Category Archives: Digital TV

A look at the Panasonic TU-DSB40

Panasonic were one of the major manufactures of Sky Digibox’s, and were considered to be one of the more reliable makes in terms of reliability and performance.

The front panel is typical of the average Sky box of the era, 4 led lights followed by 9 front panel buttons along with two card slots.

A loot at the system details screen, showing the software and revision information

Lifting the Lid

A very clean design, similar to the 2500S5

On the left you can see the main CPU and MPEG2 decoder, seems to be a custom Panasonic MN2 processor (MN2WS0002AD). Whilst I’ve not been able to find a lot of detail on it online, It’s a lot faster than the ST 5512 found in the Pace 2500S5

Not sure about the Panasonic chip towards the bottom, the MN7D022B3M, nothing much turns up online. Not much can be found with the Conexant chip either (SMARTSCM/336 CX88168-12) however one MAME driver source page has it down as a modem

Second card slot

Another view of the MN2 chip with the flash rom (bottom) and memory (Samsung chip next to the MN2)

Main central processor MN2WS0002AD, Looks like it’s missing a heatsink, or maybe Panasonic figured it didn’t need one. Most likely Sky winged about the price so Panasonic had to cut corners. Still the box feels cool to the touch when in use.

The front panel removed

Vs Pace 2500S5

Vs Pace Di4000N

Conclusion

The DSB40 comes from the same generation of digibox as my 2500S5, yet it feels so much faster in operation thanks to its processor. I’m not sure why Pace held onto the St5512 for so long when over digibox’s were moving onto more capable processors. Unfortunately I’m not able to find any further information regarding Panasonic’s MN2 chips that they used, only that they were used for Directv and OpenCable boxes also, and they were mostly MIPS based designed like the NEC EMMA used on some digibox’s.

Then again this box is running older software, maybe the later versions were more demanding?

The only major issue the the telephone cable connector, once you insert the wire, its suck to the digibox and cannot be removed without removing the back panel. I’m not sure why this is, if the connecter was mismatched for the case or maybe it was a cost saving design.

A look at the Sky HD Guide (2008 era)

Since Sky had launched its digital service back in 1998, very little had changed form its Sky Guide interface. Whilst numerous software upgrades were deployed that added certain features and altered the background, the menu structure and user interface remained the same thought-out. Unfortunately when the HD era rolled around, it was clear a new EPG and menu system had to be designed to accommodate the higher resolutions that HD offered.

Even though SkyHD launched in 2006,the software seen below wasn’t deployed until 2009, so existing HD boxes used a modified version of the old Sky+ guide with HD support.

Starting Up

The message banners have had a new colour design, gone is the yellow and blue in favor of white and blue.

The obligatory telephone line nag screen

The search and scan banner has been redesigned to accommodate the extra resolution offered by HD

Now its possible to see what’s on now, next and later, with the option to scroll forward upto 6 hours

You can now view information for future programs, and programs broadcast on other channels

Message that appears when asked to check your viewing card

Channels that don’t offer digital text will display this message, informing the user to access analogue text via their tv remote

When a program is about to start thats in your persdonal planner, you will be informed via the on scrren message,

TV Guide

The main TV guide screen has been revamped. Gone is channel genre list, which has been replaced with a tab-like view of genres that allows for the EPG to be filtered.

Selecting a future program gives you an option to set a reminder for this single program, or to add a series link. This differs from the older EPG, where you would add the program and would then enable the Series Link option.

Anytime

Sky’s answer to Virgin Media’s Video On Demand service, which used the reserved hard drive space of the Sky+ drive to load ‘Push’ on demand content. Despite only having 140Gb of storage

Sadly the Anytime Push service has been axed in favor of Sky On Demand, which is delivered via a broadband connection.

The best part of Anytime. Unfortunately it does not give back the reserved diskspace.

Planner

The Sky+ Planner, which shows programs that have been recorded.

Unfortunately playing back recordings requires the use of a viewing card, which the current box is unable to read.

Contents of the planner can be sorted by alphabetical, or grouped by unwatched but recorder, or anything that has already been viewed.

Box Office

Still no sign of life for Sky Box Office, which was axed in 2016.

Interact(ive)

Not much to see here except for one last remaining service. Does it load?

Oh well…

Here’s a service that does load, BBC Red Button

Meanwhile on Sky News…

Radio

Radio channels had their owns section in this EPG, however still no genres

Search

Options

The Services menu from the previous Sky Guide has been split into two, Options and Settings. Probably because the EPG design does not allow for a submenu to be under another menu.

General Sky+ Settings, you can add padding to the start and end of a program

Language and subtitles, not much has changed from the previous EPG

You will notice when you move the cursor down to the bottom half, the background colour changes to indicate it has been selected.

Favorite channels

Adding channels has not changed in regards to the previous Sky Guide, you are still limited to two symbol rates

Anytime can be turned off, but does not reclaim the disk space, Mini TV can also be disabled, extending the guide interface

Settings

Seems to be doing a good job considering there’s no signal strength

Installer Menu

Single feed mod optimizes the HD box to work off one feed, useful if you only have one feed from a dish or multiswitch however you cannot wewatch and record one program at the same time.

