Larry Larsen

DIY Media Centers with Ceton Tuners

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Up until recently, if you wanted to have a Media Center that recorded your cable pay channels, you had to buy a certified Windows Media Center. That changed last year when Microsoft opened up the platform, allowing any of us to build Media Centers that rely on CableCard. The last mile problem that remained was finding a tuner you could install that would take a CableCard.

Ceton has taken care of that problem and is now taking pre-orders on a PCIe card that will allow you to record up to 4 HD streams at once. The new card is $399 and is expected to start shipping May 31st. Ed Graczyk stopped by with one of the cards and in this video tells us a little more about it.



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    The Discussion

    • BigDataDev

      Looks like a good Apple TV alternative.


      I'd like to use the Ceton Tuner card on a new low profile HP or Dell PC.


      I'm thinking about this Dell Inspiron 580s system but concerned about PC fan noise in the living room.


      Any recommendations for a quiet low profile living room PC is appreciated.


    • rhm

      Wow, could Channel9 get any further away from it's original mission?

    • MarkBNJ

      I use WMC on Windows 7 with an HD Homerun, which I find to be a great solution, and I understand SiliconDust is coming out with a Cablecard version as well. These are great developments, but Media Center has a ways to go in terms of making digital cable really accessible to end users. The biggest problem is channel numbering and guide organization. The average user who hooks everything up and enters the guide for the first time is going to be lost, and if they actually try to configure the channels to match what they already expect to see from their cable system, it's going to be an exercise in frustration. WMC needs to hide the whole channel frequency mess, and instead drive everything off a configurable guide number mapped to a callsign. That's how cable guides are organized. On my system WABC HD is 231, not channel 23.1. WNBC HD is 232, not channel 23.3. Furthemore the frequency assignments can change, but the guide numbers change much more rarely. It would really be a huge step forward if WMC can come up with a way to keep guide number, callsign, and channel frequency in synch without constant user intervention.

    • Pimplebutt

      What in the world are you talking about.  Why would you need a cablecard to record cable channels.  Obviously you would intercept the decrypted data on it's way OUT of the cable box and patch it into your PC, then forward it to your television.


      Can anyone clear this up because this sounds like a steaming pile of cow dung.

    • turrican

      Check these out : , ZOTAC moderboard, FANLESS AND they play HD



      Just get a fanless mini-itx box ( they are pretty cheap ) with external adapter, and a SSD and you got a mad media box.


      EDIT : the ones with ION play HD.

    • LarryLarsen

      That doesn't really give you a media center experience, and without a device with CableCard, you aren't able to record pay channels like HBO.

      @MarkBNJ - I like that idea, in fact I'd like to be able to assign stations to my own channels.

    • Dan

      Really? Covering cool Microsoft technology is out-of-bounds?

    • Richard.Hein

      You fed the troll, Dan, tsk, tsk.  Wink  Some people just lack imagination.  Of course this is in bounds, after all how can I know what kind of software applications I can make if I don't know about things like this.  Cheers.  Smiley

    • ivan_

      I wonder who has time to watch TV anyway, let alone build all these things just to watch more TV.

      It's kind of like wasting time to be able to waste even more time. Wink

    • erkotz


      CableCARD handles the channel mapping for you.  Unlike ClearQAM, the user doesn't have to deal with any channel mapping



      Hooking to the output of the cable box is a more complicated solution, causes quality loss, doesn't allow you to record HD, only lets you record one channel at at time, and overall is a far inferior solution to the Ceton card.  I've been beta testing a Ceton card for about 8 months and am very happy with it.


    • USArcher

      Its great that this largely eliminates the cabling complexity that typical comes with a multi tuner setup.  Not sure of the details but I believe the recently pubished FCC broadband plan calls for Cable to do away with SDV Tuning Adapters and use IP to transmit channel requests.  I imagine support for this would have to come from an update to Media Center.  The FCC plans for service gateways is abit concerning to me.  I hope the Media Center team is on top of this because I would hate for them to lose all the investment they placed into supporting cablecard tuners.  I don't know how this will all pan out but I still want to wrap content with the entertainment UI of my choice.  That being Media Center.


