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Hardware Support Discussions related to using various hardware setups with SageTV products. Anything relating to capture cards, remotes, infrared receivers/transmitters, system compatibility or other hardware related problems or suggestions should be posted here.

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Old 01-06-2005, 04:46 PM
DFA DFA is offline
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STB Firewire (IEEE-1394) Support

START: Area for links to updated instructions

Some links to updated instructions in this long thread & other locations:
Firewire Installation Documentation from 9-29-2007

Setup on 32 bit Win7

downloadable instructions
ExeMultiTuner plugin

Tim Moore firewire directions
STB Firewire Drivers for Windows Vista/XP/MCE

And, since I'm adding these links, here's what I did to use firewire channel changing:
The install path I followed for my SA 4250HD

- Andy

END: Area for links to updated instructions


ReadMe First:

This thread has gotten rather long and daunting for those not following along from the beginning. So, a few short cuts are offered plus reference to a summary and detailed instructions.

The first part of this thread deals with speculation of what it would take to bring unencypted SD and HD Firewire media from a cable STB into Sage. This is pre-release discussion before Anders Nolberger created the SGraphRecorder (SGR), a.k.a.: Universal Network Encoder (UNE). If wishing to bypass this pre-release discussion, pick up this thread at page 3, Post #50 or Page 4, Post #61. I know that doesn't cut it down very much but helps a little.

If you wish to bypass it all and get right down to it, Olyar15 has put together a nice little summary and is found on Page 18, Post# 351.

Most importantly, SpaceGhost has kindly put together a detailed, downloadable instruction package with reference to needed downloads within and without this thread. This is a must-read. This can be found on Page 18, Post #355. Thanks Spaceghost! More documentation in Post # 835.

A number of us are successfully capturing and recording SD and HD material with Sage via STB Firewire utilizing Anders' UNE. It most certainly DOES work! However, it need be understood that MPEG2-HD requires orders more magnitude of bandwidth than does SD. Not everyone's rig will be up to the task for one or more reasons; HDD bandwidth and speed being one of them. If using the UNE on a remote PC, Gig-E may be needed; gotten conflicting reports on this.

Special thanks goes to Anders Nolberger for making this all possible.

End ReadMe First


Hi All:

This is a kick off post for what I hope will yield some productive results. The goal of this thread is to obtain a working Firewire plugin for SageTV such that we can achieve a much better PQ than is currently possible via analog cable and S-Video link to the Hauppauge (or equivalent) HW encoder.

The first requirement is that you have an STB with a working Firewire output. Scientific Atlanta has a number of models (SA-3250HD and SA4200HD come to mind) as does Motorola (I am not up on the Moto model numbers). Interestingly, the SA-3250HD comes in two (2) flavors with no distinguishment in model number: one version with IEEE-1394 and DVI outputs and the other version w/o either. As an FYI, as of April 1, 2004, all cable operators MUST supply the subscriber with an STB that has a firewire output at the subscribers REQUEST (no additional cost to you). I had to "request" mine along with supplying my unknowledgable Cable Operator reference to the FCC mandate / document that spelled out the obligation. As it turned out, they had a few of the "special" SA-3250HD's in the closet to handle such requests due to the foresight of few individuals behind the front office. So if you have cable and don't have a digital STB with Firewire output, get one; it's yours for the asking.

For reference, this thread over at AVSForum should be reviewed for some background understanding. Only the first 3 - 5 pages need to be read. In short, there is a set of Panasonic DVCR drivers that need to be loaded to be able to capture the IEEE-1394 TS (Transport Stream) from the STB. This will work for XP ONLY; not W2K (it motivated me to finally migrate from W2K to XP). XP has a different (and better) Firewire stack than does W2K. Reference the AVSForum thread given above to get and install the driver.

Once this driver is successfully installed (took me two attempts and there are a couple of tricks to getting it installed), you will have another capture device in your rig. The "Friendly Name" of the device appears as "Panasonic MPEG2TS Tape Subunit Device". The TS from this device can be recorded and viewed several ways: CapDVHS (for recording) and VLC player (for live viewing) are a few. Though, these are rudimentary things. I prefer to use Graphedit to do live full screen viewing with a small graph I put together using nVidia filters. I will post graph file on request.

