Tag Archives: DVB-S2

Humax Freesat with Freetime

Freesat introduced its smart tv platform in 2013, which was designed to be a competitor to smart TV platforms like Youview and Tivo (Virgin Media)

The main home screen, appears when you first turn on the reciever,

Now & Next bar, you can skim through the channels by using the Up & Down buttons

Pressing the i button bring up information about the current program, you can also view information for programs on other channels and future programs

The main TV guide, shows what’s currently on. Like most other internet connected EPG’s you can scroll backwards through the guide, which will then take you to an on demand link for the program.

A list of genres for certain channels, accesssed by pressing the List button

Where have all the music channels gone? Seems you need to manually tune them in these days

Showcase

Freetime showcase is mean to highlight and advertise upcoming programmes of interest. Similar to how TV guide magazines showcase programs of interest

Settings

This model supports both Ethernet and Wifi, however a separate USB dongle is required for WiFi functionality.

An external hard drive can be connected via USB to enable recording functionality, if you have a Freesat box that does not have an internal disk drive. This allows you to record and rewind TV, but with only one tuner you are limited to just one program/channel at a time.

Non-Freesat Mode

TV portal is still accessible in this mode.

Personally if you wish to manually tune on channels without any BS restrictions I would advise just to get a standalone FTA receiver, or get a TV with one built in.

Settings – Non-Freesat

Non-Freesat mode can be used to add channels that are not part of the Freesat EPG, but are still FTA. This won’t work with encrypted Sky channels, rather channels that are testing or misc ITV regions

A list of all Astra 28.2E transponders that can be selected, save having to enter the parameters manually

On Demand

A good selection of both Free and subscription on demand services. Most of the major catchup service are present, most of them anyway. There are some omissions though like Britbox, Amazon Prime, StarzPlay, Nowtv and Channel 4

Search

Media Player

You can also play media files from an external USB hard disk or a DLNA server using the built in media player

Humax TV Portal

Humax TV Portal allows you to access interactive applications hosted by Humax, originally supported on their Freeview HD receivers.

Recordings & DLNA

On this model, an external USB Hard disk drive can be connected to the Freesat box, to allow the use of recording. The Freesat software will automatically format the box and prepare it for storage.

Alternatively you can also stream recoding from another Freesat box, or any box that allows DLNA streaming. Some Panasonic TV sets allow this.

You can select the recording, or file to play. And can fast forward and rewind at will, depending on the network conditions, ethernet is recommended.

Alternatively you can stream from a network attached storage device.

Finally there is a section to provide help and support, which takes you to instructions and articles on how to use the various Freesat services.

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.

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