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									FEATURE                AZBox ME Receiver Software

Revealing the
Secrets of the
Super Box

                                                                                                                                                 •	automatically	looks	for	all	active	

Part 1:
                                                                                                                                                 •	also	detects	channels	with	very	low	
                                                                                                                                                 symbol	rate
                                                                                                                                                 •	makes	full	use	of	the	AZBox	ME	
                                                                                                                                                 tuner’s	capabilities

                                                                                                                                                 •	finds	all	active	channels
                                                                                                                                                 •	blind	scan	mode	currently	in	beta	

100 TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine — 04-05/2012 — — 04-05/2012 — TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine   101
FEATURE                AZBox ME Receiver Software

for the AZBox ME
Vitor Martins Augusto

   In TELE-satellite 02-03/2012           promises and does not leave                require a degree in engineer-       of the three available memory
we introduced the new Open-               us in the dark as far as new               ing: You simply reboot the re-      banks you want to use for the
sat super box by the name                 features are concerned.                    ceiver and as soon as the boot      new firmware. In addition,
of AZBox ME. At the time                     Naturally, we turned on our             menu is displayed on the VFD        you may access the ‘MICOM
we were not able to test the              AZBox ME right away to have                display you press the VOL+          Upgrade’ menu to update the
blind scan function, as it was            an in-depth look at how Open-              button to get the boot loader       front processor as well. Please
not yet implemented. Open-                sat delivers blind scan func-              into flash mode. Next, the re-      bear in mind, though, that this
sat has meanwhile released a              tionality. The new firmware                ceiver’s IP address appears         should only be done when ab-
new version of the receiver’s             image needs to be flashed be-              on the VFD display and has to       solutely necessary. Never use
firmware which features a                 fore the amended software is               be entered in a web browser.        a wrong file out of the blue, as
beta version of the blind scan            available. Since the AZBox ME              We used Mozilla Firefox, which      this may result in the remote
mode. The updated software                comes with a large flash chip              works best with the web func-       control not working any longer
was launched much quicker                 that allows parallel installation          tions of the recceiver. If you      and the VFD staying dark.
than we expected and thus                 of up to three different firm-             prefer Chrome or the Inter-           The ‘Device Info’ menu item
proves once again Opensat’s               ware versions, we decided to               net explorer, they can be used      calls up various receiver pa-
commitment and customer                   install the new v1.6 firmware              just as well in this case.          rameters and ‘Reboot!’ will
dedication. It is the feed hunt-          in memory bank no. 2.                         The web browser then dis-        restart the box. As mentioned
ers among us who will appre-                 For the sceptics among you              plays a website that is gen-        before, we had decided to in-
ciate more than anybody else              we are happy to reveal that                erated by the receiver. Here,       stall the new version in mem-
that Opensat always keeps its             the flash procedure does not               you first have to decide which      ory bank 2, so we selected


1. Browser showing the FlashMeTM Interface. The user can select between three memory-banks for parallel firmware installations.

