The Search for Home Networked Video

So I've had this little project on my mind for a while now, but various things have stopped it. Recently a good use for it has come up, a favor to a friend, and I've been exploring options. Being that HD is being forced down our throats, and yes I do feel that way due to the way it is being implemented, I wanted to consider either future-proofing whatever I went with or being able to move to HD now.

The basic requirements are:

  • Watching live TV from any computer on a (wired) home network
  • Closed captioning (CC) must be accessible, for all broadcasts that are CCed
  • The client computer software must be usable on Mac OSX and Linux
  • Premium channels must be viewable

None of the above can be sacrificed. Not one of them, sorry.

Optional items:

  • Recording TV for viewing later (must include CC), ala a PVR

The current video source is via DirecTV, however switching to Time Warner cable is an option but not a preferred one. The DirecTV source is currently analog, via RCA tuners (there are two but only one needs to be utilized for this project).

Out of the four requirements it appears I can meet the majority of them with ether something like Slingbox or MythTV and a tuner card. The one I'm having a time with is the closed captioning. I truly do not understand this, as to me I would think at least a subset of the PVR crowd would have something that would scan captions for keywords and start recording when they were found. Geez, I remember some old ATI All-In-Wonder (or was it Matrox Marvel?) software having this feature years ago.

The biggest thing, for analog, seems to be finding a tuner card that supports closed captioning and then the drivers for it that would allow MythTV to pick up on it. Heck, just looking at the tuner card vendor sites you can't tell if their included Windows (or Mac) software would give you the closed captions. And you cannot assume it will have this support, either. I guess the cards bound for the US get out of this requirement because the "Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990" only specifies TV receivers with screens 13 inches or larger to have this support. Since the tuner card doesn't have a screen by itself, or they could say they have no way of controlling the screen size of the computer monitor that will be used, manufacturers have the perfect loop hole.

Don't even get me started on what I've been reading about HD. While something like the HDHomeRun seems like a perfect device, as web searches indicate it doesn't drop what is needed for the captions to reach the client software, there's the whole issue of channels being encrypted (cable) and various other barriers. Closed captioning support in the HD tuner cards seems to be abysmal, but it seems this is true even with TVs and cable boxes from what I've found so far.

I'm not hearing impaired and I use closed captions. It is great in noisy areas or where you don't want sound where there is a TV - bars, gyms, airports. When I was up in Montreal, Canada for a bit I remember watching TV shows in French-Canadian and having the closed captions on help me even though they were in the same language (I was always better at reading French). It helped me brush up on a few things and move from the classical French I studied in school to what was being spoken around me. I often will not watch a show if there is no closed captioning. I also tend to turn away from commercials, including political ads, if they are not closed captioned. [Advertisers you are losing money with at least me, if not many more.]

My feelings are technology should be making things like closed captioning more possible and therefore more available. It should not take government decrees. And it also shouldn't take the same thing to make how it is done be a open, documented, standard way.

Some reading, if you like: