Final status of Rogers HD and MythTV
So, after much fiddling and awkwardness, I now have a system that works acceptably, including providing closed captions on recordings, selectable at viewing time. It was not easy.
My preferred method would have been this:
1) get a firewire cable and connect it between the Rogers STB and the computer
2) capture the digital stream, including closed caption data, in MythTV.
3) watch the show
In the US, this would have worked. There, the STBs are required to provide working firewire ports. The hardware, manufactured by Cisco, has a firewire port that is functional when it leaves the factory. With the Rogers STB, firewire does not work, and things were a little more complicated.
First problem: the firewire port doesn't work, even for purposes of checking power status and changing channels. Also, unlike my older SD STB, the HD STB cannot be configured to turn on automatically when a number key is pressed on the remote control. That behaviour was, in fact, present when I bought the box, but once it was connected to the Rogers network, it downloaded new firmware that removed the functionality and cleared the setting. Add to this the fact that the Rogers box frequently powers itself off, probably because of firmware updates, and we have a situation where it's very difficult to figure out whether or not the box is turned on.
Second problem: the HD-PVR will occasionally wedge itself and require a power-cycle before it will work again. When the HD-PVR is unplugged from the mains, its IR-blaster doesn't function (ie. that component isn't powered off the USB cable from the computer, it requires the internal power supply to be active).
These two problems were addressed as follows:
- The HD STB was configured so that its power outlet is off when it is switched off
- The HD-PVR was plugged into the HD STB's power outlet
- The HD-PVR's IR blaster was moved to control the SD box
- The IR blaster that used to control the SD box was moved to control the HD box
Now, by carefully turning off services and unloading modules, it's possible to run the lsusb command and see whether or not the HD-PVR is on the USB bus. If it is not, that means that the HD STB is powered off, and I can send the power signal from the other IR blaster, the one not belonging to the HD-PVR. Further, it is possible to set this up to power cycle the HD-PVR after each recording, which is what I have it do.
So, that produces recordings. But we lose closed captions because there is no standard for transmission of caption data over high-definition cables.
The Rogers HD STB, when tuned to a HD station, still produces a SD signal on its composite outputs, and the video signal includes the VBI data. So, I have run a set of composite cables from the HD STB to the composite inputs of a Hauppauge PVR-500. I then use the MythTV system events at recording begin and end to capture the VBI stream, transform it to a .srt file, and drop it into the appropriate directory next to the recording. MythTV will make captions from a .srt file available if it sees that file present. So, there I have closed captions in high-definition recordings from a Rogers HD STB.
I would have preferred the "just plug in the firewire cable and relax" solution.
I made an official complaint to Rogers about their disabling both the firewire and the turn-on-with-number-keys functions. They said they'd bring it up with the firmware folks, but I'm not optimistic.