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Discussion Starter #1
With the imminent loss of the upper end of analogue cable from Rogers in Ottawa, I'm forced to rethink my entire setup, as the PVR-500 card in my box will become much less useful. The only remaining analogue channels won't be carrying any shows that I can't get over the air on the HDHomerun3 attached to my network.

The technical requirements for hooking up to MythTV are different from those of most users, so the support staff at the 3 providers I'm considering are basically unable to answer any of my questions. I'm hoping that people here, with access to the hardware, might be able to answer questions that the suppliers themselves can't.

I'm looking at getting two STBs. One with HD capability, and the other not necessarily so. No built-in PVR functions, no EPG, no VOD, no PPV, I'll be using them as dumb terminals which change channels. I have only one HD-PVR, so if the second STB can do HD, I won't be using that functionality. The HD STB will have to use component cables and TOSLINK audio to connect to the HD-PVR, while the SD STB will use composite cables to connect to the PVR-500 card. I can figure out whether the requisite outputs are present from the suppliers' websites, but there's still the ever-present on/off issue that you'll see in other threads here at digitalhome.

The Rogers SD STB I use now can be configured to turn on whenever a numeric key is pressed on the remote control. This is very useful, as it avoids the danger that the STB has turned off at some point, either due to a power fluctuation or a firmware update. Most remote controls don't have a "power on" code, merely a "toggle power" code, which is useless for unattended operation.

So, I direct this question at people with experience using the hardware, as the support staff at the providers don't know the answer to this question. For new subscribers getting current hardware from Rogers, Bell, or Shaw Direct, can the STBs be configured so that we can, by pressing buttons on the remote control, go reliably from the state "unknown whether power is on or off" to the state "powered on and tuned to channel XX"?

The other question nobody can answer has to do with figuring out the IR codes for communicating with the STBs from Linux. For that I need to know the manufacturer and model of the remote control, not of the STB. The support staff at these providers can't seem to find that, either.

I'm really trying to get a handle on this, because I don't want to sign up for a new provider and then find that their hardware is unsuitable for my use. That would be an expensive and time-consuming mistake.

Thank you.
 

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I use mythtv with Rogers, so I can tell you that what you want to do is well supported by myth/linux.

You mention you have a PVR-500, but do you have an IR-blaster? I use the MCE remote with the blaster to control two SD STBs from Rogers (SA E940 and SA 3200). They're connected via S-Video to a PVR150 and PVR250.

In the settings I enabled "Power On with numbers". This generally works well. After a power outage, I do have to verify that the boxes came up OK, because they don't always.

I use mythbuntu, and its Mythbuntu Control Centre, which allows configuration of many Mythtv and related settings, including lirc, remote types and set top box codes. There you can select the appropriate remote, and blaster, and STB codes to transmit. Even if you don't use mythbuntu and the Mythbuntu Control Centre, I think the install of lircd asks what remote and transmitter codes you want to use.

The SA transmitter codes are found at the following location on my system.
"/usr/share/lirc/extras/transmitters/scientificatlanta/general.conf"

I use this channel change script. I'm sure you can find versions of it around

Code:
#!/bin/sh

REMOTE_NAME=SAE8000
irsend SET_TRANSMITTERS 1 #1 is on the left when looking at the front of IR receiver, 2 is the other one
for digit in $(echo $1 | sed -e 's/./& /g'); do
irsend --device=/dev/lircd SEND_ONCE $REMOTE_NAME $digit
sleep 0.4 # note, you may have to tweak the interdigit delay up a bit
done
irsend --device=/dev/lircd SEND_ONCE $REMOTE_NAME SELECT
There's something similar at the mythtv wiki.
http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Change-channel-lirc.sh.

For the HD STB, there's the additional option of using firewire to change the channels. I use this to control a 3250 and 8300HD.

There's some sample code here. http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Sa3250ch

I had to make some modifications to recognize the 8300hd.

Using firewire also allows you to query the power status of the box, and turn it on if necessary using stb-command. http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Stb-command

Using a script, you could query the power status, turn on the box if required, change the channel, and then add a delay before the HDPVR starts to record.

