NEWS AND VIEWS
          January 16, 2008

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



January 16, 2008

It is still winter around here, and looks like it will stay around for a few months.  Cumulative snowfall since December 1st is approaching three feet (not an all-time record, but close), and despite a thaw that spawned a rare F3 tornado (in January) some 100 miles southeast of here...we've still got over a foot on the ground.  Not the best conditions for working out-of-doors, unless you are trying to analyze what to do better next time.

When you have a tower like ours, there really is no preplanning that really works to keep the snow accumulating from antennas in hard to reach places high off the ground.  Pray for some sunny days and do the best you can within reach of the ground.  Much has been written in recent weeks by novice dish owners asking for advice on how to keep their antennas free of snow and ice.  For the sake of a simple explanation, this discussion will be limited to solid offset dishes used for Ku-band or DBS reception.  They have several advantages over their center-feed prime focus cousins besides being a fraction of the size.  Solid and relatively smooth surface means that one can easily apply things that will make the snow stick less, and the fact that the average offset dish is facing about 22 degrees more vertical than the actual satellite gives them a more vertical pitch that encourages snow to fall off sooner.  Some of the preparations that could be done on the antenna surface are best done in temperatures near or above freezing (32 F),  You might consider applying a coat of Rain-X, which is used on automotive windshields to keep rain from accumulating.  Or try ski wax or automotive wax....both of which are best done in warmer weather.  All of these ideas are meant to make the antenna surface slicker so that snow wants to fall off quickly.  There is also the old standby called Pam, which is a non stick spray used for cooking.  As an ex Alaskan, I take a dim view of putting any food substance onto a satellite dish which might cause animals to visit.  Here in Wisconsin that might mean a raccoon hanging from the feed support and bending it out of shape.  In Alaska there are bigger critters such as bears and moose that really have no useful purpose being near your antenna.  I still laugh when I think of one Alaskan that I did a service call for back in the mid 80s.  He had a Janeil Darkstar 12-foot dish, which had a lot of plastic parts and was solid black.  It looked great with the orange Halloween themed ribbons this person decorated the antenna with in an attempt to scare the moose away from being too curious.

A slick antenna surface may not be enough to keep things from accumulating, so enter a product that SKYVISION developed many years ago, and has just refined.  It's called an ICE ZAPPER, and consists of a heating element that resembles a hot pad, which sticks to the back side of solid antennas up to 4 feet in diameter.  Theory is that the thermostat will shut off when the snow has melted, much like a heat tape on water pipes in cold country.  Some folks in northern California have found that this does not always work perfectly in their local snow conditions, where they recently had a huge snow dumping on multiple occasions (rare for them), with snow falling and continuing to stick for an extended length of time with temperatures above 35 F, approaching the 40-degree mark.  The thermostat was turning things off somewhere in the upper 30s, before the snow was gone.  This normally does not happen in traditionally cold climates like the Midwest and Northeast, but the situation caused a new version of the ICE ZAPPER to be created, minus the thermostat.  This allows you to control the power source remotely, or pull the plug when it is not necessary to heat the antenna.  Available starting this us for details and pricing.

Take a look at the front page of our website for a link to an article that I just wrote in an attempt to explain away some of the myths and confusion presently happening with the digital TV conversion here in the United States.  Or click HERE for a direct link from this page, for some straight talk on the subject.  Just after it was written, DISH Network blew things out of the water with an announcement at the CES show in Las Vegas that they would be selling a digital converter box for a price that more or less equaled that of the federal coupons that will be starting to be distributed after February 18th (next month).  Some of us had hoped that this program might be an opportunity to make some honest fair profit by selling such converters while educating the public about the digital conversion.  It appears to be turning in to a confusing nightmare, and this appears to be an effort by DISH Network to get in to potential customer's homes and sell them something else, after more or less breaking even on the sale of a needed product.  A strange investment considering that they won't be making any monthly revenue from local off-air subscriptions, and it does make them appear to be the "good guys" in view of much of the rest of the retailing landscape that includes predatory sales practices.  These include high pressure sales tactics to scare people into thinking the skies are getting dark soon, and that they absolutely must throw away their existing televisions and buy new HDTV models, because everything is going to HDTV.  Many unwitting consumers took the plunge during Christmas season and bought new TVs, after believing some of these and similar stories.  A rare bright spot in a slow Christmas season, but a black eye on the ethics of unscrupulous sales persons that will say anything to get you to buy something that you probably do not need.  Read the article...we will revise it in a few weeks as new developments happen in the digital conversion.  It is not generally known that these cheap converters do NOT product a High Definition signal--they are simply a cost effective solution that provides standard definition digital signals into existing analog television sets.  If you truly need a source for High Definition off-air signals (to feed an HDTV monitor now or in the future), you might consider what we have been doing for many years...get an HD converter now and feed its standard definition output with RCA patch cables into a monitor, VCR or even a closed circuit modulator to send digital signals around the house.  One can always wait for the price of monitors to drop further, but those digital signals are already on the air, with new multicast standard definition signals from PBS, weather, news and other sources, which greatly increase your choices---and then there are always the HD signals that can also be viewed temporarily in standard definition.  We have two solutions from PANSAT...the T-100 off-air HDTV converter, as well as the 9200-HD high definition satellite receiver and off-air digital tuner.  Check out the website for more details, or drop us a line if you need advice or current pricing.

