Hybrid 650 pci cards do QAM

When I get the crashes it doesn't give the BSOD, but it'll freeze the screen, then I lose the display entirely -- it's usually necessary to power off at that point, since even a hard reset has no effect. Other than that it sounds just like the problem I was/am having -- I didn't mention that I *thought* it might be on channels with poor signal, or where the tuner had trouble locking on, because I wondered if it was either my imagination or symptoms of a pending crash.

I could never backtrack successfully to 8.2 though -- I came very close in XP, but then had the problem/crashes occur on the avivo-related pages in CCC. OTOH I had no problems with tuning crashing the system after going back to 8.2. In my case running the channel scan in CMC for the analog tuner was guaranteed to crash 8.3. Disabling my Audigy 2 sound card helped -- updating CPU drivers hurt dramatically -- but nothing I did, including turning off anything that started with XP & fooling with running processes cured the problem. Adding .NET 3.5 did seem to help a bit.

Since I never had that sort of problem from anything ATI over the course of almost a decade I didn't have a good backup with 8.2, so I moved back to 8.3, stuck now waiting for 8.4 with fingers crossed. I was thinking that if 8.4 didn't do it there's always that new Hauppage device coming out with HD component capture, but now I'm thinking I may have to deal with it anyway if you're getting crashes from the HomeRun.

I'd been playing with digital tuner issues in Vista -- I haven't found an easier cure or a lot of documentation on BDA in Vista, so it looks like using XP drivers *may* be the best solution for me for now. FWIW I *think* that Vista &/or DX 10 introduces different, separate methods of handling BDA stuff, & the Vista 650 drivers work with whatever new methods, but not the older stuff like XP & most non-MS apps use. *Maybe* with these crashes we're seeing the results of driver code that's starting to include more DX 10?

One thing I did find was installing .NET 3 or 3.5 adds the option to use the new evr video screen rendering, as opposed to the old vmr9... For me using evr helps stability a whole lot, so maybe it's something you'd want to check out?
conclusion of sorts

conclusion of sorts

Right now there just doesn’t seem to be a really ideal QAM viewing/recording solution available. The Homerun probably gets you a lot closer, but for folks like me with a handful of non-encrypted channels (literally), it’s hard to justify the effort setting it up let alone the cost. If my curiosity didn’t override my common sense, I wouldn’t have gone this far with QAM tuning on the 650.

I could very well be wrong, but as far as I can tell or find out, QAM tuning and OTA ATSC seem to be pretty much the same thing, the difference being the different tuning range – software has to deal with one range for OTA ATSC & another (that may overlap?) for QAM, both of which are different than satellite reception. What’s missing to date is the coding to put it all together in an easy to use & set up program – and with ATI products, better driver software.

If I had to pick a program for my wife to use, it would be Arcsoft’s TotalMedia, but it only works with the 650 in XP. It’s also slow at scanning channels, & I’m not sure there’s a way to get rid of those channels it detects that aren’t viewable. Beyond TV might work, but it’s hard to recommend for anything QAM besides the Homerun with it’s OTA ATSC only tuning range. On-the-other-hand, substituting the 650's two driver files with XP versions, it should work in Vista.

The free Media Portal might be a good solution – it recognizes and is able to tune the 650 in Vista using the XP driver files – but it’s a lot of work to set up compared to other HTPC apps; you need to install 1 of Microsoft’s free SQL programs, which are not painless to live with [you’ve got a bunch of running services which can interfere with your use of other software and/or windows]. Currently you also have to set up the stable version, add the server, & then the latest snapshot build to get QAM according to their docs – I stopped short when I found MP would recognize and tune the 650, albeit using the OTA ATSC range.

The free GB-PVR works, and in Vista too if you use the 650's XP driver files. It also seems to co-exist with Vista’s MC fairly well, though you’ll probably still want to stop the MC services or prevent them from auto-starting. While setting up the 650 is relatively easy, setting up the rest of the program IMHO is more work than many people would be willing to tackle – neither BG-PVR nor Media Portal can compare to something like TotalMedia or ATI’s CMC for ease of set-up. My guess is that at least some of this is intentional, sacrificing easy for increased flexibility, but bottom line: to get the most from GB-PVR you should be somewhat comfortable using simple batch files.