102 TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine — 04-05/2012 —

                                                                                                                         should avoid by all means to
                                                                                                                         interrupt this process or, even
                                                                                                                         worse, unplug the receiver.
                                                                                                                         But then again, this would not
                                                                                                                         really cause any major dam-
                                                                                                                         age since the boot loader will
                                                                                                                         be unaffected and the worst
                                                                                                                         that could happen is that you
                                                                                                                         have to restart the flash pro-
                                                                                                                         cess for the memory bank in
3                                                                                                                        question. What’s more, even
                                                                                                                         with a failed flash process
                                                                                                                         there are still two other intact
                                                                                                                         firmware images in the mem-
                                                                                                                         ory that can be used to boot
                                                                                                                         the receiver. And if the worst
                                                                                                                         case occurs and you manage
                                                                                                                         to screw up both the firmware
                                                                                                                         and boot loader the AZBox ME
                                                                                                                         boasts a kind of panic button
                                                                                                                         on the back panel which acti-
                                                                                                                         vates an emergency image to
4                                                                                                                        allow a new flash process.
                                                                                                                            So now that the new v1.6
                                                                                                                         firmware was in place we
                                                                                                                         called up the installation wiz-
                                                                                                                         ard to adjust the software
                                                                                                                         according to our require-
                                                                                                                         ments. Instead of initiating a
                                                                                                                         channel search we decided to
                                                                                                                         use the settings list we had
                                                                                                                         saved previously, because we
                                                                                                                         wanted to get a first impres-
                                                                                                                         sion of the revised firmware
                                                                                                                         straight away. It always pays
                                                                                                                         off to have copies of one’s cur-
                                                                                                                         rent settings on the PC as it
                                                                                                                         saves valuable time in cases
                                                                                                                         like that. A number of settings
                                                                                                                         editors for Linux receivers are
                                                                                                                         available from the Internet,
                                                                                                                         but in actual fact all you have
                                                                                                                         to do is copy a directory with
                                                                                                                         the help of an FTP client. The
                                                                                                                         settings can be found in the
                                                                                                                         /etc/tuxbox directory and you
                                                                                                                         may use any standard FTP ap-
                                                                                                                         plication such as Filezilla, for
                                                                                                                         example, to create backups of
2. On the first step, the user must upload the desired firmware                      pleted the next page appears        your existing settings and to
image.                                                                               on the screen.                      restore those backup copies
3. After the upload, the receiver can be configured to                                  On this third page you can       onto the receiver again. The
automatically reboot after the flashing process. This is usually                     determine whether or not the        only thing you need to know
a good idea.
                                                                                     receiver should re-boot auto-       is your receiver’s IP address
4. Existing channel and satellite settings can easily be backed
                                                                                     matically after the new firm-       to access its file directory.
up and restored, by just using any FTP client. Navigate to /etc/
tuxbox and copy the existing files.                                                  ware has been flashed. We           Key in ‘root’ as user name
                                                                                     recommend activating this           and leave the password field
‘Firmware Upgrade (BOOT                     On the next page you can                 function because it means           empty by default. If your re-
2)’. In actual fact, it does not          select the required firmware               you can leave the box unat-         ceiver can be accessed via the
make a difference at all which            by pressing the ‘Browse’ but-              tended during the entire up-        Internet you should, however,
position you choose – the re-             ton. Once the right file is cho-           grade process. Once the new         change the default setting and
sult always stays the same. All           sen a click on the ‘Upload!’               firmware is installed the re-       set a password to protect un-
you need to know in the boot              button initiates the file trans-           ceiver will boot all on its own     authorised access. With MS
loader menu is which num-                 fer from the PC to the receiver.           with the new software. Sim-         Windows press the ‘Windows’
ber (0, 1 or 2) corresponds to            This process only takes a few              ply press the ‘Flash!’ button       key plus ‘R’ and key in ‘telnet
which image.                              seconds and after it is com-               and let the magic begin. You’ (make sure

