FAQS


Who needs it ?
People who …
* have a NTL or Telewest Pace 1000, 1010 or 2000, or Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4000DVB digital cable set-top box (STB), and want to use an IR repeater and/or universal/learning remote, and are not happy with/not prepared to buy an IRDA compatible product.
* have a Pace 4000 box and have problems with its RC5 code implementation.
* have a compatible VCR or DVDR and want it to be able to set channel numbers for timed recordings for the above STBs.
* want to use Guide Plus+ equipped devices (e.g. Philips DVDR80 and HDRW720) with the above STBs.
* want to use Windows XP Media Center Edition with the above STBs.

My cable company isn’t NTL or Telewest – will Red-Eye  work on my Pace STB ?
No. At present it is believed that only NTL and Telewest use IRDA remotes. The problems these have caused makes it seem unlikely that anyone else will use IRDA in future.
Foxtel Australia Pace STBs do not use IRDA. The Foxtel remote (which looks similar to UK Sky remotes) uses a conventional IR protocol, but the bit rate is about twice as fast as RC5/6 codes, which may be outside the useable range of some learning remotes and senders, and some users have reported compatibility problems.

I have a Philps Pronto / Marantz 5000 etc. – will Red-Eye  allow me to control my Pace STB with it?
YES. For high-end learning/programmable remotes like the Pronto® and Marantz units, which can have codes loaded into them from a PC, code files can be downloaded here.

I have a learning remote, how do I teach it the Red-Eye codes?
The Red-Eye has a special “Teach” function, which allows it to teach the Red-Eye commands to your learning remote.
The infra-red emitter on the Red-Eye is substantially less bright than the one on a normal remote control, as it works in close proximity to the cable box’s infra-red receiver. It is possible that some learning remotes may not have sufficient sensitivity to learn commands from Red-Eye, however only a couple of learning remotes have ever proved difficult in this respect. See the remotes page for a list of learning remotes which have been tested to date.
See the Red-Eye user instruction sheet for detailed information on the teach function.

Will a preprogrammed type universal remote work ?
My VCR/DVD Recorder/PC can control satellite boxes – will it work with Red Eye?
A universal remote or VCR that supports the Philips® DTX6370 or DTX3671 Digital terrestrial (OnDigital®) receiver should work, as will a remote that supports the NTL 4001/4010 STB (RC5 blue remote) code set. See here for info on remotes that are known to work. See here for info on VCRs etc. that are known to work.

Can I use the original NTL/Telewest IRDA remote directly with the STB and also a Red-Eye compatible remote from another room via an infra-red repeater /sender?
Yes. IRDA commands are ignored by the Red-Eye and received directly by the cable box, whilst Red-Eye commands are received and translated by the Red-Eye. (You will not see the infamous ‘buffering’ problem which sometimes occurs on the 4000 box if you use both IRDA and  RC5 remotes.). You might need to experiment with the position of Red-Eye on the front of the STB to give sufficient line-of-sight for the remote, but as the original IRDA remote is quite powerful, this will not usually be a problem.
You can not use the IRDA remote from the other room.

All I want to do is control my Pace STB from another room at minimum cost, why would I want to use Red-Eye instead of just buying an IRDA compatible IR sender/repeater ? (This also applies to combined video sender/IR repeater products)
If all you’re ever likely to want to do is control the Pace STB from another room, then there may be cheaper options than Red-Eye, but when you are comparing costs, you should ensure you compare like with like. Remember that you’ll want another remote for the second room so you don’t have to keep taking one remote between rooms. The info below assumes you are running a cable to get the TV signal between rooms. You may want to use a wireless combined video/IR sender, but this does not significantly change the arguments for/against using Red-Eye.

For the most basic setup, with the STB in the front room and a second TV in a bedroom, you need either :
(a) An IRDA compatible IR sender plus an extra IRDA remote for the bedroom.
or (b) Red-Eye, any IR sender, plus a Red-Eye compatible remote for the bedroom.
Bear in mind that for solution (a), the remote in the bedroom needs to be an original NTL/Telewest remote as most compatible ones (e.g. One For All 4 Digital) have limited range, which when combined with the typically limited range of IRDA compatible IR senders, is likely to cause problems. Of course you can probably use a compatible IRDA remote like the OFA4D in the front room and the original IRDA one in the bedroom.