Error Messages

Conclusion

Overall its a mostly well designed EPG with a lot of much needed improvements to bring it in line with system that Virgin Media and BT offer. The introduction of the mini TV in the guide was a welcome addition,

Whilst the new software takes better advantage of the Sky HD digibox hardware, it does fall into the trap of being too cluttered, sometimes getting stuck of confused as to where you are on screen. Whilst Sky had tried hard to make the colours stand out, they are just different shades of blue, which can get repetitive. Also the tab interface could be better designed, since it looks separate to the main TV listings area, with a slight gap between the two sections.

ONdigital

Switch On….

ONdigital was the first Digital Terrestrial platform in the world, and was to be a subscription service to compete with Sky analogue. Sadly it wasn’t to last as ONdigital entered administration in April 2002. The boxes themselves continued to work with the FTA Freeview service until 2011 when the transmissions were broadcast using 8K FFT, which the ONdigital boxes did not support.

The ONdigital guide software was developed using Canal+ Mediahighway middleware, alongside the NHEG5 virtual machine for digital text services. Mediaguard was used for the conditional access system.

Now & Next

ONdigital

Appers when you change channels, it cannon be called up by a button on the remote, you would use the Info button for now & next

The red dot means no signal

Ondigital channel list

Pressing OK brings up a channel list, that can be used to jump to certain channels

Ondigital Info

Pressing info gives a now and next view on what’s currently being broadcast, you can select different channels but can only see now & next.

Main Menu

Ondigital Main Menu

The main menu

Setting the Timer

ONDigital timer

ONdigital lacked an EPG, it had only now & next and that was it. If you wanted to record a programme in the future you had to manually set it. ONdigital did provide a monthly magazine that gave TV listings for all of their channels which could be used to track the TV listings.

Its worth mentioning that Teletext, BBC, ntl, and ONview (ONdigital) offered MHEG service that broadcasted a TV guide, but this could not be used to set a reminder.

Favourite Channels

Favourite channels worked differently comparted to Sky or cable, you could mark as many channels as you wanted as a favorite, symbolized by a heart icon. However when the favorite channels settings was on, the Chan+ and Chan- would only scroll through favorite channels list only.

ONdigital favourite channels

Whilst we are here, might as well look at the ONdigital era channel list, it seems the original owner never bothered to rescan the box after Freeview launched, and did not rescan it either after ONdigital rebranded to ITV Digital.

Parental Lock

ONdigital parental lock

Not much to see since I don’t know the smartcard PIN, but from memory you can lock certain channels.

Viewing Preferences

ONdigital viewing preferences
ONdigital box settings
ONdigital tv video settings
ONdigital modem settings

Getting Started

ONdigital getting started
ONdigital channel list
ONdigital channel list
ONdigital add channels

ONdigital Updates

ONdigital updates
ONdigital smartcard

Smart Card data, shows when the current entitlements expire. it appears this card was in use until the demise of ITV Digital

ONdigital postbox

The postbox, designed to receive broadcast messages, this was never used

Technical Information

Ondigital technical information
ONdigital signal strength

Signal strength, you have to manually enter the channel number to find out

ONdigital signal strength
Ondigital Nokia

Information relating to the manufacturer, software version and hardware revision

ONdigital technical information

Hidden information menu, not much to do except to view certain debug information

Guide: ONMail

ONMail

Pressing the guide button brings up this menu

ONMail

ONmail was ONdigital’s email service that could be access through the set top box, using a remote and a receiver that plugs into the serial port on the ONdigital box.

ONMail

A PIN is required to access the service, since the PIN number on the card is unknown, we are unable to progress past this point.

ONMail

Not that we’d get any further, the servers were shut off shortly after ONdigital entered administration.

ONMail
ONMail
ONMail

Sky Interactive – 2002

A look at Sky’s interactive services offered in 2002, back when interactive TV was a thing

Also can’t mention Sky interactive without the Red button dude, who’s sole purpose was to promote Sky interactive services by pressing your red button, even though that only worked on a Sky channel.

sky guide interactive

Interactive Menu

sky gamestar

Sky Gamestar

Sky’s interactive game service

sky gamestar cartoon network

Sky Gamestar – Cartoon Network

A dedicated section of gamestar with games based on Cartoon Network shows

sky interactive dominos pizza

Domino’s Pizza

At one time you could order Pizza through your Sky Digibox

sky active 2003

Sky Active

sky active 2001

Sky Active

The Classifieds and info section, for local jobs and marketplace

sky cinema listings

Cinema Listings

View and book local listings, this only worked with Odeon cinemas, which was useless because there were no Odeon cinemas in my area.

sky active sky+ domino's pizza

Adverts

Sky used to advertise their services and competitions whilst interactive screens were loading

Lovetomeet

A dating service that relied on the internal modem

sky interactive hsbc

HSBC

Before internet banking there was Interactive TV banking, again I only saw HSBC and LLoyds TSB being supported, other banks were not on the service

sky movies

Sky Movies

Exclusive to the Sky Movie channels, shows local cinema listings and to purchase DVD’s, a nice feature of this service was you could see behind the scenes clips from moves.

