I'd like to take a moment here - your dish does not need to be mounted on your chimney. As long as it has an unobstructed view of the sky, it can be placed anywhere. All of my dishes (until recently) to date have been mounted on the ground, held in place by heavy rocks or the like. Yes, even for digital reception!
Or, to put it another way, a dish is not like a normal TV antenna. Height does not matter. The signal travels tens of thousands of kilometres to reach you, so the extra metres you add using a chimney are not going to improve matters unless there is something in the way lower down.
Besides, when I asked Sky's helpline about the location of the new satellites during the analogue-digital changeover, they refused to tell me - citing the incident of a 'famous' person (no name was given) who died falling from their chimney while trying to alter the dish position.
In reality (and thanks to cp..), it was Rod Hull of annoying-Emu-puppet fame who fell off of his roof while adjusting his television aerial - one might assume from this phrasing that it was 'twig' rather than 'dish'. (read more on Wiki).
In any case, for my own liability and a whole host of other reasons (most of which are just plain commonsense), I'm certainly not going to advocate you go climbing around your roof!
When you come to bolt your dish to the wall, provided your view of the sky is clear, you can do so at a height that can be comfortably reached by standing safely on a stool or a small ladder.
Remember - it's the view that counts, not the height...
At noon GMT (regardless of your local timezone), point the dish in the direction of the sun, but aimed lower down; most dish mounts have degrees on them. It's around the thirty degree up mark (southern England) or about five degrees (Scotland).
Move the dish to the left (east) slowly, hunting around for a signal. That's most likely to be Hotbird at 13°E. Move the dish a bit more to the left and down slightly. The next strong signal you hit is most likely to be the old Astra birds at 19.2°E. Moving left and down again, you'll encounter another signal. This is most likely to be Astra 2 / Eurobird at 28.2°E. If you don't find this last signal, go back to the one you did have.
Remember - these co-ordinates are relative to the equator!
Bolt the dish loosely on the strongest signal you can obtain, and go check that you have a signal.
If you have a strong signal and no lock, try to Add Channels with the following:
Frequency 11.778 Polarisation V Symbol Rate 27.5 FEC 3/4
If all is well, go back and tighten the bolts on the dish.
If you can see the TV, or arrange to see a TV, from where your dish is - the very best signal meter at your disposal is the one marked "Signal Quality", which may be found by pressing Services then 4 then 6 on the remote. The signal quality reflects how many reception errors the system is correcting. The higher that bar, the less errors, the better the reception.
What is very important to be aware of is that the signal quality meter is derived as a result of the digital processing that takes place within the receiver, so it is just under a second 'out' with respect to your movements of the dish. This time lag can be disconcerting and it can trick you, so best be aware of it now rather than finding out 'the hard way'.
It is worth checking a couple of transponders to ensure that your reception is good across the range, and not just a few channels. Remember, though, the signal strength and quality observations relate to my geographical location (Brittany, France) and your own results will differ!
I have also seen adverts for companies that will hook you up with boxes and cards to get the FTA/FreeView channels if you live in such sun-baked and luxurious places as Provence, Languedoc-Rousillon, etc. I would imagine a larger dish would be required, though it seems most of the 'el cheapo' kits on sale here in France supply larger solid dishes as standard.
Astra 2 has three 'beams': UK spot, North, and South...
The map diagrams are my representations and should not be taken as 'exact'. The dark red is the area of maximum coverage (~50cm dish) and the lighter red is about the limit attainable using a 120cm dish.
Don't make a mistake with these sizes - a 2 metre dish will stand taller than you, and a 4 metre dish will be taller than the gutter-height of an average two-floor house. The maximum size that you are likely to find attached to a house is in the order of 1.5 metre; anything else is likely to need to be a free-standing structure. It may well require planning permission!
Incidentally, dishes of this size are usually completely circular with the LNB held in an apex over the central focal point; this is unlike the offset dishes that you will be used to seeing. This change in style is for structural reasons - not only is the dish large and tipped over at an angle, it has to act as a precise mirror. Offset dishes of this size may well deform or collapse. Circular centre-focus dishes can use struts and guys to stay in shape.
This information is outdated - check the Sky website. Recent TV advertising suggests the 'general pack' has been split into themes so you "only pay for the channels you want to watch". I wonder if subscribing to all is the same price as it used to be, or is this a way to make it cost more? Example? When I watched Sky (analogue days), I liked some of the stuff on The Disney Channel, I watched some of the natural history documentaries, and I watched Buffy on Sky1. That probably covers three 'categories' in the new scheme of things...
