course, I'd never watch a network-broadcast movie in the first place).

Re:Yup. (1)

mikael (484) | about 7 years ago | (#21029669)

I gave up on paying for premium TV on Cable after the Sky/VirginMedia squabble over the payments for Sky One/Sky News channels - these were basically satellite TV channels that were rebroadcast through the cable TV network - Sky One has the one advantage of having the latest episodes of each series (Lost, Battlestar Galactica, SG-1, Farscape).

After those channels got pulled, there was no incentive for me or around 500,000 viewers to continue subscribing. After that, I just realized I was paying for junk channels. So I downsized to the freeview rate (saving 20 pounds/month). Now the same junk channels have reappeared at freeview rates.

Re:Part of the 42% (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 7 years ago | (#21029923)

If you pay for the full end crap, yeah. You can still get cable for 45/month, which works out to about 540/year. No need to get that high end HBO/Showtime/etc. crap. You want to spend more per mont to get movies/'premium' crap, just get netflix or a similar service.

Bullhockey (5, Insightful)

palladiate (1018086) | about 7 years ago | (#21028311)

I'm the inventory coordinator for a cable company. All of our new DVRs and Digital boxes run off of cable cards. If I pop open the card cover, inside is the exact same cable card we give customers. It's even handy when we want to test a new box, we just use an already addressed card instead of addressing a whole new box. It isn't cableCard technology that's the problem. It works with our system just fine. The problem happens to be crappy STBs that don't conform to CC specifications. Motorola, Cisco, and MS all make boxes that work just fine on our system with our on-demand and and program guide. Now, whether they have better access to documentation from Cable Labs, I'll never know. But it's BS that it's somehow the technology's fault.

Re:Bullhockey (1)

swestcott (44407) | about 7 years ago | (#21028547)

What about the new switched digatal cable thas suposed to be coming down the road will this still work on the Cable cards in place now or will a new upgrade be needed I have read this is a limatation of the new TiVo (SP?)

Re:Bullhockey (1)

palladiate (1018086) | about 7 years ago | (#21028973)

It's supposed to work with all of our old equipment, so I'm guessing it's either just a Tivo thing, or it won't be a problem. I don't know anything specific about Tivos though. I've never used one.

Re:Bullhockey (4, Insightful)

malfunct (120790) | about 7 years ago | (#21028585)

I don't know if the tech in my house had a clue or not (from Comcast in Seattle area) when he was installing my cablecards in my TivoHD (because 1 card was defective and the other just wouldn't activate the day I tried to self install) but he said that Comcast was implementing seprable security using a technology that WAS NOT CableCard. How is that any better than integrated security? I think the seprable security requirement, if it can be satisfied with a non standard system or even one that consumers aren't allowed to buy on thier own, is a total joke.

That said the other issue I have is that CableCards are only allowed in approved "closed" devices. There needs to be a way that I'm allowed to install a CableCard tuner in whatever device that needs it, my personal computer most of all, without having to do it exactly the way that the industry wants me to. I'm not a pirate, I just want to be able to watch at some future time on the PC of my choice (I know many people only have 1 but I have 4 or 5 in the house at any one time all capable of displaying the content if allowed) or on a mobile device. Heck I'm even fine if they somehow figured out how to force me to watch the commercials as long as I could watch them when and where I wanted to. It doesn't seem like the lack of cablecard tuners in unapproved pc's is slowing the piracy of TV much so why spend so much effort to do it?

Re:Bullhockey (3, Informative)

palladiate (1018086) | about 7 years ago | (#21028851)

He had no clue. First, many techs, especially contractors, are clueless. Second, everything Comcast does is braindead.

You can have CCs in any device, no approval necessary. However, there is no guarantee your STB will work with one unless it's been certified. Tivos do work, but only uses them one way. There are only Cisco and Motorola devices that are two-way, and allow on demand or channel guides. One of those bad boys will set you back about a grand, or more for the HDs.

The article mentions that the biggest reason people aren't using CCs is because there are no good STBs. That's totally not true. There are plenty made by Cisco (Scientific Atlanta) and Motorola. They just cost between $800 and $1300 and come with your cable service. There's just no point in buying one, although we will sell them if you want them. As for consumer-grade options, I can't answer that, it just seems that no PC component company wants to make a CC interface, and the only consumer STB is Tivo.

I just wanted to point out there are tons of cable cards out there, and they are part of the digital boxes provided by the cable company.

Re:Bullhockey (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#21030023)

That said the other issue I have is that CableCards are only allowed in approved "closed" devices. There needs to be a way that I'm allowed to install a CableCard tuner in whatever device that needs it, my personal computer most of all, without having to do it exactly the way that the industry wants me to. I'm not a pirate, I just want to be able to watch at some future time on the PC of my choice (I know many people only have 1 but I have 4 or 5 in the house at any one time all capable of displaying the content if allowed) or on a mobile device. Heck I'm even fine if they somehow figured out how to force me to watch the commercials as long as I could watch them when and where I wanted to. It doesn't seem like the lack of cablecard tuners in unapproved pc's is slowing the piracy of TV much so why spend so much effort to do it?
Beats the shit out of me. Why do cinemas go apeshit about stopping people from bringing in camcorders when the movie is available on all the torrent sites a week before the premiere? It's not like we're talking the days of 80's mix tapes where each subsequent copy incurred a generation loss. This is digital and it only takes one good copy to get spread across the entire planet.

