Digibox - Fault finding and FAQ


Please note that I am not officially qualified to give advice on digital receiver 'faults'. You use any information provided here at your own risk. If you have any doubts, I refer you to Sky, SES-Astra, your equipment manufacturer, or your retailer as appropriate...


Tuning in

My Digibox worked, but now it won't switch on!

My Digibox keeps switching itself off!

Unplug it immediately. This is what tends to happen if there is a short circuit in the wire running to your LNB.
Often, this is caused by a single tiny bit of the outer braid that is 'loose' and is managing to stroke the central wire. Inspect your connections very carefully.


I can't get a signal anywhere when aligning my dish!

First, plug in your sat-finder. Does it 'bip' and show some sort of ready response? If not, check your cabling.
If you don't have a sat-finder, touch the probes of a multimeter to the LNB connection. You should have 13V or 18V. If not, check your cabling.

Assuming your sat-finder is showing a good signal, switch it to the 0dB setting and leave it in-line while you go look at your TV. If you have a signal now, then you don't have the rain margin. Switch your sat-finder back to -6dB and keep on aligning until you get it...

If you still cannot get a signal and you know something is being received, try tuning to 11.778 V 27.5 with different FEC settings. Old Astra uses 3/4 while SkyDigital uses 2/3. It may be that you're actually looking at the wrong satellite. It is very easy to do, I have managed to 'tweak' my SkyDigital alignment back to 19.2°E without realising it until I turn on and there's no EPG and CNN appears where the EPG should be!

If you still cannot get anything, take your box to a friend with SkyDigital and hook your box to their LNB. This will tell you if your box is faulty, or if it is your wiring and/or LNB.


It was working, now all I get is 'no signal'!

This happens to me. I used to blame the box, but now I have my doubts. It may be something like condensation in the LNB and/or damp or otherwise faulty wiring. Digital reception freaks with a lot of faults that you would barely notice on analogue.
If you have cash, get new wiring and a new LNB if that doesn't work.
If you don't have cash, watch videos for the next couple of days, then try again.

One thing to check could be your cabling itself. In the days of analogue, some installers fitted normal television co-ax wire. This stuff will work, but only up to a point. Again, analogue works but digital will suffer. It is also more likely to work with the lower frequencies than the higher frequencies because of what it is; Sky analogue was mostly low-frequency while digital reception is more spread across the range. Is your cable the right type?


Sometimes I get good signal, sometimes absolutely nothing...

Let me guess - in the summer you get a good signal in the middle of the night and nothing during the day; in the winter, the other way around... Yes?

Your LNB has two "local oscillators" for the low and high band. These have to operate at a very precise frequency, however an LNB needs to be able to cope with temperatures ranging from -30°C to +70°C (if you think +70 is unlikely, imagine an LNB in the bright Tuscany sunshine, heating up with the dish acting as a reflector and no breeze to cool it down; the day may only be 35°C but roof tiles and LNBs will be considerably warmer).
Temperature has an effect on electronic devices. I had a radio that I could tune into a short wave station, and if I listened outside while gardening, it would actually change stations by itself as it warmed up. The same thing is happening to your LNB. My advice? Remove it, fit a better quality LNB!

Theoretically you could program the Digibox to the new altered frequency of the local oscillator. However if the oscillator is prone to drift, then it can drift through various frequencies and do so erratically. And, besides, unless you plan to experiment a lot, how exactly do you propose to know what the altered frequency is? Remember that a Universal LNB has two local oscillators, and there's nothing to say that both of these will change in sync. In short, either give up on watching TV for half the day, or get yourself a better LNB!


My LNB isn't a universal type, will it work?

Yes, with provisos. Pretty much LNB can be made to work, but obviously if your LNB cannot physically tune to the upper signal range then you won't receive any of those channels.
Budget LNBs will work, you don't have to have a 99,00 euro model, so there is no excuse for not having a modern universal LNB...


I have a dual Astra/Hotbird LNB, can I use that?

You can use it in the same way that you can use a non-universal LNB. It may not work correctly, so you'd be best off using a normal (new) LNB. On the other hand, it may behave as a plain LNB because the Digibox will have no way to instruct it to switch to the secondary receiver. It depends upon the type.

The Digibox doesn't support DiSEqC. Additionally, these devices are only useful if you are looking towards Astra (19.2°E) and Hotbird (around 13°E). If you have the prime focus at SkyDigital (28.2°E) then the secondary LNB will be pointed at a 6° offset, thus it'll be receiving... nothing.


Can I use a dish rotator with a Digibox?


Okay, there is no reason why you cannot fit a twin LNB and have one output go to the Digibox and the other output go to a different digital receiver that controls the dish. However the problems this could cause are many.
My advice - install a fixed dish and LNB for the Digibox, and install the rotating dish connected to its own receiver. That'll give you the best results.


EPG issues

A bunch of channels have been 'lost', help!

This is an old problem relating to old firmware.
Upgrade the firmware on your Digibox (leaving it in standby overnight may do it, or if you have a good signal you can force an upgrade).

For now - there's no alternative but to force a reboot. Unplug your Digibox, count to thirty, plug it back in.
This should fix all FTA channel loss until the next time it happens...

If the lost channel is a FreeView or Sky channel, some people recommend that you remove your viewing card while the box is switched off, and only reinsert it when you are asked to.


I can't AutoView a Horror Channel movie!?!

