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Subject: Satellite TV Frequently Asked Questions List

This article was archived around: 17 May 2001 22:09:23 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: Satellite-TV
All FAQs posted in: rec.video.satellite.misc, rec.video.satellite.tvro
Source: Usenet Version


Archive-name: Satellite-TV/FAQ Last-modified: 1996/02/13
Copyright 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 Gary Bourgois USENET SATELLITE FAQ LIST Frequently Asked Questions in rec.video.satellite / HOMESAT-L Compiled and Edited by Gary Bourgois, WB8EOH Send additions/further questions to flash@lopez.marquette.MI.US May be posted to other networks and individual systems provided it is not edited or modified in any form. DESTROY ALL PREVIOUS EDITIONS Gary Bourgois, FAQ Author --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contents: What do I need to receive Satellite TV? Who should own a Satellite Receiver? What types of things can I see with a satellite system that I might not find on Cable or Broadcast TV? How much will a satellite system cost me? Where can I get a list of all the satellites and satellite channels? Is there a good cheap book that will help me set up, align and repair my satellite system? In reference to a satellite communications system, what does a backhaul mean, and what does it physically represent? What about scrambling, isn't it all scrambled these days? How much does it cost to "descramble" the scrambled channels? How does my descrambler talk back to the satellite, and how does it know where I live so it can black out my local sporting events? Are the networks scrambled? What channels will never be scrambled? How do descramblers work? Where can i get the plans to build a descrambler so I can watch for free But what about the other scrambling systems used by broadcasters, how do THEY work? How small a dish can I use, and what is this DBS thing? Can I use a smaller dish for AUDIO only? What is the difference between PRIMESTAR and DSS? Can I get STAR TREK: Voyager on my satellite dish? WHEN is it ON? What is a Wild Feed, and why are these shows sent early? What does "BUD" mean (I see it all the time in postings on the net) How can i know which NBA and NHL games are on the birds? Can you watch more than one TV at the same time? Can I receive international satellites on my dish? What about this mysterious KU band? What does it cost to add KU to my system? What is an Inclined Orbit Satellite, and how can I receive them? How long does a satellite "last" and why do they get regularly replaced? It is early Spring (Fall) and I was watching my satellite dish and the picture got fuzzy and vanished. What happened? What is SCPC? What are DATS and SEDATS Audio, and how can I receive them. What digital information is available on satellite and how do I get it? What is the best satellite system for me? Isn't it difficult to install a satellite system? My community has restrictive covenants and dishes are not allowed. Is there anything I can do to install a dish? I live on a wooded lot with lots of trees. Is this a problem? How can I subscribe to the HOMESAT mailing list, since I don't get netnews? What other sources of info are there about home satellite? I have a question that was not on this list. How do I get an answer? Reference Section --------------------------------------------------------------------------- WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED TO RECEIVE SATELLITE TV? A TVRO (TeleVision Receive Only) System consists of the following components: THE DISH This is the most visible component, a parabolic reflector which may consist of Solid Aluminum, Perforated Aluminum or WIRE MESH. Dish sizes vary from small (3-4 feet KU BAND, EUROPE) all the way to 16-20 Ft (USA Commercial C-BAND) with the average falling between 7-12 ft, 10 ft being most common. This device focuses the microwave signals coming from the satellites much as the mirror in a reflecting telescope concentrates the light from distant galaxies. THE MOUNT The most common type of dish mount is called a POLAR MOUNT, so named because it is oriented to coincide with the earth's axis, enabling it to "track" the satellites, which are spread out in geostationary orbit in a band of the sky called the "Clarke Belt", named after Arthur C. Clarke, who dreamed up the concept of geostationary communications satellites back in 1945. The mount is installed on a 3 inch pipe, which is sunk in concrete. Most (but not all) mounts require a 3.5" OD pole. In most (but not all) cases this is a 3" ID pipe. Schedule 40 works well, so does used "drill stem". In many areas, this is available from salvage dealers at very reasonable prices. (* OD refers to OUTER DIAMETER, ID refers to INNER DIAMETER) THE POSITIONER ARM (Actuator) A device containing a motor that is used to swing the satellite dish to allow it to focus on individual satellites, which may be as close to one another as 2 degrees of arc. Actuator arms are most commonly found in 18- and 24-inch lengths (the longer the arm, the wider the arc that the dish can "see".) In addition, a more expensive aiming mechanism, called a "horizon-to-horizon" actuator, is capable of more precise aiming (important on Ku band and closely-spaced satellites), as well as being able to see the entire satellite arc from your location. Many true dish heads have also added a second actuator to control the VERTICAL aspect (elevation) of the dish, to enable them to track inclined orbit satellites which "wobble" or vary in the vertical plane. THE LNB This is the Little gizmo that amplifies the very weak signals from the dish, and also converts them to a more suitable band of frequencies. LNB means LOW NOISE BLOCKCONVERTOR. Older systems consisted of separate components: LNA (Low Noise Amplifier) and a downconvertor which changed the received signals (3-4 GHz, or GIGAherz ....A GIGAHerz is one thousand megaHz....) to 70 Mhz. The "standard block" used today is 950 to 1450 Mhz. Both C and KU band (while they input on vastly different frequencies) output on the 950 to 1450 Mhz block. HOWEVER there are special consider- ations when dealing with KU (explained later) There is also a device called an LNBF, which combines the LNB and feedhorn into a single unit. (See below for description of feed assembly. The LNBF device uses a simpler method for adjusting the polarity (voltage right on the LNB cable). You can not adjust fine skew, just H or V. This device is practical for C band only systems. However if the LNB part goes bad, you need to replace ALL of it. An LNBF is especially suitable for dedicated operations, such as a smaller dish used for only one satellite. I have a 6 foot dish which I use for Telstar 401 only, using an LNBF, and it gives excellent service. THE FEED ASSEMBLY The feedhorn acts as a microwave "funnel" if you want to think of it that way. This device places the LNB at the focus of the dish, and is usually just called "the feed". There are several different types of feeds. Single C band feed: Contains ONE C band LNB. A device called a POLAROTOR is located inside, which allows the reception of both vertically polarized and horizontally polarized channels. In general practice, the EVEN channels are on ONE polarity and the ODD channels are on the opposite polarity. The actual polarity scheme depends on the satellite in question. Dual C band feed: Allows the use of Two C band LNB's one for horizontal polarization and one for vertical. Dual Band Feed (C and KU): Has two separate LNB's, one for C band and one for KU band. DUAL C band and single KU band feed: (There is at least one version of this type of feed. The most popular Dual Band feedhorns are the Chaparral CO-ROTOR II Gardiner and ADL, though there are others on the market. While these are actually a compromise system, with some minor losses, in practice they work pretty well. SATELLITE CABLES This is a bundle of various wires and cables that run from the dish to the receiver, and consist of cables for the C and/or KU LNB's, Power to the LNB (Usually sent over the same COAXIAL CABLE) as well as power for the positioner arm, return signals for position readout, and control voltage for the polarotor. Power to actuator Arm (Two conductors) Return position readout from actuator (Two conductors) The position readout cable from the actuator to the actuator controller should have THREE conductors for the position sensor. For pot sensors, one is for the tap, the other two are for the resistor. For pulse sensors, one is ground, one is +5V, and the other is pulse input. Not all arms require all three connections, but my scrounged Saginaw special has some nifty hall-effect gizmo that does require power to generate pulses. Power to polarotor (Two conductors) Polarotors come in two different varieties. The "old style" just used a 12V motor to rotate the probe. Apply power, it moves. Reverse polarity, it changes direction. The new ones use a three wire connection. One for +5V, one for ground, and one for "pulse". RG-6U cable (rather than the often-seen RG-59U) is the cable of choice for the higher frequencies of satellite TV. RECEIVER There are many receivers available by a number of manufacturers, both new and used. The receiver takes the signal from the LNB and produces a TV picture from the wideband FM video, and also allows you to tune SUBCARRIER audio, which can provide many different audio only services such as MUSIC and TALK shows and even DATA TEXT reception. Newer receivers work with the standard 950-1450 mhz block that comes out of a standard LNB. Older ones use a direct 70 MHZ feed and have an LNA (low noise amplifier) and downconvertor at the dish. If you are on a budget, one of these older type receivers might be a good place to start, though most folks today use the more modern technology. Your receiver may also have a descrambler built in for decoding PAY services. This type of receiver is called an IRD or Integrated Receiver Descrambler. You need a descrambler for services like HBO and regular CABLE-TV type services (to be discussed later) DESCRAMBLER The DE-FACTO consumer descrambler is the VIDEOCIPHER system which is manufactured by General Instruments (G.I) in the USA. There are stand-alone decoders still available. However a major consider- ation is that at the present time, Descrambler technology is changing and older descramblers will not work under the new standards. Beware when buying an IRD (INTEGRATED, RECEIVER DESCRAMBLER) that the unit can be upgraded to the new VC-II+ and forthcoming VC-II+ RS (Renewable Security) if you plan on watching scrambled (Mostly Cable) services or Pay Per View movies and sports events. In Canada, the OAK-ORION system was another popular scrambling system, which was used by TELESAT CANADA on the ANIK (Canadian) satellites. CANCOM dumped OAK, in preparation for EXPRESSVU DBS. There ARE some USA programs transmitted with the OAK-ORION system, primarily Horse Racing and Hospital programming. While it is LEGAL to own a OAK-ORION decoder, there are not enough services available in this format to warrant doing so. Unless a person is a REAL horse racing nut, and even then, getting the decoder AUTHORIZED to descramble the horse races is questionable. There are other scrambling systems in use in Europe. In the USA, there had been a serious market for "pirate" or "chipped" decoders, which receive scrambled services without the payment of subscription fees. This situation has lead to the change to the revised VC-II+ and forthcoming VC-II+ RS systems, which hope to thwart this piracy through the use of a renewable "credit card" type of chip system. Of course, this technology costs the consumer additional money, on top of subscription fees that for the most part are higher than comparable cable prices. Since the majority of the scrambled channels are owned by the cable TV conglomerates, who would prefer people subscribe to cable rather than view by satellite, the reasoning here is obvious. For this reason, satellite TV popularity in the USA has declined. More about scrambling later in this FAQ list. WHO SHOULD OWN A SATELLITE SYSTEM: Most owners of Satellite TV systems these days fall into the following categories: 1. Those who can not get cable due to isolated location. 2. Those who wish to receive programs not available on their local cable system. 3. People who desire the sharpest "blow you away" video picture possible (Studio Quality, far better than cable or over air) Or those who want DISCRETE stereo sound from channels or networks that are not carried in stereo in their local area. 4. News Junkies who want to see unedited news coverage from the source location, before it gets chopped up and packaged. 5. Experimenters and techy hobby types who enjoy tinkering. 6. Audiophiles who want to hear HUNDREDS of music services in superior quality. 7. Digital Information Junkies desiring info-text services. 8. Those who desire foreign Language programming. 9. Individuals who like to see certain TV shows BEFORE they are aired over the networks, often without commercials. 10. Those in search of additional programming, including pay per view movies. 11. SPORTS NUTS... There is more sports on satellite than any human being can STAND. Virtually EVERY game of EVERY team is up there SOMEWHERE.... Much of it as "Backhauls" which are not scrambled, and often do not have commercials. 12. Those who want to watch programs earlier or later than seen on their local stations. For example, on the West Coast you can watch David Letterman at 9:30 PM PST (or watch it at 3:30 AM Eastern time on the Pacific feed). If you see a music video you *really like* on the MTV Eastern feed, you can tape it 3 hours later on the MTV Western feed. 13. Those who want to watch Gene Scott 24 hours a day. 14. RADIO NUTS. With the proper additional equipment there are hundreds of additional audio services receivable, including AM and FM stations from major cities, TALK SHOWS, every kind of music imaginable, and very SPECIALIZED formats. Some Satellite owners actually spend more time LISTENING to the signals on their dish than WATCHING. (See the SCPC Paragraph further down this FAQ list for more info) 15. Culture Vultures. If you like Ballet, Art Films, Concerts, documentaries, Foreign Films, There are many opportunities here, including a FREE Art Channel that runs snippets of Concerts and Performances WITHOUT COMMERCIAL INTERRUPTION 24 Hours a day. Just about everyone could find themselves in ONE of the above categories. WHAT TYPES OF THINGS CAN I SEE WITH A SATELLITE SYSTEM THAT I MIGHT NOT FIND ON CABLE BROADCAST TV OR DBS? Live uncensored coverage of news feeds, with no anchor man or reporter, just see the news as it happens before live cameras. Major events like the WACO debacle and the L.A. riots from multiple feed points, YOU select the angle and shot you want to watch. Teleconferences and meetings of various businesses and organizations, while many of these are scrambled, quite a few are not. Specialty and narrowcast shows, some examples include a 24 hour gold prospecting channel, a channel for long haul truckers, etc. College lectures and advanced courses, not just the simple brain dead stuff of the Mind extension University, but REAL graduate level stuff, watch for knowledge, or take the course for credit. A full time channel from NASA, including complete 24 hour coverage of all space missions, not just the launch and selected tidbits. See space experiments being performed, and just look out the window at the earth revolving below. Several channels of Canadian TV which is superior to American TV, also Mexican TV, which includes first run movies in English with spanish subtitles. Unscrambled. BBC TV Breakfast News, ITN news, News from Moscow TV, RTS TV from Serbia, TV Madrid, German TV 24 hours a day, Italian TV, a channel of TV from the Asian subcontinent which runs popular Indian and Pakistani films with no commercial interruptions (Subscription required). Portuguese TV, Japan TV, A Greek Channel, Chinese TV, A channel for Eskimos (Inuit), Arab TV, and many other international broadcasts. 1000 or so AUDIO channels, including every conceivable music format, 24 hour BBC world service Radio in FM studio quality. Talk shows, and relays of local radio stations in many cities all across the USA. Several channels of reading services for the blind, with newspapers, magazines and books read aloud. More sports than a human could stand. Every game in every sport is available on at least one satellite channel. Some sports like Baseball scramble games, but the NHL does not scramble. Pro and College sports, minor leagues, Australian Football, World Cup Soccer, Stanley Cup Hockey. Many games with NO COMMERCIALS. All the Auto Racing that a Car Nut could STAND... Narrowcast Religious programming from smaller and minority faiths, including Hindu, 7th Day Adventist (Three Channels), Scientology, and unusual sects of Christian and non Christian beliefs. Alternate Political views, even Nazi Programming, since FCC rules do not apply to satellite broadcasting. Right Wing, Left Wing, Wacky or wonderful, Satellite TV is the only free thinking broadcasting outlet on the planet. A talk network devoted to high tech electronics and communications. New product rollouts and demonstrations designed for distributors and the press. Newsworthy and not so newsworthy Press Conferences in their entirety. Court trials. Horse and Dog Racing. Every Lottery drawing in the country LIVE. Previews of TV shows that may or may not make it to the networks. Regular Syndicated and network shows feed from the studios without the commercials, up to a week before the official broadcast, sometimes the final broadcast gets edited, Satellite viewers see the shows UNCUT. Six separate channels of PBS programming. "Other" not too common shows in the British and/or PBS arena can be found. Shows like Eastenders, Upstairs/Downstairs, and the Bravo Channels "Six Wives of Henry VIII". Or is it 8 wives of Henry 6th :) A behind the scenes look at newsroom operations, listen to the reporters discussing news stories BEFORE they start talking to the regular viewers. See well known newscasters have tantrums live. During the Russian Coup Attempt, satellite owners had a 24 hour camera and microphone running on the roof of a hotel in moscow, and we listened to the scuttlebutt, watched them track down rumors, and saw them eating their lunch. Crystal clean uplinks of special events (such as the recent CMA awards) direct from the event, before commercials are added by the network. Most of the programming mentioned is unscrambled (Free) and can be picked up with any satellite system, including one you can put together yourself for less than $500. HOW MUCH WILL A SATELLITE SYSTEM COST ME? You can pay upwards of $2,000 to $3,000 for a top of the line system completely installed. A brand new do it yourself system will run between $800 and $1500, with $1200 about average. HOWEVER, if you are resourceful, you can set up a system for $200-$500 which will provide decent pictures and hours of entertainment. Several members of the net have put together systems for less than $100, even FREE. My own first system cost $40 complete. It was primitive but was a start, and got me hooked pretty quickly. I have written an article called: THE SCROUNGER'S GUIDE TO SATELLITE TV Which details how to go about putting together a low budget (Under $500) system that would include stereo audio and SCPC. The article gives hints, sources for used equipment, and recommended texts to help you assemble and track the system. NOTE: This is not a plug-and-play kind of thing, your scrounged system will require EFFORT on your part, and it will take TIME to assemble the various components. You will INSTALL and SET UP all the equipment yourself. If you have a couple thousand dollars laying around, you can pay a dealer for a complete system. The SCROUNGER'S GUIDE is for someone who does not mind putting forth TIME and EFFORT to achieve the goal of a cheap system. If you want this article, just ask for it by writing to flash@lopez.marquette.mi.us and requesting the SCROUNGER'S GUIDE. PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT LIVE IN NORTH AMERICA THIS GUIDE WILL NOT WORK FOR YOU. THE METHODS IT OUTLINES ARE GOOD IN NORTH AMERICA, WHERE C BAND SATELLITE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR MANY YEARS. It is a guide on how to obtain USED equipment using methods that only work in the USA and Canada. Do not write for the guide if you live in Europe, Africa or anywhere else not in this hemisphere. NOTE: You will get your reply by EMAIL. Do not send me a postal address, except under the guidelines that state how to receive things by postal mail, which is outlined later in this FAQ. I do not send Postal mail except to those who have no net access, AND who pay for the costs of copying and mailing the material. ~~~ WHERE CAN I GET A LIST OF ALL THE SATELLITES AND SATELLITE CHANNELS? There are Satellite TV guides available that have a partial listing of what is in the sky, and these also include program listings for the various regular program services. You should be able to find at least ONE of them at any news stand. ORBIT and ONSAT are the two most widely available guides. ORBIT is a huge monthly book, and onsat is a weekly. Satellite TV week also is a weekly in a tabloid format. If you are just interested in knowing WHAT is up there, and desire a comprehensive listing of ALL the satellites and Channels, there is no finer list than the SOUTHSCANNER CHART, which is available here in Homesat/rec.video.satellite every month. If you can't wait, write for your copy (It is huge, about 100 pages long if you PRINT it) and has full information about every occupied transponder in the arc. Write to Robert Smathers, the list author at: roberts@nmia.com IS THERE A GOOD CHEAP BOOK THAT WILL HELP ME INSTALL, ALIGN AND REPAIR MY SATELLITE SYSTEM? Frank Baylin has written a very good reference book called: "Install, Aim and Repair Your Satellite TV System" This book is clearly written, and includes ALL the info you need to properly tune up your dish, find the satellites, and get the best reception. It also will help you diagnose any problems that come along, and tells you what to replace or tweek to get your reception back on the beam. Lots of photographs and diagrams, IDEAL for the beginner. The book is $9.95 + $3 S/H from: Universal Electronics Bookstore 4555 Groves Road, Suite 12 Columbus, OH 43232 IN REFERENCE TO A SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM, WHAT DOES A BACKHAUL MEAN, AND WHAT DOES IT PHYSICALLY REPRESENT?? Backhauls are signals sent from a remote location back to a network operating center. Usually, but not always on KU band, these are special events and sports. Since the commercials are usually added by the network, the backhaul has no commercials, and you get to hear the announcers talk and see them play with the video effects when the signal is not being broadcast to the world (before, after the event and during commercial breaks). What is needed at the backhaul site are cameras, microphones, audio and video mixing and effects equipment, and an uplink transmitter and small dish to send the signal to the satellite. At the network operating center, there is a downlink (receive) dish, and a receiver to pick up the signal, and pipe it into the audio and video chain of the network so that it can be sent to those unlucky people who don't have satellite dishes and have to watch these broadcasts on regular TV or Cable WHAT ABOUT SCRAMBLING, ISN'T IT ALL SCRAMBLED THESE DAYS? This is a common misconception. While it is true that most of the CABLE services are scrambled, many of us see this as a feature. If you DO desire HBO, THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL, ETC, you WILL need a[ descrambler, AND a subscription to these services. However, there are over 150 channels of programming "In the clear" that is NOT scrambled, and many of these provide a lot of entertainment and information. It all depends on your personal taste. Most of the sporting events are not scrambled. PBS is not scrambled (Four separate feeds) and many other services are also available free for the taking. NOT to mention HUNDREDS of audio services. There is more on satellite that you can get for FREE than you would ever have time to watch. HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO "DESCRAMBLE" THE SCRAMBLED CHANNELS? First you need a descrambler. If you get a new system, most likely you will get an IRD, which comes with the descrambler built in. Just make sure it WILL upgrade to the VC-II RS, and understand that this upgrade may cost you additional money when this system is implemented. The descrambler will add around $400 to the cost of your satellite system. Next you need a subscription. Movie channels will run you around $7 a month or so, actually less than cable, but you do get taken for a bit of a ride on the "generic" cable channels such as DISCOVERY, CNN, etc. You can not generally by one channel, certainly not at a reasonable cost. Most subscriptions to the "generic" cable channels (which does not include premium/movie