Sky active mobile

Your Mobile

Download ringtones, logos and custom voicemail, back when ringtones were polyphonic (think Nokia 3210, Ericsson T28s)

Sky active shopping

Sky Active: Shopping

Home shopping was considered to be a main feature of interactive TV, since customers could see the items themselves. Sky allowed a range of retailers to have presence on interactive, and even had their own storefront, SkyBuy

Sky marketplace

Marketplace

Some sort of eBay/Gumtree service, customers could buy and sell locally

Sky News Active

Sky News Active

Activated by the red button, a very useful service where you can browse news headlines, view ‘Active Channels’ which were small channels dedicated to certain subjects or headline coverage. These could also be tuned in using the Other Channels feature, bypassing the service

Sky Movies Active

Sky Movies Active

This is where you could see the behind the scenes stuff from movies, similar to bonus scenes on DVD’s

Sky Winzone

Sky Winzone

Sky Active 2002

Sky Active

Another view of the main Sky Active home screen

Interactive today

Sadly Sky axed most of their interactive services, so here is the interactive menu that you are left with

Does it work? Well…

It seems the only OpenTV interactive TV services available is BBC Red Button and the S4C language changer, none of which use the modem/return path. I’m not sure if the services offered on Sky Q are the same, I believe it’s mostly Netflix/Prime type of applications that are video on demand services.

Restoring a Thomson SkyHD box

I’ve been meaning too document the HD era of Sky for some time now and whilst I do have a HD Sky box (the DRX595), I’m interested in the early era of SkyHD.

The HD EPG has been through multiple iterations, first it launched with an upscaled version of the Sky Guide interface that graced many Digibox’s since 1998. Sky redesigned the EPG exclusively for the HD boxes in 2008, which is the EPG I’m currently interested in below, unfortunately the majority of all HD boxes run newer versions of Sky HD guide, all except for one

Thomson DS8215

Thomson DSI8215

This was the launch STB for Sky HD, and remained the only box until 2008 when Sky started sourcing from Pace, Amstrad and Samsung, and were the only boxes that had analogue HD outputs (Component/YPbPr). Whilst the other boxes continued to receive updates after 2011, Sky began to phase out the Thomson models, which remained on the 8.3.2 EPG, and was the last OpenTV based EPG.

Admittedly Thomson were not the best manufacturer of Sky digibox’s. Don’t get me wrong, they’re mostly fine but nearly all Thomson (and Grundig, more on that later) digibox fall suspect of faulty PSU capacitors, which can cause myriad of issues from being stuck in standby to no satellite signal, and the HD box was sadly no exception to this.

First Impression

The box seemed to have been in use for a few years, and has had a bit of wear and tear.

Well it looks OK so far…

Seems to have had a lot of dust and grime build up over the past few years from the previous owner

The hard drive seems to have taken the brunt of it all, since there is a fan situated right below it that serves as the air intake.

Yeesh…

At this point I figured I had to take the box outside and clean it with a can of compressed air to get the dirt out.

Power Supply

A common issue on Thomson SkyHD (and Sky+/Digibox’s) is the power supply capacitors failing, all thanks to capacitor plague. This isn’t unique to Thomson Sky boxes as it can affect Grundig models as well, Thankfully it’s fixable even in 2021 either by yourself or you can send it off to be repaired. You can see in the above picture that one of the capacitors has started leaking, whilst others are bulging slightly.

This can also affect other consumer electronics from the 1999-2006 era, notably the clock capacitor on the original Xbox and various PC motherboards.

This box specifically had issues finding a satellite signal, and would only display ‘no Satellite signal is being received’ on both tuners, respective of either single or dual feed being used. Also a audible whine could be heard from the power supply, which is usually not a good sign.

The replaced capacitors

Conclusion

its worth mentioning that Sky no longer support this box for HD channels, whilst SD subscription channels and HD Free-To-Air channels will work, HD subscription channels will not work, since Sky moved to a different card pairing method this this box does not support, still for Freesat or basic subscription use the box will continue to work. The box also does not support any catch-up or On demand services offered by Sky.

Another thing to mention with this box is it will no longer recognize any viewing cards, this is probably due to fault with the box, either the card reader has failed or the contacts are dirty. This makes it impossible to use it with Sky+ modes since they require a Sky+ reenabled viewing card to work.

With this in mind I may decide to change the hard drive for a dummy Sata-SD card adaptor, since it makes no since having a hard drive that wont be used. I’m not sure what HDD space requirements the box has, since the box likes to reserve 140Gb for Anytime use.

Size Comparison

The Thomson SkyHD box was quite large compared to the previous set top boxes Sky have deployed, lets see how it compares:

Vs Xbox

Vs ntl: box

Vs Pace Digibox

Vs Virgin Media Tivo

Sky Interactive – 2001

A look at Sky’s interactive services offered from 2001

Sky Text

Sky Text

An alternative interactive service provided by Sky, unlike Active that focused on shopping and games, Text focused on information like local listings, news, weather, etc

Open....

Open…

Prior to its relaunch to Sky Active in late 2001. Open… was the main interactive portal on Sky Digital, and provided a gateway to other interactive services

Open....

Open… Shopping

E-commerce was the main attraction of interactive TV, with the ability to buy products though Sky Digital

Woolworths

Woolworths

Woolworth (Remember them?) was one such retailer

Sky Text

Sky Text

Sky text was designed to be used whilst watching regular Sky TV channels

Horoscopes

Not much to say, just star signs and horoscopes

Asda

Asda

Supermarket portal, do your grocery shopping through your TV

Harrods

Harrods

Simpsons Sky One

The Simpsons

Sky Movies Active

Sky Movies Active

Sky Cinema

Cinema Listings

Sky Guide 2002

Sky Guide Redesign

Sky were due to redesign the Sky Guide interface, with a new two tone blue interface in line with the corporate branding of the time.

