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.:: DBS Primer from American Hacker Magazine ::.

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Current issue : #47 | Release date : 1995-04-15 | Editor : Erik Bloodaxe
IntroductionErik Bloodaxe
Phrack LoopbackPhrack Staff
Line NoisePhrack Staff
Line NoisePhrack Staff
The #hack FAQ (Part 1)voyager
The #hack FAQ (Part 2)voyager
The #hack FAQ (Part 3)voyager
The #hack FAQ (Part 4)voyager
DEFCon InformationPhrack Staff
HoHoConNetta Gilboa
HoHoConCount Zero
HoHo Miscellanyvarious
An Overview of Prepaid Calling CardsTreason
The Glenayre GL3000 Paging and Voice Retrieval SystemArmitage
Complete Guide to Hacking Meridian Voice MailSubstance
DBS Primer from American Hacker Magazineunknown
Your New Windows Background (Part 1)The Man
Your New Windows Background (Part 2)Substance
A Guide To British Telecom's Caller ID ServiceDr. B0B
A Day in The Life of a Warez BrokerXxxx Xxxxxxxx
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Phrack World NewsDatastream Cowboy
Title : DBS Primer from American Hacker Magazine
Author : unknown
 
                              ==Phrack Magazine==

                 Volume Six, Issue Forty-Seven, File 16 of 22

[Editor's Note:  This info and much more can be obtained from
American Hacker Magazine, 3494 Delaware Ave., #123, Buffalo, NY 14217.
716-874-2088 (voice/fax) 716-871-1915 (bbs) snews@buffnet.net
$29.95 for 12 issues, including BBS access.  I you are into satellites,
you might want to check this out!]


                 DBS Primer (c) Scrambling News (TM) 1995

Preface

This text lacks the photos and schematics which accompanied
the article when it appeared in our newsletter. Constructive
criticism, corrections, and suggestions for information which
should be added are all welcome. We are snews@buffnet.net
or 716.874.2088. As always we include information regarding
gray and black market activity involving the RCA system. The
big news is that we expect a pirate smartcard to become
available soon. There is more information about that later in
the second part of this article.

Brand names and trademarks are used herein for identification
purposes only and are the property of their respective owners.
Use of same within this document definitely does not imply agreement
with or endorsement of the material presented. Information
published by Scrambling News is intended for educational and
entertainment purposes only and must not be used for any other
purpose.

Introduction

We in the middle of an advertising blitz by RCA, DirecTV, USSB
and Prime star announcing that the age of digitally delivered
entertainment has arrived. Major newspapers, magazines and
cable channels are saturated with commercials featuring the
new RCA DSS 18 inch satellite dishes and all media have done
their job to promote the new systems.

It is true that we are in the middle of a revolution. Other
small dish satellite systems are in the development stage,
the telco's are getting into the cable business, cable is
testing interactive services, and C/Ku-band satellite TV has
been around since the late '70s but it too, is in transition.
In this article we will focus on some aspects of the new
DirecTV 18 inch dish system. We covered the Videocrypt
encryption system in a previous article.

GM Hughes DirecTV is a venture involving GM's Delco
Electronics and Hughes Aircraft. The two have put about
$750 million into the business while Hubbard Broadcasting,
a service provider has added $150 million, including $25
million from Dow Jones. RCA has pledged $100 million. RCA
has exclusives rights to manufacture the hardware for the
first 1 million systems. The DSS brand system is owned by
Thomson Consumer Electronics of Paris. Sony will also
manufacture the dish and receiver systems after RCA
sells the first million. They expect to have their system
on the market in June. The $699 list price of the basic
system is currently holding firm, because of demand. Thomson
Consumer Electronics has been offering the systems free to
purchasers of TCE (RCA) widescreen TV's at Sears, Circuit City,
etc. in the Denver, LA, Chicago and Atlanta markets. The Thomson/Hughes
system is unique in offering movies in widescreen format. That
is why the RCA CinemaScreen TV's have not moved well until now.

GM Hughes DBS system launched this past summer and only rolled
out nationally in September. By mid October over 100,000 systems
had been sold. Over 3,000 are now being sold per day and Thomson
has reported sales of over 500,000 systems as of the week before
Christmas. This represents sales 10-15% ahead of projections.
Hughes predicts there will be 3 million systems in use by mid
1996 and 10 million by the year 2000. The break even point is 3
million systems. RCA is currently manufacturing 100,000 systems
/month. GM Hughes is a company which has survived the downsizing
in the defense industry. Of its $14 billion estimated 1994
revenue, 41% is derived from its defense business which includes
Tomahawk cruise missiles. About 37% comes from its automotive
electronics business which includes air bag sensors, car radios
and instrument panels, mostly for GM cars. DirecTV is only part
of the telecommunications division which includes a mobile
cellular business and the leasing of satellite transponders.
When GMH has sold 3 million systems. DirecTV will be a $3
billion/yr business of which $1 billion will be operating
profit.

