Powerful enough laptop for win 7/cablecard tuner to use as htpc with wmc? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 06-06-2013, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
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I hope this is allowed, I am reposting it in this forum it because it is really more of a windows/silicon dust question than a Mac specific question.


I may obtain a MacBook 5,1 for free soon, hopefully with just a bad battery or hard drive to replace. (Keeps shutting down without notice, both battery status & smart hard drive shows ok however.)

Anyway, if I can get it working I would like to convert it to a htpc running windows for a silicon dust prime cablecard tuner with windows media center. My concern is that since this computer is 5 years old it may be too underpowered.

Does anyone have an opinion? I am listing the MacBook specs below....





Introduction Date: October 14, 2008 Discontinued Date: June 8, 2009
Processors: 1 (2 Cores) Geekbench: 2804/3124*
Processor Speed: 2.0 GHz Processor Type: Core 2 Duo (P7350)
Details: *The Intel "Core 2 Duo" 45 nm "Penryn" (P7350) processor includes two independent processor "cores" on a single silicon chip.

Custom Speeds: N/A Architecture: 64-Bit
Processor Upgrade: Soldered FPU: Integrated
System Bus Speed: 1066 MHz Cache Bus Speed: 2.0 GHz (Built-in)
ROM/Firmware Type: EFI EFI Architecture: 64-Bit
L1 Cache: 32k/32k L2/L3 Cache: 3 MB (on chip)
RAM Type: PC3-8500 DDR3 Min. RAM Speed: 1066 MHz
Details: Supports 1066 MHz PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM.
Standard RAM: 2 GB Maximum RAM: 8 GB*
Details: 2 GB of RAM is installed as two 1 GB modules, no slots free.

*Apple officially supports a maximum of 4 GB of RAM. Originally, this model was only unofficially capable of stably supporting 6 GB of RAM, but as confirmed by site sponsor OWC, it is capable of supporting 8 GB of RAM if updated to Boot ROM Version MB51.007D.B03 and running MacOS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" or higher.

Motherboard RAM: None RAM Slots: 2
Video Card: GeForce 9400M VRAM Type: Integrated
Details: This model has a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M that shares memory with the system.

Standard VRAM: 256 MB Maximum VRAM: 256 MB
Built-in Display: 13.3" Widescreen Native Resolution: 1280x800
Details: 13.3" color widescreen LED-backlit TFT active-matrix "glossy" display with a 1280 by 800 native resolution. Apple reports that it also supports "1152 by 720, 1024 by 768, 1024 by 640, 800 by 600, 800 by 500, 720 1152 by 720, 1024 by 640, and 800 by 500 pixels at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1024 by 768, 800 by 600, and 640 by 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; [and] 720 by 480 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratio".

2nd Display Support: Dual/Mirroring 2nd Max. Resolution: 2560x1600
Details: The maximum resolution supported on an external display is 2560x1600.
Standard Hard Drive: 160 GB (5400 RPM) Int. HD Interface: Serial ATA (3 Gb/s)
Standard Optical: 8X DL "SuperDrive" Standard Disk: None
Details: Apple reports that this slot-loading "SuperDrive" (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) has a maxium write speed of "8x DVD-R, DVD+R; 4x DVD-R DL (double layer), DVD+R DL (double layer), DVD-RW, DVD+RW; 24x CD-R; 10x CD-RW" and a maximum read speed of "8x DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-ROM; 6x DVD-ROM (double layer DVD-9), DVD-R DL (double layer), DVD+R DL (double layer), DVD-RW, and DVD+RW; 24x CD".
Standard Modem: None Standard Ethernet: 10/100/1000Base-T
Standard AirPort: 802.11a/b/g/n Standard Bluetooth: 2.1+EDR
USB Ports: 2 (2.0) Firewire Ports: None
Details: Two 480-Mbps USB 2.0 ports.
Expansion Slots: None Expansion Bays: None
Details: No expansion slots or bays provided.
Incl. Keyboard: Full-size Incl. Input: Trackpad (4 Finger)
Case Type: Notebook Form Factor: MacBook (Unibody)
Apple Order No: MB466LL/A Apple Subfamily: Late 2008 Aluminum
Apple Model No: A1278 (EMC 2254) Model ID: MacBook5,1
Details: Please note that these identifiers refer to more than one model.

Also see: All Macs with the A1278 Model Number, the 2254 EMC Number, and the MacBook5,1 Model Identifier.