BT Phone BIll

BT Phone

This never officially launched, but at some point you were supposed to be able to manage your phone bills via your TV, this would have extended to your Gas, Electric and Water

Domino's Pizza

Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s Pizza Prompt

Imperial Cancer Prompt

Imperial Cancer

Donate just by pressing your red button

Birds Eye Prompt

Birds Eye

Further Reading

PDF Download link

https://app.box.com/s/z3v1fgvh1xwf2y8kfw41aq9o6lixcloz

Using a Sony BRAVIA TV for Freesat

Many higher end Sony TV’s have had satellite tuners for a while now, and whilst you can easily connect it to a Sky dish and it’ll pick up and tune in channels, you will find that they are randomly allocated across the guide, which makes navigating them difficult. Compare this to similar Panasonic and Samsung TV’s that have proper official support for the Freesat EPG.

I decided to modify the EPG used by the TV in order to get it as close as I can to the Freesat order, allowing for a similar experience to an actual Freesat certified TV. This doesn’t fix the issue of lack of TV listings, since Freesat and Sky do not transmit their listings in the common DVB format so you will still be left with Now & Next only, you also won’t be able to decrypt the FTV channels, only view FTA channels that Freesat receivers can decode.

Whilst many Sony TV’s sold in the UK come with DVB-S2 compatible tuners, the issue is Freesat (and Sky) don’t use standard EIT (Event Information Table), which prevent these TV’s from being able to correctly manage these channels.

What You Need

USB Memory stick – Formatted to FAT32

Supported BRAVIA TV with a satellite tuner

Sony Channel Editor (Optional)

ChanSort (Recommended)

The Software

Sony Channel Editor

Sony Channel editor

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, this software is garbage. Complete Garbage

Whilst it’s able to just do the bare minimum, its a horrible piece of software to navigate, and has a tendency to garble the interface if you select too many channels.

Sony channel editor
WTF?

I don’t get it, why is Sony incapable of producing software that is able to function property without glitching itself? Why did they feel the need to theme it all to hell and back, a simple Win32 application would have been more then welcome, but instead it has to be skinned. Just look at the open dialog

Why not just use the default Windows open dialog?

This is a frequent occurrence, Alt/tabbing sometimes fixes it, otherwise you will need to save and close.

This is also a pain, rearranging TV channels causes the software to get confused and plonks the channels out of order, see how it goes from 77 to 92, 93 and then back to 80

Chansort

After getting fed up with Sony’s software I instead opted for an alternative

Chansort Sony

Chansort is a channel list editing application designed for various TV and satellite receivers on the market. Simply open the sdb.xml extracted from your TV and away you go. This this it was easier to manage and reorganize the channel list to the Freesat order, rather than having channel spread across the EPG.

A common issue was when reordering the channel list with the Sony editor software, it would frequently push the channel list down, rather than replacing or swapping them. With Chansort, you can tell the software if you want to swap the channels, or just insert it before or after, whilst keeping the other channel intact. This became a huge problem with the Sony software as after organizing one section of the EPG, the rest would either shuffle out of their modified positions.

Testing

After making the changes I copied the xml file back to the memory stick and plugged it in the TV to import. After importing and letting the TV reboot, the custom channel list loaded.

Unfortunately I had then hit a snag, since the TV is set to automatically update the channel list, and because I had originally deleted the encrypted Sky channels of the guide, the TV decided to add the channels back into the EPG, and then decided to merge and slot them into the existing channel list, so whilst it kept my custom channel order (mostly), you ended up with a bunch of encrypted channels in between.

One solution to this was disabling the service update option, that would stop the TV from adding channels, but that would mean any new Freesat channels wouldn’t be picked up, also if a channel had changed transponders, then the TV would not pick up the new frequency, instead that channel would display a blank screen.

A workaround to this was to hide the channels instead of deleting them, so whilst the channels would still exist to the TV, they would be ignored. In addition I also moved the channels to the 1000+ section, so that in the event the TV does not hide the channels, they are out of the way from main view.

Considerations

  • Whilst the EPG now mirrors the Freesat guide, you still don’t get the full TV listings, rather the Now and Next data
  • When Sky/Astra add new channels, your TV will detect and will automatically add them to the guide, likewise if a channel changes frequency. You will then have to hide the channel, unless it’s a FTA channel that you want to view.
  • Regional channels, the BBC have multiple feeds for different regions, as do ITV for local news. Channel 4 also has different feeds for local advertising. These are all recognized by the TV as separate channels. Whilst the BBC channels are easy to figure out, since the region is in the channel name, ITV and channel 4 are more difficult, since they all have the same label (except for STV and UTV, although there are multiple STV regions) I ended up using the main London regions that a regular Sky box used if it had no viewing card inserted. Alternatively you could change the regions themselves using the same software I had used. Regardless I placed all regional channels in the 900 section, but they are not in a particular order.
  • Some channels are duplicated twice, like Challenge. This is due to Sky running different feeds for Sky and Freesat, maybe the Freesat versions have adverts targeting to resubscribing to Sky or NOWtv?
  • Some channels are FTA but they are not on Freesat, most of the music channels and many international non English channels, to solve this I allocated the 400 section for international channels since that range is vacant (not sure why Freesat has that empty?) music channel I used the old channel numbers, since many of them were on Freesat at some point
  • The Astra UHD test channels are assigned to 1-3, since they are interesting to view and many satellite Sony TV’s are 4K, 4-99 are vacant, My assumption is should the TV find new channels, they will be added here, making it easer to manage.
  • Also, when importing the satellite channel list, it will also replace the terrestrial Freeview channel list also. So after importing the channel list you may need to do a full rescan on the Freeview side unless your on the Sutton Coldfield transmitter. I’m currently looking at a way to remedy this

