Cardless with a card...


It is known that the Digibox has several 'modes' of operation. For example there is the obvious - if you are a Sky subscriber or not. Then there are the lesser modifications, such as not being able to Other Channels until the EPG channel information has been loaded.
The aim of this experiment is to see if inserting some sort of smartcard makes any difference to the behaviour of the receiver... and it does. Some rather interesting differences.
You may be asking what relevance this information has. Let's be honest, none. It is purely an examination of how the system performs in a slightly different circumstance. I shall leave it to you to formulate theories for these differences. To be honest, I can't think of any!


My receiver

My Digibox is "cardless". There is no Sky subscription associated with this box, and there is no FreeSat card either. I presume there was once, but not in the last three-odd years at least.
I only have access to the truly FTA channels (not the FTV ones such as Channel 5).


Inserting and removing the card

A selection of cardsInitially I inserted an expired France Telecom Télécarte 120; however it turns out after some experimentation that you don't actually need to insert a smart card. Any credit-card shaped card will suffice, such as a library card or shop loyalty card. If you don't have one, you could use your bank or medical card provided you insert it upside down.
Furthermore, you don't need to leave the card in-situ if you don't fancy it. Once the card is detected, the changes will take place immediately. If you remove the card, the changes persist.
The only way to return to normal behaviour afterwards is to unplug the receiver.


Something that may go wrong...

It is strongly recommended that you call up the EPG before inserting a card. If you do not, if you are watching a channel, you may find that the receiver will, either immediately or eventually, get stuck at this:
This problem occurs because the box is trying to retrieve the channel data, only for some reason it does not retune to the EPG channel.
Don't worry, you can force it! Press the services button, choose System Setup, then choose Add Channels. The tuning offered by default will be '11.778', which is what we want. Instruct your receiver to look for new channels. It will pop a list of many radio channels. Just leave your receiver like that for a minute. Go make a cup of tea or something.
When you return, press sky to return to viewing, and you will see the following changes...


New BBC and ITV regions

With no card, the default BBC1 region is BBC 1 London and the default ITV1 region is ITV1 Central West (Birmingham area). With a dummy card, these regions change to BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada.
BBC1 without a card
BBC1 with a dummy card

ITV1 without a card
ITV1 with a dummy card


Channel 4 and Channel 5

With no card, these channels do not even appear in the EPG. There is, quite simply, no such channel. However with a card, they appear.
Channel 4 without a card
Channel 4 with a dummy card

Channel 5 without a card
Channel 5 with a dummy card


Furthermore, you can check the C4 and C5 schedules in the EPG...

All Channels listings, no card
All Channels listings, dummy card


Other EPG differences

I recall a discussion a while ago with Ewen where he mentioned something in the long list of Box Office channels, and I said what list?. Because for those of use without a card, we see only this:

However when a dummy card is inserted, all of these Box Office channels become available, as follows:
Sky Box Office channels, screen 1
Sky Box Office channels, screen 2
Sky Box Office channels, screen 3
Sky Box Office channels, screen 4
Sky Box Office channels, screen 5
Sky Box Office channels, screen 6


Undoing these modifications

To restore sanity: remove the card if you haven't already, unplug the box, count to ten, then reconnect the power. That's all!


The whys and wherefores

This is beyond me. There are numerous lingering questions - for example why hide the Box Office channels when the other Sky subscription channels are still listed? Indeed, can you not see what is on Box Office by pressing the box office button? So it is no great secret!
The same goes for the interesting omission of Channel 4 and Five; given that other Channel 4 channels (E4 and More4) are listed in the EPG.
Perhaps the most peculiar change is the alteration of the default BBC and ITV regions.


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Copyright © 2006 Richard Murray