Don't waste my time!
(aka cut-to-the-chase)

Some people have found my Digibox information to be confusing (but very few have specified what they got confused with, so I don't know what to rewrite!); others have said that while it is nice to have a chatty text, it gets in the way of quickly finding information...
Hence, this document. Scroll down and see if your question is answered below. Simply, concisely, to the point.
If not, email me and I'll add your question!

How do I align my dish to get SkyDigital / BBC / ITV?

How to position your dish.Get yourself a sat-finder, of any type. Go out at around 10.30 to 11.00 GMT (not local time) and point your dish horizontally in the direction of the sun. You are wanting to aim your dish to a point that is in the sky over the equator at 28.2°E (see indented note below), and vertically just a tad above the horizon. You can see this in the picture on the right − the big arrow points due south. The yellow blob represents the sun, and this is the direction where you want to point your dish, though note that you won't want to aim it directly at the sun. Start off around 30° up from the 'logical' horizon level (most dishes have degrees marked on the mounting bracket).
Now move the dish around slowly until the sat-finder beeps. Using the sat-finder, home in on the satellite and do up the bolts on your mounting bracket.
Go check your Digibox (press 'services', then '4', then '6'). You should have a signal, lock OK, with network ID "0002" and Transport stream "07d4". If you do, you're done!
If you do not, go to Add Channels ('services', '4', '4') and change the FEC value to say "3/4". Do not alter anything else. Find channels, and if you see "CNN International" (network ID "0001"), then you are pointed at the older Astra satellites (at 19.2°E). If you don't get any signal at all, you may be pointed to Hotbird (at 13°E). There are a lot of satellites up there! Move your dish again (usually to the left as you stand behind it) to locate another satellite and try again.
With thanks to Parabolica, I can provide you with some more precise directions: if you live in Dover, you will want to point your dish towards 33.1°E, while those living across the country in Truro will be aiming for 41.5°E.
Thanks Bart!
Why not 28.2°E? This is because this is the physical position of the satellite. Way over the equator, at the position which is 28.2°E on a map of the globe - which would place it somewhere over Egypt. So why the disparity in direction? Simple. If you want to face London, where you are in the UK will determine where you face. If you are in Bridgwater, you'll face the rising sun. If you are in Brentwood, you'll face the setting sun... it's the same principle with bigger distances.
When people (including me) say to aim your dish towards 28.2°E, this does not mean you should pull out your compass and set it up for exactly 28.2°E (that's probably Astra1x for many of you). We are stating the actual position of the bird, it is up to you to perform a bit of mental arithmetic to work out where this would mean for your location as, indeed, the exact direction will be slightly different from one town to the next.
That said, it will often suffice, in lieu of knowing complex maths, to aim your dish at 28.2°E and keep nudging it left-a-bit until you get a signal. Don't tighten up those bolts until you are certain it's the right signal!


How can I add my own ITV regions?

By default, with no card, the Digibox sets "ITV1 Central W" as the default region. This is the Birmingham city area and, as such, has more than its fair share of violent crime and murder which the news reports are only too happy to go into detail over... Unfortunately the ITV regions are not listed in the EPG so you'll need to add them yourself.
However, don't be surprised if your "Other channels" list vanishes. The Digibox 'forgets' them from time to time (so best print this out and put it by your TV!).

Press 'services', '4', '4' and enter the information corresponding to your desired channel.
This list contains all of the ITV channels, and was last verified on 2006/12/06.

Just to clarify, I'll walk you through adding "ITV1 Meridian North":
  1. Press 'services'
  2. Press '4' ("System setup")
  3. Press '4' ("Add channels")
  4. Tap in '10891', the screen will say "10.891"
  5. Press the 'down arrow'
  6. Press 'right arrow' to change the polarisation to "H"
  7. Press 'down arrow'
  8. Press 'right arrow' to change the symbol rate to "22.0"
  9. Press 'down arrow'
  10. Press 'right arrow' twice to change the FEC to "5/6"
  11. Press 'down arrow', then press 'select'
  12. Wait a few seconds...
  13. Press 'down arrow' four times to highlight "ITV1 Mer N"
  14. Press 'yellow' (the channel will then be ticked)
  15. Press 'select'
  16. Wait a moment...
  17. Press the 'sky' button to return to watching television.
Now, here's a walk-through of selecting your desired channel:
  1. Press 'services'
  2. Press '6' ("Other channels")
  3. If the desired channel is not the one highlighted, use the arrows to select it.
  4. Press 'select'

Some things to note:

How can I force a firmware update?

If your box is working correctly and you can access radio channels, you do not need to update your firmware.
Unlike some types of digital receiver, the Sky Digibox cannot be updated from files that you download from the Internet. It can only be updated by receiving a signal that is broadcast to it.
If you feel you need to update the firmware, please read through this website to find out how. The potential for damaging your receiver by incorrectly updating is too great. A failed update (i.e. you get fed up waiting and unplug it, bad signal, etc) can render your box inoperable; and only a qualified repair person will know how to 'reflash' the necessary stuff back into your receiver.
Do you get the feeling that I'm trying to dissuade you from doing this?

Are you sure that's the only way to update a Digibox?

For you, yes.
If you are a fellow geek, then the Digibox can often be updated by reprogramming the FlashROM directly - usually via the JTAG interface. The ST20 processor (used in several models) also includes extended debugging features in co-operation with the OS-Link interface. Refer to the SGS-Thomson ST20-TP2 datasheet (ref. 42 1674 04, August 1997), section 18.
Please don't ask me to explain JTAG or how it works; this information is provided purely for the sake of technical completeness.

Explain 'firmware'. Why does my receiver need it?

[this uses a few 'techie' terms, but explains them; so why not try reading it?]

In a nutshell: when you switch on your computer, you'll probably have a few seconds while something (often something called "AMIBIOS"™) checks the computer works, tests memory, and so on. This'll all vanish and Windows™ will start to load.
On a Digibox, a similar sort of thing happens. It is actually a computer that runs software. The only thing is, the software is tied to what the thing is supposed to be (a device for receiving satellite signals and making them into TV pictures), so you cannot use it as a word processor!
Windows™, Internet Explorer™, and Word™ are all known as 'software' because they are loaded from your harddisc. If you took your harddisc out of your computer, none of this stuff would appear.
However, the computer's start-up messages (BIOS) would. It would test your memory (as usual) and then panic − often with a lot of beeping and saying "Missing operating system" on-screen (that means it can't find Windows™).
The BIOS is "firmware", because it is always physically resident in the computer. The name is derived from the fact that the firm which made the computer put it there... (if you think that is unoriginal, your brain is referred to as "wetware" 'cos it is wet and squishy).
The Digibox has no harddisc, no Windows™ (thank goodness! ☺). Instead it has an extraordinarily complex 'program' that is contained within something called "FlashROM". Because it is always physically resident inside the Digibox, we call it firmware. It is not incorrect to call it 'software', it is, but it is better to say firmware in this case.
FlashROM, incidentally, is a sort of storage that 'remembers' when there is no power (unlike conventional computer memory), has no moving parts (unlike a harddisc), but which has the ability to be 'updated' (unlike a lot of conventional firmware). It is a fairly new innovation, appearing in computers and the like only within the last eight or so years.
These days you are likely to find the most common usage of FlashROM is around the neck of any teenager − those little MP3 players...
For those that want to know what the firmware actually does, it is pretty much the entire behaviour of the receiver. When you press the 'tv guide' button and 'green' (for Personal Planner), it is the embedded software, the firmware, that is handling all of this. When you select a channel, it is the firmware that translates your request to view channel 359 into a suitable tuning value. This is then sent to the tuner to select the desired input from the satellite, and the VID/PID settings (which are completely hidden from you when you use the Digibox) are sent to the MPEG decoder so that the correct channel appears on your television screen. All of this complicated stuff is handled by the firmware. Talking of which, an "industry insider" said to me that around 50-60% of the code in the firmware is to deal with the extraordinarily advanced EPG facilities provided on the SkyDigital platform.
This is why I say that you should not try to force a firmware update unless you fully understand the implications... not of it working, but in case it fails (i.e. power failure at the moment of actually updating the FlashROM).
To sum up: The firmware instructs the Digibox how to start, how to work... it is a complete set of instructions for all the things that your Digibox can do. Without this, it is comatose. No different to an intricate doorstop!