We are going through the website and updating many things, as well as adding pictures and illustrations as time permits.  A full re-work of our STAR CHOICE channel charts has revealed some interesting news on their HDTV packages.  STAR CHOICE has been very generous when compared to other small dish companies, in not charging for most HDTV channels.  U.S. Network and major Canadian Network TV signals are still provided at no extra charge to even the most basic customers that are equipped with an HD receiver.  Earlier in the year, a 4.99 per month package called HD EXTRA was created, which provided some premium HD channels that now include HD NETWORK, DISCOVERY HD, and A & E HD channels.  A bargain when compared to what American companies are charging, especially when you consider that just about everything else was either at no extra charge for those taking the standard definition version of a channel, or even provided with the basic package.  Now comes the news that Sports HD junkies will have to part with 1.99 per month for the new Sports HD package, that includes French sports channel RDS-HD, ESPN's Canadian outlet called TSN-HD, and the HD version of ROGERS SPORTSNET.  Still a bargain, but those with the 20 dollar a month DIGITAL BASIC PACKAGE (which does not allow anyone to add anything else) have been given a bone in the ability to receive TSN-HD alone for 1.99 per month.  Since TSN's standard definition version comes with the DIGITAL BASIC package, that's a fair arrangement, in my opinion.  Those with packages that actually have no restrictions will get the new "bonus" of these three HD channels for 2 bucks minus a penny.  Probably the beginning of escalating prices, but still fair by any standard!

SUROYO TV has been mentioned in recent columns, and there's more news.  I thought that I was hallucinating at one time when I called this a Turkish channel, and then last month corrected myself after noticing that it was based in Sweden.  Further research finds that while it is a Swedish channel, it is for Arabic and Turkish expatriates in Sweden, and has all three languages at different times.  Otherwise I might find it hard to explain one channel having Swedish Christmas programs and decorations, followed by Arabic or Turkish dancing in a party atmosphere.  The world is indeed getting smaller.

DISH Network gives and also takes away.  Since we were not paying for their 60 or so audio channels, there is little basis for complaint, but the fact remains that their audio channels have been in the clear for free-to-air receiver owners for over 10 years---until last week.  A couple of weeks ago, all but around 20 channels scrambled.  And then late last week everything went away, with the exception of the HAWAIIAN music channel.  If you want music alternatives, drop us an Email...some are still available free of charge, and then there are others available (of higher quality) by subscription.  Let us know and we may have answers for your individual situation.

C-band dish owners with access to the Atlantic part of the arc might enjoy looking at 55.5 and 40.5 west satellites (Intelsat 805 and NSS-806).  A new group of live radio stations has started on 55.5 West, from Quito, Ecuador.  This adds to channels already there from Guatemala City, Lima, Peru, and others.  40.5 West is the new home for DUNA TV from Hungary, once in the clear from Globecast on 97 West Ku-band.  It also has CINEMA +, a Spanish language premium movie channel from Colombia, which had been in the clear on Ku-band HISPASAT (30 W)   There's a good chance that these latter two are only in the clear temporarily, so enjoy while you can.  Study our MPEG-2 channel charts for new offerings, which are increasing in number...and the charts freshly updated this past week.

The WOKIE satellite network is no more, but many satellite radio shows have moved over to a digital audio channel called ACCESS AMERICA, found on Galaxy 25 Ku-band (97 West)  12115 MHz vertical,  22.425 S.R., on an audio PID of 1794.  We had been doing a show with Tom & Darryl from WTND in Macomb, Illinois on Friday nights, from 9 to 10pm Central time, but they are taking a few weeks off to do some reorganization of their local broadcast operation.  Keep checking to see if we might be back soon, at least with a temporary guest host---they were supposed to call the last two Fridays, but nobody seems to be at the wheel right now.  Mike is available to do a show---if someone connects the pieces.  We're waiting!

Until one of the coldest months of the year (also known as February),

MIKE and LAUREL   (still colored for Christmas)