I have a VCR and could time-shift the shows I want to watch just fine. It doesn't look as good on my HD set so I just download and use my laptop to play the shows instead. Cheaper than a Tivo, does the same thing and without cable company restrictive bullshit. They don't realize we still have options.

Re:Bullhockey (1)

oyenstikker (536040) | about 7 years ago | (#21028703)

Did you RTFA?

The article did not say it was the technology's fault. The market for simple STBs is not large enough to make selling them to consumers worth it for the manufacturers.

Re:Bullhockey (2, Insightful)

palladiate (1018086) | about 7 years ago | (#21028929)

No, I did. I saw it on Ars earlier. I'm responding to the the summary that blamed us for not playing ball. It blames the cable companies for not playing ball. That's BS. We'll sell you any box we provide. Do you really want to spend $1200 on an SA HD-DVR? Nobody else does, that's why we aren't selling them.

The problem is that there are no GOOD consumer devices. There just aren't. We can't help that. We aren't in the STB business.

Re:Bullhockey (2, Interesting)

EdelFactor19 (732765) | about 7 years ago | (#21029159)

"we'll sell you any box we provide"

that is entirely the problem, and frankly if you wouldnt sell me any box you provide your business is retarted.

the point is that we as consumers shuold have a choice and viable alternatives to paying the outlandish fees that "you" charge while still getting the service we provide.

the whole pay you 6+ bucks a month for the box thing is getting old. the box should either be free or we should be able to buy it from and others. There are no good devices because everytime one was created YOU found a way to make it not work.

first there was cable ready tvs... wait i want my money so lets scramble everything so that they have to have a box
then there was the whole lets only scramble some channels thing which was slightly better..
then digital came out, and the whole one-way two-way problem was created.
its a load of bull crap.

and there is conveniant lockout to prevent other boxes from recording multiple things simultaneously without seperate boxes.

frankly the cable companies are right up there with M$ in my book.. except they are allowed to post fraudulent adds all the time... "no hidden charges just XX a month" oh wait but if you want to to actually watch it youll need a cable box a remote and to pay some other silly fees even though we said no hidden fees.

Re:Bullhockey (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | about 7 years ago | (#21029265)

Are there ever any "good consumer" devices?

Most stuff is 'engineered' to die right after warranty, unless they offer extensive warranty support. Then its good for as long as you can 'extend the warranty'.

Re:Bullhockey (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 7 years ago | (#21029729)

Its a difficult economic question of how to jumpstart a new market. The first devices are always more expensive, and are adopted by people who just want the functionality. The problem in this case is that those who would be first adopters, have already adopted the rental system. There aren't any innovative devices that provide any benefit over the rental units, hence no early adopters, no price drops. Now people will pay stupid money for negligible benefit, but only if there is a large advertising program to make them feel special for being so stupid with there money. The article is sort of bemoaning the lack of this advertising push. No one wants to enter the market for these devices as the demand hasn't been proven, and no existing manufactures wants to handle customer problems, and they have an established business selling them at high margins to the cable companies.

But all of those facts, shouldn't get in the way of yelling at the monopolistic cable companies. They deserve more scorn for their business practices. In the next decade, their business will be reduced to High speed internet. All content will emanate from there, from a variety of providers.

Stop and Think This Through... (1)

asphaltjesus (978804) | about 7 years ago | (#21029071)

I'm the inventory coordinator for a cable company. All of our new DVRs and Digital boxes run off of cable cards.

That would actually be a meaningfully more expensive box than just having everything mounted on a single board. Perhaps this is a legislated requirement. Very hard to say if this is true or not. Let's read on...

It works with our system just fine.
Now we get at the meat of the problem. The point of the legislation was to open the system in question up to OTHERS. As it stands, it appears I can buy a tv with a cablecard, but that's it. Motorola and ScientificAtlanta certainly don't have a card and driver for my PC at Worst Buy or even Fry's.

In common sense terms, the few cable companies that command the industry are probably complying with the letter of law, but effectively maintaining their proprietary silos.

Re:Bullhockey (1)

Stonent1 (594886) | about 7 years ago | (#21029865)

Around in the Dallas area, we've got both Time Warner and Charter servicing different areas. The TW boxes that I have (formerly Comcast) are made by GI and Motorola (same box, different logo) and I don't recall them havging cable card slots. My girlfriend has Charter service and all her boxes (DVR's by Scientific Atlanta) have cable card slots but they are empty.

FCC is useless, Congress is useless, see a patern? (0, Troll)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 7 years ago | (#21028319)

The corps run the show in the US.
If the almighty Congress can't force the phone companies to fess up about wiretapping, why should the corps worry about the wimppy FCC?

Re:FCC is useless, Congress is useless, see a pate (0, Offtopic)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21028571)

Quit bitching and get out and vote. Or better yet, move to a new country.

Re:FCC is useless, Congress is useless, see a pate (2, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#21030167)

Quit bitching and get out and vote.

We did that in 2006. It had no effect.

As long as the bulk of voters are easily manipulable through expensive TV ads, the ultimate loyalty of politicians will be to those who fund the expensive TV ads.

What a surprise (1)

sdkramer (411640) | about 7 years ago | (#21028329)

Toothless regulation enforcement
An uneducated public
cable companies with a vested interest in maintaining their monopoly

I suppose most people with a cable internet connection rent their modem, and most households haven't converted to digital televisions yet. AmIright? or AmIright?

Re:What a surprise (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21028773)

I think people are going to pick what cost less and what is convenient. I personally drive to the closest store to get stuff and the one with the lowest price. Unless it is a wal-mart then I go to Target. So I would not call the public uneducated. They are just trying to save a buck so maybe that is the educated thing to do when your cable company offers all the features you want (or know about). Also, the average Joe does not read slashdot.

Re:What a surprise (1)

sdkramer (411640) | about 7 years ago | (#21028897)

I didn't mean uneducated as in stupid, I meant uneducated as in they don't even know that they can buy their own set top box.

Re:What a surprise (1)

swb (14022) | about 7 years ago | (#21030291)

This is much more about toothless regulation and, most important, a cable industry that sees "open standards" as a Bataan Death March towards loss of control. They see the huge benefit from providing a closed solution that allows them have end-end control over every aspect of TV watching.

What happens when you have a combo STB that does both cablecard for "normal" TV but allows program downloads from the internet (ie, some future "tv channel" streaming feed standard)? It doesn't take consumers too long to realize that they can cancel the TV part without losing anything.

Re:What a surprise (1)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#21030415)

I'm far from an uneducated consumer. I still pay Comcast to rent both my modem and my HD DVR (which, incidentally, uses a CableCard to handle decryption, protestations of incompetent Comcast support staff notwithstanding).

With the modem, I've come out behind financially, if you assume that the whole time I've been with Comcast I would have been able to use the same modem. But I doubt that, for two reasons. First, cable modems, like other cheap electronics, are prone to breakage. I've had one go south on me in the past few years, which Comcast replaced free. Second, Comcast has upgraded cable internet service three times since I started subscribing; the first modems I got were not capable of handling today's data rates.

The case for renting the HD DVR is even simpler. To buy a comparable two-way capable HD DVR would cost me $900. I pay $10 a month. You do the math.

Long Live FTA! (1)

Wolvie MkM (661535) | about 7 years ago | (#21028333)

Wait.. need to patch box again...

Alright.. Long Live FTA! (until the next blitz by BEV)

Here's some cheese (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028337)

To go with that whine. Seriously, if I subscribe to slashdot do I get a loaf a cheese every month?

Re:Here's some cheese (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028413)

yes. But it's not a loaf. And it's dick cheese. You have to manually lick it off CmdrTaco's cock and balls. Actually, you don't need to subscribe. But you do need to be a 7-12 year old boy.

Re:Here's some cheese (2, Funny)

Wolvie MkM (661535) | about 7 years ago | (#21028425)

Yea.... speaking of which (rolleyes)

Re:Here's some cheese (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028661)

So... what color would you call your kettle?

Well, analog is good enuf... (0)

nweaver (113078) | about 7 years ago | (#21028401)

EG, I'm still using analog-only cable, even though my new Tivo HD supports CableCard. There is only one digital station I care about to date (SciFi), and not enough to be willing to pay the $10-20/month more that adding digital service will cost me (at least until I get an HDTV and want to get the HD channels)

Re:Well, analog is good enuf... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21028999)

Why the hell would you spend all the extra money on a TiVo HD if you don't get HD channels, let alone plain old DIGITAL channels? Especially when you gripe about the extra cost of those channels in the first place.

Re:Well, analog is good enuf... (1)

nweaver (113078) | about 7 years ago | (#21029367)

a: My 3.5 year old Series 2 is not that happy

b: I wanted the much larger capacity, and I'll throw a TB on it once the eSATA is formally supported.

c: Dual tuners == (Stuff I Want && Stuff the GF wants)

c: I WILL be getting an HDTV around January, when you can probably get a 40"+ 1080P for $1000.

Re:Well, analog is good enuf... (2, Insightful)

slaingod (1076625) | about 7 years ago | (#21029195)

Just get an HDHomeRun which will decode unencrypted QAM signals on most cable and stream it to any system on the network.

Why not TiVo? (5, Interesting)

Krellion (795134) | about 7 years ago | (#21028411)

TiVo's set-top Series3 and TiVoHD both work with CableCARDs. Why not use one of them?

(Yeah, yeah, I realize that the TiVo service subscription will put off people, but it's worth it.)

Re:Why not TiVo? (2, Insightful)

LordKazan (558383) | about 7 years ago | (#21028719)

Not everyone wants to pay tivo $16/month - mythtv users can buy a YEARS worth of listings for $20 - plus i already have 4 tuners (3 analog, 1 qam256/atsc) and 500GB of harddrive

Re:Why not TiVo? (1)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21028797)

Too bad it doesn't work with my service. I myself was building a Myth box, and got two of the HD3000 tuner cards. Now that I'm done with analog cable, it's pretty useless without cablecard support. :(

Re:Why not TiVo? (1)

zeldor (180716) | about 7 years ago | (#21029187)

mythtv likes firewire tuners, comcast's boxes have firewire outputs.
quite a nice match in my household.

Re:Why not TiVo? (2, Informative)

glindsey (73730) | about 7 years ago | (#21029351)

mythtv likes firewire tuners, comcast's boxes have firewire outputs.
Comcast disables FireWire output for a huge number of digital channels on a whim -- in Illinois, at least. I have friends who say that 75% of their programming at any given time disables the FireWire port on their STB.

Re:Why not TiVo? (1)

zeldor (180716) | about 7 years ago | (#21029475)

it does vary by market yet. my dct-3416 comcast box shoves
EVERYTHING out the firewire port and expects the other end
to honor the 5C flag.

Re:Why not TiVo? (1)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21029821)

mythtv likes firewire tuners, comcast's boxes have firewire outputs.

