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Ceton InfiniTV 4 CableCard Tuner Card Questions


deboots
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I'm a relatively new home server user, running WHS 2011 on new hardware I purchased last Black Friday on recommendations from these forums. I have owned a TV card in the past, but that was a long time ago. I would like to get a new TV card so I can start recording and streaming media in my home. I would prefer CableCard support so I can view HD from my cable provider, and so I can view the premium content I am paying for. I'm also interested in having these recordings available on laptops and tablet devices in my home.

 

I've heard nothing but good things about the Ceton InfiniTV 4 CableCard Tuner Card, except for the expense. I'm trying to figure out whether this is worth picking up now, or whether it's worth waiting for the eventual release of the HD HomeRun Prime? Can the InfiniTV 4 tuner be used in the WHS and recorded on that device (since in my case it would be on 24/7)? Or would it be a waste not to have it directly in an HTPC? Will the HD HomeRun Prime ever finally come out, or will the content providers keep it from seeing the light of day? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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WHS does not have any capability to record CableCard content. You really should put it into your HTPC.

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This is a topic that keeps coming up. It might be worth experimenting with. I do not know much about the Ceton but as long as tuner can be shared or assigned and you do not need media center it might be possible as the drivers are now compatible with 2011 (I think). Unless you are in the mood to experiment, I would go with usacomp2k3 suggestion and put into an HTPC.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey deboots, here's what I can tell you from what I know/heard/experienced with the InfiniTV4/WHS2011.

 

Standalone InfiniTV:

I can confirm what you've heard about the tuner card, it's awesome! It does exactly what it's supposed to do and is extremely reliable. Standard setup on an HTPC is quick and simple and although the price is a bit up there ($400), I think it's completely worth it for any Media Center enthusiast. Besides, it's a huge value over the old ATI tuners (which I have 2 of) which ran you $200+ for a single tuner. When you break it down, it's only $100 per tuner which is not expensive at all.

 

One limitation that you would need to look into is whether or not your cable provider uses SDV. If so, you will still need to use a tuning adapter in order for the CableCard to work correctly. Different TAs support a different number of simultaneous streams so you may only need one, or you may need two. For example, Motorola TAs support 4 feeds, so you would only need to use one. Cisco TAs are usually limited to 2 streams so you would need 2 TAs in order to use all four tuners on the InfiniTV. If you only use 1 Cisco TA, then you would only have 2 of the InfiniTV's tuners. Again, this is only if your provider utilizes SDV; if it doesn't, then you can ignore this entire section.

 

Lastly, like any CableCard device, recordings follow the copy flag that is set by the broadcaster/provider. This means that if your provider sets the flag to "Copy Never" or even "Copy Once", you will only be able to view the recoding on the device you recorded it on. You can still store the recording on a central location (i.e., a server), but you will only be able to play it back on the machine you recorded it on. On the other hand, if you provider sets the content flag to "Copy Freely", you can playback the recording anywhere you like. Additionally, since it's not copy protected, you can do some fancy stuff like remove commercials and convert it to other formats in case you want to play it back on a portable device like Zune or iPhone. I know Time Warner is notorious for setting a Copy Once or Copy Never flag on everything, regardless of what the broadcaster sets. Conversely, Verizon FiOS (which I am lucky enough to have) sets everything to Copy Freely, including premium channels like HBO. The reason I bring up the copy issue at all is in case you were planning on storing all of your recorded TV on the server to play back on multiple HTPCs which is what I do. It's a great way of watching your recorded content around the house but it greatly depends on how your provider sets that copy flag.

 

Tuner Sharing / WHS 2011 Comparability

At this time, the InfiniTV4 does not support tuner sharing using the public firmware. However, there is a beta program that is currently testing firmware which allows tuner sharing. I've been using the beta firmware since October of last year so I can give you somewhat of a preview of this functionality. Additionally, from what I've heard public release of this updated firmware is just around the corner which is a good thing for you and any other new comers.

 

The way tuner sharing works with the InfiniTV is just as you would expect, though it requires quite a bit of configuration. You install the card on a machine as you normally word along with the drivers and diagnostic tool. Just like the old ATI tuners, the InfiniTV shows up as NIC on your network and thus requires an IP address. In order to enable tuner sharing, you have to update the IP address on the card itself and set it to a static address vs. DHCP which is its default. At that point, you must bridge the InfiniTV with your regular NIC. Next you need to create some rules on your firewall (including the integrated Windows firewall) to allow the stream to go through the network. At this point, you should be able to see the InfiniTV show up as NIC on any PC that you have connected on the network. You then install the drivers on the client PC (the HTPC that you want to use the tuners on) and you go through the usual Media Center TV Signal setup. The HTPC will see the tuners as if the card was installed locally and use them in the same manner. Like I said, this is in beta so it requires a ton of manual setup, but once released to the public, Ceton (or possibly Missing Remote) will also be publishing a tool that makes all of these config changes automatically.