The delay is important to prevent messed up recordings, or recordings with no audio on the Hauppauge HDPVR.

The only other issue I've run into is the automatic power off of the 8300HD 1:10 AM. To avoid this issue I have a cron job an send exit command at 1:10, 3:10 and 5:10 via the IR blaster. I think this may not be a problem anymore, but the cron job's still running, just in case.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes, I have an IR-blaster, a stand-alone object that plugs into a COM port on the computer. The channel-changing script is similar to yours. Now that I'm going to have to replace hardware, I'll probably retire the PVR-500 and put in the WinTV-HVR 2250 that I've had in plastic wrap for a couple of years as a backup, since the PVR-500 was discontinued. The 2250 has a bundled IR-blaster, which I should be able to use instead. It'll control the SD STB, while the HD-PVR controls the HD STB.

For years, by email and by physical mail, I've been trying to get technical details out of Rogers, asking about those Firewire ports. They swear up and down that the ports are completely disabled, useless holes that can't change channels, turn on power, or anything, then I see people on digitalhome.ca say the opposite. One year, my questions about Firewire was met with the short response that they weren't going to give me any hints about how to pirate video signals.

My current Rogers box has "Power on with numbers", but if the HD boxes that they're shipping these days have that feature, they aren't telling me about it, despite several direct questions.

Bell has been worse. They don't seem to have a contact email for technical questions. They have "chat with a (robot pretending to be a) live person", which traded generic sentences with me until it told me to call a phone number. I called that person, and she couldn't even find an email address for me to send to. She tracked down one webpage for me (a 404), and one email address (bounced, no such recipient). Not her fault, my questions are not reasonable for first-line support, but there was nowhere to go from there.

So far, Shaw has been most helpful, forwarding my questions to the technicians, people who know what an IR-blaster is because they use them themselves. They tell me that the boxes don't currently have a discrete power code, and I've asked them to confirm that they don't have a "power on with numbers" mode.

Right now, my plan is to set up a cron job that, when a specific tuner is inactive, a few minutes before and after the hour, sniffs the boxes to see if they're turned on. The SD box to the 2250 should be easy, some video stills extracted from the video device will do to check for extended blackness as a proxy for "off". The HD box is a bit harder because any interaction with the HD-PVR by anything other than the backend will likely lock it up, but I plan to run digital audio to the HD-PVR, and composite RCA audio into the sound card, then I can do a similar check for extended silence. That assumes that the composite audio ports aren't disabled when the digital cable is plugged into the STB. If they are, that would be annoying, but the HD-PVR seems to have pass-through outputs I can use.

The Shaw boxes don't even have firewire ports, so that doesn't come up. I've asked their technical folks if there's anything I can figure out about power status from the USB or RJ-45 ports, but I'm not expecting anything to come of that.

Right now I'm really leaning toward Shaw. Despite being with Rogers for 23 years now, I have a lot of trouble getting help from them, and Bell hasn't impressed me, given their inability even to receive my questions. Getting Space in HD would also be a nice plus, when I asked Rogers about that they just said "whenever we do start carrying it, we'll advertise to let people know".
 

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WinterToad:

Saw your message here and I thought I'd chime in with my experience. First off, I count myself as VERY LUCKY.

What I mean is, I've been using Shaw and have had nothing but a GREAT experience using Firewire for both control and recording. You mentioned that Shaw boxes don't have firewire ports. This is incorrect. I have 2 different motorola boxes from Shaw and both of them have Firewire, the older DCT6200 and the newer MPEG4 based DCX3400. Shaw also used to offer a crappy box from "Pace" which didn't have Firewire so that's the one you want to avoid.

I've mentioned in this forum before that in Winnipeg at least, Shaw DOES NOT have the 5C encryption enabled on their HD channels.

Every HD station is set to "Copy Freely" in Winnipeg, even premium stations like SuperChannel, HBO Canada, etc (as long as you are legit subscribed).