Programming

Available Programming is conveniently divided between two
separate sources, forcing most consumers to subscribe to both.
The programming carried by DirecTV and USSB is unique to each
and each has a monopoly. USSB supplies ANC (All News Channel),
VH1, Lifetime, Nick, Flix, Cinemax, Cinemax2, Cinemax West,
TMC, TMC West, HBO, HBO2, HBO3, HBO West, Showtime, Showtime2,
Showtime West, MTV, and the Comedy Channel. The Essentials
package for $7.95/month includes Lifetime, the Comedy Channel,
Nick, Nick at Night, MTV, VH-1 and the All-News Channel. A
package of all HBO and Cinemax feeds costs $10.95. A similar
package with all Showtime /TMC channels plus Flix also costs
$10.95. Showtime Plus includes the Showtime/TMC package
together with Flix and the Essentials package for $24.95.
Entertainment Plus includes all USSB channels for $34.95/month.

DirecTV supplies the remaining channels and PPV (pay per view)
programming. All subscribers receive ESPN, the Cartoon channel,
USA, CNN, Trio (family entertainment and news), Headline News,
Discovery, C-Span, TNT, TBS, TNN, TCM (Turner Classic Movies),
Bloomberg Direct (financial news), and MuchMusic (Canadian MTV),
Disney, and Music Choice (formerly Digital Cable Radio) which
consists of 28 channels of CD quality commercial-free genre
music ranging from symphonic to rap.

Personal Choice subscribers may choose 10 additional channels
from E!, the Weather Channel, Newsworld International (Canadian
with BBC), Sci-Fi Channel, Court TV, Family and Travel channels,
C-Span 2, CNN International, the Learning Channel, CNBC, the
Learning Channel, Country Music Television, A&E, or the Encore
multiplex which includes Encore plus six channels dedicated to
love stories, mysteries, westerns, childrens' programming,
action, and true stories. All the above channels are available
in the Total Choice package for $29.95. Channels available 
la carte include Starz for $1.80, Playboy for $9.95 and TV Asia
for $5.95. A new addition is the Golf Channel on channel 304
for $6.95/month.

Subscribers to the sports package currently receive eight
regional sports networks for $7.95/month. These include Home
Team Sports, Home Sports Entertainment, KBL Sports, Pro Am
Sports System, Prime Sports, Prime Ticket, SportSouth and
Sunshine Network. DirecTV says it will expand the number of
regional networks it carries but no definite plans have been
announced. Packages including all NHL and NBA games are also
available. A minimal package which includes only access to
PPV and Bloomberg Direct costs $5.95 per month.

Approximately 54 channels are devoted to PPV movies and
there are preview and special events channels as well.
Approximately 36 movies are available at any given time and
they cost $2.99 each. Subscribers receive a $2.50 credit
per month which may be applied to the cost of any PPV or
special event. DirecTV has just signed an agreement with
Twentieth Century Fox so its films will also be available on
PPV.

DirecTV plans to launch DBS-3 late this summer and it will
add at least 30 more channels. The satellite was originally
scheduled for launch in December but mechanical problems
have caused a delay. The two existing satellites provide a
total capacity of about 175 channels.

Features

The basic $699 system supports only one master TV. That means
that all televisions in the house must be tuned to the same
channel. Unlike cable, it is not possible to watch one channel
in the living room, while the kids watch another in the recroom
and the wife watches yet a different channel in her coven. The
deluxe system consists of two receivers and it supports two
independent television receivers or a TV and a VCR. It consists
of a dual feed LNB mounted on the 18" dish and two receivers.
The cost is $899 plus $650 for the second receiver. Both
receivers have a wideband data port which will supposedly be
used for HDTV. The deluxe receiver includes a slow speed 9 pin
port for future data services and a second set of baseband
audio/video output jacks. Other than these differences and
the ability to subscribe a second receiver at reduced rates,
the two receivers are the same.

Those who wish to record programs must leave the receiver on
the channel to be recorded. It has no ability to change
channels and it cannot be programed to do so or even to
turn on at a certain time. According to Thomson, the ability
of the RCA system to change channels was omitted for
legal reasons. The rights for recording through the on-screen
guide belong to StarSight. Their system is available as a
stand-alone box for cable or over-air use or as an
integrated part of a television, VCR or C-band satellite
receiver. It is expected that the time recording feature
will be added when the legal problems are resolved.
According to a company spokesman, the lack of the recording
feature will not hurt initial sales since purchasers will
be rural and will be more concerned with programming than
with features. For now, those who wish to have two
independently controlled TV's or a TV and a VCR must
purchase the deluxe system. Even then, the second receiver
must be left on the channel to be recorded.