channels) will cost between $150-$300 a year above and beyond the cost of the descrambler itself. Some say this is why piracy has flourished. Piracy is illegal. If caught with a pirate decoder, you can be fined or jailed. Certainly if you sell such equipment, you can count on heavy fines, and jail time. Piracy is not good for anyone. Pay for your subscription, or do like many of us on the net and watch ONLY programming that is NOT scrambled. WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE HERE? You can buy channels in packages like cable TV, or ala carte. The packages are not necessarily a better deal. If you don't ever watch 25% of the channels in the package, you are probably better off buying ala carte. You can also buy most channels on a monthly or annual basis. You save 5 to 10% through annual purchases. Price ranges for various channels: Low rent cable channels (A&E, BRAVO, etc.) $0.79 - 1.00/month Network packages (Denver 5 or Primetime 24) $4.00 - 5.00/month Premium Channels (Disney, HBO, TMC, etc.) $7.00 -10.00/month HOW DOES MY DESCRAMBLER TALK BACK TO THE SATELLITE? HOW DOES IT KNOW WHERE I LIVE SO IT CAN BLACK OUT SPORTS EVENTS OF MY LOCAL TEAMS? Your Descrambler does not "talk back" to the satellite through your IRD. In the case of VIDEOPAL, which is an automatic PAY PER VIEW ordering system, your descrambler is hooked to the phone line. When you order a PPV Movie, it will place a call to the ORDER center once a month and tell them what movies you ordered. This is the only "talk back" system built into the VIDEOCIPHER, and this is only on the units that have VIDEOPAL. The VCRSi boards (Purple/pink in color) do not have this feature, so you have to call the order center 800 number yourself and order the movie by voice, so it is no big deal. As far as "knowing" where you live for sports blackout purposes, this is a very low tech operation. What they do is have the computer search the index of subscribers by ZIP CODE. If you live in 600XX you won't see the Chicago Cubs, for example. Many people get around the sports blackout "feature" of the Subscription system by having their Auntie in Keokuck do their subscribing for them. Then they can get all the sports with no blackouts. This "Grey Market" kind of thing is also used by Canadians so they can get USA programming (And by Americans so they can watch Canadian Programming). While technically illegal, and not recommended, this type of thing is done every day by sports fanatics. ARE THE NETWORKS SCRAMBLED? ABC is almost entirely scrambled, with some feeds in the clear. NBC is Presently totally unscrambled, as is FOX. CBS is usually scrambled, but they still have quite a bit in the clear. The scrambling used by the networks is such that you can not receive it with a home decoder. Totally different methods are used. CBS uses VIDEOCIPHER _ONE_ (completely different than the VCII used in home systems). ABC uses LEITCH for its scrambled feeds. Networks are scrambled to protect the affiliates. Your local station does not want you watching the network shows direct from the birds with 400+ lines of resolution and discrete stereo sound, which anyone would do given half a chance. They want you to watch the LOCAL commercials, so convinced the nets to scramble their feeds. For those who can not receive the networks over the air, the only choice is to subscribe to NETLINK's DENVER FIVE package or The Atlantic Three or PRIME TIME 24. Interestingly, network NEWS feeds are usually in the clear! If you are a news hound, this will be GOOD news for YOU. The PRIME TIME ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK (PTEN) backhauls its programs several days before they are broadcast on the over the air TV channels. These transmissions are in the clear, as are most SYNDICATED feeds. PARAMOUNT feeds (Deep Space Nine) are not scrambled. Same with all other syndicated programming. UPN (Star Trek Voyager, and other prime time programming) is all in the clear, and they also run pre feeds. WB (Warner Brothers Network) is not scrambled. PBS is not scrambled on their C band feed. WHAT CHANNELS WILL NEVER BE SCRAMBLED? For the foreseeable future, there should always be SOMETHING in the clear, though with the conversion to digital transmission, a new definition may be needed for "unencrypted digital transmission" which would be available free, but would require a digital decoder. Digital TV will be the future, not only for satellite, but for cable and YES even broadcast TV by the year 2000 or so. Raw feeds, backhauls, audio, etc. may never be scrambled. Gene Scott will probably never scramble. The non cigar smoking religion channels also won't. And those few channels AIMED at home dish owners won't scramble. Usually when a new channel comes along, like the SCI FI channel, it does not scramble right away, and some like the LEARNING CHANNEL, and CSPAN, though designed for cable have managed to remain in the clear for years. Shopping Channels will never scramble. Some channels, NOT entrenched in cable, will not scramble. There are several channels which program for the "LOW POWER TV" market (Channel America, Main Street TV, etc) and these are in the clear, and do have some interesting programs. CBC from Canada is not scrambled. PBS will always have at least ONE channel in the clear. NASA SELECT does not scramble their main channel, though, unfortunately, the "mission video" contract channel began scrambling in the summer of 1992. Audio feeds are not scrambled (Subcarrier, FM Squared, SCPC), though there is more and more of a move to DATS (Digital Audio Transmission Service) which can not be received by the home dish owner. Yet. HOW DO DESCRAMBLERS WORK? Each VC-II+ has a unique ID number, which you give to programming services to subscribe to a channel or package. The programming service broadcasts your ID number, and a special code that instructs your descrambler to work when tuned to a subscribed channel. I AM AN ELECTRONIC TECHNICIAN, WHERE CAN I GET THE PLANS TO BUILD A DESCRAMBLER SO I DON'T HAVE TO PAY TO WATCH SCRAMBLED CHANNELS? or WHERE CAN I BUY A DECODER SO I CAN WATCH ALL THE PAY CHANNELS FOR FREE? You would be amazed at how many times we receive this question, usually in EMAIL. Most people who are not familiar with how scrambling works, wrongly assume it is some kind of a hardware circuit that can be constructed with components from the local Radio Shack. BZZZZZZZZT wrong answer. The present system used in the USA, and by most of the more secure video channels in Europe and elsewhere on the planet use a far more sophisticated system, one that is "addressable". The current system employs what is called "sound in sync". The audio portion of the program is encoded as little winky dots hidden in the sync pulses (the bars on the top or side of the screen that you do not normally see except when your set is misadjusted. This digital encoding also allows them to say "DIGITAL SOUND" a nice buzzword. The audio is a compandered 15 bit system. Some with "golden ears" find the sound raspy, but most folks can not tell the difference. The real reason the sound is digital is NOT to provide sound quality, but rather to insure that unauthorized reception is not all that easy, and a decoder can not be built from scratch. The scrambling system uses a dual decryption key system, and is based on the USA DES encryption standard (this is a military sensitive system, making export of VCII type decoders illegal). The scrambling method consists of: 1. The authorization center (in California) which creates the master datastream. This datastream contains a digitally derived key based upon the serial number of EACH authorized decoder and a "Tier bit" for EACH channel it is authorized to receive (determined by PAYING for the service) 2. "SEED KEYS" in the receiver itself which are COMBINED with the other half of the key (transmitted by the authorization center) to then create the master key used to decode the audio and turn on the video descrambling circuit (The VIDEO is a simple matter to decode, as it is only video inversion and sync suppression). But WAIT! What about these pirated decoders that one can buy for about $1000 that claim to give you all the channels free? Didn't some electronic genius BUILD them? No. What the pirates did was to create "clones" of the chips in one legal decoder that they paid to have authorized. They then removed the chips from other legally purchased decoder boards, and put their "pirate chips" in their place. The result is that whatever the master parent box sees, so does all it's clone child boxes. The rub here is that: 1. The pirates, after making a few million dollars in sales from their clones, moved to the Caribbean, out of USA law. At this time they also stopped paying for the subscription on their ONE legal decoder from whence all the clones are derived. POOF. All the clones go dead. 2. Other pirates, not as smart get caught by the FBI. The FBI turns the serial numbers over to the authorization center. POOF. Same scenario. All the clones go dead. 3. Some pirates were not caught. Some clones still live. HOWEVER, G.I. (the company who makes the decoders) CHANGES the scrambling system this fall to a totally new method. POOF. Etc. Cloning is the main method of pirating the signals. No one has EVER built a VIDEOCIPHER descrambler from scratch. The very technology employed requires that the system co operate with the authorization codes transmitted along with the TV signal. There is no hardware way around this. It is a software scramble, requiring TWO halves of the code. There is a second method of descrambling, which involves entering the other half of the key MANUALLY with the keyboard. This is called "WIZARD" Technology. However since the code changes every month, a new WIZARD Code must be entered. To obtain these codes, some pirates set up 900 type phone numbers. The FBI then gets a printout of everyone who calls. POOF. Recently, the programmers have taken to a new tactic to foil the wizard code users. Instead of monthly changes, they started changing the codes every three days or so. There was an unhappy side effect of some LEGAL users and Cable Companies also losing their authorization, but we can expect these tactics, called ECM, or Electronic Counter Measures to continue. We understand that this methodology HAS been successful in discouraging some of the die hard pirates, finally convincing them to get legal boxes. Since HBO and Showtime finally dumpped the VC2 commercial Datastream in October of 1993, pirate boxes just plain no longer work. An older hack that no longer works was called the THREE MUSKETEER HACK. (All for one and one for all). If a person subscribed to ONE channel, the modified decoder chip then descrambled them ALL. This one died a LONG time ago. GI Turned off all the old 032 boxes with an ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) on March 15, 1993. The VCII Decoders no longer work. If you want to receive scrambled programming, you need a VCII+. All LEGAL subscribers were supposed to receive free upgrades. Those with pirated decoders could not upgrade, and lost their investment. The VCII+ RS (Renewable Security) decoders have already been delivered, one step of security above the VCII+. The RS has a little slot for a "smartcard" which will be sent to legal subscribers when the pirates break the VCII+ code. And DIGICIPHER decoders are already coming on the market, which will be the NEXT kind of decoder on the market AFTER the VCII+ RS. You can't keep up with it if you don't have a legal subscription. Scrambling is a fact of life. It is not going to go away. There are three ways to play: 1. Pay for your subscription. In the end this is the cheapest way to go if you MUST watch the couch potato type programming offered on scrambled channels. Your $1000 pirate decoder can (and will) go dead on you, with NO recourse. 2. Just say NO to descrambling and watch the HUNDREDS of free and more interesting signals available. Listen to the free audio services. Save LOTS of money. 3. Don't listen to what I have said and find a pirate decoder. Enjoy it while it lasts, and hope that the FBI does not visit you. PIRACY is a crime in the USA and in other countries. Pirates are caught, fined and in some cases jailed. The justification for this is that the scrambled signals are the property of the PROGRAMMERS. If you watch without paying you are stealing. Some people try and justify piracy by saying the signal comes on their property uninvited. This argument, while it sounds good does not hold up in court. Scrambling remains a HOT issue in the industry. Publications exist in the US and elsewhere with news of various methods pirates use to steal programming. You can join this underground if you want to. Or you can purchase a legal decoder, and hope that they continue to provide free upgrades with EACH change in the scrambling technology (there are THREE more changes already known to be coming to the USA scrambling scene). However now at least you know. You can't go to Radio Shack and get the parts to make a descrambler for $15. It is NOT that kind of a system. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SCRAMBLING SYSTEMS USED BY BROADCASTERS, HOW DO THESE WORK? There are a number of "other" scrambling systems used for analogue video information. These systems are used by broadcasters and closed circuit channels, and not available to the home user. We are often asked how the scrambling systems work technically, so here is a brief course in other scrambling systems: 1) BMAC - Used by AFRTS, Horse Racing Channels, KU band Hospitality premium channels, Private business feeds (IBM, ETC) Very complex signal. Multiplex Analogue Component. The color info for the line is sent as part of the line in video form. Because of this, there is no viewable video. BMAC gives itself away by the "Shark's Teeth" look to it. The audio is also hidden in the video signal. 2) Leitch - Used by ABC, Global (Canadian) and some sporting events. The video is a line renumbering scheme. The top 120 lines of the screen are put at the bottom and vice versa, then they are renumbered in their respective half screens. Very distinctive (just look at ABC or GLOBAL to see it) . Also uses phase inversion every other line for the color information, which is why it looks black and white. The shuffling is done by a psuedo random algorithm, and changes from field to field. The color is lost because the horizontal sync is much narrower and so the color burst is in the wrong place. Audio is 4 level encrypted PCM in the area immediately after the narrow Horizontal Sync pulse. There are also usually analogue audio subcarriers. 3) OAK ORION - Used by CANCOM for the Canadian feeds, also now used by North American Chinese Television on K2 Is Oak Orion like Oak sine wave used by some cable companies? OAK sine wave and OAK orion are very different. OAK ORION is more like VIDEOCIPHER except that included in the OAK is an inversion bit (on one of the lines in the vertical interval) that tell the descrambler to run normal or inverted video. The change from normal to inverted is somehow related to scene changes, possibly by a trigger based on brightness level. SOmetimes it will stay in one mode for minutes before switching to the other mode (positive or negative video) OAK sine wave puts a big sinewave into a POSITIVE image and fools the Horizontal sync, thus making the picture TEAR. OAK SINEWAVE always has audio in the clear. OAK ORION has sound in sync just like Videocipher. 4) Videocipher ONE - Used by CBS and Major League Baseball Generally the audio is in the clear, and it looks like you are looking through a wavy watery screen. VC-ONE uses variable psuedo random LINE DELAY meaning that the beginning of each line of video occurs at a different part of the scan line. If you squint you can almost make out the picture. The color information is not exactly right, and the images seem darker than normal also. VC-ONE was the original system proposed for HBO by MACOM back in the mid 1980's, but was not adopted due to the expense of the total system. ALL of these scrambling/descrambling systems are much more expensive than Videocipher-II. And all are fairly secure. BMAC has been cracked by pirates at least for the HOSPITALITY channels (Premium movies for Hotels), but we expect that hole will eventually be plugged. The cracked decoders will not pick up other services, though. ARE THERE ANY OTHER SCRAMBLING SYSTEMS? There is another line renumbering system like Leitch, used for some sporting events, but it does not recompute the line numbers, nor does it invert the phase, so the colors are all there, and you can see things moving quite well. This is a much simpler system, but still very secure, and impossible to watch. TDF1 on the 27.5 degree Intelsat has the strangest scrambling system I have ever seen. They take a big box out of the center of the screen, and then turn it UPSIDE DOWN and also BACKWARDS. You can see everything, but you have to turn your TV upside down or stand on your head. Or watch a mirror on the Ceiling! The signal is also in PAL. (No I am not kidding, this transmission began in July of 1994) OK I UNDERSTAND ALL THAT VCII+RS+BS+LSMFT STUFF... BUT WHAT THE HECK IS D I G I C I P H E R AND WILL THIS CAUSE THE SKIES TO GO DARK????????? There are alarmist types with agendas of their own who are jumping all over the satellite talk programs preaching the gloom and doom of DIGICIPHER. As with all technology, there is forward motion, and satellite scrambling is no exception. There have now been THREE "Last Decoders You Will Ever Need" and DIGICIPHER will be the next. You can't stop it, it is already here. At this writing of the FAQ, HBO is already testing the technology, and PBS will be is also using it. However, you should know there are two forms of DIGICIPHER, namely 1 and 2, which use MPEG1 and MPEG2 respectively. DIGICIPHER II is not yet available, and won't be til late 1996. The skies are NOT going to go dark. The programmers are NOT going to stop offering their programming to subscribers. However, due to the loss of T402, and the transponder shortage, some channels are opting to go digicipher. These are primarily new channels, or some like COURT TV who have traditionally been in the clear (Cable Companies stealing the OJ trial and not paying COURT TV are responsible for their sudden jump to DIGICIPHER as of July 1995). The problem at the moment is that though GI would like to be the standard for digital encryption, they are NOT. There are at least FIVE different digital systems being used by various channels. Here are just SOME of the players: GI / DIGICIPHER ONE, DIGICIPHER TWO. PBS is using Digicipher ONE for its KU feeds to affiliates. They plan to convert to Digicipher TWO when the equipment becomes available, some time in 1996. At this time we are told there will be a HOME Digicipher unit. Cost for the receiver will be in the HIGH end ($2000) range. You must replace your present IRD, Digicipher is not compatible with current receive technologyes, so there can be no "Add on" box. Your present receiver does not even pass the digital information, due to the Modulation Scheme. SA / Scientific Atlanta The SA system is used by several players, including Galavision, who later DID relent and bring back an encrypted analogue feed, because of VIEWERS. SA is a major corporation, and we expect they will continue to have a significant penetration. SA is also used by many corporate uplinkers for private transmissions. TVCOMM Though committed to an open technology, this system does not have the backing of major programmers at this time, but we are very early in the game. CLI Compression Labs Incorporated This system is used in specialty applications, corporate and educational networks. It is a fairly entrenched system, though not yet used in many broadcasting applications. Those who bemoan the new technology have the same mind set that would have us all listening to shellac phonograph records being played with steel needles. Rather than cry about it, the smart thing to do is to accept it. And buy STOCK in G.I. instead of calling them the ENEMY. Send EMAIL for transcripts of the interviews with Jim Shelton and Peter Knowles regarding the future of digital TV. WHAT DOES THE NEW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY MEAN TO ME... BOTTOM LINE. If you now subscribe to HBO or any of the other scrambled services and just got your new VCII+ RS unit, you can count on being able to enjoy it through to the end of the warranty period (three years). They won't turn off the VCII+ datastream next year REGARDLESS of what the DOOMSAYERS are saying. They can't. The cable companies won't let them, and they would be in legal hot water from many other entities if they did. If you do not have a descrambler yet, and can live for the moment WITHOUT pay services, WAITING is an option. However if you really want scrambled programming, Then spend the $320 and get the VCII+RS Descrambler, as we firmly believe programming will be there using this technology for several more years, though GI is really pushing Digicipher now like never before. Programmers also have bundled packages that include the VCII+ RS descrambler. Go for it if you want to be a REAL couch potato. All the VCII+ signals are now on ONE end of the arc, and jumping from bird to bird is VERY FAST now, almost as fast as CABLE channel flipping. SOMETHING TO KNOW: DIGICIPHER uses a completely different modulation scheme. As we understand it, there will be no such thing as a Digicipher "Module", as in Videocipher. You will have to buy a completely new receiver, called an IRT or Integrated receiver Transcoder. While there was initially some talk of a possible stand alone front end receiver, I would not hold my breath. I would begin saving. Figure that a DIGICIPHER receiver will be a High End device, priced around $1,500 to $2,000. PBS is using Digicipher ONE initially but will go to Digicipher TWO when it becomes available. Digicipher TWO receivers will receive BOTH formats, as well as the older VIDEOCIPHER, which is good news. This new receiver will thus bring you ALL the available subscription programming. HOW SMALL A DISH CAN I USE, AND WHAT IS THIS DBS THING? While many of us dream of the BIGGEST dish possible, for some reason I can not fully comprehend (except that it has to do with Wives and Neighbors) some folks want a teensy tiny dish. Obviously a small dish will not bring you the joys of the chase, or the WIDE variety of things those of us with full capability systems enjoy, but as they say, different strokes for different folks. For C band, a 7 foot dish will give very useful performance these days. If you are primarily interested in just cable type stuff, a 4 or 5 foot dish will bring you reasonable reception on some of the more powerful C band satellites (Like G5, home of the SCI FI CHANNEL) and a 3 footer will bring in some of the more powerful KU satellites. A caller to my Friday Night Live Satellite Talk Show said he was listening on a 2 foot dish. BUT even smaller dishes are available now. A new venture featuring 120 watt transponders from a fixed location has started operation. This new service called DirectTV is backed by Hughes-Thompson-RCA, and will probably succeed where SKYPIX did not. The system employs an 18 inch dish, and a special addressable receiver. This receiver will NOT receive other satellites, ONLY the one fixed system it is designed for. It will be fully addressable, AND basically DirectTV is nothing more than a CABLE COMPANY IN THE SKY. Your receiver won't work if you don't pay the monthly bill, which will could run you MORE than cable depending on your options. Pay Per View movies will also be available, probably for $4 each or there- abouts. The hardware will cost you between $700 to over $1000 just to have the priviledge of PAYING for EVERYTHING YOU WATCH. You can scrounge a TVRO (big dish) system for the same or less, and see PLENTY of FREE stuff. For some people, though, DBS will be just the thing they have been waiting for, especially those who can not get cable and WANT cable. These folks will see the costs as justified, and won't mind dealing with only ONE source. However, one thing to bear in mind. For now, DBS is a monopoly. It will not be compatible with any other system, including all the millions of dishes and receivers already in place. Remember, if you can tolerate a larger dish, you can receive over 200 video and HUNDREDS of audio channels for FREE, no monthly charge. We personally feel this is a greater value, and if you DO want premium or pay programming it is ALL available already NOW with a conventional satellite system, which can be had for very little money when you come right down to it. Still, we do believe that DirectTV will probably be a big hit. In Europe, the ASTRA satellite system has revolutionized the distribution of TV shows. Cable did not have a very strong foothold there in most countries, and there are thousands of ASTRA systems being sold every month. We expect this will happen in the USA as well. What it means to the present satellite industry remains to be seen, but we know this much: Nothing stays the same especially when it comes to SATELLITE TV. A consideration: at present there are TWO different DBS systems, DSS and PRIMESTAR. They use two totally incompatible methods of signal delivery. Other DBS systems are on the horizon. Those first on the market are not always the ones that survive. Remember the Quasar Great Time Machine VCR? Remember BETAMAX? Remember the SELECTAVISION CED VIDEODISK that played with a needle? Remember 8 Track audio tapes? Early adopters sometimes get left holding the bag. A third DBS system is slated to arrive in late 1995 or early 1996, run by Charlie Ergen. This venture will be called ECHOSTAR. As of now, it is not known what technology he will use. It could very well be a THIRD incompatible system! In any case, since the DBS dishes do not move, even if they were compatible systems, you are pretty well locked into ONE supplier of audio and video, and you PAY for it all. With a BUD or TVRO, you can chose from MANY different suppliers, and also you have a ton of FREE channels. For more information about DBS, get the DBS FAQ. If you have USENET ACCESS you should FIRST look in rec.video.satellite.dbs If you absolutely can not find it there, then and only then write to the author: Rich Peterson <rich@ncs.com> This FAQ discusses the new and forthcoming DBS systems, primarily DirectTV. You will find it very informative. CAN I USE A SMALLER DISH FOR AUDIO ONLY. For strong subcarrier signals, a smaller dish will work quite well. For general reception of most wide band and some narrowband signals, a good 6 footer, such as the new Orbitron 6 foot dish with MICROMESH will provide perfectly satisfactory reception. 