Television Control over Cable
December 6, 2007 6:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I have the channel control on my television control a cable box (rather than the television be on channel 3 all the time).

I have a cable box that is in a basement (the signal past the splice box is so weak it cannot support digital cable). I want to be able to control the channels of the cable box thru the television (i.e. if I change the channel on the television to channel 60, the cable box will switch to channel 60). The television is out of range for any other solution to work, maybe I could somehow get the signal to run over cable. Any suggestions would help. Maybe there is a box that works over i.r with the cable box?
posted by ooklala to Technology (16 answers total)
For 99.999% of consumer televisions, there isn't a ready way of accomplishing what you want to do. The most straightforward suggestion I can make is to contact your cable company, and have them adjust the signal on the pole, so that you receive enough signal after any splitter to locate your cable box near the TV, as is generally intended. This is a straightforward call, and normally costs a subscriber nothing, unless it is new service.

You could try a broadband line amplifier, on the lead before or after the splitter, but in my experience, amplifying a marginal cable signal with these kinds of devices can easily lead to signal injection interference problems for other sets in your house, and even other subscribers outside your home, adjacent to you on the line. For this reason, I don't recommend such devices.
posted by paulsc at 6:43 PM on December 6, 2007

I'd recommend getting a Remote Extender and use your cable box remote upstairs.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:10 PM on December 6, 2007

You can buy devices that capture your remote signal and then broadcast it to another transmitter that then sends it to the cable box. They are usually sold along (or as part of) a device that also transmits the TV signal.

The idea is that you can plug the transmitter into your lounge room cable box/DVD recorder etc and the reciever into the bedroom TV, and then take the cable remote to bed with you so you can watch it in the bedroom and change channels.

I'm fairly positive you can also get the IR transmitter/receiver device on it's own. You might have some luck searching under "IR blaster". Alternatively, the whole video/audio transmitter doodads are sold here in Australia for about $100 - $200 (not sure where you are, but I assume the USA?).
posted by ranglin at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2007

Damn you shinynewnick ... and you even found a link! :)
posted by ranglin at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2007

Yeah, try a remote control extender, Those translate the infrared remote signal into an RF signal that can go farther and converts it back to infrared for the cable box to receive. I've used the "Powermid" ones before, and it worked (note, this was about 10 years ago.)
posted by ALongDecember at 7:13 PM on December 6, 2007

As an aside, I've dealt with numerous types of remote extenders, and the stand-alone types seem to work best, as long as you don't mind the transmitter addition near your television. I used to have a small transmitter that attached to the front of the remote (via sticky velcro tape), and it was a big hassle to keep in place.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:37 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: The signal problem is a break in the wire, nothing the company can fix. I have tried the RF thing but, it does not work. I am looking for something that can be transferred over the coax cable.
posted by ooklala at 9:33 PM on December 6, 2007

"The signal problem is a break in the wire, nothing the company can fix. I have tried the RF thing but, it does not work. I am looking for something that can be transferred over the coax cable."

I'm not sure what you're saying. If the coax is broken, you'd need to run new coax to have reliable service, no matter what you do. But I think you misunderstand me.

The cable company can pad the signal level to your splitter, to handle the drop caused by connecting additional sets. That would let you move the digital box to the vicinity of the basement set, solving the channel changing problem. You'd use the supplied remote control for the cable box, down in the basement. If you want to keep a set upstairs, you'd need to run it direct to cable (assuming it has a cable ready tuner), or get another digital box for it, if you want extended channels and features that most cable systems are offering today.

You can't (conveniently) run 2 sets (one in the basement) off a single digital box upstairs, and there is no signaling method that is going to switch any of the popular digital cable boxes via their coax outputs, because cable boxes don't look for signaling on their output lines.
posted by paulsc at 10:37 PM on December 6, 2007

You can do all kinds of things with home cable systems. Your question is a bit muddled, so it is hard to tell exactly where to look for a solution to your problem. Your TV itself is out of the picture. TVs receive signals, either the channels over cable, or instructions over IR, but they don't generate signals, or transmit signals.

As others have said, you can buy remote control repeaters that transmit the signal over large distances via wireless RF. They consist of a box in the room you have your remote control in, and a box in the room that has the device you are controlling.

I think you are asking for a similar device that transmits over coaxial cable instead of wireless, so that the signal is stronger when it reaches the basement. There are some hints in discussion forums that such a device exists, and technically it is certainly feasible, but I'm not familiar with one. If your wiring is bad, it could cause as much trouble for the remote signal as it is now causing with the video.
posted by Chuckles at 8:02 AM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: The signal is just enough to carry one channel (analogue) with the break.
There is a break between the television and the basement.
posted by ooklala at 3:11 PM on December 7, 2007

That isn't how cable works ooklala..

The signal in an RF cable is not at all unlike the signal being broadcast through the air (you can think of each cable as a separated bit of over the air broadcast which just happens to have some very convenient properties). The channels in your cable work just like radio and TV stations over the air - the electromagnetic spectrum is divided into pieces that are suitable for a channel.

It is almost impossible to believe that you have a cable that is damaged in just the right way that only one channel can get through, and that it happens to be channel 3. There must be something else going on.. I mean, the way I read what you are saying is that Channel 3 (61MHz) works fine, but Channel 4 (67MHz) doesn't work at all - that just isn't how RF cable works.

I suggest an experiment. Get an over the air antenna (aka rabbit ears or a bow tie), and connect it to the cable as it enters your house (using a 300-ohm to 75-ohm transformer). Take a TV into the basement and see what stations you can pull in. Then try connecting it to send the signal to your TV room, and see what stations you can pull in there. You can also take it a step further and connect a distribution amplifier in the basement, so that losses caused by the faulty indoor cable are less significant. Ideally, in the basement, you will receive at least one clear VHF station (over the air channels 3-13), and one clear UHF station (over the air channels 14-69+, though this is changing all the time). Also note, cable channel numbers and over the air UHF channel numbers indicate completely different frequencies.
posted by Chuckles at 5:42 PM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: No. Analogue cable works (i.e. channels 1-60) but with digital cable, it can only pick up with the channels 1,3,5, and 6. All others do not work. I have found with experimenting that channels 3 and 10 transmit over the wire the best as the others will occasionally drift out (I had this same problem with analogue cable).
posted by ooklala at 8:16 PM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: Also, it does not seem to be clear but I currently have the cable box in the basement and the television upstairs. No television in the basement.
posted by ooklala at 8:19 PM on December 7, 2007

Okay, I guess that sounds at least possible :P Unfortunately, I don't have experience with digital cable.. Apparently the digital channel numbers have essentially no physical meaning, which is a bit of a pain..

Anyway, I finally found a search term that finds the device you want, an IR injector.. Looking at that page, it seems as if the device is problematic. Like DSL on phone lines, you need a filter for every tuner you connect to your cable. Also, if you use splitters/combiners, you need special DC passing ones.

I'm assuming when you pass the signal upstairs from the digital box, you are using analog channel 3? Here comes the shameless plug for agile RF modulators :P
posted by Chuckles at 9:57 PM on December 7, 2007

And ya, the locations of your gear was clear.. It will still be interesting to try the test I recommended. UHF over the air channels are coming in using some of the same frequencies as digital cable, so seeing how your TV and cable reacts to UHF signals will be interesting.
posted by Chuckles at 9:59 PM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: @Chuckles
I know that, the only channels that go over digital cable are those that I pick up with bunny ears in my area. They are (I think) not scrambled but are just the analogue channels transferred.
posted by ooklala at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2007

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