February 15, 2008
The Groundhog predicted an early spring when he crawled out of his hiding
on February 2nd, but you would not know it by looking at the weather
around the Midwest. We're approaching 7 feet of snow in the 75 days
since December 1st....already passing southern Wisconsin's all-time
snowfall record for an entire season. Seven inches more here
yesterday, with another heavy snow forecast for the end of the
weekend. It keeps coming at us like a train wreck!
It's been several years since I drove into a deer on the highway, but we
got our quota just over two weeks ago; causing over a thousand
dollars damage to the front end of Laurel's Buick Century sedan. The
front bumper was left untouched, and the hood ornament stayed in its
place. The hood itself was not damaged at all. But everything
in between; the grille, headlights and a radiator supporting bar, we
all demolished. The car came out of the shop last Saturday morning,
during a brief period of near freezing temperatures. The body shop
had been nice enough to wash the car before giving it back to us.
Between Saturday afternoon and midday Sunday, the temperatures dropped way
below zero, with a very nasty wind. You may have seen pictures of
hundreds of motorists stranded on Interstate 90 between Janesville and
Madison, unable to get on or off the freeway. It has not been above
freezing since, and I have discovered that the lock mechanism inside the
door is frozen shut. Not even 20 minutes with a carefully placed
propane torch could get it open on Thursday. So the next time it
gets above freezing, some TLC is being given to all of the doors. We
are so getting tired of winter!
"The Tower" is
really getting loaded with snow, and I have already been to the top once
to remove over a foot of accumulated white stuff that would not blow
away---it has not been warm enough to melt. Probably have to do this
again in the next few days. The optimist in me thinks that spring is
eventually coming, but it's going to be one wet soggy mess if it melts all
at once. Visions of Grand Forks eleven years ago, buried under a
river over 54 feet above the mean summer level. Our advantage is
that we do not have a northerly flowing river susceptible to ice
jams. All of this thinking about miserable weather is getting me
psyched up to go to Siberia in a few weeks. It's bound to be summer
there too, eventually.
As I have said many
times in many ways---anything for TV!
A recent "secret shopper" study here in Wisconsin aimed at Big
Box stores a few weeks ago came up with a number of 81 per cent.
That is the percentage of television salespeople that gave erroneous
information about the upcoming digital conversion of our local TV
signals. A new survey just today said that if all of the analog
signals were shut off right now, not a year from now, over 10% of homes in
America would be without ANY television service. Pretty scary to
think about. The federal government will be mailing the first
coupons for 40.00 off on an ATSC digital converter, in three days.
Those coupons are good for 90 days. There is a miserable amount of
equipment available at retailers right now; the situation being bad
enough that a prominent U.S. senator is pressing for the agency dispensing
the coupons to consider the idea of allowing hapless consumers that cannot
find converters within their 90 day deadline to be allowed to apply for
new coupons. Initial reaction was that policies were put into place
originally to minimize fraud and a secondary market on the resale of these
boxes. Considering their very basic purpose and almost giveaway
pricing, this attitude borders on insanity. Hopefully policies will
change. Examples of the marketplace: DISH Network announced in
January that they would be selling a basic converter for 39 dollars and
change; more or less exchanging the coupons for the box, without any
cash changing hands. Problem is that they have muddied up the market
with this meaningless low-ball offer. Coupons are good for 90 days,
and DISH Network does not expect to have any converters before June!