4 or 5 foot dishes will give good audio performance on wideband audio carriers and if you can accept some noise, a cheap 3 foot dish would at least provide you a signal on BBC or other strong signals, though there will be some hiss, it will still be better than shortwave reception. Experimenters claim to have gotten decent audio with a two foot dish. However if you live on the outer portions of the USA (Florida, California, Washington State, Maine, etc) you will need a bigger dish to get the same quality as someone in the central USA in most cases. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRIMESTAR AND DSS? This question answered by Monty Solomon Primestar is a service similar to DirecTV/USSB (often collectively called DBS or DSS) but different in several respects. WHAT PRIMESTAR AND DBS HAVE IN COMMON: The provider (DirecTV, USSB, or Primestar) decides what programming to put on their system, and if you want the Mack Truck Channel and the provider has chosen not to include it in its lineup, you are SOL. In this way, your relationship with the provider is similar to that with a cable company. A comparitively small dish is used and there is no need to rotate it. You must pay the provider monthly fees for the programming you want; there is no free programming. Choices include package deals, ala carte channels, PPV, etc. Programming is sent on the (roughly) Ku band, so rain storms can cause outages or poor pictures. HOW PRIMESTAR AND DBS DIFFER: The Primestar equipment is leased, so you don't have to go out on the limb of buying the equipment without knowing how satisfied you will be with the result, whether your interest will decline, etc. There is, however, a non-refundable installation fee ($150?), so you are risking that. While DBS dealers may encourage you to pay an installation fee, most people can do it themselves. With Primestar, you do not have this option. The Primestar system can only receive Primestar, while the DBS system can receive either DirecTV, or USSB, or both at the same time. Primestar currently does not compress their programming, so pictures can look cleaner than on a good DBS setup. However, I understand Primestar is in the process of adding a large number of new channels and will soon be compressing. With Primestar, you get the dish and the programming directly from your local Primestar office; there is no shopping around for the best deal at Sears or whatever, then going to a third party for the programming. CAN I GET STAR TREK: VOYAGER ON MY SATELLITE DISH? WHEN IS IT ON? If you have DBS, you can *NOT* get Star Trek Voyager. No current DBS service offers a UPN affiliate, and for now there are no plans. If you have DBS, your only possible source for UPN is to use your regular TV antenna or rabbit ears. If you have no UPN affiliate in your area, and don't want (or can't get) cable, then you have only ONE CHOICE: BUD! Many TVRO owners got into Satellite TV just for Science Fiction programming (It is ALL up there, including a channel of nothing BUT Sci Fi) All the current running network and syndicated SCI FI shows are broadcast by satellite, and as a dish owner, you have the chance to see MOST of these shows *FOR FREE* BEFORE they are shown on the local station, because the tapes are transmitted TO the stations and networks BY SATELLITE. In the case of Star Trek: Voyager, Here are the particulars: ALL THESE FEEDS HAPPEN ON MONDAY..... T1/03 PARAMOUNT SYNDICATION LEASED TRANSPONDER: 12:00N (EST) FIRST Secondary feed, no logo T1/19 UNITED PARAMOUNT LEASED TRANSPONDER: 5:30pm (EST) SECOND Secondary feed, no logo 8:00pm (EST) Primary EASTERN feed, UGLY UPN Logo in Lower right 11:00pm (EST) Primary WESTERN feed, UGLY UPN Logo in Lower right STEREO: 6.2L 6.8R MONO: 5.8 WIDEBAND We feel it is important enough to repeat: Star Trek: Voyager is *NOT* available in *ANY* form on the DBS dishes (Either DSS or Primestar). They do not have a UPN Affiliate, and at least for now they have NO plans to add one. If you want Star Trek: Voyager, and can't see it on your local channel, the ONLY way to get it is on a BUD! WHAT IS A WILD FEED, AND WHY ARE THESE SHOWS SENT EARLY? What we term "Wild Feeds" on the internet would actually be more accurately called "Recurring Feeds". These are TV shows which are indeed sent out well before they air on your local or network channel. The answer as to why they exist is quite simple: This is how the programs are distributed, as it is cheaper and faster and more reliable to use satellite than the old method of sending the shows on VIDEOTAPE or FILM. There are two main types of wild feeds: (1) Feed from Production House to the NETWORK In this instance, The studio that makes the original show is in Los Angeles. The program is shot on film or videotape, and is then edited by a "Production House". When the program is done, it is then transmitted from L.A. to New York City (Network headquarters) where it is picked up and recorded by the network (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX) that will be later broadcasting the program. In almost all cases, these shows are fed with NO COMMERCIALS. Instead there is a 10 second space where the network will later put the commercials in. Of all the wild feeds, this is the dish head's favorite. (2) Feed from Syndicator to Local Station This type of feed is used for Talk Shows, some Kids Shows, and a few Comedy/Drama/Adventure shows that are played at your local station. Again, your local station will record the show for later broadcast. In this case there are always the Syndicator commercials, but there are long black spaces where your local station will run their own commercials. In the old days of Television (Your FAQ author worked in TV in that era) the shows were actually sent on film or tape by UPS. Satellite delivery is faster and cheaper. There is a listing that the FAQ author distributes over the internet at the first of every month called THE INTERNET WILD FEEDS LIST, which is available by EMAIL from flash@lopez.marquette.mi.us, or can be grabbed at: http://www.nmia.com/~roberts/robert.html This listing usually has between 600 and 800 shows that are available on TVRO satellite as wild feeds. There is also a mailing list designed for those involved in the work of feed finding, though it is a closed list and is for workers only. If you are really into wildfeeds and would like to join this work group, write the FAQ author for details. Note: If you are not really dedicated to wild feeds, you will soon tire of the mailing list as it consists of work related messages, and the completed end result is never posted on the mailing list. WHAT DOES "BUD" MEAN (I SEE IT ALL THE TIME IN POSTINGS) Bud is an accronym for "Big Ugly Dish", the kind of dish we love. The term was originally used to denegrate the TVRO type dish by the purveyors of DSS in their attempts to somehow convince the general public that their system is better. On our Friday Night Live Radio show, I made it a point to praise the BIG UGLY DISH, and Robert Smathers shortened it to "BUD". Now we are seeing the term on other networks and even in magazines. A "BUD" is any dish of 10 or 12 feet. A 7 foot dish is called "BUD LITE". Eric Knippert coined the phrase LSD for Little Silly DIsh, refering to the smaller DSS type dishes. We personally LOVE the larger dish and see them as beautiful sculpture in our yards. More importantly, we find the variety and value of the larger dish to be a main deciding factor in our choice to "Go all the way". When you say "BUD", You've said it all! HOW CAN I KNOW WHICH NBA AND NHL GAMES ARE ON THE BIRDS? There is a schedule, put out by Sports Scheduling P.O. Box 5756 Fargo, ND 58105 When a local station or sports network has a game there is usually a "Backhaul" (direct feed from the event back to the studio, if the game is out of town from the originating station. (Otherwise they don't need a bird). Now some of these satellite channels are known in advance, for example the games broadcast on the superstations like WTBS or the various SportsChannels. This is *not* the case, however, for the "feeds" from the arenas back to the local broadcast station. These feeds are paid for by the hour, and (usually) the cheapest or most convenient satellite and transponder are utilized, so it's not generally possible to predict in advance exactly what satellite "channel" will be used for a given game. Mike Northam regularly posts the games that he sees in Oregon, AFTER the fact. Some wonder what value there is in this. Mike says: >My listings, taken over time, however, do show patterns. For example, I >know from experience that if I want to see a Blazer game, the *most >likely* location for a feed is on G6. So far this season, all the Blazer >Cable games have been on G6-14, so that's going to be the first place I >look for a game. Most of the Utah Jazz games have been on G6 or T1. The >Bulls tend to be on G2, etc. When Portland plays at Utah, I'll look on >G6, since a lot of Bonneville (Salt Lake uplink) transmissions are found >there. Most NBA cities similarly have "preferred" locations, either due >to limitations/preferences of the transmitting uplink or the downlink >(for example, KSTU in Salt Lake City may have only one fixed dish >available for such purposes). NOTE: In 1994, the NFL scrambled. Backhauls are not available and Feeds for FOX and NBC are LEITCH Encryped and not available to the home dish owner. That is the BAD news. For those who are football fans, the GOOD news is that ALL the games ARE available via SEASON TICKET, and all on the T-303 satellite. The not so good news is that the costs is $139.00, which may or may not be a good value depending on how much you like football. Also if you live in a blackout area, your team games WILL be blacked out. The transponders being used are the same ones TVN uses for pay per view movies and events. Many football fans are happy because they did not like "Hunting" for their games. CAN YOU WATCH MORE THAN ONE TV AT THE SAME TIME? In a single LNB, single receiver system, you can watch a single channel on multiple Tvs, if you have cabled from your receiver to each TV. It is not possible to watch different channels with this system. To watch different channels you need DUAL LNB's for C and DUAL LNB's for KU. You will also need a separate receiver for each location, and a fairly complex means of splitting and distributing the incoming cables. It can be done, cable companies do it all the time, but it is probably not worth the effort, especially if you want to view subscription channels because the bad news is you will need to pay another subscription for EACH LOCATION. That can be expensive. However, having at least two receivers is not a bad idea, and fairly easy to do. However, you can only watch signals on ONE satellite at a time doing this. One alternative is to RECORD programs ahead of time for viewing by others in the family. In this case having a couple of receivers, a couple VCR's and