Local channels are not available from either of the DBS
services or C-band. In the case of the DBS services, it
is illegal for them to offer local channels. The FCC
imposed this regulation so that DBS would not compete with
over-air services. DirecTV does offer a package of the net
works including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS for $3.95/month.
It is intended only for those in the "white" areas of the
country where over-air reception is not possible. Those who
have subscribed to cable within the last 90 days are not
eligible to receive it, even if over-air reception is
impossible. A loophole is that those who live in an area
where over-air reception is possible may subscribe to the
network package if over-air reception is not of acceptable
quality in their own judgement. Typical problems include
severe ghosting and having reception blocked by mountains
or buildings, To the best of our knowledge, there is no
verification process to determine whether a DBS subscriber
is also a cable subscriber. Those who qualify to subscribe
to the package will receive ABC from NY, CBS from Raleigh,
FOX from Chicago, and PBS from Denver. This package costs
3.95/month.

Both RCA and Primestar receivers include Macrovision copy
protection chips. Neither system employs them at this time.
Their use is dictated by copyright holder (movie studio)
demands. In addition to the studios there is another force
at work which could, in the future, limit the right of
individuals to record programs. A draft paper from the
Information Infrastructure Task Force recommends that
digital transmission be redefined as a type of distribution
like publishing, which should be controlled by the copyright
holders. This proposal, if unchallenged could cause the
Commerce Department to change copyright laws and make the
recording of any programming illegal. All products which
defeat copy protection schemes would become illegal.

The right to purchase and use a VCR is covered by the first
sale doctrine and was won in the Sony Betamax case in the
'80s. Americans currently have the right to record programming
based on both the first sale and fair use doctrines.
If the ability of consumers to record programming is not
supported in the future, for whatever reason, DBS subscribers
will be the first to find out.

The on-screen program guide is a user friendly feature. It
provides program and movie descriptions up to 24 hours in
advance using a dedicated button. There are two favorite
program lists, each of which can store 10 channels. It is
also possible to choose programs by categories which include
sports, movies, specials, series, news, and shopping. Accessing
program information several hours in advance is actually
quite slow, due to memory limitations, but the feature is
still valuable.

Other major features of the system are sound and picture quality.
The sound is of CD quality. Picture quality is superior
to that available on Video CD's. During the fall there were
problems with the system. These include freeze frames, which
caused the picture to freeze for a few seconds, and digital
artifacts during shot changes. At times the picture would break
up, leaving large rectangular colored blobs on the screen.
These problems have decreased considerably during December and
January and are now infrequent. The DSS system is currently
using MPEG-1 and will switch over to MPEG-2 later this year.
This may improve signal quality even more. Changes will be
made to headend encoders and not to subscribers' equipment.

Installation

The two DSS satellites are co-located in geostationary orbit
at 101 west longitude. That is over the equator, south of
Texas. There must be a clear line of sight from the dish to
the satellite. The signals cannot pass through trees, leaves
in summer or buildings. The dish may be mounted behind a
glass window in a patio for example. This can cause reception
problems during extreme weather. It should not be mounted less
than 20 feet from overhead power lines.

The dish may be mounted directly on a 1 1/4" I.D. Schedule
40 (1 5/8" O.D.) preferably galvanized pipe. The system
includes a mounting foot so it may also be mounted on the
side of a structure, on a roof or chimney or patio deck.
The surface must be stationary. Mounting on a roof is
least desirable. A roof mount can cause damage to the roof
and cause leaks. Wind loading can cause hundreds of pounds
of force on the screws securing the mounting foot. Chimney
mounts kits are also available as an option.

The dish must be grounded where it is mounted and the
coaxial cable must be grounded using a grounding block
where it enters the residence. One RG-6 cable is used for
the connection between the dish and receiver. If the cable
will be longer than 112 feet, a TVRO bullet amplifier is
recommended though we have heard of 150 foot runs with no
problem. Keeping the mounting pole or mounting foot plumb is
the key to making dish alignment easy, especially for those
who have no experience installing satellite systems. DSS
uses an on-screen menu system and homing signal to align
the dish. A dish which is not plumb negates the value of
this user-friendly system.

The single best feature of DSS is the setup system. It is
so user-friendly that even a novice can set the dish up
himself. It is also this feature which makes the system
truly portable. No electronic test equipment except a
television receiver is necessary to align the dish.
According to DirecTV, more than 40% of purchasers are
doing their own installations. There is no reason why an
average person cannot install the system. There are no
components which can be harmed or destroyed by a botched
attempt. The worst that can happen is that it might be
necessary to have someone complete the job.

