I had been wanting to copy some unencrypted shows off of my Comcast cable box, a Motorola DCT-6412, for quite some time. By "unencrypted", I mean your basic cable. This does not include premium channels like HBO, SHO or MAX. Also, you won't be able to grab pay-per-view content.
I finally got around to trying this out last week by using my MacBookPro and a standard 6-pin male-to-male firewire cable. GXW on http://www.macosxhints.com/ has provided some excellent instructions for doing this.
OS X10.4.9 or above
Apple's FireWire SDK (downloadable from Apple's Developer website)
VLC (Video Lan player for Mac) or MPEG Streamclip for playback
1) connect Mac to Motorola
2) verify physical connectivity via System Profiler
3) connect and verify firewire connection with AVC Browser
4) replay show and grab stream with Virtual DVHS
You'll need Apple's firewire SDK in order to do this. Create a free Apple ADC Online account from here:
Once I got the SDK installed and verified my connectivity as above (see GXW's fine article for the details), I was able to successfully pull content off of my Motorola 6412 HD cable tuner. However, the way it works is that you have to capture live content as it is playing or replay a stored recording in order to capture it to your Mac. In other words, this method does not allow you to access the hard drive in the STB to get at the stored recordings directly. Therefore, it will take some time if you have a bunch of shows stored in order to replay and capture them to a file.
Hint: Don't fast-forward or reverse while recording a saved program to your Mac's hard drive. This will screw up the audio and video synchronization of the destination file.
I was able to pull both regular (SD) format and HD format content off the Motorola. HD shows are recorded to MPEG-TS (transport stream) format. Also, I just realized I didn't try recording content off of the analog channels, I only recorded shows off of the digital channels. So I can't speak to that.
Once I get a workflow in place, it will be nice to have my favorite movies and shows as files to stream from a media server. Yeehoo!