I also have "Mythbuntu" installed and everything just works in the stock configuration.

my config:
I use my older DCT6200 as a "dedicated capture box" that sits behind my HTPC and is ONLY used for recording by my HTPC
The Motorola DCT6200 is plugged in to my HTPC via Firewire.
I go into the MythTV backend setup, and it immediately finds the DCT6200 on the Firewire input screen.
I don't have to do any other config.
MythTV properly changes channels and captures the HD MPEG2 transport stream via Firewire.

Based on everything I've read for years in various forums from other uses, I consider myself very lucky. It seems that everyone but me has to jump through so many hoops to get MythTV working for them, I don't know why it's always been so painless for me? I guess I'll just keep knocking on wood for my good luck. I don't need to resort to any sort of clunky IR Blasters, Hauppage external capture boxes, nor custom scripts. Recording on Firewire with Shaw in Winnipeg just works with Mythbuntu out-of-the-box and it has for me since 2007.

My HTPC doesn't even have any capture cards of any sort installed on it. I just upgraded my motherboard last week for my HTPC and the only thing I had to ensure was that my new board has a Firewire port on it. I only record HD stations (about 50 here in Winnipeg). So I bought the "Asus M5 A88-V EVO" along with a new AMD FX 4100 CPU. Again, the new board with the new Firewire port also works perfectly for me right Out-of-the-box. So I dunno, what gives?

Here's a screenshot from my recent recordings from MythWeb. As you can see, I record movies and stuff off channels like SuperChannel and Encore Avenue all the time on Shaw.

Just plug the Firewire cable in between the DCT6200 and the HTPC, install Mythbuntu, choose Firewire as your input, I'm good to go. Is it really only this simple in Winnipeg?
http://img177.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=58908_mythrecord_122_549lo.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #5
mcpish:

I was a bit unclear in my second message. In Ottawa, "Shaw" means "Shaw Direct" satellite service. For ground cable, our choices are Rogers, or more Rogers. The DCT6200 and DCX3400 are ground cable receivers, so wouldn't work with Shaw's satellite service.

It would be wonderful if I could get the signals over Firewire, with the closed captions stream intact, but it seems that won't be happening in the near future.
 

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WinterToad: Yeah you're right it's only the Cable boxes that have the Firewire not the Satellite boxes. The reason is because of some obscure FCC rule in the US that forces cable companies to provide Cable boxes with Firewire ports, but only require they are set to copy-freely on Free Over The Air stations. This regulation doesn't apply to Satellite.

Shaw/Rogers simply use the same equipment as "Comcast" in the US I believe so that's why they have the Firewire port even though they aren't required to have one as neither the CRTC nor Industry Canada have any sort of similar rules.

There is a bit of a fortunate co-incidence due to this cross-pollinating regulation/non-regulation. Shaw Cable customers benefit from the fact that the boxes HAVE a Firewire port, AND we benefit from the fact that since there's no rules as far as to what stations Cable Companies in Canada have to unlock on Firewire, Shaw simply unlocks everything ;-)

As for Closed Captioning. It shows up as a stream within the recorded MPEG2 transport stream. Here's a screenshot of mediainfo with the metadata for a recorded MPEG-2 transport stream directly from Shaw.
[img=http://img134.imagevenue.com/loc433/th_36120_cc_122_433lo.jpg]
 

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I have been using Rogers SA3250HD and SA4250HD connected to Hauppauge HD-PVRs for several years (and also SD boxes connected to a PVR-150), but I don't use MythTV, I use SageTV under Windows. For channel changing I use firewire for the HD boxes and IR via a USB-UIRT for the SD box as it doesn't have firewire.

These Rogers boxes have always worked for channel changing via firewire but getting a video signal has always been problematic, at least it has been in Windows using the flaky drivers and VLC. I tried several boxes (SA8300HD, SA3250HD, etc) but gave up years ago. I wouldn't bother talking to Rogers about this issue.