It is economical to install another dish with an LNBF
(Low Noise Block amplifier with Feedhorn) at the cottage
and simply transfer the receiver back and forth. Several
companies are now manufacturing DBS related products.
These include a patio style mount, a roof bubble so the
dish may be aligned from inside the home, and portable DBS
kits which, in conjunction with a Power inverter, allow
the dish to be used nearly anywhere in North America.

The setup menu is a sub menu of the main/options menu. The
dish pointing  menu allows the installer to receive elevation
and azimuth settings based on either zip code or latitude and
longitude. Entering the zip code produces a screen which
provides the elevation setting as marked on the LNB support
arm. The azimuth or direction setting is the compass reading
used to point the dish. It is already corrected for magnetic
deviation. When we installed the system in Buffalo, the screen
said to set the elevation to 35 and the azimuth to 220.

The computer will not calculate latitude settings greater than
55 or less than 20, corresponding to locations in Mexico and
Canada. Some individuals in those regions who are installing
systems simply project a north to south line on a map to the
closest US town. Then they call the local U.S. Post Office to
get the zip code, claiming that they recently moved there but
can't find their zip code. This will provide the azimuth
information but not the elevation. The elevation setting on
the dish changes approximately 1 per degree of change in
latitude. After the dish has been positioned, the signal
meter menu is brought up. It is an option on the dish pointing
menu. There is a homing signal which starts out as a short
intermittent tone before the signal is locked. As the dish is
zeroed in on the signal, the tone increases in length until it
becomes continuous. When moving the dish it is important to
wait two beeps in order to see and hear the results of the
movement. It is a common error for installers to continuously
move the dish around without waiting. In addition to the audible
tone, the signal meter screen will state how many
degrees and in what direction the dish should be moved. When
we installed our dish the screen said to move it 12 west.
Once the digital signal is locked the screen says "locked
onto signal."

Once the signal is locked on, the system must be fine tuned.
This is done by moving the dish east until the signal is
lost and then to the west. These positions are marked on
the mounting pole. The dish should then be positioned in
the center of these two marks. The same is done with the
elevation setting. Some individuals simply watch the signal
strength meter and obtain the maximum reading. We had a
final signal strength of 85 when we set up our dish.

The set up system allows for a large margin of error. The
original dish settings don't have to be very accurate.
It is because of the homing signal that anyone can easily
do the installation. The installer guide which comes with
the system is very well written and is very helpful. There
is an accessory kit available which includes a videotape
covering installation but we don't believe it is necessary.
It is important to ground the system properly, for safety
and insurance reasons. The only available free programming
consists of DirecTV barker channels and Bloomberg Direct
(business news) on channel 245. Having the board authorized
takes only a few minutes. USSB provides the first month of
programming free.

Primestar

Another option for some of those interested in a dish system
is Primestar. One of the big advantages of Primestar is the
low startup and maintenance cost. It isn't necessary to
purchase their equipment. The rental cost is included in the
monthly fee. Subscribers do not have to pay for future system
upgrades which will include HDTV. Prices for installation and
programming packages vary across the country because they are
set by the individual cable distributors, not Primestar. It is
possible to purchase a Primestar system for approximately $900
but there is no financial reason to. Do-it-yourself installations
are not permitted and range in cost from $149-299.

Primestar was founded in 1990 by GE, Continental Cablevision,
Cox Cable, Westinghouse Broadcasting, TCI, Time Warner, and
Comcast Cable. It was the first quasi DBS service and was
launched on GE's Satcom K-1 Ku-band bird. By 1994 Primestar
had only signed 70,000 customers in 48 states. Until last
year it broadcast 11 analog video plus six audio channels in
the 11.7-12.2 GHz FSS (Fixed Satellite Service) band. Currently,
Primestar uses 14 transponders powered at 47 watts
each. Late last year they swapped out their analog B-MAC
decoders and replaced them with Digicipher 1 decoders.
There are now more than 100,000 Primestar customers.

Primestar Programming Packages

The Economy Pak, for $29.95 is a 30 channel service which
includes CNN, C-Span, Discovery, Cartoon Network, Family
Channel, TLC (The Learning Channel), TBS, TVT, USA, Headline
News, Prime Sports Network (14 regional sports channels),and
where available, the nework stations including ABC, NBC, CBS,
Fox and PBS. The $36.95 Value Pak adds A&E, Country Music TV,
Lifetime, TNN, Sci-Fi Channel, TCM, Weather Channel, and the
Encore multiplex. The Family Pak is a 76 channel package
which includes all of the above and adds three HBO's, two Cine
max channels and Disney East and West. HBO, Cinemax, Disney
TV Japan are also available  la carte for $8.95 each. Prime
Cinema PPV movies cost $4-5 each. X*Press Executive and
X*Press Change, which offer computer delivered news, sports,
stock, and entertainment information are also available for
$59.40/year plus the cost of the computer interface. Primestar
does not yet have contracts with Viacom so it does not offer
Showtime/TMC, MTV and Nickelodeon. In March, Playboy, Starz,
CNNI, QVC, CNBC, and the Golf channels will be added to the
lineup. Other channels are being negotiated as well, including
the DMX music service. Primestar is currently limited to
about 77 channels. A network package from Primestar, for
those who qualify to receive it, costs $5.95.

