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Is it possible to watch cable TV (specifically Comcast in Massachusetts) through the monitor of a computer running Ubuntu? If so, what additional hardware and software are required for this? Better yet, is there a step-by-step how-to for something like this?

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Do any of the supplied answers help? If so, could you mark one as correct or at least mark the answers up? –  tjameson Apr 6 '11 at 9:35
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3 Answers 3

Without knowing what your specific cable setup is like, here's some broad advice:

If you don't have a set top box, the kind of tuner card that CreeDorofl suggests will grab unencrypted analog content. The number of analog channels available without a box is shrinking over time, there probably isn't much available except your local channels.

If you do have a set top box, something like this will grab unencrypted digital content (ClearQAM) as well as broadcast ATSC. What unencrypted content is present, if any, will vary from provider to provider. It sounds like Comcast doesn't have much nowadays.

If you want access to encrypted digital content, you'll need a CableCARD and something like this.

Sounds like Comcast does CableCARDs, but requires a truck roll.

For Comcast, it seems like there won't be much content available without a CableCARD.

FYI, I'm sure there are similar products on the market, the Silicon Dust product line is just what I'm familiar with.

Getting a signal up on your display so you can watch it live is a start, but you'll probably want to be able to record it and watch it later. You're going to want MythTV as tjameson suggests. Here are some instructions for getting a Silcon Dust receiver working with MythTV on Ubuntu.

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CableCARD does not require a truck roll. It's merely providing the logic for decryption to generic devices other than their own provided set-top-boxes, because the feds have forced the cable cos to open the market to other devices. Beware of FUD generated in reaction. To switch from Comcast's provided digital STB to a TiVo Series 3, I just needed to go into the local Comcast store and ask for a CableCARD. I think it added a rental to the monthly bill, equal to that of the STB, which is part of how Comcast fight the need to provide the cards: why bother if it's the same price as a full box? –  Phil P Mar 27 '11 at 20:35
    
Comcast FAQ says technician install required (glad to hear it's wrong in your case at least): customer.comcast.com/Pages/… –  Mark Johnson Mar 27 '11 at 20:38
    
It's FUD or an attempt to bill you for more. A CableCARD is a PCMCIA-style card, it just plugs into your device. A quick Google Image search gives this example: flickr.com/photos/stevegarfield/3369551922 (although in that example, an installer came out) –  Phil P Mar 27 '11 at 20:53
    
@Phil P - I know what a CableCARD is, and no, it's not something a truck roll should be required for. However, that doesn't mean some providers aren't going to require one, for whatever reason. Hope the Comcast FAQ is wrong, but it says what it says: "At this time, professional installation by a Comcast technician is required." –  Mark Johnson Mar 27 '11 at 23:05
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You will also need some software. I like MythTV, and it has a list of digital tuners that work with MythTV.

There are also analog tuners, but you will probably need a digital tuner unless you have a digital to analog converter box. The signal may be encrypted, so you may need to use the box and get an analog tuner.

Here is a page with links to different supported cards.

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I know nothing about ubuntu but the hardware you need is called a TV tuner card. Actually I think they make external ones too. Make sure it accepts the cable input (coax or whatever). The software will then allow you to watch TV in a window and you can continue working with the OS. You can also record. I found this via google, maybe this app is the right one to use with your hardware: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=230279

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