NEWS AND VIEWS                     
May 3, 2006 update

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



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May 3, 2006

Setting up before the "Show"
Making HISPASAT play under VERY improvised setup

The show is over, the pictures have been taken, and the bills are coming in.  SATELLITE EXPO 2006 is now a memory....a pretty good one at that.  The highlight of the show was the opportunity and privilege of spending several hours discussing everything satellite related, and much more, with Bob Cooper.  If you don't know about Coop, I will have to brand you as a very recent convert to satellite technology.  Robert B. Cooper is one of the reasons that we are all enjoying satellite reception today.  While the title of "father" of the satellite industry, for the distinction of envisioning the geostationary satellite arc in a 1945 magazine article, is attributed to Arthur C. Clarke, Bob Cooper would have to rate at least a position as a "Dutch uncle".  Coop was in the right place at the right time several times in history, to become the driving force in several different communications industries.  From building monstrous off-air antennas for the neighbors, as an entrepreneurial young man in upstate New York in the 1950s, to a major fixture in the early cable television industry.  A promoter of out of market football reception in blacked out major league television markets.  One of the principals behind CADCO, a pioneer cable television equipment supplier.  The author of a 1978 article in TV Guide, which unlocked the secrets of C-band satellite reception, and promoting this new industry from its birth to its near destruction after scrambling hit in 1986.  Organizer of the first and largest satellite industry trade shows.  Publisher of many magazines and other media relating to satellite and other television and radio reception.  A ham radio operator.  If he sounds like an interesting person, you now have the chance to read his life story---at least a biography of his first 67 years.  Go to and read about his publications.  Buy his new book, which covers all of the above things that are mentioned above, and many more previously untold secrets about the history of this unique industry.  At 930 pages, it's a very good read, and is only 29.95 postpaid for a hard cover copy.  The title is Television's Pirates: Hiding Behind Your Picture Tube.  Anyone that has benefited from satellite technology owes a debt of gratitude to Bob Cooper, so buy the book if only as a small gesture of appreciation for his contributions to satellite reception.  You will not be disappointed;  it took a week of spare time speed reading for me to finish, and I could not put it down.

That was not a commercial.  It was an endorsement of one of the best books that I have read in many years.  Anyone care to hear about my journey to the Atlanta EXPO?  My worst luck of the week was already history by 11AM on Tuesday, April, 23rd.  My overworked 1994 Ford Taurus wagon was showing signs of its 300,000 mile life.  After driving 20 miles from home and refueling for the real journey, I noticed an excess of antifreeze dripping from the radiator.  No signs of overheating, but nothing one should ignore when pulling a trailer for another 900+ miles in a day and a half.  2 hours and nearly 400 dollars later, a new radiator was in place, and the vehicle ran like clockwork for the rest of the trip.  Smooth running gave me time to think about trivia such as aerodynamics and gas mileage.  Such as why a trailer with just over 100 pounds of load and getting 13 to 15 miles per gallon of gas would suddenly increase 4 to 5 MPG after adding over 400 pounds of antenna, cable spools and other gear, and THEN driving between Nashville and Atlanta up a California style mountain grade without hesitation?  There's a "hill" on Interstate 24 just west of Chattanooga, which has an eastbound 6% downgrade for 5 miles.  Uphill is no picnic either, but I had ZERO problems!  Back to the fuel mileage question, which has baffled me for several years, with various heights of boxes (some a foot taller than the vehicle) sometimes improving the mileage, but with no apparent pattern.  The answer is in the almost perfect balancing of my trailer, and how much weight is in front of or behind the center of gravity.  Lots of tongue weight = very poor mileage.  Throw at least 200 pounds of anything behind the wheels and the trailer is almost as light as a feather.  Push it too far, and it could flip over backwards;  disconnecting from the trailer hitch.  With gasoline approaching 3 dollars a gallon, a better understanding of mileage dynamics is quite useful information.  The conclusion is that tongue weight trumps aerodynamics of the load 99 times out of 100.  So if there is 200 pounds of excess weight in the car, throw it on back of the trailer---weather and common sense permitting.