The dish used by Primestar is approximately 36 inches in diameter
while the RCA dish is 18 inches. This may matter in some
neighborhoods where a dish is considered a blight on the community.
The size of the Primestar dish precludes it from being
mounted on a chimney, the side of a house or patio railing for
example. The system is not portable. While the DSS satellites
operate at 120 watts of power, Primestar operates at 47 watts
so it requires a larger dish. On the other hand it does not
suffer from rain fade problems or the glitches DSS has had.

Primestar does not have an on-screen menu system like DSS does.
It  carries the Prevue channel which only provides basic pro
gram information up to 90 minutes in advance. It simply scrolls
through the channels, and displays only channel and program
title. Primestar charges $3.95 for PPV movies and the system
reports monthly purchases via modem, the same way DSS does.

Primestar is somewhat more friendly to those who wish to
record programming. It has several timers which can be used
to program the receiver to change channels at a certain time.
It also has one favorite channel list which can contain any
number of channels. Both systems have data ports though
Primestar currently has data services available.

The service is considering a move from its current medium
power satellite to one or more high power satellites, or it
may choose to add a high power satellite to the one it has
now. Either way is promises to offer 150 channels by 1996.

Primestar uses the Digicipher 1 and the picture appears to
be of slightly higher quality than the DSS picture. The sound
produced by both systems is excellent. Both systems will be
upgraded this year. Digicipher 1 IRD's (Integrated Receiver
Decoders) will be upgraded to the Digicipher II in 1995.
Customers will receive sidecar modules by mail and will
simply plug them in. Digicipher II will allow  greater and
higher quality compression so more channels may be carried.
While Primestar is using a proprietary compression system
developed by General Instrument, GI claims that Digicipher
II can be made MPEG II compatible. DSS is currently using
MPEG 1 but they will soon upgrade their system to the new
MPEG II standard. MPEG II is the accepted compression standard.
According to DirecTV the all necessary modifications
will be performed to encoders at the headend.

How DBS may Effect C-Band

C-Band systems receive more than just subscription programming.
There are many channels in the clear (unscrambled) including
Canadian TV channels offering American sitcoms. The Caribbean
Superstation, NASA, Main Street TV, E! the Entertainment Channel,
Court TV, C-SPAN 1 and 2, The Health Channel, Nostalgia,
America's Talking, National Empowerment TV, The Learning Channel,
and lots of religious and home shopping channels are all
available free of charge. With a C/Ku band dish it is possible
to receive at no cost approximately 120 FM stereo radio stations
from across the country. This includes jazz from Chicago, Christian
contemporary from LA, talk radio and nearly any other
existing format. It is also possible to get backhaul feeds of
most TV series. Episodes of these series are uplinked a week or
two before they are broadcast nationally so the cable companies
have time to insert the commercials which will be shown during
broadcast. Dish owners who watch the backhaul feeds see a blank
screen during the time provided for the insertion of commercials.
In addition, there are live news feeds from all across
the country. When there is a disaster anywhere in the world it
is possible to view the live feeds sent to North America by CNN
et al. In addition, local news departments will uplink certain
local clips for other stations across the country. It is interesting
to watch raw news feeds or press conferences in the after
noon and then see the network anchors apply their spin when
they narrate the story on the national news.

Those who purchase additional equipment can receive additional
services. An SCPC receiver costs about $400 and permits users
to listen to approximately 1500 radio services which are delivered
by SCPC (single channel per carrier) at frequencies
lower than those covered by a conventional satellite receiver.
These include syndicated radio programs like Paul Harvey, base
ball games, muzak, etc. Using a short wave receiver in conjunction
with a satellite receiver it is possible to monitor cellular
phone calls.  Usually only one side of the conversation
is heard because the other party is on a different frequency.
Other available services include WEFAX (weather fax) RTTY and
satellite data. Using special receivers and paying subscription
fees it is possible to receive services like internet feeds or
real time stock market quotes.

The entertainment programming available by C-band is essentially
the same as that available by DBS but it is considerably
cheaper. A VideoCipher II PLUS decoder and a subscription
is required . There are some regional network affiliates from
places like Denver, Chicago, Raleigh, LA, Dallas, Boston, and
NY which are not available on DBS. This year the Digicipher II
decoder will be introduced. It will be able to decode both
analog and digital signals. This does not mean that the analog
Videocipher II PLUS decoder will become obsolete. There are now
over 2 million subscribed VC II PLUS units and that is not a
market which any programmer would abandon. Current BUD (big
ugly dish) owners and those considering buying one should know
that space is scarce on C-band satellites. Hughes Communications
has just sold the last of its capacity on two of its
satellites, one of which has not been launched yet and there
are several satellites scheduled for retirement in 1995.
The shortage is even filling up Ku band transponders. This is
happening at a time when there are literally hundreds of
programming channels ready to launch.

