Starting out

The problem

So, you have a Telstra T-Box and then you churned to another ISP, or perhaps you decided tor give your T-Box to a friend or family member who doesn’t have a ‘net connection. That’s when you found out just tied to Telstra that box is. Suddenly, the EPG is only showing what’s on now and what’s next, you can’t access your own local media any more and so on.

Or perhaps you are still with Telstra, but want some functionality that the T-Box can do, but Telstra doesn’t allow for – stuff like adding your own IPTV channels.

In short, you like the T-Box firmware you just hate the restrictions Telstra has included. What to do?

The External Hack

Because like most network connected smart appliances, the T-Box runs a version of Linux, several people have attempted to gain access to a shell on the T-Box. First attempts were fairly simple – nmap to look for open ports etc. Unfortunately, this appears to be in vain – you can get a SSH connection to it, but only if you have the correct X.509 certificate. Not surprisingly, you can’t get this from Telstra and while it’s theoretically possible to “crack” or “fake” such a certificate, no-one seems to have tried this approach yet. Nor will I attempt this myself, although if you have the knowledge, skills, time and CPU to do this, I would certainly like to hear from you!

The Internal Hack

Next step is to physically disassemble the T-Box and look for serial connections that might be the console – sure, we might still need to run a password brute force attack to get the root password, but it gives us a chance, right? Unfortunately, this option appears to have been thought of too – while you can find what appears to be a console serial port and it even shows some basic boot-up information, it’s rather quickly disabled in the boot process, and there is no getty running on it, so no login is possible. Sigh.

The End, then?

It might seem that the above means all hope is lost and you are stuck. But does it? What else could we possibly do? Well, the T-Box is quite “chatty” over it’s network connection. It downloads Telstra’s tailored EPG, it lets you view a limited number of Video on Demand services (all Telstra ones, of course), it lets you download movies and TV shows on a rental basis amongst other things. These converstions do not, for the most part appear to be encrypted. Even better, they appear to be standards based – XML and other such standards and protocols are employed. The door, then, is ajar. We may not be able to modify the T-Box itself, but we can lie to it over the network.

My history with the T-Box

I had one of these early on, and actually created such a system to allow local media injection into the Video-on-Demand menu – this was prior to Telstra putting the “My Media” option in place.

After several dead T-Boxes (I think the power supplies blew up) over several months, I had a dummy spit and told Telstra they could cancel the service. Now, several PVR’s and media players later, I have caved in and purchased a second hand T-Box outright from EBay – frankly, the user interface is intuitively simple, the box works well etc. So, back to the grindstone with new the firmware…

I already have published the VoD injector scripts at lie2tbox.weebly.com – over the next few weeks, I’ll be moving that here. Over the next months (at least!) I’ll also be documenting my attempts to inject EPG info, IPTV channels and so on.

If you use this and have any comments or suggestions, or if you would like to help create this system, please do let me know!

That’s all for now.

Update:

My TBox hasn’t arrived yet, and life grows ever busier, but still we will get there…

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21 thoughts on “Starting out

  1. Whilst I’m a happy Telstra customer, it would be nice to make more use of this box.
    The holy grail would be plex or xbmc/kodi, but if injecting channels is a possibility then even adding some other channels (netflix?) would be great. I’ve got a couple boxes, so will try to follow this.
    Good luck!

    Like

    • Thanks Simon.
      Still not sure exactly what can be done – I am hoping I can add “IPTV” streams from a local DNLA server and have them appear as normal channels. May even be able to migrate the whole thing to a Raspberry Pi once stable & working.

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  2. Recently moved from Australia to South America and brought down my tbox with me. I have been trying to make it work but it doesn’t turn on at all. The white light keeps blinking and flashes when I press the ON button on the remote but nothing else happens. From what I’ve seen in telstra’s crowd support pages, it is possible that the internal HDD got damaged. Since I’m more than 10,000 kms away from Australia, and since I’m no longer a telstra customer the only choice I have is to fix it myself. Would it be possible to remove the hard drive, connect it to my computer and run a disk checkup? or what about replacing the hard drive for a new one with XBMC or Netgem’s generic OS pre installed?

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    • The good news is that it does sound like the HDD got damaged – this is pretty much the only part that is vulnerable to G shocks from transport. The bad news is that replacing the HDD, while possible, doesn’t allow you to up/down grade – the OS is not stored on the HDD, it’s stored on internal flash. You can google “TBox HDD” and find youtube videos of HDD removal – essentially, you’ll need to remove the four case screws, then the screws holding the HDD to the case. Easy enough to do, but as above, you can’t change the firmware this way.
      If you want to check the HDD, you should be aware that the partitions are Linux partitions – there are 2. One is labelled as swap space, but is actually EXT2/3 filesystem and holds your downloads and time shift data. The other is correctly labelled as EXT2/3 and holds your recordings – in very small chunks. You would need to re-assemble the VOB files into a single piece. Although I haven’t checked, as I understand it there are also some XML files describing the files – meta-data like channel, time etc and VOB file lists.
      I don’t have the info to hand, but it is possible to enter a 4 digit code after a 3-flash reset that forces the TBox into a diagnostic mode. They asked me to do this when I first contacted them about mine, however it never got past the splash screen, so even if you knew the code, it may not help in this case.
      You could try holding down the reset button (bottom side) until the from light flashes 3 times – this is the “factory reset” option. If that doesn’t help, I’d try removing the HDD and seeing if it boots up – if so, a replacement HDD can be had on ebay for less than $100 (depends on size – the earlier 320GB ones go for about A$40 last I looked).

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  3. Hi,
    I am a like minded technical user in need of some help with my TBox
    I have a working TBox but it has not been updated in quiet a while because of this Tbox is not able to register in Telstra and hence it does not show a program guide or any other Tbox related function.
    I was wondering if you could help me force update my Tbox or if you have a copy of latest Firmware and could send me one.
    As Telstra have stopped supporting them completely I am stuck with a Tbox which works but does not show me a EPG or anything.
    Thanks,
    Bhavin
    Email: Bhavinn82@gmail.com

    Like

    • Hi,

      Sorry, I don’t have any new firmware for you.
      I also haven’t progressed this any further – I have changed ISP to iinet thanks to Telstra breaking their customer service agreement with me. Essentially, it looks like the local NBN install of FTTN trashed my cable, the kept broke their agreed on repair date (which was already 4 weeks from report date!) and then kept pushing the repair time out by 48 hours. They’d tell me it was fixed, I would tell them no it’s not, rinse and repeat. Hopeless.
      Went to iinet, told them no service, they sent a tech out within agreed upon time (3 days), discovered not an issue in the premises ( I knew that, but that have to check), then bumped it to Telstra network, who fixed it 10 days later.
      Very happy with iinet, can’t recommend them enough – call them, they will call you back and actually do it within the time they automated system says they will and you will talk to local people who can deal with issues not listed in their chat sheet!

      Anyway, bottom line is this: I am now stuck with a cripled TBox myself – no 7 day EPG, no series record etc.
      I have a friend who has a Telstra ADSL conenction and need to organise a date/time with him when I can go over with the T-Box, register it on his account and get it to download EPG etc, all the while capturing the traffic. Then analyse traffic and hopefully be able to “fake” a registration and EPG /IP channel server info.

      Like

  4. I have the new 2nd version of Tbox the one with long remote.
    hopefully i can get some clues to update the firmware as I am still with Telstra I can register it then

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  5. I have 2 Telstra T boxes purchased a couple years ago to replace my failing Tivos.
    Very impressed and decided to buy a further 3 T boxes for future use.
    So last week I connected a new one in our holiday ( another Tivo died) and found I couldn’t get the usual eg epg, bigpond movies, catch up etc!
    Rang Telstra support who tell me that because the t boxes have never been connected to the internet that the Firmare can not be updated as it’s No longer supported or sold!!!!
    So I have 2 New glorified set top boxes ready to be Binns! !!
    Any suggestions? ???
    Very annoyed T Box supporter.

    Like

    • Yes that’s what prompted my contacting Telstra support.
      As I said before. ..by not having the t box not ever being connected to the internet us why the t box can’t update etc 😦

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      • Ok. Apparently you should still be able to register it against your BigPond account, so if that isn’t working it will probably require some tech help. Will post back if I can find someone to help you.

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      • Yes it is registered against my account double helped by telstra tech support which is when i found out my problem not being to update as it was never connected to net…. someone else said to try and getfirmware code off the t box, then search for it on the Internet and then transfer across somehow to t box with blowing/frying something up!
        Not real keen when I heard the words blowing up!

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      • Yes correct…. someone else said to try and getfirmware code off the t box, then search for it on the Internet and then transfer across somehow to t box with blowing/frying something up!
        Not real keen when I heard the words blowing up!

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  6. Ok, haven’t heard of anyone transferring firmware between boxes, but if you have it linked to your account, they usually update automatically. You can press a (forget colour) button when viewing the firmware under settings to get it to check for an update. What version is it running now?
    Assume your internet connectivity test on the T-Box is otherwise ok?

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    • Update!!!
      From Tesltra Crowd Support post found if I put the Box in Sleep Mode….
      I just did the Sleep Mode, waited and turned back on and in Connection Status are All Green ticks for Router, Internet, Bigpond!!!
      I’ve re scanned the channels. When I go into T Box Information: showing that the Software Version is still 5.3.01-124 (09-Oct-2012

      Like

  7. i just went to check internet and says that connected via a wi fi but but unable to connection to internet.
    So i connected with ethernet cable and again says again connected via ethernet but unable
    to connection to internet. Why?
    Modem is working fine as all my other devices connected are working.

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  8. Glad to hear connectivity is up now. Did you hit the colour button to manually check firmware?
    Also, any of the IP channels work for you? And guide etc?

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    • I’m a 64 yr old grandmother of 7 and I have to laugh now otherwise I’ll cry!
      The T Boxes are brand new and are/were sealed.
      No EPG etc when I do select EPG or Bigpond Movies it says that I need to register and connect to the Internet and yet in the other part of settings ie Connection etc it’s ok! Double checked online and yes I’m registered!
      Maybe Telstra support was right in saying…Bad Luck 😦

      Like

    • Yes that was the first thing I did after plugging in, setting up the T Box etc. even after I Registered the T Box on Line ie:
      Wilbo Office – Registration Code G67JF69B8 – MAC 000430675F69. it still said where you go into Bigpond Movies, EPG, ” To access this feature, your T Box must be Registered and connected to an eligible Bigpond Broadband service “.
      Then if I go to the – Connection Status says – Your T Box is now successfully connected to the internet through your Bigpond account
      Media Stream Quality: High
      Green against Router, Internet, Bigpond.

      Like

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