The 2 biggest surprises I encountered were the failure of Intervideo’s (now part of Corel) & Cyberlink’s programs to work with the 650 at all in either Vista or XP using the latest 650 drivers. Speculating that things are changing with Vista’s (& DX 10's) TV/Video handling, maybe these companies are still trying to use fairly old code bases? Neither program would even work with the 650's analog tuner, which in my experience has great compatibility. And I’m not talking about some minor glitches but rather the programs crashing.

To sum it all up, from the small amount of work I’ve done on this mini-project, If you want to watch TV via the 650 PCI (maybe other hardware versions as well?) in XP, there are a couple of easy choices including TotalMedia if you want to use the digital tuner for QAM, CMC if not. If all you want to do is capture Analog video, there are several programs that’ll handle that too, from VirtualDub (& other free or open source capture programs) to capture utilities packaged with burning suites like Nero & Roxio offer. Watch HDTV does OTA ATSC well. In Vista, Media Center takes the prize, unless you want QAM, which means using GB-PVR or Media Portal currently.

This should change – in my opinion should have changed a while ago – as more software is updated to handle QAM tuning. Personally I put the burden directly on software developers as BDA is designed to be more standardized &/or universally compatible than the old VFW that’s still in use. I don’t blame them really – if they don’t want to write the code that’s their prerogative – and if I was going to blame anybody it would not be the engineers designing hardware to meet BDA standards/specs. If I was going to hang somebody’s picture on the dart board they’d be in marketing, and responsible for making claims that are often just not reasonably possible, yet.
On drivers & other software...

On drivers & other software...

ATI released their 8.3 graphics card drivers which have helped some, hurt others. Avivo interacts with Windows video rendering, and provides alleged enhancements like edge detection and noise reduction, along with benefits like hardware acceleration of video decoding and display.

What I called alleged enhancements are somewhat controlled through CCC, but others have done a lot of work isolating the registry entries to more fully turn this stuff on & off; the same for hardware acceleration. [Check out in particular the HTPC section of the avs forums – avsforum.com] The practical effects can be seen in Vista’s MC – at the default settings it can make your video look pretty bad – so it really isn’t just tweaking the display to maybe get more out of it, but an attempt to put things back. As far as hardware acceleration goes, these registry entries in some cases may be the only way to get it working. Changing default video decoders can help too – the ATI drivers interact with the built in Vista decoders, not necessarily with third party versions. [Google on “vmcd.exe”]

If you’re watching video in Vista, picking up a copy of Power DVD OEM for a couple of dollars is a good investment – you can use the decoders in a LOT of software, including Vista MC. Be aware however that just like XP, in Vista you can have too much of a good thing, and too many decoders, particularly AC3, can mean compatibility problems; Cyberlink software for example does not like Sonic Cinemaster audio.

Vista MC runs several services – one starts via the Registry Run key, while some services are set to automatic. These may or may not interfere with other software trying to use your tuner hardware. Turning these off or stopping them can help &/or may be necessary.

Digital tuners (QAM, OTA ATSC, DVB-x) use BDA drivers in Windows. Most digital tuners have a digital tuner & a capture device – you can see & access these in graphedt. You have to physically connect your tuner to a signal source – you plug in an antenna or cable co-ax – and in software you need to do the same thing, provide a source signal that the tuner can work with. In graphedt the source for a BDA tuner is a Microsoft Network Provider, and there are 4 of these in XP, 5 in Vista – the provider connects to the tuner which connects to the capture device – many TV or HTPC programs build similar *graphs* internally.

Of the 4 XP providers, one is ATSC, and it works for OTA or QAM. The fifth, new provider in Vista I’ll call generic, because it doesn’t specify ATSC or DVB-x like the other 4. Vista MC & the 650's Vista drivers use this generic provider, which is the file msnp.ax – MC may not actually use this file with the 650, but I’ll get to that in a moment... XP, the 650's XP drivers, and a lot of other software use the Microsoft ATSC Network Provider, msdvbnp.ax. This causes a LOT of problems if a program in Vista tries to access the 650 using that ATSC network provider, as the 650's drivers *Will Not* connect to it – unless you substitute the XP version driver files.

Getting (modding / tricking) a TV-related program in Vista to use the newer, generic provider doesn’t seem to work... With an analog tuner like the one on the 650, the drivers include a window where you can set the channels, and you can use that same window in most TV or capture software, or in graphedt. With BDA drivers it doesn’t work that way, and the program you’re using has to send a tuning request that [simplified] has to pass through other software files before it gets to the 650's tuner. The pathways used to get to the tuner appear to be different depending on which source provider is used, ATSC or generic. I was, for example able to edit the registry in Vista to get GB-PVR to use the generic provider, msnp.ax, but it couldn’t successfully get it’s tuning request to the 650 – it doesn’t seem to be GB-PVR’s fault at all, but the standard path to the tuner using msdvbnc.ax, the ATSC provider, appears to be different that whatever’s used with the newer generic version, msnp.ax. Modding that path in Windows runs the risk of breaking whatever does and should use the original version.