So when comparing costs for this setup, you need to compare the cost of :
(a) An IRDA compatible sender plus a second IRDA compatible remote (for the front room, using the original in the bedroom) or a second original remote.
with:
(b) Red-Eye, plus a standard (i.e cheap) IR sender, plus a Red-Eye compatible remote. The cheapest Red-Eye compatible remote is an original Philips one (£10 – info here, often less on EbayClick here to search Ebay UK for this remote ).
Although option (a) may work out a few pounds cheaper, you should bear in mind that option (b) offers more flexibility and future-proofing :
* The Philips remote will also offer basic control of most TVs and VCRs, ideal for bedroom use.
* You have a much wider choice of product should you ever want to get a universal/learning remote or Pronto in the front room and/or bedroom.
*  It gives you the option of automatic STB VCR timer recordings should you ever get a compatible VCR or DVD Recorder
Another thing to remember is that if you want to use a wireless video sender instead of a cable, you may be able to buy a combined wireless remote+video sender, plus Red-Eye plus a Red-Eye remote for less than an IRDA compatible remote+video sender plus IRDA remote.
It has been reported that the remote that is supplied with the Philips SBCVL1400 wireless link video+remote sender will control Red-Eye, so using this sender, you don’t need to buy an additional remote. 

Are there any differences in the key functions when controlling the STB via Red-Eye?
When using a learning or programmable remote (Pronto, Marantz etc.), all IRDA remote key functions are available, including Telewest’s Home and Guide buttons on their silver remote, and the Settings and # keys on the new-style NTL remote.
When using a preprogrammed or Philips DTX6370/1 original/compatible remote, there are some minor differences, as shown in this table.

How much will a Red-Eye compatible remote cost?
For users who need to buy a remote for use with Red-Eye (e.g. those wanting to use it via an IR repeater system), Philips DTX6370 remotes are available for £10 (see link on the remotes page). These Philips remotes also appear frequently on Ebat UK at low prices. See this page for more information on which remotes can be used with Red-Eye.

Will Red-Eye work with the Telewest Explorer 4000/4200DVB (Scientific Atlanta) STBs ?
Yes. These STBs require Red-Eye firmware V7 or later and a hardware change. Current production incorporates these changes.
Existing users of Red-Eye Mk.II (black case) can be upgraded by post – please email for details. Red-Eye Mk.I (red case) cannot be upgraded.
Unlike the Pace boxes, these STBs need to see repeated IRDA keycodes to reliably recognise them. V7 firmware sends, by default, 3 IRDA keycodes for every keypress – It has been reported that different STBs require different numbers of keycodes for reliable operation, and Red-Eye has a facility to adjust the number of codes sent – see this page for details. It has also been reported that the positioning of Red-Eye on the front some of these STBs can be critical, so if you are having reliability problems, it may be worth trying repositioning.

Will Red-Eye allow me to control my STB with Windows® Media Center?
Yes – see this page

Doesn’t the set-top box get confused when it sees a signal from both the new remote and the Red-Eye ?
No. The infra-red signals don’t interfere with each other as they are seperated in time – the cable box sees the code from the new remote first, which it ignores, then a few milliseconds later it sees the translated IRDA code from the Red-Eye.

I have a Philips DTX6370/1 receiver (or I have another device that uses the same RC6 IR codes) – can I still use the Red-Eye ?
I have two Pace STBs – can I control them independently ?
Yes. The Philips DTX receiver, and Red-Eye  accept two different sets of IR commands (system A or B).
Red-Eye decides which system to accept based on the first command it sees after power-up – it will then only accept commands within that system..
See this page for more information on setting the code system on the Philips remote and for info on changing the codes recognised by the DTX receiver.
To set up two Pace STBs, you need a Red-Eye on each one, and after power-up, you need to make sure that the first command each Red-Eye sees is from the remote (or code set) you want to control that STB – e.g. cover up the Red-Eye on STB 2, and operate the remote for STB 1, then cover up the other Red-Eye and operate the other remote. Note that you will need to repeat this procedure after a power failure or if the STB(s) are unplugged.
Some information has been seen concerning interference between the Philips DTX remote and some Sony TV’s – this is a problem with the TV and changing the code system will not fix it. It is not known exactly which Sony TV models are affected, but it is believed that only a few older models are involved. If you have a STB other than a Pace 4000, a solution to this is to use the NTL RC5 Blue remote codeset instead of RC6. NTL Blue remotes are usually availble very cheaply on Ebay UK.