splitting subscription channels between the two will let you build up a nice collection of tapes in no time. Once the family is really sold on the dish, it will not be hard to convince them you need ANOTHER one. Or two or three. CAN I RECEIVE INTERNATIONAL SATELLITES ON MY DISH? This depends on where you live, what size dish you have, and how low you can "aim" your dish to the horizon. Playing with the Intelsats, Panamsat, and the Russian Statsionar birds is something that folks on the East coast of the USA do all the time. You should have a LARGE dish though, 16 to 20 feet to really do the job, though people HAVE picked up signals with dishes as small as 7 1/2 feet from as far west as Minnesota. With the average 10 to 12 foot dish you may do just fine. To receive the signals, you will need a few modifications to your system. You will need a circular feed, as unlike Domestic USA birds that are Horizontally or Vertically polarized, International satellites use Right Hand, or Left Hand Circular Polarization. If you have a monster dish, you can get by without the proper feed, but you will loose at least 3 to 5 db of signal. Chaparral makes a special feed for international satellites, at a cost of around $325. As an alternative, there is a plastic insert you can obtain that will convert your feed to circular. This item is quite cheap, about $20. However, I have found from my own experience that the ADL feed, at least when used with my ORBITRON SST-10 does a good job of discriminating on circular signals with no degredation of domestic reception as might happen with a circular modified feed. International birds have a LOW look angle, very close to the horizon, so a horizon to horizon mount is recommended if you are serious about receiving foreign programming. The AJAX H/H mount is a worthy investment. You will also need a multistandard TV, or some means of viewing PAL and SECAM signals, which are different from the NTSC system used in the USA. If you don't mind black and white, though, a B&W TV is easily adjusted to pick up the European signals, and is suitable for the experimenter and tinkerer. The Panasonic AG-W1 VCR has a built in standards convertor, which will allow you not only to view these international channels, but also to record them (you can not use your USA VCR to record PAL or SECAM signals). Much of the international stuff is on KU band, and the European KU band is different than the American band, so you need a frequency agile receiver, and the ability to store and program the various frequencies. Even the C band signals are not quite the same channels as a domestic satellite receiver expects, so you may have to adjust your video fine tune to receive them. This aspect of the hobby is exciting, and if you are interested in NEWS events LIVE, or cultural variety the cost is minimal. While the east coast is the place to be for the best international reception, good signals can be picked up on intelsats in the midwest using a 10 foot dish. There is limited access to Pacific Satellites on the west coast. WHAT ABOUT THIS MYSTERIOUS KU BAND? Ku band satellites don't require as large a dish to receive, some have 32 transponders instead of the 24 on C band. The true satellite junkie will want KU because "it is there". In addition, there is talk of more and more transmissions on this band. SBS6, for example is one busy bird, with MANY sports and newsfeeds. KU offers a LOT to those who want to experiment and explore. G4 and G7 have beautiful KU signals, and if you live in the Northern USA, there is some very interesting stuff on the ANIK satellites on KU band. Ku band satellites are harder to tune than C band, often requiring extensive manual adjustments. Ku is also more weather sensitive. Ku programming services are not as well documented as C band. On a larger dish (like a 10 footer) the KU signals are as narrow as a laser beam. One brief touch of the actuator and the signal is gone. GETTING it in the first place (tracking) is not a job for the faint of heart. HOWEVER if you have your dish tracked for the KU band, it will be DEAD ON for C band. PBS is now on KU, and ABC also has feeds there, both on the T-401 Satellite. This could be the push that gets many folks to upgrade to KU. NBC feeds all its programming on K2, a KU satellite. The NBC programming is all in the clear, though there are rumors they may scramble. ALL NEWS CHANNEL is also seen on SBS6 quite often when the two CONUS channels are not being used for newsfeeds. The two ANIK satellites have a LOT of KU on them, including an UNCUT MOVIE SERVICE In the CLEAR, Two Music Channels, Regional Public Networks, ASN (Atlantic Satellite Network) and plenty of French stuff. These two birds can be seen well ONLY in the NORTHERN part of the USA, However. Conversely, There is MEXICAN stuff on the Morellos Birds that can only bee seen in the Southern USA. Such is the way of KU, much narrower spotbeams. KU is also the place to look for NEWS and SPORTS feeds, and backhauls of all sorts. International type programming (Chinese, Russian, Japanese language) and many educational feeds are all up there. For the dyed in the wool dish head, KU is where it is at. WHAT DOES IT COST TO ADD KU TO MY SYSTEM? If your dish is KU compatible (some mesh dishes are not) all you need to add OUTSIDE is a DUAL BAND FEED, such as the COROTOR II, and an additional KU LNB. The cost for this will be between $188 and $300 depending on where you buy, and how sensitive your KU LNB will be. To tell if your mesh dish will work on KU measure the size of the holes or openings in the mesh. If they are greater than 1/4 inch, you won't get good KU reception. KU LNB's are measured in DB, rather than degrees Kelvin (as C band LNB's are measured). .6 DB is considered good. 2.0 is considered junky, though you can probably find a 2.0 db KU LNB pretty cheap, and it CAN give acceptable signals on MOST birds, and might be a good place to start if you find one used. You obviously will ALSO need a receiver that can tune KU band. Most newer receivers can. There is also a device called the UST-55 KU convertor which was made by UNIDEN. These are sometimes still available from various dealers at a reasonable price. The convertor does two things. It INVERTS the video (KU video is inverted compared to C band) and it adds a fine tuning control to allow compressing 32 channels into 24 channels. There is no real standard for KU channel layout as there are in the C band. Various receivers number the channels differently. Some receivers like the DRAKE 1824 have KU SEEK which saves a lot of tinkering when looking for special KU feeds. Tracking your dish for KU is more difficult. The beamwidth is much narrower, and everything is more critical. If you get your system to track well in the KU band, your C band reception will be perfect. KU is a lot of fun. We recommend it! HOW LONG DOES A SATELLITE "LAST" AND WHY DO THEY GET REGULARLY REPLACED? The average lifespan for a communications satellite is about 10 years. While the electronics inside the satellite can last many many years, the determining factor is the "station keeping fuel". Satellites only "appear to be stationary because of their location in the Clarke Belt, in reality they are whirring about the planet, and their orbits become eccentric if left alone. So each satellite has small rockets on board to regularly adjust the orbit of the bird. After 10 years this fuel runs out, and the satellite can no longer be adjusted with respect to its position. This causes the satellite to start to appear to "wobble" up and down in the orbital plane, and eventually become unusable. Before this happens, a replacement bird is launched, and the old satellite is unceremoniously "kicked" up into a higher "parking" orbit. While it is a nice thought that some day a space salvage company could go up there and refuel all those old birds, it is unlikely, and the rapid changes in technology make the older low power satellites nothing more than curious antiques. WHAT IS AN INCLINED ORBIT SATELLITE AND HOW CAN I RECEIVE THEM? Inclined orbit birds are satellites that "wobble" north and south of the vary in the vertical plane, as explained in the previous paragraph. At the end of a satellite's life, when station keeping fuel is running low if a replacement satellite is not ready, there is the option to "go inclined". One method used is called the "Comsat Maneuver", which puts the bird into an elongated figure 8 pattern. On C band this method can get 6 months or more of life out of a near dead satellite (Usually the electronics are fine, it is just the low amount of Hydrazine fuel that marks the EOL or End Of Life of a satellite. On C band a slightly inclined satellite will appear to have a weaker signal during parts of the day when it is off axis. Many of us remember that this was done with the old Telstar 301, causing some of the Wild and Network feeds to be less than perfect. However, it is better than no satellite at all, which is the case when a launched bird BLOWS UP like Telstar 402 did in late 1994, meaning that 302 will go inclined while waiting for T-402R. In addition to these situations, there are birds that are kept in inclined orbits for YEARS. Several Intelsats are this way, as are a couple of SBS birds, such as SBS3. ON KU band, because of narrower beamwidth, an inclined bird can only be viewed during an hour or so a day on a standard satellite system, when its wobble places it directly over the equator. The Robert Smathers SSSSC Chart lists the times of day you can pick up these inclined birds. Some, like SBS3 have a continuous ID slate so you can find them. Professional Downlinkers often have DUAL AXIS tracking systems which allow for adjustment in the vertical as well as horizontal plane. In 1995, NBC will move its feeds off K2 and onto an inclined SBS bird. All NBC affiliates will be outfitted with costly auto tracking systems. The good news is that it is now possible for the HOME BACKYARD TVRO OWNER to install his own system to track these inclined orbit birds. The key component of this setup is a "vertical kit" which consists of a heavy steel "hinge" which will allow your dish to move up and down. The cost for this kit is around $70, and if you are a bit of a tinkerer, it is well worth the money. To this kit, you simply add a positioner arm (you can do like I did and scrounge one for very little money) and you will need a means of providing the 24 volt DC current with switchable polarity. This can be accomplished by using an old manual type dish positioner to control the vertical tracking. These can be had free or very cheap. Such a system is NOT automatic, you need to use your eyeballs and your IRD's signal readout to peak the signal and you need to adjust the tracking every 10 minutes or so. If you are chasing newsfeeds, this won't be too much bother. If you really get into tracking inclined birds, there are computerized tracking systems, and even a few IRD's that have the ability to track them automatically. It depends on your own tastes, desires, and level of technical expertise. The vertical kit I purchased was from Global Communications (See Dealer list at end of this article) Since he is a TVRO dish design engineer, he can quickly determine if your system will adapt to this type of system. Hint: if you have an AJAK H/H drive, the answer is YES! During the Olympics it was fun to be able to watch the feeds LIVE and not have to wait for the USA delay broadcasts. Many of these feeds were on an inclined Intelsat. Besides NBC, activity on inclined birds is fairly sparse, mostly special feeds. Thus the option of being able to track these satellites is not for everyone but the option is certainly there for folks who do. IT IS EARLY SPRING (FALL) AND I WAS WATCHING MY SATELLITE DISH AND THE PICTURE GOT WEAKER AND THEN VANISHED FOR 20 MINUTES. IS MY SYSTEM BROKEN? No. You have just experienced the twice yearly Solar Transit Event. This occurs when the sun, which emanates a very strong amount of microwave energy is in line with the Clarke Belt where the satellites live, and your dish. This is incorrectly called "SUNSPOTS" even by people who should know better (TV station engineers and the like). It only lasts a week or so, and affects EVERY satellite in the arc moving from east to west. It affects EVERYONE who uses satellites, including the Cable Companies, TV and radio stations. Cable channels will wink out, Radio programs will be replaced by music, and TV stations have to carefully record shows in the middle of the night to play back during the day so viewers won't know there is a problem. You