As it is using the XP 650 driver files [atinavrr.SYS & atinpprr.ax] carries some risk because the XP drivers appear to be incompatible with Vista’s generic provider – you cannot connect them in graphedt. However, this does not break Vista MC... Vista MC’s ehrecvr does open the generic provider, including when it auto-starts with Windows, before it knows what tuner you want to use; MC *may* be coded to open that file regardless, but can apparently use a different method(s) to access the 650's digital tuner – the important thing is that MC still works with the digital tuner regardless the XP or Vista driver set in place for the 650. Will some other software expecting the generic provider work? I have no idea.

[Note: if you want to swap out, delete, or really do anything with the ATSC or generic providers installed in Vista, they’re locked. One way around it is to enable the so-called “Super Admin” account, log on to it, then change the files’ ownership -> then you can change permissions (unlock). Swapping the ATI 650 driver files may be easy or hard... Turning off any running ATI programs & services, then disabling the 650 in Device Mgr., you should be able to copy/paste them like any other files, but with CCC 8.3 I’ve had disabling the 650 cause Vista to crash. Alternatives include booting into another OS, possibly using a boot/rescue/OS CD, Vista Safe Mode, or specialized utilities that can copy files when re-booting.]
I’ve been recently considering the removal of the ATI HDTV Wonder and ATI TV Wonder 650 Hybrid PCI cards from System2 because it has come to my attention that the new Avermedia AverTV Bravo Hybrid PCIe X1 (H788) card has recently gained Clear QAM support in Vista Media Center and Media Center Edition 2005:

AVerMedia released AVerTV Bravo Hybrid PCI-E x1TV Tuner (Analog/ATSC/QAM)

AVerMedia AVERTV Bravo Hybrid PCI-E (H788) MTVBHPCIR PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail $69.99

AVerMedia AVERTV Bravo Hybrid PCI-E (H788) MTVBHPCIR PCI-Express x1 Interface - Open Box $49.99

This is still in beta but it looks to be as promising as the Avermedia AverTV Combo PCIe X1 (M780) QAM / Vista MC / MCE 2K5 beta program which is very solid IMO. I could replace the ATI HDTV Wonder and ATI TV Wonder 650 cards with 2x QAM cards which have Vista MC / MCE 2K5 support for either less or about the same amount I paid for the TV Wonder 650 alone (open box 2x = ~$100 or retail 2x = ~$140).

I’ll also add the I can’t seem to upgrade the drivers on the ATI cards since they blue screen the system on every attempted install. The old drivers work but the only unstable part of the system seems to be the drivers on these ATI cards. Moving to the Avermedia card(s) with beta drivers and QAMTool may actually improve stability.

Then again I can also just buy another Avermedia AverTV Combo PCIe X1 (M780) card since the OEM cards go for as little as ~$69.

If I do this I can then experiment with the TV Wonder 650 PCI Hybrid card with respect to QAM in a test system.
Thanks for the info!

Right now I'm tending to hold off any purchases a little bit until the new Hauppage HD PVR hits the market to see all the pro's & cons, what it works with etc... There may even be a flurry of clones soon afterwards 'cause there seems to be a LOT of interest (on-line at least).

It's an external box that connects via USB, takes HD component in, & records in mpg4, including BluRay compatible. It's also supposed to include an app to burn BluRay video to regular DVDs that are readable in BluRay players, with about 2 hours of video per DVD. The electronics were allegedly done in December, with rumors of release saying late March to sometime in May. Since the hardware encoding is done by the box, a graphics card with mpg4 acceleration [like the mid-range ATI's] should make viewing on your PC or TV quite possible on most current PCs.

If I seem a little overly cautious, please forgive... We had a motherboard start to die a couple months before a planned upgrade, & I went for a Phenom because the one thing it's supposed to do well is video, & it was a lot cheaper than the Intel. If I could have waited, the new Intel Quad is out, the new Phenoms are in manufacturing (without the performance loss of the tlb patch), & prices are starting to drop thru the floor. Knowing that the new Intel CPUs at least were on the way, and being forced to buy early, it just brought out my cautious tendencies to the max I guess. :nuts:
The “Hauppauge HD PVR” sounds like a great product and not too badly priced at ~$249.99 USD. I would seriously consider buying a “Hauppauge HD PVR” but the products true usefulness / value depends greatly on your current starting point.

