Digital TV converter reverse engineering

Back when broadcast television was first switching over from analog to digital most people needed to get a converter box to watch DTV broadcasts. Remember that abomination that was “HD-Ready”? Those TVs could display an HD signal, but didn’t actually have a digital tuner in them. Nowadays all TVs come with one, so [Craig] found his old converter box was just gathering dust. So he cracked it open and reverse engineered how the DTV hardware works.

The hardware includes a Thompson TV tuner, IR receiver for the remote control, and the supporting components for an LGDT1111 SoC. This is an LG chip and after a little searching [Craig] got his hands on a block diagram that gave him a starting place for his exploration. The maker of the converter box was also nice enough to include a pin header for the UART. It’s populated and even has the pins labeled on the silk screen. We wish all hardware producers could be so kind. He proceeds to pull all the information he can through the terminal. This includes a dump of the bootloader, readout of the IR codes, and much more.

HDTV antenna that can hang in a window

We can’t wait to give this one a try. We’ve got a DIY HDTV antenna hanging out in the attic which was made from some scrap wood and eight metal coat hangers. It works great but it’s pretty ugly and not everyone has an attic to hide it in (not to mention the signal drop caused by the roof shingles). This is a fractal antenna anchored to some clear plastic so you can just hang it in the window and start picking up the over-the-air channels without much effort.

The pattern was modeled in SketchUp then printed out on two pieces of paper. One piece had it printed on both sides, which makes it easy to glue on a sheet of aluminum foil, then follow the pattern on the opposite side to cut out the important parts. The other template was used as an aligment guide when gluing the foil to the clear plastic. A coaxial adapter was then attached using nuts and machine screws. If you build it, let us know how it comes out!

Burning plasma screen with breathtaking beauty

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At some point you’ve got to resign yourself to the fact that the TV you’ve been trying to resurrect is just not salvageable. But if you’re knowlegable about working safely with high voltage, you might get quite a show out of it yet. Here [Aussie50] finds beauty in destruction when he fries a large plasma panel from a broken HDTV.

The flyback transformer from a microwave oven drives the display. The video after the break starts off kind of boring at first but before long it takes off. As portions of the display burn out the electric arcs jumping those gaps provide a thrilling view for the remainder of the 14 minutes.

Don’t want to commit to a video that long? Here’s a display that gives up the ghost after just four and a half minutes but we don’t think it’s quite as cool.

[Read more...]

Stepper Directed HDTV Antenna

Credit: http://www.instructables.com/id/Computer-controlled-OTA-TV-antenna/

Broadcast TV has come a long way from adjusting the rabbit ears on top of the set just to get a fuzzy black and white picture. While nowadays there are often HD signals broadcast in most areas, it can often still be critical to redirect an antenna to get the best possible signal. By harvesting a stepper motor from an old 5 1/2″ floppy drive, and using a PC’s parallel port to control it, this adjustment can be handled automatically. Broadcast tower locations are easily found online, and once you have calibrated your stepper to face North, you are on your way to free HDTV reception.

What we would like to see is this antenna attached to a HTPC, and some kind of script to automatically direct the antenna for the best possible signal for the current channel. If anyone out there makes this happen, be sure to let us know.

TV hack bypasses HDCP

hdmi

Reader [GRitchie] wrote in with an interesting find in his new TV set: with just some minor soldering it was possible to tap into an unencrypted hi-def video stream.

HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), used by Blu-Ray players and cable or satellite receivers, normally ensures a DRM-protected link between the device and a compatible display. Any properly-licensed device that forwards HDCP content (such as an HDMI switch box) is expected to provide encrypted output; those that don’t may get blacklisted by the system and become expensive paperweights. It’s something of an annoyance for users who feel this oversteps fair use applications such as time-shifting.

[GRitchie] found that his new TV with “InstaPort” Fast HDMI Switching didn’t perform this re-encryption step between the set’s internal switcher and the next stage in decoding. Soldering just eight wires directly from the switching chip’s output to an HDMI cable provided an unencrypted output that could then be received by a PC for later replay.

What’s not clear at this point is whether the capability is peculiar to just this one make and model, or applies to anything with the new Fast HDMI Switching. If the latter, it will be interesting to see how this plays out…nearly all of the major HDTV manufacturers are evaluating InstaPort for new sets, which would make any attempt at HDCP blacklisting awkward, to say the least.

Xbox 360 and LCD HDTV rolled into one


What happens when you take a little [Ben Heck] ingenuity, a little Lian Li utility, an Xbox 360 and an LCD HDTV and mix it all together? You get the Microvision 360, a combination LCD HDTV and Xbox 360.

The mod is not particularly complex. The Microvision 360’s creator [PvP_LostKnight] only removed the working parts from the Xbox 360’s case and mounted them to the back of the TV. A few of the inputs of the TV had to be moved and rewired, and a repurposed and painted tupperware container was added to cover the Xbox 360 parts. Unfortunately, [PvP_LostKnight] did not post a writeup, and even added “The wiring for this is horrible, I would not recommend anyone trying this.”

Setting aside his recommendation for a moment, a few of the advantages to his design are improved airflow to the Xbox 360 and better space usage. What we’d like to see added more than anything is power integration, with a single button to turn on both and a single power source powering the TV and the Xbox. See the proof of concept video after the break, or more photos and comments at the read link.

[Read more...]

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