NEWS AND VIEWS
          February 15, 2008

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



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 you informed.

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 Ticket.

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,