For example, if the user in question can only get a few QAM channels and only a few OTA ATSC channels (and OCUR being out of the question for many reasons) then the “Hauppauge HD PVR” would be a phenomenal windfall allowing the full range of channels available via the STB (premium channels included) on the PC,…..in full HD quality.

However, if the user in question can receive the vast majority of available channels via QAM, OTA ATSC or via firewire then only the premium channels would typically be unattainable.

I’m in the latter group since my ~140 available QAM channels closely mirror my cable STB lineup. There are only about ~3 premium HD channels that are available in HD that I couldn’t previously get on the PC and during my last scan I was able to pick up those channels HBOHD, MaxHD, StarzHD as well as several SD versions of these channels.

;) I tell you, it was a beautiful rare thing to see these premium HD and SD pay channels in clear QAM. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. It’s my guess that my cable provider briefly unencrypted these premium channels for free for promotional purposes :(

I’m guessing that I may very well buy a “Hauppauge HD PVR” but if I were to do so it would only be for the few premium channels I don’t have access to digitally or rather more specifically in HD on the PC. My major concern with the “Hauppauge HD PVR” though is that I cannot really see how it can be properly supported in Media Center Edition 2005 or Vista Media Center,....but then again I could say the same thing about QAM not too long ago.
Today being the 1st it seems somehow ironically appropriate discussing my cable provider... :D

I think I'd want to try the HD PVR from a local retailer (where I could return it), or see some sort of report from someone with Brighthouse, to see what the quality of their still relatively few HD stations is by the time you encode it to mpg4, but you're absolutely right -- that's the closest I'm going to get to HD or even digital recording. :cry:

I also question the Hauppauge software, but only out of habit... I've never seen a lot wrong with their software in the past -- I've just never considered it up to standards for recording like the old MMC when it worked. And I have no idea if they'll be nice enough to include CC in their recordings like they do with their mpg2 cards.

That's one nice thing about OTA ATSC &/or QAM -- the CC is embedded in the stream, & can always be pulled back out & converted to subs. I could still make it work if it doesn't, I Think, but it's extra work recording 2 or 3 times [i.e. maybe to the stb's dvr, converting to SD -> then to the DVDR so I can extract CC from the mpg2]. And I don't know what would be involved adding subs to the recording -- re-encode to DivX?

In the end it may not be worth it, even though it's far cheaper than moving to NY! :lol:

Still, it looks like lots and lots of *if*s... Will they supply a software decoder that'll use ATI & Nvidia hardware accel? MC takes a hit on your CPU, plus there's a hit getting the video recorded thru the Hauppauge software, plus the decoder load, that GPU acceleration could be fairly important. Will it be better than the current situation where some folks get accel working & some don't? Personally I think having the HD PVR work with at least Vista MC would be make or break for Hauppauge -- I think they've got more MC compatible stuff than almost anybody -- but I haven't the slightest idea how they'd do it :confused: so you're right, that's another very important consideration.

I tried this and unfortunately it really didn't help:

:D :D :D
Well, we have some time. As I understand it the Hauppauge HD PVR has been delayed until up to some time in ~May. Even then the Hauppauge HD PVR presumably will not have Media Center support until later in the year. Some suspect that the Fiji update to Microsoft Media Center will be out by then and that is where this support will come from.

The Hauppauge HD PVR wont use Hauppauge’s in house branded software though instead shipping with “ArcSoft TotalMedia Extreme” which presumably will have Blu-Ray and HD DVD playback as well as some Arcsoft HD media authoring / burning software. If your interested you may be able to get a trial to see what the CC capabilities are,….if you haven’t already.

You know, the funny thing is early on I didn’t even want RCN cable because I really wanted TWC cable (“TWC Road Runner” and such). I couldn’t get TWC in my building which was one block away from my father’s building,….which had TWC cable. Now I don’t think I would want TWC cable,…. ;) .

