I want to mention that the Media Center Integrators Alliance (MCIA) will be releasing to its members the first of several tools focused on the custom integrator channel (it will be announced “officially” at Spring EHX during the Media Center University training March 12th). This first one is a Digital Cable Tuner Diagnostics tool that helps its members set up and diagnose issues with CableCARD-based implementations of Windows Media Center. The utility scans the tuners and channels and reports back diagnostic information about the channels being received. It includes information like the modulation type, format, frequency, carrier, PCR Lock, encoding level, and authorization. It also provides detailed information about the DCT itself in addition to all of the parameters of the CableCARDs. It allows the system integrator to export the data as an XML file so it can be sent to someone and imported into the tool for analysis elsewhere if required. The concept is to compare the results to the channel lineup provided by the MSO under the assumption that the two should match up based upon the client’s subscription package. It is interesting to note (at least to me) that this utility was written using the information supplied through the standardized UPnP Device Control Protocol (DCP) interfaces for the DCTs.
I will make one word of caution, however. The current hardware implementation on the ATI DCTs does not report accurate values for the Signal Level coming into the coax port on the tuner (nor for the individual channels). It is recommended highly that the integrator (or the cable provider) measure this at that connection point with an appropriate signal strength meter to ensure a proper value. Currently, this should be somewhere between -10 dBmV and +10 dBmV. As a side note, you also want to make sure the ambient temperature surrounding the DCT is less than eighty degrees Fahrenheit to minimize potential heat-related issues with the hardware itself.