Aug 13, 2012

SiliconDust HD HomeRun Prime CableCard Set-Up

My current DVR solution, BeyondTV, was ageing and appears not to be the long-term focus of Snapstream, so I went shopping for a new solution that had some legs. I have the Extended Basic tier with Comcast and due to encryption of the "channels" above 30, I was only able to record about half of the content I was paying for. I could get HD local channels nicely with my twin Hauppauge 2250's, but couldn't record the likes of History Chnnel, Discovery and others.

Turns out my local Fry's had a special on the SiliconDust HD HomeRun Prime networked-attached cablecard tuner for $30 less than the current Amazon price. Newegg and Amazon reviews were favourable. The downside was dealing with Comcast to get the required cablecard and get the card activated once installed. Forums were full of postings of long waits, both in-store to pick up the card and hours spent on the phone to Comcast Tech Support to get the card activated. 

Decided to bite the bullet, figuring the possible short-term pain would be worth the long-term gain. Turns out, things went quite smoothly. Maybe not butter, but at least cake.

Visited the local Comcast store at 9:21 on a Monday morning. The walk-around greeter told me it would be about 10 minutes wait. Yeah, sure!  I had to recant my cynicism when I walked out of the store with Multistream cablecard in hand at 9:31.

The rep at the Comcast store-front told me to insert the card SLOWLY and call the number at the bottom of the invoice ASAP after install. Do both of those things, and I'm waiting on the line, when I notice the invoice says you can activate over the Internet at OK, I can try that whiIle I'm waiting. The three-step activation has me done in about five minutes and says wait 45 minutes for activation to complete, so I ditch the phone call.

The HomeRun Prime works with Wndows Media Center under Windows 7. While I'm waiting for the activation to complete, I install the HomeRun Prime software on one of my three Windows boxes. As one of the last steps in the install, I did a channel scan expecting no channels to appear. But, no - channels start appearing in the HomeRun config tool! So, in my case it looks like activation took less than 30 minutes. Cool.The odd thing was, the web page that the HomeRun config utility takes you to (a 192.168.0.* address on your network under DHCP) indicated no channels were downloaded to the three tuners even after activation was complete and I could view channels in WMC. I refreshed a couple of times and still got the same report back, no channels.

Get to work on configuring WMC. Go to Tasks/Setup/TV and begin. PlayReady ( for DRM content) and DCA (Digital Cable Assistant) download if they are not already present in WMC. At one point, WMC tells me that my computer is unable to receive digital channels, but I keep going. Don't know what WMC was trying to tell me, but after waiting for the Program Guide to download, my spot checks showed I could view even formerly unavailable content just fine. 

The only slightly rough spots were when I set up the HomeRun on a WMC machine previously configured for the Hauppauge 2250. First, the DCA wanted a Product Activation Code and they weren't talking about the Windows OS. They meant the HomeRun product code. A little googling turned up a valid product code in the SiliconDust forums:
This is for the forum entry:
The other problem I had was due to my previous tuner installs with the twin Hauppauge HVR-2250's. Although WMC would recognize all of the installed tuners including the HomeRun, the Program Guide information looked like it only used the 2250's which were not able to receive the encrypted/non-clear QAM channels. To fix this, I went back into the TV tuner setup and picked the manual option, then set up ONLY the HomeRun tuner.
In summary, for me this was a fairly straightforward set-up; perhaps I just got lucky this time.
  • can watch TV through WMC on any computer in the house with HomeRun software installed
  • fairly straightforward set-up for HomeRun
  • self-activation with Comcast actually worked and was painless (quelle surprise!)
  • the HomeRun seems to only show SD content; the Hauppauge HVR-2250 also shows HD local channel offerings
  • a little laggy in WMC when you first start up, say a few seconds of unsynchronised lips/audio

I was confused on the HD offerings due to different presentation styles. On the HVR-2250, local HD channels are interleaved with SD channels like so: 2 (SD), 2.1 (HD) and so on. The CableCard presents the local HD channels and other content in the 700's-800's band of channels.