Although, I could see getting rid of my premium channels because I hardly watch them. I don’t think that will impact my QAM setup at all and I would still have some respectable HD channels. If I do then the Hauppauge HD PVR would be useless to me because I would already have access to all my digital and HD channels on the PC.
I have the 650 pci too and was able to get channels with gb-pvr, but not really with any other app. Has anyone gotten any channels with anything else? I tried sagetv and totalmedia. I don't have the newer CMC. With gbpvr I get a ton of channels and most of them are blank and the ones that show up are usually found 3 times. So it's a pain to sort out the channels. I'm using XP + SP2. Is this just how gb-pvr is or is there an easier way to sort out the channels? I thought totalmedia was a pain, but gb-pvr is worse.
I have the 650 pci too and was able to get channels with gb-pvr, but not really with any other app. Has anyone gotten any channels with anything else? I tried sagetv and totalmedia. I don't have the newer CMC. With gbpvr I get a ton of channels and most of them are blank and the ones that show up are usually found 3 times. So it's a pain to sort out the channels. I'm using XP + SP2. Is this just how gb-pvr is or is there an easier way to sort out the channels? I thought totalmedia was a pain, but gb-pvr is worse.

For what its worth my cable company configures some duplicate channels. For example, all the local broadcasts channels have HD and SD channels and I get a few other duplicate channels like “The National Geographic Channel HD” and “The National Geographic Channel SD”. I mean it could be a bug in the software scanner you are using but it could also be something your cable company is doing, odd as it may seem,…with bandwidth constraints and all,…

Just to confirm, you are referring to the TV Wonder 650 PCI (Hybrid) not the TV Wonder 650 Combo PCIe and certainly not the new TV Wonder 650 Combo USB right? Ever since I came across the notation that the TV Wonder 650 PCI supports QAM in the ATI product matrix I questioned the validity of it.


The reason for that uncertainty was that the originally released TV Wonder 650 PCI cards made no mention of QAM support of any kind. So I started to suspect that there was a possibility that a new set of TV Wonder 650 PCI cards were released with the new PCIe and USB Combo versions revised with QAM support.

Its really great if the old TV Wonder 650 PCI Hybrid cards can do QAM.

Yes, I have two old PCI 650pro hybrid cards, one from Sapphire, and one from Visiontek. Both receive QAM with TV Feature pack.
Unfortunately, although I like GB-PVR and Media Portal (I’ve run both in the past) I wont run either of them in place of MCE 2K5 and Vista Media Center. For me viability of QAM on the TV Wonder 650 PCI Hybrid or newer ATI cards hinges on support in MCE 2K5 and Vista Media Center. This would require one of two or possibly three things; either Microsoft offers native Clear QAM support as an update to their PVR software with such hardware or ATI offers appropriate drivers / QAM tools to enable QAM operation in MCE 2K5 / Vista Media Center,……..or hell freezes over ;)

Also, I would like to confirm another thing. I installed Power Cinema to see if the hybrids would work. Result: Unlike VMC with TV Feature Pack, the tuners are recognized for what they are: hybrids. Not only that, I was shocked to see that the TV Feature Pack had also updated the drivers so that ATSC mode in other programs also demodulates QAM! By selecting ATSC-cable with Power Cinema with TV Feature Pack installed scans and tunes to QAM!
Also, I would like to confirm another thing. I installed Power Cinema to see if the hybrids would work. Result: Unlike VMC with TV Feature Pack, the tuners are recognized for what they are: hybrids. Not only that, I was shocked to see that the TV Feature Pack had also updated the drivers so that ATSC mode in other programs also demodulates QAM! By selecting ATSC-cable with Power Cinema with TV Feature Pack installed scans and tunes to QAM!
Did you happen to try the CMC (power cinema) before you installed the Vista TV Media Pack? Because with my TV Wonder 650 Combo(s) - Prior to the TV pack, CMC was the way I was getting (some) QAM. In fact on the fine print of the TV Wonder 650 combo's box * the only way to get QAM out of the Box is in Vista using CMC (Of course things have changed now since the VMC TV Media Pack) and from what's listed on it's website Beyond TV will support QAM for the TV Wonder 650 Combo in Xp & Vista.

I say "(some) QAM" because the program isn't particularly good at pulling in all of my available QAM stations. VMC with the TV PAK gets two more channels in QAM than even my Philips QAM TV Does.

Is anyone using the the newer Beyond TVs? (the ones that are listed as supporting QAM in XP & Vista w/ the TV Wonder 650 among other cards? I need to jump on the trial and see for myself i guess. I'm just tired of all this crap. Long time ATI ~ MMC Lover :heart: & Hater :mad: !