I no longer have Comcast, I now have Verizon. And Verizon disables A/V INPUTS on their boxes, even the front-panel one on my DVR, I'm not aware of any firewire present or working for outputs.

Re:Why not TiVo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21029445)

If you have all the hardware you need, then why even chime in on this thread or story? How does it apply to you?

Re:Why not TiVo? (1)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21028761)

Yeah, yeah, I realize that the TiVo service subscription will put off people, but it's worth it.

Verizon's HD DVR box for FIOS costs me $20/month.

A cable card is $3/month. Tivo service is $17/month at its most expensive plan and less than $9/month at its cheapest monthly price in the 3year prepaid plan. That's wort-case total $20/month and best-case total $12/month.

Sorry, but I do not see a significant service price difference. I'd rather buy the Tivo and have the same or cheaper per month fees to keep it running than Verizon's fee for their box which I am horribly unhappy with.

Re:Why not TiVo? (3, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#21029219)

Tivo service is $17/month at its most expensive plan and less than $9/month at its cheapest monthly price in the 3year prepaid plan.
Actually, TiVo service can be as low as $6.95 a month with an existing unit with service in the same home, even if that existing service is an old Series1 with Lifetime (no monthly fee) service.

Even better, there's the occasional offer to transfer existing lifetime service to the latest hardware, and a free year of service on the legacy unit, which can then be unsubscribed.

(Of my eight TiVos, two are lifetime, 5 are $6.95/mo, and one is a never-subscribed Series1 20hr unit. Two of the monthlies are also Series1 that I could let lapse and still be able to do manual recordings.)

Re:Why not TiVo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21029621)

That and you'd have to be a complete idiot to buy a TiVo.

Someone else has already run the math, but you can rent a DVR from your cable company for about the cost of TiVo service. When you add the $300-$800 TiVo box onto that, you're just falling deeper and deeper into the hole. Plus with the HD TiVo's using CableCard, you have to tack on an additional $50 to install them, assuming that the TiVo works with the cards (and there's a good chance that TiVo won't, TiVo's are notorious for randomly failing with perfectly functional CableCards).

Add on to the fact that TiVos use hard drives, which have an average life time of about three years, and you're looking into a $300 (minimum) recurring charge every three years. Where-as with cable service, if your DVR dies, you just call them up and they'll replace it free of charge.

But finally, you already get everything the TiVo service really offers from your cable company anyway. Why pay for the guide a second time? And a worse guide than the cable company offers too! I remember watching an episode of TV that was preempted by the President's speech. My cable box knew about that and bumped the time up 20 minutes to compensate. TiVo? Not a chance, it recorded 20 minutes of partisan bickering (Bush followed by Democrat whining) and the first 40 minutes of the show.

There is absolutely no reason to buy a TiVo. Just rent a DVR from the cable company, it's cheaper and works better. You'd have to be a complete idiot to buy a TiVo.

At least there's Tivo (3, Informative)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21028431)

The title of the OP makes it sound liek you can't buy anything from anyone. I just bought an HD Tivo that takes cablecards. It's going to replace the Verizon FIOS DVR box that I think is a POS, even after being replaced with another.

Re:At least there's Tivo (1)

asphaltjesus (978804) | about 7 years ago | (#21029221)

you can't buy anything from anyone.

Let's see what happens when you call your cable provider and ask them to put a cablecard in a box you don't rent from them. At the gates of customer service hell that's called an "unsupported device."

Please, prove me wrong.

Re:At least there's Tivo (1)

Swift Kick (240510) | about 7 years ago | (#21029541)

Actually, I have a TiVo Series 3 that I purchased when I moved to my new condo back in December 2006. I called my cable company (Charter, to be precise), told them I had a TiVo Series 3, and that I wanted 2 cablecards so that I could get their HD channels package.
Two days later, I had a technician over, who plugged the cards in and worked with me on getting everything set up.

No problems, no questions asked, and they even came back a few days later when one of the cards started malfunctioning, and replaced it without incident. I pay an extra $4/month for the cablecards ($2/each), and that's about it. Everything works fine, even Pay-Per-View events like UFC or boxing events, and they've been nothing but helpful whenever I called them with any questions.

I think I just proved you wrong, no?

Re:At least there's Tivo (1)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21030175)

OK, I'm on the phone with them right now. I received my HD Tivo from Amazon yesterday and had not yet called for the cablecard.

The guy I talked to didn't give me a hard time at all. I'm scheduled for the service tech this coming Monday morning to install a single multichannel cablecard to my Tivo, and I told him it was a Tivo and why I'm sending their DVR box back, reasons which I describe in another comment here somewhere, so he know's it's a third party box. This guy never said unsupported box or anything like that. I know they don't support things other than plugging in the card and authorizing it, but what more do I need? Maybe I got a good guy on a good day, I don't know, but it wasn't a bad conversation.

I do wish that Verizon's own boxes used cablecards, that way I could just swap it to the Tivo and not have to wait for their tech to start using it.

This is just like (4, Insightful)

MeditationSensation (1121241) | about 7 years ago | (#21028439)

the cell phone companies. There's no real techincal reason that we can't have cool, open OSes for our phones. They just want to lock us in so that we have to buy their stupid wallpaper, ring tones, etc.

Re:This is just like (1)

bfree (113420) | about 7 years ago | (#21028993)

Or maybe most people just don't want to pay the true cost of their phone so the service providers have to find some way to make sure they can still make a profit! The fact is right now the market is completely dominated by the carriers so that all major manufacturers have a lot more interest in making certain the carriers want their phones then the end user does.