Download

SDB.xml – Contains the edit channel list that follows the Freesat line up

Download (Box)

Download (OneDrive)

Updated as of: 22nd April 2021

Importing (Export to TV)

  • Copy the sdb.xml file to a FAT32 formatted memory stick to the root of the drive (don’t place the file in any folders)
  • Insert the USB memory stick into the TV’s USB2 port
  • After a few seconds the TV should pop up with a message asking what to do with the memory stick, Select Cancel or Ignore
  • For newer models (Android 9), Press Home → Select Settings (Cog wheel) → Select Watch TV →  Select Channels  Program List Transfer →  Import
  • For older models (Android 8), Press Home → Select Settings→ Select Channel Setup →  [Digital setup] →  [Technical Set-up] →  [Program List Transfer] →  [Import]
  • The TV will then import the channel list and will then reboot

There are a few issues and inconsistences as outlined above, mostly with duplicated channels, and the auxiliary channels section being out of order (900+), hopefully the TV’s should have minimal issues with keeping the channels updated.

Channel List

NumberChannel name
1Astra UHD Demo
2SES UHD Demo
3Astra UHD Demo
101BBC One HD
102BBC Two HD
103ITV HD
104Channel 4 HD
105Channel 5 HD
106BBC Scotland
107BBC Four
108STV
109BBC ALBA
112UTV
113ITV2
114ITV2+1
115ITV3
116ITV3+1
117ITV4
118ITVBe
119ITVBe+1
120S4C HD
121Channel 4
122E4
124More4
125More4+1
1274seven
1295 USA
1305USA+1
1315STAR
132Paramount
1335SELECT
134CBS Drama
135CBS Reality
137CBS Justice
138horror channel
139horror ch+1
1415STAR+1
142Sony Channel
143Sony Channel+1
144Pick
145Pick+1
146Challenge
147Sky Arts
148Food Network
149Food Netwrk+1
150DMAX
154ITV4+1
155PBS America
157Dave
158Drama
159YESTERDAY
160Really
162BLAZE
164Together
165Forces TV
166HGTV
167QUEST
169Quest Red
170Quest Red
172YANGA!
173HGTV+1
176Smithsonian
177QUEST HD
179QUEST+1
180Drama
181Drama+1
182Dave
183Smithsonian HD
184Dave ja vu
185YESTERDAY+1
186Quest Red+1
187Vox Africa
190Hi-Impact TV
192Showcase
194c4 l
200BBC NEWS
201BBC Parliament
202Sky News
203Al Jazeera HD
205FRANCE 24 HD
206RT
207CNN HD
208Bloomberg HD
209NHK World HD
210CNBC
212BBC NEWS HD
213RT HD
214Arirang TV HD
215TRT World
217Euronews
218CNN
219CNBC HD
220SkyNewsArabia
221Arise News
222Sky News
223GEO News
224Al Jazeera Eng
225BBC NEWS
230TVC News
250SportyStuff HD
251FreeSports HD
272BET:BlackEntTv
300Film4
301Film4+1
302Sony Movies
303Sony Classic
305Sony Action
306TalkingPictures
307Sony Movies+1
308Sony Action+1
309Sony Classic+1
382Court TV
401NDTV 24×7
402Channels 24
403Dunamis TV
404ATN
405A1TV
406CHSTV
407Kanshi TV
40992 News
410Eman Channel
411Islam Channel
412AAJ TAK
413Republic Bharat
414HUM Masala
415Takbeer TV
416Iran Int’l HD
417Ahlebait TV
418Channel 7
419British Muslim
420PTC PUNJABI
421Aastha
422KTV
423MATV National
424BEN
426Noor TV
427Madani Chnl
428NTV
429Sangat
430Islam Ch Urdu
431HUM EUROPE
432PCNE Chinese
433mta-muslim tv
434Channel 44
435Hidayat TV
437GEO TV
438NTD
439PTV Global
440Travelxp
441Iran Int’l HD
450Brit Asia TV
451ARY Digital
452Sanskar
453Dunya News
454Islam TV
455IQRA BANGLA
456IQRA TV
457Deen TV
458Ahlulbayt TV
459Sikh Channel
460TV One
500Trace Hits
501Trace Vault
510Clubland TV
512NOW 90s
513NOW 80s
514NOW 70s
516Spotlight TV
518KISS
519The Box
521Box Hits
523Magic
524Kerrang!
600CBBC HD
601CBeebies HD
602CBBC
603POP
604POP Max
605Tiny Pop
606POP+1
607CBBC
608CBeebies
609Tiny Pop+1
610CBBC
611CBBC HD
612CITV
613CBeebies HD
614POP Max+1
615CITV
616CBeebies
617CBBC
642Cruise1st.tv
650Venus TV
672KICC TV
673Good News TV
674TBN UK
675Faith UK
676LoveWorld HD
677Celebration TV
678LoveWorld HD
679Faith World TV
680EWTN Catholic
