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CableCards - Anything out there?


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Hi guys -

Just started listening to the show and I must say it's pretty awesome. Your format is perfect, not unlike conversations I have with my fellow co-workers at work ... yours is a bit more informative, of course!

Anyways, I am thinking of going down this whole path (of a WHS) but there is one thing holding me back ... the whole encrypted digital channels thing. My provider is Comcast and I know the good stuff is not in the clear, so would have to go the CableCard route. Basically as you guys worded it, the "wife acceptance factor" is not very high unless I can see these encrypted channels, without this ability it's kind of a nerdy side project for me but I'd much rather it was something I could get my non-geeky wife to use.

But I still can't find very much on the CableCard stuff, not unlike two years ago when I first looked into this stuff. I know that Comcast will rent CableCards to you (primarily for use in Tivo devices), but how about devices to insert them into and ultimately have Windows Media Center use as a tuner? A cursory search of the internet shows the same old, poorly-reviewed ATI TV Wonder Digital Tuner ... are there really still no off-the-shelf tuner cards for a PC that would host a CableCard? I find it hard to believe that the technology just hasn't gotten there yet, it seems like there must be legalities involved?

Anyways, thanks again for producing a cool show and I also find your site very helpful as I try to play catch up in the knowledge department.



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CableCard was strictly kept in check for a long time until recently. Your computer needed to have specific hardware and vista needed a specific serial just to get the cable card activated. Ohh and you can only purchase them from licensed CableCard vendors.

This is starting to change, a few weeks ago Microsoft removed the requirements from Windows Media Center. So it is now way easier to get one of these going.


In regards to the actual hardware, the best choice now is the ati internal or external units. However they cost around 200 and only have 1 tuner on them.

Alot of people are waiting for Ceton CableCard tuners that are supposed to come out in the next few months as they feature 4-6 tuners on them with CableCard support. Hopefully other major companies will follow suit and release similar products to lower costs around the board.


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Gotcha, thanks for the summary of where the CableCard setup stands. I'm glad to see the walls seem to be coming down, as people like me see this as a last hurdle to having a practical home server that even their grandmother could use. And I get a good feeling about the Ceton product, as it looks like they have essentially all of their future riding on it (or at least their website certainly makes you feel that way).

In a way, though, I have to admit that I wonder if the CableCard solution is a bit late in coming around. As an Xbox 360 user, I was far more than pleasantly surprised to see the dashboard updates last week enabling use of the Zune video marketplace. I did not think that such an update would enable actual streaming of 1080p video ... but it really seems to work (or at least I can't detect any difference)! I can't help but think it's kind of ironic that the cable and associated broadcast companies appear to have fought the CableCard solutions - which still would have been good business for them - and now they may potentially be passed over entirely for Internet-delivered video in the very near future. The cable companies would seem to be in danger of entirely losing their content delivery businesses, to where they will merely be an ISP in the end.

Thanks again -


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