What is HD? Can I receive it?

No, you can't receive it. (that was simple, wasn't it?)
A normal satellite reception is broadcast using MPEG-2 to create a picture that is 480 dots across the screen and 576 down (PAL); using symbol rates either 22Mbaud or 27.5Mbaud.
HD (High Definition) is broadcast using MPEG-4 to create a picture that can be one of two resolutions: 720p or 1080i. This means it is either 720 dots in height using progressive scan, or 1080 dots in height using interlaced scan; typically using a symbol rate of 28.5Mbaud (but the lower rates are possible too - BBC HD uses one).
Your Digibox cannot work with HD because: Give up while you're ahead - the standard Digibox cannot do HD. In fact, the majority of standard definition receivers cannot be upgraded for these same reasons.

You will need an MPEG-4 HD-compatible digital receiver, plus an "HD ready" television.


Explain those HDTV differences...

To start, we must explain interlaced scanning. Your regular television uses this method to draw the pictures that you watch. Any book on television theory will tell you that PAL and SÉCAM update the screen at 25 frames per second (30fps for NTSC). The problem is that this could lead to flicker, like some more susceptible people (myself included) may see on certain cinema screens.
The simple answer, double the refresh rate. Scan the screen 50 times a second (60 for NTSC). Problem is, that would require a huge chunk of bandwidth for each television station.
In order to "keep it real", the broadcasters (remember, this was back in the black-and-white days) came up with a very ingenious solution. Essentially every frame is split into two fields, which - for arguments sake - we shall think of as "all the even lines" and "all the odd lines".
An interlaced picture is therefore built up by displaying all of the even lines in the picture (around 280 of them), and then we whizz back to the top and fill in all of the odd lines. There is a potential 'jitter' factor between frames for fast moving subjects with a very fast shutter, however the television screen itself, along with the human eye, will generally blend these small differences so they are not noticable. After all, we've been living with interlaced television for over half a century and I've not yet heard somebody say their football game was ruined by inter-field displacement!
Progressive scanning, on the other hand, works like a computer monitor. The picture is built line by line, top to bottom. While it may still update 50 times per second, it will be updating a complete screen each time, not half the screen. This will lead to a higher quality, but as we're only looking at around 720 lines (height) resolution, it probably won't look that unlike a normal TV picture, only clearer and sharper.
The high-definition part of the HD specification is, really, catered for by the 1080i part. This will allow you to see 1080 lines (height), which is effectively twice the vertical resolution of a standard picture. If we then make an assumption that the horizontal quality is also twice as good, then simple maths will explain the adverts claiming HD is four times better quality than normal TV. I'm not sure I'd agree, but whatever, the definition offered by HD will leave normal TV looking somewhat lame.
Unfortunately, the mechanics of updating a screen with that much information are - as you may expect - very complicated. This is why the 1080 resolution is usually interlaced. But, don't let that put you off. I'm sure most of you reading didn't know your (PAL) picture is interlaced... ☺
As for HD in practice. Well, I was watching some animated car on an HD demonstration in my local supermarket. I was trying not to drool over myself. I'm glad my memory is so naff because if I remembered exactly how awesome the HD picture was, I'd not want to look at SD any more! ☺

I have a normal TV, can I see stuff in 'widescreen'?

Yes. It will be "letterboxed" (black bars above and below) but while the physical picture size is smaller, you get to see a lot more. I have set my box to show letterboxed pictures on my 14" TV.
Press 'services', '4', '1' and alter the Picture Format to say "4:3L". Go down to 'Save New Settings' and press 'select'.
For reference, the available options (illustrated with an image of Stephanie & Sportacus from LazyTown) are:

My box keeps on resetting, why?