681Inspiration TV
682DAYSTAR HD
684revelation
686GOD Channel
687Hillsong
688SonLife
700BBC R1
701BBC R1X
702BBC R2
703BBC R3
704BBC R4 FM
705BBC R5L
706BBC R5SX
707BBC 6 Music
708BBC R4 Ex
709BBC Asian
710BBC R4 LW
711BBC WS
712BBC R Scot.
713BBC R n Gael
714BBC R Wales
715BBC R Cymru
716BBC R Ulster
717BBC R Foyle
718BBC RLondon
719Capital
720Capital XTRA
721Classic FM
722Gold
723Radio X
724Absolute
726Absolute 80s
727BBC R Cymru 2
730Planet Rock
731talkSPORT
732Smooth
733Heart
734LBC
736Virgin Radio
745Hits Radio
750RTÉ Radio 1
751RTÉ 2FM
752RTÉ Lyric fm
753RTÉ R na G
754EWTN Catholic
755Newstalk
757Heart 80s
758Kiss
759Magic
760Absolute 90s
761WRN Europe
762Heart 90s
763LBC News
764Desi Radio
765Heart Dance
766Panjab Radio
767Khushkhabri
768TWR
769Jazz FM
770Scala Radio
771Sukh Sagar
772Classic Rock
786BFBS Radio
800QVC
801QVC Beauty
802QVC Extra
803QVC Style
805Gems TV
806Create&CraftHD
807JewelleryMaker
809TJC
810TJC HD
811High Street TV 5
812Ideal World HD
814JML Direct
815ROK
816High Street TV 1
817Hochanda
818Studio 66 3
819High Street TV 3
820New Vision TV
821Ideal Extra
822HGTV
823Best Direct
825Xpanded TV2
826Craft Extra
827High Street TV 2
828High Street TV 4
830Babenation
831Live 360
832Psychic Today
833Get Lucky TV
834TV Warehouse
835Thane
842Xpanded TV
844
870Channel 4
871Channel 5
872BBCScotlandHD
873E4+1
874e4
875S4C
876Channel 5+1
877CBS Drama
878CBS Reality
879CBS Reality+1
880CBS Justice
881Pick
882Really
883Food Network
884Challenge
885BBC One NI HD
886BBC Two HD
900ITV HD
901ITV
902ITV
903STV
904ITV
905ITV
906ITV
907ITV
908ITV
909ITV Wales
910ITV HD
911ITV
912STV HD
913STV
914STV
915STV
916STV
917UTV
918ITV+1
919UTV+1
920ITV+1
921ITV+1
922ITV+1
923BBC One ScotHD
924BBC One Wal HD
925BBC Four HD
926BBC Two
927BBC Two Wal HD
928BBC Two Wales
929BBC One East W
930STV
931ITV
932ITV HD
933ITV
934ITV HD
935ITV
936ITV HD
937ITV
938ITV HD
939ITV HD
940ITV HD
941ITV
942ITV HD
943ITV+1
944ITV HD
945UTV+1
946BBC One HD
947BBC One Lon
948ITV HD
949STV
950BBC One Lon
951BBC One CI
952BBC One Oxford
953BBC One East E
954BBC One E Mid
955BBC One N West
956BBC One S West
957BBC One NI
958BBC One Oxford
959BBC One S East
960BBC One Scot
961ITV HD
962BBC One S West
963BBC One W Mid
964BBC One Wales
965BBC One West
966BBC One Yorks
967BBC One South
968BBC One South
969BBC Two NI
970BBC One NI
971BBC Two NI
972BBC Two NI
974Channel 4
975Channel 4
976Channel 4
977Channel 4
978BBC One NI
979BBC One NE&C
980BBC One NI
981ITV
982ITV Wales HD
983UTV HD
984BBC Four HD
985Channel 4+1
986Channel 4+1
987Channel 4+1
988Channel 4+1
989ITV
990BBC One Yk&Li
991BBC Two NI
992ITV HD
993ITV+1
994ITV HD
995BBC Four
996BBC RB 1
997BBC Two
998BBC ALBA
999BBC One NI HD

A historical look at Cable & Wireless interactive

When Cable & Wireless launched their digital cable service, Interactive TV was the main attraction and focus for the platform.

Cable & Wireless teamed up with Liberate to deploy it’s eNavigator middleware client for their set top boxes. Liberate had already made deals with many US digital platforms for both Motorola and Scientific Atlanta networks, and had partnered with Acer & Thomson/RCA for their own set top box / internet tv devices. These allowed for the internet to be browsed on a TV itself, similar to a webTV or the Bush Internet TV. With that in mind it made sense to go with Liberate for its interactive platform, with many of the interactive being HTML based, essentially being microsites being designed to be useable on a PAL TV screen, as well as being usable on the set top box hardware itself. By using a HTML based system, it would be easy for existing web developers to adapt their websites for cable interactive TV.

