Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Sky TV without a Sky box

At the moment I have a Sky subscription with a Sky box. The Sky box outputs to my computer which is running Media Center which can change channel on the box using an IR blaster. This isn’t ideal and also means that I’ll never get HD since the Sky box only sends an SD signal out of the scart/composite output. Surely there must be a way to connect the computer directly to the computer and receive TV that way?

Well there is. But there are issues. Firstly you need a DVB-S card. These are just digital TV capture cards that you can plug the cable from a satellite dish into. If you stop there you will be able to receive all the free-to-air channels. Oddly enough though that won’t get you all the free channels.

To get the encrypted Sky channels you will need a CAM – Conditional Access Module – with a card reader. In theory you just put your card in and set up your DVB card to use it. Of course anything to do with decrypting commercial stuff is never that easy. You see there are many different encryption methods and most CAMs don’t support them all (and some only support one). What’s even worse is the method used by Sky is VideoGuard from a company called NDS (which is owned by News Corporation, the company which owns Sky). And guess what? You have to pay a license to use it. That doesn’t mean you can’t physically use it though. There are a couple of CAMs (literally two from what I’ve read) that can decrypt VideoGuard signals but the legality is questionable. Which is silly since generally speaking you’ll still have a (paid for) Sky subscription card in the reader.

The other issue is Sky’s Terms and Conditions on this issue. They say that the card must stay in the box the whole time, that you can’t use the card for unauthorised purposes and that the card needs to be paired to a specific box. However it doesn’t actually say you need to use a Sky box and the very first thing it says is that you are bound to the conditions once you put the card in the box. So surely if you never do that you aren’t bound to the conditions..?

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

The future of television

I just found an interesting document released by the European Broadcasting Union (their most prominent activity is the Eurovision Song Contest) regarding the future of television, specifically relating to PVR systems.

Free-to-air Television and other PVR Challenges in Europe.

It’s quite long but definitely good. Suggests revolutionary ideas like broadcasters making EPG and programme meta-data publicly available and that they should embrace “new business models” relating to content viewed through a PVR since traditional advertising is far less effective.

At no point by the way does it endorse DRM or content protection and even speaks of “the offensive use of patents” in rather negative terms…