QAM mapping letter campaign (HD w/o cablecard)

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by smbaker, Aug 16, 2007.

  1. Aug 23, 2007 #61 of 2121
    Jazhuis

    Jazhuis New Member

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    Not entirely true. While checking some things with my local cable service (at home and at work), a fair number of the basic cable channels are running over unencrypted QAM in a lower frequency block (I believe in the 72. to 73. range). This is within the analog range that the notch filters on the line will filter (and that they remove when you subscribe to something other than lifeline cable).

    So it is possible for a physical filter on the line to block a digital channel that is sent in the clear, as long as the cable company takes the effort to map it to a frequency within the range that a line filter will block. This makes sense, as if you don't subscribe to at least basic cable, they can block you from tuning it digitally as well -- all well and good. I guess they figured there was no reason to encrypt channels that the bottom-tier digital package would get, although some of their choices for mapping are a bit bizarre (ESPN/Disney SD, CW SD? Not filtered. Nickelodeon/Univision SD, FOX HD? Filtered.)
     
  2. Aug 23, 2007 #62 of 2121
    sfhub

    sfhub Well-Known Member

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    He didn't say it couldn't be done with a filter, just that it isn't done with a filter. Why should they go through all this trouble when they can just press a button and change your configuration on the customer service screen?
     
  3. Aug 23, 2007 #63 of 2121
    Phantom Gremlin

    Phantom Gremlin Active Member

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    Your cable company must have given you a crummy notch filter.

    I have the same arrangement. $10/mo cable, therefore a notch filter which knocks out all frequencies between about 270 MHz and 500 MHz. But in my case, as viewed by TiVo HD:

    channel 68: searching for signal
    channel 69: visible picture, lots of snow
    channel 70: good analog channel
    channel 71: good analog channel
    channel 72: first digital channel
     
  4. Aug 23, 2007 #64 of 2121
    Saxion

    Saxion Substantive Member

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    Have to take exception with that, at least historically. Comcast in Bay Area is the first time I've ever heard of a market that provides CableCARDs without a digital programming package as a rule (not some mistake by a clueless CSR). I do know of many other accounts where people in a variety of markets have resorted to all sorts of shenanigans to try to get CableCARDs w/o upgrading to digital cable: order digital and then cancel it and hope they don't demand the cards back, order a digital STB and take out the CableCARD and try to return the box, etc. Or more commonly, people are simply refused CableCARDs in this case (I was, repeatedly).

    I think it would be great if more markets provided CableCARDs with no strings attached, and I'd love to hear more stories about this. Is this becoming more common? Anyone else done this?
     
  5. Aug 23, 2007 #65 of 2121
    Jazhuis

    Jazhuis New Member

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    Oh, I won't deny that at all.

    Then again, (and with reference to sfhub), they may be doing that on purpose anyway. This is Comcast...who really knows?
     
  6. Aug 23, 2007 #66 of 2121
    sfhub

    sfhub Well-Known Member

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    IIRC I have read Bellevue, WA and Denver, CO also allow CableCARDs with just limited basic. I don't dispute you are having problems getting this set up and I have no doubt you might get multiple CSRs trying to force a Digital package on you. I believe the reason you are seeing this is because of (mass) CSR misinterpretation of what is allowed. I also believe the reason you don't see more people posting it is possible is because few people know this can be done. Most people getting TiVo S3/HDs already have a digital package. Many people don't even realize they get HD locals with no digital package. Many of the ones that don't have a digital package are venting on the QAM mapping thread(s) and don't even want a CableCARD.

    For Bay Area, I don't know if there is an explicit rule that says allow the customer CableCARDs even if they don't have Digital Cable in our market, however there is no rule in our market that says you must have Digital Cable to get CableCARDs.

    The difference between what you said and what I said is an explicit rule is something you can point at and say give me that. For us, the issue usually never comes up. We just call in and schedule the CableCARD install, they tell us $15.99 truck roll + $1.79/mo for the second card (2 for TiVo S3).

    If you are in a market where you can get Digital Cable, then downgrade to Limited Basic and keep the equipment, my interpretation of that is there is no billing system rule that forces you to get Digital Cable to get CableCARDs and your job is just to get past the gatekeeper. If you need to order digital then cancel as the path of least resistance, go for it.
     
  7. Aug 24, 2007 #67 of 2121
    vstone

    vstone Active Member

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    Not quite. My local analog channel 7, broadcasts digitally on channel frequency 18, but their OTA PSIP data identifies their HD channel as 7.1. As I currently read the CFR (I changed my mind after being pointed to the correct section of the CFR), the Cable PSIP data should also identify the channel as 7.1. Of course cable boxes, cablecard equipped DVR's, and cablecard equipped TV sets identify that channel as 707. That (707) is where Tivo puts the program information preventing cablecard-less Tivos from identifying the program stream.

    Many, maybe most, cable systems apparently properly populate the cable PSIP tables. The two with which I have experience do not. Perhaps if all of the PSIP data was correct, Tivo would be more active on this feature.

