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MythTV easy … Comcast HD over Basic Cable not so.

August 27th, 2008


So, I’ve been configuring my Mythbox as I have time.  Some of my hardware arrived late, but I put together the basic PC the first weekend, installed Ubuntu and did a burn-in (I am very happy with how quiet it runs).  My HDHomerun arrived a few days later and decided to interrupt my burn-in. I installed Mythbuntu and attempted to configure it. I hooked up my coax cable to the HDHomerun and ran a Cat5 to my switch and I was able to see it immediately in the MythTV configuration utility. I did a channel scan and was surprised to have 80 unencrypted hits. My jaw dropped, I had 80 HD channels over basic (analog) cable?

I need to backup here a bit and explain what I had learned through the internet and from a flier that I picked up at the local Comcast office, but even with the flier in my hand, I could not get a Comcast salesperson to give me a straight answer. It clearly states in the brochure that:

HDTV broadcast signals are included with subscription to Limited Basic Service. To receive other HDTV signals provided by the Company, an HDTV capable television set (not provided by the Company), Standard Service and an HDTV digital converter and remote are required. In addition to receive Expanded Service, Digital Starter, Digital Classic, Digital Preferred, Sports Enterntainment, Package or premium (i.e., HBO, Showtime) HDTV signals, a subscritpion to that service is required. (sic)

However, the salesperson was adamant that I needed to rent a digital cable box to get any HD (I did check and there is a Firewire out on the Scientific Atlanta box) even though it clearly states in the brochure that HDTV is included with the analog (limited basic) service (only the broadcast channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and PBS)).

So, I was surprised and vindicated when I had 80 unencrypted hits. Unfortunately, I was soon to learn that some of those must be placeholders (for what I can’t imagine). I also can find NO information which channels are the networks, Fox, and PBS so I had to slowly change channels through all 80 and hope Myth didn’t crap out when there wasn’t actually any content on that channel. I have found the 5 19×8 (i) channels and plenty of upconverted 4×3 channels, but getting them to match up with the schedules from Schedules Direct is still somewhat of a mystery (help would be appreciated … please leave a comment). I do have to admit that watching the last few days of the Olympics in HD was very sweet … I’m still using a computer monitor as I haven’t convinced the wife to let me get an HDTV yet but the picture quality is great.

The remaining tasks are to install an analog capture card to get non-HD channels, figure out how to get the BlueRay drive working (if possible), get an HDTV (if possible), get the schedule to match up to the HD channels, and a few other odds and ends.

If anyone lives in the Blacksburg, VA area and has been able to decrypt the Comcast HDTV signals over the analog (limited basic) service, please drop me an e-mail or leave a comment here.

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