The Gray Black Box

It’s finals time, which means I spend a lot of time looking for things to do that aren’t studying.

The digital cable box in my apartment appears to have some hardware capabilities that aren’t being used. Those who look at the front will observe a USB port and a smart card slot. Taking a peek at the back reveals more goodies: two more USB ports, two Firewire ports, and an Ethernet port.

The thing’s practically a computer. Well, that’s not really surprising, I guess, since DVRs basically are computers.

Anyway. The user’s guide for the hardware is very vague about what all those ports are intended for. So I did the only obvious thing.

I plugged the box into my apartment’s LAN.

Sadly, nothing seems to happen. Well, almost nothing. The light on the router flashes a little after the link goes live, but nothing after that. The router logs don’t show any DHCP requests coming from it, and holly’s firewall logs don’t show anything interesting either. My guess is that the box looks for something specific on the network when the link comes up, doesn’t find whatever it’s looking for, and then gives up. Unless the brief flashing I’m seeing isn’t related to anything the box is doing.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen, but it would’ve been nice to discover an exported file system or control interface or something. Oh well.

It still makes me curious why they’ve got all the ports on the box if they’re not going to use them for anything.

3 Responses

  1. Look at this… this may help you:

  2. Paul;
    I’m jealous you get to investigate different ports on your cable box. The only thing I have on mine is what looks like an RS232 output. I don’t even have a smartcard slot or even an S-Video output. You should try looking up white papers on your box.

    See you at the xmas party next week!

  3. Wes: I don’t think the cable company would take too kindly to me opening up the box they’re leasing to me and swapping things in and out. :-)

    Mark: The ports, they taunt me. Hang on, I just remembered I do have an old smartcard laying around. Let’s see what happens when I stick it in. … Nope, nothing.

    If holly’s power supply weren’t so loud, I’d be halfway tempted to gut it and turn it into a MythTV box. The cable box has a freaking Ethernet port — why shouldn’t I be able to plug it into my LAN and program stuff to record over the Internet? Curse you, proprietary software!

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