104 TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine — 04-05/2012 —

                                                                                     you use your receiver’s actual      der search (‘Single Satellite’
                                                                                     address!). Use ‘root’ without       mode) with active network
                                                                                     a password to log in and once       scan. In general, providers
                                                                                     you’re in the Linux shell type      take advantage of ‘their’ tran-
                                                                                     in the command ‘passwd’.            sponders to transmit informa-
                                                                                     Then you set the password           tion on other transponders
                                                                                     and key it in a second time to      they also use, so that users
                                                                                     make sure it is correct. From       can be sure their receivers
                                                                                     now on that password is re-         find all channels of individual
                                                                                     quired for logging in as ‘root’     providers, no matter over how
                                                                                     user.                               many transponders they are
                                                                                        Now the time has finally         spread. More often than not,
6                                                                                    come for checking out the new       pre-defined transponder lists
                                                                                     blind scan functions. All fea-      are not fully up-to-date and
                                                                                     tures are seamlessly incorpo-       therefore it makes sense to
                                                                                     rated in the firmware and can       always use the benefits of net-
                                                                                     be found in the signal search       work mode to make sure your
                                                                                     menu – right where we would         receiver can find all available
                                                                                     have expected them. With the        channels. The search on HIS-
                                                                                     new firmware the ‘Blind Scan’       PASAT 30.0W took some 24
                                                                                     option is added to the exist-       minutes and yielded a total of
                                                                                     ing ‘Multisat’, ‘Single Tran-       548 channels.
                                                                                     sponder’ and ‘Single Satellite’        We then proceeded with
                                                                                     modes.                              performing the same search
                                                                                        Blind scan with the AZBox        on the same satellite using
                                                                                     ME is a three-step affair:          the newly added blind scan
7                                                                                    First, the tuner scans the en-      function. Once again, we
                                                                                     tire frequency band for tran-       made sure ‘Network Scan’
                                                                                     sponders. Next, reception pa-       was turned on. This time the
                                                                                     rameters are determined for         search only lasted 18 minutes
                                                                                     each found frequency. In case       and resulted in 613 identified
                                                                                     ‘Network Scan’ is active all        channels. Needless to say, we
                                                                                     associated transponder data         were rather impressed with
                                                                                     are extracted from the NIT          the capabilities of the AZBox
                                                                                     stream. The third step com-         ME’s blind scan mode.
                                                                                     prises the actual blind scan,          We gave the channel list
                                                                                     which means the individual          a quick look and stumbled
                                                                                     transponders are scanned for        across three channels that
                                                                                     channels.                           might be of particular interest
                                                                                        In our test we were looking      to satellite DXers. (table 1)
8                                                                                    for answers to the following            Many tuners struggle with
                                                                                     questions:                          symbol rates of around 2000
                                                                                        • How many channels are          Kbit/s and if that happens
                                                                                     found using blind scan as op-       these channels are either not
                                                                                     posed to the pre-defined tran-      found at all in a search or not
                                                                                     sponder list?                       demodulated correctly. We
                                                                                        • How fast is blind scan?        were all the more surprised
                                                                                        • Are channels with low          to find out that the AZBox ME
                                                                                     symbol rates also found using       seems to be in a league of its
                                                                                     blind scan?                         own as far as low symbol rates
                                                                                        • Are the data of transpon-      are concerned.
                                                                                     ders found with blind scan             Excited by those promising
                                                                                     stored in the transponder list      first results we hooked our 1m
                                                                                     so that those transponders          offset antenna to the AZBox
5. The new blind scan functionality is seamlessly integrated in                      will also be found using regu-      and aligned it towards TEL-
the service scan menu.                                                               lar search modes?                   STAR 12 (15.0W). This is a po-
6. Initialisation of the tuner.                                                         To find those answers we         sition that is not widely known
7. Pass 1: The tuner searches for active frequencies.                                started out with deleting all       and used in Central Europe
8. Pass 2: All found frequencies are analysed to determine                           channels transmitted from           as it only transmits few FTA
the correct Symbol Rate and to obtain other transponders                             HISPASAT 30.0W and initi-           channels. Transponder 10 at
broadcasted in the NIT.                                                              ated a standard transpon-           12608H seems to be the most
                                                                                                                         obvious choice – it is used by
                                                                                                                         Globecomm to broadcast BBC
                                                                                                                         Persian, among others.
                                                                                                                            To be frank, there is anoth-
                                                                                                                         er reason we chose TELSTAR
Tabel 1                                                                                                                  12 for a blind scan search: It

106 TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine — 04-05/2012 —
9                                                                                 10                                                                          15                                                                         16