Anyway - check their website for specifics and current prices.
I guess it is only fair to mention the original purpose of the Sky Digibox... SkyDigital!
Full details may be found on their website - http://www.sky.com/, but here's a brief résumé:
Loads of the sorts of channels you might not be terribly interested in. Some good stuff on them, but you'll need to keep a close eye on the EPG to find out when things are on.
This'll get you the basics as above, plus movies. Or some movies. I have not looked at Sky's site recently, but I think they're still splitting the movie channels into groups and you can subscribe to 'this' or to 'that' or to 'both' (with freebies thrown in).
As for the movies, only sports instead of movies. I plan to go to 19.2° for the ice skating (the only sport I happen to like to watch) and - frankly - I never got the obsession with football. But if you are big on football or cricket, then I believe Sky Sports is where you'll find that stuff.
Everything except the sports.
Everything. In totality. If your Digibox doesn't explode with the overload, your head might. :-)
Want your Digibox to record stuff for you? Want to pause Alina Jenkins in the middle of a live weather report so you can get your pizza out of the oven? Want to record two things on different channels at once? Want to say "I like this" and have your Digibox automatically record every single episode for you? All of this is possible with a Sky+ Digibox (the Sky+160 can hold up to 80 hours of programming), plus 5.1 audio.
Well, Sky announced that - for Sky subscribers - they were scrapping the additional fee. However there is a caveat. The Sky+ box is unable to function as an autonymous PVR, so if you decide you no longer wish to be a Sky subscriber, then you will need to pay Sky the monthly fee in order to be able to use the PVR functions. I am aware of two people that quit Sky (one over prices, one over disgust at the programming), found their Sky+ box stopped working as a PVR, and so they went back and resubscribed. Hmmm... I rather think an FTA receiver with harddisc is likely to cost less than a year of Sky - that old £42.50/month price works out to be a whopping £510 a year. You'd get a nice receiver for that!
Want HD TV (four times the resolution of a normal TV?), you'll pay extra for it.
I am not aware of which programmes are originated in HD, so I do not know how much genuine HD content is available with the HD package? For movie buffs, there are (I think) two HD movie channels. As for the general entertainment programming...?
Your standard Digibox can touch any of this, but the Sky+ can, as well as HDTV.
But Sky aren't stupid. As long as you keep your mouth shut, I'm sure they're willing to overlook any doubts that they may have in return for between £20 and £50 a month (or £240-£600 (!) a year).
Put it like this, I'm one of the few ex-pats in the region that doesn't have a Sky subscription. It seems like everybody else is obsessed with cricket and/or football. Oh, get a life!
If anybody is willing to scan the small print of their Sky+ agreement, I would be interested to read it and reproduce any relevant clauses here; I only need the "small print", any personal information is of no use to me. Contact me!
Note, though, that it is likely that both of your Digiboxes will make (free) calls to Sky in the middle of the night. They weren't born yesterday - you can't get a copy-card and share it with a friend...
Panasonic iDTVs (TVs with a built-in Digibox) are suffering the same sorts of problems. This is possibly because Panasonic are no longer producing digital receivers for Sky, and thus feel no obligation to provide updated firmware for an obsolete product line.
This information is outdated - the "Freesat" mentioned is now known as "FreesatfromSky", though it seems not to offer much over not having a card.
The BBC/ITV initiative (the "Freesat" now) offers an inexpensive box (with NO contract or requirement for it to 'phone home') with an EPG plus interactive facilities. Details, links, and info on this site.
In general, you can be assured that a Sky Digibox will offer you the 'FreeSat' option (if you can obtain a card), as well as the red button services.
Personally, I'd miss the red-button services. It is where I get my news from, and the winter Olympics without BBC's interactive would have been rather pitiful on BBC2. Instead, I could choose from four different events being given full coverage.