No, it'll ask you to insert your viewing card.
I've emailed THC about this but have received no reply... so for now I think we'll just have to live with it.



How do I tell if the 'voltage' is on the RF output?

Use a multimeter.

To enable or disable this, press services, 4, 0, 1, select, 4. The second option, RF Outlet Power Supply is the one you'll be wanting to alter.


Can I use this power output?

I would say no.
I mean, you could but what would you be using a low-current 9V supply for that you cannot get the same from one of those power-brick things? If for no other reason than you won't need to worry about the risk of damaging your Digibox.


Does the Digibox modem need to be plugged in?

While you are physically resident in your house, yes. For the first year (and with a copy-card) it does. You signed a piece of paper stating that you would do this in return for a subsidised box or a cheaper Sky card. The least you can do is honour that.
While you are on holiday, the wise person would unplug everything and to hell with the agreements that you signed. Are either of them willing to sort out the mess if a close lightning strike cooks your box and much of your hi-fi and audiovisual system? A sensible person would unplug as a matter of course. And as you aren't around to make use of the box.....


I've gone SkyPlus, can I use my old box?

The last I knew, Sky did a special offer where you can have a copy of your viewing card for a much lower monthly charge. This'd allow you to hook up your old Digibox in, say, the bedroom or something like that. Contact Sky for details.
I believe that any box using a copy card will need to be connected to a phone line and that it will call out from time to time. I mean, imagine the potential for abuse of a service where people can get their whole package on a copy card for, say, a third of the monthly price - it is in Sky's interest to check that the box is where it should be!

Warning: I have heard that some installers will tell you that the SkyPlus is supplied on the condition that the old receiver is a trade-in. If your installer says this, read the contract very carefully. As far as I have been made aware, there is no such condition - and somebody told me that Sky are completely uninterested in the return of the Digibox, to them it is pretty much "obsolete" since the arrival of SkyPlus.
So what's the big deal? Well, you won't have a Digibox to use as backup or as a secondary receiver, and chances are that your less-than-honest installer will just flog it on eBay... money in their pocket.
If your installer walks away with your box (those who have emailed me said their installer didn't ask, just took it), demand it back and if the bloke says anything related to terms and conditions, ask him to show you this in print. Ask him to point to the contract that you have where it states the old box is to be returned (any other contract is irrelevant). If he cannot or spouts rubbish or leaves in a hurry, and won't give the box back - telephone calls are in order to both Sky and Trading Standards. It's your Digibox...

Why do you think I'm still using this old Pace 2500B instead of a version with a better tuner? On the European (ex-pat) market, a Digibox can be obtained for peanuts if you happen to be in the right place at the right time... but if not, the price is measured in hundreds.
By the way - that's not to say that all of the boxes sold overseas were 'stolen' from their owners - most of them are broken boxes that have been professionally repaired with high quality parts (which explains why the price is high) and a guarantee.
However, as in most walks of life, you do get the unscrupulous who will pass off a box they 'took' for the same sort of price. And, sadly, you get the clueless that give them their raison d'être...


Other pay services

Can I receive Canal+ with a Digibox?

You shouldn't need to. A Canal+ subscription should come with a Canal+ box just like Sky comes with a Digibox. If you want to wing it, then you'll run into problems because the encryption systems are different.
The Digibox will work with exactly none of the interactive services, even on FTA channels.


Can I receive SkyDigital with a Canal+ box?

You can receive the same as a Sky Digibox would with Canal+... in other words, the FTA channels should appear. Due to differences, the interactive stuff is unlikely to work.


Hacking Sky

How can I clear a full PPV card?

Pay for your movies like any decent human being.


Can I receive SkyDigital without paying?

In theory it should be possible to activate any card for any services by inserting the correct codes into the digital data stream.
The theory of this is pretty simple. You need a computer to output the waveform that the LNB would receive, which - obviously enough - is filtered and fed into the LNB input.
Alternatively, you might be able to patch into the box between the tuner and the decoder.

By now you might be seeing the scale of the problem. This isn't a MAX232 hack by any means. I am not aware of anybody having done this, but I would imagine those that have won't be advertising it...

A further complication arises if the card for FreeView and the card for Sky are different; i.e. the Sky card has two number generator systems while the FreeView only has one.

The basic theory is the Digibox offers some sort of 'code' to the card. The card then performs a complicated mathematical calculation on this code and sends back a reply. It does not actually matter if this reply is 'right' or 'wrong'. The reply code is used for decrypting the data stream. If the reply code is correct, the data stream will decode into something understandable. If the reply code is incorrect, the data stream will remain a seemingly-random blast of noise.
This technique is often used in computer cryptography. The world at large only needs to have half of the information and - to its benefit - there is no necessity for validation of the returned codes. Simply apply the codes in the decrypt calculation, you can imply the validity based upon whether or not the decryption was successful.

I am sure you can understand that this subject is getting exponentially more complicated with every corner we go around...
...the Sky box is hackable. There is no such this as a hackproof code. But, you know, there are more NHS administrators than nurses, and there are more lawyers than bacteria...


How do those 'free BoxOffice movies' things work?

It's a phone jack and a 9V battery in a box.
I describe how to do something similar here, but as you will notice elsewhere it will only allow you a certain number of BoxOffice movies and you will need to clear your Sky card by paying for the movies (or make up a convincing excuse to get a new card!).
The only quick'n'easy way to get free movies is "FTA". Free To Air. BBC, ITV, THC, etc.


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Copyright © 2006 Richard Murray