    Tivo has to pick their fights carefully. If they supported mapped to the OTA channel ID (7.1 in this case), cable companies would be getting lots of calls about thsi issue (making them even more unhappy about Tivo) AND Tivo would have to explain the difference between OTA 7.1 and clear QAM cable 7.1. When you wanted to record, say CSI, on 7.1, you have to tell Tivo which to use. and Somebody on this forum would be crying for Tivo to add a feature instructing Tivo to go to the other 7.1 if they lost the signal on one while recording.
     
  8. Aug 24, 2007 #68 of 2121
    sfhub

    sfhub Well-Known Member

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    Well you can imagine different implementations where the issues are minimized. One implementation might be if you choose OTA guide data, it asks you an extra question whether you get OTA via antenna or via cable. Then when you choose cable and it scans for PSIP information. If it can't find any that match the guide it asks you to start over and if it does find the PSIP, it lets you continue, noting any missing channels. I think 99% of the people won't need the functionality of recording OTA HD locals and Cable HD locals, so you can just get rid of that option. I know some areas might not have the full stable of HD locals provided on Cable, but the ones people care about are mostly there and if this was a sacrifice we needed to make to keep the implementation simple enough to convince TiVo to do it, I think most people would be ok with it.
     
  9. Aug 24, 2007 #69 of 2121
    smbaker

    smbaker Well-Known Member

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    I don't care whether or not the cable company is "unhappy" about Tivo or not -- they need to put whatever data into the PSIP that the spec calls for. As I understand (from what others have posted), this is supposed to be what the originating network puts in there, which means that if everything is working correctly, it should be the OTA channel number. In my case, that's exactly what shows up (hooray for something working the *right* way for a change!)

    As far as the channel conflict between QAM and OTA is concerned, this very same situation exists in analog. I can receive analog 9 OTA and analog 9 Cable. Tivo must have some way to disambiguate them. Moving to a digital world where you have 9.1 OTA and 9.1 QAM is the same problem. Use the existing solution, whatever it is.
     
  10. Aug 24, 2007 #70 of 2121
    Saxion

    Saxion Substantive Member

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    Thanks for the advice; you might be right there. I am going to try to fight this battle again, once the S3 gets upgraded to support multi-stream mode on M-Cards. I'll do what I can, but if I can't get around "the gatekeeper" CSR just by asking, I'll have to upgrade to a digital package to get the M-Card, then cancel, and let them try to pry the CableCARD out of my cold dead hands.

    Of course, I really REALLY don't want to go through any of this, and wouldn't have to, if TiVo would simply fix this problem! I don't really care how they do it...automatic use of PSIP data if present, automatic nightly rescanning of QAM channels in case they move, pure manual channel mapping, an obscure backdoor, whatever. As it is, I have to fight a mighty battle with Cox, upgrade and downgrade my service, fight them to keep my M-Card, pay them monthly for the privilege, and deal with skyrocketing Cox CableCARD fees in perpetuity...and all this just to fix the damn TiVo guide! To anyone who thinks TiVo should not fix this: how is this elegant? How is this "a great customer experience"? No matter how TiVo could fix this...it would be better than all the above hassle.
     
  11. Aug 24, 2007 #71 of 2121
    moyekj

    moyekj Well-Known Member

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    The only problem with that approach even if you succeed is if you subsequently have isues with the M-card then you will likely get little to no support from cable company (or they may then demand you either return the card or upgrade to digital service).
     
  12. Aug 24, 2007 #72 of 2121
    MickeS

    MickeS Well-Known Member

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    This is no different than what they already do for analog cable vs analog OTA. I have analog OTA channel 4 and analog cable channel 4. TiVo lets me choose if I want to show both in the guide, or just one of them. They could do the exact same thing with digital.

    EDIT: oops, smbaker already pointed this out. Well, the more the merrier. :)
     
  13. Aug 24, 2007 #73 of 2121
    ciper

    ciper Active Member

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    What if Tivo added QAM mapping but it could only be activated by a backdoor code. That would make everyone happy in my mind.

    Remember the S1 didn't have folders but a backdoor code could enable alternate sorting methods on the NPL. I've used this feature for the last 4+ years.


    In fact even the single tuner S1 units can do this when choosing a combination of analog tuner plus Satellite/Cable over video inputs.
     
  14. Aug 25, 2007 #74 of 2121
    vstone

    vstone Active Member

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  15. Aug 25, 2007 #75 of 2121
    smbaker

    smbaker Well-Known Member

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    Be nice, yes. Bend over backwards to accommodate cablecos that are not following the spec, no.

    The cablecos are not going to like Tivo because they are a competitor. Both the cablecos and Tivo are now in the DVR business. The cablecos would much rather rent the DVRs themselves. Tivo must deal with this and work around cableco issues as much as practical. That's why we need the QAM mapping features.

    The hardware and software both support clear QAM tuning. It's guide data that is unsupported. Tivo has gone to all the work to build in a channel-scan feature. This already opens up the can of worms of channels moving or disappearing, and all the user interface and CSR issues associated with it.

    90% of the clear QAM feature is done. What they failed to do is implement the remaining 10% that associates guide data with clear QAM channels.

    No, it's not. Those threads both call for significant hardware and software changes.

