Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Give Your Computer All The TV It Can Handle

At least, that's the theory. You know that fancy digital cable feed that brings all 37 HBO channels into your house (and Spice, of course)? Well, it doesn't play well with your PC. See, the cable industry thinks you're a pirate, and that, if given the chance, you will make it your life's mission to upload as much of that digital cable feed to the internet for other pirates to download and enjoy. And because of that, they hate you and want to make your life a living hell.

Enter CableCards - the solution to the set top box dilemma. Sort of. In theory, the CableCard is supposed to allow you to use the tuner built in to your TV and recording devices to actually - get this - watch and record TV, without a pesky cable box and cable box rental fee screwing things up. But there are a few catches.

First, you need a cable card for every device that you want to watch and/or record TV on. Second, those cards aren't free - you rent them from your provider, just like the box. Third, the cards don't support interactive services like video on demand, so if you're a VOD junkie, you'll still need a box. And, last but not least, the stupid things don't really work that well.

Case in point - people have been waiting for CableCard tuners to come to the PC for some time, so users of Microsoft's Windows Media Center could watch and record their digital cable feeds. Well, the devices are finally poised to come to market, but as a report on Engadget shows us, these things aren't necessarily ready for prime time.

The guys tried to setup two separate installations. One went by the book, and was quick and easy. The other? After two days, the CableCard still wasn't working properly. And this wasn't with Joe Blow trying to install it - this was with big-wigs from MS and Time Warner Cable on hand. Good show guys.

Thanks to their piracy fears, studios and IP holders have made the simple act of watching and recording TV needlessly complicated. Does anyone remember the day when you took something out the box, plugged it in, and it just worked and did everything that is was supposed to? Yeah, neither do I, but my grandpa tells me those days were awesome.

Oh, and for those of you still scratching your heads and pretending like you aren't really a nerd, the picture above is ATi's CableCard adapter for Vista PCs. Don't lie - you knew all along.

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