Recently we entered the world of satellite dishes and big plasma screens and HDTV. Herewith an illustrated litany of complaints, mostly small things but one big one.

But first, a note on what’s good: HDTV big-league sports broadcasts. Really outstanding. Oh yes, and the movies look good too (but then we only watch ’em every other month or so, we’re peasants cinematically). However, do get one of those region-free DVD players). Now, on to the complaining.

Satellite Follies · Getting the satellite up and running has been arduous. The first operator we picked couldn’t do it because our neighbor’s beautiful maple trees got in the way. The replacement took two days to get running... something about firmware.

Then, a week later, we suddenly lost half the satellite channels. After some quality time on the phone with the satellite company and multiple resets, we had the channels back. An hour later, we had this on the screen:

Symptoms of a satellite TV receiver crash


I’ve never had a TV show me a crash-dump before. Anyhow, more phone time, but basically reboot and reset and cycle the power enough times and that does it.

Remotes · Also in the picture above are the four remotes that it takes to steer this jalopy. So I looked at universal remotes, and that’s a confusing jungle of products out there varying wildly in price, like by an order of magnitude, and for none of them can you find out, in advance of buying, the answer to the key question: “Will this work with my stuff?”

Hmm, the satellite box’s remote claims to be sorta kinda universal, mind you the programming instructions seem to involve entering dozens of four-digit numbers one after another, this reminds me of booting an early PDP-11. Maybe someday.

POTV · Most broadcasts, (e.g. presidential debates) aren’t in HDTV but Plain Old TV. You can watch it on the middle two-thirds of the wide-screen but if you do that you’ll end up burning ghost images onto it, so you get the receiver to stretch it. As a result it ends up looking, well, kind of crappy. There are a lot of adjustments on all these boxes and we may make progress here.

DVI · Hey, the big Hitachi plasma has a DVI in and advertises 800x480 or some such resolution, ought to be pretty good for slide shows. But it really doesn’t want to play nice with the Mac, I even went and got switchres, which is scarily low-level in its function and interfaces, but still can only get a 640x480 in the middle third of the screen or a picture weirdly horizontally-stretched across the whole thing. Hmm... stay tuned.

What’s On? · Our basic package includes a mere 126 of the 800+ channels on offer, but pressing “next channel” doesn’t skip the 85% or so of channels we don’t get. So clearly surfing along one at a time doesn’t scale. There are online listings that are not too bad but they include all 800 channels and are only weakly customizable. So I went and got XMLTV but quickly found myself in open-source hell, so far can’t get it to do anything useful.

Work In Progress? · So, I guess there’s work to be done on improving the POTV signal and getting XMLTV to work and getting the DVI to talk to my Mac and rationalizing the remotes. But maybe it won’t get done, because...

The Big Problem · On two occasions since we got the setup I’ve felt kind of tired and burned out and thought I’d turn the screen on and spud out but you know what, it was pretty well mostly just all crap. So I probably don’t care enough to tweak it any more.

author · Dad
colophon · rights

October 05, 2004
· Technology (90 fragments)
· · TV (10 more)

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