Transponder space on Galaxy 7 currently costs $180,000 per
month. and because of the  shortage, transponders which
would ordinarily cost $50,000 are going for $150,000. The
solution for cable programmers is digital compression. At
4:1 compression it is only necessary to rent 1/4 of a trans
ponder and it is a new technology so compression ratios will
improve even more over time. This will allow even more channels
to be carried per satellite transponder.

Many BUD owners who remember when a $150 Videocipher II was
"the only decoder you'll ever need" and who have upgraded
to a $399 Videocipher II PLUS within the past couple of
years and who now face the prospect of upgrading again to
a Digicipher II in order to receive digital programming
are interested in any alternative they can find. One
example of programming which is available in digital
format but which is not offered to dish owners is the
Encore Multiplex. In addition to Encore, there are six
niche channels devoted to mysteries, westerns, love
stories, action, true stories/dramas and youth programming.

Several companies are betting that consumers will choose
to add DBS receiving equipment to their existing systems
rather than upgrade to Digicipher II. It is likely that
the price of DBS equipment will decrease when Sony starts
manufacturing systems this summer. It is hoped that programming
prices which are now significantly higher than C-band may
decrease slightly as well.

Norsat is manufacturing a C-band/LNBF and so is Pro Brand
International. They are also producing a C/Ku band/LNBF.
These products will allow a BUD owner to continue to use
his dish for all satellite delivered programming without
having to replace his analog satellite receiver with a new
digital/analog model. This will be the first time BUD owners
will have had a choice in what decoding equipment they might
purchase.

Those now contemplating the purchase of a dish system can wait
until Digicipher II is released this year, or they can consider
a big dish with an analog receiver to receive the free programming,
and a DBS system for subscription services. It is
clear that an analog receiver with a Videocipher II decoder
is, by itself, a dated product.

Piracy

While equipment manufacturer General Instrument claims
that the Videocipher II data stream was shut off over a
year ago, it is still being used for some services.
These include regional sports networks including various
feeds from Home Sports Entertainment, Sports Channel,
ADC, Pacific Sports Network, and Sunshine, AMC, Nick E,
Life E&W, WWOR, MTV, Discovery E&W, VH1, CMTV, ESPN E&W,
CNN W, TBS W, WGN, CNBC W, TNT W, TNN W, USA E&W, CHN,
A&E W, Youth (Canadian). These services are still being
transmitted in VCII mode because not all cable companies
have installed VCII PLUS decoders at their headends.
The working keys for these channels change every few days
and they are subject to an on-going ECM (electronic
countermeasure) program so audio is not always available
for all channels.

There is software available on BBS's which allows users
to receive audio and video on these channels. Authorized
seed keys are necessary. The net effect is to  clone the
VCII to the decoder which is really using those keys.
EPROM chips loaded with working keys are available for
about $50 and they work until GI extracts the keys from
them and shuts them off. The most practical way to obtain
audio and video for these services is by connecting a modem
to the VCII decoder. Every few days the user can push a
button on his remote control to download the latest keys.
This method has been abandoned by most individual users,
because the long distance charges, hardware upgrades, and
aggravation is not worth the cost. There are some satellite
dealers who still use the system for their customers.

Many of those who still use their VCII boards, employ them
to obtain video-only on PLUS encoded adult channels. There
are several available, ranging from softcore to XXX. They
include Adam & Eve, Cupid, Exxxtasy, LVTN, Network 1, Playboy,
Spice 1, Spice 2, and TV Erotica , Video-only chips are
available and EPROM files are available on many BBS's.

Some individuals pirate the 10 TVN PPV movie services on T3
on an 029 PLUS board by taking a "snapshot" of the RAM at
the start of the month. They watch all the movies they want
to during the month, and then at the end of the month they
reload the data captured at the start of the month. When
the unit is polled for PPV purchases it shows none so they
are not billed. There is a period of approximately 10 days
at the end of the cycle when no movies are watched. Many
individuals misuse the Surewrit 9 test device for this
purpose.  We have a file on the BBS called Plusmap.txt
for those interested in studying further.

Oak

Oak encrypted services on Anik include the network feeds
from Detroit, and sports, movie news, and Canadian channels
which offer mostly U.S. programming. Discovery is now Oak
encrypted as well. The Oak board is available in a VCII
cardcage and some sources are selling these for $299. What
they are selling is stock boards which must be subscribed.
In order to clone the board to a working ID, the micro-
processor must be changed to a Mostek. Oak is not subject
to the ECM's which affect the VCII datastream.

