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CableCARD installation FAQ

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by jfh3, Aug 25, 2007.

  1. richsadams

    richsadams Active Member

    8,893
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    Jan 4, 2003
    FWIW it just sounds like a bad cable card to IMHO. If TiVo is getting basic cable it's probably working fine.

    It's possible that the card needs to be re-initialized (re-hit) but it's more likely a bad card. Did the installer try other cable cards? There are many, many stories of installers trying as many as a dozen cable cards before finding one that worked. Seems like they think it has something to do with the owner's equipment (TiVo, flat-panel TV or whatever) and just take the cards that didn't work back to the office and toss them in a bin for someone else to try.

    When we had Comcast we lucked out on the last install because everything worked but prior to that one they had to try three cards before one would work. The tech acknowledged that he usually had to try a "few to get a good one".

    I'd call Comcast and have them try re-hitting the card but if that doesn't work they need to come back out . Tell them to be sure that the tech has several cable cards in his or her truck to try out.

    Best of luck and keep us posted!
     
  2. scooterboy

    scooterboy Coney Island Small

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    I had them rehit it last night, and once again this morning. Neither worked, so I scheduled another visit for tuesday morning. This time I specified that I wanted someone very experienced with cable cards and tivo. She said she would request that.

    I was looking at the diagnostic screens for the tuner that does work and the signal strength is only 42, and the SNR is 28. I told her to put that in the notes for the visit as well.

    The other thing I noticed is that on the Conditional Access screen, I get the usual fields displaying but only until the VAL: V00x0. There are no more lines of text after that. So I don't even see the field for AUTH at all.
     
  3. richsadams

    richsadams Active Member

    8,893
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    Jan 4, 2003
    That's a serious problem. Until the signal strength is up to 65 or higher (ideally 80+) you won't be able to receive anything. SNR is low, but not anything that would cause you too much grief (ideal is around 32).

    Is there anything between the cable/coax and TiVo? Splitters, amps, anything at all? If so try to remove it/them and see if you can't get a direct connection between your coax and TiVo. If the signal strength jumps up you've found the culprit.

    So, long story short, it may not be the cable card, but something is definitely wrong with the signal.
     
  4. scooterboy

    scooterboy Coney Island Small

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    Cable enters basement, then:

    1) Splitter 1: one output to cable modem, one to phone modem, one to cable amp then splitter 2.
    2) Splitter 2: one line to basement outlets, one line split to kitchen and bedroom, one line to living room splitter 3.
    3) Splitter 3: 4-way to Comcast DVR, TV, DVD recorder, and new TivoHD.
     
  5. lrhorer

    lrhorer Active Member

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    They don't make any money renting you a DVR. The Cisco DVRs cost TWC $450 each in the quantities in which they buy them. (I happen to know this for a fact, or at least it was true last July.) I think most franchises lease the DVR for about $20 a month. At that rate, breaking even takes 22.5 months, which is probably longer than the average life of one of the units, and that does not take into account the cost of the software (which is separate), delivery, and maintenance. I doubt if they see a profit in under 3 years, which means not at all, since I imagine the life expectancy is less than that. Lease units are not handled carefully by consumers. What's more, if we take out the $3 a month they charge for a CableCard and then add back the $25 they pay for the CableCard, we are left with $17 a month to cover a $425 difference, or 25 months to make up the difference. Add it all together, and it probably takes more than 40 months for them to see a profit on the leased unit over what they get from the Tivo. Even if they actually ever do make a profit on leasing a DVR, it's a trifling amount. IPPV is another matter, though. I've seen IPPV bills of $600 a month. The cost and trouble of supporting the TiVo is also a major consideration. So no, they aren't thrilled tyo have to support TiVos, but it's not because they make money on DVR rentals.
     
  6. drhankz

    drhankz New Member

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    Salem NH
    I AGREE with Rich 100% - the CableCard shuts down if the signal is too
    weak or too strong. I have seen them shut down with a signal level of 95+

    Even if your cablecard where 100% good - you nailed the problem.
     
  7. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Does this apply to Cisco (SA) CableCARD's? That's what I have and about one third of my channels have signal levels of 100 but no problem with CC's shutting down. I would prefer to attenuate down to 99 or less but if I do that, some channels go below 80.
     
  8. drhankz

    drhankz New Member

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    Salem NH
    I know it is true for Motorola Cards.

    A Simple 6db Attenuator from Radio Shack can tell you if it HELPS or Not.
    With Moto it would for sure.

    85 is the sweet spot for moto. I have 6 DVRs and I made sure the signal
    level was 85 at Each. I bought a big selection of in-line attenuations
    from MONOPRICE dot Com
     
  9. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    I've already tried attenuators. The problem is you can't usually get the signal level at 85 for all channels. In my case the sig strength varies about 25 units betwen weak and strong channels. If I attenuate to get the strong signals in the 95 - 99 range, I have weak signals at around 68. I thought best overall performance was with no attenuation.