A new lesson in long distance travel.  Get there a day or two early, to overcome Murphy's Law.  I drove into Atlanta late on the same afternoon that the airport was shut down because of one misplaced piece of unclaimed luggage.  That incident snarled traffic for hours, and had major repercussions for anyone flying in that afternoon or evening.  It was after 6 PM when I arrived on Expo grounds, and to my surprise, just about everyone was gone.  A free party sponsored by DirecTV had grabbed the attention of most people, and others had simply left after a long day.  It would be morning before I found out for certain that we would have no live feed to the booth at Volunteer Satellite.  Getting there even at mid-afternoon might have avoided that problem, but once carpets are being taped down, that's it.  I was prepared to spend all night Wednesday into Thursday morning setting up an outdoor display, but that was a risky venture considering that nobody was available to confirm my ability to set antennas in various locations.  A preliminary survey of the "planned " location showed that the convention center building blocked the eastern sky by as much as 35 degrees in elevation.  Acceptable for southerly and southwest pointed antennas, but not good for someone wanting to view satellites over the Atlantic Ocean.   

I was at Lowe's before 7AM Thursday morning, getting cement blocks and other supplies to put up the outdoor display.  By mid-morning it was confirmed that the only live display would be one that I did outdoors with a live audience, so I went to work conjuring something up.  Tim from DMS International had warned me in advance about the serious sunburn possibilities, but I was too busy dealing with setup---and there was a high overcast and no direct intense sunlight in my face for most of the morning.  Silly me.  Short sleeves, no hat, and no sunscreen.
It didn't really become apparent until early afternoon, when the sunlight was in serious competition as I attempted to view meters and TV screens.  Look at the pictures above, in which I wore a long-sleeved shirt on Friday to avoid any more burning of the arms.  The face was another story.
What to display.  It started out with a temporary mount about 80 feet west of the other displays, which allowed me to use the 10-foot SAMI antenna down past the 37.5 West satellite AMC-12.  Since we ended up with a less than stable, not necessarily vertical mounting pipe, I decided that motorized operation was more trouble than it was worth.  A dielectric plate inserted into a C-band LNBF for reception of NSS-806 at 40.5 West did not give me impressive results, so I settled on parking the dish on Intelsat 805, for reception of linear signals at 55.5 West.  It made more sense to use the spectrum analyzer and preprogrammed receiver to manually "wrench" it to other satellites on an as-needed basis.  It was getting bright, and after noon, when the next display was set up to get HISPASAT from 30 east.  I took a modified 75-cm PRIMESTAR dish, turned it upside down to allow reception of lower satellite elevation angles, and confirmed that right next to the 10-foot C-band system would not work, at least not at ground level.  Hillbilly technology to the rescue!  Tracy Wood assisted me in throwing up a temporary mount on top of a couple of braces on the trailer, and I weighted it down with three 20-pound patio blocks.  In a few minutes, there was success.  Bob Cooper was on his second visit of the day, and we were immediately able to show him the significance of having HISPASAT reception in an unconventional way.  Live TV from Spain, with a number of radio and television channels from Cuba, and a few more from South America.  Given Bob's history in the Caribbean, I could tell he was pleased to see all of that output from Havana, and on such a simple setup.  It was decided that any official demonstration on Thursday would be a bad idea, and I still had more dishes to think about installing.  How many more was a good question.  If the goal was "international", IA-5 Ku-band at 97 West was the next obvious candidate.  I chose a PATRIOT 85-E elliptical (30 x 36 inch) antenna, and eventually found the correct signal, which eluded me for nearly 20 minutes, despite side-by-side analyzer and preprogrammed TRAXIS DBS-3500 satellite receiver to confirm satellite by satellite.  It did not help that the sun was really becoming annoying to the eyes, but I eventually locked on to the proper signals.  A discussion came up about some other installers having major concerns about use of 76 cm round offset dishes on this satellite in Atlanta.  The horizontal polarity is significantly weaker than the vertical, and many of those antennas simply could not receive the 11836 MHz transponder (loaded with Iranian signals).  This explained why I seemed to be skipping over things the first two or three passes, but I eventually found what I was looking for, and fine tuned it for flawless reception.