If this wasn't the case we would have seen dual carrier enabled phones a long time ago, not just add-ons to let you switch from carrier to carrier but the ability to have two active carriers simultaneously (i.e. make a call on either while still accepting calls/call-waiting on both). How many people do you know carrying 2 phones who would happily spend the extra to no longer have the work phone and the personal phone? Any manufacturer building such a device though would probably never find their phones subsidised on any network and hence lose out on the vast majority of the market.

Re:This is just like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21029811)

the cell phone companies. There's no real techincal reason that we can't have cool, open OSes for our phones. They just want to lock us in so that we have to buy their stupid wallpaper, ring tones, etc.

Get yourself a blackberry. RIM releases documentation, SDKs and makes it easy for developers.

Much higher quality of email service than what you'll get with an iphone, and newer models have cameras & play mp3s.

Re:This is just like (1)

rossz (67331) | about 7 years ago | (#21029835)

You mean like this [] or this [] ?

Maybe it's not the technology... (3, Interesting)

Seakip18 (1106315) | about 7 years ago | (#21028753)

The technology is out there for this. I think the main problem lies with those who are peddling(or in this case NOT) telling people what they need. From my personal Experience:
My dad bought a 58 inch LCD open box from best buy a month or so ago. No rep explained it's functionality to him really. I forget the make now, but it had a cable card slot and a Hard drive for DVR. Off he goes to get HD from Time Warner. They say "hey, you need a box." They didn't ask what TV he had or if it was Card ready.

Moral of the story?
Come thanksgiving, I'm putting a Cable card in the TV for him and hope there is no ensuing SNAFU that prevents him from getting his HD channels. By himself, he would have had no clue what he needed. His only hope *I* see would have been to get an company cable installer who would see the situation and get him the card.

Re:Maybe it's not the technology... (1)

Farakin (1101889) | about 7 years ago | (#21028963)

Comcast refuses to give me a cable card....refuses. They want me to pay for a box, they say they don't support the card if I put it in my TV. This angers the Norse God within me. [] Buh Buh Buh black market here i cooommmeeee.....

Re:Maybe it's not the technology... (1)

Have Blue (616) | about 7 years ago | (#21030185)

Like the article says, the problem is with the market. There is no demand for CC devices over and above normal closed cable boxes. The fact that renting a box from the cable company includes a de facto service plan for the thing also makes them sufficiently attractive to most people.

Try buying a TV that supports CableCard (1)

daveywest (937112) | about 7 years ago | (#21028787)

Disclaimer: I work in marketing for a local (~12000 subscribers including hotel rooms) cable operator.

We rolled out digital cable only because we had to support CableCard. It took six months of searching to find a digital TV that would work with our Scientific Atlanta CableCards. We haven't found any others since.

Talk about a support nightmare. We've had people ask for a CableCard, only to find out that the slot on their TV doesn't even have power connected to it. Thats right, the TV manufacture just molded a spot in the plastic and put a dummy board in there.

Besides, when you use our set top, you get more features. We give away an on-screen programing guide that wouldn't be available with third-party hardware. Trust me, 200+ channels is a pain to flip through trying to find something to watch.

Re:Try buying a TV that supports CableCard (3, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 7 years ago | (#21029185)

Trust me, 200+ channels is a pain to flip through trying to find something to watch.

No it's not. If I had such a service (and I have no intention of doing so), I'd do what I do now with my ~70 basic cable: block out channels. Religious channels? Begone! Shopping channels? Don't see them. Ad channels? Yeah right. Golf? Get real.

By the time I had blocked out all the channels I didn't want in the first place, I'd probably be down to about the same number I have now. 200 channels? No problem.

Unless you're now going to tell me that using digital cable/set top boxes/whatever, that one can't block channels. If that's the case, then there is absolutely no way I'll be getting any such service.

Re:Try buying a TV that supports CableCard (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21029327)

We give away an on-screen programing guide that wouldn't be available with third-party hardware.
Well, if you gave out the specs to the programming guide, then it would be available to third-party hardware, now wouldn't it? This sort of "we have extra features only available on our box" crap is what pisses me off about digital cable.

Re:Try buying a TV that supports CableCard (3, Interesting)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21029447)

Besides, when you use our set top, you get more features. We give away an on-screen programing guide that wouldn't be available with third-party hardware. Trust me, 200+ channels is a pain to flip through trying to find something to watch.

I don't know your system, but here's why I'm trading my Verizon HD DVR box for an HD Tivo:

1. Verizon's guide is wrong about what show is on more often than Tivos was with Comcast cable in my area. neother is wrong significantly often, but Verizon annoyed me more often than Tivo on Comcast ever did.

2. Verizon's box has a habit of turning off when I'm watching stuff. in the first 3 weeks I had it this happened 3 or 4 times. Verizon replaced the box, but did say that this was a known and common problem, which they suspected was somehow related to the new software rollout just about that time. When it turns off, it's totally off as if I'd unplugged it, and I had to wait a few minutes for it to boot up again. I missed the end of a movie because of that.

3. Verizon's DVR refused to play back a number of recordings, giving an error message that they were "Bad Recording"s. There was a different error message I can't remember on one show that wouldn't play back. it suggested perhaps they were from channels I don't subscribe to. Sorry but wrong, I do indeed get the CW and Comedy Central channels as part of my default triple-play package channel lineup. I missed a few episodes of Smallville because of this, as well as South Park and a couple other shows. I do know that a standard box won't play back an HD recording. This problem is about standard shows (Comedy Central is not an HD channel) and also affects playback on the DVR box itself connected to my HDTV. This problem is not at all acceptable. Period.

