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SKY Digibox

Not as worthless as it had first seemed

In 2010 I acquired a secondhand SKY Digibox. These were originally part of the scheme by Sky TV to monopolise television in the UK. So, the Sky Digibox was at first assumed to be worthless on arrival. However, after a few Internet searches, it turns out to not be as worthless as had been first assumed.

The first important thing is that it should never be plugged into the telephone socket! This is important as these Sky Digiboxes have a nasty reputation of squealing on you and telling SKY TV that you have done various bad things, regardless of whether you have. Also, the disclosure of your viewing habits is a breach of personal privacy, so the idea of allowing the Sky Box to be plugged into the phone is completely a NO-NO. However, there's good news on this, as many websites have published a basic hack where you get an old PP3 battery and connect it in a particular way across specific connections to the telephone plug on the Sky Box. This completely fools the box into thinking that the phone is unavailable and so it stops trying to bully you into connecting it to the phone.

This first piece of good news saved the Sky Digibox in question from application of a 14lb sledgehammer in ceremonial style and with photographic coverage the very first day.

Next, the question of SKY TV cards. Now obviously, as the satellite system which SKY rides on also has a public duty to carry Freeview channels, it would be expected that a FREE card would be available to allow the Sky Box to be converted into a satellite freeview receiver. Oddly this appears not to be so, and I have heard rumours that Sky are charging 20 GBP for the privilege. I'm not sure if that puts them in a tricky situation legally, or not. However, as a matter of principle, you don't pay money for a free service.

There is some good news on this, too, as some sites report that a variety of channels can be received by putting any old plastic card in. This at least releases the ban on Channel 4 and Channel 5, and a few other Free-To-Air channels.

The horror stories about protectionist matters about SKY TV told on various websites have made me feel even worse about Sky TV than before, and I have even considered removing SKY TV from this site! However, to be fair, I actively promote Alternative Satellite systems and ideas of various types. Sky Digital was always expected to be a problem. Note that none of the problems are there with old Sky Analogue boxes. They can be immediately retasked and the dish turned around to look at other satellites, of which there are plenty up there in geostationary orbit

I have also set up my own rules about what's to be done about the SKY Digibox which I have acquired. The principles are as follows:

1. Never plug it into the phone.

2. Never pay Sky TV.

3. Never pay for any piratical vaporware stuff.

These principles in effect should tame the problem considerably. It has to be taken into account that a satellite receiver is a receive-only unit and can not transmit back up to the satellite. Also, Sky Digiboxes are owned by the customers, not by Sky TV. We are allowed to buy and sell them, and to perform various operations with a soldering iron on them. This is also known as The Principle of First Sale

If you're interested in the idea of Free TV, it's worth considering The Spirit of the ShortWave. Together, we may yet overcome the oppressive monopolistic problems. Also see Freedom on The Internet

Also notice how a scandal which caused a collapse of a tabloid newspaper also caused the share price of Sky TV to fall. Maybe the Sky is Falling in! Well it's about time this happened!

Further update: A Sky+ (sky plus) is a device which is supposed to include a satellite receiver and a PVR (personal video recorder). In typical Sky TV style, the device is crippled by naff software which is designed to make it entirely dependent on your continued payment of money to Sky TV. However, people scrapping these Sky+ boxes discovered that they each contain a hard disc drive. These can be ripped out and reformatted and used for something useful. Further study of Sky Plus boxes revealed that the device also includes an RS232 serial port. Clever people discovered ways of hacking into this and erasing the naff proprietary software and replacing it with Linux. The resulting Jailbroken Sky Plus box can then be used as a PVR, general-purpose digital video recorder and satellite receiver for free-to-air channels. The Sky Plus box is obviously also set free from the requirement to use viewing cards. If you're looking for how to achieve this, ie to convert your apparently worthless Sky+ box into something useful, the things to look for are "firmware update" and "jailbreak" in combination with "Sky+" etc. There are many sites out there doing a big favour to people by setting free hardware which was previously locked.

Wow! This is getting like the CueCat!