      I'm curious what Microsoft's plans are for Media Center going forward.  Its interesting to note that the upcoming Zune 4.5 update raises the quality of TV output for Zune HD.  Is this the future of Media Center Extender platform?  It would be beneficial if Microsoft moved towards a common framework for developing apps for the big screen.  I can see a day where WHS is the tuner/gateway device and offers variety of network services that Zune clients connect to for not only music & pictures but Live TV/Guide/Recordings as well.

    • MarkBNJ

      That would be great, but I'll have to see it in action before I believe it. How do they support this? Through OCAP? So, instead of creating its own guide by scanning the available clearQAM channels, WMC will either get the guide in realtime from the CableCard, or download and run an OCAP guide application from the provider? Any additional details you can provide on this would be great.

    • Charles

      Agreed. Nobody forces you to watch what doesn't interest you on Channel 9... We have a lot of variety these days. More than ever, actually, and this is a very good thing!!


      Rock on, Lightbulb (aka Larry).


    • BigDataDev

      Waste of time?


      You should consider starting a media center software and/or hardware business.


      If all goes well, you may have fun and become very wealthy which should give you more free time.


    • rhm

      Dan, if you go to the homepage of Channel 9 and look at the title of the page it says: "videos about the people building Microsoft's products and services".  That pretty well sums up the vision of Channel 9 when it started way back when.


      Over the years things have changed and we have things like Ping, which is fun, and Cloud Cover and 10-4 which are more educating you about developer issues, so that's fair.


      But this video is essentially an infomercial. And yes, I know some people are interested - as surely some people are interested in the Slap Chop - but it's so far away from Microsoft developers talking about what they're doing I wonder if I missed the memo about Channel 9 becoming a marketing outlet.

    • Charles

      Thanks for the feedback, rhm. The original vision of C9 is not lost. Consider the notion of giving technology a human voice (implemented as the people who make software talking about what they've made in an honest, open, conversational, real way) the kernel of C9. We have a larger shell now, that is for sure, but the kernel is strong, even if it seems hidden sometimes. Larry and everybody else on the Channel 9 team understand this very well - we are all creative folks and some of us like whiteboards, some of us like fast-paced geeky shows, some of us like cool hardware and software combinations.


      We need to do a better job of communicating the current flight path of Channel 9 itself on Channel 9.


      Please do keep speaking up. Who knows, maybe we have strayed off course a bit, but Niners help us right the ship when we veer way off course. I don't think this particular piece is way off course, but your feedback has been noted and is of course appreciated.


    • jpltim

      Great video overview. Lets hope it gets people interested in WMC and CableCARD options.


      Now, if CableLabs would only let the Ceton card stream to other WMC PCs then we would have an even better set up. We will keep CCI and SDV away from the general population for now. They would never go for it.

    • PerfectPhase

      Hopefuly oneday something like this will be avaiable in the UK.  Convergent media systems are the way forward.

    • Dan

      Thanks rhm,


      As Charles pointed out, we are listening Smiley


      Is the issue with the content of the video or how it was shot?


      The way I look at it is Microsoft did some cool stuff in Windows 7 to enable Cable Card access and no one is giving you the nuts and bolts of how it works. That's why I think this video is spot on, it's for people who want to learn about Windows 7's support for Cable Card - what is it, what you can/can't do, and how it works from the people actually building cable cards.


      That's why, from my perspective, it's totally people and products for Microsoft technology, no?


      The other thing I will say is that Channel 9 is going beyond just developers - we had talked about this a while back when we first discussed the future of Channel 9, but in many ways we're returning to our roots -when Scoble would do an interview with how Virtual Earth worked or the new Office ribbon, it wasn't a developer-focused conversation, it was all about the technology.