CAN use this problem as a tool though. This is a great way to do a poor man's site survey. Just go to where you plan to install a satellite dish, and sit there all day and watch the sun. If it goes behind trees, you will know there won't be good reception of some of the satellites. If all day long the sun is unobscured, then you know there will be a great location for a dish. WHAT IS SCPC? SCPC (Single Channel Per Carrier) is a method of transmitting audio over satellite. Primarily this is a service for Radio Stations, and is not meant for the general public. This alone makes it fascinating to receive. There are hundreds of SCPC channels in use. Radio Networks, Sportscasts, Music services, talk shows, all are heard on SCPC, as well as major market radio stations. SCPC can be received with a special receiver, and there are a number of "tricks" that netters have used to pick up these signals, which can not normally be received on consumer satellite receivers. If one has a satellite receiver that has a "70 MHZ LOOP", a cheap TV band Radio can be used to tune SCPC. While it is also possible to use SOME scanners that tune the 70 mhz loop (such as the RADIO SHACK PRO-2006) the results are very poor. The TV radio actually sounds MUCH better. The reason for this is due to the "step" frequencies of the scanner. With SCPC the main problem encountered is one of BANDWIDTH. SCPC signals can be found as narrow as 50 KHz bandwidth to as wide as 150 or more. By comparison, The TV band radio receives approximately 75 KHz bandwidth and a normal scanner in narrow mode receives 5 KHz. For this reason, a standard scanner will not give a listenable signal, even if it is modified to tune the 70 MHZ loop. Some receivers, with VIDEO FINE TUNE can be used to shift the 70 MHz IF band UP to the low end of the REGULAR FM band. This can give fair results, though usually the entire SCPC spectrum can not be tuned this way. For satellite receivers that do NOT have a 70 mhz loop, it is necessary to use a DEDICATED receiver that can tune the 950-1450 mhz band. The ICOM 7000, 7100, and 9000 have this capability, though they are quite expensive. The less expensive (~ $600 ) ICOM R-100 is an extremely wideband receiver which tunes from 100 KHz to 1800 MHz. This includes the whole 950-1450 block, so it can tune direct signals from the LNB. To connect the R-100 or a similar receiver, one uses a DC BLOCK SPLITTER. The isolated side goes to the R-100, and the other side goes to the Sat Receiver, which is necessary to power the LNB. The R-100 is very desirable because it also tunes Standard Subcarrier (available through the RAW VIDEO Jack on your sat receiver) as well as FM SQUARED audio. It also is a nice public service scanner, and SHORTWAVE receiver. This one radio does it all AND it doubles on sax. There are two DEDICATED SCPC receivers. The simpler HEIL SC-ONE, which features analogue tuning and sells for around $450. The newer UNIVERSAL SC-100 features 50 memories, digital readout and a built in amplifier. BOTH these receivers lack MULTIPLE bandwidths, which mean they do not give perfect reception of all SCPC signals. Also, SCPC signals are compressed on a 3 to 1 DBX encoding, which means reception is lacking in dynamic range unless a suitable decompression scheme is used. There is no PERFECT consumer SCPC reception system, but the above methods DO work, and can provide a lot of enjoyment AND the reception of several hundred new signals. Author note: A detailed discussion of audio subcarriers is available in a written transcript of a recent radio show I did regarding the various methods of tuning satellite audio. Write if interested in a copy of this transcript. Also, a listing of SCPC audio stations is available as part of Robert Smathers' SOUTHSCANNER CHART, regularly posted to the rec.video.satellite.tvro / HOMESAT lists. I have also written an SCPC FAQ, which contains much of the information you have just read, with some additional information, it is available by writing me at the address in the header of this FAQ. WHAT ARE DATS AND SEDATS AUDIO, AND HOW CAN I RECEIVE THEM. DATS is Digital Audio Transmission System, and SEDATS is Spectrum Efficient Digital Audio Transmission System, which are replacing SCPC for many national services. All the Major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, MUTUAL and quite a number of syndicators (Howard Stern, etc) are now on DATS and SEDATS. These signals are primarily on the Aurora (C5) Satellite. There is no home DATS or SEDATS receiver, and no known experimenter project for receiving this audio. We understand that the manufacturers of these receivers WILL sell them to anyone, including home dish owners, but the $4000 price tag for a mono audio only receiver has thus far placed this technology out of reach for 99.9% of the audio experimenters we know. WHAT DIGITAL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE ON SATELLITE AND HOW DO I GET IT? There are a number of different text information services available via satellite, Unfortunately, at present ALL are pay services. WST = World System Teletext. This system is very popular in Europe and was also available in the USA. At this time, there are no longer any Teletext Transmissions available in North America X*PRESS X*CHANGE. By far the most comprehensive source of text news is X*PRESS. This service links you into all the major world NEWS WIRE services: AP, UPI, REUTERS, TASS and many others. To take advantage of this amazing service, you must have a computer just to sort the incoming data for you. X*PRESS allows you to select articles based upon key word search. This is a subscription service, and is not cheap. Expect to pay $30 per month for the service. You will also need an INFOCIPHER decoder. Computers supported include PC clones, Macintosh, ATARI ST, APPLE II. A new PC software package was released in June of 1993 for MS/DOS machines which addresses problems of earlier versions. A Windows version was introduced in 1995. Full information on X*PRESS X*CHANGE service can be had by dialing 1-800-7PC-NEWS. The fee is reasonable considering the amount of data available. The total news junkie will love it. This service is transmitted on Galaxy 5. SKYLINK. This is also a service available for the home TVRO user, and offers downloads and some text information and TV schedules. Reception requires the purchase of a $150 box, and payment of a yearly $90 fee. The main appeal of this service is access to a HUGE array of public domain and shareware programs for MSDOS compatible computers. There are also weather maps and other services. The Shop-At-Home TV service operate SKYLINK, and market the box and the subscriptions. The data is fed on an audio subcarrier of their home shopping network service on G3/17. For more information on SKYLINK call 1-800-544-6694. PLANET CONNECT. This is a service similar to SKYLINK, except it is designed for BBS operators. It contains the FIDO backbone as well as a lot of USENET traffic. Hardware/Software and Subscription info available from SKYLINK at the above phone number. In addition to these services directed at the home user, there are digital signals all over the sky, but these are commercial services, using proprietary encoding systems, and are directed at commercial users, which are either too costly for the home user to subscribe to, or not available at any price. Experimenters occasionally manage to figure out ways to tap into these systems, but such discussions are beyond the scope of the FAQ. If interested in such things, we recommend Tom Harrington's popular book: THE HIDDEN SIGNALS ON SATELLITE TV, even though much of the infor- mation in the book is a bit out of date. WHAT IS THE BEST SATELLITE SYSTEM FOR ME? We often receive this question, and it is not an easy one to answer. this depends on what YOU want. We recommend you go to a reputable local satellite dealer, and LOOK at the systems on display. Do not buy the first system you are shown, and if you are not sure exactly what you want, do not be pressured into buying immediately. The system will be there tomorrow AND the next day. You CAN save a LOT of money buying mail order, but you will have to install the system yourself. By looking at the types of receivers/dishes available, you will get familiar with what Satellite TV is all about. There are advantages and disadvantages with virtually EVERY receiver on the market, so there is no blanket answer to which system is the best for YOU. We suggest you spend a LOT of time looking at all the available systems out there. A good place to start is in your YELLOW PAGES under SATELLITE TV. Visit as many dealers as you can. You may still decide on mail ordering a system, there is no law that says you HAVE to buy from the local guy. Unless you want a totally installed system. Even so SHOP AROUND. Beware high pressure tactics to buy every bell and whistle available. ISN'T IT DIFFICULT TO INSTALL A SATELLITE SYSTEM? You and a couple of friends can assemble, install and track your satellite system in one day, even if you know NOTHING about the technology involved. You need only know how to dig a hole, pour concrete, and put a pipe into the concrete and get it plumb. There are many books on the topic of satellite TV that can help you, which should be available on loan from your library. Doing it yourself will save you around $500. However, if you don't mind spending the additional money, your local dealer will be glad to set your system up so you can just sit back and push the buttons on the remote control. This is up to you. Some people do not like to tinker and tweak. A do it yourself system can take some time before you are satisfied with it. There is a nifty installation manual and videotape available from SKYVISION that can help you do it right. See the Vendor section for Skyvision's phone number. MY COMMUNITY HAS RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS AND DISHES ARE NOT ALLOWED. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO WATCH SATELLITE TV? There are a number of things you can do depending on your resourcefulness, and also how much you are willing to invest. First, federal law takes precedence here. The LEGAL fact is, your community can NOT restrict you from installing a satellite dish. If you take them to court, you will win, but, of course, you have to hire an attorney and the fight will add $5,000 or so to the price of your system, UNLESS you can scare them by showing them the fact that the courts MUST side with the dish owner. It would cost you about HALF that price to get an FCC TVRO receiving license (Yes they are still issued), and as a legally licensed receive station you can also bring the government into play. You can scare them by showing them legal briefs that show how the cities always lose, and THEN have to pay YOUR legal fees. If you wish to take the legal avenue, get the help of ASTA, the American Satellite TV Alliance. They have a very good legal package which can help you put a case together to get your dish. The federal law in question is: Code of Federal Regulations 25.104 is titled "Preemption of local zoning of earth stations" and is reproduced below in entirety: "State and local zoning or other regulations that differentiate between satellite receive-only antennas and other types of antenna facilities are preempted unless such regulations: (a) Have a reasonable and clearly defined health, safety or aesthetic objective; and (b) Do not operate to impose unreasonable limitations on, or prevent, reception of satellite delivered signals by receive-only antennas or to impose costs on the users of such antennas that are excessive in light of the purchase and installation cost of the equipment. Regulation of satellite transmitting antennas is preempted in the same manner except that state and local health and safety regulation is not preempted." 