Downloads

Cable Wireless interactive home

The main interactive developer portal, viewed within the Cable & Wireless interactive browser. This also showcases the browser interface, note the lack of address or URL bar, since this service was designed to be a walled garden. Instead a url bar is provided on the developer portal, likely to allow developers to test their websites.

An interesting oversight is if you sent an email with a hyperlink embedded into it to a website such as Lycos or Google, you could use that link to open the browser to that page, and if its a search engine you could use that to load other websites that are not part of the service

Developer Website

Not much to say here, the developer portal provide links to documentation details the requirements and limitations of the TV internet platform. This goes into details the specifics of the Liberate eNavigatior platform.

Viewed in Internet Explorer 5

A look at the services…

Unfortunately the screenshots are of a low quality and resolution since they have been extracted from the PDF documents above but give a general idea of the scope of the service provided. Some screens have the browser banner at the top of the screen, I’m assuming these are portals to the microsites.

Cable Wireless interactive home

Another view of the interactive home screen, this may be from a later redesign

Cable Wireless TV Internet

TV Internet Home

Similar to the Open… home screen, provides links to various services available

Cable Wireless TV Sports

Sports Main Menu

Provides links to other sports themed websites,

Cable Wireless TV email

Email Main Menu

Menu options are Check Email, Write Message, not sure of the third items, Drafts? Templates? Deleted?

Cable Wireless TV Inbox

Email Inbox

The STB had a built in email client, designed for the C&W email service

Cable Wireless TV Games

Two Way TV

Looks like a games service, hard to tell because of the resolution

Cable Wireless TV RAC

RAC Breakdown

A resource for traffic information and a route planner

Cable Wireless TV Travel

TravelTime

Looks like some sort of holiday broker

Cable Wireless TV Holiday

Travel

Provide links to holidays, not sure if this goes directly to the sites themselves?

Cable Wireless TV News

News

News headlines, and weather from various sources.

When the consumer division of Cable & Wireless was acquired by ntl in 2000, the interactive platform continued it’s development. In 2002 ntl deployed the Liberate 1.2 middleware which bought improvements to the browser rendering engine, and the TV guide was rewritten to take advantage. ntl would later spend time developing services for the Langely platform, which was originally planned to use the PowerTV platform, but chose Liberate instead. This was done to ensure parity between the two platforms.

Useful Links

Using Sky Digital in 2021

The Sky Guide user interface has been though a lot of changes ever since its launch in October 1998. Being one of the first Digital TV platforms in the UK, however despite having numerous software updates throughout the years, its core design remains the same albeit with certain alterations being made in light of new feature being added to the service.

Screenshots below are captured off a Pace 2500S5 running EPG software version

Search & Scan

Pressing the blue button cycles through the selected favorite channels, Personally I’ve never understood why it cant just open up a small menu showing favorite channels along with what’s being broadcast now, the way it’s been implemented seems like it was tacked on at the last minute, and if you have nearly 50 favorite channels it can take a while to cycle through them all.

If you wondered what the messages button does, It just shows the message above. Originally it was supposed to received broadcast style messages to the digibox, informing customers of any changes to their service

Low battery icon, supported on 2001 and later revision remotes

Sky Guide

TV Guide

Main grid style view, programmes highlighted in white have audio description, this can be changed in the Language & Subtitles menu in the Services section.

Pressing i on the remote brings up a synopsis of the program selected. Also wtf is going on with modern Simpsons?

Sky added further categories in 2005 to accommodate the amount of channels. However in 2021 some of these genres are redundant, there’s only one channel in the Gaming & Dating category for example.

Viewing channels based on genre

No more Lifestyle & Culture channels, Sky merged the genre back into Entertainment

TV Guide: A-Z Listings

Viewing A-Z list of programs by genre. This has always been a mess since the same programme is repeated multiple times due to the advent of +1 and HD simulcasts, Ideally Sky should have combined the same program title into one per channel, instead you can have pages of the same program if it is repeated on multiple channels at different times.

Programs can be viewed by subgenres, which can be selected using the bottom row of colour buttons.

TV Guide: Personal Planner

The Personal Planner was introduced in 2001, and serves as a timer and reminder feature of Sky Guide. Programs can be added here and the digibox will remind you when the program starts. Autoview will make the digibox switch over to the channel automatically, useful for recording programs to a VCR (remember those?). Series Link automatically adds the next program to the personal planner, like the Season Pass feature of the Tivo.

To be honest, I found the Personal Planner to be buggy, many series links will randomly disappear over time.

TV Guide: Favorite Channels

The Digibox can store up to 50 favorite channels, which a separate EPG being introduced that lists the favorite channels exclusively, introduced in the EPG 3.4 update

Box Office

Sadly Sky axed it’s Box Office Pay-Per-View in 2016 in favor of its on demand service. So this part of the guide is now dead.

Services

Shows telephone numbers for broadcasters and departments on Sky. I thought this was a wasted feature since how often do you contact these broadcasters?

A better feature would be to allow the user to enter and save their own phone numbers, then should a contact call, a small message would appear with the callers phone number and name, like a caller display feature. It would certainly give customers a good reason to plug the Digibox into the phoneline. The only time I’ve seen this feature implemented was on a BT Freeview box.