OK, by tossing this box I lose on-demand, I lose Verizon's own guide, and pay-per-view becomes a phone-order item instead of a push-button item. And I won't get the future torrent support or cellphone scheduling.

I don't care.

What do I hope to get from Tivo? I expect it will be able to play back my recordings. This is by far the most important feature of a DVR box, and Verizon's box is failing to do that way too often for me to keep paying for it.

I'm not losing out on having a guide, I just get Tivo's instead. I'm happy to do that.

I never used on-demand, so I'm not missing that.

Will I miss torrents that I never had? No. Unbox is a good enough thing to replace both future-torrent and on-demand. I'm not even sure I'll use unbox.

The only thing I can think of that I'll actually miss is the other-room playback of recordings. That's kindof nice. Tivo says they would like to offer that in the future, it sounds like a political problem not a technical one. But I do still have my series 2 Tivo for the other room which can duplicate the standard def recordings there, and this feature is not worth paying for the Verizon box which may not allow me to play back a recording even on itself.

And future-cellphone scheduling, well, Tivo allows me to schedule over the net. That's just as good.

For people scammed by their TV manufacturer or ignorant salesman, their particular situation may suck. But I am extremely happy that cablecards exist, and that the cable industry is required to allow something better than their own piss-poor box to be used. That possibility is more important to me than the "convenience" of just using my cable operator's box. The lack of an alternative to what I'm seeing in Verizon's HD DVR box would be very unfriendly to the consumer, and I very much thank congress or the FCC or whoever did it for mandating the possibility of 3rd party alternatives.

Re:Try buying a TV that supports CableCard (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 7 years ago | (#21029653)

Besides, when you use our set top, you get more features.

That seems *exceedingly* unlikely. But, as someone in marketing, I'm sure you've come to believe it.

We give away an on-screen programing guide that wouldn't be available with third-party hardware.

I hate to break it to you, but if your guide data isn't available via TMS, I'd be very surprised (unless your company is also in the business of authoring it's own guide data). And if it's in TMS, it's available to third-party hardware.

Trust me, 200+ channels is a pain to flip through trying to find something to watch.

I'll have to trust you. As the owner of a PVR, I don't remember the last time I had to search through an EPG to find something to watch. I just instruct it to record the shows I like, and they show up. If someone tells me about a show I might like, I hit the Program Finder, set up a recording schedule, and watch it when the episodes appear.

Analog cable for me.... (2, Interesting)

jjh37997 (456473) | about 7 years ago | (#21028941)

Personally, I don't see the appeal in digital cable. It costs more, requires me to have a cable box, and suffers from pixalization. To me it just seems like a scam for the cable companies to offer me more useless stations at a higher cost. Now if digital cable meant HD too I'd understand why people might be interested but subcribing to HD channels is usually an additional fee added onto the increased digital cable fees, which does not even count the box fees.

Analog cable and a Tivo with lifetime service (buy one on eBay). That's the way to go.

Re:Analog cable for me.... (2, Informative)

daveywest (937112) | about 7 years ago | (#21029013)

You can only pack so many analog channels on one cable line. You have to go digital to get more channels. Cable really is a cooperative entertainment venture. You pay for some of the channels I watch, and I pay for some that you watch. When the group as a whole wants to exceed that analog channel limit, everyone has to go to digital.

Re:Analog cable for me.... (2, Informative)

taustin (171655) | about 7 years ago | (#21029319)

You can only pack so many analog channels on one cable line.

So, instead of having 99 channels full of crap, and one with something interesting once in while, you have 999 channels full of crap, and one with someting interesting once in a while. And you pay more.

Color me a little skeptical.

The reason to go digital is to get the DVR in the msot convenient way (as opposed to rolling your own).

It's all in the ratios (1)

raygundan (16760) | about 7 years ago | (#21030045)

If 1/99 of everything on TV is crap, and you get 990 channels... hopefully you get ten times as much watchable stuff as you do with 99 channels.

It's like the internet, where we've got a reliable 99.99999999% crap-rating, containing every sort of garbage from the goatse man to Klingon Furry Fanfic to blogs about other blogs that are about blogging about blogs. There's just SO MUCH STUFF on the internet that you can always find something interesting to read, despite the overwhelming crapflood.

Re:Analog cable for me.... (1)

Sax Maniac (88550) | about 7 years ago | (#21029605)

I get HD channels and digital cable, pay $9 a month, and have no box. How?

Ordered basic analog cable ("2-13"), plugged it into my TV w/QAM tuner, and bang, I have all the analog channels, a ton of digital channels, and a handful of HD ones. I don't care for PPV or any pay channels. But if you cared, you'd already have it.

I've called them and told them that it does this, so I'm not accused of stealing. They don't care.

So, the question is why BUY digital cable, as opposed to why HAVE digital cable?

Re:Analog cable for me.... (1)

jotok (728554) | about 7 years ago | (#21030019)


HD Broadcast + MythTV. THAT is the best way to go :)

The more critical question for PVR builders (4, Interesting)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 7 years ago | (#21029085)

Is why can't we buy tuner cards with CABLECARD support?

Re:The more critical question for PVR builders (2, Insightful)

Wesley Felter (138342) | about 7 years ago | (#21029161)

There is one CableCard tuner card from ATI; by Googling you can find a ton of articles explaining why CableLabs won't allow you to buy it (unless you buy a complete PC).