 

As far as reliability and quality, I haven't noticed any decrease in either with the tuner sharing model. HD streams are still flawless, even over a 10/100 connection and the tuner is just as reliable as when I was using the card on a single PC. However, this reliability is a result of some testing on my part and you should be aware of some caveats.

 

In my setup, I have the InfiniTV installed on a server (more on that later) that sits in my closet and feeds those tuners to two different HTPCs (I have more HTPCs but only two using the shared InfiniTV). Unfortunately, Media Center is not capable of accounting for other PCs using tuners from the InfiniTV which can result in conflicts. For example, if HTPC A wants to record something at 8PM, and HTPC B also has something scheduled at that time, both HTPCs may try to use tuner #1 from the card. Sometimes one will win out over the other, but sometimes the recording just fails altogether. There are also times that each HTPC will use two different tuners, but its a gamble. To resolve this, you can assign specific tuners to specific HTPCs during the Media Center setup. In my case, I have tuners one and two picked up by HTPC A, and tuners three and four picked up by HTPC B. This way, each HTPC has dedicated tuners and will not step on each other when it requests one. Keep in mind you can install multiple InfiniTV cards on one machine so if you have two InfiniTVs you now have eight tuners to distribute amongst your HTPCs.

 

Finally, just last week I did some testing using the InfiniTV on WHS 2011 and it works great. As usacomp2k3 points out above, WHS itself does no have any Media Center capabilities so you would not be able to have the WHS do the recording itself; however, you can install the InfiniTV card on you WHS, along with the drivers, and have your connected HTPCs utilize those tuners. I've only been running this setup a week but I've had no issues whatsoever. The fact that I can use the tuners across the network have enabled me to use small form factor PCs (namely a Lenovo Q110 and VAIO TP) since I don't need a PCI-e slot to install the InfiniTV locally.

 

InfiniTV vs. HDHR Prime

Obviously I can't do a comparison of the two products since the HDHR Prime isn't available yet, but there are some things to consider.

 

Last I heard, the HDHR Prime is awaiting CableLabs certification. This was also the biggest hurdle for Ceton so its no surprise that there is a hold up, but given the timeline that Ceton had, I would venture to say that it should be coming some time around August/September. Keep in mind this is total speculation and guessing on my part.

 

Something to keep in mind with the HDHR Prime, is that it will only have three tuners versus four with the InfiniTV. It's up to you if the extra tuner is worth the extra money to you vs. the wait time. I think the biggest feature that will have to be reviewed is how the Prime manages tuner requests by multiple PCs. If it manages them better than the InfiniTV, that may be the small edge that differentiates the two products.

 

Finally, Ceton has a six tuner card, the InfiniTV6, coming out. No timeline has been given for this new card, but they did show it off at CES. My guess is that as soon as they get the new firmware out of beta, they will focus on getting the six tuner model out the door. With the InfiniTV6, you could put two cards into your WHS and you would have 12 tuners to spread around the house from one centralized location.

 

 

 

I hope this wasn't too overwhelming, but I wanted to make sure to cover everything since I know how painful it can be to piecemeal all of this information from different sources. I also know how much it costs to run a setup like this so everything needs to be taken into account. Let me know if you have any other questions that I didn't answer above. Good luck and let us know what you decide on!

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Wow - great writeup. Installing it in a WHS2011 box is a great idea; I can use some Atom boxes that have only a PCI slot as the HTPC using the networked infiniTV from the WHS2011. Thanks for the info!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ceton is supposed to come out with a utility soon that supports tuner sharing. The firmware already does it, but you need a utility to make setup easy. MissingRemote had one, but they pulled it down at the request of Ceton, likely because they are about to come out with their tool.

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all you need to set it up on a server is to change the network settings on the card from dhcp server to client (or static ip) and open the firewall ports manually. then just run the utility on the client side and you're set. working on a write up.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Anyone know if these cards work in a PCI-E x16 slot? I stuck mine into a x16 slot in the mobo of my new HTPC (Gigabyte H67MA-USB3-B3) and the card is seen by Windows but the tuner is never found by the diagnostic tool or Windows Media Center. Is there something I'm missing?

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