11                                                                                                                       9. Thanks to the NIT, the            can compare these PIDs with        17
                                                                                                                         transponder search is speeded        the ones specified on popular
                                                                                                                         up a lot.                            satellite websites to make sure
                                                                                                                                                              they did indeed find a new
                                                                                                                         10. Pass 3: On the last stage,       channel and not just an existing
                                                                                                                         all listed transponders are          channel with a different name.
                                                                                                                         scanned for valid channels.          18. Service Info of Ribamontana:
                                                                                                                         11. Blind scan of Hispasat           the Symbol Rate is specified in
                                                                                                                         30.0W.                               Bit/s instead of the usual Kbit/s!
                                                                                                                                                              Clearly a very low SR, showing
                                                                                                                         12. Pass 1: Frequency scan.          the excellent capabilities of the
                                                                                                                         13. Pass 2: Transponder              tuner.
                                                                                                                         analysis.                            19. Tunisia 1 on TELSTAR 15.0W.
                                                                                                                         14. Pass 3: Channel scan for         Also a channel with low Symbol
                                                                                                                                                              Rate. Most receivers are not able
                                                                                                                         each of the 55 transponders.         to receive such channels.
                                                                                                                         15. Ribamontana TV: FTA              20. Verification of TELSTAR
                                                                                                                         channel with particularly low        15.0W with our spectrum
                                                                                                                         Symbol Rate                          analyzer. We compared the
                                                                                                                         16. The AZBox offers detailed        number of found transponders
                                                                                                                         information of the active            with the number of spikes seen
                                                                                                                         channel.                             on the spectrum (only one image
                                                                                                                         17. Visualization of the different   shown, but of course we used
                                                                                                                         PIDS used by the current             all four bands: V-L, H-L, V-H and
                                                                                                                         channel. This is important for       H-H). The blind scan did not miss
                                                                                                                         channel- and feed-hunters: they      any transponder!

12                                                                                 13                                                                         18                                                                         19

14                                                                                   blind scan with the HISPASAT        further west until we reached        to the antenna output of the        found that details of transpon-        20
                                                                                     satellite configuration still in    INTELSAT 905 (24.5W). Apart          AZBox ME and looked at the          ders found using blind scan
                                                                                     place. In such a case a regu-       from NTA International and           spectrum analyser to find out       unfortunately are not added
                                                                                     lar transponder search would        RTI 1 there are no FTA chan-         what was going on. It turned        to the general transponder
                                                                                     hardly bring a result since         nels transmitted in the Ku           out that the beta version of        list. Opensat’s software engi-
                                                                                     transponders on different sat-      band from that position. There       the blind scan mode has a           neers are currently address-
                                                                                     ellites generally have different    are, however, numerous tran-         bug which can prevent the           ing that issue and will offer a
                                                                                     frequencies and deviating re-       sponders dedicated to feeds          receiver from switching from        fix shortly.
                                                                                     ception parameters.                 only, which prompted us to           high band to low band (0 kHz           While the new blind scan
                                                                                        One of the found channels        perform another blind scan.          signal instead of 22 kHz sig-       mode still leaves some room
                                                                                     was TUNIS TV with a symbol          This time, many transponders         nal) in the final step of a blind   for improvement, feed hunters
                                                                                     rate of 2893 Kbit/s, which goes     were found again in steps 1          scan. What happens then is          may nonetheless use it at this
                                                                                     to show yet again how capable       and 2 of the blind scan pro-         that transponders found in the      stage to write down the fre-
                                                                                     the tuner of the AZBox ME re-       cess, while not a single result      low band are later scanned in       quencies of all detected tran-
is the position of choice for             and hardly exceed the 2000 to              ally is. It should definitely be    was achieved in step 3, when         the high band, which of course      sponders and then perform                 tures to a receiver that never             ready. It’s hard to believe such
a number of regular feeds                 5000 Kbit/s bracket.                       able to meet even the exact-        the actual channels should be        yields no results.                  manual scans using that data.             ceases to amaze us. We’re all              a small and inexpensive satel-
which come with totally out-                To make sure the AZBox                   ing demands of feed hunters         scanned.                                When we examined the ‘sat-       In addition, we have noth-                looking forward to the final re-           lite receiver can offer so many
of-the-ordinary symbol rates.             ME’s new firmware does not                 and satellite DXers.                  To obtain a second opinion         ellites.xml’ file, which Linux      ing but praise for Opensat’s              lease version of the blind scan            useful functions. You can be
To make matters worse, those              rely on ‘dirty’ tricks or use                 As our in-depth test pro-        we attached our reference            receivers generally use to          speedy firmware development               feature, yet even now the AZ-              sure this isn’t the last time you
rates usually are also very low           any shortcuts we performed a               gressed we moved the antenna        meter (Spaun Sparos 609)             save their transponder list, we     which keeps adding great fea-             Box ME is a fascinating box al-            read about that super box.

108 TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine — 04-05/2012 —                                                                       — 04-05/2012 — TELE-satellite International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine   109

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