83 Am Jur 2d sec. 488 is entitled "Radio and television towers and antennas; satellite dishes" and includes the following: "In order to regulate satellite antennas and avoid a federal preemption, the local ordinance must not differentiate between satellite antennas and other types of antenna facilities (L.I.M.A. Partners v. Northvale, 219 NJ Super 512, 530 A2d 839). The First Amendment right to receive information via a satellite dish is a relative right which may be outweighed by important governmental interests, such as the protection of community aesthetics (Decker v Plantation (SD Fla) 706 F Supp 851). Thus, an owner who was denied a special permit required by local zoning ordinance to erect a satellite dish in his front yard did not have his rights to due process or equal protection violated, where 16 permits had been issued, all for backyard erection of satellite dishes, properly screened to maintain the aesthetics of the community (Decker v Plantation (SD Fla) 706 F Supp 851). An ordinance governing amateur radio antennas does not deprive a homeowner of equal protection on the grounds that it discriminates in favor of satellite dish communication (Bulchis v Edmonds (WD Wash) 671 F Supp 1270). "A 12-foot by 12-foot antenna, attached to the ground by concrete and angle irons, is a "structure" as that term is employed in an ordinance which prohibits structures in required front yard space (Gouge v. Snellville, 249 Ga 91, 287 SE2d 539). " The preceding was typed to the net by Pravin K. Mishra, Ph.D. You can get a package of information from ASTA for about $25. Call ASTA for more information on their material at 914-997-8192. I used this package to successfully defend my own dish installation, which is 26 feet high, attached to a huge platform structure made just for the dish. Nothing like this previously existed in my city, and they wanted me to get a variance. With the ASTA material I did not have to pay for the variance and have the hearing (which would have cost $150, and I could have lost) If you live in California, Keith Jarett advises us: AB104 (Dan Hauser) is now signed into law. It declares unenforceable any CC&Rs which prohibit TV antennas or dishes up to 3 feet in diameter. The homeowners association can regulate the installations within reason, but they can't ban the antennas. If you have to sue them and win, you can even get attorney's fees. DSSers in California can cheer, and BUDers can at least get a Ku dish put in. In fact, maybe they can put an ugly ugly Ku dish in the most obtrusive location allowed, then when asked to relocate it, just say "well, OK, if you just let me increase the diameter to 7 feet, I can get this much prettier dish in the back yard where no one will see it." However, there are other ways. Hide your dish. There is one manufacturer that makes a dish look like a beach umbrella, complete with lawn chairs and a table. There is also a very ingenious system called "The Rock" which is a fiberglass (Microwave transparent) boulder that can go right over a dish and hide it. One fellow we know of found out that his restrictive covenants DID allow a homeowner to have one of those outbuildings (shed) where people keep their lawnmowers, etc. He built one of microwave transparent material, and put his dish inside and no one is the wiser. Such a system is actually preferable, it protects the dish from wind and the elements. (professional radar systems use RADOMES for the same reason) I know of people who have non permanent dishes. Some roll the dish out at night, point it at their favorite bird, and roll it back in the house or garage before sunrise. Another person I know lives in a community that does not allow dishes, and he has two. They are on wooden bases, and thus not permanent. He never removes them, and he tells me they track the arc quite nicely. Of course if you have NOT purchased your house yet, the best thing you can do is to move into a community that is not so narrow minded. Especially if you get hooked and want MULTIPLE dishes (It CAN happen). The company that makes the replica boulder dish cammo system is: The Rock c/o QUB-L Vision Draw 609 Concord, CA 94520 While you will clearly win ZONING cases, Restrictive covenants are a different matter. There are ways to win, but it is not guaranteed, since you sign a contract agreeing to the limitations of the covenant. A good lawyer equipped with the ASTA information CAN win such a case, but it is not the simple issue that ZONING is. I LIVE ON A WOODED LOT WITH LOTS OF TREES. IS THIS A PROBLEM? Not if you have a chain saw. Trees in the way mean you don't get a picture, at least in the summer time. Trees have a tendency to block the microwave signals. If you are not sure of your situation, it is advisable to have a "SITE SURVEY" done by a local dealer. This should cost you no more than about $25. Usually you can find SOME place to put the dish to see the satellites, and mounting on a pole or your roof may help the situation. I have a similar situation here, and my dish is 26 feet high, and includes a massive steel reinforced wooden structure complete with a service platform. This helped me clear the tree line enough to actually get FOUR international satellites. Obtaining permission from the city to build this structure was a bit of a hassle, but thanks to the material from ASTA, I was able to convince them that under the Federal Pre-emption the city could not deny the installation. I now have perfect reception of the entire satellite arc. I CAN NOT GET rec.video.satellite.tvro BECAUSE MY SYSTEM IS NOT ON THE INTERNET OR DOES NOT CARRY NEWSGROUPS. IS THERE A WAY FOR ME TO RECEIVE THIS MATERIAL VIA EMAIL? Yes! Just use the HOMESAT mailing list. You can read the postings every day. Makes no difference if you are on CI$, GENIE, MCIMAIL or AOL or any System or BBS that allows netmail. To suscribe to homesat you should send your message to LISTSERV@VM1.NoDak.EDU with the text SUBSCRIBE TVROSAT <your name> do not send the request to homesat@vm1.nodak.edu this is for sending messages to the list only. Send a message to LISTSERV@VM1.NoDak.EDU with the text HELP to get a helpful info file about the working of the list. WHAT OTHER SOURCES OF INFO ARE THERE ABOUT SATELLITE TV? In addition to homesat, there is a WORLD WIDE WEB Satellite page run by Robert Smathers. If you have WWW access: http://www.nmia.com/~roberts/robert.html This page has a TON of info on it, including TVRO Images, and links to other TVRO related pages. Call it the "Granddaddy" of TVRO WWW Pages! AND it links you to all the rest of the TVRO info on the web... If you do not have WWW, but do have a modem, the Great White North BBS can be reached at up to 14.4 KB, at (906) 225-5496. At the login prompt type: bird and you will get a menu. You can also write for material in the mail either Electronic Mail, or even POSTAL Mail... (Keep Reading) I HAVE A QUESTION THAT WAS NOT ON THIS LIST. HOW DO I GET AN ANSWER? Ask Away. You can post your question right on the net. The only dumb question is the one you don't ask. We don't mind helping you get started. Or send me a note: flash@lopez.marquette.mi.us and I will try and answer, and include your question in future versions of this FAQ list. If you are reading this FAQ in printed form, and do not have a way to write us on the computer network, we will now answer your questions by postal mail. However, due to severe financial limitations, we can only comply with your request for information by mail if you: 1. Include a Stamped Self Addressed Envelope, placing enough postage to cover the material you are requesting. (if you are asking a simple question, one stamp is enough, if requesting more detailed information, please place more postage on your envelope sufficient to cover return mailing cost) 2. Write on the back of your RETURN envelope a summary of what you are asking for EVEN if you send a letter. We receive so much mail that letters and reply envelopes can get mixed up. (Do not write this on the envelope you are mailing to US in, but on the back of the envelope going back to you. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. We have a few envelopes here with no idea what is supposed to go in them. 3. Include a minimum $1 contribution to cover processing your request. We are a non profit corporation, and the wear and tear on equipment etc. is eating us alive. Larger donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE and will be used to cover expenses involved in information processing. Some multipage documents, like the SCROUNGER'S guide are quite heavy and come with a $3 surcharge for copying. 4. Send your question, SASE and Contribution to: Satellite Answers Great White North Inc. 429 Spring Street Marquette, MI 49855 5. We can not process any mailings that do not comply with the above stipulations. 6. If you make your request by computer EMAIL, there is no charge. This mail offer is made only to those who do not have electronic access. You will receive your REPLY by Email. Do not send me your postal address in this case. Just write to: flash@lopez.marquette.mi.us 7. We can not send long EMAIL files to Prodigy, so if you are on that system, your only option is to use the mail method outlined above unless you are asking a very simple question. Too often Prodigy rejects our replies because they go over the 6K Prodigy limit. If you already have a satellite dish, we encourage you to listen to our weekly call in show over the Tech Talk Network. This Listener Supported public service program is now in its third year. Each week we discuss all the latest TVRO news, and answer many technical questions from listeners. Friday Night Live can be heard on E2/18 5.8 Wideband Audio EVERY Friday night from 9PM to Midnight EASTERN TIME. Send me EMAIL for a complete TTN RADIO SCHEDULE. REFERENCE SECTION: HANDY PHONE LIST TO HAVE AROUND DISH... Ajak Industries(719)784-6301 California Amp (805)987-9000 Channel Master (919)934-9711 Chaparral (408)435-1530 EchoSphere/HTS (303)799-8222 Fujitsu Genrl. (201)575-0380 Gardiner (214)348-4747 General Inst (619)535-2545 Houston Trackr (303)790-4445 JGS (314)968-8788 Norsat (604)597-6200 Panasonic (201)348-7846 ParabolicsEast (501)729-3103 ProBrand (404)423-7072 Prosat (714)261-2204 Orbitron (608)588-2923 R.L.Drake (513)746-6990 SRS (517)697-3624 STS (314)423-7777 Tee-Comm (416)878-8181 Thomson/Saginaw(517)776-5111 Toshiba (312/708)541-9400 Uniden (800)261-9498 Names and addresses of Equipment Suppliers - New Satellite equipment (In alphabetical order) - Bob Duckworth Consulting (Atlanta) 404 874 5051 KU system w/ BR1000 manual receiver for $400 EchoTrak 305 344 6000 located in Coral Spring, Fl from an ad in QST Northeast Satellite 201-728-3217 (NJ) Uniden receivers (Complete C band system for $979), "Top of the Line" w/ Uniden 4500, 6' dish for $1300 Global Communications 608 546 2523 P.O.B. 747 Spring Green WI 53588 Mike Kohl Best prices on LNB's, KU Upgrade systems Receiver: Eurosat Horizon for $169 Full dedicated TVRO Single Sat System for $475 Brand New! KU Upgrade (Feed and .7 LNB) $188 Hannah & Hansen - New Tech Sat., Inc. HQ: (412) 621-4214 HQ: 3404 Juliet St. Pittsburgh, PA 15213 KU-Band Systems PRISMTECH, INC (309)685-0121 (309)685-0013 (Fax) 3303 West Reservoir Peoria, IL 61615 HST, Echostar, Uniden, Chaparral. Complete tracking 7.5' dish systems from $1099. SKYVISION, Inc. 1-800-543-3025 1-218-739-5231 Fergus Fall MN major dealer - eg, Orbitron 10' dishes for $349 or heavy duty for $439... LNBs, etc MJ Sales dba Satellite Warehouse 1842 W. Grant Rd. Suite 187 , Tucson Az 87574 800 851 6534 info at 602-792-9429 Fax: 520-624-1629 Authorized Factory Direct Distributor for: Drake, Orbitron, Ajak Industries, Panamax, Weingard, Channel Master and Com/Scope. "Large Inventory" Sat Warehouse Web Site: http://www.dss.digifix.com/DSS/SatWarehouse Universal Electronics - OH 614 866 4605 (heavy into SCPC) Possible One shot ad (not sure) - VCII (not plus) modules, Uniden 4400 receivers... 703 238 1951 - Used or New and Used Satellite equipment - Satcom (ask for that division) or leave number for callback 800 722 3158 714 957 3158 More Used Equipment "You name it, we have it" 317 385 2305 Satellite TV Muncie, IN Uniden 4400s Tracker, Startrack... 317 288 0074 "Matrix" 503 632 7187 misc sat receivers - actuators - programmable dish controllers - teletext decoders - etc. April 93 Nuts and Volts "Used Satellite Equipment" 317 385 2305 Feb 93 Nuts & Volts "Satellite Equipment Bought and Sold" Megastar 702 386 2844 >From an ad in N&V "New and Used Satellite Equipment" Rt 1, Box 22, Marshall OK 73056 >From an ad in N&V DBS Satellite, Ventura Califorina (new & used equip) 800-327-4728 >From an ad in N&V BEWARE! Cavet EMPTOR! Please forward any additions, alterations, corrections to pravin@LNBD.uicomp.uic.edu; complete addresses and other phone numbers are specially welcome. Contributors to the equipment section: Dr. Robert R. Wier <wier@MERLIN.ETSU.EDU> Netnews Server <NETNEWS@AUVM.AMERICAN.EDU> Mike Gingell <gingell@AURFS1.AUR.ALCATEL.COM> Pravin Mishra <Pravin@LNBD.uicomp.uic.edu> =End= -- / Gary Bourgois, WB8EOH, The Birdwatcher: Marquette Michigan USA \ ([-o Keeper of The r.v.s.t. FAQ, Wildfeeds List, and Radio Guides o-]) \ flash@lopez.marquette.mi.us REALAUDIO SITE AT: http://ttn.nai.net/ / Friday Night Live E2/18 5.8 Voicemail/FAX: (906) 228-7477