NEWS AND VIEWS                     
March 2, 2006 update

Mike and Laurel Kohl
S-9141 State Highway 23
Plain, Wisconsin   53577-9612



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March 2, 2006

Another month, another winter almost over.  This column is dedicated to a friend of 20 years that succumbed to cancer about 24 hours ago.  Although he was never directly involved in the home satellite industry, my friend was instrumental in shaping my career.  John Guerrero was his name, and he was a very eccentric engineer that I ran into at a hospitality suite during an SBCA show in Las Vegas in early 1986.  Another friend was offering food and drinks as an enticement to get new customers, and John started hanging around with me, to avoid the sales pitches for satellite equipment.  He was just there for the free food and drinks.  John convinced me to take a December visit to California, and acted as matchmaker for a match that did not work out.  I ended up driving down to his mother's house in Sunnyvale, and had Christmas Dinner.  The next couple of weeks were a long road trip, that ended up in Santa Barbara.  We even met Ted Turner at a roadside store south of Monterey, on a remote stretch of California Highway 1.  No idea who this person was, pacing back and forth, impatiently waiting for his deli order to be finished.  John and I were simply fascinated just watching him keep checking every 2 minutes or so, hoping his order was ready, while seeing from our vantage point that it might have been a good idea for him to allow a few minutes for the poor clerk to weigh and package the food---then it might be possible to get a total.  When all was finished, he spent over 250 dollars on booze, sandwiches, and snacks for his road trip.

John had a great idea to get the man's attention.  He had shown me a Russian Army belt buckle at Christmas dinner, given to him by some guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan, who liberated it after a skirmish with a Russian soldier.  A similar Russian belt buckle adorned the person across the deli, and John knew that we would not be ignored if he started a conversation with "Say Mike, it isn't often you see a Russian Army belt buckle in these parts, is it?"  The man could not ignore his loud comment and walked over.  He asked John how he knew about these belt buckles, and John's reply was non-chalant;  "I've got one just like it".  Response: "Where did you get it?"  Answer:  "Afghanistan".  Question:  "What were you doing there?"  Answer:  "I was putting in a satellite dish"  (John had commissioned a system in Pakistan, and his unofficial side trip to Afghanistan was another story altogether.  No reason to let the man know the entire story.)  Next response was "Satellite dish...I'm in the satellite business name is Ted Turner".  We introduced ourselves, and left shortly thereafter.  Mr. Turner to a grand opening of one of his new cable services for Cox Cable in Santa Barbara, and us...taking a leisurely drive down the coast to the same neighborhood.  John simply had a way of attracting strange and unusual situations, and was literally a magnet for the unbelievable.  He had lots of war stories, and imparted his worldly wisdom to me in generous doses.  We had a common background, having spent a number of years in Alaska, and I would like to think that we both benefited equally from our conversations.  I think that I got more out of it, but it really did not matter.  

When I moved down from Alaska about 2 months later, John was there to add to the atmosphere, and was instrumental in tossing information at me while we accomplished a diverse number of commercial projects while based in Southern California.  He remained a fountain of information and inspiration until yesterday, when his words (borrowed from someone famous) finally caught up with him "if I would have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken care of myself years ago".  He made it into his 70s...and had a rich life.  Too short, but I enjoyed his company while he was here.

The catalog has been updated, and we are almost gushing with excitement about a new MPEG-2 satellite receiver.  That does not happen very often, but when faced with adversity, you put on your thinking cap and look for other avenues and opportunities.  The quest was to find an MPEG-2 receiver that could be sold in case lot (5 unit) quantities for 100 dollars or less each, that performed a decent blind scan function and had all of the menu features that we have come to expect from Pansat and other vendors at the pricier end of the spectrum.  I have been playing with the Traxis DBS-3500 since Monday afternoon, and while it took some getting used to, I absolutely love the performance and features that it has.  Blind scan that is several times faster than anything else that I have ever seen.  Picture quality that is second to none.  Sensitivity on weak signals that allows the receiver to stay locked on to those pictures until the last bit of signal has disappeared.  4000 channel memory.  100 satellite capacity.  ZOOM function...strange, but it allows you to blow up an image up to 16 X its normal size on the TV screen, using the remote control.  Multiple Pictures display, which allows one to tune in the existing signal, and have the next eight channels in the satellite memory displayed in a grid of nine pictures (3 x 3), in static format.  This was kind of interesting after I had fine tuned the channel memory on Galaxy 10R so that all Retro TV Network channels were in order consecutively---this allowed me to see minute differences in broadcast time, showing all three time zone feeds, as well as local commercials.  Kind of a video spreadsheet.  I am certain that my imagination will find other uses for this feature.  The beauty of it is that you can hook up a 4x1 DiSEqC switch, and have some of those 9 channels on different satellites.  The circuit sort of takes a video "snapshot", tuning each channel in rapid succession using the switching logic, and storing the video image.  Very useful if you had a number of antennas and multiswitches, which were able to access wild feeds, and you wanted to push a button every few minutes to quickly view coverage from different sources.  The receiver also allows up to 8 timer events, and has a parental lock function.  For the month of March, anyone that mentions this column can purchase the DBS-3500 receiver in single quantities at the caselot price of 99.00 each plus shipping.  A reward for reading News & Views.

In other news, some of us watched the Olympics, and some us actually enjoyed the Olympics during their February run in Italy.  It depended greatly upon where you got your coverage.  I was actually hoping that NBC would do a good job, but must have been dreaming.  Those that make programming decisions must be complete idiots, because they did not appear to have a clue why their ratings were in the cellar.  Next time, study what other broadcasters around the world are doing.  Hire some professional announcers, and concentrate on international athletes;  not moaning about the failures and disappointments of our own.  Live coverage during the daytime hours would allow more sports to be adequately covered.  Choose some more sports...other than the marquee events that you imagine will get good prime time ratings.  NBC's overall performance was quite bad, and until executives look at how other countries successfully cover these and similar events, those ratings are not going to improve.

It's only the first week of March as this is written, but if any of you are considering the next satellite industry trade show, hurry up and register.  Details can be found at the show website:
The show itself is open for business Thursday-Saturday, April 20-22, 2006.  There are a number of educational seminars (some require payment of a fee, some are at no charge) earlier in the week, and Mike will be leading a 3-hour seminar at the Antenna Farm on both Thursday and Friday.  Hope you will be there.  When not playing with antennas, I can also be reached at the Volunteer Satellite booth, very close to the front entrance.  We will again probably have the only working C-band display, and will also work with producing a multi-dish, multifeed array, in which the new Traxis DBS-3500 MPEG-2 receiver should prominently figure.

Until we are April Fools,