Now that the Firewire capture device is present, Sage will recognize it. Assuming you have gone through a reboot and complete restart of Sage, Sage will list it in the "Sage.Properties" file as an "excluded" capture device. If you look in the "Sage#.txt" where # = 0 or 1, you will find why the Firewire capture device is excluded: it fails the "Crossbar" test; error 80.

Even if Sage did not exclude the Firewire capture device, it would not work out for us as is. The thing here is that the stream from the STB is a Transport Stream. If it were recorded as is, which can be done, we would have no way to play it back, at least with Sage, because of the need for a different filter arrangement than what is needed for an MPEG2 PS (Program Stream).

This is where the work comes in. TS --> PS conversion is no big deal; the fillters are readily available to do this. But we need some sort of plugin for Sage it seems or create a virtual device. Please reference this thread. This is the Frey Forum thread for the developement of the DVB plugin by and for our Euro counter parts. At Jeff's suggestion, Anders used the "network encoding" feature of Sage to accomplish the goal. Note the similarities in that the DVB card outputs a TS and is a capture device. In our case (firewire), the STB is an external capture device linked by firewire much like the external Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 is linked via USB to the HTPC.

I think Anders could probably accomplish this easily with his current state of knowledge. However, I doubt he would have any way to test (digital cable and digital STB w/ Firewire needed). He does give the source code to the DVB project so maybe some minor modification is all that is needed. Even if a major rewrite, the example should be of value.

At this point I am over my head and talking out my *ss. Mostly optimism bleeding through. I am afraid my only contribution to actually creating such a plugin would be to give it a name: "FreyWire_STB2005". Yuk, yuk.

Once you have viewed your STB through Firewire for SD let alone HD, you'll throw rocks at the S-Video link to the encoder card (degradation due to too many codec cycles IMHO). I frequently watch important, live TV shows now via the Firewire input; much better clarity than even the Component output from the STB direct to my DLP (crappy decoding in the STB me thinks).

All this does not do away with the PVR encoder card: it is still needed for the lower analog channels that are not digital whether direct off the cable or from the STB via S-Video as well as those channels that have fell victim to the dastardly DTCP encryption.

That's it for now. Hope those with some programming skills beyond my own take interest. Even with Premium and PPV channels DTCP encrypted (mileage varies here; mine are not yet flagged encrypted), there is a wealth of other unencrypted channels that we frequently view along with unencrypted "network" HD channels to make this extremely worth while IMO.

Regards,

Dane
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Old 01-06-2005, 05:10 PM
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All right, let's get this thread going. Please, please, somebody figure out how to get this working in Sage. I'll be setting up the first part (driver, Capdvhs, VLCPlayer) this weekend and report on my results.

The fact that the STB will be recognized by Sage as a tuner is more than I thought possible at this point. That's good news as far as I'm concerned. I'm now anxious to try it and find out if my cableco has implemented 5C properly, at all or, as some AVS'ers have noted, on everything including the OTA channels.
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Old 01-06-2005, 05:28 PM
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sleonard:

Just to clarify, Sage recognizes the Firewire capture device merely because it is in the XP list of capture devices but excludes (mmc/ignore_encoders) it as a valid device because it fails the "crossbar" test. But this is not the end of it to be sure.

The conversion from TS to a PS MPEG2 stream is essential to getting the thing to work. I gather the DVB project was able to draw upon an existing developed DLL to accomplish a great deal of what needed to be done. I'm not sure what part the DLL is playing but we may need something equivalent. Again, talking out my *ss.

DFA
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Old 01-06-2005, 05:43 PM
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sleonard:

You mentioned in another thread that there were some MS-developed beta drivers for capturing the STB TS over firewire. I am not aware of any other drivers other than the Panasonic DVCR drivers and something from Vividlogic (Firebus). Did I miss something?