As long as it took to perfect IA-5, I wondered if it would be worth the trouble to put up another dish for Galaxy 10R in order to get its variety of UNIVISION and other Spanish services.  My gut feeling was that another two hours might be involved;  my eyes and face had been severely burned by the sun, and the weather report for the evening did not look good.  So it made sense to put the tools away, unplug the TV and other equipment, and disconnect the trailer from the car---unless I wanted to haul around a dish on blocks!  True to form, extremely heavy thunderstorms hit at mid-evening, forcing all activity indoors. 

I slept in Friday morning---until about 8 AM.  Had breakfast and dashed to the convention center.  Talked with the front desk, and they supplied a wall board, tripod and some marking pens so that I could make a homemade sign announcing our "class", from 10 AM to 1 PM.  Things were working to my satisfaction by 9:30, and people began to straggle in---in small groups.  Best for individual teaching, but even after staying outside at the display until 2 PM, a total of between 40 and 50 people was the best that we could do.  Some great folks showed up, and we all learning things from each other about various facets of satellite reception.  I am thankful for that, but considering the effort and expense at getting to Atlanta, the response in numbers was underwhelming.  If I repeat such a teaching exercise in the future, one requirement will be much more advance publicity and coordination.  A new show will be happening again next April in Atlanta, so hopefully things can be worked out.

Special credit to DMS International and Satellite Guys.US, for taking my picture numerous times at the show.  Their photographic abilities are displayed above, and my sincere thanks to all for catching that glow in my cheeks.  Despite the inability to have a working indoor display, and other logistic difficulties, I was pleased to be present in Atlanta.  Numerous faces from the past said "hi", and I made a few new friends.  

What else is new?  The Traxis DBS-3500 receivers have been delayed in the arrival of a new shipment---hopefully the third week of May, or shortly thereafter.  Contact us to get on a list for the next group, and we can customize the memory on your receiver by cloning it from our master unit before shipping.

Check out the BARGAINS section.  We now have what looks to be the last of the true "Bargains" on 10-foot mesh antennas.  With SAMI's least costly 10-footer going out the door at 650 dollars plus freight, you might want to consider one of the four PERFECT TEN 10-foot sectional antennas that we are offering for 400.00 each.  Pickup at our Plain, Wisconsin location, by appointment only.  Unused, in the original cardboard packaging.

Need a weather cover for your C-band antenna?  Pictured in BARGAINS is a collection of about 150 covers.  Fifteen are brand new SAMI units, with feedhorn donut and four retainer plugs.  The remainder require cable ties to secure, bearing the names SEARS, RADIO SHACK, or unmarked.  Get a few for a laugh!

Anyone interested in acquiring a 1.8 meter commercial offset dish from which to build a multifeed Ku/DBS platform of LNBFs?  If you have the ability to travel to Plain, Wisconsin, to pick them up (trailer or flatbed suggested), we are now investigating a source in the region.  IF enough inquiries justify it, we will bring in a few for your pickup, at a cost of under 200 dollars an antenna.  Price a new one, even without the freight, and ask whether or not that is a bargain.  Contact GLOBAL to get on the list of interested customers.

Still another area we are investigating is wireless Internet reception.  If you have a wireless router and wish to expand coverage a few hundred feet to a thousand feet and more, grid as well as parabolic antennas with appropriate feedhorns are available.  Let us know your requirements, and we may add those items to our offerings.

Until JUNE,