As for FreeSat (previously known as FreeView, the 'free' being somewhat ironic as the card is around £20 for two years), a friend and I are having difficulties over this. It appears that it gives you Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky Three. Some Sky-bod tried to soft-sell the FreeSat card to me when I asked about THC's PIN access, and they said it would get the ITV channels, X news channels and Y children's channels. Well, at the time ITV had already gone FTA, and free-to-air gave me exactly X news channels and Y children's channels - yes, the same numbers (I just can't remember the numbers). I was also told that there were a hundred odd general entertainment channels. Well, not to be too cynical, but the BBC regions would account for a fair few 'channels', right? Anyway - it appears that if you live outside the UK and you can't get a FreeSat card, you probably aren't missing a lot!
It has been reported that a motorised Dreambox receiver with a harddisc (sounds nice, though I don't know this model) works with a FreeSat card, and with the growing acceptance of FreeSat (it isn't hard to purchase within the UK) we are likely to see more and more receivers capable of using the Sky encryption and the red button services. Note, however, that many of the cheaper receivers offer neither the card reader nor the interactive content, and as the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is 'proprietary' to Sky services, you'll be lucky if you can find any receiver that will tell you anything better than "now & next".
Furthermore - due to the disparity between the British receivers and everybody else, you simply will not find any box on sale in mainland Europe (excepting special UK exports) that supports Sky either with the cards or with the interactive 'red button' services (you can use such a box for the freebie channels such as THC and the BBC/ITV offerings). But take heart, the quality and compatibility of interactive content between major European operators is not that much better...
Thought: There is a CAM plug-in called a "Dragon" which pretends to be a Digibox environment. I'm not certain if this is 'the works' (EPG, interactive, etc) or 'just enough' to authorise viewing from a card? It'll need a valid Digibox serial number in order to work.
I have heard tales of some satellite equipment dealers offering to set you up with a box for receiving Astra 1 or Hotbird for the 'foreign' channels for £300 to £500!
A free-to-air box will set you back around about 40 quid for a basic model, extending into hundreds for ones that do everything for you. Lidl seem to occasionally sell 'Comag' receivers for around £70 for a complete kit (dish, wire, receiver)... and the best bit is that this type of receiver may have its firmware upgraded. Go Google, you'll see what I mean... :-)
The only things to keep in mind are that the Sky interactive content is peculiar to Sky, as is the complete TV listings for the next seven days. So all this 'red button' stuff and the 'EPG' is very unlikely to work on any other type of receiver.
Additionally, the encryption system is specific to Sky. A non-Digibox will only be able to accept a Sky card (either for Sky or for the FreeView service) with the aid of the 'Dragon'...
If you don't want Sky/FreeView and you don't want the red button stuff and you don't mind if the EPG is partial or missing, then a forty quid box will serve you well. Ironically despite the power and abilities of the Digibox, many of the cheaper receivers actually have more sensitive tuners than many Digiboxes! In essence this means when the weather is awful and the Digibox has thrown in the cards and decided there is no satellite out there, the cheap little receiver will still be showing you Alina Jenkins' weather report without even glitching!
Reminder: This information is outdated - numerous concerns raised here have been effectively answered by the BBC/ITV Freesat project.
On the other hand, a second-hand Digibox might be better for you? You will have trouble using it with non-Sky satellites these days, but at 28.2°E everything will work smoothly. There is a big disparity in prices of second-hand Digiboxes - I've heard that even broken ones sell for £30 on eBay (but, then, somebody tried selling Britney DNA on eBay - go figure!). I think a rough guide is if you are paying over £100, then the seller should provide a full guarantee! Though, check local newspapers and various newsgroups before you buy - prices do vary - dramatically.
There are certain type of Digiboxes that are worth paying a little bit extra for, and there are others you might wish to steer away from if you will be in a 'fringe' area or you cannot assure perfect reception for any other reasons. It comes down to the tuner. This is the part of the receiver that sorts out what you want to watch from all the rest. Some people may say that the boxes with the faster processor are preferable, but no matter how good the processing power is, it is worthless if the tuner has given up and said "nope, I can't make sense of this!". You'll find some suggestions here, based upon people's observations as reported on-line (Blogs, newsgroups, etc).
Outside of England, the situation is worse. Some may quote you around the £500 [POUNDS] mark to get the BBC. The truth is, if you can live without Channel 4, and Channel 5, you can put together your own system for around £100 tops. Sometimes you'll get a good service. I've heard of people paying '450' for the receiver, plus '50' for the dish, plus '150' for fitting and installation. The total, a mind-blowing 650. And reluctantly forking out 650 euros, our hapless friend was informed ... no, that is pounds. Which is over nine hundred euros. They didn't even get a FreeView card! Zoiks!
