HDfury2: HDMI Licensing LLC Should Be (Mildly) Worried About You
Per last night’s Tweet, and as follow-up to two-week-ago’s coverage, I received HDfury2 via Fedex yesterday. An upgrade to the original HDfury that I’ve written about several times in the past, this unit contains a full-featured HDMI transceiver in it versus the DVI (with HDCP support) IC in its predecessor. HDfury2 is a combination of a HDCP ’stripper’ and a digital-to-analog converter, driving a VGA output:
As such, last night I revisited my earlier attempt to mate the HDMI output of a Linksys-by-Cisco DMA2100 Windows Vista Media Center Extender to the VGA input of my Viewsonic VA1912wb LCD monitor. Recall that from my prior experimentation, I’d last hard-coded the DMA2100’s video output to VGA resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio mode. At first, the results were discouraging. A lthough the DMA2100 was powered up, and although a blue light within HDfury2 was glowing, the VA1912wb remained dark and in standby mode, indicative of no detected active VGA input.
Then I remembered that HDfury2’s manufacturer had also provided me with a review sample of the optional power supply, supplementing the voltage and current supplied by the HDMI connection (and with the same voltage, current, and plug dimensions and polarity as a Nokia mobile phone charger). I plugged it in, and the VA1912wb immediately sprung to life. I reset the DMA2100’s video setting to 720p widescreen mode, and all remained well save for a slight right shift of the display that resulted in a narrow vertical black strip on the left side of the LCD. A front panel button-activated auto-calibration request to the VA1912web cleared up that minor imperfection, too.*
Here’s a pre-recorded stream of the 5PM local news broadcast (sorry for the flash glare). Note the Windows Media Center interface which I temporarily popped up to prove to you all that the content was actually coming from a laptop in the other room
And here’s a live TV presentation of last night’s episode of Lost. Unlike with the SageTV HD Theater, I had no trouble streaming high-def content glitch-free over a HomePlug AV powerline networking spur.
Next, I thought I’d take a stab at the vmcPlayIt plugin, which enables me to access the PlayOn server via the Media Center user interface, thereby allowing me to view Hulu, Netflix Watch Instantly and other online material on a Media Center Extender. User feedback on the v1.0.1 beta suggested that the plug-in now had decent albeit glitchy support for dedicated Extenders for the DMA2100, but my experience with it has been quite solid. Ironically, in fact, I can’t get it to work with the Extender interface built into my Xbox 360s, but I fortunately have other means of getting to PlayOn with them.
After you install the plug-in, you’ll find it in the Program Library entry of the Windows Media Center’s Online Media menu option:
Selecting it lists the seven online services that PlayOn currently supports. I successfully tried both Hulu and Netflix
Here’s my Hulu queue. As you can see, I have a "few" episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles there
And here’s Monday night’s queued episode of the Colbert Report:
Consumers with legacy displays that don’t include HDCP-cognizant HDMI inputs now have a robust intermediary that’ll let them use the latest-and-greatest HDMI-based peripherals. But of course (referencing the title of this post), pirates now also have a means of obtaining high-quality copies of high-definition content via the ‘analog hole’, in conjunction with a few high capacity, low cost HDDs RAID-striped for speed. However, given that physical media DRM schemes have been circumvented, and that much easier alternative methods of accomplishing this nefarious objective already exist, the potential piracy application for HDfury2 is (practically speaking) a non-issue.
*I later tried the DMA2100’s 1080p widescreen video output mode, which exceeds the native pixel dimensions of the Viewsonic LCD. Earlier, with the combination of SageTV Theater HD and first-generation HDfury, 1080p mode delivered a stable albeit oversized picture. This time, though, the LCD went dark save for an error message indicating input scan frequencies that exceeded the display’s capabilities. To recover, I had to HDMI-tether the DMA2100 to the 37" LCD TV in the living room, which supports 1080p mode, and reset the DMA2100 video setting to 720p there.