Set Top Box Extensions

eBox variant based on the GCT-Allwell STB

Contributed by Bill Stotts

Software on this page supports installation of eBox software on GCT-Allwell STB (Set Top Box) model 3036N hardware. Other relevant AllWell STB models such as the 6086 and 6286 series should be adaptable. These extensons could most likely support slower processor based PC motherboards or other Intel based STB. Please note this is currently a work in progress.

This page will include integration and configuration changes I am making to enable the eBox to operate on hardware based on slower, cooler processors described on the GCT-AllWell web site. The AllWell STB includes a remote and a wireless keyboard. Although the keyboard has slightly uncomfortable feel, the remote is useful and the receiver hardware on the STB actually interprets the RF signal, converting the signal to CONTROL key sequences (low ASCII characters). I also purchased the optional Philips TV Tuner for the STB. The MPEG decoder used in this hardware is based on the Sigma Designs EM84xx mpeg decoder chip series. The Sigma cards are also available in a retail version meant for a typcial 32-bit PCI slot. The EM84xx PCI card in the AllWell STB uses a ribbon cable to the STB on-board video which is optimized for dual TVIA VGA and TV output. I particularly like the TV-Out on this box as compared to the TV-Out I've tested on Intel based I810/815 video using a Chrontel chipset. TVIA keeps their SDK closed but they provide X Windows modules as well as FB drivers. Unfortunately Sigma's drivers are linked against closed source binary only libraries. Although I am not fond of this approach by hardware manufacturers, Sigma does at least provide a full API documentation and excellent GPL'ed working code examples. I added a Hauppauge Win-TV-PVR 250 mpeg encoder to enable PVR recording on this box. I'm certain this same technique could be utilized in other slower Intel based systems.

Don't expect to save money this way however. In fact the added cost of the Sigma decoder hardware more than outstrips the cost savings in the purchase of the slower processor, and the Hauppauge encoder adds even more cost. I actually purchased this hardware on a whim and more for the form factor and quiet design. I just happen to be a weirdo who likes STB hardware. In fact until I found the IVTV project which provides the driver for the Win-TV PVR card, I had not even considered this platform for an eBox project because the processor couldn't handle the encoding by itself. Most of the work completed so far is based on the work of others, including the sample code Sigma packages with the EM84xx driver. All code includes credit to the companies or individuals who originally authored it.

The origin of this project is my original mpeg2/DVD player project based on this hardware. It was based on an installation using RedHat 7.0 & 7.1 rpms. That project was the starting point for adapting the hardware for the eBox. Nothing this project in my opinion requires any of the newer RedHat distributions. Here is a screenshot of the AllDVD skin and some pictures of the mpeg2/DVD player unit.

I have also included the skin as another (quite simple) example of an eboxy skin.
AllDVD Skin archive

RedHat installation instructions

After I complete the necessary eBox modifications and software modifications I plan a fresh installation of RedHat Linux 7.x on the STB. Once completed, I will document the eBox RedHat Installation here for the benefit of any users interested in using RedHat for their eBox installation.

eBox STB Files

A bunch of shell scripts, drivers, config files and other bits from the eBox STB extensions will be found here SOON!

GCT Allwell Set Top Box

Allwell Set Top Box 3036 models

Sigma Designs EM84xx drivers

EM84xx drivers and players

IVTV Driver for WinTV-PVR 250/350

The IVTV Project This Open Source driver for the WinTV PVR 250/350 is only "alpha" software. I've achieved great results recording on the STB with this driver using the perl script included in the IVTV utils dir. CPU usage is low even on the 300mhz processor on the STB. Playback with PAUSE is already working using the modified playfile program I created from the Sigma playfile source example provided in the Sigma driver/SDK tarball.

For inquires on eBox STB Extensions please contact Bill Stotts:

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