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Guest Message by DevFuse

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PCTV Opinions Wanted


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11 replies to this topic

#1 OFFLINE   homeboy_erectus

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 11:16 AM

I am a consultant with a client in the DBS/DVB-S market. I am interested in gauging the community opinon on the concept of PCTV convergence.

My client has developed a way to decode DVB-S based programming and TCP/IP at the software level, requiring only a PCI card (and TBA external USB2 unit) for demodulation. The end-result is a ~100.00 retail card that will be accompanied by an external CAS module for use with one of the major DBS services.

For 100.00 or so, this device will allow you to add an extra IRD to your existing service or allow your PC to function as a primary unit. It will also have a built in PVR with time-shift recording and the ability to support 1-way data up to 150 mb/s as available. In addtion, the unit will feature ATSC compatibility and will offer s-video outputs, IR repreater, remote control.

My questions are as follows:

1) Is this of interest to anyone (I am not trying to sell them here)
2) What features would anyone like to have on such a device
3) What are the general opinions on PCTV convergence
4) Given some additional software, this platform could rival Moxi-type capabilty for much less money - thoughts here

I look forward to any constructive (or destructive) comments.

Blair

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#2 OFFLINE   Scott Greczkowski

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 12:02 PM

It sounds like a good idea, but I see one MAJOR problem with it, and that is it is highly unlikely that Echostar or DirecTV and their sercurity system providers NDS and Novavision would license the conditional access software to a project like this.

Without a CAS this system would be limited to the limited handfull of FTA (free to air) satellite signals.

However if some deal were worked out it would be a cool thing. At this time however I dont see Dish or DirecTV authorizing computer tuner cards to get their signal.

I myself would be happy with a tunercard with PVR features that can also record HD and has IR outputs this way the PVR functions can control my external satellite tuner.

#3 Guest__*

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 08:16 PM

E*/D* have mentioned that DBS for the PC could be in the works.

http://www.echostarm...ly Comments.pdf

For example, New EchoStar will be using a standardized set top box. By increasing the volume of units ordered, New EchoStar anticipates substantial manufacturing cost savings that could be used to reduce charges to customers. The increased potential customer base would also make more economically attractive opportunities to integrate New EchoStar equipment with other services and devices. By increasing the size of the market, companies such as television or computer manufactures
may be more interested in creating products that integrate DBS and broadband abilities directly into their products.


I would like to see integrated PVR functionailty.

You may want post this at DBSForums.com for a bigger response.

#4 OFFLINE   Mark Lamutt

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 08:29 PM

Isn't it great being one big happy family, Mike? :D
Mark Lamutt
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Your DBSTalk.Com Community Liaison to Dish Network

#5 OFFLINE   jegrant

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 11:10 PM

I hope this sort of device would either come with Mac and Linux drivers or be well documented enough to allow for driver development.

Since the CAS is implemented in external hardware, I assume that it wouldn't be a big deal to allow open access to the information required to create a driver. If it is a big deal, then please just supply a driver.

Also, would I be correct in assuming that this device would be treated like an additional receiver if it wasn't used as a primary, and would therefore be subject to an additional receiver fee? ($5)

If you can, please give us more details on how this data stream aspect might be utilized. For example: could it provide delivery of software downloads or large content downloads (high quality movie trailers, etc.)? I wouldn't want to "pay per view" software in this manner, but I would be interested in delivery of shareware or demo versions, which, upon registration, would be unlocked into the full version. Of course it would be nice if freeware was included too. Like complete free operating systems or even just developer tools.

It would be nice if software companies were able to pay a nominal fee to have their software (whether demo, free, whatever) included on the service. It would also be great if such fees could defray the entire cost or even part of the cost to the consumer. This way, if we agree to accept some "forced downloads" of sponsored content (which we could delete at any time after download), we could have the rest of the service for a much lesser fee.

Also, about ATSC (aka DTV) - would this card only support HDTV satellite channels? It would be great if there was at least the option of an add on (FireWire?) 8VSB terrestrial DTV tuner module, for those of us who want local ATSC content as well.

Something else I'd like is to be able to take any show (or even just a range of time) out of the PVR to a standard freely copyable, viewable, and editable format (like MPEG2).

#6 OFFLINE   homeboy_erectus

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Posted 26 March 2002 - 11:48 AM

We are in the process of developing a Linux based client and possibly a Mac version as well.

We are still evaluating open source options.

Since this device would emulate a STB, the unit would be charged by the DBS provider as new service if it is your primary device and an additional receiver if you already have service.

The data stream would be treated just as Starband or DirecPC. For now, a telco return on simplex systems. We are developing a VSAT unit for release in the Fall. The data is TCP/IP, so whatever is available as such would be accessible. The card (or TBA external device) would function just as a NIC would.

The device currently is slated only to support HDTV on DVB-S platforms. An 8-VSB (or hopefully COFDM) tuner card would be separate from another manufacturer.

As for the external device, we are seriously leaning towards USB2 vs. Firewire. I believe USB2 will be the winner in the high-speed connection race.

We would all like to be able to save a movie onto our PVR and spit out an editable or burnable format. Unfortunately the MPAA is likely to feel otherwise. We have reverse engineered a way to do so at the software level, but for legal reasons, we may never release it.

Blair

#7 OFFLINE   Scott Greczkowski

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Posted 26 March 2002 - 11:54 AM

It does sound interesting.

If one did come out and it was able to subscribe to Dish or DirecTV I woud probably buy them. (My friends call me Gadget Boy)

What do others think of this idea?