I want to use the macro facility on my remote to send multiple codes (e.g. channel numbers). Does Red-Eye  add any extra delay ? How long do I need to set the gaps between commands ?
On receipt of an RC6 command, the IRDA command is forwarded to the STB within 50 milliseconds (this includes the 25ms duration of the RC6 command itself). Red-Eye will ignore any commands received for about 100ms after a valid command, to avoid false triggering (e.g. if it sees non-RC6 codes). A sequence of codes should be sent no less than about 175ms apart (that is delay from end of one command to start of the next, i.e. a repeat period of 150 + 25ms RC6 command length). You may find that you can send commands significantly faster than this, although when sending two consecutive identical codes, you may need to add another 20-30ms due to the way Red-Eye discriminates between a key pressed twice and a key held down. For ‘True RC6’ devices like the Pronto, no additional delay is required by Red-Eye, although the STB will usually require some delay for most codes, in particular channel numbers. See also this page on  Red-Eye IRDA Repeat Settings.

I don’t want something stuck on to my cable box – can I hide it ?
Red-Eye needs to be ‘visible’ to both the STB’s Infra-Red receiver, and your remote control, so the placement options are very limited. The range of Red-Eye to the STB is about 15cm (This limitation is necessary to avoid overloading the STB’s IR receiver). The range from the remote to Red-Eye is similar to most remotes, a few metres. If your cable box is in a cabinet, you may be able to mount Red-Eye just inside the cabinet (e.g. just under a shelf above the STB, or off to the side). (Although it is physically possible to mount Red-Eye inside the STB, this cannot be recommended as there are exposed hazardous mains voltages inside, and anyway the STB is the property of your cable company and they won’t approve of you messing with it.)

What’s the difference between the Telewest Silver Remote and the old black IRDA  remote ?
The following keys are omitted on the silver remote : TV Guide, Interactive, TV On Demand, Skip, Page up/down. It has two new keys : Home and Guide. The volume up/down, and Mute keys operate the TV instead of the STB (remote is programmable for most common TV makes). The manual for the silver remote is available here. Red-Eye units with firmware version 3 or above support these new keys. See this section for full details of Red-Eye versions.

How do I tell which model STB I have?

Make/Model Quick Identification (Model number is on label underneath) Red-Eye compatible
Pace 1000,1010 or 2000 (NTL/Telewest) Arrow buttons are below display Yes
Pace 4000 (NTL/Telewest) Arrow buttons are to right of display Yes (but may not be necessary)
Pace 4001 (NTL only) Uses Blue remote No
Pace 4010 (NTL) Uses Blue remote No
Samsung (NTL only) Silver colour No
Scientific Atlanta DVB4000 (Telewest only) Arrow buttons to left of display, Explorer 4000DVB on fromt Yes – See this question

Why is was it red ?
Well actually it isn’t red anymore, as a custom moulded case has now been developed, using a dark grey infra-red transparent plastic of the type used on the STB’s front window. This is what it used to look like and below is the answer from when it was red…. fortunately, demand has been sufficient to justify the cost of making a custom moulding.
With a low-volume niche-market product such as this, the housing had to be kept as simple as possible to keep costs down, and a custom moulding isn’t viable due to tooling costs. To avoid the need to drill holes for the infra-red sensor, emitter and LED, a case which is transparent to infra-red light was chosen. Red is sufficiently close in wavelength to infra-red that it is very transparent to the IR remote signals.

Does it have any pretty flashing lights?
Yes! – there is a red LED on the front that flashes when it receives a command, and stays on dimly to indicate power-on. The LED is also used to show status in Teach mode.

What’s IRDA? ..and RC5? ..and RC6?
IRDA is an infra-red communication system originally designed for short range communication between devices like mobile phones, portable computers, digital cameras and printers. You can find out more at www.irda.org.
RC5 is a standard infra-red control protocol, originally developed by Philips, used by many remote controlled products including TVs, VCRs etc.
RC6 is a development from RC5, which allows for a wider range of devices and codes.

