First Look at CableCard Diagnostics Tool for Windows Media Center

The new Digital Cable Tuner Diagnostics tool for Windows Media Center debuts during Media Center University at EHX. CE Pro has the first screen shots.

The Digital Cable Tuner Diagnostics from the Media Center Integrator Alliance highlights cable channel strength that are too strong (yellow) and too weak (red).
Julie Jacobson · March 11, 2009

CE Pro has the first look at the new CableCard diagnostic tool from the Media Center Integrator Alliance.

The so-called Digital Cable Tuner Diagnostics (DCTD) tool is pretty slick stuff, as we saw in a sneak preview at the two-day Media Center University, which begins today at EHX Spring.

Here are some highlights of the new tool:

Channel Pairing. First and foremost, the new DCTD ensures that channels on a CableCard (Digital Cable Tuner) installed on a Windows Media Center are correctly paired with the channels provided by the MSO (cable operator).

Click the “Scan” tab on the diagnostic tool, and away it goes, scanning the channels that the tuner sees.

Here in Orlando, Fla., Microsoft’s Todd Rutherford checked the scanned channels against the channel lineup on the BrightHouse Web site to make sure he was getting them all.

“This is a great way of validating channels – what you think you’re getting versus what the cable company is giving you,” says Rutherford.

Channel Strength. How does the cable guy usually ensure that are your channels are in fine working order? He goes channel by channel on the TV and eyeballs it. If you’re lucky!

He usually leaves you to find the bad channels after he’s already left the premises.

With the diagnostic tool, installers can quickly and easily check the viability of each channel.

(Click to Enlarge) Here, the Media Center with CableCard is connected to the cable company and has the proper pairing (top left), but some channels are too strong (yellow) and some too weak (red). MCIA has established acceptable ranges for digital and analog tuners. The firmware is not up-to-date (bottom left). It should be updated to the latest version 1.17. For more screen shots, check out the slide show.

“You can do it while the cable guy is still there,” says Rutherford.

Through trial and error, MCIA itself established “acceptable” ranges for various tuner formats.

“QAM has different ranges than analog,” says Microsoft’s Doug Berrett, who helped create the tool. “So go by the color, not the value.”

Look for a green indicator in the “Level” section. Red indicates the signal is too low; yellow suggests it’s too high.

On the spot, the cable guy should be able to amplify or attenuate those channels.

Are you connected? The top left section of the tool basically tells you if you’re connected to the cable system.

“OOB” or out-of-band is the channel in which the CableCard talks to the cable head-end. If it’s red, you don’t have a connection.

“Paired” tells you whether or not the tuner is actually paired up with the cable company’s computer system “so they know who you are,” Berrett says.

The “Virtual Channel Table” is the schedule that comes from the cable company, telling your tuner which channels are mapped to which frequency.

  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at

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