If your Digibox has the new firmware (i.e. you can press 0 to choose radio channels; like 0143 for BBC Radio 4 LongWave), then these are some reasons why your box may reset:

I get "No satellite signal is being received"!

If you get this for a prolonged period, there is likely to be a problem with your installation. Perhaps the LNB is too warm and it is drifting off-signal (see above). Perhaps your dish is too small for your location. You are connected using proper satellite cable, aren't you? TV co-ax isn't good enough at the high frequencies...
If this happens for a short time (a few seconds to a few minutes) and there is no evidence of channel break-up (try The Horror Channel #321 or Classic FM TV #359 as both are quite 'weak' for me), then I'm afraid this is something you'll have to get used to living with. I have a friend locally with a big dish that pulls in a great signal across the board, the quality is high. Not a problem. But every so often, without warning, his box reports No satellite signal is being received for a couple of minutes, and then normality resumes.
This, unfortunately, is the curse of digital. Not only is it easy to mess up, but because the information is broadcast in 'blocks' that 'describe' the picture, it needs very effective error correction systems to intelligently deduce what was intended if something was not received correctly.
Why is this a curse? It is simple − as long as the error correction is operative you will see a high quality picture. Always. As soon as the corruption gets too much for the error correction to cope with, the picture will go all weird and blocky and the sound will hiccup. It is only a really really short hop from that state to having nothing whatsoever appear on the screen.
It is not at all like analogue. It doesn't 'fade out'. It is either good, messed up, or a blank screen.

How do I know if my LNB will work?

Look at it. Does it say "Universal", "For DBS Digital", or something with the figures "9.75" and "10.6", or anything about a 22kHz tone? If you can see any of these, then it is most likely suitable.
The only LNBs unlikely to be suitable for reception are the dual-head type (for Hotbird/Astra), really really old single-band types (from the Dark Ages, when Sky only had two movie channels!), or types that work on an entirely different frequency range (i.e. 6 GHz) − but these are a rarity in the European domestic market.
IMPORTANT! You cannot use a 'normal' LNB with a Sky Minidish; likewise you cannot use a Sky Minidish LNB on a normal dish. This is because the Minidish is wider than it is tall, so all the focusing is different compared to a normal dish.

Can I watch Sky (movies and stuff) for free?

[included because people still keep on asking me] NO!

There used to be a 'fiddle' whereby you could subscribe to watch a premium movie and fool the box into thinking your line was busy so it couldn't call out to register your purchase. Instead the Digibox would store your purchase on your viewing card for later (but there would be no later as your line would always seem to be 'busy').
You could, in actuality, request and watch up to four premium Box Office movies before your card needed to be cleared.
The only way to clear your card is to reconnect your phone line, upon which time you would be billed for the movies that you requested.
You could, alternatively, try to spin a yarn to Sky Customer Support to say your card is missing, damaged, eaten by the dog... but they aren't stupid and you are only likely to ever get away with four movies as there's a limit to how many cards can be mangled, even if you have preschool tots around...

So, in essence, you have three options:


You mean Sky has never been hacked?

I didn't say that. However, following the heat that some received for hacking the old analogue system (i.e. the 'Season95' hack), those who successfully break the Sky system are extremely unlikely to blab about it.
Just for the record, I'm not aware of any successful hacks on the Sky services - and given the usual line-up for Sky One, I've not been looking either! ☺

Can I receive French / German / Spanish / Italian stuff?

Foreign channels:
	Viva (German)
	TV Canaría (Spanish)
	Euskadi (Spanish/Basque)No.
While the Digibox is capable of receiving channels such as Viva (German), TV Canaría (Spanish), or Euskadi TeleBiste (Spanish/Basque) (as shown to the right) − there are two factors which make life difficult:
  1. All of the 'foreign' channels are broadcast from a different satellite − usually the older Astra birds located at 19.2°E, some from Hotbird located at 13°E. It is impossible to watch Euskadi and then switch to BBC 2...
    The way you could do this is by having two LNBs and a switching unit, these switches normally 'talk' a language called DiSEqC ... but the Digibox doesn't! This is not insurmountable, however.
  2. A little snippet of protectionism has been applied to recent Digibox firmware updates that makes it all-but-impossible to use your Digibox to receive channels from other satellites. Namely, you cannot get access to the "Other Channels" menu until the box has loaded all of the (SkyDigital) channels. So how are you going to tell the box what foreign channel to tune to? Short answer − you can't.
Actually, a possible way would be to get a 12V operated switching unit (one that requires a voltage to operate it, as opposed to DiSEqC codes), two LNBs on the one dish, and some sort of stable 12V power supply. Start the Digibox on SkyDigital, and then switch satellites as required. However... the cost of a good switch and power supply may well equal that of a cheap digital receiver, is it worth the hassle?
By far the sanest idea if you need interactive is a Digibox for the English stuff, and a dedicated box for all the rest. If you don't need the interative stuff, you may find a cheap digital receiver will do the lot with ease...

A recently offered receiver kit.To be honest, though, you'll get much better service with any cheap digital receiver. These are designed with multi-satellite viewing in mind and as such are often a lot more user friendly (often, you only need to set up your dish and the receiver will find all possible channels by itself, unlike the Digibox where each has to be added by hand).
The picture here is of the sort of thing that I mean. Notice the dual-head LNB for Astra and Hotbird. The text is too small to read, so here it is: Kit satellite numérique − Comprenant: 1 parabole 80 cm métal, 1 double tête monobloc universelle, 1 démodulateur qui permet de recevoir les chaîes numériques gratuites des satellites Astra et Hotbird. 2000 canaux, 2 péritels, 3 RCA sortie SPDIF audio numérique. Garantie 1 an.; or in English: Digital satellite kit − Comprising: 1 80cm solid metal dish, 1 double-head universal "monoblock" LNB, 1 receiver which allows you to watch the free-to-air digital channels on Astra and Hotbird. It can store up to 2000 channels. 2 SCARTs. SPDIF digital audio output. Guaranteed for a year.


How can I put two LNBs on my dish?

Two LNBs on one dish.The principle of the dish is that of a big mirror. It reflects the signal from the satellite into the LNB. As the dish is curved, it also concentrates the signal into the LNB. In essence, it is much like how cupping your hands behind your ears helps you to hear better.
One of the quirks of most reflective surfaces is that it reflects from many different angles. The LNB is placed in a position called "prime focus". This means the entire area of the dish concentrates the signal into the LNB. However the dish can reflect from other satellites, albeit with lesser and lesser 'effectiveness' the further away from you are from the prime focus.
The actual implementation and mechanics of setting up a multiple-LNB system (which cannot be directly controlled by a Digibox) is too involved to explain here. My good friend Ewen Cathcart has written two articles on this subject, you'll find the theory described in my Frobnicate magazine, issue #25; and the practical side is described in issue #26. He then describes his own implementation in issue #27. All of these issues are available as an OvationPro document (recommended) or as a PDF document...

Do you work for Sky, Pace, Grundig, etc etc?

Nope! Some friends gave me an unwanted (and quirky) Digibox a while ago, and I found precious little information about it on-line. So... as I am finding out more and more, I am writing a site to present this information in case it may be of use to others.
My qualifications: basically I'm a self-taught geek. Programmer (ARM assembler, C, VisualBasic, and a smattering of 6502 assembler), hacker (the good type (a "white hat")), and fan of low-budget horror movies. Thus a lot of this information is of a slightly (!) technical nature. ☺
To justify this, there is not an awful lot you can do with the Digibox without getting technical. If you plug it in and press '984' to watch BBC 1, you don't need geekery. But if you think you're going to add your preferred ITV region, suddenly you'll be expected to enter frequencies, symbol rates, FECs, and polarisation. It does help if you are, at least vaguely, aware of what this all means!

I have a question you've not answered...

Email me! heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot- uk


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Copyright © 2009 Rick Murray (written completely by hand, using Metapad 3.51)