Re:The more critical question for PVR builders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21030389)

the answer is simple - because you can't get the crypto keys unless you agree to a license that protects the digital streams end-to-end - reverse engineer as much as you like you still need to factor some large primes to get it working

Why would I want it? (2, Insightful)

Steve525 (236741) | about 7 years ago | (#21029183)

Most of the article describes how difficult it is to replace your cable company's basic STB with your own basic STB. It admits that there are options for DVRs (Series 3 and HD Tivo) and you can get cable card enabled TV.

My conclusion is the reason you can't replace the cable company's box with your own is that no one would want to. This isn't a great conspiracy, it's just that the STB manufacturers aren't going to try to sell a product that no one wants. Why would anyone want to replace one box with another box that does the same thing? The only motivation I could envision is cost, but the rental fees for the boxes aren't usually that high.

For a consumer, using the cable card to use a better DVR or to get rid of the STB entirely is worthwhile. So, the market has responded by providing these options. However, there's no motivation for someone to choose a different basic STB than the one the cable companies provide.

Re:Why would I want it? (1)

FuzzyFox (772046) | about 7 years ago | (#21029523)

The reason that the set-top box manufacturers are not willing to sell directly to the consumer, is due to support costs. They don't want to have to staff a support organization to answer customers' stupid questions about their product. They would rather that the cable operators field those calls, and only pass real issues on to the box manufacturers.

Re:Why would I want it? (1)

realmolo (574068) | about 7 years ago | (#21029547)

I agree. If you have to buy a box, you might as well get the one the cable company provides.

However, if you have a TV and/or DVR that supports CableCard, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to use all of that stuff together. That's what it's really for.

Re:Why would I want it? (1)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#21030261)

My conclusion is the reason you can't replace the cable company's box with your own is that no one would want to.

I hate boxes. I hate piles of boxes. I'd absolutely prefer a cablecard in a TV than a TV with a basic cable box. The only reason I have the two standard boxes is because those TVs won't work on FIOS without it. I'm slightly tolerant of a DVR box because it does more than just be a TV tuner, but I'd still rather reduce the clutter.

Ebay All Day (2, Interesting)

Kancer (61362) | about 7 years ago | (#21029287)

I got mine from e-bay [] and I just got the cable cards from my Comcast billing center. I pay $5 a month for the card.

Re:Ebay All Day (1)

astrokid (779104) | about 7 years ago | (#21030003)

How many cards do you use? The first one should have been free Comcast Cablecard FAQ [] additional ones do carry a fee but I didn't think it would be as much as $5 per card.

No one reads the Firehose Related Stories links? (2, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#21029315)

The current offering from Time Warner Cable of their "mystro" software prevents me from using all the features of the TiVo connected to it.

If I dare try to change the channel at precisely the time that guide data is updated on the channel I am leaving, the box may fail to change channels, change to the wrong channel, or even crash. Every recording I make has to be padded by at least one minute start and end to avoid this bug, even back-to-back recordings on the same channel. (Networks shifting start and end times by a minute is exacerbating the problem.)

This requires me to disable the TiVo's Suggestions feature as they cannot be padded.

I can't use TWC's cable box at all with the Series1 units as they lack the ability to trim their recordings in response to a neighboring-in-time padded recording: one or the other recording would not be recorded.

I've been subjected to these boxes for more than a year now (I'm in one of their beta-test cites) and the company has thumbed its nose at local officials demanding a resolution to and restitution for the problems.

The only thing that has alleviated the problem is getting a CableCARD-enabled TiVo, though it too has had difficulty with cards that lose the signal and will not reacquire it without a restart or (disliked by TWC) ejecting and re-inserting the offending card which I've had to do three times so far. And of course it's the card in CableCARD slot 1.

This is 2007... (4, Insightful)

technopinion (469686) | about 7 years ago | (#21029405)

It really is inexcusable that there is no way for me to get HDTV into my HTPC without using a goddamn OTA card with a big antenna on the roof.

Suuuuure (-1, Troll)

N8F8 (4562) | about 7 years ago | (#21029507)

And lets ask all car manufacturers to use the same motor. Heck, while we're at it why don't we replace brand names with "Generic Car" like those cheapo cigarettes at the store.

Two things... (1)

Jinjuku (762364) | about 7 years ago | (#21029567)

Save me a bunch of money every year: Netflix and the hard to find and yet amazing ability not to HAVE IT NOW. Since when did TV become such a big issue?

TiVo is all you need! (1)

WndrBr3d (219963) | about 7 years ago | (#21029631)

Honestly, the reason you don't see any market for 3rd party CableCARD devices is because of two reasons:

1) TiVo
2) CableCARDs are not user friendly

The first one is obvious. TiVo Series3 and TiVoHD are the only set top units that are currently on the market because there isn't a call for any others. TiVo has been able to make ends meet because of a loyal fan base and recurring monthly charges. A competing product would probably not be able to even grab 0.5% market share between cable companies and TiVo. So it makes sense that there's no other commercial units out there.

The second reason was something I learned after purchasing a TiVoHD. CableCARDs are not user friendly, period. You'd think it would be as simple as inserting a PCMCIA card and calling the cable company to turn them on, but there's more. Firmware updates, signal quality issues, hardware failure. The list can go on. Basically, you will need a cable tech to make sure your house has a strong enough signal for CableCARDs and then, while they're there, might as well have them install it. Sure, the $50+ installation fee is BS, but that's the price you pay I suppose.

