NEWS AND VIEWS July 17, 2009
Mike and Laurel Kohl
S-9141 State Road 23
Plain, Wisconsin 53577-9612
July 17, 2009
A month and 10 days
later...another News and Views update.
We have been attempting to cover the fallout from the June 12th shutoff of full power analog television signals across the United States. It turns out that most of the public WAS ready for the transition, and that television stations were equally ready for that plug to be pulled, forcing everyone into permanent digital mode. But it turns out that flawed engineering data at the FCC has caused a major fiasco with stations that are now using VHF channels 2 to 13 for digital. Most visible examples include channel 13 in Baltimore, which was doing fine with its analog VHF channel, and equally well if not even better with their temporary UHF digital frequency. Once they shut off analog on VHF, turned off the temporary UHF digital signal, and then turned on VHF digital, a nasty surprise was found. As an outsider, all I can see is that highly visible engineering people must have been sleeping through much of their elementary school mathematics classes, and missed the parts on multiplication and division. Let's see if the rest of you can pass this test: If a UHF TV station was allowed to transmit 5 million watts video power in analog, and then given permission to use 1 million watts for digital, that would mean that the digital signal is using 20% of the power of previous analog signal. Suppose that a VHF station on channel 13 was previously transmitting at the maximum 316 Kw allowed for analog (just as UHF channels were allowed 5000 Kw on analog), would it not make a little bit of sense that the digital allotment should be somewhere near 20% of the previous analog power output? That number would be just over 60 Kw in most circumstances. Why were VHF channels given power outputs typically between 10 and 30 Kw? Did nobody realize that you would get extremely reduced coverage at a fraction of the power? And there was no real-world testing situation in many cases to see if digital VHF performance was adequate at proposed power levels?? Somewhere in the explanation should include the word "idiot", in my humble opinion. At least the FCC is now acting at previously unheard of speed to respond to broadcasters that are struggling with the power levels authorized, and giving them permission to crank up the power. It's still sort of an experimental process, with those complaining the loudest getting the attention (and permission) to increase power levels. Let's hope that things work out for the best sooner than later. Next is the plan to allow fill-in translators and other rebroadcasters to go on the air in areas that digital is now not working---after being satisfactory for analog signals for many years. Another debacle that will take a long time to straighten our!
Celebrity deaths. We lost Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson within the span of a few hours, in late June. I probably liked Ed the most of these three people, but never got to visit his home. Not to brag, but I did darken the doors of both Farrah and Michael, back nearly 20 years ago. A site survey for a C-band installation for Farrah, which resulted in a no-go due to excessive microwave interference, and a re-po at the Michael Jackson Neverland ranch. Never got to meet Farrah, but had a brief moment with Ryan O'Neal, who seemed like a very likeable person. Shortly after Michael Jackson purchased his ranch north of Santa Barbara, he was shopping for state of the art satellite equipment, which in his mind would have included at least two 10 to 12 foot antennas, and a minimum of 8 satellite receivers. His then-manager put things out to bid, and I recall that the wholesale price of the equipment was a shade over 16,000 dollars at the time. It was reported that the winning bidder got little more than 17,000 bucks for the equipment, and that the installation was formidable. Have you ever tried to wire multiple TV and satellite outlets into a building of the "Olde English stone" style. Glad that I never had to get involved. Our part came before this installation. Our competitor in Santa Barbara had the ranch account from the previous ranch owner. Michael's manager made arrangements to rent a 10-foot Winegard system with DX-800 consumer receiver, and motorized antenna for two weeks. Our competitor did not have this gear in stock, so he rented it at the cost our company charged. 1500 dollars for 2 weeks rental, for a system that retailed (without installation) at twice that price. Something to get Michael through his first few days before going out on tour. When it came time to pick up the rental equipment, Michael had already left, so my boss and I got to literally "repossess it", in a manner of speaking. Got a tour of the place and had an interesting conversation with the estate manager. Fascinating stuff, including the fact that the swimming pool was kept heated to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The amusement park and zoo had yet to be built. At least I got to see the place and can now claim that I repo-ed a satellite dish from Michael Jackson.
Satellite hardware. We have tested the latest S2 module for the Pansat 9200 HD receiver. Called the "S-2 Plus" module, it is now available for 149.00 plus shipping, and works much to our satisfaction, including a much more sensitive tuning ability plus blind scan. Notable S-2 channels include Louisiana Public Broadcasting on 125 West-Ku band (AMC-21), ABC and Fox feeds on C-band, TV Azteca from Mexico on 121 West C-band / Galaxy 23, and a number of Latin American channels on C-band satellites including 55.5 and 58.0 West. Not a huge amount of 24 hour English language programming in this mode, but it looks very promising, especially when one considers the blind scan ability plus the wild feed possibilities.
We are currently testing the new Traxis DBS-4000, which gives very positive results in scanning speeds and abiilties, especially when connected to a new Ku-band LNBF not only claiming 0.1 dB noise figure, but also containing an LED indicator that lights up green when you find the satellite. Will have a further report on this combination next month after further experimentation. We also have the new Conical C-band adapter for prime focus C-band feedhorns and LNBFs, allowing use on Offset Ku-band antennas. Looks like some interesting possibilities on 3 to 6 foot offset antennas.