New dish location...

(29th April 2007)


The end of an era #1

Ever since I started coming to France, in 1995, I have brought my dish and receiver. Originally Sky Multichannels + Premier + MovieMax on analogue, the dish has been ground-mounted on the east end of the house since 1997, more or less in the same position each time.

I watched analogue, diminishing English channels, then eventually German, until 2004 when I was given an old Sky Digibox. This went through all the stages of denial, including telling me no satellite existed when CNN on analogue (19.2°E) gave a sparklie-free picture. I don't know what this was all about, but it has not happened for a few years now.

The dish had to see through willow trees, therefore this time of year - especially in heavy (humid) or rainy weather, it would frequently report "No satellite signal is being received" for large parts of the day. In March 2007, I was sent a Silvercrest SL65 satellite receiver that showed the signal was indeed fairly poor, but some channels came in with minimal corruption.

But I'm a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, so enough was enough. This year I would get to hear Wogan's commentary (and wish I hadn't), instead of some German bloke. No offence to the Germans, but about all I know is "engel fliegen einsam" and I've probably spelled it wrongly anyway.

So the dish was to be moved. After a decade of being on the east. The end of an era.


The end of an era #2

I first watched Sky at the place I was staying when I briefly left home, in 1992/1993. I had plays with satellite TV prior but I wasn't impressed. Someplace I had an Amstrad 200 receiver with separate plug-in VideoCrypt box.

My first all-mine satellite kit was a Sky subscription plus Pace MSS200 receiver in late 1993. The dish was mounted in the back garden, held in place with paving slabs.

And so to fourteen years later. 2007. The dish was mounted to the east side of the house, held in place with ridge tiles.

This is the first dish installation that is actually bolted to anything! The end of an era.


The mounting

The dish is mounted fairly conventionally on a doorway to a barn. This location was chosen for the position looking south east without tree-shaped obstructions, as well as a doorway access in case of modifications to the dish position or setup (i.e. slave LNBs and switch unit).


Because the mounting has a little bit of 'play', I have temporarily rigged up an ingenious counter-balanced solution out of two old rake splines. The two arrangements hold each other in place, so the dish should not move. The part hooked into the bottom of the dish may come out in a storm, however in this case I'd be inclined to swing the dish back and tie it down to stop it (or the LNB) getting damaged.

Soon, I plan to fit a jubilee clip to each part of the mount, with a piece or two of metal spanning the joint, as shown below. That should be much more secure.

Update 2008/02/10: Okay, so I made a mistake on my index page in saying it was held in place using coat hangers. I don't think you'd notice much between a coat hanger and a rake spline!
I have not gotten around to securing the dish with the jubilee clips because... well... because I didn't remember I was going to until I re-read this document! It is blowing a gale outside right now, it was windier in the early hours of this morning, and there was a pretty intense gale back in January. My dish? Stayed put. I would lay this down more on the dish being a mesh construction than the abilities of the wire arrangement holding it in alignment, however I can see the dish 'vibrating' in the wind right now (can't be bothered to video it and XviD it!) and it is still remaining in place, and suitably so that the picture isn't even 'stuttering'.
So I may do the jubilee clip thing... sometime...



The dish seen side-on. You can see the positioner rod, plus the cable tidily tied up. Perhaps in time there will be a second LNB using some sort of mounting system.
It's amazing what can be achieved using some metal rods and a handful of bolts, so who knows?


The cable path

The receiver has gone from spending so long trying to make a watchable picture from a 40%-50% quality signal (strength usually around 40%) to a deafening 90% quality signal. It's like "Whoa!". Remember also that the dish hangs on the end of two 15M lengths of cable, as shown:
The signal leaves the LNB, snakes along the LNB arm, then along the dish mounting to the barn door frame. Here it passes internally (dashed line) and it follows the edge of the upper part of the wall along the roof line to the main part of the property. A brief hop outside to span the dividing wall, and then inside again. Running along the roof-line again, until we have traversed the milking parlour (what it used to be, we use it to store garden stuff) and the living room. The cable then drops down to the electric stuff (meter box, etc) by following one of the three-phase cables. Here it is tacked to the wall at ceiling level to find its way through a tiny hole cut out of the corner of my door. It now drops to ground level to cross the doorway. Raised over would have been better, but it is hard to hide a bright white cable on a 'jaune poisson' coloured stippled wall (a sort of provencal orange-tinted yellow). The perspective of the cable gets a bit crap here... I never claimed to be any good at this sort of drawing. Anyway, the cable then rises up to traverse some boxes, bookshelves, etc until it reaches my desk and pokes into the back of the satellite receiver and as I'm watching this I'm listening to John Farnham singing "You're The Voice" on The Vault (#356) thus proving it all works!

It is interesting to note that, now, the Digibox misreads the other end of the scale. While before it would say "No satellite signal is being received" and the SL65 would say "Rubbish! Here it is!", now the Digibox says the signal quality is a fairly steady 90% while the SL65 reads around 75% to 85% (depending on channel) - oh, and and the SL65 doesn't glitch, but the Digibox does from time to time. Go figure.


The future

When I expand the setup, I'll describe how, where, what and why.

My next modification is likely to be a two-way or three-way DiSEqC switch, with an LNB pointed towards 19.2°E for German/French/Spanish programming. This will be LNB #2, because the Digibox does not support DiSEqC so LNB #1 (the default, if you don't tell the switch otherwise) will point towards 28.2°E. Then, if switching to the SL65 receiver, it can make use of the two LNBs. Here's a mocked-up picture:


The end

Actually, it isn't the end - read about preparing for a multi-satellite setup.

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Murray