It's a start...

Posted by Garth on Friday, June 1, 2007

Without getting into too much detail, there's a huge problem in the consumer electronics industry with regards to recording HD broadcasts to your PC. Sure, you can rent a PVR box from your cable provider, but then you can't really DO anything with your recordings. And you're paying your cable company more money. And they're bastards. So what is an HTPC enthusiast to do? Well, there have been a few options on the market for awhile, but they all stink. Over-the-air HD is one solution. But it requires a good antenna and you won't get many channels if you live in the sticks. Buying one's own STB with some sort of firewire passthrough or the like is another option, but not if your cable provider encrypts their signal. Recently CableCards have been introduced in the US, but there's a ton of problems there too, not the least of which is the lack of availability (or even announced availability) in Canada (thanks Rogers!).

So, found on gizmodo today, a company called Blackmagic has released an affordable HD capture card. Sure, the digital inputs don't support HDCP, but that's understandable due to the entertainment industry's stance that we're all criminals. But what it DOES support is analog capture in the form of component inputs. And all for $349 US. Prior to this, component capture solutions were thousands of dollars.

I'm very excited. Though that excitement wanes when I realize the amount of trouble and effort required to capture a simple HD stream. One which I'm paying for and is delivered to my home in a digital format. I then need to take the analog version of that signal (converted from digital by the STB) and feed that to this capture card which in turns converts the signal back to digital so that I can record/edit/otherwise manipulate it on my PC. And all because the entertainment industry doesn't think that I should have the ability to record the digital signal because I'm a thief.

Well, you know what? Maybe by definition I am a thief when it comes to this (though thieving by definition implies taking something away from someone, and since no one's actually losing anything when I obtain a copy, perhaps I'm not really thieving). Why? Because I download TV shows in HD that I don't watch live. I pay for the feed from my cable provider, but since I have no facility to record the HD broadcasts I download them if I miss the live version. And also Weeds (ironically I'm linking to the Showtime site, but I can't view it; however I am able to view the Google cached version), cuz it's the best show ever and we're like a year behind in Canada. If I had the ability to subscribe to Showtime I would, but I don't (have the ability that is), so I don't (subscribe that is). Hell, they don't even let me view their website from Canada. Tell me THAT makes any sense. I mean, if a content provider puts this kind of restriction on their website, it's no wonder they lock their content down so heavily. I mean, do they think I'm gonna steal some of their html cuz I'm Canadian? Do Americans make better websites than us? Are there military secrets embedded on their website? Any Americans (or residents thereof) feel free to fill me in.

When will the content providers realize that content WANTS to flow around and be free (like speech, not beer). It takes more effort to lock it down than it does to just let it live. Haven't they ever heard that if you love something, let it go. If it loves you it'll come back. Maybe they know deep down that their content hates them too and if let free would find a home on some server in a .ru domain :)


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