Friday, 28 December 2012

Arduino and Sky box innards

 Well as its Christmas I've had a bit of time on my hands so thought I'd start on a project a friend of mine, Adam thought of. He's key developer on TVHeadend and liked the idea of replacing the Sky+ box. That's been the drive behind TVHeadend, XBMC, etc. So why not go a step further? Take that old Sky plus hardware/case and re-use it for the XBMC PC with fully functioning front-panel.

I've had a few Sky+ boxes lying in my garage for a while now (Faulty capacitors, or just old hardware so they just sit there), so I thought I'd rip one open and see whats going on. Firstly we know the insides of the Sky+ box,

its 1 main motherboard, a PSU board and hard-drive. Then a ribbon cable feeds the front panel. So HDD comes out, and I pull apart carefully the front panel. Luckily they're made to disassemble, so a couple of screws at the side and the front panel then can unclip with gently prising the locking tabs all round it.

This revealed the front panel innards, and a 2-part circuit board with a lot of circuitry on it.

   

Not what I was expecting, I was thinking more along the lines of either I2C or a simple LED cluster that fed back to the motherboard. I powered up and started to probe the pins to see what I was getting. Unfortunately I don't have an oscilloscope so I couldn't see any data/signalling, so just went on voltage initially. Unfortunately all I found was ground, power and standby-power. Pretty disappointing. I then tried to find out what the LEDs that light up the Sky playback circle (The sequence of LEDs that go round in a circle when playing back video, etc). Unfortunately as I don't have an active SKY card in, even the demo won't display this sequence, so again I've had to give up on this. So I've decided to pull the circuit board out, and do my own thing! Fit a cluster of LEDs in the back and just feed those back to my Arduino board.

The idea is that I'll plug the arduino into the XBMC/Openelec box using USB. I can then write a serial communication language that will send status to the arduino that will then display on the LEDs. On top of that I'm going to cut out part of the front panel of the Sky box and put in a backlit LCD screen, that will show current channel, now/next, something like that (Not fully decided). Last night I got as far as mounting the LEDs behind the facia and started to check they were aligned (tricky!). Next will be to start wiring that to the arduino to see if I can get the 'animation' of the LEDs looking anywhere near OK.

If anyone has done any more interfacing with the Sky+ front panels or figured out the control lines, etc, please let me know! I'd love to get the original circuit board running somehow.

 

 

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