PS: Vividlogic are the folks that supply the IEEE-1394 / DTCP software for Scientific Altlanta STB's (not sure about Moto). Vividlogic has dubbed it "Firebus". Vividlogic has a free beta download for use in Windows PC. They claim it works with W2K as well as XP. I tried it with W2K and it did not work. After migrating to XP, I did not retry it. Not sure if it would be of any use to this Sage project but suggest anyone taking this on should give it a look. It does replace at least one of the XP IEEE-1394 native drivers with one of its own as I recall. Vividlogic calls it DTVR; it can be downloaded here. Click on "DTVR" in the upper left of black ribbon and then click on "Download" in the right dialog box at the right. Perhaps the Sage app would prefer the appearance of the Firebus drivers as a capture device over those of the Panasonic DVCR drivers.

Note to undeclared code warrior: ATSC TS contain "null" packets. The Firewire TS from STB's do not contain any "null" packets. Otherwise, they are the same animal.

DFA
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Old 01-06-2005, 08:47 PM
Cayars Cayars is offline
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I've got a couple of ideas how to do this. I don't think I would do it the same way Anders did it however. I don't have a cable box with firewire yet so I'll have to make a phone call tomorrow to Comcast.

Do you have a link to the FCC mandate/document. I've got a feeling I'll probably need that.
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Old 01-06-2005, 09:29 PM
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DFA,

Probably not. I was writing from memory and it's been 5-6 mos. since I read that thread. I do remember something about a Microsoft driver for CE devices such as cable STB's though. It was from the next version of Windows (Longhorn?) which is supposed to connect nicely to all kinds of CE devices out of the box. I've re-read some of the AVS XP/firewire thread and I don't think it was there. It may have been in the HTPC threads.

Thanks for the link to VividLogic's DTVR. I have 3 SA 3250's so I will test it as soon as Cox enables the FW ports. They said it will take about 48 hrs to get them activated. The cable tech told me that I'll get no OSD thru the FW and DTVR said something about the STB needing to provide a user interface. I guess I'll find out.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that using FW the tuning requests are also made over the FW. No need for IR blasters. I may be wrong however.

FWIW, I like trying out this kind of bleeding edge stuff and if I could use this w/ Sage to record even premium channels (no 5C, yeah, right) I think FW is the perfect way to do a PC PVR. However, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the vast herd of sheep that is the American consumer to wake up and assert it's rights. I'll never be able to timeshift the Sopranos or DiscoveryHD via Sage unless someone makes a capture card that can encode HD from component video and S/PDIF. One helluva encoding chip needed but Moore's Law will win that battle and sooner rather than later I hope.
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Old 01-07-2005, 12:57 AM
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There are folks over at the AVSforum who are successfully using windows 1394 utilities to read MPEG streams from Comcast 6412 DVRs. Apparently the current release doesn't have 5C enabled, so you can read everything in the clear. You still need to do IR control of the STB for tuning, but you can extract the video streams effectively.

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 01-07-2005, 01:22 AM
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sleonard:

You are correct, theoretically, channel changes can be made to the STB via the FW link according to A/VC standard. However, seems to me to keep things simpler, at least for the first round, stay with our blaster / emitters since we already have those going for us. In the case of the DVB project, they had no choice since this is an internal PCI card and required that they work channel changing into the plugin.
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Old 01-07-2005, 01:39 AM
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Cayars:

Look here on page 3, "Digital Cable System Transmission Standards and Support Requirements" \ "High-definition set-top boxes". I had reference to the full legal document but managed to trash my bookmarks a while back when migrating from W2K to XP. The referenced document is a "summary" type document but is from FCC and unambiguous.

Some CableCo's have tried to thumb their noses at people when pointing out their obligations under the law. It is easy to file a complaint with the FCC and the FCC responds quickly. A few success stories mention the CableCo's rolling out the red carpet and getting phone calls from the head honcho after filing a complaint with the FCC. As always, a last resort.

Note: I had earlier said July which was in error since the doc says April.

DFA
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Old 01-07-2005, 11:09 AM
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Cayers,

You probably won't have any problem with the cableco any more. Last April, when the FW mandate went into effect most of the cableco's still had no idea about what they were supposed to provide. Here, Cox had no clue when I called them back then but when I called them yesterday to activate the FW ports on my 3 SA3250's the tech knew exactly what I wanted and had me setup in a few minutes (it still takes 48 hrs. for the STB update to happen though).
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Old 01-07-2005, 12:56 PM
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sleonard:

Couple questions: Do your SA3250HD's use Sara or Passport SW?

