Second Opinion: DVR Video over FireWire

Nathan Edwards

Second Opinion is where readers respond to the Doctor, share their wisdom, correct him if he's wrong, and generally show the world what smart, beautiful people you are.

I can’t agree more with the Doctor regarding his advice to Michael Collins (June 2008) on a TiVo as the best option to extend your DVRing capabilities, especially for transferring recorded programs to a computer. The TiVoToGo feature is great. However, the Doctor’s advice regarding the FireWire ports of most cable DVRs is, as Dwight Schrute would say, “False!”

As to Michael’s question regarding legal issues, there are no implications. Just as the DVI and HDMI ports are protected with HDCP, the FireWire ports are protected with 5C DTCP encryption. Programs that are supposed to be copy protected are encrypted and cannot be captured with a computer, though the copy-protected content varies by market. One needs a D-VHS deck for authorized copying of such programs.

The FCC has mandated that cable DVRs must have the FireWire ports enabled. While many channels are encrypted, basic cable channels are not to be encrypted. If you find you can’t capture a basic-tier channel (including local HDTV channels), call your cable company to complain; then lodge a complaint with your local cable franchise authority (usually listed on your monthly bill).

–Kevin Onken

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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