    I suppose I could demand TWC come out and make my signal levels more uniform over all the channels, but (1) I lack confidence they would do more good than harm and (2) I don't believe the pixelation problems I see only on SDV channels are related to signal levels -- the RS error counts are always zero and SNR's are 32 to 36 dB. Here is a post that describes what I think is really happening.

    I think CC shutdowns for signal levels of 95+ must apply only to Motorola CC's.
     
  10. drhankz

    drhankz New Member

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    Salem NH
    You can try asking TWC - or you can do it yourself if you are inclined.

    FIRST - The Best Practice is to HOME RUN each Cable back to the Source.
    I know - Sometimes that is impractical. I said it was the Best Practice.

    SECOND - you can get a CATV amplifier that allows you change the
    Amplification slope. They usually refer to it as "TILT".

    High Frequency channels are Attenuated much faster than low Freq.
    Even TWC can not even the Signals without a TILT Amp.

    THIRD - I bought myself an inexpensive Spectrum Analyzer so that
    I can see how the channels are attenuated. ANY Cable Tech should
    come with the EXPENSIVE kind I'd love to get my hands on :D

    It is a non-trivial problem especially with BIG HOUSES and LOTS
    of Drops - that is why I did it myself. Too Complicated even for the
    Local Comcast Techs.
     
  11. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Interesting - thanks! As I said, I don't think I have any problems related to signal strength, so I have no incentive to go to that much trouble. Very few users would (or could) do all that IMO.

    I don't know what kind of equipment my TWC tech would come with but I've read elsewhere that they typically only spot check a few channels. Just out of curiosity, how much is an "inexpensive" spectrum analyzer, and what are its basic specs? Does it have a graphic display similar to an equalizer?
     
  12. drhankz

    drhankz New Member

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    I use a Channel Vision M2000

    I don't think I paid $200 when I bought mine. You can find them on
    the NET for $250 now. I guess prices have gone up.

    The Cable guys bring one that is worth many THOUSANDS of Dollars.
     
  13. richsadams

    richsadams Active Member

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    Jan 4, 2003
    Yikes! Good info though. Somewhere in the mix there's a problem. Since the connection to your TiVo HD is the very last link in the chain of splits and drops it's most likely that the signal strength is so attenuated/degradated that it just isn't strong enough. Other equipment may work fine with such a low signal, but not TiVo. So it sounds like something is not working properly. It may be as simple as a loose connection (they should all be more than finger-tight), one or more of the splitters, the amp and/or one or more of the coax cables or possibly a faulty coax connector...or some combination.

    Ideally you want a direct and pristine connection from the incoming cable feed to TiVo. If that's not possible it should have as few splitters as practical, no signal amps, etc. Every time something is introduced into the mix it presents another point of degradation or failure (even a signal amp can corrupt things).

    Is there any chance (temporarily) to connect the incoming cable directly to the line that goes to TiVo, either via a simple female/female coupler or a small splitter (w/o anything else attached)? That would give you an almost clean connection to TiVo. If so you should see everything resolved providing that all of the coax, connections, coupler (or splitter) and the cable card are good.

    If that works, based on your well-documented layout (and if you have nothing else to do), you should be able to do some rearranging to meet the goal. In other words, put TiVo at the top of the food chain by shifting other connections to a lower level. That might just do it. Otherwise you'll need to start the process of elimination; removing each piece and replacing it with one that is either new or known to be good. Of course you could just wait as the cable tech can do that when they visit plus they'll have the proper diagnostic equipment to measure each output. Tell them your TiVo is the priority and all of the connections need to be as clean as possible.

    Hope that helps!
     
  14. scooterboy

    scooterboy Coney Island Small

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    Well we'll see what the next tech says tomorrow morning.

    Would not be hard to run a new cable straight from the amp in the basement to the new tivo in the living room. I've already run other cables up through the floor in that spot for other things. So if that's what's needed we should be good.

    Thanks for all the advice. :)
     
  15. Xcelsior

    Xcelsior New Member

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    Dec 5, 2002
    Atlanta, GA
    Just wanted to add a thanks and share a success story with Comcast here in Atlanta.

    First, thanks to all who pioneered this process and shared your challenges and discoveries. I've no doubt the warnings and insights you provided helped make this process as smooth as it was.

    Comcast sent out a tech (arrived on time) who had brought two m-cards with him. He'd obviously installed them in a Tivo before as he put aside the cheat sheet I'd laid out, opened the front panel on my TiVoHD and put the card in the correct slot the first try. He'd already had the m-card's number recorded and then proceeded to record the necessary information from the Tivo set-up screen.

    It appears that comcast is using a new process as instead of having to call in and give the various serial numbers to people, he entered them into his Windows Mobile device. This will apparently kick off an email to the central office so they can 'hit' the card. And they can just copy/paste the numbers from the email rather than having to key it in manually. So long as the tech inputs them correctly, it seems to be a better system for ensuring the accuracy of the data. Kudos for Comcast on that.

    The tech then queried what level of service I had, and changed the channel to a premium one I should be receiving. When it was dark, he immediately called the office, confirmed all the info had been received, ran downstairs to double check the channels were fine on the (non-HD) TV/Tivo in the living room and had the person on the other end of the phone hit the card again. That did the trick and in less than 30 minutes, I had a working TivoHD getting all the channels it should.