#8 OFFLINE   jegrant

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 12:10 AM

Thanks for the reply to many of my points.

I am somewhat disappointed to hear that the data component will pretty much consist of another satellite ISP, but glad to have the information one way or the other.

Also glad to hear of development for Linux and Mac drivers.

It is reasonable for this device (particularly when keeping the price in mind) to only support ATSC via DVB-S.

Will it support ATVEF-compliant "Interactive TV"? This seems to be one of the big things related to PCTV integration and interaction.

You may wish to also consider supporting CueCat audio cues (which, essentially, are yet another way to trigger a browser to open a URL). (For those who don't know, CueCat is the name of the free barcode reader passed out at RadioShack and mailed out to some homes within the past year or so.) I am not aware of hardly any local stations which use the cues, but I do seem to remember, from the demo video, that WFAA does.

I agree that legal concerns may prevent you from releasing drivers which allow content to be freely moved and edited. However, I think it would possibly be a very big selling point if this product could allow someone to burn selected PVRed content to a CD or DVD. Even if this CD or DVD was then only playable on the machine which created it, I think there are many who'd like the option to archive content beyond their hard drive. Is this a workable idea, legally?

Would this card have RCA video output?

Will the drivers support all kinds of closed captioning (CC 1-4) and text (1-4) as well as teletext? I am not sure if any US TV channels still have teletext, but some European channels which could be received here (either as a paid foreign channel from a DBS provider, or DVB FTA) may contain it. Something I have seen in other cards which would be nice is an option to make your own "transcript" by logging all the captioning during a show to a text file.

#9 OFFLINE   homeboy_erectus

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 08:13 AM

There is no reason why you cannot use another form of telco return. Data via satellite is in its infancy andwill only get better.

We have no immediate plans, though its not to say that there will be inclusion for ATVEF compliant services. Likewise, there are no slated pans for CueCat, but we arealso talking about questionable business models which may or may not be around in the future.

I would be more likely persuaded to consider support for national datacast services (i.e. PBS' platform through Dotcast, etc.)

There may be a way to work the DVD recorder function for local only playback. My argument is pretty basic though: The price of a DVD burner (internal) has dropped from 1000.00 to 329.00 in 6 months. Where is it going to stop in 4 more months? That would be a hard sell.

Yes, the units will all have composite and S-video out. I am also going to battle for the inclusion of color component output on the 2nd generation device.

We also fully-support teletext as well. Another thing that we are moving closer on is a system which will allow 3 separate A/V outputs (likely composite or Y/C at best) that can be modulated over RJ-11. In other words: 1 card, 3 F/S F/M outputs, addressable from a menu, that can be distributed to one of 3 local NTSC montors within the home. Any interest or desire here?

Also, please keep this conversation going. I am hopping on a plance to South America in a few hours and will not be online for a week. Cheers.

Blair

#10 OFFLINE   Scott Greczkowski

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 08:26 AM

I think CueCat is close to being dead.

The stations around here that were sending CueCat tones are just about dead.

The only thing that a CueCat is good for now is a bar code scanner for the DVD Profiler software. :D

Have a safe trip Blair, when you get back, we will be here.

#11 OFFLINE   jegrant

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 03:37 PM

Thanks again for all the answers and information. I am enjoying the discussion.

I agree that CueCat is not what I'd consider a sustainable, long term business model. I just mentioned it out of a thought that was we were doing here was brainstorming, at least in some fashion. I just wanted to throw out ideas and see what sticks. :)

I'd be interested in the national data cast services, I think. I just haven't heard much about them and I'm not very familiar with what they would offer. I visited dotcast.com (found quickly on Google) and they don't seem to be very detailed yet.

What makes DVD recording being a hard sell? If anything, as they come down in price, this would encourage more consumers to adopt them. And even if they don't come down in price, I am not suggesting that it would be required, just an option for those who desire to archive a lot of TV. I agree there may be significant development costs associated with this option, so I can see that it may not make sense for a product of this scope.

I like the idea of modulating 3 video signals over RJ11. I think composite would be fine, because at least for me, all the destination TVs only have F connectors anyway (so, I'd be modulating that composite signal onto ch 3 or 4 in each case, or plugging it in to composite VCR inputs). Is this (a potential) part of the PVR card? Would each set be able to choose, at that set, which of the 3 signals to watch? Or is it all programmed from the "head end"?

#12 OFFLINE   homeboy_erectus

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Posted 02 April 2002 - 01:11 PM

Alright, I am back in the saddle - sort of - as much as you can after 12 hours on a plane!

As far as national datacast services go, PBS' offers analog services over the VBI with peak rates of 20K per channel. It has its uses, but definitely not in applications like these. It's best for stuffed toys and municipal services.

We have pretty much scrapped the idea of a S/W based DVD-burner. The H/W units are about to dip under 300.00 and there are some real issues with rights management, etc.

the more we look, the more RJ-11 seems like the way to go. Our intent is to provide an outboard device (not enough room and RFI problems on a PCI card) that will be addressable. There are still some kinks here, but working with the technology leaves me to believe that we can squeeze 3 channels out of the 27 mHz of frequency (don't quote me on that #) in Cat 3 home wiring.

The set would have its own "channel" and in return would be able to call any form of available video from the PC with the card built in. Our engineering feat will be creating discrete outputs from a 12:3 ratio desktop. I cannot go into too much more detail for obvious reasons.




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