Who are you ?
I’m Mike Harrison, a freelance designer of electronic things, trading under the name of  White Wing Logic. I like building gadgets, modifying things and messing with dangerous electrical stuff. I developed the Red-Eye for my own use when I discovered that the Pace box wouldn’t work with my existing homebrewed infra-red distribution system, and thought that it might be of use to others.

Red-Eye  – what a dumb name…
I’d be the first to admit that I’m better at designing electronic things than thinking up snappy names – I just thought of  the name when I started writing this webpage. I did think about CabelFish or Cable Babel but anyone who isn’t into Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker books would probably think it even dafter than Red-Eye!
Although Red-Eye Mark II is black, I didn’t think changing the name to black-eye would be helpful Anyway it still has a red LED on it!

What a boring webpage….
Well if you like megabytes of pointless Flash animations, frames, daft navigation schemes & other timewasting nonsense, sorry, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Webpages are about providing useful information, not showing off how clever the author is.


Various issues, design notes etc.


Pace Set-top box versions

Certain versions of the Pace 4000 series can receive both IRDA and RC5 style commands. Athough in principle this means that users of these boxes don’t need the Red-Eye, there appear to be certain issues with the RC5 implementation, including some missing button functions, and some interest has been expressed in using the Red-Eye to overcome these problems. It appears to not be possible to use both the IRDA and RC5 remotes alternately with the 4000 STB, as it seems to get very confused if it sees IRDA codes after it has seen RC5 ones, and can get into a state that is only recoverable by a reboot. This issue seems to be somewhat dependent on different software versions in different areas.

If anyone can provide any specific information on which model numbers and service providers (NTL/Telewest etc.) can accept RC5 codes, please let me know If anyone can help fill in the gaps in this table, I’d be most grateful.

Model
xxxxT : Telewest
xxxxN : NTL/C&W
IRDA RC5 compatible Supplied remote Notes
1000N YES NO IRDA Arrow keys under display. Phono audio outputs, Ethernet crossover lead required for modem, arrow keys under display. UHF loop-through input.
1000T YES NO IRDA ?As above?
1010T YES ? IRDA ?
2000N YES NO IRDA Arrow keys under display.
2000T YES NO IRDA Arrow keys under display.
4000N YES YES IRDA No phono outs, arrow keys to right of display
4000T YES YES IRDA ?as above?
4001N NO YES Blue Arrow keys to right of display, Phono audio outputs, UHF path from cable in to UHF out, no UHF loopthrough input.
Red-Eye is not needed (and will not work) with this STB
4001NC NO YES Blue Stripped-down version of 4001N – no cable modem, printer port or UHF loop-through input, only one smartcard slot.
Red-Eye is not needed (and will not work) with this STB
4010N ? Yes Blue Although this box can be used in both NTL areas, it is believed that it is only currently used in RC5 areas, and therefore effectively the same as the 4001, so Red-Eye is not needed (and will not work) with this STB
Samsung No Yes Blue NTL only. Red-Eye is not needed (and will not work) with this STB
Scientific Atlanta DVB4000 Yes Has another conventional style IR control set, but nobody has found it all yet! IRDA Telewest only – see here for more info

Red-Eye firmware revision history

Units shipping now will receive V9 firmware.

