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  1. #1
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    New receiver model: Homecast HS8100 CI series

    Hi everybody,

    About a year ago I bought a box containing 35 satellite receivers for just 35 euros, because the box contained a few models I was interested in. Among the then for me unknown receivers in the box were three Homecast receivers that looked the same but had different model numbers: HS8100 CIPVR, HS8100 CIUSB and HS8101 CICD. The latter also had the text Special Edition in a curly font on the front.

    After removing the cabinet top, the internals seemed to be exactly the same as all the motherboards had the text HS8100 CIPVR and the same revision number on them, and I saw something that was very familiar: these are STi7109 SH4 receivers.

    Further examination and internet searching yielded some more data and in effect these models were very similar in design compared to their main competitors: the Topfield TF7700HDPVR, the Kathrein UFS922 and the Fortis FS9000/9200 receivers. They share these features:
    • Based on the STM MB411 (‘Coco’) development board;
    • STi7109 SoC;
    • 128 Mbyte of system RAM;
    • 64 Mbyte of video RAM;
    • Twin tuners;
    • Two SCART connectors;
    • Built-in SATA hard disk;
    • Ethernet network connector driven by a variant of the RTL8201 made by Altima;
    • Multiple USB ports using the same hub- chip;
    • Two CI slots, connected to a STARCI2WIN chip;
    • Flash is too small for Enigma2, Neutrino or Titan: only 8 Mbyte.

    Regarding the tuners, Homecast had used the same LG models as on the Topfield and Kathrein receivers. The HS8100’s I own do not have card readers, although variants may exist that have them, as the main board features holes and silk screen for a non-present connector in a logical place.

    The conclusion was quickly reached that many things were (almost) the same with the Kathrein and Topfield, so much driver software was already written and available. In addition, the front panel board is the same as on the Homecast HS5101 (no longer supported because of the lacking USB and network ports) and some work for that was also done in the past by somebody else, although not quite finished. What helped was the VFD driver chip it is based on: the Princeton PT6302 which I was very familiar with because it is also used in the ADB ITI-5800SX models. The HS8100 models do not have a front panel processor and control the PT6302 and the front panel buttons directly from the SoC using PIO pins.

    These were also some differences compared to the Topfield, Kathrein and Fortis receivers, some posing a challenge. The first was the AVS chip, a Sony CXA2161R, a chip I could not find a driver for. What I did find was the datasheet. The second was that the main board is equipped with a real time clock (Dallas DS1307 compatible), with a CR2032 battery as backup power. The third difference is that the SATA connector on the main board is not directly connected to the SoC but through a JMicro JM20336, a construction I had seen before on the CubeRevo 3000HD. The JM20336 is driverless and if you do not reprogram it after power up, the SATA connection is merely passed through. The function of the chip is to provide a USB port that directly accesses the hard disk. Indeed such a port is present on the back panel. Last difference is that the HS8100 models do not have a deep standby mode compatible with the 1 Watt standby requirement in the EU. Homecast had made an attempt to implement a variant of deep standby by providing a way to switch off some power supply voltages using a PIO pin, but it turned out to be not implemented right, as the receiver almost completely powers down and then immediately powers up again, in effect resetting it.

    After playing around with the STAPI built factory firmware I discovered that the real time clock was not used at all by it, although the clock is fully functional and the battery backup works as intended. Another rather strange feature was that the data for timed recordings is saved on the hard disk, and that the receiver cannot make timed recordings from standby.

    I have been playing around with this model for the past months and the results of that have been pushed to my buildsystem git. This is what I have made so far:

    First of all, the receiver lacks a proper (u-)boot loader that can be used for E2/Neutrino/Titan because its factory firmware is STAPI-based so one was adapted/developed/written and flashed. Currently the only way to do that is through JTAG. The JTAG port is fully functional and Homecast even has soldered in the standard 20 pin header connector. I plan to have a go at deciphering the Homecast .sgn flash file format in order to provide a way to flash the boot loader through the factory firmware. I also plan to provide the necessary files for the boot loader in a subsequent posting for those who have JTAG capability.

    After boot loader was flashed, the fun started: I managed to find almost all relevant PIO pins and have been writing and debugging a very elaborate front panel driver providing a fake deep standby (it uses almost full power though) and supporting the real time clock. fp_control has been expanded to support it. The receiver can now make a timed recording from both the fake deep standby state as well as after a power down and subsequent power up, as the real time clock and its RAM is used to maintain the required data, the time and date.

    I also wrote an AVS driver for the Sony CXA2161R chip (not fully tested yet) and adapted the CX24116 tuner driver to this receiver model. The remote control uses LiRC on this model and has been added to evremote2.

    To cut a rather long story short: the receiver can now run Enigma2 or Neutrino off a USB stick with support of the internal hard disk. The hard disk must be reformatted as Homecast used a weird file system on it, not recognized by the kernel. It is possible to run software off the hard disk in the same fashion as the tfinstaller and ufsinstaller, but I have not gotten to building that (yet?).

    It should be noted that a few shortcomings and loose ends remain. The first is the LNB voltage enable for tuner 2. It is a total mystery to me how it is controlled as none of the 48 PIO pins drives it (the PIOs for 13/18V and 1V LNB voltage lift (also called LLC for long line compensation) have been found and do work). Tuner 1 works OK though. Another is that the current Neutrinos do show TV, but no menus, something I also experience on the Fortis FS9000 and may be a common problem on all STx7109/7100 SoCs. Lastly, the driver for the CI slots complains after loading (it does not crash) so the CI slots are not functional yet.

    I thought I’d share the work on this rather old model so you can play around with it.

    The fun is not over: I am now playing around with a Homecast HS9000, its improved successor with many shared features and hope to fix the remaining problems in the future.

    Regards,

    Audioniek.
    Geändert von Audioniek (30.12.2022 um 17:23 Uhr) Grund: Fixed some text formating
    Receivers: Rebox: RE-4000, 8000, 9000, 2200, 2210, 2220, 4200, 4210, 4220, 8220, 8500, SAB Unix Triple, Golden Media Spark TripleX, Amiko Alien 2+, Sogno Spark Revolution, Kathrein UFS910(1 & 14W)/912/913/922(CX24116 & AVL2108 tuners), Vizyon revolution 820HD PVR, AB IPBox 91HD/9000HD/9000HD rev.2, Xsarius Alpha HD10, nBox BKSA/BSLA/BXZB/BZZB, Vitamin HD 5000
    Sats: Astra 1, 2 & 3, Hotbird
    Main activity: building my own E2 images for Fortis receivers


  2. #2
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    17.12.2015
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    all the best to u m8


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