    The ability to associate guide data with clear-QAM channels is a minor change to the Tivo. Of course, I'm speaking as a software developer who has not seen the actual code, but I can infer how the underlying implementation works. It's obvious that by implementing the channel scan and exposing the clear-QAM tuner that they recognize the problem and put forth effort to implement clear-QAM capability, but for unknown reasons failed to complete the feature.

    I'm still think this is not due to valid technical concerns, but is either due to political reasons (back room deal with cable labs) or simple stubbornness on Tivo's part -- the same stubbornness that has us all using the "number of suggestions recorded" to know how much free space we have rather than a simple free space bar.
     
  16. Aug 25, 2007 #76 of 2121
    smbaker

    smbaker Well-Known Member

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    I'd think it better to be up-front about it and make it a published feature. It could have a disclaimer screen with the typical "three thumbs down" to confirm you are aware that channel numbers can change due to cableco reassignment and that you proceed at your own risk. It could further advise you that CSRs will not be able to assist with issues related to QAM-mapped channels.

    A flag can be set when the feature is enabled and communicated during Tivo's nightly call. A CSR taking a support call would know that QAM-mapping is in use and respond appropriately if the user has problems with mapped channels. I know the CSR's have your Tivo details right there on the screen in front of them because when I deactivated my S1, they told me how big a hard drive I had put it. :)
     
  17. Aug 25, 2007 #77 of 2121
    vstone

    vstone Active Member

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    I guess I''l have to quibble here and say if the guide data isn't there, the software doesn't support it. Add the word 'fully' if it will make you feel better. The fact that the clear QAM scan feature is there may indicate that Tivo saw during the beta that PSIP tables were all screwed up and wanted to stay clear for now. The guide data resolution may be sitting in code ready to be activated. Or it may mean that they wanted to support this as an undocumented capability. Or ...

    I wonder if Tivo, Inc regrets allowing the scan function out of beta?
    Well the Svideo would be neither a significant hardware ($10) nor software change, considering what previous models supported. You point is well taken with component inputs, but the real isue is with us consumers throwing bricks at Tivo's design and marketing decisions when we can only guess at the reasons behind them.

    or maybe did but declined to activate them.

    I still wonder why they haven't put free space available on the system information screen, too. One day it occurred to me thar going all digital would resolve this (no quality to pick), then I realized that we would have 1080i bit streams, 720p bitstreams, 480i bitstreams, variations of these bitstreams depending on how cable and TV engineers setup their equipment, possible strange bitstreams like D*'s 1280x1080i (or whatever it is), Amazon unbox files, not to mention varying mpeg 2 bistreams, all without using that mpeg4 capability. I would like to think that something besides lack of stubbornness is behind this useful feature. But I digress.
     
  18. Aug 25, 2007 #78 of 2121
    smbaker

    smbaker Well-Known Member

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    If the PSIP tables were "all screwed up", then why leave the channel scan feature in there? None of it makes any sense to me. As I pointed out before, the all of the problems that would theoretically plague QAM mapping already plague the channel-scan feature.

    For example, I can manually tell Tivo to record 16-1. Comcast can move, delete, or otherwise muck up the frequency and the Tivo will not be able to record the program. Whether or not it has guide data has no impact on these issues.

    I think on a $299 box, an extra $10 is a significant increase in price from a marketing standpoint. There are psychological factors at work here, and Tivo clearly wanted a < $300 price point.

    Not to mention, if they spend an extra $10 for svideo, why not an extra $10 for a better remote, or an extra $10 for a better front panel display, or an extra $10 for more hard drive space. Sooner or later all those $10's add up to the cost of an S3.

    No matter what the technological or non-technological issues are, I fail to see how using the number of suggestions remaining is a better solution (which is what most people tell me to do when I gripe about it). If there are issues with variable recording size, then just give me a % of raw free space, and let me interpret it as I see fit.

    I get the feeling there is someone with a philosophical point of view making the decisions -- someone who thinks those of us calling for free space indicators just don't understand their view of how Tivo should work. That same person probably also has a world-view where every cable device uses a cablecard and not clear-QAM. He probably curses the developer who snuck the channel-scan into the release... :)
     
  19. Aug 31, 2007 #79 of 2121
    Saxion

    Saxion Substantive Member

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    Back to OP: Did anyone write letters or otherwise contact TiVo regarding clear QAM support?
     
  20. Sep 2, 2007 #80 of 2121
    smbaker

    smbaker Well-Known Member

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    I wrote something into the online suggestion thing at the website back when I started the thread. The advice that someone posted about mailing them a physical letter would probably yield greater results -- something I should really get around to doing. I think if someone could convince the powers that be to make this a sticky thread, then we may have more success...

    However, as boneheaded as Tivo has been about the freespace indicator, I suspect they'll turn a deaf ear to QAM mapping. The only thing that will probably sway them is a large number of CSR calls from people who didn't know they needed a cablecard and/or a large number of product returns for the same reasons.

    It's hard to say how many people are buying S3/HD without realizing they need the cablecards.... Although it's printed on the box and printed in the literature, I suspect there may be more than a few consumers who either don't pay attention or assume the cablecards will be provided free by their cable company.
     

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