So in the end, I think that Cable Companies will continue to try and push their shitty DVR's with their firmware lacking features TiVo has had for over five years onto ignorant consumers. CableCARDs will become a niche market that Cable Companies only service because of federal regulation.

but oddly enough, shows work fine from bittorrent (3, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#21029935)

I swear, these companies have got to get their shit together. Make it easy and people will come. Right now, it's still less of a headache to pirate shit and have total control of how it's used. That, and don't be dicks about what you're charging for the service. Back 5 years ago, hunting down a full run of a show took ages. Want an anime? Try hunting down 26 episodes of mixed format, quality, and availability. Good luck. But it's worth the time if the jerkwads are charging $250 for the series. But some shows are out on DVD now for as low as $40 or $50 for an entire run. Wow! And for live action TV, I've seen some going for as low as $25 for a season. Nice. But just try and buy that stuff electronically, it's DRM'd out the ass and the prices are no cheaper than for physical media. WTF? No distribution cost, no shelving fee, no gas involved, and we're paying full freight? I don't think so.

Re:but oddly enough, shows work fine from bittorre (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#21030095)

BitTorrent is the way I watch TV almost exclusively now. I don't have to pay for cable service (only cable internet), and I just download the shows I want to see, in full HD glory, and watch them on a computer connected to my HDTV. My wife really loves it because we can pause and rewind, and best of all we don't have to sit through obnoxious commercials. And of course, it's all free, except for the internet service.

Cable companies have had their chance to offer TV shows in a convenient and cost-effective format, and they've completely blown it. I'm not going to waste my time and deal with the hassle of conforming to their stupid DRM schemes, and ridiculous pricing (usually over $100/month for HD service, with terrible compression), when I can just get what I want on BitTorrent. Besides, most of the worthwhile shows are on the main networks and PBS anyway; for cable, the only channels with worthwhile programming are Discovery and Sci-Fi. $100/month for two HD channels? And I have to watch it on their schedule and with commercials? I don't think so.

FCC Fails Again - Vote with your Wallet (5, Interesting)

CCMCornell (930509) | about 7 years ago | (#21030169)

[Note, I left this same reply on TFA's comments but thought I'd copy it here cuz slashdot is cooler.]

This reminds me of a deadline a few years ago set by the FCC to include working firewire ports on set-top boxes. This would allow a digital connection to certain TV's as well as to recorders like D-VHS or computers (using D-VHS emulators.) []

That mandate deadline came and passed without compliance as well. Boxes never had ports, or had ports removed even though OEM's like SA and Moto included them, or had ports that weren't functional.

The FCC has been a joke since it was created. Like most of government, despite any good intentions, it has proved ineffectual in enforcing many of its own mandates that has resulted in loss to the consumers while effectively enforcing protections for certain corporations like the Cable Cos resulting in loss to competition.

For me, I've given up. I've basically voted with my feet and stopped subscribing to cable. If I hear about something of interest, I can usually download it or have a friend record it or wait for it on DVD and rent it. The result is that I watch less TV, which may be a good thing or maybe I miss things I would enjoy or maybe it doesn't make a real difference except that the Cable Cos, as well as the content creators, advertisers other related businesses and the FCC (through included taxes), are not getting my money because of this stupidity. You may want to consider the same.

All I want is unencrypted QAM... (1)

bbroerman (715822) | about 7 years ago | (#21030227)

What I really want is unencrypted QAM for the digital (and HD??) channels that are equivalent to what they would normally make available in the "Cable-Ready" tier. Seriously, if they are going to make these available in analog, why not digital? With analog televisions going away, this would make a lot of sense from a customer's perspective... I guess, though, that the cable companies feel like they can get more money doing it this way, and soon "Cable Ready" will be no more... I'm sure some cable TV spokesman (or lawyer) will equate "Cable Ready" to theft...

what a headache (1)

atarione (601740) | about 7 years ago | (#21030365)

everything about the situation with TV in America is a headache inducing mess.... when I was single I didn't even own a TV (for over 5yrs) then the Mrs. LIKES TV (why I can't say....98% of the stuff on seems to be garbage)

I HATE the $20 (2x boxes $10ea) (on top of the huge amount we are paying for basically (every???) premium channel ..... seriously it makes me angry... but looking at the alternatives ... meh... it is easier to just live with it.

If it was up to me I'd bag cable altogether (maybe maybe...keep basic...but i'd likely be fine ditching it) and just d/l'ing the occasional shows I gave a damn about...

Wake me up when bi-directional CableCards are here (1)

melstav (174456) | about 7 years ago | (#21030375)

Last time I checked, (which admittedly was some months ago) the only CableCARDs that were available were one-way.

IE: You couldn't use them to do anything that requires your cable box send data back to the cable company... like browsing on-demand content.

Once bi-directional CableCARDS are available, maybe then I'll care enough about whether I can buy a set-top box to put it in.

One would think... (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#21030431)

with all the bitching and moaning, consumers would direct their "I want it my way even if its illegal" energy at the cable companies and their "DRM'd" signals. That's what these set top boxes do, limit us to the cable companies hardware and services. ...And it's way more draconian than Microsoft or Apple!

I use my Mac mini for PVR. I wont upgrade to digital or HD until I have to, or they open it up. (I get free HD because I bought a TV with a coaxil jack and tuner). I am already pay $50 a month for extend basic analog. If I paid what Comcast wanted me to pay for the same experience, it would be closer to $150 a month. ...Can we get all you rowdy 'n needy Democrats complaining that TV is more expensive than healthcare!?
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