Best Buy announced a box in the 60 dollar range (before the 40 dollar
coupon), available now. Wal-Mart has a Magnavox piece just under
50.00, with many questioning the quality of that unit. Radio Shack
and Circuit City are supposed to have a basic unit in stock at all stores
starting late this month, too. Target does not expect anything
before "Spring", whenever that is. We have no plans to get
involved with these units, as they are bottom of the barrel in terms of
both quality and features. The red tape in dealing with getting paid
for the coupons, the low markup, and the questionable reliability of such
converters does not enthuse us at all. If you are intent upon
getting one or two of these boxes with your 40 dollar coupons, be very
careful. It's almost "something for nothing", but also
remember the old adage "you get what you pay for". We have
other ATSC receivers available, some of which will provide a true High
Definition output (the 40 dollar coupon ones DO NOT), for not that much
more money. Those with lots of electronic toys may not be happy with
the limited features on the basic units, so we are looking at the
converter market that may also include a Free-To-Air satellite
receiver. On the high end of this is the already available Pansat
9200 HD, which combines a high definition free-to-air receiver and a
terrestrial off-air tuner; both with HD outputs as well as standard
outputs for conventional television sets and monitors without HD
abilities. More variety is coming in the next few weeks and months,
so please check back with us if you need a converter with better abilities
for your situation. Again, go directly to this LINK
to access our article that attempts to explain truthfully in detail what
the digital conversion is all about.
Remember the "X-4" Ku-band subscription service using SKYVISION
sourced DSR-410 receivers and a Ku-band antenna fixed at 99 West.?
Good news / Bad News. The bad news is that the signals on Ku-band
will be turned off in June. The good news is that signals from three
HITS platforms will be joined on one satellite at 105 West, eventually
meaning that more channels may actually be available for
purchase. Those with 4DTV receivers and HDD-200 high
definition decoders may be interested in new HD content at the new home.
This will be on C-band, which will require a re-mapping of the DSR-410
receiver as well as installation of a C-band antenna with C-band LNBF.
Apologies to anyone with a Ku-band antenna; perhaps it can be used
for MPEG-2 FTA such as from 97 West / Galaxy 25. The real upside is
the geographic coverage and strength of the 105 West C-band signal from
the new AMC-18 satellite. Conservatively we recommend a 6-foot
C-band dish; smaller sizes may be practical in some areas, but it's
too early to speculate on what works. Look for some news about
transition, and availability of C-band signals for actual mapping into
those DSR-410 receivers sometime beginning in April. We will keep
A few months back we
mentioned a one-way Ku-band satellite receive service that used a local
telephone dialup line to transmit to the Internet. This should
become reality as a product that we can sell in the next several
weeks. Final details are being ironed out to make this into a
national alternative to Hughes, WildBlue and Starband. Much easier
to use and align, because the satellite antenna is receive-only.
Check back with us by early March for more news on this subject.
A correction or maybe it
could be better described as an update on Star Choice's HD services.
They now have added SPEED-HD, just in time for the auto racing
season. It is available in the SPORT-HD package at 1.99 per month,
which has been slightly amended for English language subscribers. HD
channels in this mini package now include 274-Speed HD, 280-TSN Sports,
and 281-Sportsnet HD. Those with the DIGITAL BASIC 20.00 package are
limited to TSN Sports-HD as their HD sports choice for an added 1.99 per
month. (An incentive to upgrade to at least the ESSENTIALS package
or maybe DIGITAL FAVOURITES. Those with a TMN movie package such as
GOLD CHOICE PLUS or above (up to ULTIMATE CHOICE PLUS) will get the Sports
HD package without having to pay the 1.99 surcharge. If you want RDS
Sports HD, the French equivalent of TSN Sports, it is tied to you also
having subscribed to a French package that includes the standard
definition version of RDS, such as the Bilingual Essentials package.
Are you confused yet? Also announced is a multichannel NASCAR
package that includes two HD channels. 9.99 per month, or at a
discounted price for those already taking NHL Centre Ice and NFL Sunday
We are now back in the Satellite Talk arena, with a one
hour show Sunday nights, from 9 to 10 pm CST on ACCESS AMERICA, found on
the Ku-band side of Galaxy 25 at 97 West, 12115 MHz vertical, 22.425
symbol rate, on an audio PID of 1794. Enjoy our discussions with
Blair Alper from the wilds of smalltown Iowa, as we explore satellite
reception past and present, along with a dose of the news.
Keep those cards, letters and Emails coming.
Until next month,