NEWS AND VIEWS
               March 8, 2007

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



March 8, 2007

Spring is coming in a few days, if it would quit snowing!  20 inches in a 2-1/2 day dumping to welcome the month of March a few days before it arrived was a quite unexpected if not unusual event for these parts of Wisconsin.  I've probably seen two months in the 15 years that I have lived here that have produced as much snow, and it's always inconvenient.  We really cannot complain, because snow really did not stick to the ground until the middle of January, and it's now about 7 weeks later, with warmer weather in sight.

A new host has stepped up to the plate to fill Dean Spratt's former schedule on the WOKIE radio network on Thursday nights (but not Dean's shoes).  Steve Wolf now runs a show, based from his home in Nashville, and we have had the pleasure of being on the air with him going on almost a month at this writing.  It may not be the same as Dean, but Steve is a good host, and we look forward to many shows in coming months (although some weeks may be missed when I return to Siberia once it warms up a bit over there).   Our first interruption will likely be the satellite show in Atlanta starting on April 18th.  It's looking to be one of those once-in-a lifetime events, with the ability to collect a cast of characters past and present from the satellite industry that will never be repeated again.

We attempted to install a new business computer at the end of January, which drove us crazy for the entire month of February.  And gave me a very negative outlook about Microsoft and XP at first.  When all was said and done, a brand new machine had a hidden defect in the form of a bad memory chip.  At first it appeared that files would disappear, and passwords would not be retained for access to certain websites in its memory.  Then it literally spent half of its time questioning itself and the rest of the world whenever it was powered on.  Constantly shutting itself down to correct and report another error to its evil creators in the state of Washington.  Right now, less than a week after restoring service, it seems very strange not to have this creature taking off on its own to accomplish nothing use, and report back to Microsoft.  But I'm not complaining!  It is just going to take many hours to even halfway restore what I had in the previous incarnation, which worked fine.  The straw that broke the camel's back was that United Parcel Service had a new program that would not work on my Windows 98 computer.  Nothing wrong with my computer, but they were forcing me kicking and screaming into the age of XP.  Once I got XP, Vista came out a few days later, and I am probably grateful that I did not go for it.  XP's compulsion for verification of everything resembles the East German Stasi, or secret police, and I cannot imagine having a computer that is even more insane.  Funny coincidences happened to make my life confusing during this one month of hell.  UPS released their version 9.0 software for shipping, and overnighted it to me.  I had just installed 8.0, and was starting to have problems with it and the computer;  not knowing which to blame for problems.  A call to UPS Tech Support informed me that it would be a good idea NOT to install the newly arrived version 9.0, because they had a bunch of problems with it.  Advised me to wipe the computer clean and re-install 8.0.  Someday they will send a replacement for 9.0, but I don't care at this time.  The same weekend this was happening, my ISP rearranged some servers, and did not tell me about it, even though that moving event made it impossible to do updates on my website.  I was cursing them, as well as my computer, and with no knowledge at that point that the computer was losing its mind, was quite irritated that this monkey wrench was thrown at this time.  Next victim in the interaction of the rogue computer memory was an external hard drive, on which I had a bunch of digital music.  Wiped out, corrupted and made unreadable by the constant confusion from the new computer needing to turn itself on and off, automatically or manually.  Last weekend was the last straw, so we decided to give the new machine a complete lobotomy, emptying its contents and starting over.  That's when the memory problem was found and parts replaced.  It's amazing how well this computer works now, without those constant interruptions, and we are slowly on our way to putting programs and data back into the revived computer.  Another excuse for taking this long to do a website update.  

The snow has caused major disruption of the satellite antenna farm.  First casualty always being the 2-way Satellite Internet antenna needing to be swept off.  The dishes on top of the tower have been inaccessable, and as snow falls off of them, as well as the wooden deck surface of the tower, the pointing of the antennas is tending to equalize.  Translation:  lots of snow causes wooden supports to shift slightly, making for no reception on the Ku-band signals from HISPASAT.  It's working OK now, and I have a channel update on top of my to-do list for the Atlantic satellite region.  Before the snow, in early February, HISPASAT brought us a treat one weekend evening.  Elected but not installed President Al Gore, and his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" appeared on Cuban television.  Original English language audio, with Spanish subtitles.  I got a chuckle when it was very apparent that the Cuban censors had forgotten to remove or change the section of the movie that mentioned the fall of Communism.  Many of the locals in Havana do speak English, and one can just imagine the smiles on their faces after this gaffe happened.

One tip for you bargain hunters.  Get over to Wal-Mart, Target, and any other stores that still carry small TV sets.  As of March 1st, nobody in retail is allowed to import any more analog televisions larger than 13 inches.  They can still sell the stock in inventory, but if you need an extra set for a bedroom, or to monitor a VCR or DVD player, the next few weeks are certain to have some bargains as retailers try to blow these out at low prices.  The effect of this law is that if a television has an analog tuner, it will also have to include a digital tuner from now on.  What the law does not cover is whether future TV sets will have analog tuners at all.  This is a loophole that appears to see new sets with digital only.  Analog is not going away in the home.  Broadcast stations will no longer be allowed to transmit in analog after early 2009, under current rules.  This does not change the fact that existing cable TV and satellite hookups, VCRs, DVD players, etc., may still use all of these analog channels to deliver a picture.  Converter boxes of all types are in our future, so if you have old equipment that needs an analog TV tuner to see a picture, better rush out and get one of these soon to be antique NTSC sets before they disappear.  The reason I mentioned WalMart and Target is that a visit to either of their superstores here in the Midwest shows oodles of TV sets in stock.  Go over to Sam's Club, which is the wholesale arm of Wal-Mart, and since December, all portable standalone TV sets have vanished.  They would like to sell you an HDTV monitor or television instead, or maybe a digital-only TV.  It's a trend that will accelerate in coming months, so follow my advice if you need a cheap basic analog television!

Picture of the month;  Me being crazy in KIEV, UKRAINE, back in 1993.  A 16-foot ORBITRON mesh antenna was installed on top of an elevator shaft, about four stories above the ground.  No way to get to the feedhorn for fine tuning, without improvising.  Note the ladder under me, on top of a restaurant table, propped up over something else, and my helpers keeping it stable while I tweaked a signal on ASTRA.  Another reason to be over 50 and not quite as stupid as in my younger days.  I'm getting too old for some of this crap!

Until next time,