Your Cable Show Tech-Jargon Descrambler


Because you never know when the geek-speak will raid the frontal lobes, and because we’re headed into the big Cable Show, this week’s translation aims to serve as a handy descrambler. Without further ado, behold the terms likely to punctuate this week’s show:

“Widget” — something clickable on a screen. In terms of this week’s show, you’ll see Intel and Yahoo! demonstrating “widget TV,” which is a flavor of interactive TV showing clickable things on the bottom of the screen, like weather, news, and sports tickers. Watch for the EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format)/ETV clan to start talking about their applications as widgets, too.

“Lowest common denominator” — usually phrased as a grumble about the (lack of) memory, processing power and graphics oomph in the industry’s early digital set-tops. Lowest common denominator typically grouses around discussions about ETV and EBIF, which were designed to run all the way back to the earliest set-tops. That wide reach has its consequences.

“Cloud Computing” — An Internet-y way to say that it happens somewhere in the network, not in the box. In the server, not the client. In the headend, not the home. That kind of thing. Cloud computing tends to soothe “lowest common denominator” box woes.

“Analog harvesting” — A bandwidth-reclamation technique, which involves putting some fraction of the analog channels (those located between 54 MHz and 550 MHz; the rest are already digital) to use for digital purposes. The “harvest,” in this case, is a whole lot of bandwidth, which could be used for more linear HD channels, more VOD, more broadband stuff (see “wideband”).

“DTA” — A largely Comcast term for a small box, ultimately the size of a deck of cards, which gets digital signals to those TVs in the house that are analog, but that don’t have or want a set-top. DTA stands for “Digital Terminal Adaptor.”

“G.HN” — A new-ish attempt to “roll up” the existing wired and wireless home networking standards into one. Funded and endorsed by AT&T, but not necessarily by MoCA (Multimedia over Cable Alliance) or the (many) other players. One potential red flag: Whether the spectral areas G.HN favors will mess with the cable upstream path, located between 5 MHz and 42 MHz.

“DLNA” — Another part of networking all the gadgets in your electronic garden. DLNA works on how each device identifies itself (“hi, I’m a video camera”), so as to become a visually-identifiable icon on the screen of another device. Runs on top of and is not mutually exclusive to MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance), which is more about how to physically put data onto the wires connecting the gadgets. Important for streaming stuff, and part of the OpenCable spec.

“CEA 2014” — Yet another current event in home networking, shepherded by the Consumer Electronics Association. It adds a “remote user interface” on top of DLNA — meaning you can control one device from another device, using the first device’s navigational system. Maybe, for instance, you use DLNA to connect your laptop wirelessly with your DVR. In that example, you’d control and watch your stored DVR stuff on your laptop, using the same navigation as if you were controlling the DVR thru the set-top. CEA 2014 is officially tied to DLNA, but not yet officially tied to OpenCable.

“D3” — shorthand for “DOCSIS 3.0,” the industry’s latest chapter in cable modem technology. D3 usually travels with the synonymous terms “wideband” and “channel bonding,” which describe a popular feature within DOCSIS 3.0.

“Wideband” and “channel bonding” — the “gluing together” of four or more 6 MHz digital cable channels, so as to sum the data throughput. Result: Ripping-fast speeds over broadband cable modems (see “D3.”) One downstream 6-MHz channel, using contemporary modulation (256-QAM) yields about 40 Mbps, in rounded-off numbers. A four channel bond, then, yields 160 Mbps.

“National footprint” — the ability to deploy something across all U.S. cable operators simultaneously, rather than having to buy by geographic zone — Comcast for Philadelphia, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable for New York, Cox for Hampton Roads, and so on. The “national footprint” is the entire point of Canoe Ventures LLC, focused on advertising.

“On-board” or “on-boarding” — usually used as a verb, meaning “to get something started.” Frequently used at Canoe Ventures, about its national footprint.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis