Sat-Special: The "Hidden" Menu (1)

Digital Special
The d-box in operation

by Mike Bauerfeind

The d-box has been available in Germany since the middle of last year. It
was referred to from the outset as a 'multimedia terminal', but has not, as
yet, lived up to this name.

Although from 27 October 1996 it was possible to receive several SCPC
signals and feeds using the V.1.713 software version, nothing like all the
feeds could be received.  However, it was previously only possible to
receive packages.

The unit might come with version 2.0 of the software installed nowadays, but
it still doesn't have any functions which could be described as new.

For me, this was reason enough to examine the built-in software to see if it
was hiding anything which could be used to step up reception possibilities.
And, since you're reading this article, I obviously succeeded.

Controlling the d-box from a computer

First a word about controlling the d-box using a computer.  This is
relatively easy to do.

All you need is the d-box, a computer with a terminal program and a
null-modem cable (Fig. 1  Cable).  Anyone who's even slightly good with a
soldering iron can put this cable together themselves. The sockets are
simply wired up according to the wiring diagram. 

As this is a null-modem cable all the given lines must be crossed (apart
from earth to GND).  Alternatively, you can buy one of these cables from a
specialist dealer or a computer accessories store.

Once you've done this, you can connect the computer to the d-box.  For
safety reasons, both the d-box and the computer should be disconnected from
the mains while you do this.

Then, boot up your computer and configure the terminal program as follows:
baudrate 19,200, 8N1.  Now switch on the d-box and hold a key on the
computer keyboard down (e.g. ESC).

Once you've started the system up the d-box should kick in as normal. To
test the system enter a number - the d-box should switch to the
corresponding channel number.

The computer can emulate all the functions of the remote control (Fig. 2 Key

Not only that, but by pressing combinations of certain keys, entire
operations can be carried out in blocks.  I set up various macros which
involve pressing certain keys in a certain order.

For example, the automatic search function is triggered by pressing
muo~~~~~~~~~~0000no (tells the computer to wait half a second - this is
necessary because of the time it takes the d-box to react).

You will have to replace the four zeros with your pin number. I managed to
write macros for a wide range of functions using this simple method.

For example, my d-box can switch between TV10 and TMF (EUTELSAT II F3 16
degrees East) in less than 30 seconds.  This is not possible using normal
controls, as these feeds would normally overwrite one another on the d-box.

In the same way, using the computer, my d-box can examine ASTRA's inactive
digital transponders for any activity.

It would also be possible to examine all the satellites for digital carriers
in increments of 1 MHz.

An interesting feature is that if SCPC signals are detected, a message
appears on the computer, displaying the PID codes of the respective
broadcaster.  PIDs are needed to distinguish between SCPC signals which are
close together.

The thing to do now is to persuade any inventive programmers out there to
develop a complete control software package.

Even with my relatively modest equipment I had a lot of fun controlling the
d-box using a computer.

Note: The author shall bear no liability for the information given.
Defective cable can cause defects in the d-box and the computer. If in
doubt, purchase the cable from a specialist dealer.

More feeds via the internal menu

First a note: It is possible to receive significantly more feeds and
packages with the d-box using the internal menu following my description
than using the manual channel search function.

However, there is a risk that important settings will accidentally be
altered, and the d-box may consequently refuse to operate as normal.

You should therefore proceed with due caution.

The d-box has two 'undocumented' menus which can be called up using certain
key combinations. The first menu is designed for traders and called up by
entering the following combinations from the basic screen display:
Menu - Settings - PIN - PIN.

To be on the safe side, I would recommend that you do NOT call up this menu
as I have heard several reports of the box giving up the ghost after it has
been called up.

The second menu is much more interesting anyway. It is called up by entering
the combination Radio + 99 + Radio + Menu.

If it doesn't work on the first attempt try it again a few times from the
radio menu.  If it works a red screen (Main Menu) with various settings
options appears.  You can use this menu to receive any uncoded MPEG2/DVB
feeds and packages (provided you have the relevant data including PIDs).
However, my observations relate to the use of a universal LNB, controlled
via 14/18 V (V/H) and 22 kHz (low and high band). You may experience
problems with mechanical and magnetic polarisers and older LNBs.

Options 1, 6 and 8 are important for feed settings.  Using menu option '1'
you can enter any necessary video and audio PIDs. Menu option '6' lets you
switch the 22 kHz setting on and off, among other things, and alter the
polarisation of the LNB.

Menu option '8' lets you change the most important values. You can change
the frequency, symbol rate and FEC and adjust the settings for whichever
SCPC feed you want.

It might also be necessary to enter the PIDs manually, and then you should
be able to receive the channel.

If this had whetted your appetite and you're not afraid of taking the odd
risk, you can use the following instructions to try to receive the foreign
digital package on Kopernikus 3.

First, call up the internal menu from the basic screen display by pressing
the key combination Radio + 99 + Radio + Menu.  The aforementioned red
screen with the various sub-menus will appear.

You will need to use the arrow and figure keys and the OK key to make
changes to the menu.  Deutsche Telekom's foreign package is broadcast on
Kopernikus 3 (23.5 degrees East) at 12.522 v (symbol rate 27,500 and FEC 3/4).

Lets begin with the ASTRA satellite.  First, enter the key combination for
the internal menu.  In the red main menu, press the TV key and then '8'.  If
'A tp88' now appears in the box display, everything is OK. If the display is
only showing an 8 or nothing, press the following keys:

Menu - double up arrow - left arrow - TV.

The process will take a few seconds - the box hasn't crashed, it's just
loading the entered broadcasting data into the memory.

Then, press 8 again and the display should show 'A tp 88'. You should now
also be able to see a picture, normally ZDF.  Now press the menu key and
'8'.  The screen will now display 'Select frequency integer?' and the
frequency 1586.0000 MHz.  This is the reception frequency for ARD (12.166)
which has been converted into an internal frequency (i.e. minus the LOF).
Fortunately, you won't have to do any calculations - you simply enter the
reception frequency as it is.

It's now time to change position, so move to 23.5 degrees East.

You should have locked onto a picture from ZDF. What you have to do now is
change the frequency for the foreign digital package. To do this, simply
enter the reception frequency as follows:

Simply enter '12522', then press 'OK' twice.  This setting must now be
stored.  To do this, use the arrow to move down two lines to 'Select to
Save' and press 'OK'.

Now go back to the radio level using TV and press '7'.

Now wait 10 seconds, then press '8' again.  Normally, the test card of
Deutsche Telekom in Usingen should now appear.

And that's all there is to it. We simply changed the reception frequency
(from 12.166 to 12.521). You can now switch channels within the package
using the left and right keys.

As well as several test cards you should also be able to receive TV Polonia,
ATV2 and Euro D.

Please note that in doing this we have altered the reception frequency for
ARD, ZDF etc.  Before exiting from the menu, use the above instructions to
re-enter the correct frequency for ARD (12166).

Another variant is to call up the config menu using the double up arrow and
choose option 3 'load default'.

If you want to carry out any further tests enter '12655' as the frequency
for Kopernikus 3.  After this has been saved, the German Telekom package
should appear (i.e. with ARD, ZDF, VOX etc.).

You can receive all uncoded feeds in this way. The symbol rate and FEC can
also be changed. To alter the symbol rate follow the same procedure as for
the frequency, and to adjust the FEC enter the number after the slash in
each case and then press enter (e.g. '4' for FEC 3/4).

With some feeds you will also need to enter the correct PIDs for video and
audio. To do this, call up menu option '1', then '2' for video or '3' for
audio. Then enter the correct PID (see frequency list) and confirm by
pressing OK. Menu option '6' also lets you switch the 22 kHz option on or
off or alter the polarisation. For this, select the corresponding menu
option (Select 22 kHz or Select LNB power) and then '1' for On or '0' for
Off, or a '1' for vertical or '2' for horizontal (followed by an 'OK' in
each case).

Please note, however, that the changes which you have made are also saved to
the respective basic settings (in this case the ARD, ZDF etc. package) and
that you may subsequently have problems receiving the corresponding package.
If you find that all the settings have been altered you can simply reverse
the changes by calling up 'load default' and, if necessary, switching on the
22 kHz option in menu option '6'.

To clarify the menu functions I have attached a list with an explanation of
the menu options with which I am familiar.

Have fun!

Null modem cable

PC connections             d-box connections

25 pin    9 pin   Signal        Signal     9 pin

 07       05      GND <----> GND         05
 02       03       TxD <----> RxD          02
 03       02       RxD <----> TxD          03
 05       08      CTS <----> RTS          07
 04       07      RTS <----> CTS          08
 06       06      DSR <----> DTR         04
 20       04      DTR <----> DSR         06

Component list:

A suitable length of screened cable with at least 7 conductors.
 1 x 9 pin Sub-D socket (d-box)
 1 x 9 pin Sub-D socket (computer)
 1 x 25 pin Sub-D socket (computer)

The d-box can be controlled with the following keys:

0-9         buttons 0 to 9
s           Standby
b           Radio
t           TV

m          Menu
d           Mark
p           Opt
i           Info

a           Double down arrow
e           Double up arrow
n           channel down
u           channel up
j           Right arrow
h           Left arrow

o           OK
Enter       OK

+           Increase volume
-           Decrease volume
f           mute
c           help


(c) 1997 by Mike Bauerfeind & TELE-Satellite

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