Regular readers will remember my recent attemt to hold Bell accountable to the GPL. As a quick update, I’ve received a couple of telephone calls assuring me that they are working to get the code posted to their website. As of this writing, there’s still nothing posted. Bell told me that they would be posting the same code that Dish released. I’m suspicious that this code isn’t the latest version that Bell and Dish are using. To verify that, I’m going to have to look at the actual code installed inside the 9200. Bell certainly doesn’t make it easy to get at the binaries. My first attemt involves looking for a serial console port. I’ll leave my serial port adventures for another post, but during my explorations of the insides of the 9200, I discovered something very interesting!
As I was disassembling the unit and removing the power supply, I noticed a cable from the motherboard to the supply labelled ‘Home Plug’. It’s a 5-wire cable, with a color code very similar to USB. The cable terminated in what looks like some sort of matching transformer made by Delta Electronics. Looking at their website showed that the 9200 indeed has the hardware to communicate via the Homeplug protocol. Googling shows a press release coming out talking about the feature, promising the ability to distribute satellite radio throughout the house, and having receivers talk to each other and only one needing a telephone line.
After an initial flurry of press releases, I was unable to find anything recent about this ‘feature’. It certainly appears that the receivers have the ability to talk to each other. Will Dish and Bell use this to enforce multiple receivers on one account having to be in the same physical building? It’s interesting that neither the user manual nor the website mention anything about these receivers using your home wiring to talk to each other.
Determining whether Dish and Bell are actually using this feature yet will have to wait until I obtain some HomePlug hardware to see what’s going on.
I am a great advocate of Nasa TV. Unfortunately, it’s not available through any conventional means up here in Canada. I did some research and discovered that the Nasa TV signal is available in the Dish Networks satellite signal, even if you’re not a subscriber. This is a Free To Air signal. This isn’t stealing satellite service or anything like that. This is a legal way to receive the Nasa TV signal for us up here in Canada.
The first step is a satellite dish. I used a spare Bell Expressvu dish I had lying around. Bell used to have a cottage program whereby they would ship a free dish to your summer cottage so you could take your receiver on holiday with you – that’s how I acquired a spare dish. The dish needs to be mounted and aligned to the 119 degree slot.
The next step is to get receiver working. I took a spare ex-subbed model 2700 Bell Expressvu receiver and card. Other models will probably work, but make sure that it’s a model that both Bell and Dish use, otherwise it won’t get the firmware update described below. I used a receiver that used to be subscribed to my Bell account. You will definitely need a card in the receiver for this hack to work, but I don’t know if it has to have been subscribed or not. Use the receiver to align the dish to 119 degrees. It won’t lock on (because it doesn’t recognize 119 as a Bell satellite) but you will see the signal strength and satelllite name. Adjust the dish for maximum signal.
Once the receiver has been used to align the dish, we need to get Dish Network firmware into the receiver. To do this, build yourself a JTAG programmer for the 2700 receiver. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds – a 25 pin connector and some resistors. Plans can be found here.
Once you have your JTAG interface built, you will need a software package called Jkeys. Use this program, together with your JTAG interface, to erase sector SA5. If you’re not using a model 2700 receiver, the sector number will be different. Please check around the Internet to find the appropriate sector to erase for your model. Once you’ve erased this sector, power down the 2700 and leave it connected to the dish. After about 15 minutes, the receiver will have downloaded Dish firmware.
Congratulations. Your new Dish receiver will now receive Nasa TV (as well as a couple of promotional Dish channels).
I have had this set up and working for about a month without any problems. Your results may vary. Of course, any modifications you make to your hardware is at your own risk.