I assume you must have received your STB's w/o the Firebus software and Comcast is going to load the SW from the head end. After they load your STB's, can you tell me what rev. Firebus they installed?

On another note, I made a test to see how well Sage plays back HD MPEG2 files. Probably not news to some but I wanted to see for myself. I recorded a 1 minute clip with CapDVHS of HBO-HD, Ch 791 via FW. I then converted it from MPEG2TS to MPEG2PS with "HDTVtoMPEG2" utility. I placed the converted file in the Sage Library folder and played the clip.

It did not work out so well at first: CPU was near 100% w/ dropped frames. I dropped VPP out of the loop and voila. CPU at 20% and perfect PQ; beautiful. So other than VPP, no immeidiate issues I could see with Sage playing HD MPEG2 files.

For grins, I tried playing the HD file with XCard. That was a bust; garbage. First time I had tried that. I'll visit the XCard forum to see what they have to say about HD files. At first glance, looks like a no go to me though.

EDIT: Here's a quote from the XCard forum in the context of HD decoding: "The Xcards Mpeg decoder chipset can only decode a maximum of 414,720 pixels which are usually arranged into a 720wide x 576high 'anamorphic' frame."

So that's that. I guess I already knew that now that I think about it. I suppose the PVR-350 has similar limitations as far as HW decoding is concerned.

DFA
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Old 01-07-2005, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Couple questions: Do your SA3250HD's use Sara or Passport SW?
I'll be happy to. Can you tell me how to find out? I don't know how to get in to the maintenance screens (although I tried hard to look over the shoulder of the cable tech without being obvious )

Quote:
I assume you must have received your STB's w/o the Firebus software and Comcast is going to load the SW from the head end. After they load your STB's, can you tell me what rev. Firebus they installed?
Correct, the phone tech said it would take about 48 hrs. so tomorrow sometime. Again, can you tell me how to get to the screen for this?
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Old 01-07-2005, 01:51 PM
Cayars Cayars is offline
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I'm off in a few minutes to try and pickup a box.
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Old 01-07-2005, 02:02 PM
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sleonard:

No problem but the procedure is different for Sara OS vs. Passport OS and you don't yet know which so is a chicken and the egg thing.

I have Sara and will explain that. If it does not work, than you can assume you have Passport.

Do the following at the STB itself, not the remote.

First, press and hold the center button in the middle of the navigation buttons. Within a few seconds or so, a green LED light should start flashing (the "mail" indicator LED as I recall). Once flashing, release that button and press the "Info" button. The first of around 20 pages should now be visible on your display. Use the "Left" and "Right" navigation buttons to go through the screens. One of the screens (more towards the end I think) gives a summary of all software installed, revisions and dates. The last screen I think is where you can determine the encryption status, PID values of video and audio streams, etc. of the channel you are currently on. To see the FW status of other channels, you have to change to that channel. If the Firebus SW is not yet loaded, you may not have that page or will not yet have data.

I also occassionally look at the diagnostics to take a look at the forward and reverse path signal strength levels to make sure all my bi-directional drop amplifiers and distribution system is working OK. The levels go up in the Winter (almost too high) and go down in the heat of Summer.

To quit the diagnostics, press the "Exit" key.

Good luck.

Dane
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Old 01-07-2005, 02:13 PM
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Cayars:

Too cool. Now the fun begins, eh?

Funny you should be doing that because I am off to pick one up now as well; my second STB (also a 3250HD w/ FW & DVI; I know who to talk to at my CableCo these days). Tired of having to explain to the troops that if watching the STB direct to the DLP that changing the channel will spoil a Sage recording if recording off the S-Video link. Not a reasonable arrangement anyway and anti-WAF. Don't know why I waited this long to get another STB but off I go.
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Old 01-07-2005, 02:25 PM
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Yep, I hate talking to them also. I spent days and days talking till I was blue in the face just trying to get a digital box that had S-Video if you can believe that. You'd think it would be a no brainer but it was terrible. About 3 weeks after finally getting someone who had a clue, they finally called me and told me they had my box. I said you mean "boxes" correct and she said what do you mean boxes. I then had to wait another 5 weeks before I finally had 4 boxes with S-Video.

