As competing technologies go, the DAC is sort of like Scientific-Atlanata’s “DNCS.” When people talk about “the duopoly,” they’re usually referring to these two products.
A chief difference between DFAST and CHILA involves equipment compliance: CHILA stipulates initial and ongoing CableLabs tests as well as the inclusion of OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform); DFAST defines one CableLabs certification followed by manufacturer self-certification.
Usage: “This announcement will allow the collective innovation of the consumer electronics industry to directly benefit cable operators and cable consumers.” – CableLabs CEO Richard Green, announcing the availability of the DFAST licensing agreement in 2003.
As related products go, the DNCS is like Motorola’s “DAC,” for Digital Addressable Controller.” When you hear people talk about “the duopoly” in digital video scrambling, they’re usually talking about those two products.
Splicing a digital ad into a digital program requires two things: A cue trigger, and a splicer. Cue triggers are the digital equivalent of the “doodly-doot” sounds we used to hear, in the old days, which triggered a local ad to over-ride the Ginsu knives ad. They consist of a short stack of packets that identify the splice point for a local ad, usually originating with digital program networks or content aggregators.
The splicer does what it implies: It watches the river of MPEG-2 video bits blasting into a headend from the satellite feed. When it sees the cue trigger, it lifts the correct ad off a local ad server, and cuts it in.
Usage: In set tops, people generally talk about memory in twos — flash, and DRAM. They’ll say “8 by 16,” for instance, to mean a set top that contains 8 Mb of flash memory, and 16 MB of DRAM.
Copyright holders: “Protect my stuff from theft”
Distributors: “Protect stuff moving over my network so well that I can distribute fresher stuff faster”
PC/IT: “Use my DRM, all other DRM is crap”
Consumer Electronics: “Don’t let copyright holders dictate the functionality of the devices we make”
And now this from the Department of the Obvious: These four stakeholders are giant industries. Their goals often clash. Tell your kids to go to law school and specialize in DRM. You’ll grow old well.
The best-case scenario for DRM is that it becomes a mechanism to build and enact new business models for premium content, so that content can play within a “trusted domain” of cable-ready consumer devices. That could mean portable video players that plug into a digital set top or digital cable ready TV, and accept a big, fat, protected download. The “protected” part is the DRM.
Technologically, DRM is mostly about copy protection (see definition). The cable industry’s angle is to develop a “trusted domain,” which extends the cable plant to additional devices in the home — in a secure and “trusted” way. (Trusted by copyright owners.) Those extensions could be to PCs and “home media centers,” or to portable video players, as two of many examples. What’s needed to make it happen are the interfaces to third-party DRM providers.
Hey. Could be worse: The inventors of DSG originally wanted to call it “DOCSIS Out-of-band Gateway,” or “DOG” for short. Sort of seems like an insult to dogs.)
DOCSIS is the subject of a 35-page CableLabs specification. If that sounds daunting, here’s a simplified way to imagine the workings of a DSG: Imagine a cable-ready HDTV that contains an embedded cable modem for purposes of two-way cable communications. (This could also be a digital video recorder, or a game console, or a portable video player — or anything else you can imagine as a cable-connected consumer device.)
Say this HDTV set is under the control of a customer who just initiated a video on demand session. The request is routed to the embedded cable modem, which passes it upstream, over the cable plant, to the headend. There, it goes where traffic from cable modems always goes: To the cable modem termination system. The CMTS looks at the incoming packets. “Aha,” it says. “You’re a session-set-up for a set top. Over there, please.”
It passes the VOD initialization request to the DSG, which talks back and forth with the set-top controller, which talks with the VOD controller, to set-up the session. The confirmation, and session details, move back to the embedded cable modem and HDTV in reverse order. Back at the couch, everything seems the same. Maybe the VOD title arrives a little faster, but faster in a way that isn’t obvious, except that it seems to work really well.
This pattern repeats for everything that needs to occur, or is planned to occur, between cable-connected devices and the servers and routers that handle information flows. Masterminding the flows is the DSG.
In a diagram, the DSG attaches to the CMTS on one side, and other background controllers (such as existing set-top controllers) on the other side. It’s partly a router, partly a proxy server, mostly an intermediary. Its primary role is to manage the business policies that describe how, and under what circumstances, different devices, with embedded cable modems, are allowed to connect.
Usage: DSG gurus are quick to point out that just because a device contains an embedded cable modem, that doesn’t mean “surf the Internet or send e-mail.” So far, DSG is strictly for the shuttling of command and control information.
DSL went from laboratory term to near-household name in the space of about five years, as telephone providers across the world staged aggressive deployments. DSL is the most prevalent form of residential high-speed Internet access in the world; the slight market dominance of cable-delivered DOCSIS Internet service in the U.S. is the aberration. See ADSL, ADSL 2+
Without a DSLAM, each DSL line would require its own router port — a hugely expensive proposition. By combining multiple DSL inputs into one composite output, telcos can save on the capital expense of the routers. But it also means that DSL is a shared network — at least from the DSLAM north, to the Internet backbone.
Usage: Often located in the telephone company central office, DSLAMs concentrate DSL subscriber lines into a high-speed Internet conduit.
Usage: In modern digital consumer electronics devices, DSP chips manage bass, treble, reverb, and surround sound processing.
Usage: The DVB Project says its work “has proven the value and viability of pre-competitive cooperation in the development of open digital television standards.”
Usage: The engine behind DVB-MHP is the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
Usage: “The DVR really doesn’t do anything positive for those of us who are in the content business.” – NBC Universal chairman and CEO Robert Wright, speaking at the 2005 National Show
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