B-MAC

There is a relatively new B-MAC product. It is a keypad
which allows users to manually enter working keys instead
of using a modem system to download them. Unlike the
system being sold in Canada, this system does not encrypt
the basic working keys which are for the Hi-Net service.
Individuals may obtain keys from any source, instead of
having to rely on one supplier. Keys for special PPV events
are encrypted. The complete U.S. system including decoder,
software and keypad sells for approximately $1600.

DSS

According to RCA, the receiver must be connected to a phone
line. Where the deluxe system is installed, they say each
receiver must be connected to  the same phone line via the
1200 baud modem. (The unit also has a 19,200 modem). The
phone line is not used to transmit authorization data to keep
the receiver running. The receiver calls out monthly to report
what pay-per-view movies have been ordered. It is also used
to verify the location where the system is installed.

Some individuals install the units at remote cottages or RV's
where there is no phone. In this case, DirecTV has a backup
system so individuals without phones may order PPV events
manually by calling their 800 number. There is a $2 charge
in addition to the cost of the movie for this service.

As long as the unit is not connected to a phone line, the
system operators have no idea where it is, so it could be
in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. Some U.S. individuals who
wish to obtain local blacked out sporting events use a billing
address different from where the unit is installed, for this
purpose. It is still necessary to purchase the NFL, NHL, NBA,
etc. package and the unit must be connected to a phone line.
Mail drops usually advertise under Mail Boxes or Telephone
Answering Services.

Those who purchase a deluxe system including a second receiver,
obtain a programming discount for the second receiver. The primary
receiver pays full price and DirecTV charges $1.95 extra and
USSB charges $1 per month for programming received on the
second receiver. The second receiver receives whatever programming
is subscribed to on the primary receiver.

Some dealers split systems. They place the primary receiver in a
friendly location. The secondary receiver is typically sold to a
Canadian. The dealer charges the full price for programming but
only has to pay $1.95 plus $1. This can amount to a profit of $60 per
month, every month per customer and is more profitable than VCII
piracy was for many of them. We have heard that some installers
have been requested to connect both receivers to the single
phone line during authorization and that they have done that
before splitting them up. We have also heard that some
individuals have told DirecTV during the authorization process
that the primary receiver would be located at their residence
and the secondary would be located at a remote cottage and
they have received the discount but they are not able to order
PPV on the secondary receiver. Some individuals are selling a
unit which intercepts the 800 number the receiver is programmed
to dial and routes the call to a U.S. number where the 800
number call is then placed. These units will be necessary this
fall when the football season begins, at least for those who
don't have a pirate smartcard.

The dialers being sold now cost $125 and Canadian consumers
who purchase them are unaware that hundreds of their
calls are being routed through the same US phone number.
It is only a matter of time before this system is shut down. Advanced
Technologies will soon market a system which allows the user to
set up his own network. Another company is developing a system
which allows the user to manually enter the phone number being
used. The only other problems we have heard regarding this type
of gray market piracy is when foreigners have ordered PPV events
while having the receiver connected to a phone line. In some cases
they have received mail messages to their dishes requesting that
they contact DirecTV to verify that their systems are in the U.S. Then
they have been told that if DirecTV receives calls from a foreign
area code their programming will be discontinued. Some do not
order PPV events for this reason and others order manually.

The major news which occurred just before we went to press is
that the RCA system has just been hacked. According to reliable
sources a nearly six month effort on the part of a U.S.-European
coalition has lead to the compromise of the system. Current
plans involve the issue of 4 tiers of pirate cards. The Blue
card will offer only basic programming and will cost approximately
$150. The next level card will include the subscription
movie channels, the next level card will also include the sports
channels together with packages like the NFL etc. The Gold
card will be a global access card which will allow access to
all services and will include a limit of $500 in PPV program
ming. Note that the pirates are now limiting the amount of
PPV events their customers will receive. To prevent the
pirate card from being pirated it will employ a kill routine
so that once it is inserted into the card slot in the receiver
it may not be removed without dumping the memory.

It will be necessary for those who engage in this type of
piracy to mail in their existing cards or otherwise supply
their unit ID in order to provide necessary information. Each
pirate card will be unique to a specific receiver. Programming
will be done in Canada where it will ostensibly not be
illegal, at least for now. Three Canadian companies will
essentially have franchises and will receive the necessary
hardware/software.

Release of the cards is expected around April, depending on
two factors. The developers want to wait for the release of
the series 10 Videocrypt cards in Europe. At this time the 09
series pirate cards are being heavily ECM'd and a new release
is imminent. One company supplies the encryption algorithms
for both U.S. and European cards. The U.S. card is based on the
09 series card in Europe. U.S. developers don't want their card
reversed and counter ECM'd in the 10 series so they choose to
wait. They also want an installed base of about 800,000 systems
to make it more costly for system operators to issue a new
series of cards. They have said in interviews that it costs them
up to $35/card if they have to issue a new series because of a
breach of security.