I'm not looking forward to this. Anyway, enough posting on the forum. Time to go (comcast is only 1/2 mile from my house).

Carlo
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:21 PM
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Cayars:

Wow. I didn't know they made digital STB's w/o S-Video!

Just got back and all went well including my free VOD movie certificate percs from my contact there.

But just want to add something to the original first opening post. I stated that the SA-3250HD is available in two (2) flavors: With FW & DVI and w/o either. Well I saw a third flavor while I was there and that is a 3250HD w/ DVI but w/o FW. The only permutaion left is w/o DVI but w/ FW.

The reason I mention all this is for others who might be going after an FW STB. I had a false start when I first set out to get an STB w/ FW. I assumed all SA-3250HD were created equal (reasonable assumption). So I phone ordered an update to my earlier STB requesting a 3250HD and assumed it would have FW. When the installer showed up I asked him what the heck was this since it had no FW. He gets that glazed over look in his eyes and says "I don't know nothin' 'bout that" (you know the deal). So when it comes to the 3250HD's, be specific about what you want. You'd think SA would at least increment the last digit in the model number to distinguish the variations.

DFA
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:54 PM
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My God, what an experience. Almost one stinking hour waiting at the window for them to find a box for me with "firewire". The girl is looking through manual, calling different places and FINALLY finds out the Motorolla 6200 has this. After doing all the paperwork she slides it out the bullet proof glass to me.

I look at it and I'm impressed, as it's much nicer then any other STB I've had. It had multiple USB, RJ45 Network Jack, IR jack, DVI, composite, analog sound out, digital sound out, optical sound out but nothing punched through the 1394 punch out.

ERRR, cancel all the paper work, She looks more but can't find anything with "firewire" connections. So finally I ask her how many "box" configurations they have and she says 6 or 8. So I ask her, how many of these are HD. She says 3. I say, if you wouldn't mind, could you just hold them up to the window and I'll take a look and see if it has what I need.

After giving me an "attitude" type look she walks in the back and comes back with a box. I'm like "YEA, YEA, that's the BOX!" She then tells me this box doesn't support "firewire" as she knows the box very well. I ask her what the hell she's talking about as I can clearly see the 1394 jacks down bottom right on the box.

She then says, yea it's got 1394 but NO "firewire" port. I started laughing and when I told her it's the same thing and she should "know that" she got pissed and told me I needed to come back tomorrow as it's after 5pm and she's done work!

I got home, made a phone call as I was pissed. Got passed twice up the chain. Told my story and was told it would be taken care of. I don't think it was 20 minutes later I had a guy at my front door apologizing for what happened with a brand new box for me. I haven't hooked it up yet as I'm still fuming and needed to vent. Damn I hate the cable companies. Makes me want to switch to Sat.
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Old 01-07-2005, 06:10 PM
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I'd like to try this firewire stuff myself, but I refuse to patronize Mediacom and Mcleod doesn't have any HD, nor plans to do it it seems.
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Old 01-07-2005, 06:18 PM
DFA DFA is offline
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Cayars:

Sorry for the trauma. Sadly, it is almost a given. IEEE-1394 is mouthful as opposed to Firewire. I agree she should know the various handles even if not a clue what it does.

I believe a book, no, volumes could be assembled of CableGuy/Gal stories. Some a riot, some that make you cry and some Steven King couldn't match.

My story has a happy ending since fortunatly my early fiasco ended up knowing some technical people in the bowels of the organization and a gal manager in customer rep. that I have direct phone numbers for. Now that I can avoid Russian roulett with main line phone and front counter people, everything has been as fine as frog hair since.

Ofcourse now we have to wait and find out if your box ID is activated and all SW installed. Also, when I was handed a brand-new-never-been-used box, I found that there is a very lengthy boot time (+15 mins) while it probes the network for all kinds of info. I also found out the hard way that you don't want to interrupt this process; somewhat like interrupting a BIOS flash.

Just having the box is not always the end game. Crossing fingers, knocking on wood here.

DFA
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