Reminder: This information is outdated - as long as you enter a valid UK postcode (selects your BBC/ITV region), you can use a Freesat receiver in Europe.
It is bad to have to say this sort of thing, and no doubt some overseas installers are a little bit miffed about this, but for everybody who advertises legally there are a couple of a-friend-of-a-friend types just waiting for you to throw money at them. And as for those who advertise in the magazines, I have my doubts about some of those prices. It is a captive market, given that there is no Sky support at all outside of the UK. And, remember, always always make sure you are both speaking the same currency, and using a reasonable exchange rate. Agree on a price and in which currency to pay before anything is done.
In France, if you are asking for a quote or a installation price, be certain to ask for a "devis" ("deh-vee", quotation) which should be headed and signed. It is an offense to provide such a quotation and then charge something different. Other countries may provide similar concepts. If you are buying then and there, ask for a receipt before handing over your cash; and ensure the receipt carries at least the name, date, equipment sold, and a price. Preferably signed (a lot of French sign receipts, on the whole they like paperwork!). Whether or not it carries much weight is between you and your avocat, however it is useful to have so if you walk away with a dud box the seller can't say "never met this person before in my life".
This all may sound way heavy. Remember. It's your money you are paying...
Of course, things in moderation. If you're getting a Digibox for €20, it may be prudent to forgo the receipt. You can probably stand to lose twenty, as you could - equally - gain a lot more value than a piece of blue paper with '20' written on it!
A good place to find addresses of suppliers (for France) is "French Property News" (a magazine). Don't be afraid to shop around and ask questions. Several of the suppliers have websites.
Obviously, if you live elsewhere (Germany, Italy, Spain...) then you'll need to look for a magazine suitable to your needs, or alternatively to ask Google for useful links ('sky digibox liguria genova' for example).
To update your firmware, you must ensure that you have a VERY GOOD signal. A weak signal and/or corrupted upgrade can render your Digibox a little lump of scrap metal...
The procedure is as follows:
I do not know exactly how/when the critical part of the upgrade takes place.
It would seem sensible to build the FlashROM image in system memory, check
it, and then commit it to FlashROM in one go. This means the critical part of
the upgrade would actually only be about ten seconds (the FlashROM
programming time). I've heard it suggested that the FlashROM is programmed
block by block - which seems to me to be entirely silly (but, perhaps, not as
silly as not having a little bit of boot load ROM that is capable of
reflashing the box if the FlashROM is corrupt?).
As you can imagine, I'm not going to abort the firmware upgrade at various points in order to report on what is safe and what isn't!
If anybody has experience with aborted upgrades, or if you happen to work for Pace (or another of the Digibox manufacturers), I would appreciate it if you could email me and clarify the procedure regarding firmware upgrades...
If you have the older firmware, you may be used to the Digibox messing up channel updates so that programme information appears to go 'missing' as well as entire channels (including those you were just watching) becoming 'unavailable' when you try to select them, and also the box getting stuck 'Searching for listings' when you try to view the EPG.
All of these problems appear to have been cured in the newer firmware! Yay!
If you are not certain that your signal is good enough, just hook up your box and watch TV. You may discover at some stage the box will reset itself (typically in the middle of something you're watching! A quick flick to the system status and you'll see the new firmware has been installed 'in the background'. For me, the update occurred while watching the Doctor Who documentary on BBC THREE - it is possible that part of the firmware was also broadcast in itty-bitty pieces during Doctor Who on BBC 1?
[I don't switch my box to standby at night]
Paranoid? Maybe. My Digibox may retire early due to thermal stresses, but I
have seen the remains of a computer after a lightning strike. The only thing
that was salvageable was the floppy disc drive. The rest was toast.
And given that we are at the end of overhead power lines (thus seem to be statistically more likely to be hit - can anybody explain how that works?) I am taking no chances.
Thunderstorms in northern France bite, thunderstorms in southern France chew chunks out of things. By contrast, thunderstorms in England nibble timidly. It's your Digibox - it's your choice.
4:3 (pan and scan)
16:9L (letterboxed widescreen)
16:9 (anamorphic widescreen as output by the Digibox, on 4:3 aspect)
16:9 (anamorphic widescreen on a widescreen TV)
The ratings follow the BBFC standard:
You may see other codes in the title...