For more about these identifiers and how to locate them on each Mac, please refer to EveryMac.com's Mac Identification section.
Battery Type: 45 W h Li-Poly Battery Life: 5 Hours
Pre-Installed MacOS: X 10.5.5 (9F2114) Maximum MacOS: Current*
Minimum Windows: XP SP2 (32-Bit)* Maximum Windows: 7 (32-Bit, 64-Bit)**
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post #2 of 9 Old 06-06-2013, 08:48 PM
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I don't know anything about macs and my pc literacy is declining, but I'll jump in. WMC Digital cable advisor is the test the computer must pass. Check into those requirements. I have a Dell mini with hdmi out that I thought was a shoe in, but ultimately the onboard graphics card wasn't hdcp compliant and that prevented its use with WMC. Check that your graphics card is compliant first.
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post #3 of 9 Old 06-07-2013, 07:43 AM
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I never saw it mentioned what provider you are using for cable... if anything other than verizon/comcast, you may have problems with the video as macs tend to use displayport which are always detected as not supporting hdcp under wmc so any protected content can't be viewed. Often laptop makers don't put hdcp onto internal displays anyway to save some costs as it usually isn't required as everything other than WMC/cablecard has an exemption for internal/built-in displays. hdmi usually works but I think there were some whose hdmi port is a converted displayport so as far as wmc is concerned is still a displayport. I would also add more memory to bring it up to 4GB and have plenty of external storage ready if it works. I did use a t5500 with nvidia 7600M graphics once with 2 hd tuners so I don't think the processor/GPU is too underpowered if you consider the machine is free but I would not buy one today. (this machine is one of 4 as to why I will never buy nvidia again since it was they who caused the gpu problems that required reflow and my laptop models never made the list for replacement/repair until it was too late and what they offered was junk... heat guns came in handy) The biggest expense choice to make would be whether or not to waste a windows license on it... the newest terms that are given with most of my "free" (subscription) licenses state that it may only be installed if there is already any windows COA sticker on the device (regardless of the version the coa is for) Many don't worry about this but wanted to point it out.

Regardless if it will do all you want, I highly encourage you to get it up and running and experiment with it.
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post #4 of 9 Old 06-07-2013, 09:48 AM
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You might look in this forum: http://www.avsforum.com/f/115/htpc-mac-chat as that's where the Mac-O-Philes hang. From what I've read, a Mac with a cablecard will play a limited subset of available cable channels, namely those tagged as 'copy freely'.
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post #5 of 9 Old 06-07-2013, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
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From what I can tell, cablecard support does not exist via osx, no commercial software supports. That is why I will have to run windows (bootcamp is simply the name apple gives to natively boot into windows.)

I looked it up and the 2008 MacBook does support hdcp, it was one of the first macs to do so. If windows never ever supports display port hdcp however, my setup plan won't work.

Ok, next question. As a test, can I install windows 7, but not activate it? I would hate to buy a windows license, just to find out it won't work. If it works, no problem buying a copy of windows.
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post #6 of 9 Old 06-07-2013, 05:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Let me ask one more thing. I think all the channels I have are copy freely (I used the diagnostic page of my Motorola cablebox to check, following some instructions to translate the code). Since displayport is not supported will play freely content be fine, or does the whole thing not work?
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post #7 of 9 Old 06-07-2013, 09:47 PM
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The only "chance" os-x would support cablecard and protected channels natively is if they ever made it dtcp-ip capable... which the prime would support... whether or not that implementation would support recording remains to be seen.

I'm not a mac expert between the various models but when you looked it up did you make sure it supported hdcp under wmc, not hdcp in general... displayport, though hdcp compliant, can not be made as being compliant for wmc and apple usually uses displayport ... this is a bug in wmc that MS refuses to fix ( http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2392252 ) It also affects most all in one desktop pc's, and again, the external hdmi port may or may not be "native" hdmi (I'd say at least 90% of the time it is) but it might be actually converting the displayport signal.

You can install windows without activating for at least awhile...I can't remember off the top of my head if one could pass the dca and/or use the dca bypass without activating windows... I seem to recall some people doing it but then losing the recorded protected content after activating.

Who is your provider? Generally I can only say verizon and comcast have most channels copy freely. TWC almost always has everything but locals copy once... Most cox markets are the same way and they seem to be making more and more markets copy once on all but locals... though in every case it may vary by market, the others vary too much by market it isn't safe to generalize. If the content is indeed copy freely, you won't have a displayport issue and you can even use os-x natively if you wish.

{edit } most of this I wrote hours ago but got called away to grill dinner and I forgot to submit so I updated to include response for your latest post
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post #8 of 9 Old 06-08-2013, 07:39 AM - Thread Starter
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I use Charter as my cable provider. From looking at the Motorola diagnostic screen on my cable box, it looks like most channels are copy freely, at least in the spot check I did.

The computer only has displayport, no hdmi except via a displayport converter. I researched more about the windows media center bug with displayport, even if displayport supports hdcp (which this computer does) that wmc bug prevents it from working.

I think this bug even effects copy freely channels.

Anyway, short of a bug fix to wmc (which they did not fix with windows 8), it looks hopeless to get this machine to work with wmc, which is good to know before buying the cc hardware & a copy of windows.
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post #9 of 9 Old 06-08-2013, 08:36 AM
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If the content is copy freely, you don't even need to use WMC... you can use native OS-X apps if you like. If you wish to use WMC, you will probably have to use the DCA bypass tool to "pass" the DCA... this allows you to use the cablecard tuner but still won't be able to view protected content. Occasionally, WMC may report a display driver error, but if it ever occurs on a copy freely channel just restore the window down from full screen and then back.

Most reports I have about charter seem to indicate they are (for the most part) indeed copy freely, however I also remember long ago some reports that some locations protected all hd channels (even the locals which is very rare... it was talked about being illegal), that is why I don't generalize that they are copy freely but they may be getting more consistent. I suggest you check out the mac section of the forum as stated above.
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