The "Power on with numbers" works fine with the HD Rogers boxes but that option does not exist with SD boxes, at least the SA3200. To deal with this potential problem I actually run a script after every recording. If a file is from the tuner connected to the SD box then I run the video file through Comskip and extract the average brightness and average volume from the Comskip log output. If these levels are very low then it is likely that the box is turned off so I send a Power Toggle via IR. The problem with this method is that the first show recorded fails. But pretty much all I ever record in SD these days is kids shows on TreehouseTV and they repeat everything several times a day.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Given that current 4642 Rogers boxes can reliably use Firewire to ensure that they're turned on and tuned to the correct channel, with no corresponding clear way to do that with Shaw Direct boxes, it seems I'll likely be sticking with Rogers. Now if they'd just get moving and put SpaceHD on, I'd be happy, but that's a topic for another (existing) thread.
 

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vejostde,
From your post you mentioned you are controlling the SA E940 with IR Blaster using this lircd.conf:
/usr/share/lirc/extras/transmitters/scientificatlanta/general.conf

Im trying to do the same.Where exactly are you placing the IR blaster on the STB window? For the life of me I cant find the IR sensor.
 

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Here's the pic. Hope it helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Rogers HD box coax output

So, still seems that I'll be switching to Rogers HD, a 4642HD box. I'll use a Firewire cable to change channels and assert the ON state of the box, and feed into a Hauppage HD-PVR. Now, I'm one of those users who sometimes needs the captions available, but I don't want them open-captioned by the 4642 box (my wife needs captions to enjoy some shows, but I find them tremendously distracting in the shows I watch alone). I have a plan, to run the coax output of the 4642HD box into the coax input of my Hauppage PVR-500, as the coax input of that card will no longer be useful after the digital switchover. I would then be able to use a MythTV event script to read the VBI data directly from the analogue SD stream on that tuner (without capturing the video/audio data, as I'll have that from the HD-PVR), and capture the caption data to a .srt file, which MythTV will automatically notice and make available at playback time.

I have to use the coax output because the composite inputs of the PVR-500 card will still be needed for the second (SD) tuner. The PVR-500 card has two tuners, but only one of them can bind the composite inputs, and I might want to record two shows at the same time, one in HD and one in SD.

If I can do this, it will mean that I don't lose any functionality after the analogue shutdown. I'll still be able to record shows with captioning information. However, this assumes a few things about the 4642HD box that Rogers cannot confirm for me. So, perhaps somebody here can help.

When the Rogers 4642HD box is tuned to a HD channel, producing output on the composite outputs, does the coax output of the 4642HD still produce the SD version of the same show? If so, I presume it's modulated onto a TV channel, maybe channel 3 or channel 4? Finally, is the VBI stream intact on the SD stream coming out of the coax output when the box is tuned to an HD channel?
 

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I have to use the coax output because the composite inputs of the PVR-500 card will still be needed for the second (SD) tuner. The PVR-500 card has two tuners, but only one of them can bind the composite inputs, and I might want to record two shows at the same time, one in HD and one in SD.
You could always buy the A/V Bracket and Cable Set which allows you to connect composite or s-video cables to the second tuner on your PVR-500. Given that you are only using it to read the VBI data , it may not be necessary however.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yes, I was just going through old boxes and found that I had that extra bracket, which came bundled with the PVR-500, so I can use a composite cable from the Rogers box. I'm planning to buy a 4642HD later this week, then I'll be able to test the hypothesis that the VBI data is available on the SD outputs when tuned to an HD channel.
 

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One other thing you might want to consider doing is buying an ATSC tuner card and connecting it to an antenna. This will allow you to record the stations broadcasted locally (14 total in Ottawa) in pure, unadulterated HD (better PQ than Rogers) with the digital CC data and 5.1 surround. The nice thing about MythTV is it will seamlessly integrate the OTA channels with your cable channels, automatically selecting the best source.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Yes, I've got an HDHomerun3 on my home network, and a UVSJ connecting it to a UHF and a VHF antenna. We've been using that for about a year now, with excellent results. The ATSC captions are there, and are more reliable than the VBI captions over analogue, as the latter sometimes get checksum errors that result in the loss of two characters of data from the stream.

I haven't been in any great rush to get high definition cable, I've had an HD-PVR wrapped in plastic in my closet for years now, but Space in HD is too much to resist.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
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.
 

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Glad to hear you found a solution. Very ingenuitive! I agree it wold be nice if you could just plug it in and get it to work.
 
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