      We'll definitely be doing more technology-focused videos that aren't just for developers - new products like Windows Phone, Office, Natal/Xbox, Windows Live, Windows 8, MSR prototypes, etc. Please keep giving us feedback on what the right way to cover this technology so that it doesn't appear marketing, it's conversational, and more important, that we cover the topics you're interested in.








    • RyanPeterson

      Hey Pimplebutt.  Since you have no idea what is going on in the world of media centers let me educate you.


      There are devices that connect to your cablebox and can record decrypted TV as you are suggesting.  Give this setup a little thought, and you'll realize that this is not a desirable configuration.  Okay I'll assume you don't know why this is not good.  If you setup a device to record shows presented by the cablebox, then you can ONLY record shows that the cablebox is tuned to.  This means it is a pain to setup automated recordings of different shows, and recording one show and watching another is out of the question.


      This steaming pile of dung as you so ignorantly put it is the next generation of TV tuners.  Once the FCC mandates that CableLabs opens up these abilities even further you will see more more companies jumping at the chance to build these devices.  The InfitiTV can tune and record 4 different channels simultaneously.  This is great!


      Currently Media Center is the ONLY authorized software to work with these TV tuners that can decrypt a cable signal.  In order for Ceton to even be able to decrypt TV they had to go through an $80,000 CableLabs certification process.  CableLabs wouldn't have even opened this technology up if they weren't forced to by the FCC.   The cable companies are stuck in their backward thinking and fighting technology and innovation.  This Fall the new FCC rules should come into effect, and you'll see more software working with these new TV tuners such as MythTV etc.

    • encyclopedia

      With this device is it possible to watch live TV on two separate XBOX 360's running as WMCExtenders, whilst the PC with the actual hardware servicing the extenders is also displaying live TV as well?

    • RyanPeterson


    • PerfectPhase

      "The other thing I will say is that Channel 9 is going beyond just developers - we had talked about this a while back when we first discussed the future of Channel 9, but in many ways we're returning to our roots -when Scoble would do an interview with how Virtual Earth worked or the new Office ribbon, it wasn't a developer-focused conversation, it was all about the technology."


      I'm cool with this, I'm a dev and I love all the shinny technology that lives in the same ecosystem as I do.  As long as it's as well as all the developer content and doesn't over power it I don't mind.   Case and point seems to be that posts above and below this one on the home page seem to be a return to the guy with a hand held camera wandering into someones offce and having a chat about something, all be it with slightly higher production values but still too me they had that original C9 feel to them.

    • techieg


      [QUOTE] Looks like a good Apple TV alternative.


      I'd like to use the Ceton Tuner card on a new low profile HP or Dell PC.


      I'm thinking about this Dell Inspiron 580s system but concerned about PC fan noise in the living room.


      Any recommendations for a quiet low profile living room PC is appreciate[QUOTE]



      I really am not sure why anyone would even think to mention "AppleTV" or try to compare it to Windows Media Center. They are not in the same league at all, talk about zillions of light years apart. AppleTV does nothing that has to do with TV other than displaying irrelevant content I can as well do on any browser. People really need to think before they post messages. Windows Media Center is not an "alternative to AppleTV" it is the king of the living room when it comes to computer-based living room entertainment systems and this tuner just makes it more awesome. I have two tuners in my Windows media Center, now I can just remove them and put this in for even more capabilities and return one of my cable cards...nice.

    • techieg
    • EdG0000

      This has noting to do with OCAP. The channel mapping is handled during the set-up process.  WMC detects the InfiniTV card, you tell it your zip and who your cable operator is, if there are multiple operators to choose from in your area then WMC presents the list for you to select, and off you go.


      A cable operator could write an OCAP application for WMC to take advantage of the Ceton InfiniTV tuners but none are avaialble at this point. 


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