    So while I'm sure there are some bad techs out there, if you're in Atlanta, see if they can send Mario out to set up your Tivo. He'll do great. :)
     
  16. scooterboy

    scooterboy Coney Island Small

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    My (2) Comcast techs arrived at 9:30 this morning, and just left (it's 3pm). Yup - 5.5 hours. And I still don't have a working TivoHD.

    The techs were fairly knowledgable, but kept insisting that any HD Tivo with "front-loading" cable cards had to have two cards, even if they were both M-cards. I tried to tell them about all the cases I'd seen documented in these forums that are successfully using 1 M-card in their TivoHDs, but they said the "front-loaders" were finicky and wanted two cards. I won that battle when they put in a second M-card and the setup screen said it would be ignored. :)

    The symptom of the first card installed a few days ago was tuner 0 got no channels at all (no program lock), and tuner 1 only got channels up to 23. With no cards at all, the tivo could get all analog channels up into the 70's.

    So we tried the new card they brought and got the the exact same result, after much calling and rechecking card ID's and rehitting the cards.

    I called the Tivo cable card hotline and talked to a nice gentleman who suggested that there were two distinct problems: 1) tuner 0 wasn't getting any channels possibly because the headend has it configured as a single stream card (the techs thought this unlikely), and 2) the card is not acknowledging the cable lineup I subscribe to, only giving me basic cable.

    Not sure I believe #1, and #2 seems pretty obvious.

    I also asked him about signal strength, and he said anything 50 or above should at least allow the card to accept the lineup info from the front end, but a higher strength would certainly be better. We were at 50 at this time, and techs were saying they were reading very high strength on the line from their portable scanning equipment.

    The techs didn't like a "drop off" that they were seeing on the line, so they replaced the cable from the pole across the street all the way up to my house with new cable that was quite a bit thicker than the original cable. they again used their portable scanner and claimed a gain of 3db from the new cable. I forgot to check the signal strength after they did this, and I don't want to fire up the projector just for that so I'll report that back later. I have no idea how much a 3 db gain will boost the signal strength on the 1-100 scale that Tivo is reporting. Hopefully it will be closer to 85 now.

    They left after telling me they were going to get Jim the "cable card guru" to take over the case. They said he has more knowledge and access to more settings than the people that usually set up and hit the cable cards.

    So I'm waiting for Jim to call in the next few days and set up a 3rd service call.

    I'm a bit discouraged. If Jim can't help, then I may just bag the whole thing and send the tivo back.

    I'll report back after Jim comes and goes. :)
     
  17. Grumock

    Grumock New Member

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    Dec 16, 2008
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    Easy thing to check is on the CA screen in the cable card menu. Are they using Motorola cards or SA cards? If SA then you should be seeing at the bottom of the screen "EMMS processed & it should be 39" If it is motorola cards then on the CA screen (Conditional Access) you should be looking for these three things "Con or Connected/ EBCP/ Host validation or VAl". First two should say yes & the Val or Host Validation should say V. If the Con or connected status says no & Val say ? then it is likely that the card may not be registered in the DAC. If for some reason they are using SA cards & your EMMs processed are at 0-2 then the card is not staged in the DNCS & the Head End needs to be contacted so they can send the MODDHCTCONFIG-S command to the MAC address of the card. The other thing you would want to check if they are using SA cards is the CP screen. You should be seeing at the top of the page CP authorization received. If it says waiting for CP authorization that is also an issue that could be directly related to the card not being staged in the DNCS.

    Normally when you are not getting channels above 25 then it is because of one of these reason which in turn means that the card is not truly authorized.
     
  18. scooterboy

    scooterboy Coney Island Small

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    This is the other thing that hasn't changed since we started, including with the second M-card.

    It's a Motorola M-card, and In the CA screen it does say CON:Yes, EBCP: Yes, and VAL: V0x00 (or something like that). However that is the LAST line on the CA screen. There is nothing below that - no AUTH field at all, for instance. When I asked the Tivo Cablecard Hotline guy about that, he said that the AUTH field won't appear until the card is authorized to act as a digital tuner, and the fact that it's not there verifies that it's still acting as analog.

    Does that sound correct?
     
  19. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    No, more info should be there, see this TiVo support page (and select the type of CC that applies to your case)
     
  20. Grumock

    Grumock New Member

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    Nowhere...
    Yes it should have more information under that. It at least sounds like the card is registered in the DAC. Now if you go to the network setup screen are you able to see messages? Take note of the number of messages & leave that screen & then go back in to see if it is changing. That will tell you if it is communicating to the DAC. I am going to say sorry now for this stupid question. You have rebooted the TIVo since the last M card was installed? Sounds so far like to me that they have not sent the appropriate hits to the card. There tends to be a sequence in which they need to send them from what i understand as well. Initialize/host validation/ & then refresh services. If i am not mistaken that Val status should change as well to V0x0* that * could be a 1 or 2 if i am not mistaken.
     

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