Services: System Setup

Second Location Picture Format refers to the RF2 output, if the second TV is 4:3 with the main set being 16:9

On-Screen icon timeout referrers to the red button props that appear for interactive. Previously the red button icons would stay on screen unless the user pressed the Backup key

  • Model number referrers to the driver stack implemented on the digibox, and varies for each box model and revision
  • Version Number – First two characters refer to the Digibox manufacturer, the next two are the major revision (model/CPU chipset), the last two refer to the minor Digibox hardware revision. This field is static and remains the same throughout
  • Serial Number – identifies the digibox uniquely
  • Viewing Card Number – Refers to the viewing card number currently inserted
  • Operating System – the core operating system on the digibox, using a modified OpenTV1.2 with the NucleusOS realtime kernel
  • EPG Software Version – Version of Sky Guide currently running
  • Signal Strength – How much signal is being received, determined by the size of the dish, quality and length of the cable run and the quality of the tuner used in the box.
  • Signal Quality – Signal to noise ratio
  • Lock Indicator – If the digibox can decode the transport stream
  • Network ID – Used to identify the satellite the user is on, Astra 28.2 is 0002 with Astra 19.2E being 0001, Hotbird 13E is 013e
  • Transport Stream – The transponder that the digibox is tuned to

Services: Installer Setup

This menu is hidden in plain view, since it can technically disrupt normal operation of the digibox.

LNB Setup – To change tuning parameters of the LNB if a non standard LNB is being used, not needed if using a Sky Minidish.

Default Transponder – The transponder where the Digibox loads its TV listings upon bootup

Telephone Settings – If the user need to specify a prefix to access the outside line

RF Outlets – To change the RF output channel

Manual Tuning – Manually tune a frequency, similar to Add Channels but shows the signal strength and quality.

Services: Auto Standby

Services: Other Channels

Other Channels lets you add channels that are not on the Sky EPG, but are broadcasting on the 28.2E satellite. These could be regional channels not populated on the guide, or test channels.

In theory you could use this feature to watch channels on different satellite providing your dish is pointed to the satellite. In practice you are limited to two symbol rates (22.0 and 27.5) which restricts what transponders you can tune into (on 19.2E this isn’t much of an issue since Astra frequencies tend to stay consistent). The digibox isn’t a good receiver for this purpose since it wasn’t designed for it, it only barley works with the standard Sky digital service.

Services: Favorite Channels

Lets the customer program up to 50 favorite channels. This was originally 20 channels with the limit being increased in 2005.

Pressing i gives you a channel description, this also appears when you access a channel that you are not subscribed to.

Interactive

MySky

A list of interactive services, or service. Sadly this menu used to be full of different service that were available back in the day (Playjam, Sky Active, QVC, DirectGov, Gky Gamestar)

Unfortunately MySky no longer loads

Pressing i gives you a description of the service

Error Messages

What happens when you disconnect the sat feed, the box cannot load listings, showing that the full listings are not cached in the digibox itself

A weird glitch, BBC Alba and Premier Sports on channel 65535

I believe this is due to a channel being restricted via the encryption, yet the customer is enrolled on the package. Could be due to area/post code restrictions,

Low battery message, supported on v4 remotes and later

Nag screen that appears when you boot up the digibox without a telephone line connected, since Sky have axed all of the interactive services (except for BBCi which does not use the telephone) they might as well remove this prompt

Appers when you switch on the digibox from the mains

All regular Sky digibox’s can only decode MPEG2 SD channels, if you go to an HD channel you simply receive this message. You used to be able to get tv listings for HD channels but Sky remove this to conserve memory since they were running out of EPG spaces

Appears when you insert the viewing card backwards, rumored to charge Sky for the subscription rather than the customer

When you have no signal being received for that channel transponder

Sometimes the digibox can’t load the program information, this message will be diplayed for a few seconds before the synopsis appears.

Inside a Pace 2500S5 digibox

One of the many Digibox’s Pace produced over the years, and one of the first to have the tuner integrated on the mainboard, previous models had the tuner enclosed on a separate metal box fixed onto the board, or as a ZIF style socket module.

Pace 2500S5 board
Pace 2500S digibox mainboard

Another box from the same era was the PaceDi4000N for ntl, although this is a cable receiver you can see some similarities in the design.

pace ntl
Pace Di4000 ntl box mainboard

Its quite a minimal clean design compared to the other boxes Pace have produced, like the Di4001

ntl pace

Back to the 2500S5, you can see the CPU of the box

pace st20

The main, and only processor STi5512SWE. This chip incorporates the CPU (ST20) running at 60Mhz, MPEG2 decoder and graphics processor, basically a receiver on a chip. I’m not sure how it compares to other digibox’s of the era in terms of speed, considering this box was made in 2002.

ST processors were stupidly popular in many satellite receivers, and this one seems to be an NDS variant

digibox pace

Not sure what this chip does, maybe I/O for the RS232 port?

The unused PCMCIA slot

Flash memory chips (right) that store the EPG software and operating system. Each chip is 2Mb for a total of 4Mb Flash. There are two unpopulated banks for a potential of 8Mb. The chip at the top left, above the Omega chip is part of the RAM.

View of the dual card slots, the bottom is for the viewing card, whilst the top is for the interactive card.

ESS Teledrive ES2898S

Appears to be the modem used for the Digibox’s return path. This allows for the digibox to communicate back to Sky for box office events and interactive. Unsure of the port on the right

The front of the box with the panel removed, showing the location of the remote sensor