Hands On: Windows 7 With Copy Freely
In the past, you could not share CableCard content from a Windows Media Center PC. Now you can (and skip commercials, too!)
Select any computer or NAS on the network, or pick ‘All Computers’ to share unprotected content.
September 23, 2009 by Julie Jacobson

Our Windows Media Center maven Derek R. Flickinger just upgraded his ATI Digital Cable Tuners to the new 1.19 firmware.

“It looks like all of the FiOS channels are showing as unprotected (Copy Freely),” he says. “This could be awesome!”

Microsoft announced during CEDIA Expo 2009 that Windows 7 Media Centers would support Copy Freely (CF), one of the designations applied to TV programs by their providers. (The other tags are Copy Once and Copy Never.)

In the past, Media Center did not recognize the CF tags, so no CableCard content — even regular local broadcasts — could be shared. You could copy content to a NAS or other device, but you could only play back the programs on the original PC or through a Media Center Extender.

And since virtually no one is making Extenders anymore — except Microsoft with its Xbox — consumers will be more likely to use mini PCs as extenders. Now the CF programs can be shared among them.

FiOS appears to have a particularly generous content protection scheme, according to Flickinger, who has yet to find protected content. Even premium channels appear to be unprotected.

Selecting ‘All Computers’ brings up a list of Copy Freely Shows on all Win 7 PCs in the house. Before CF support, no CableCard content could be shared between PCs.

“I used the MCIA DCT Diagnostics Tool, let it scan the channel lineup, and list the subscription and current CCI [Copy Control Information],” Flickinger explains. “They all listed as Copy Freely. Of course, the provider could enable the CCI bits, but life is good for now.”

On the other hand, rumor has it that Time Warner Cable and other MSOs are tagging virtually everything as Copy Once (protected). There may be little CF content except from basic broadcast channels.

Win 7 CF content can be put on a USB stick and shared with any computer or simply broadcast across the network. That’s something most of the other guys can’t do.

And the other notable benefit of CF support “is that now we can use the automatic commercial skipping software,” Flickinger says. “Previously, it was not able to open and scan the protected files to calculate where the commercials were. Now it is able to do that. Life is good.”

Now, if you want to stream any live (not recorded) CableCard content over the network — protected or otherwise — you can do that with S1Digital’s new Digital Entertainment Platform. So all PCs in the house can enjoy premium HD content from a single S1Digital server.

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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