repic1.jpg (2339 bytes)Red-Eye Mark I (Red Case). Firmware revision shown by single digit on label.
Red-Eye Mark 1 firmware is not upgradeable.
V1 Initial release
V2 Adjusted IRDA timing for more reliable operation, especially on Telewest 1000s. Power-up LED on-time reduced from 5.5 to 4 secs.
V3 Added support for Telewest Home & Guide keys on silver remote.
V4 Adjusted timing to support JVC VCRs
wpe160.jpg (4955 bytes)Red-Eye Mark II (Black case). Firmware revision shown by LED pattern at for the first 5 seconds after power on.
Red-Eye Mark II firmware can be upgraded by post – please email for details. Do not return the unit to LetsAutomate.
V5 wpe4.jpg (4417 bytes)(4s on, no flashes) Added support for Settings and # keys on new NTL remotes. Added support for NTL Blue remote RC5 codeset, removed page/volume mode, Teach mode improved to allow quicker skipping to next code.
V6 wpe3.jpg (4569 bytes) (4s on, then 1 flash) Adjusted RC5/6 key-repeat timeout to improve reliability with Windows XP Media Center Edition.
V7 wpe45.jpg (1675 bytes) (4s on, then 2 flashes) Added extra IRDA code repeats for compatibility with  Telewest Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4000DVB STB. See this page for more details
V8 wpe53.jpg (1753 bytes) (4s on, 3 flashes) Added special mode to change inter-digit timing for Toshiba RD-XS32 HDD/DVDR
V9 wpe53.jpg (1870 bytes) (4s on, 4 flashes) Fix for issues with Toshiba RD-XS32 VZL11 firmware

Reasons for the choice of remote for use with Red-Eye

The main criteria when deciding which remote to use for Red-Eye were :

1) Must provide all keys used for normal and possible future use (e.g. text might actually do something someday….!)
2) Minimal risk of clashing with other equipment that cable box owners are likely to have.
3) Availability at reasonable cost, preferably from more than one source, for those users wanting to use the Red-Eye primarily for remote operation via a repeater system.

Athough some VCR and TV controls satisfy (1) and (3), the possibility of clashing with someone’s TV or VCR, plus the completely different key legends ruled this out. The downside of this is that the code set will probably not be supported on older preprogrammed universal remotes. This narrowed it down to satellite or similar controls – I considered it unlikely that many people would have both cable and sat boxes.

The first one I looked at was the one for the Sky digibox. This has the advantage that it is very widely available. However there are a couple of problems with it. Firstly it doesn’t really have enough buttons, and in particular there are no ‘obvious’ keys to use for page-up and page-down keys (I felt that these are important due to the sluggishness of scrolling through TV guide listings & organising favorites without them). Unfortunately it’s not practical to use the volume up/down keys for this as these ‘punch through’ to the TV control codes. Secondly, the protocol it uses has no mechanism to discriminate between multiple presses of a key, and the key being held down continuously (auto-repeating). This, coupled with a slightly slow auto-repeat rate means that the timing of the received signal has to be used to determine what is happening when multiple keypresses are received, and this can result in apparently erratic behaviour, e.g. when using rapid pressing of the up/down keys for navigating a menu etc.

Next choice was the NTL Blue remote, used on the Pace 4001 box. This uses the standard RC-5 protocol, and has a sufficiently similar key layout. However I then discovered that the dual IRDA/RC5 compatability of the 4000 series boxes would cause major problems if this box sees both RC5 and IRDA commands. I also found that some of the blue remote commands clash with one of my Philips VCRs.

By this time I’d received a lot of interest to some forum posts I’d written about the possibility of producing this product, and most of this was from users of high-end learning/programmable remotes such as the Philips Pronto. This led me to conclude that availability of a cheap remote for use with Red-Eye is probably less important than the ability to work with all of the Pace boxes without problems. Although the blue remote would have been be a fairly good solution for 1000 and 2000 boxes, the problems with the 4000 box could have caused a lot of confusion. Also, there is the possibility that owners of 1000/2000 boxes might have them replaced by their cable provider with 4000s at some time in the future.

So the decision was made to look for yet another remote. The ‘best fit’ I found, in terms of number of keys, was the one for the Philips DTX6370/DTX3671 OnDigital/Freeview digital terrestrial receiver. Although this receiver is obsolete, it is still supported by at least two third-party remotes, and uses the standard RC6 control protocol, making it very easy to configure the Pronto. See the Supported remotes page for sources of suitable remotes

When NTL have released its two new remotes, which unify the button functions on its two STB types, Red-Eye Mark II was modified to also understand the codes from the NTL blue RC5 remote and  translate them to the corresponding IRDA (black) remote key. This means that the user can have remotes that look the same, with the same key functions whether or not Red-Eye is being used.
This feature can at present only be used with 1000,1010 and 2000 series STBs, as the dual IRDA/RC5 compatibility of the 4000 box is likely to cause problems if it sees both RC5 and IRDA codes.