In the past, we have sometimes been able to alert our readers
several months in advance to events which would transpire.
When we have done that, some entrepreneurs would immediately
offer products which did in fact not yet exist. This is March 11, 1995
and there is no pirate card for the RCA system available anywhere
at this time nor will there be in the very near future. We will be
allowed to see the system somewhere offshore and we will report
our findings. Do not send money to anyone. We will have more DBS
news next time together with more discussion of the issues
involved. Do not send money to anyone.

Resources

Satellite dish dealers are experts in the reception of satellite
delivered programming. hey are skilled in installation, maintenance
and repair. Many now carry both DirecTV and Primestar.
They are able to discuss the relative merits of each system. A
bonus is that many satellite dealerships are "mom and pop"
type businesses so potential customers are often able to
deal directly with a proprietor who possesses knowledge
and experience. Their biases: Some dealers have not been
able to obtain dealerships for DirecTV and others refuse to
carry it because they see it as a threat to their businesses.
A dealer makes about 1/3 profit or $1000 on the sale of a $3000
full view (C-band) system. The profit on a $699 DirecTV system
is about $120 plus a possible installation charge.
Primestar is a little more lucrative for the dealer than DirecTV.
Primestar dealers profit from the sale or lease of the
systems, from installation (which is mandatory) and they also
earn commissions from programming ordered by their customers.
Commission Salesmen working at consumer electronics stores are
useless as sources of information.

Miniature Satellite Dishes is a Frank Baylin book which
discusses the DirecTV and Primestar systems. There is
information on the basics of satellite communications,
the receive site, a comparison of DBS systems, signal
security, programming, installation instructions, and connecting
components to the system. There is some theory.
The book is a good primer. It is easy to read and it is well
worth the cost for those who want to know more. Baylin
Publications. 303.449.4551.

Orbit is a C/Ku-band programming guide. It includes both
free and subscription programming, audio services and
backhaul feeds. You can see what is available on a C-band
system. The ads for various programmers allow comparison
of the cost and availability of programming with DBS. C-band
programming is substantially cheaper. VCRS decoders are
available at a discount when purchased with programming.
Competing publications include Satellite TV and OnSat. These
are available at most magazine stores.

Satellite Direct is a monthly programming guide. It divides
each 8 hours worth of programming into two facing pages.
It is cleanly laid out and easy to follow. It is available at most
magazine stores.

Consumer Hot Lines. DirecTV's answer line for those who have
questions about programming or equipment is 800.264.4DTV.
USSB's number is 800.633.2820. Those with questions about
Primestar equipment or programming may call 800.932.2007.

Bomarc Services is producing a set of schematics for the RCA
receiver. They are contract reverse engineers and they have
thousands of  schematics available for all kinds of electronic
devices including most cable boxes. A catalog costs 4 stamps.
Bomarc Services, Box 1113, Casper, WY, 82602. No phone.

S&J Electronics is one of the few companies left which still
carries VCII test devices. They have video only chips for
those who want to view PLUS video-only on a VCII. They
also have chips which allow VCII users to receive audio/video
on the 28 services which still  employ the VCII data stream.
They are also a supplier of B-MAC's and the keypad
system. 201.728.3217.

Triangle Products is the major supplier of Oak decoders.
They are available in VCII card cages for those who don't
wish to use free-standing units. They also carry SureWrit 9,
which is a diagnostic test device for those studying VCII or
029 PLUS technology. They have raw B-MAC's as well.
616.399.6390.

Travel Sat is advertised as a satellite in a suitcase. Included
is a complete RCA DSS satellite system, a 16 inch fibreglass
dish, hardware components made of stainless steel (to prevent
corrosion) and a signal strength meter so a television receiver is
not required to set up the system. They also manufacture a roof
mount for RV's. 800.270.1692.

Eagle Aspen DBS To-Go consists of a plastic case containing a
14 inch dish, a DBS compatible LNBF, hardware kit, compass,
and cables. Options include a power inverter. It is suited for
those who want to mount a permanent dish at the cottage and
simply move the receiver back and forth, or for those who want
a portable satellite system. 404.423.7072.

TCC BBS is an originating source of satellite TV piracy
information, test files and working keys for the VCII. The
sysops are active in answering questions. They are also
knowledgeable in other areas of hacking, electronics and
computers. BBS 809.394.9001.

New Advanced Technologies is another B-MAC supplier, they
have test chips for the VCII and they will soon market a DBS
dialer which will permit the user to set up his own network.
514.458.3063.

(C) Scrambling News 1995. 716.874.2088. snews@buffnet.net
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